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A prominent Democratic lawyer who represented Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign is threatening to sue the state of Nevada unless it immediately suspends prosecutions for ballot harvesting before the June 9 primary, among a slew of other demands, according to a letter obtained by Fox News on Tuesday.

Marc Elias, now representing the Nevada Democratic Party, also called for a substantial expansion to in-person voting access in the upcoming primary — though just days ago, he said it was a “national disgrace” that Wisconsin was moving ahead with in-person voting amid the coronavirus pandemic. In both cases, he cited health concerns.

Democrats had feared that low turnout in Wisconsin would hurt their chances, while they have a more optimistic outlook in Nevada.

Writing on April 10 to Nevada Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske, a Republican, Elias first took aim at Nevada Revised Statutes section 293.330(4), which prohibits ballot harvesting and permits only certain individuals, like family members, to return ballots. Ballot harvesting, or the practice of allowing political operatives and others to collect voters’ ballots and turn them in en masse to polling stations, has drawn bipartisan concerns of fraud from election watchers.

In his letter, Elias argued that “many Nevada voters will not be able to return their mail-in ballots themselves and do not have family members – or are separated from these family members because of social distancing – who can do so for them.”

“We ask that your office and the office of the Nevada Attorney General immediately announce a suspension of prosecutions under this statute for all elections for which mail-in balloting will be the primary means of voting in the state,” Elias said.

At the same time, Elias called for Nevada to stop throwing out ballots when signatures on voters’ ballots appear different from those on voters’ registrations, saying “lay election officials have never had the necessary expertise” to make an accurate determination.

“In an environment where the vast majority of Nevada voters will be casting a mail-in ballot for the first time, there is the real possibility that hundreds of thousands of Nevada voters could be disenfranchised due to the arbitrary determinations of these untrained officials,” Elias wrote. In the alternative, Elias said that those found to have mismatched or missing signatures should be given an additional two weeks, instead of the normal one-week deadline, to clarify the matter.

Elias also demanded that Nevada “require mail-in ballots be sent to all registered voters in Nevada, not just those in an active status.” Elias asserted that state election law doesn’t distinguish between the two categories of voters.

Republicans have argued that many states fail to adequately clean up their voter rolls. Last year, California was forced to remove 1.5 million ineligible voters after a court settlement last year when California’s rolls showed a registration of 112 percent.

Further, Elias urged that Nevada “require more than just one in-person vote center per county in the State’s most populous counties as well as those with geographically distant population centers.”

“Nevada voters have a proud tradition of voting in person either during the early voting period or on election day,” Elias wrote. “Having only a single in-person location in each county poses certain risks and hardships to voters in various circumstances—voters in dense urban communities, for example, will be forced into dangerously overcrowded polling places, while rural voters will have to travel unreasonable distances just to cast their ballots.”

On April 6, though, Elias called it a “national disgrace” that “may well cost lives” when the Wisconsin Supreme Court blocked an order to shut down in-person voting there. “No one should have to chose between voting and their health,” Elias wrote on Twitter.

Elias, among other things, is known for his role hiring private research firm Fusion GPS to probe Donald Trump during the 2016 campaign – efforts which resulted in the discredited anti-Trump dossier.

Elias did not respond to a request for comment from Fox News, but Republicans argued that the letter exposed Democratic partisanship.

“Democrats’ hypocrisy knows no bounds,” Republican National Committee (RNC) Chief of Staff Richard Walters told Fox News. “The same people who were fear mongering about in-person voting last week are suddenly demanding more opportunities for in-person voting.”

Elias did appear to be citing health concerns in both cases, however — first by criticizing Wisconsin for having in-person voting at all, and later by arguing that limited polling locations In Nevada would force voters into overcrowded spaces.

But Walters pointed to the ballot-harvesting request as part of a bigger scheme.

Walters added: “Democrats’ entire strategy is to legalize ballot harvesting nationwide, and this letter proves it. Sending far-left activists door-to-door to collect ballots not only jeopardizes people’s health, it threatens the security of their ballot. The last thing our country needs during a time of crisis is to weaken confidence in our elections, but that is exactly what would happen if Democrats get their way.”

Bridget McDonald, right, receives a ballot from poll worker Patty Piek-Groth on Tuesday, April 7, 2020, at the Janesville Mall in Janesville, Wis. (Angela Major/The Janesville Gazette via AP)

In 2018, despite holding substantial leads on Election Day, many Republican candidates in California saw their advantage shrink, and then disappear, as late-arriving Democratic votes were counted in the weeks following the election. Many observers pointed to the Democrats’ use of ballot harvesting as a key to their success in the elections.

“Anecdotally there was a lot of evidence that ballot harvesting was going on,” Neal Kelley, the registrar for voters in Southern California’s Orange County, told Fox News.

In Orange County – once seen as a Republican stronghold in the state – every House seat went to a Democrat after an unprecedented “250,000” vote-by-mail drop-offs were counted, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

“People were carrying in stacks of 100 and 200 of them. We had had multiple people calling to ask if these people were allowed to do this,” Kelley said.

California had recently legalized ballot harvesting ahead of the election. In 2019, a GOP operative in North Carolina was arrested related to alleged ballot harvesting, which is prohibited in that state.

“GET RID OF BALLOT HARVESTING, IT IS RAMPANT WITH FRAUD,” President Trump wrote on Twitter on Tuesday morning. “THE USA MUST HAVE VOTER I.D., THE ONLY WAY TO GET AN HONEST COUNT!”

Fox News’ Andrew O’Reilly contributed to this report.

Author: Gregg Re

Source: Fox News: Ex-Clinton lawyer threatens to sue Nevada unless ballot harvesting permitted

New York state has seen its first drop in daily coronavirus deaths, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Sunday — as the U.S. Northern Command said it would deploy a combined total of 1,000 Air Force and Navy medical providers to the New York City area to support relief efforts in the next three days.

Cuomo said New York also experienced a slight drop in intensive care admissions and the number of patients who need breathing tubes inserted. The hospital discharge rate is “way up” he said, calling it “great news.”

“You could argue that you are seeing a plateauing,” Cuomo told reporters on Sunday, as he revealed that the state had reported 594 new coronavirus deaths — down from the 630 reported on Saturday and the 562 on Friday. At least 4,159 people have died in the state so far, with approximately 122,000 total positive cases.

Pressed on whether the state was at an apex of coronavirus fatalities, Cuomo emphasized that he can’t be sure.

“The statisticians will not give you a straight answer on anything,” he responded. “At first, it was straight up and straight down, or a total V. Or maybe it’s up with a plateau and we’re somewhere on the plateau. They don’t know.”

“The number of beds doesn’t really matter anymore,” Cuomo went on. “We have the beds. It’s the ventilators, and then it’s the staff.”

Cars pass the Jacob Javitz convention Center Friday, April 3, 2020, in New York. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that The Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City will be “converted to a COVID facility.” The original plan was that non-COVID patients would go to the convention center and it would be an “overflow for hospitals.” (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Separately, the military said in a statement that the 1,000 personnel would work in support of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). A total of 300 of these “uniformed medical providers will work from the Javits Center and the rest will deploy to other area locations to expand local medical capabilities in the war against COVID-19,” U.S. Northern Command, which is leading coronavirus efforts for the Department of Defense, said.

Americans were bracing for what the nation’s top doctor warned Sunday would be “the hardest and saddest week” of their lives while Britain assumed the unwelcome mantle of deadliest coronavirus hotspot in Europe after a record 24-hour jump in deaths that surpassed even hard-hit Italy.

As of Sunday, Britain has recorded 4,934 virus deaths overall among 47, 806 cases.

“This is going to be our Pearl Harbor moment, our 9/11 moment,’’ U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams told “Fox News Sunday.”

“This is going to be our Pearl Harbor moment, our 9/11 moment.”

— U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams

Efforts to combat the virus have been stepped up around the world.

In France, heat-seeking drones have been whizzing over Fontainebleau forest to identify rule-breakers after the former royal estate in the Paris suburbs was closed to the public. That high-tech measure has been coupled with more traditional police patrols on horseback and roadblocks that turn back the cars of those seeking to escape urban areas.

In Sweden, authorities have advised the public to practice social distancing, but schools, bars, and restaurants are still open.

At the Vatican, Pope Francis celebrated Mass and blessed palms for Palm Sunday in a near-empty St. Peter’s Basilica. Usually tens of thousands of faithful would have crowded the square outside to attend a papal Mass.

Police officers speak to a woman during a nationwide confinement to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, in Biarritz, France, Saturday April 4, 2020. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death. (AP Photo/Bob Edme)

Holy Thursday and Easter services will be held the same way. In the pope’s native Argentina, the faithful were using plants at home for a “virtual” blessing during a live stream of the Palm Sunday service.

Worldwide, more than 1.2 million people have been confirmed infected and more than 65,000 have died, according to Johns Hopkins University. The true numbers are certainly much higher, due to limited testing, different ways nations count the dead and deliberate under-reporting by some governments.

Almost 250,000 people have recovered from the virus, which is spread by microscopic droplets from coughs or sneezes. The virus causes mild to moderate symptoms in most but for some, especially older adults and the infirm, it can cause pneumonia and lead to death. The World Health Organization says 95 percent of the known coronavirus deaths in Europe have been in people over 60.

The number of people infected in the U.S. has soared to more than 312,000 as the fatalities climbed past 8,500.

Fox News’ Kelly Burke and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Author: Gregg Re

Source: Fox News: New York has first daily drop in coronavirus deaths, Cuomo announces, as military heads to NYC

Pete Buttigieg ended his presidential campaign Sunday, in an abrupt and surprising pullout that further narrows the field of Democrats less than a month after he declared victory in the contested Iowa caucuses.

“I will do everything in my power to ensure that we have a new Democratic president come January,” Buttigieg told a throng of enthusiastic and emotional supporters in South Bend, Ind., on Sunday night, in a speech marked by an upbeat and forward-looking timbre.

“We sent a message to every kid out there wondering if whatever marks them out as different means they are destined to be less than,” he continued amid chants of “USA!” and other cheers. “To see someone who once felt that exact same way can become a leading presidential candidate with his husband at his side.”

Buttigieg’s husband Chasten introduced the candidate by remarking through tears that “Pete got me to believe in myself again. … I told Pete to run because I knew there were other kids that needed to believe in themselves, too.”

Buttigieg had been scheduled to headline a rally in Dallas on Sunday night. The charter plane was rerouted.

Buttigieg’s withdrawal came just days before 14 states are set to head to the polls on Super Tuesday, where one-third of all delegates for the nomination will be at stake. His exit likely will harm frontrunner Bernie Sanders by providing a coalescing boost to more moderate candidates, as Buttigieg had gone on the offensive against the Vermont senator and sought to appeal to the centrist base of the party. Many early votes have already been cast, however.

A senior campaign aide told Fox News the decision was “absolutely not” because of Buttigieg’s failure to reach his Super Tuesday fundraising goal of $13 million. The campaign announced Sunday that it needed another $1.6 million to reach that target.

“Pete believes this is the right thing to do for our country, for our party and for Americans across the country eager to heal our divided nation, defeat this president and work to fix our broken politics,” the aide said.

Hours earlier, speaking to NBC News’ “Meet the Press,” Buttigieg vowed that “we’ll be assessing at every turn not only what the right answer is for the campaign, but making sure that every step we take is in the best interest of the party and that goal of making sure we defeat Donald Trump — because our country can’t take four more years of this.”

Last week, Buttigieg told Fox News’ Peter Doocy that “by Super Tuesday, we could be on an irreversible trajectory toward nominating Senator Sanders unless we come together around an alternative; I’m offering to be that alternative.”

Buttigieg narrowly defeated Sanders by delegate count in Iowa, but has since suffered a string of defeats culminating in his drubbing in South Carolina on Saturday, where he finished fourth, behind billionaire Tom Steyer.

President Trump, meanwhile, repeatedly derided what he called Buttigieg’s resemblance to the pathetic cartoon character Alfred E. Neuman from Mad magazine. Buttigieg also faced criticism for allegedly plagiarizing former President Barack Obama’s speeches and imitating his intonation.

“Pete Buttigieg is OUT,” Trump wrote on Twitter Sunday. “All of his SuperTuesday votes will go to Sleepy Joe Biden. Great timing. This is the REAL beginning of the Dems taking Bernie out of play – NO NOMINATION, AGAIN!”

BUTTIGIEG NARROWLY WINS DISPUTED IOWA CAUCUSES BY DELEGATE COUNT

The former South Bend, Ind., mayor has had limited political experience, but sought to build his campaign on his military service and the possibility that he could become the first openly gay president.

Buttigieg struggled winning over black voters in particular. During a visit to Allendale County in South Carolina last December, he remarked, “I know that as somebody who’s new on the scene, I’ve got to earn that trust and we’ve got to have those conversations.”

He received only nine votes on Saturday in the county, compared to Joe Biden’s 552, Tom Steyer’s 241, Sanders’ 119 and Elizabeth Warren’s 17.

Analysts generally have agreed now that the nomination is increasingly likely to come down to a race between Biden, who won by a large margin in South Carolina, and Sanders, who secured the popular vote in Iowa, Nevada, and New Hampshire.

In a memo on Sunday, though, Warren’s campaign said there would likely be a contested convention — and promised to make a “final play” for the nomination there. Buttigieg outperformed Warren in each of the early primaries and caucuses.

“After Wisconsin, nearly one-third of the pledged delegates will still be waiting to be elected, and there will be a three-week gap between electing delegates for the first time since voting began,” Warren campaign chief Roger Lau wrote. “In the road to the nomination, the Wisconsin primary is halftime, and the convention in Milwaukee is the final play.”

Lau added: “Our grassroots campaign is built to compete in every state and territory and ultimately prevail at the national convention in Milwaukee.”

Marianne Williamson, the mystical author who abandoned her own presidential bid earlier this year and endorsed Sanders, said she sensed pending turbulence.

“[Tom] Steyer has dropped out, now Pete is dropping out,” Williamson wrote. “The moderates are consolidating. This is going to be a rocky week. Whichever way your passion lies, this is the moment to drill down. The next two days are everything.”

Fox News’ Andres del Aguila, Peter Doocy and Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.

Author: Gregg Re

Source: Fox News: Buttigieg exits presidential race ahead of Super Tuesday, cementing collapse after strong Iowa showing

Flush with campaign cash and facing down a possible Senate impeachment trial, President Trump headlined his first major rally of the election year Thursday in Ohio — and almost immediately, the president capitalized on his order to take out Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani after the military leader was said to have orchestrated an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Iraq.

In unequivocal terms, Trump slammed House Democrats’ nonbinding War Powers Resolution, which passed earlier in the day in a rebuke to the Soleimani strike. Trump went on to suggest that Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and “Liddle‘ pencil-neck” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., would have tipped off the media about the operation had they known about it.

“They’re saying, ‘You should get permission from Congress, you should come in and tell us what you want to do — you should come in and tell us, so that we can call up the fake news that’s back there, and we can leak it,'” Trump said. “Lot of corruption back there.”

The president added that it would have been impractical to alert Congress, given the “split-second” nature of the decision to kill Soleimani.

Separately, Trump said he hoped former Vice President Joe Biden would become the Democrats’ presidential nominee, and pledged he would highlight what he called the Bidens’ corruption all throughout the campaign.

“He will hear, ‘Where’s Hunter?’,’ every single debate nine times at the podium,” Trump vowed, in reference to Biden’s son, who largely has stayed out of public view after it emerged that he held lucrative overseas board roles while his father was vice president.

Republicans have accused Hunter Biden, who recently was determined to have fathered a child with an Arkansas ex-stripper, of selling access to his father.

Trump was speaking before a packed crowd in Toledo after apparently pulling back from the brink of war with Iran earlier this week, and just hours after officials announced that Iran likely shot down a civilian airliner carrying dozens of Canadians, apparently by mistake. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau suggested the U.S. might bear responsibility, and he declined to condemn Iran.

For the most part, the rally focused on the Iran strike and the response to it from the political left.

“The radical left Democrats have expressed outrage over the termination of this horrible terrorist,” Trump said. “Instead, they should be outraged by Soleimani’s savage crimes and the fact that his countless victims were denied justice for so long.”

Trump said he had acted swiftly after the earlier attack at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and essentially overruled a commander who said the military response would not arrive until the next day. The situation, Trump said, easily could have become “another Benghazi” — a reference to the deadly 2012 attack at the U.S. consulate in Libya.

“I said, ‘nope, get in the planes right now, have them there immediately!'” Trump said. “And, they got there immediately. … If you dare threaten our citizens, you do so at your own grave peril.”

Former President Obama, Trump added, had erred by giving billions to Iran as part of the mostly defunct Iran nuclear deal, including a massive cash payout loaded onto U.S. aircraft.

“By subsidizing Iran’s maligned conduct, the last administration was leading the world down the path of war,” Trump said. “We are restoring our world to the path of peace, peace through strength.”

The campaign event offered Trump an opportunity to spotlight before a friendly crowd his decision to order the deadly drone strike against Soleimani, while keeping the U.S. — at least for the moment — out of a wider military conflict.

Trump also emphasized the booming economy, including a strong stock market and historically low unemployment rates.

“Unemployment has reached the lowest level in over 51 years,” Trump said. “African-American, Hispanic American and Asian American unemployment have all reached the lowest rates ever, ever, ever recorded. Wages are rising fast, and the biggest percentage increase — makes me happy — are for blue-collar workers. Forty million American families are now benefiting from the Republican child-tax credit, each receiving an average of over $2,200 a year.”

Trump added that getting rid of “job-killing regulations” had helped spur the industrial sector. He later invoked the destructive and widespread “yellow vest” protests in France, which had started out of frustration with high taxes on gas.

“If you dare threaten our citizens, you do so at your own grave peril.”

— President Trump

“America lost 60,000 factories under the previous administration … They’re all coming back,” Trump said. “And, right now, just in a very short period of time, we’ve added 12,000 brand new factories and many more are coming in.”

The United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement [USMCA], Trump said, would improve the economy further and make the U.S. automobile industry in particular more competitive.

The Democrats’ policies, Trump argued, have produced chaos and poverty. Trump specifically ripped Pelosi, D-Calif., for living in a mansion in San Francisco, even as her “disgusting” district filled with homeless people defecating on the streets.

Trump additionally touted the recent appellate court ruling that green-lit funding for his border wall, slammed “late-term abortion and ripping babies right from the mother’s womb right up until the mother’s womb,” and highlighted Obama’s broken promise to ensure Americans could keep their doctors under his health-care plan.

“We will protect patients with preexisting conditions, and we will protect your preexisting physician,” Trump vowed.

The president’s reelection campaign already had used Facebook ads to highlight Trump’s decision to strike Soleimani, regarded as Iran’s second-most-powerful official.

“We caught a total monster, and we took him out, and that should have happened a long time ago,” Trump said before departing Washington earlier in the day.

Last week’s killing of Soleimani brought long-simmering tensions between the U.S. and Iran to a boil. Iran, in retaliation, fired a barrage of missiles this week at two military bases in neighboring Iraq that have housed hundreds of U.S. troops. But, with no reported injuries to U.S. or Iraqi troops, Trump said he had no plans to take further military action against Iran and instead would enact more sanctions against the Islamic Republic.

The Iran crisis, which momentarily overshadowed Trump’s looming impeachment trial, also has opened a new front in the 2020 presidential campaign for Trump, who in 2016 campaigned in part on a promise to end American involvement in “endless wars.”

Trump entered the election year flush with over $100 million in campaign cash, a low unemployment rate and an unsettled field of Democrats seeking to challenge him. Yet, polling showed he remained vulnerable.

Back in December, an AP-NORC poll showed Trump’s approval rating at 40 percent. No more recent major polls have emerged to gauge support for the president in the wake of the targeted killing of Soleimani, though opinions of Trump have changed little over the course of his presidency.

Trump has never fallen into historic lows for a president’s approval ratings, but Gallup polling showed his December rating registered lower than that of most recent presidents at the same point in their first terms. Notably, approval of Trump and Obama in the Decembers before their reelection bids was roughly the same.

For Trump to win reelection, securing Ohio’s 18 electoral votes will be critical. He won Ohio by eight points in 2016, after Obama held the state in 2008 and 2012. The visit to Toledo marked Trump’s 15th appearance in Ohio as president.

Trump has anchored his reelection messaging around a solid national economy with an unemployment rate of 3.5 percent. But, people in parts of the industrial Midwest have said they’ve been left behind, especially as the manufacturing sector has struggled over the past year in response to slower worldwide economic growth and trade tensions with China.

Labor Department figures showed construction and factory jobs slumping in Ohio. In nearby Michigan, manufacturers were shedding workers as well, but so were that state’s employers in the health care, education and social assistance sectors.

But the Toledo area pointed at an even more alarming trend in an otherwise healthy economy. The Glass City has shedded over 6 percent of its white-collar jobs in the professional and business services sector over the past year, causing the total number of jobs to slump slightly from a year ago.

As an incumbent, Trump has been able to use his position to build a massive campaign cash reserve at a time when Democrats have been raising and spending theirs in a competitive primary. Although many White House hopefuls, most notably Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, have pulled in massive sums, there has been no clear front-runner, and many party officials have been girding for a protracted contest that could further bleed the eventual nominee of resources.

Trump, meanwhile, raised $46 million in the final quarter of 2019 and had over $102 million cash on hand at the end of the year. The Republican National Committee [RNC], which hasn’t faced as strict a set of contribution limits as the candidate, raised even more. Under the current rules, the RNC won’t have to release its December fundraising numbers until the end of the month.

Asked how much he was willing to spend on his reelection, Trump said, “I literally haven’t even thought about it.” He added: “I will say this: Because of the impeachment hoax, we’re taking in numbers that nobody ever expected. You saw the kind of numbers we’re reporting. We’re blowing everybody away.”

Author: Gregg Re

Source: Fox News: Trump, at Ohio rally, says Democrats would have leaked Soleimani attack plans

George Kent, a career official at the State Department, told House investigators conducting the impeachment inquiry against President Trump that he raised concerns about Hunter Biden’s lucrative service on the board of a Ukrainian natural gas company — but was told that it wasn’t appropriate to discuss the matter because of the health struggles of Biden’s eldest son, Beau.

According to a transcript of his Oct. 15 closed-door deposition released Thursday, Kent confirmed that he had no “direct knowledge” that U.S. aid to Ukraine was ever connected to the opening of a new investigation against the Bidens concerning their business dealings there.

Kent said that in January or February 2015, he “became aware that Hunter Biden was on the board” of Ukrainian company Burisma Holdings while his father Joe Biden was overseeing Ukraine policy as vice president.

“I did not know that at the time,” Kent testified. “And when I was on a call with somebody on the vice president’s staff and I cannot recall who it was, just briefing on what was happening into Ukraine, I raised my concerns that I had heard that Hunter Biden was on the board of a company owned by somebody that the U.S. Government had spent money trying to get tens of millions of dollars back, and that could create the perception of a conflict of interest.”

After discussing those concerns with Biden’s staff, Kent testified, “The message that I recall hearing back was that the Vice President’s son Beau was dying of cancer and that there was no further bandwidth to deal with family-related issues at that time.”

Kent, who serves as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State and was defying the State Department’s instruction that he not testify, additionally confirmed that “nobody in the Ukrainian Government became aware of a hold on military aid” until Aug. 29th — a month after Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Democrats have alleged Trump threatened to withhold military aid to Ukraine unless Zelensky agreed to investigate the Bidens’ dealings in Ukraine, although Zelensky has said he felt no such pressure.

Kent testified that to the best of his knowledge, the aid issue was ultimately “resolved by the president,” and U.S. military aid was released to Ukraine in September. However, there was a period when Ukraine was on notice that the aid was suspended: Politico reported in August that the Ukraine aid was being held up — two weeks before it was released.

Kent further acknowledged that it is appropriate for the Trump administration to “look at the level of corruption” in foreign countries when determining whether to provide, or withhold financial assistance. Speaking to Zelensky, Trump noted Ukraine’s history of corruption and urged his counterpart to probe any potential election interference efforts originating from the country.

“Part of our foreign assistance was specifically focused to try to limit and reduce corruption,” Kent said. “And we also tried, to the best of our knowledge and abilities, to do due diligence to make sure that U.S. taxpayer dollars are being spent for the purposes that they were appropriated and that they are as effective as they can be.”

Fox News is told the GOP will likely focus on the fact that Kent testified he was getting second-hand information from Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman regarding concerns about Trump’s call with Ukraine’s leader. Republicans are expected to argue that while Vindman expressed reservations about the July call, Kent was giving House investigators nothing more than his own interpretation of how Vindham perceived the conversation.

Republicans are also focusing on how Kent was evidently upset about being pushed to the side on Ukraine policy, and arguing that while there may have been “irregular channels” for diplomacy, such an arrangement is not an impeachable offense.

During his deposition, Kent asserted that he was told to “lay low” on Ukraine policy as the Trump administration, and the president’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, were interacting with Ukraine outside of traditional foreign policy channels.

He claimed was told by a Ukrainian official that Giuliani had conspired with Yuriy Lutsenko, the then-prosecutor general of Ukraine, to “throw mud” as part of a “campaign of slander” against former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch.

“Well, Mr. Giuliani was almost unmissable starting in mid-March,” Kent told investigators. “As the news campaign, or campaign of slander against, not only Ambassador Yovanovitch unfolded, he had a very high a media promise, so he was on TV, his Twitter feed ramped up and it was all focused on Ukraine.”

High-level Ukrainians, Kent asserted, wanted “revenge” against the diplomat. Yovanovitch, recalling her termination as Ukraine’s diplomat, choked up during a closed-door hearing last month.

“Based on what I know, Yuriy Lutsenko, as prosecutor general, vowed revenge, and provided information to Rudy Giuliani in hopes that he would spread it and lead to her removal,” Kent testified. “I believe that was the rationale for Yuriy Lutsenko doing what he did. Separately, there are individuals that I mentioned before, including Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, who started reaching out actively to undermine Ambassador Yovanovitch, starting in 2018 with a meeting with former Congressman Pete Sessions on May 9th, 2018, the same day he wrote a letter to Secretary Pompeo impugning Ambassador Yovanovitch’s loyalty and suggesting that she be removed.”

Kent added: “And others also in 2018 were engaged in an effort to undermine her standing by claiming that she was disloyal. So that’s the early roots of people following their own agendas and using her as an instrument to fulfill those agendas.”

Yovanovitch was recalled from her post in May, and Trump told Ukraine’s leader in July that she was “bad news” and would “go through some things.” Yovanovitch has separately told House investigators that “people with clearly questionable motives” tried to get rid of her, and that she was “shocked” by Trump’s actions concerning Ukraine.

Kent, Yovanovitch and diplomat William Taylor are expected to appear in the public sessions as part of the impeachment inquiry.

Concerning Talyor, Kent testified that “he told me he indicated to [U.S. envoy to the EU] Gordon [Sondland], he said, This is wrong. That’s what I recall him saying to me, again, orally reading out of a conversation of which I was not a part. And Gordon had told him, Tim [Morrison], and Tim told Bill Taylor, that he, Gordon, had talked to the President, POTUS in sort of shorthand, and POTUS wanted nothing less than President Zelenskyy to go to microphone and say investigations, Biden, and Clinton.”

Kent said he told diplomat Kurt Volker that “asking another country to investigate a prosecution for political reasons undermines our advocacy of the rule of law.”

On Wednesday released a transcript of testimony from Taylor’s closed-door deposition, in which he claimed to have a “clear understanding” that Trump wanted to leverage military aid to Ukraine in return for investigations that could benefit him politically — while acknowledging that, like Kent, he didn’t have firsthand knowledge of “what was in the president’s mind.”

Rep. Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, returns to a secure area after speaking to reporters after witnesses defied a subpoena to appear before House impeachment investigators following President Donald Trump’s orders not to cooperate with the probe, in Washington, Monday, Nov. 4, 2019. John Eisenberg, the lead lawyer for the National Security Council, and National Security Council aide Michael Ellis, were scheduled to testify early Monday but not appear. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

“That was my clear understanding, security assistance money would not come until the President [of Ukraine] committed to pursue the investigation,” Taylor said.

Taylor is a top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine who has emerged as a key figure of interest in the Trump impeachment inquiry, having alleged a quid pro quo was at play despite White House denials.

The transcript shows that Taylor testified he had been told by other officials that the White House was willing to hold up both military aid and a prospective White House meeting with Ukraine’s president to extract a public announcement from Kiev that probes related to election interference and Burisma Holdings were underway.

FILE – In this Oct. 15, 2019, file photo, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent leaves Capitol Hill after appearing before a joint House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and Committee on Oversight and Reform for a deposition on Capitol Hill in Washington. House impeachment investigators released a transcript from Kent, a career official at the State Department on Nov. 7. He testified that he was told to “lay low” on Ukraine policy as the Trump administration, and the president’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, were interacting with Ukraine outside of traditional foreign policy channels. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)

“That’s what Ambassador Sondland said,” Taylor said, referring to E.U. ambassador Gordon Sondland. “He said that they were linked. They were linked.”

But Republicans have pushed back that Taylor did not have primary knowledge regarding the key events in question, but rather based his testimony off conversations with others.

In one exchange between GOP Rep. Lee Zeldin and Taylor during his deposition, Taylor was asked whether he had any firsthand knowledge of Trump conditioning an investigation into the 2016 election and the Bidens on military aid.

Taylor said he did not speak to the president, or have any direct communication with the president regarding the requests for investigations. Instead, he said he was basing much of his testimony on what former United States Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations Kurt Volker and Sondland told him.

“What I know is what Ambassador Sondland was able to tell me about those investigations and Ambassador Volker,” Taylor said. “I don’t know what was in the president’s mind.”

Author: Gregg Re

Source: Fox News: State Dept. official flagged Hunter Biden’s ‘conflict of interest’ in Ukraine, testimony shows

A federal judge in Kentucky on Monday partially reopened Covington Catholic High School student Nicholas Sandmann’s $250 million defamation lawsuit against The Washington Post, which the same judge dismissed in July.

The new ruling, by District Judge William O. Bertelsman, is based on an amended complaint filed by Sandmann’s legal team. The decision permitted Sandmann to obtain documents from The Post during an upcoming discovery process, as his lawyers have sought to argue that the paper negligently covered Sandmann’s interactions with a Native American man, Nathan Phillips, while the student wore a red “Make America Great Again” hat and stood outside the Lincoln Memorial in January.

“The ruling bodes well for the NBC and CNN cases, as well,” Todd V. McMurtry, one of the lawyers for the Sandmann family, tweeted, referring to other outstanding lawsuits concerning those outlets’ coverage of the episode.

The Post did not immediately comment.

Sandmann was one of a group of Covington students from Park Hills, Ky., attending an anti-abortion March for Life in Washington, D.C. Phillips was attending the Indigenous Peoples’ March on the same day.

Videos documenting Sandmann’s encounter with Phillips went viral — including some clips that did not show the full incident. Incomplete video clips posted online prompted widespread accusations that Sandmann was a racist who had approached Phillips and mocked him; the Diocese of Covington and Covington Catholic High School quickly condemned Sandmann’s behavior and vowed discipline.

Within days, though, more complete footage from the day showed several members of the Black Hebrew Israelites, a fringe religious group, heckling Sandmann and his classmates with homophobic and racist language.

Then, Philips could be seen approaching Sandmann and banging a drum just inches from his face, while Sandmann stared ahead.

Judge Bertelsman’s ruling specifically concerned reporting by The Post, citing claims by Phillips that Sandmann had “blocked” him and “would not allow him to retreat.”

The judge ruled that an amended complaint submitted by Sandmann’s attorneys “alleged in greater detail than the original complaint that Phillips deliberately lied concerning the events at issue, and that Phillips had “an unsavory reputation which, but for the defendant’s negligence or malice, would have alerted defendant to this fact.”

This Friday, Jan. 18, 2019 image shows Nicholas Sandmann staring at Nathan Phillipps, the Native American man who approached him banging a drum. (Survival Media Agency via AP)

The judge noted that the new complaint “also alleges that [Sandmann] could be identified as the subject of [Phillips’ statements] by reason of certain photographs of [Sandmann] and the videos” of the episode.

In a 36-page ruling in July that dismissed all of Sandmann’s claims based on his initial complaint, Judge Bertelsman said that The Post never mentioned Sandmann by name in its initial coverage of the incident, referring only to groups of “hat-wearing teens.” The judge maintained that “the words used contain no reflection upon any particular individual” and thus could not be constituted as defamation.

Thirty other statements reported by The Post that Sandmann alleged to have been defamatory are not covered by the reconsidered ruling, and they remained dismissed.

“Nicholas Sandmann deserves his day in court against WaPo. Now he will get it.”

— Sandmann attorney Lin Wood

The lawsuit had also claimed The Post falsely labeled Sandmann a racist by publishing articles that “falsely accused Nicholas of … ‘accost[ing]’ Phillips by ‘suddenly swarm[ing]’ him in a ‘threaten[ing]’ and ‘physically intimidat[ing]’ manner … ‘taunting the dispersing indigenous crowd,’ [and] chanting, ‘Build that wall,’ ‘Trump2020,’ or ‘Go back to Africa.'” (The judge ruled that the newspaper used language that was “loose, figurative,” and “rhetorical hyperbole” which is protected by the First Amendment.)

But, Judge Bertelsman said in his new ruling, discovery should be undertaken concerning the “context” of the claims that Sandmann had blocked Phillipps. After discovery, the judge could make a summary-judgment ruling — or send the case to trial.

In a statement to The Washington Times, McMurty said the ruling “preserves the heart of Nicholas Sandmann’s claims.”

Author: Gregg Re

Source: Fox News: Judge reopens Covington Catholic High student’s defamation suit against Washington Post

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced after meeting with the House Democratic caucus on Tuesday that there will be no vote — at least for now — on the launch of formal impeachment proceedings against President Trump.

“There’s no requirement that we have a vote, and so at this time we will not be having a vote,” Pelosi said. “We’re not here to call bluffs — we’re here to find the truth, to uphold the Constitution of the United States. This is not a game for us. This is deadly serious.”

The move was seemingly a boon for moderate Democrats in swing districts, who have been reluctant to have a formal vote in favor of the proceedings as the 2020 elections approach — even as several of them have also sought to appease liberal constituents by vocally backing the ongoing inquiry.

A congressional aide familiar with House Democrats’ discussions told Fox News that many House Democrats did not want to be seen as letting the White House dictate how the House conducted itself. Last week, the White House sent a fiery letter to House Democrats announcing that it would not cooperate with their inquiry, for several reasons — including that, contrary to past precedent, no formal vote had been held on whether to begin impeachment proceedings.

Pelosi ripped those arguments: “They have no substance. They can’t defend the president, so they’re going to process,” she said.

In a head-turning moment, Pelosi told reporters, “All roads seem to lead to Putin with the president” — even though Democrats began their probe because of the president’s actions concerning Ukraine, not Russia.

Pelosi last month unilaterally held a news conference announcing that impeachment proceedings were in progress. House rules do not require a vote to begin an impeachment inquiry, but it remains unclear whether the courts will agree that an impeachment inquiry has begun without such a vote. If courts do not find that a formal inquiry is in progress, they could curtail Democrats’ evidence-gathering efforts.

However, the House speaker heralded a series of recent court victories by Democrats, including a key win in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals that reaffirmed congressional authority to subpoena several years of Trump’s financial records from his accounting firm, Mazars.

“The rulings that we won last week — three of them were against the president’s hateful public charge rule from taking effect,” Pelosi said, referring to the administration’s immigration policy. “A ruling against the president’s sham national emergency declaration to build his wasteful border wall. A ruling in the Mazars case led by [House Oversight Committee] Chairman [Elijah] Cummings. … so again, five victories on Friday, one today, in terms of Emoluments.”

Separately at the press conference on Tuesday, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., accused the White House of “stonewalling” despite those rulings.

“Were it not for the fact that at least some witnesses have given us documents, we would not know there is a paper record of efforts to condition this meeting, and perhaps condition military support itself, on these political investigations Donald Trump wanted,” Schiff said, referring to Trump’s fateful July call with Ukraine’s leader. “Those documents would have been completely bottled up by the State Department. … The evidence of obstruction of Congress continues to mount.”

Schiff said the Office of Management and Budget has refused to provide evidence concerning whether the Trump administration withheld aid to Ukraine, contingent on the country conducting an investigation of Joe and Hunter Biden’s business dealings there.

“The Constitution is clear. … the House will have the sole power of impeachment,” Schiff said later, when asked why there would be no floor vote on an impeachment inquiry.

The White House has strongly suggested it will take the fight over the Democrats’ subpoenas to the Supreme Court.

“In the history of our nation, the House of Representatives has never attempted to launch an impeachment inquiry against the president without a majority of the House taking political accountability for that decision by voting to authorize such a dramatic constitutional step,” the White House letter to Pelosi and other top Democratic leaders stated.

It continued: “Without waiting to see what was actually said on the call, a press conference was held announcing an ‘impeachment inquiry’ based on falsehoods and misinformation about the call.”

Despite Pelosi’s claim that there was no “House precedent that the whole House vote before proceeding with an impeachment inquiry,” several previous impeachment inquiries have been launched only by a full vote of the House — including the impeachment proceedings concerning former Presidents Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton.

White House officials told Fox News the vote opening the proceedings was a small ask, considering the implications of potentially overturning a national election.

Responding to the letter, Pelosi accused Trump of “trying to make lawlessness a virtue” and added, “The American people have already heard the President’s own words – ‘do us a favor, though.’” (That line, from a transcript of Trump’s call with Ukraine’s leader, in reality referred to Trump’s request for Ukraine to assist in an investigation into 2016 election interference, and did not relate to Biden.)

Pelosi continued: “This letter is manifestly wrong, and is simply another unlawful attempt to hide the facts of the Trump Administration’s brazen efforts to pressure foreign powers to intervene in the 2020 elections. … The White House should be warned that continued efforts to hide the truth of the President’s abuse of power from the American people will be regarded as further evidence of obstruction. Mr. President, you are not above the law. You will be held accountable.”

Just before Pelosi took the microphone on Tuesday, a spokesperson for House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s office emphasized some of the White House’s other objections to Democrats’ inquiry.

Separately, the letter asserted multiple alleged violations of the president’s due-process rights. It noted that under current impeachment inquiry proceedings, Democrats were not allowing presidential or State Department counsel to be present.

Among the GOP’s complaints are that Democrats’ procedures did not provide for the “disclosure of all evidence favorable to the president and all evidence bearing on the credibility of witnesses called to testify in the inquiry,” according to the White House. And “the right to see all evidence, to present evidence, to call witnesses, to have counsel present at all hearings, to cross-examine all witnesses, to make objections relating to the examination of witnesses or the admissibility of testimony and evidence, and to respond to evidence and testimony” has also been obstructed.

The White House asserted that Democrats also have not permitted Republicans in the minority to issue subpoenas, contradicting the “standard, bipartisan practice in all recent resolutions authorizing presidential impeachment inquiries.”

Author: Gregg Re

Source: Fox News: Pelosi announces House won’t vote now on whether to begin impeachment inquiry

A Louisiana Republican congressman introduced a resolution Tuesday to expel Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., from the House of Representatives, the latest sign that frustration in the GOP is building as Democrats continue their impeachment inquiry against President Trump.

Rep. Ralph Abraham’s resolution stands no realistic chance of passing in the Democratic-controlled House. Likewise, Republicans have argued that Democrats’ potential articles of impeachment are all but certain to stall if they ever reach the Senate.

“Nancy Pelosi’s vicious crusade against our lawfully-elected President is nothing more than a politically-motivated witch hunt and it must be stopped,” Abraham said in a statement. “She has disgraced the people’s House and weaponized the Speaker’s gavel for her party’s political gain.”

Abraham added: “House Democrats spent nearly three years obsessed with election meddling only to dwarf any such efforts with their own deceitful plan to nullify the 2016 election and prevent President Trump from winning in 2020. I have introduced a resolution calling for her to be expelled from the House and for the Speaker’s Office to be vacated.”

Fox News is told that the resolution has been closely held, and hasn’t secured many Republican cosponsors — but that Abraham’s office expects it to gain traction.

Abraham is running for Louisiana governor, along with fellow GOP candidate Eddie Rispone. A primary election will be held Saturday, and President Trump will visit Louisiana on Friday for a rally on behalf of both candidates as they seek to unseat incumbent Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards.

The text of the resolution reads simply: “Resolved, That pursuant to Article 1, Section 5, Clause 2 of the United States Constitution, Representative Nancy Pelosi be, and she hereby is, expelled from the House of Representatives and the Office of the Speaker is declared to be vacant.”

That constitutional clause holds that “Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings, punish its Members for disorderly Behaviour, and, with the Concurrence of two thirds, expel a Member.”

The Trump administration has mirrored congressional Republicans’ aggressive approach in response to Democrats’ impeachment inquiry. The State Department on Tuesday barred Gordon Sondland, the U.S. European Union ambassador, from appearing before a House panel conducting the probe.

“I would love to send Ambassador Sondland, a really good man and great American, to testify, but unfortunately he would be testifying before a totally compromised kangaroo court, where Republican’s rights have been taken away, and true facts are not allowed out for the public to see,” Trump wrote on Twitter.

The strategy risks further provoking Democrats in the impeachment probe, setting up court challenges and the potential for lawmakers to draw up an article of impeachment accusing Trump of obstructing their investigations. California Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, chairman of the House intelligence committee, said that Sondland’s no-show would be grounds for obstruction of justice and could give a preview of what some of the articles of impeachment against Trump would entail.

But as lawmakers seek to amass ammunition to be used in an impeachment trial, the White House increasingly believes all-out warfare is its best course of action.

“What they did to this country is unthinkable. It’s lucky that I’m the president. A lot of people said very few people could handle it. I sort of thrive on it,” Trump said Monday at the White House. “You can’t impeach a president for doing a great job. This is a scam.”

Author: Gregg Re

Source: Fox News: GOP Rep. Ralph Abraham introduces resolution to expel Nancy Pelosi from House

EXCLUSIVE: A photo obtained by Fox News’ “Tucker Carlson Tonight” shows former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter golfing in the Hamptons with Devon Archer, who served on the board of the Ukrainian natural gas company Burisma Holdings with Hunter.

Earlier this month, Joe Biden told Fox News in Iowa that he never discussed his son’s foreign business dealings with him.

“I have never spoken to my son about his overseas business dealings,” Biden said, pointing the finger at President Trump. “I know Trump deserves to be investigated. He is violating every basic norm of a president. You should be asking him why is he on the phone with a foreign leader, trying to intimidate a foreign leader. You should be looking at Trump.”

Hunter Biden told The New Yorker previously that he and his father had spoken “just once” about his work in Ukraine.

A source close to Archer told Fox News the photo was taken in August 2014. Contemporaneous news reports indicate the vice president was in the Hamptons at the time.

Hunter Biden and Archer joined the Burisma Holdings board in April 2014.

Earlier this month, Trump suggested that despite his claims, Joe Biden seemingly discussed Ukraine matters with his son. The White House has sought to point to possible corruption by the Bidens, amid the House Democrats’ formal impeachment inquiry against the president.

Devon Archer, far left, with former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, far right, in 2014.

“And now, he made a lie when he said he never spoke to his son,” Trump said. “Of course you spoke to your son!”

Biden has acknowledged on camera that in spring 2016, when he was vice president, he successfully pressured Ukraine to fire top prosecutor Viktor Shokin. At the time, Shokin was investigating Burisma Holdings — where Hunter had a lucrative role on the board despite limited relevant expertise.

The vice president threatened to withhold $1 billion in critical U.S. aid if Shokin was not fired.

“Well, son of a b—h, he got fired,” Biden joked at a panel two years after leaving office.

Shokin himself had already been widely accused of corruption.

Critics alleged Hunter Biden might have been selling access to his father, who had pushed Ukraine to increase its natural gas production.

“Impossible to justify $50k/month for Hunter Biden serving on a Ukrainian energy board w zero expertise unless he promised to sell access,” political scientist Ian Bremmer tweeted.

Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, on Sunday, suggested Shokin was the target of an international smear campaign to discredit his work.

In a combative interview on ABC News’ “This Week” on Sunday, Giuliani presented what he said was an affidavit signed by Shokin that confirmed Hunter Biden was being investigated when Shokin was fired.

“I have an affidavit here that’s been online for six months that nobody bothered to read from the gentleman who was fired, Viktor Shokin, the so-called corrupt prosecutor,” Giuliani said. “The Biden people say that he wasn’t investigating Hunter Biden at the time. He says under oath that he was.” The Shokin affidavit purportedly said the U.S. had pressured him into resigning because he was unwilling to drop the case.

Later, Giuliani added: “I have another affidavit, this time from another Ukrainian prosecutor who says that the day after Biden strong-armed the president to remove Shokin, they show up in the prosecutor’s office — lawyers for Hunter Biden show up in the prosecutor’s office and they give an apology for dissemination of false information.”

After anchor George Stephanopoulos expressed skepticism, Giuliani fired back: “How about if I — how about if I tell you over the next week four more of these will come out from four other prosecutors? … No, no, no, George, they won’t be [investigated], because they’ve been online for six months, and the Washington press will not accept the fact that Joe Biden might have done something like this.”

Speaking separately to Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures,” Giuliani brought up the affidavits and called the situation Clintonesque.

“The pattern is a pattern of pay for play. It includes something very similar to what happened to the Clinton Foundation,” Giuliani said, “which goes to the very core of, what did Obama know and when did he know it?”

Giuliani referred to a December 2015 New York Times article about Hunter Biden, Burisma and a Ukrainian oligarch, and how the younger Biden’s involvement with the Ukrainian company could undermine then-Vice President Biden’s anti-corruption message.

“The question is,” Giuliani asked, “when Biden and Obama saw that article, about how the son was pulling down money from the most crooked oligarch in Russia, did Obama call Biden in and say, ‘Joe, how could you be doing this?'”

“Tucker Carlson Tonight” producer Alex Pfeiffer contributed to this report.

Author: Gregg Re

Source: Fox News: Joe, Hunter Biden seen golfing with Ukraine gas company exec back in 2014, photo shows

President Trump issued a full-throated call for resignations and changes in management at The New York Times during a fiery rally in Democratic-leaning New Mexico on Monday night, after the paper published a bombshell allegation of sexual misconduct against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh — before later acknowledging, under pressure, that the alleged victim said she had no recollection of the event.

The slew of Democrats running for president who quickly called for Kavanaugh’s impeachment over the weekend based on the Times’ reporting indicated later on Monday they weren’t backing down, despite the Times’ major revision to the story.

“The left tries to threaten, bully, [and] intimidate Americans into submission,” Trump began. “They try to blacklist, coerce, cancel, or destroy anyone who gets in their way. Look at what they’re doing today to Justice Kavanaugh. Do you see — the Democrats are calling for his resignation. They’re calling for his impeachment, and the woman involved said she doesn’t know anything. So the New York Times had to put out a major apology, and they had to change their story … and they still want him to be impeached!”

Trump added: “I call for the resignation of everybody at The New York Times involved in the Kavanaugh smear story, and while you’re at it, the Russian witch hunt hoax, which is just as phony a story. They’ve taken the old Grey Lady, so prestigious, and broken her down, destroyed her virtue, and ruined her reputation. She can never recover, and will never return to greatness under current management. The Times is dead, long live the New York Times.

“Think of it — they wrote a story about somebody and she said, ‘I don’t remember this,'” Trump concluded. His remarks echoed his statements earlier in the day on social media.

Meanwhile, Democratic Rep. Jerry Nadler, the head of the House Judiciary Committee, appeared to throw cold water on the idea of impeaching Kavanaugh. Nadler remarked on a radio show Monday: “We have our hands full with impeaching the president right now.”

That effort also appeared to be stalled, with top Democrats unable to agree on whether impeachment proceedings are currently occurring.

The explosive rally in suburban Albuquerque came hours after New York City prosecutors went on the offensive by subpoenaing Trump’s tax returns. But Trump’s presence in the Democratic-leaning state was itself an aggressive maneuver that signaled a new campaign strategy.

The event is the first stop on a three-day swing that will also take him to California for fundraisers expected to raise more than $15 million. The county where the rally is being held, Rio Rancho, went to Hillary Clinton in 2016, if only by just 1,800 votes.

President Donald Trump arrives to speak at a campaign rally at the Santa Ana Star Center, Monday, Sept. 16, 2019, in Rio Rancho, N.M. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

“We will win the great state of New Mexico in 2020,” Trump said at the outset of the rally, before touting the state’s economic progress under his administration.

New Mexico is in the midst of an oil-production boom that has boosted employment and spurred a state government spending spree from first-year Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on public education, roadway projects and tax rebates for film productions.

“Crude oil production has more than doubled, and it’s going up higher, quickly,” Trump said. “And your state’s energy revenues are up by nearly two-thirds. Think of that.”

Chants of “Four more years!” broke out. Trump said the current spat with Iran in the Middle East would have caused a “panic” under previous administrations, when the U.S. was not a net exporter of energy and had not attained energy independence.

“Thank you very much, President Trump,” Trump said. “Now, under the Green New Deal, all of that goes away. No more cows. No more airplanes.”

“Thank you very much, President Trump.”

— President Trump

Trump’s efforts in New Mexico will provide a test of how well his often-harsh rhetoric about immigrants will play with Hispanic voters, who comprise nearly 40 percent of New Mexico’s electorate.

“Yesterday marked the beginning of the Hispanic Heritage month,” Trump said at the rally. “Who is Hispanic here? Latinos for Trump, right? Incredible people.”

Then-presidential candidate Donald Trump speaking at a campaign event in Albuquerque, N.M., in 2016. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, File)

Trump added: “The unemployment for Hispanic Americans is right now at the lowest level in the history of our country. Hispanic American poverty reached a brand-new all-time low in history. And after years of stagnation that you know very well, wages for Hispanic Americans are rising really fast, up nearly 8 percent since my election. Those are unheard-of numbers. And median income for Hispanic Americans surpassed $50,000 for the first time ever. That’s not bad.”

The president went on to praise Mexico’s efforts to assist in border enforcement, which commenced after Trump threatened the country with punishing tariffs. Border apprehensions have plunged as a result of that assistance, administration officials said, citing the latest data from the Department of Homeland Security.

Trump is looking to find the next Wisconsin or Michigan — states that Democrats generally win in presidential elections but that can surprise under certain conditions, as they did in 2016. Also on the Trump team’s shortlist: Nevada, New Hampshire and Minnesota.

New Mexico has not tilted toward a Republican in the presidential election since 2004. Trump captured just 40 percent of the state vote in 2016.

Hillary Clinton fell short of a majority victory, with 48 percent support in a state she did not visit.

Recent indicators have not been favorable fo the GOP. Last year, Republicans lost a House seat and the governor’s mansion. Last week, a congressional candidate went viral by taunting the president by name in an ad.

Rep. Ben Ray Luján, who is running in an open Senate primary to replace retiring Democrat Tom Udall, greeted news of Trump’s rally in New Mexico at first with mocking disbelief, and then with a tweeted string of stern warnings.

“Rio Rancho is in my district, and anyone who undermines the safety, security, or way of life of our communities, isn’t welcome here,” he wrote.

Still, campaign officials say a Trump rally in nearby El Paso, Texas, last February was well attended by female and Hispanic voters and travelers from New Mexico, suggesting that New Mexico is in play.

Hundreds of people showed up early Monday to claim a place in line ahead of the evening event in Rio Rancho. Protesters, for their part, vowed to step up acts of civil disobedience and demonstrations.

Trump’s first visit to New Mexico as president drew visitors from Colorado, California and all parts of New Mexico, according to local media reports.

“This is New Mexico. A lot of people in New Mexico really like Trump because he’s fighting for them,” an attendee told local station KRQE-13.

Some observers, however, have their doubts.

“Bush had much higher favorable opinions by Hispanics,” said Lonna Atkeson, a political science professor at the University of New Mexico, who noted Bush defeated Sen. John Kerry 15 years ago by winning over large rural swaths of the state. “He was from Texas, not New York, and so he had more regional ties. … Trump paints a very different portrait.”

Among those waiting for the president in New Mexico was former CIA operative Valerie Plame, the top contender in a crowded Democratic primary race for New Mexico’s northern congressional district, which Luján currently represents. Plame noted she has a “few scores to settle” with the president in a swaggering new video that shows her speeding across the desert in a muscle car — in reverse — before spinning forward in a swirl of dust. The campaign advertisement’s accuracy was questioned.

The Trump campaign said that the situation on the ground in the state has changed significantly since 2016. In August, Vice President Pence declared New Mexico was back “in play” politically in a visit to the Permian Basin, a booming petroleum production zone overlapping portions of southern New Mexico and western Texas.

“We have the opportunity because of our fundraising and infrastructure to not only defend the states we carried in 2016, but to extend the map in 2020,” said Rick Gorka, a spokesman for a fundraising committee for Trump’s reelection campaign and the Republican National Committee.

Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh said he believes the president’s standing has improved since 2016. He credited the economy, including the fact that Latino unemployment is at an all-time low, as well as the president’s stance on immigration enforcement.

“The most valuable commodity that we have as a campaign is the president’s time. And he will not travel all the way to New Mexico for a head fake,” Murtaugh said.

Gorka said New Mexico is a big part of that strategy, as are Minnesota, New Hampshire and Nevada.

President Trump boarding Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base for his trip to Albuquerque on Monday. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Lujan Grisham, meanwhile, took aim at Trump ahead of his visit, describing the president as being demeaning to Hispanics and immigrants since being elected. She also said Trump’s policies had resulted in increased taxes for some New Mexicans.

Specifically, she has pilloried Trump’s border wall while withdrawing most National Guard troops from the border and suing the U.S. Homeland Security Department to recoup spending by local governments to shelter and feed asylum-seeking migrants released into southern New Mexico towns such as Las Cruces and Deming.

Trump will stay in Albuquerque on Monday night, then follow up his rally by flying to the San Francisco Bay area on Tuesday for a luncheon fundraiser. He’ll then attend a fundraising dinner that evening in Beverly Hills at the home of real estate developer Geoffrey Palmer. He has two more fundraisers planned in Los Angeles and San Diego on Wednesday.

The fundraisers will benefit Trump Victory, the joint entity that funds Trump’s reelection campaign and the Republican National Committee.

Fox News’ Ronn Blitzer and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Author: Gregg Re

Source: Fox News: Trump demands resignations at NYT amid Kavanaugh outcry: ‘The Times is dead, long live the New York Times’

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