The Hill's Morning Report — Arrest of Giuliani associates triggers many questions

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Two associates of Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiTrump: Giuliani to deliver report on Ukraine trip to Congress, Barr Trump denies report that he still uses personal cell phone for calls Giuliani draws attention with latest trip to Ukraine MORE, President TrumpDonald John TrumpPence: It's not a "foregone conclusion" that lawmakers impeach Trump FBI identifies Pensacola shooter as Saudi Royal Saudi Air Force second lieutenant Trump calls Warren 'Pocahontas,' knocks wealth tax MORE’s personal attorney, who helped fund efforts to investigate one of the president’s political rivals, were charged Thursday with campaign finance violations.

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Florida businessmen Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman were arrested Wednesday while trying to board a one-way flight from Dulles International Airport outside of Washington. The two men are facing a four-count indictment, which includes charges of conspiracy, making false statements to the Federal Election Commission and falsification of records. Notably, the arrests mark the first indictments in connection with the Ukraine inquiry that has gripped the White House and Capitol Hill (The Hill).

Among the charges, Parnas and Fruman are suspected of funneling donations to various GOP campaigns and groups through front companies and straw contributors. They are also accused of using their power and financial leverage to influence former Rep. Pete SessionsPeter Anderson SessionsTexas GOP rep predicts heavy Democratic presence in state ahead of 2020 Bottom Line The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Better Medicare Alliance - GOP snags mic with impeachment protest MORE (R-Texas) to push for the removal of Marie Yovanovitch, then the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine. According to the indictment, Parnas and Fruman, who are both U.S. citizens born in former Soviet republics, donated money to Sessions when he was the House Rules Committee chairman and pledged to raise additional funds for his 2018 campaign if he would agree to help oust Yovanovitch. Prosecutors said this is an ongoing investigation, suggesting more shoes could drop. 

In a statement Thursday, Sessions, who is running for Congress again, said he took no official action following the meetings with the two men, adding that he had no knowledge of a foreign influence effort.

While departing the White House for a reelection rally in Minneapolis on Thursday, Trump said that despite being in a photo with Parnas, he does not know either of the men and had not discussed the arrests with Giuliani.

“We have nothing to do with it,” Trump said, something Jay SekulowJay Alan SekulowOn The Money: Stocks tumble on Trump China trade remarks | Trump says deal could come after 2020 | Why Wall Street freaked | Trump loses appeal over Deutsche Bank subpoena Appeals court rules Deutsche Bank must turn over Trump financial records to House Justice Dept releases another round of summaries from Mueller probe MORE, an attorney on his legal team, echoed in a statement, noting that Trump and his reelection campaign were not aware of the federal allegations (The Washington Post). 

The two men appear in photos with multiple figures from Trump world, including the president and his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr.Donald (Don) John TrumpWhite House calls Democratic witness's mentioning of president's youngest son 'classless' Lawmakers to watch during Wednesday's impeachment hearing Top Democrats knock Trump on World AIDS Day MORE

Parnas and Fruman were reportedly flying to Vienna, which was the same Thursday destination Giuliani told a reporter he was booked to travel, according to The Atlantic’s Elaina Plott. 

Three House committees leading the impeachment inquiry quickly subpoenaed Giuliani’s business associates on Thursday seeking documents. As The Associated Press notes, the committees previously subpoenaed the former New York mayor, who has for months publicly accused former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenPence: It's not a "foregone conclusion" that lawmakers impeach Trump Warren, Buttigieg fight echoes 2004 campaign, serves as warning for 2020 race Trump: Giuliani to deliver report on Ukraine trip to Congress, Barr MORE of corruption in his dealings with Ukraine while serving as vice president. 

The Hill: Five things to know about arrest of Giuliani associates.

The Hill: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyCNN Pelosi town hall finishes third in cable news ratings race, draws 1.6M Economy adds 266K jobs in November, blowing past expectations The Hill's Morning Report — Pelosi makes it official: Trump will be impeached MORE (R-Calif.) to return money donated by indicted associates of Giuliani.

The Washington Post: Yovanovitch expected to give a deposition today in impeachment probe despite White House vow not to cooperate, congressional aides say. 

BuzzFeed News (in July): Two unofficial U.S. operatives reporting to Giuliani privately lobbied a foreign government in a bid to help the president win in 2020.

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House investigators also issued a subpoena to Energy Secretary Rick PerryRick PerryNew Energy secretary cancels Paris trip amid mass strikes against Macron proposal Mellman: The 'lane theory' is the wrong lane to be in Overnight Energy: Critics call EPA air guidance 'an industry dream' | New Energy secretary says Trump wants to boost coal | EPA looks to speed approval of disputed industry pollution permits MORE on Thursday in a push for documents related to his involvement with the president’s efforts to get Ukraine to investigate Biden.

“Recently, public reports have raised questions about any role you may have played in conveying or reinforcing the President’s stark message to the Ukrainian President,” the chairmen of the three committees wrote to Perry.  

Specifically, the committees are seeking all documents and communications related to any Energy Department preparations for Trump's infamous July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Investigators are also seeking information about Perry's attendance as part of the delegation to Zelensky's inauguration in May.

Elsewhere related to the inquiry, Trump announced that former Rep. Trey GowdyHarold (Trey) Watson GowdyFive landmark moments of testimony to Congress Conway spars with Wallace on whether White House will cooperate with impeachment inquiry after formal vote Gowdy: I '100 percent' still believe public congressional hearings are 'a circus' MORE (R-S.C.) will be unable to start work on his legal team until January due to “lobbying rules.” 

The Wall Street Journal: White House shifted authority over Ukraine aid amid legal concerns.

The Miami Herald: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantisRonald Dion DeSantis FBI identifies Pensacola shooter as Saudi Royal Saudi Air Force second lieutenant Overnight Defense: Suspect in Pensacola shooting identified as Saudi aviation student | Trump speaks with Saudi king after shooting | Esper denies considering 14K deployment to Mideast Suspect in deadly Pensacola air station shooting a Saudi national MORE to return money from Giuliani associates arrested on campaign finance charges. 

The Washington Post: While White House is mum, Ukraine’s president gives reporters an all-day talkfest. Zelensky repeats he doesn't want to interfere in the U.S. election.

The Washington Post: At least four national security officials raised alarms about Ukraine policy before and after Trump’s July 25 call with President Zelensky. 

 

 

LEADING THE DAY

POLITICS: The president went decidedly off-script during his campaign rally in Minneapolis on Thursday night, his first since House Democrats opened their inquiry into his involvement with Ukraine. Trump aired a laundry list of grievances to a packed arena of supporters about Biden, House Democrats, the ongoing impeachment probe, the news media and recent polling, to name a few (The Hill).

Focusing intently on a leading political rival, Trump leveled some of his harshest attacks in the former vice president’s direction, arguing that Biden is only considered a successful vice president because he was paired with former President Obama. He also repeatedly mocked and excoriated Hunter Biden over his involvement in Ukraine, telling a raucous crowd he’s a “loser” and knows “nothing about anything.” 

“[Biden] was never considered smart,” Trump said. “He was never considered a good senator. He was only a good vice president because he figured out how to kiss Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaThe House Judiciary Committee's fundamental choice Teaching black children to read is an act of social justice Buttigieg draws fresh scrutiny, attacks in sprint to Iowa MORE’s ass” (The Hill).

“Hunter, you know nothing about energy, you know nothing about China, you know nothing about anything, frankly … Hunter, you’re a loser,” Trump said. “Whatever happened to Hunter? Where the hell is he? . . . I have an idea for a new T-shirt . . . Where’s Hunter?”

Trump also lashed out at the House Democratic impeachment inquiry, but trained his fire on one member of Congress specifically: Rep. Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarSanders, Omar to hit campaign trail in New Hampshire House approves two-state resolution in implicit rebuke of Trump Al Green calls for including Trump's 'racism' in impeachment articles MORE (D-Minn.) calling the freshman congresswoman an “America-hating socialist.” Omar, who was born in Somalia and is an outspoken progressive and Trump critic, represents the district in which the president appeared on Thursday. Trump told the crowd gathered at the Target Center that Omar is one of the “big reasons” he is “going to win Minnesota” (The Hill).

“How do you have such a person representing you in Minnesota?” he asked supporters.

Trump also mentioned the sizeable number of Somali refugees who live in the Minneapolis area, which brought boos from the crowd.

“Leaders in Washington brought large numbers of refugees to your state from Somalia without considering the impact on schools and communities and taxpayers,” the president said, noting his decisions to curb the number of refugees admitted annually to the United States. 

The Hill: “Lock him up” chant erupts at Trump rally after Eric TrumpEric Frederick TrumpMia Farrow resurfaces photo of Trump sons with dead leopard after signing of animal cruelty bill Eric Trump promotes Trump wine as Sondland testifies: 'Perfect day for a nice bottle of this' Resistance or unhinged behavior? Partisan hatred reaches Trump's family MORE attacks Biden.

The New York Times: At Minneapolis rally, an angry Trump reserves sharpest attack for Biden.

The Hill: Biden bets on Trump attacks to hold off Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenTrump calls Warren 'Pocahontas,' knocks wealth tax Warren, Buttigieg fight echoes 2004 campaign, serves as warning for 2020 race Democrats battle for Hollywood's cash MORE (D-Mass.). 

 

 

> LGBTQ forum: Nearly half of the 2020 Democratic presidential contenders pitched their plans to protect LGBTQ rights during a town hall hosted by CNN and the Human Rights Campaign on Thursday, including support for the Equality Act, which would amend the Civil Rights Act to block discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation and gender identity (The Hill).  

“I’m going to be blunt; we’ve got to have some more Democrats in the Senate,” said Warren, emphasizing the need for a Democratic majority to pass the legislation. 

Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) took his support a step forward, calling for religious institutions, including colleges, churches and charities, to lose their tax-exempt status if they oppose same sex marriage, drawing the ire of Republicans in the process (The Hill). 

“There can be no reward, no benefit, no tax break, for anyone, or any institution, any organization in America that denies the full human rights and the full civil rights of every single one of us,” O’Rourke said.

When asked the same question, Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerBooker campaign rakes in million after Harris exits 2020 race Sunday talk shows: Lawmakers gear up ahead of Monday's House Judiciary hearing Democrats battle for Hollywood's cash MORE (D-N.J.) declined to answer, noting that there would be a “long legal battle” involved in that situation. 

The Hill: Protesters interrupt CNN equality town hall to address transgender murder.

Reuters: Biden says he would withhold foreign aid if countries discriminate against LGBTQ people. 

> Retirements: House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita LoweyNita Sue LoweyAppropriators face crucial weekend to reach deal ICE emerges as stumbling block in government funding talks Congress races to beat deadline on shutdown MORE (D-N.Y.) announced Thursday that she will not run for reelection next year, capping what will be a 32-year career in the House. Lowey, 82, is the first woman to chair the powerful committee and pledged to serve out the remainder of her term atop the panel (The Hill). 

Lowey’s district, which represents Westchester, Rockland, Queens and the Bronx, leans heavily Democratic and her seat is expected to remain in the party’s control. The more high-profile race to replace the longtime New York congresswoman will be for the top spot on the House Appropriations Committee, where jockeying has already kicked off

 

 

IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

INTERNATIONAL: U.S.-China: A partial deal between the United States and China could emerge after two days of talks that are scheduled to conclude today with Trump’s direct participation with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He at the White House.

A piecemeal agreement could postpone or prevent Trump’s planned tariff increase next week on Chinese goods and might include rules around how China manages its currency, according to a U.S. Chamber of Commerce official who was briefed by both negotiating teams (The New York Times). As the U.S. economy slows and the 2020 election nears, the impasse has weighed on U.S. farming, manufacturing, business decision-making and hiring, as well as consumer confidence. Trump in the past said he wanted a comprehensive deal with China rather than a piecemeal approach. He may have changed his mind. “They’ve been very nice,” Trump told supporters in Minneapolis. “They’re tough as hell, those Chinese negotiators.” 

> Syria/Turkey: Turkey’s attack on Syrian Kurds entered its second day with a reported 181 air strikes and a ground assault that killed at least 23 Kurds and caused tens of thousands to flee as of Thursday (The New York Times). Kurdish-led forces retaliated, sending mortar and rocket fire into Turkish border towns, killing six people, according to Turkish officials. The International Rescue Committee said 64,000 people in Syria have fled since the Turkish offensive began, crossing the border into Syria (Reuters).

Speaking to reporters, Trump said he hoped the United States could mediate between the Turks and the Kurds. “Turkey knows where I stand,” he said. “We won. We beat ISIS” (Reuters). Meanwhile, Israel is watching events in Syria and wondering how reliable a partner Trump is (The Associated Press).

 

 

> Brexit: With less than three weeks remaining before an Oct. 31 deadline for Great Britain’s split from the European Union, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Irish leader Leo Varadkar said Thursday they believe there may be a “pathway” to a possible Brexit deal. They offered little in the way of specifics after three years of negotiations (The Associated Press).

> Russia: Trump is poised to nominate John Sullivan, No. 2 at the State Department, to be U.S. ambassador to Russia, to succeed Jon Huntsman Jr., who left the post this month and is weighing a campaign for governor of Utah (The Wall Street Journal).

The Morning Report is created by journalists Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver. We want to hear from you! Email: asimendinger@thehill.com and aweaver@thehill.com. We invite you to share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE!

 

OPINION

The House can play hardball, too. It can arrest Giuliani, by Josh Chafetz, opinion contributor, The New York Times. https://nyti.ms/327LR8Q 

How the U.S.-Turkey deal jeopardizes hard-fought counterterrorism gains, by Javed Ali and Marcella Huber, opinion contributors, The Hill. https://bit.ly/35qSp4i

WHERE AND WHEN

Hill.TV’s “Rising” at 9 a.m. ET features presidential candidate Rep. Tulsi GabbardTulsi GabbardBiden: All-white debate not representative of party, but 'you can't dictate' nominee Delaney to DNC: Open second debate stage for candidates who qualified for past events The Hill's Campaign Report: Democrats worry about diversity on next debate stage MORE (D-Hawaii) to talk about the situation in Syria; Ryan Grim, Washington bureau chief for The Intercept, to talk about his new story, “Joe Biden’s Family Has Been Cashing in on His Career for Decades”; and The Hill’s editor-in-chief Bob CusackRobert (Bob) CusackHill editor-in-chief reacts to fifth Democratic debate The Hill's Morning Report — Schiff: Clear evidence of a quid pro quo Hill editor-in-chief: Buttigieg could benefit if impeachment reaches Senate MORE with his weekly DeBrief segment. Find Hill.TV programming at http://thehill.com/hilltv or on YouTube at 10 a.m.

The House holds a pro forma session at 3:30 p.m. and returns to work on Tuesday.

The Senate holds a pro forma session at 2:15 p.m.

The president says he will meet with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He at the White House to discuss trade. Trump will participate in a photo op at 1:45 p.m. with the Little League Baseball World Series Championship Team and the Little League Softball World Series Championship Team. The president travels to Lake Charles, La., to stump for Republican candidates during a rally at 8 p.m. ahead of an election on Saturday (KBMT-TV).

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoForeign Relations Democrat calls on Iran to release other American prisoners Documentary groups challenge Trump administration's vetting of immigrants' social media Iran releases American graduate student in prisoner swap MORE, traveling in Nashville, participates in a roundtable with Christian mental health and ministry leaders at 10 a.m. An hour later, he will speak about “Being a Christian Leader” at the 2019 American Association of Christian Counselors World Conference. The secretary will participate in a roundtable with Nashville business leaders at 2 p.m.

Join The Hill's upcoming newsmaker event, Innovation Runway: The Cutting Edge of Aviation at the Newseum on Oct. 23 at 8 a.m. Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzSunday talk shows: Lawmakers gear up ahead of Monday's House Judiciary hearing Trade deal talks expand as Congress debates tech legal shield Sanders meets with MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred MORE (R-Texas), Rep. Rick LarsenRichard (Rick) Ray LarsenAviation chairmen cite safety, new tech among concerns for the future The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Better Medicare Alliance - Diplomat's 'powerful' testimony and 'lynching' attract headlines The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Better Medicare Alliance - Trump's impeachment plea to Republicans MORE (D-Wash.) and Daniel Elwell, deputy administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, will discuss changes in American aviation that affect consumers and the nation. Information is HERE.

ELSEWHERE

Nobel Peace Prize: The Norwegian Nobel Committee today awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2019 to Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali “for his efforts to achieve peace and international cooperation, and in particular for his decisive initiative to resolve the border conflict with neighbouring Eritrea.”

E-cigarettes: Vaping is linked to 26 deaths and 1,299 confirmed and probable cases of a mysterious respiratory illness, according to the latest report from federal health officials released on Thursday. The cause is unknown. Investigators have not linked cases to any specific product or compound, but have pointed to vaping oils containing THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, as being especially risky (Reuters). Lung damage from vaping resembles chemical burns or exposures to poison or toxins, according to researchers (The New York Times). 

Trump tax returns: An appeals court on Thursday said it learned from Deutsche Bank that the financial institution does not have copies of Trump’s tax returns, sought by House investigators and other authorities (Reuters).

State Watch: Michigan’s economy is feeling the effects of striking General Motors Co. workers, who walked off their jobs last month (Reuters). ...On Thursday, winds in the San Francisco Bay area followed the decision by California’s largest utility, PG&E, to cut off electricity to nearly 2 million people because of concerns about deadly wildfires (The Associated Press). Is the wildfire risk turning California into a “Third World” state? (The Sacramento Bee).

THE CLOSER

And finally … Kudos to winners of this week’s Morning Report Quiz about the history of the NBA, basketball and China amid the raucous newscycle in the aftermath of a tweet by Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey    

Big ups to those who knew their stuff (or Googled well) and dunked all four answers: William Chittam, John Donato, Rich Davis, Jim Burns, Patrick Kavanagh, Allyson Foster, Gordon Lancaster, Carol Katz, Peter John, Jack Barshay, Margaret Gainer, Phil Kirstein, and Bob Irvin. 

They knew that at the end of the 2001-02 season for the Dallas Mavericks, Wang Zhizhi became the first Chinese-born player to appear in an NBA game. 

Yao Ming, China’s beloved son who was the nation’s flag bearer at the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics in 2008, stands at a gargantuan 7 feet 6 inches.

After a lengthy career in the NBA with the New Jersey Nets and Phoenix Suns, Stephon Marbury had a notable career with the Chinese Basketball Association for seven seasons.

China arrested three basketball players for the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) for shoplifting during a preseason tour in 2017. The players returned to the United States and were suspended from the team.