Monday, November 25, 2019

Trump Team Plotted Post-Hoc Justification for Withholding Ukraine Aid, Emails Suggest

By Elizabeth Nolan Brown - November 25, 2019 at 09:30AM

Budget office says "procedures were followed." After the talk of a "quid pro quo" with Ukraine started, President Donald Trump's team may have sought to reverse-engineer some legitimate reasons for withholding military aid. A review by the White House Counsel's Office found emails in which Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney asked budget officials if there was any legal justification for Trump's order to withhold the aidweeks after the president had given said order.

According to the administration, Mulvaney was simply asking to review the budget office's legal justification, which is a standard document produced whenever promised funds are withheld.

The question of whether the president withheld the millions in aid to ensure President Volodymyr Zelenskiy's cooperation in investigating the Biden family is at the center of the Trump impeachment inquiry. The president admits to both ordering the aid hold and asking for an investigation into Biden business dealings but maintains that this was no quid pro quo.

The Washington Post mentions "three people familiar with the [White House Counsel's Office investigation] who spoke on the condition of anonymity":

One person briefed on the records examination said White House lawyers are expressing concern that the review has turned up some unflattering exchanges and facts that could at a minimum embarrass the president. It's unclear whether the Mulvaney discussions or other records pose any legal problems for Trump in the impeachment inquiry, but some fear they could pose political problems if revealed publicly.

According to the Post's reporting, the evidence uncovered in this examination goes way beyond an email or two from Mulvaney. The review "has turned up hundreds of documents that reveal extensive efforts to generate an after-the-fact justification for the decision and a debate over whether the delay was legal," write Josh Dawsey, Carol D. Leonning, and Tom Hamburger.

Office of Management and Budget (OMB) spokesperson Rachel Semmel denies that there was anything unusual about communications. Semmel told The New York Times:

To be clear, there was a legal consensus at every step of the way that the money could be withheld in order to conduct the policy review. O.M.B. works closely with agencies on executing the budget. Routine practices and procedures were followed.


FREE MARKETS

Sen. Elizabeth Warren omits son's private schooling when arguing against school choice. Last Thursday, the Massachusetts Democrat and 2020 presidential candidate was confronted by several school-choice activists in Atlanta. "We are going to have the same choice that you had for your kids because I read that your children went to private school," said Sarah Carpenter of the Powerful Parent Network in a video uploaded to Facebook. Warren responded:

My children went to public schools.

But after The Washington Free Beacon unearthed a yearbook photo of her son attending the private Kirby Hall School, Warren communications director Kristen Orthman offered this:

Elizabeth's daughter went to public school. Her son went to public school until 5th grade. Elizabeth wants every kid to get a great education regardless of where they live, which is why her plan makes a historic investment in our public schools. Every public school should be a great school. Her plan does not affect funding for existing non-profit charter schools, but she believes we should not put public dollars behind a further expansion of charters until they are subject to the same accountability requirements as public schools.


FREE MINDS

California sex workers are concerned about the $1.5 million the state has allocated for a study on human trafficking victims. "Though we really want to support that, we're concerned that the groups that were allocated the monies had conflicts of interest, in that the groups that were to do the investigation, the research into sex trafficking want to call all of us sex trafficking victims, when we're not," said Maxine Doogan of the Erotic Service Providers Legal Education and Research Project (ESPLERP). "Also, the main group is involved in law enforcement, and they are able to arrest people for prostitution and then call them sex trafficking victims and then count them as sex trafficking victims and inflate the numbers of sex trafficking."

Inflated "victim" numbers are then used to justify an increase in policing conducting undercover prostitution stings. This is "because the only way [police] identify sex trafficking victims is through prostitution sting operations where people are arrested for prostitution," said Doogan. "We don't think [victims] should be arrested."


ELECTION 2020

Bloomberg officially in. "The idea that Mike Bloomberg is going to skip the first four states and then bludgeon his way into the mix through sheer financial muscle has to be one of the most fanciful presidential-campaign strategies ever," writes Rich Lowry at National Review.

Over the weekend, the former New York City mayor officially joined the Democratic 2020 presidential race.

Bloomberg—the news outlet, not the candidate—announced that to avoid any conflict of interest it would not do any investigative reporting on its namesake and publisher and, to be fair, would not to any investigative reporting on other Democratic candidates either.

In other election-related ephemera: Maya Rudolph is so good as Kamala Harris.


QUICK HITS

  • Capitalism remains the preferred economic system of 60 percent of respondents in a new Gallup poll, while 39 percent prefer socialism. But "eighty-seven percent of the population has a positive view of free enterprise," notes J.D. Tuccille, "including 92 percent of Republicans, 88 percent of Independents, and 83 percent of Democrats." And 90 percent "have a positive view of entrepreneurs."
  • Some good news out of the Hong Kong elections.
  • The Adult Performers Actors Guild is protesting discriminatory Instagram censorship. President Alana Evans "has collected a list of more than 1,300 performers who claim that their accounts have been deleted by Instagram's content moderators for violations of the site's community standards, despite not showing any nudity or sex":

  • Rick Perry calls Donald Trump "the chosen one":


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