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Preident Donald Trump must get it together to avoid another disastrous week



He must also placate fellow Republicans on whom he will depend to save his presidency in any Senate trial, after triggering self-inflicted crises over Syria and the G7 summit that tested his party’s tolerance for its volatile leader.

Every Monday over the month since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi initiated an impeachment inquiry, it seemed like life could not get much worse for an increasingly isolated President.

Yet every week it does.

At times, as his simmering fury bursts open in meetings or on Twitter, and as new political conflagrations take hold, it looks like Trump’s presidency is unraveling. And, perhaps worse, a hollowed out White House can’t cope with the incoming fire.

The signs are not great that things will improve for Trump in the week ahead, however, with a new battery of State Department officials expected to testify to three Democratic committees taking depositions in the impeachment inquiry about Trump’s alleged abuse of power on Ukraine.

G7 walk back

The President did defuse one potential political nightmare over the weekend — backing off plans to hold next year’s G7 summit at one of his Florida resorts, after his initial announcement caused outrage and claims of blatant self-dealing and corruption.

In a tweet, Trump blamed the “Do Nothing Democrat/Fake News Anger” for his reversal. But there is little doubt that his move was made to spare GOP lawmakers the pain of defending the President in a controversy entirely of his own making.

“People think it looks lousy,” acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said on “Fox News Sunday” before adding to his accident-prone streak with a comment that could be interpreted as meaning the President had never really distanced himself from his business empire — as he promised to do.

“(Trump) still considers himself to be in the hospitality business,” Mulvaney said.

There is so far no suggestion that Republican support for the President over impeachment is waning. But his Syria withdrawal — seen by many Republicans as a betrayal of America’s Kurdish allies — is testing patience for the President in his own party, perhaps more than any other previous incident.

On Friday for instance, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell penned an unrestrained Washington Post op-ed in which he branded Trump’s Syria withdrawal “a grave strategic mistake.” Some Republicans told CNN last week they were alarmed at the President’s mood and behavior. When Mulvaney told reporters to “Get over it” amid claims that foreign policy in Ukraine was being motivated by hopes of a political payoff, the White House’s hubris appeared out of control.

The President’s apparent disdain for the price Republicans pay for supporting Trump reflects confidence that the GOP base, over which he holds a firm grip, is an infallible insurance policy. He certainly lapped up the adoration of the Trump faithful in a pair of rallies last week.

But his retreat over the G7 summit may indicate that the President also understands there may be some issues on which his usually pliable party will not accommodate him.

New danger from fresh testimony

A new parade of current and former US officials are expected to trek up to Capitol Hill this week, raising the prospect of offering testimony that could further damage the President.

They could include the top US diplomat in Ukraine Bill Taylor possibly as soon as Tuesday. The career foreign service officer was thrust into the public eye following the release of his text exchanges with former Special Envoy for Ukraine Kurt Volker and ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland.

In the exchanges, Taylor expressed concern about foreign policy moves being tied to political motives, writing that it was “crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.”

Testimony from former and current State Department officials has appeared to play into Democratic hands and deflected White House efforts to stall the investigation.

Shocking revelations over the last week already appear to indicate that the President set up an off-the-books foreign policy operation to deal with Ukraine. At its center was his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani who was mining the former Soviet Union for dirt on the potential Democratic 2020 rival that aides said the President feared the most — former Vice President Joe Biden.

A lack of leaks from the committees from Republicans with mitigating information to offset revelations from official testimony, has darkened the picture for Trump.

It appears more and more that the whistle blower report and the rough transcript of Trump’s July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is just the tip of the impeachment iceberg.

Democrats charge that Trump abused his power by using his prerogative to dictate foreign policy to force a leader abroad to procure negative information on a political opponent.

That’s exactly what did happen — according to Mick Mulvaney last week.

The former South Carolina congressman on Sunday tried — and largely failed — to walk back his brazen comments made during a calamitous Thursday White House briefing.
“That’s not what I said. That’s what people said I said,” Mulvaney protested on “Fox News Sunday” before being shown video evidence of his implication that there was indeed a quid pro quo in Ukraine.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also denied that there was any quid pro quo offered by the White House in holding up military aid while it was seeking political help from Ukraine.

“I never saw that in the decision making process,” he said on ABC News’ “This Week.”

But GOP Rep. Francis Rooney, who has not ruled out supporting impeachment, told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union” on Sunday that Mulvaney could not walk back his previous comment.

“I would say, game, set, match on that,” Rooney said.

Mulvaney on shaky ground, source says

Trump, after having spent the weekend apparently watching news coverage of Mulvaney’s appearance and frenetically tweeting, is becoming frustrated with his top White House official, CNN reported.

Mulvaney may already have been on thin ice, since the President’s son-in-law and senior White House adviser Jared Kushner had been trying leading efforts to to oust him before the impeachment drama erupted. While Kushner has fielded complaints about Mulvaney, an administration official insists Kushner did not reach out to any potential replacements for the chief of staff job.

In a source’s view, Mulvaney is increasingly on shaky ground with Trump, but by no means is it clear that the President will get rid of him.

Mulvaney faced White House ouster threat before impeachment crisis took over

The optics sure wouldn’t be great. It would mean yet another chief of staff in about three years.

The latest reports of discord in the White House reinforce a growing impression that Trump’s advisers are not up to the task, or have lost the capacity to contain his wildest impulses.

On two occasions last week White House gambits were turned back against the President by mocking adversaries.

A photo of Pelosi upbraiding Trump in a private meeting with congressional leaders was quickly embraced by the Speaker who seized on it to suggest she overpowered the President.
Then, the White House apparently leaked a letter from Trump to Recep Tayyip Erdogan written in juvenile language that the Turkish President later treated with disdain.

If details seeping out of the impeachment committees about the breadth of the evidence are confirmed, Trump’s defenders may find it difficult to support his claims that his call with Zelensky was “perfect” or that offenses that are inappropriate from a President did not take place.

They may be forced to fall back on a less politically satisfying defense that the President’s activity was wrong, but does not merit the bar of high crimes and misdemeanors required for him to be ejected from office.



Denver Radio Host Fired in Mid-Show After Criticizing Trump




He said that angered the station’s managers, who warned him last week that if he continued to speak on competing shows, his job would be jeopardy.

“I canceled going on, and then I met with them on Thursday,” Mr. Silverman said. “I explained that under my contract, I have a right to go on other media. And they said, well, we don’t want you to do it.”

In addition to dropping Mr. Silverman from the air, KNUS has also apparently removed all of his content from its website, including more than five years’ worth of podcasts.

Elizabeth Skewes, a professor at the University of Colorado-Boulder who teaches media law and ethics, said that while “to some degree, Craig Silverman was doing what he was hired to do, express his opinion,” the station was well within its rights to dismiss him if it no longer wanted to put those opinions on the air. The First Amendment protects free speech only from government censorship, she said, not from private business decisions.

Even so, she said, she saw it as part of a problematic trend.

“We’ve become less tolerant of alternative viewpoints as media has become more polarized,” Professor Skewes said. “The more narrow it gets, the worse off we are as a democracy.”

Others working in broadcasting have seen their careers abruptly deflected over whether they were supportive of Mr. Trump. When Jerry Bader, a conservative radio host in Green Bay, Wis., was fired in 2018 after 18 years at the station, he said it was over his criticism of the president. In October, the Fox News anchor Shepard Smith, who had frequently aired reports critical of Mr. Trump, abruptly resigned after publicly clashing with a staunchly pro-Trump host on the network, Tucker Carlson.

And James Bunner, a reporter for KTTC-TV, an NBC affiliate in Rochester, Minn., was fired in October for wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat while covering a Trump rally.


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Republicans Shift Defense of Trump, While He Attacks Another Witness




Ms. Pelosi, also appearing on “Face the Nation,” suggested that Mr. Trump — who is blocking key witnesses like Mick Mulvaney, his acting chief of staff, from testifying — make his case for himself, while delivering a brief lesson in Latin: “If he has information that is exculpatory, that means ex, taking away, culpable, blame, then we look forward to seeing it.”

Hours after that broadcast, Mr. Trump — who last week attacked Marie L. Yovanovitch, his former ambassador to Ukraine, on Twitter while she was testifying — unleashed an afternoon Twitter storm, lashing out at a second witness, Jennifer Williams, an adviser to Vice President Mike Pence.

Ms. Williams, a longtime State Department employee with expertise in Europe and Russia who has been detailed to Mr. Pence’s national security staff, is among those who listened to a July 25 telephone call in which Mr. Trump asked President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine to “do us a favor” and investigate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his son Hunter.

Mr. Trump had frozen the military aid about a week before.

Ms. Williams told House investigators she thought the telephone call was “unusual and inappropriate,” adding, “I guess for me it shed some light on possible other motivations behind a security assistance hold,” according to a transcript of her deposition released Saturday evening by Democrats.

“Tell Jennifer Williams, whoever that is, to read BOTH transcripts of the presidential calls, & see the just released ststement from Ukraine,” Mr. Trump wrote, misspelling the word “statement.” “Then she should meet with the other Never Trumpers, who I don’t know & mostly never even heard of, & work out a better presidential attack!”


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Iran Blocks Nearly All Internet Access




The Associated Press reported that Iran also experienced wide disruptions and outages of internet service on Friday and Saturday, according to the group NetBlocks, which monitors worldwide internet access. By Saturday night, connectivity had fallen to just 7 percent of ordinary levels, NetBlocks said.

“The ongoing disruption is the most severe recorded in Iran since President Rouhani came to power, and the most severe disconnection tracked by NetBlocks in any country in terms of its technical complexity and breadth,” the group said. The internet firm Oracle called it “the largest internet shutdown ever observed in Iran.”

Ahmad, a taxi driver in Tehran who did not want his last name used, said in telephone interview that when he tried to connect to the internet on his mobile phone, a recorded message said that because of a decision by the National Security Council, connectivity had been cut off.

WhatsApp and Instagram, both used widely by Iranians, were also blocked.

Fahimeh, an accountant, said she and her friends relied on WhatsApp to find out the location and time of protests, and in the absence of the internet, it would be difficult for Iranians to plan and spread the word.

The Ministry of Information said Sunday that it had identified bad actors among protesters and warned that those responsible for unrest would be arrested.

Intelligence agents on Sunday arrested Abdoleza Davari, a senior aide to Iran’s former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and a vocal critic of the gas price policy, according to his wife, Elham Salmani. Mr. Davari had posted a tweet a day earlier saying that the people have the right to demonstrate and that parliament must hear their concerns and stand up to the branches of the government imposing this policy.

“They have failed to successfully counter freethinking with ideology so the only tool at their disposal is violence,” said Ms. Salmani, a journalist and political activist, in a telephone interview. She said the prosecutor’s office had threatened to arrest her as well and had accused her of hiding her husband’s mobile telephone and laptop computer.

Mostafa Tajzadeh, a prominent reformist politician, said on Twitter that if elected officials could not listen to the demands of the people, “they should resign and leave the country to its real rulers.”


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