As it happenedended1570829853

Trump news: President suffers double impeachment blow after court orders tax returns release and key witness agrees to testify

Follow the latest updates from Washington, as they happened

Trump launches blistering attack on Ilhan Omar by repeating conspiracy theories from right-wing blog

Donald Trump has suffered a double blow after the DC Circuit Court of Appeals ruled his accountants, Mazars USA, must turn over eight years of his financial records to the House impeachment inquiry and his ambassador to the EU, Gordon Sondland, confirmed he will now testify before Congress, defying a White House pledge to stonewall the Ukraine investigation.

At a campaign rally in Minneapolis, Minnesota, last night, the president attacked “America-hating socialist” and local Democratic congresswoman Ilhan Omar, and also laid into Joe Biden, his son Hunter and House speaker Nancy Pelosi over the ongoing probe.

The House has meanwhile subpoenaed energy secretary Rick Perry and the two business associates of Rudy Giuliani arrested in Florida on Thursday, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, as the ex-US ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, appears on Capitol Hill today to tell her side of the story.

Mr Trump on Friday said that he is not sure if Mr Giuliani is still his attorney — a statement he made on the White House lawn, sparking a flurry of reporters to contact Mr Giuliani to ask if he had a better idea of the circumstances (he said he is still representing him).

Mr Trump's Minneapolis rally ended up garnering more attention than just for his attacks on those prominent Democrats, too, with clips of him seeming to imitate a love affair between former FBI agent Peter Strzok and Lisa Page.

The president is choosing to spend yet another evening away from Washington on Friday, too, and will hold yet another rally in Louisiana to prop up two GOP candidates for governor there.

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Hello and welcome to The Independent's rolling coverage of the Donald Trump administration.

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Donald Trump attacked “America-hating socialist” and local Democratic congresswoman Ilhan Omar at his latest campaign rally in Minneapolis, Minnesota, last night, also laying into Joe Biden, his son Hunter, House speaker Nancy Pelosi and Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff over the ongoing impeachment inquiry.

The president branded Omar "a disgrace to our country" and repeated a long-running and entirely false smear about her eminating from an alt-right blog, a move intended to provoke boos from his crowd and in turn drawing an angry response from the victim on Twitter.

Over the course of the night, Trump called the inquiry "a brazen attempt to overthrow our government" by the Democrats and told his supporters the opposition "want to erase your voice and they want to erase your future". It was inflammatory stuff.

Amongst the expected self-justification surrounding the abandonment of the Kurds in Syria, praise for Fox News and lies about Democratic attitudes towards abortion, his performance was, at times, downright unhinged, however entertaining.

Here's Andrew Buncombe's report.

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Eric Trump was one of his father's warm-up men in Minneapolis, stoking the crowd to chant "Lock him up"! when he brought up Biden, completely failing to see the irony, given that two Florida business associates of family attorney Rudy Giuliani - Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman - had been arrested in Florida earlier in the day over campaign finance violations.

Before Eric took to the stage at the Target Center, "Purple Rain" was played in the arena in honour of Minnesota legend Prince.

The late star's estate was not happy about that one bit.

Spotted on the stadium floor, meanwhile, was this father teaching his young son to hate the media from an early age.

Having feuded with the city's Democratic mayor Jacob Frey all week over who should pick up the tab for his security detail, Trump was of course duty bound to claim the venue's 20,000 strong crowd was "a record", despite the fact that its upper tiers had clearly not been filled to capacity.

Here's Roison O'Connor on an affront to the Purple One. 

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There were some fairly astonishing sartorial choices on display inside the Target Center last night, it has to be said.

(Craig Lassig/EPA)

(Craig Lassig/EPA)

(Leah Mills/Reuters)

(Leah Mills/Reuters)

(Aaron Lavinsky/Star Tribune via AP)

(Jim Urquhart/Reuters)

(Leah Mills/Reuters)

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There were plenty of protesters out in force in the famously liberal city too, many of whom expressed their passionate support for Trump's impeachment.

Demonstraters outside the arena chanted, banged drums and blew whistles before matters turned tense later, when red MAGA caps were reportedly burned, urine thrown and police forced to use pepper spray to dispel ugly scenes, according to USA Today.

(Kerem Yucel/AFP via Getty)

(Kerem Yucel/AFP via Getty)

(Kerem Yucel/AFP via Getty)

(Jim Urquhart/Reuters)

(Jim Urquhart/Reuters)

Our man Vincent Wood has more on the hat burning.

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In the latest developments in the investigation, the House of Representatives has subpoenaed energy secretary Rick Perry as well as the two aforementioned Giuliani associtates picked up in Florida to give their side of the story on Ukraine.

“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 House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight committees leading the House inquiry wrote in a letter to Perry.

The subpoena issued on Thursday demands that Perry hand over all documents and communications related to any Energy Department preparations for Trump's now notorious 25 July call with Volodymyr Zelensky. The inquiry is also seeking information on the American delegation to attend Zelensky's inauguration, which Perry spearheaded, and on his reported attempts to influence a changing of the guard on the board of Naftogaz, Ukraine's state gas company.

As for Messrs Parnas and Fruman, thought to have played a networking role in Ukraine on behalf of Giuliani, the chairmen told their lawyer John Dowd they must comply with the investigation in spite of the White House refusal to co-operate because they are private citizens.

They may not evade requests from Congress for documents and information necessary to conduct our inquiry. They are required by law to comply with the enclosed subpoenas. They are not exempted from this requirement merely because they happen to work with Mr Giuliani, and they may not defy congressional subpoenas merely because President Trump has chosen the path of denial, defiance, and obstruction.

The pair, Ukraine-born Parnas and Belarus-born Fruman, were arrested yesterday at an airport outside Washington carrying one-way tickets to Vienna, intriguingly. Prosecutors said they conspired to contribute foreign money, including at least $1m (£797,000) from an unidentified Russian businessman, to candidates for federal and state offices to buy influence.

The two had donated $325,000 (£259,000) to a pro-Trump political action committee called America First Action in May 2018 and the money was falsely reported as coming from a purported natural gas company set up to conceal its true source, according to the indictment.

Here's a nice picture of the dueo having lunch with a nervous-looking Don Jr, incidentally, plus another with Trump himself and Rudy for good measure.

Here's a more recent photo.

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The White House's promise to stonewall the impeachment inquiry will get an early test today as the former ambassador to Ukraine is scheduled to testify to House of Representatives investigators.

Marie Yovanovitch, a career diplomat who was abruptly recalled from Ukraine in May, is set to give a deposition to congressional investigators but at present it remains unclear whether or not she will be given the chance to go through with it after Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the EU, was abruptly blocked from testifying behind closed doors on Tuesday.

Congressional lawmakers are waiting to see if she shows up after White House lawyer Pat Cipollone lashed out at its "kangaroo court" proceedings in an eight-page letter to the investigating chairmen earlier this week.

The testimony from Yovanovitch - should it take place - is the first of several depositions of key figures planned by the House committees spearheading the probe.

The ex-ambassador, described by colleagues as a consummate professional, became the target in March of allegations - vehemently denied by the State Department - that she gave a Ukrainian prosecutor a list of people not to prosecute.

Trump allies called for her removal, accusing her of criticising the president to foreign officials, something current and former colleagues found inconceivable. Giuliani alleged she blocked efforts to persuade Ukraine to investigate the Bidens.

According to a White House summary, Trump described her as "bad news" to Zelensky in the July call in which he sought Zelensky's help to investigate Biden and his son. "She's going to go through some things," Trump added.

One of the foreign-born businessman arrested on Thursday, Lev Parnas, sought the help of a US congressman - identified by a person familiar with the matter as Republican Pete Sessions - to get Trump to remove Yovanovitch, according to the indictment.

Giuliani told Reuters last week he had provided information to both Trump and the State Department about Yovanovitch, who he suggested was biased against Trump.

Sessions lost his House seat from Texas last year to a Democrat. In a statement quoted by Politico, he said his motivation in urging the removal of Yovanovitch was his belief that "political appointees should not be disparaging the president, especially while serving overseas."

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Deutsche Bank says it does not have copies of Trump's tax returns, a US appeals court heard on Thursday, closing one possible avenue for House Democrats to obtain his filings.

Trump has asked the court to block Deutsche Bank from releasing banking records related to himself and his family, which the House Financial Services Committee and Intelligence Committee subpoenaed in April. The subpoena is part of Democrats' broader efforts to gather information about the president's personal finances.

Long a principal lender for Trump's real estate business, a 2017 disclosure form showed that Trump had at least $130m (£104m) in liabilities to Deutsche Bank.

In a letter to the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals in August, the bank acknowledged that records related to Trump and three of his children subpoenaed by the committees included tax returns. But while the previously redacted letter said Deutsche Bank held tax returns for two individuals named in the subpoenas, their identities were withheld. Media organisations had asked the court to unseal the letter and reveal whose tax returns Deutsche Bank had on file from the Trump family. The court denied the motion on Thursday.

However, in its ruling, the court said Deutsche Bank's letter revealed the tax returns it has for individuals or entities named in the subpoenas were not those of the president.

Deutsche Bank declined to comment on the court's ruling but a former executive did tell David Enrich of The New York Times it was normal procedure to retain client's tax returns and reacted by text with the words: "Holy f***".

"The circumstance could be that they returned any physical copies or destroyed any physical copies under an agreement with a client and cleansed their servers," he added. "Not normal though."

While campaigning for the presidency in 2016, Trump broke with a decades-old convention of candidates releasing their tax returns publicly.

A decision on whether Deutsche Bank needs to hand over the banking records of Trump, his children and businesses is still pending, the court confirmed.

The two congressional panels issued a joint 12-page subpoena in April seeking the records. Lawmakers requested documents that identify "any financial relationship, transactions, or ties" between Trump, his family members and his companies and "any foreign individual, entity, or government", according to the subpoena.

In a separate ruling on Monday, a federal judge said eight years of Trump's tax returns must be provided to Manhattan prosecutors, forcefully rejecting the president's argument that he was immune from criminal investigations.

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Elizabeth Warren, now Biden's most serious challenger in the polls, deservedly went viral last night after giving this stunning answer on same-sex marriage at CNN's Equality Town Hall on LGBT+ issues.

Speaking of Warren, this parody of her also deserves a wide audience.

Sirena Bergman has more for Indy100.

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Trump offered an upbeat assessment of US-China trade talks at his rally last night and said he would meet with the leader of the Chinese negotiating team at the White House today.

Expectations were low that the negotiations would do much to resolve a 15-month trade battle that is weighing on the global economy.

But as the first of an expected two days of talks wrapped up Thursday, Trump told reporters at the White House, "We're doing very well... We're going to see them tomorrow, right here, and it's going very well."

Chinese vice premier Liu He is leading the delegation in the 13th round of negotiations with US trade representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin.

The world's two biggest economies are deadlocked over US allegations that China steals technology and pressures foreign companies to hand over trade secrets as part of a sharp-elbowed drive to become a world leader in advanced industries such as robotics and self-driving cars.

Under Trump, the United States has slapped tariffs on more than $360bn (£286bn) worth of Chinese imports and is planning to hit another $160bn (£127bn) on 15 December. That would extend import taxes to virtually everything China ships to the United States. China has hit back by targeting about $120bn (£95.4bn) in US goods, focusing on farm products.

The high cost of the tariffs and uncertainty over when and how the trade war will end have taken an economic toll, especially on manufacturing companies. A private survey last week found that US factory output had dropped to its lowest level since 2009, when the economy was in the grips of a deep recession.

Liu met with leaders of the US Chamber of Commerce and the US-China Business Council on Thursday. He told them the Chinese negotiators "come with great sincerity" and were ready to discuss the trade balance, market access and investor protection, Xinhua News Agency reported.

The report made no mention of willingness to discuss Chinese industrial and technology policy, a major irritant that sparked the tariff war.

It wasn't clear whether that was intended to signal Beijing was digging in on resisting pressure to roll back plans for government-led development of global competitors in robotics, electric cars and other technology. Washington, Europe and other trading partners complain those violate China's market-opening commitments and are based on stealing or pressuring companies to hand over business secrets.

"Both sides have been losing, and so has the global economy," said Myron Brilliant, head of international affairs at the US Chamber of Commerce.

Brilliant, who spoke with both delegations, sounded optimistic about the chances of progress, noting that Beijing has stepped up purchases of U.S. soybeans in a goodwill gesture. He said he hoped a productive meeting would persuade the Trump administration to call off or postpone plans next Tuesday to raise tariffs on $250bn (£199bn) of Chinese imports from 25 per cent to 30 per cent.

"We all know we can't afford a further escalation of the trade war," Brilliant said.

Still, Beijing has been reluctant to make the kind of substantive policy reforms that would satisfy Washington. Doing so likely would require scaling back the Chinese leaders' aspirations to technological competitiveness they see as crucial to their country's future prosperity.

AP

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