As it happenedended1574808812

Trump news: House schedules first impeachment hearing as final transcripts released and Melania booed at school event

FLOTUS said 'we live in a democracy and everyone is entitled to their opinion' after a crowd of young people booed her in Baltimore

Alex Woodward,Joe Sommerlad
Tuesday 26 November 2019 20:21
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Melania Trump booed at opioid event in Baltimore

A US district judge has ordered Donald Trump’s former White House counsel Don McGahn to comply with a subpoena issued by House Democrats – originally in response to the Mueller report – that could see him testify to the impeachment inquiry.

In her ruling, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson asserted that "presidents are not kings" and ruled that Mr McGahn — whom the president pressured to deny that he wanted to fire special counsel Robert Mueller, according to the report — must appear before Congress.

Louisiana senator John Kennedy, a key ally of President Trump, has admitted he was wrong to push a debunked conspiracy theory that it was Ukraine, not Russia, who hacked a Democratic National Committee server in 2016.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, however, told reporters on Tuesday that "we not only have a right, we have a duty" to investigate those leads.

Meanwhile, First Lady Melania Trump was met with a chorus of boos from a crowd of young people at an opioid awareness event in Baltimore, which the president has previously called a "disgusting, rat and rodent-infested mess".

She later said, in a statement, that "we live in a democracy and everyone is entitled to their opinion."

She later joined Mr Trump outside the White House for the president's annual turkey "pardoning" ahead of Thanksgiving. Bread and Butter were both spared, but not before Mr Trump swiped at Congressional Democrats, Adam Schiff and members of the press.

Congress continued to push back at the administration, first in a House Budget Committee report that found the White House's Office of Management and Budget engaged in a "pattern of abuse" by withholding aid to Ukraine, and then in a lawsuit aimed at top administration officials over documents that Democrats believe will answer why the administration wanted to include citizenship status in the 2020 Census.

In other news, Mr Trump has reportedly appointed his son-in-law Jared Kushner, already tasked with bringing peace to the Middle East, to oversee the construction of his US-Mexico border wall, as the row over his decision to absolve Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher of war crimes rumbles on.

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

Joe Sommerlad26 November 2019 11:35
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Judge orders ex-White House counsel Don McGahn to obey subpoena

A US district judge has ordered Donald Trump’s former White House counsel Don McGahn to comply with a subpoena issued by House Democrats – originally in response to the Mueller report – that could see him testify to the impeachment inquiry.

The outcome could lead to renewed efforts by House Democrats to compel testimony from other high-ranking officials, including former national security adviser John Bolton.

Not even the president's closest aides who receive a subpoena from Congress can "ignore or defy congressional compulsory process, by order of the President or otherwise," Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson - an Obama appointee - wrote in ruling on a lawsuit filed by the House Judiciary Committee.

McGahn was a star witness in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation and Democrats wanted to question McGahn about possible obstruction of justice by Trump. That was months before the House started an impeachment inquiry into Trump's effort to get Ukraine to announce an investigation of former vice president Joe Biden.

The administration will appeal Jackson's ruling. "This decision contradicts longstanding legal precedent established by Administrations of both political parties," White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said. "We will appeal and are confident that the important constitutional principle advanced by the administration will be vindicated." The Justice Department will seek to put the ruling on hold in the meantime, department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec added.

William Burck, an attorney for McGahn, said the former White House counsel will comply with the subpoena, absent a court-imposed stay. New York Democrat Jerrold Nadler, the Judiciary Committee chairman, said he hoped McGahn would "promptly appear before the committee."

House speaker Nancy Pelosi released a statement calling Jackson's decision "yet another resounding ruling that the administration's claim of 'absolute immunity' from Congress's subpoenas has no basis in the law or our democracy, and must immediately cease."

The White House has argued that McGahn and other witnesses have "absolute immunity" from testifying.

But such immunity "simply does not exist," Jackson wrote in a 118-page ruling. "That is to say, however busy or essential a presidential aide might be, and whatever their proximity to sensitive domestic and national-security projects, the president does not have the power to excuse him or her" from complying with a valid congressional subpoena, Jackson wrote. 

“Presidents are not kings... they do not have subjects bound by loyalty or blood whose destiny they are entitled to control,” Judge Jackson ruled.

Here's Matt Drake's report.

Joe Sommerlad26 November 2019 11:45
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Republican senator walks back Ukraine conspiracy theory

Louisiana senator John Kennedy, a key ally of President Trump, has meanwhile admitted he was wrong to push a debunked conspiracy theory that it was Ukraine, not Russia, who hacked a Democratic National Committee server in 2016.

Kennedy had appeared on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace over the weekend and disputed the evidence of ex-National Security Council expert Dr Fiona Hill at the impeachment inquiry last week, who warned that lessons had not been learned about the threat posed by the Kremlin to American electoral integrity in 2020.

“Based on questions and statements I have heard, some of you on this committee appear to believe that Russia and its security services did not conduct a campaign against our country, and that perhaps, somehow, for some reason, Ukraine did,” Dr Hill had said in her opening statement to the inquiry. "This is a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves." 

Kennedy though continued to discredit Ukraine - a country at the centre of the impeachment furore embroiling President Trump - in his interview with Wallace:

But speaking to CNN's Chris Cuomo last night, he claimed to have misheard Wallace's initial question and insisted that it had all been a misunderstanding.

"I was answering one of his question, and he interjected with a statement and asked me to react to it. What I heard Chris say was only Russia tried to interfere in the election and I answered the question. That’s not what he said," the senator wheedled.

Here's Clark Mindock's story.

Joe Sommerlad26 November 2019 12:00
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Jared Kushner 'overseeing US-Mexico border wall construction'

Trump has appointed his son-in-law Jared Kushner, already tasked with bringing peace to the Middle East, to oversee the construction of his US-Mexico border wall, according to The Washington Post.

The administration has promised to build 450 miles of new wall along the border before the end of next year in hope of galvanising the president’s support base. Some 83 miles of barrier have gone up since Trump's 2016 election win but almost all of that has just replaced existing fencing already up, as Trump's acting Customs and Border Protection commissioner Mark Morgan was recently forced to admit.

The Post reports Kushner will now hold regular meetings with Cabinet-level officials and has already pressed those within US Customs and Border Patrol and the Army Corps of Engineers to determine how they can move forward more quickly with the plans. The move has reportedly been met with dismay by those involved in the project over Kushner's inexperience.

(Yuri Gripas/Reuters)

But Morgan, for one, has defended him, telling The Post: “He doesn’t need to know the intricacies of the wall. He understands building stuff. He understands timelines.”

Trump said earlier this summer that he would pardon any of his aides who broke the law in the process of pushing to get the wall built, with the White House later forced to insist he had been joking when he said it.

Here are his latest thoughts on the subject:

Joe Sommerlad26 November 2019 12:15
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Adam Schiff says impeachment report due 'soon after Thanksgiving recess'

House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff has sent a letter to his House colleagues laying out the path forward for the impeachment inquiry following the end of the public phase of the process last Thursday.

According to Schiff's letter, a report on the inquiry's findings will be sent to the House Judiciary Committee for assessment "soon after Congress returns from Thanksgiving recess".

Joe Sommerlad26 November 2019 12:30
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Supreme Court halts release of Trump's tax returns to Congress

In a separate legal case - unrelated to the McGahn ruling - the US Supreme Court has temporarily halted the House Oversight Committee’s push to obtain the president’s tax records, after Trump’s lawyers filed an emergency request to overturn a lower court’s ruling ordering his accountants at Mazars USA to release the documents to congressional investigators.

The justices gave Trump's team until noon on 5 December to file a formal petition to the court appealing the case.

Like McGahn, Mazars received a subpoena from House Democrats in April when they were attempting to investigate whether the president obstructed justice as recounted in the second volume of the Mueller report. The Oversight Committee sought to force the release of Trump's financial records in its quest for information.

The call for the president to release his filings voluntarily meanwhile continues unabated.

Joe Sommerlad26 November 2019 12:45
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President 'planning to take absolved war criminals' on 2020 campaign trail

Trump's decision to absolve US Army Lt Clint Lorance, Green Beret major Matthew Golsteyn and Navy SEAL Edward Gallagher of war crimes continues to provoke sharp debate.

While the president insists...

...US Navy secretary Richard V Spencer - who lost his job in the bitter dispute over the matter - appeared on CBS last night to say that the message this sends out is "that you can get away with things".

After being forced out by defence secretary Mark Esper on Saturday, Spencer reminded Trump in his resignation letter. "The rule of law is what sets us apart from our adversaries."

The president now looks set to make things worse as it emerges he is determined to bring the three men along to his campaign rallies to help him whip up the crowd.

Samuel Osborne has this.

Joe Sommerlad26 November 2019 13:00
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Trump views military ‘as tool for massacres’, say outraged veterans

US military veterans are joining Richard V Spencer in condemning Trump's liberal use of pardons as a populist gesture to please his admirers on the right.

“By pardoning war criminals because Fox News told him to, Trump showed he sees our military as a tool for massacres, not as the professional, honourable force we aspire to be,” says Alexander McCoy, a former Marine and political director of the veteran group Common Defence. Ooof.

Here's Chris Riotta's report.

Joe Sommerlad26 November 2019 13:15
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'Trump doesn't care about Navy SEALs. He cares about 2020'

For Indy Voices, Chris Stevenson argues Trump is not really interested in the individual cases of Lorance, Golsteyn and Gallagher or  how their actions reflect on the reputation of the US armed forces, only how he can play the situation to his own political advantage.

Joe Sommerlad26 November 2019 13:30
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Trump meets Conan the heroic Special Forces dog who tracked down Baghdadi

The president and first lady yesterday finally met up with Conan the Special Forces dog who helped track down Isis leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi at the White House yesterday.

While vice president Mike Pence seemed perfectly at ease with the heroic canine, Trump appeared anxious to keep his distance from the noble beast as much as possible.

He also joked to the assembled press corps: "It's trained that if you open your mouths you will be attacked. You ought to be very, very careful."

Here's Clark Mindock's report.

Joe Sommerlad26 November 2019 13:45

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