Top US diplomat William Taylor scheduled to testify in impeachment probe

William Taylor, a top U.S. diplomat to Ukraine, is scheduled to testify next week as part of House Democrats’ ongoing impeachment inquiry examining President TrumpDonald John TrumpWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Five takeaways from the Democratic debate in Ohio Democrats debate in Ohio: Who came out on top? MORE‘s contacts with Ukraine.

A source familiar with the matter confirmed Taylor, who has served as chargé d’affaires for Ukraine since June, is set to testify on Tuesday, though another person told The Hill the appearance is tentative.

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Taylor will follow a string of other witnesses, both current and former employees of the Trump administration, who have testified on Capitol Hill despite the White House vowing not to cooperate with the impeachment inquiry.

Democrats have moved quickly to examine a whistleblower complaint that included allegations Trump and his personal attorney Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiGiuliani urged Trump to eject exiled Turkish cleric from US: report State Dept. official told to ‘lay low’ after voicing concerns about Giuliani: Dem lawmaker White House, Pentagon, Giuliani reject House subpoenas MORE pressed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Joe BidenJoe BidenWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Five takeaways from the Democratic debate in Ohio New study: Full-scale ‘Medicare for All’ costs trillion over 10 years MORE, the former vice president and a current 2020 Democratic front-runner, while simultaneously withholding financial aid intended to combat Russian aggression in the region.

Democrats say Trump was using the aid as leverage, while Republicans claim witnesses have backed up Trump’s assertions that there was no quid pro quo.

NBC News first reported on Taylor’s expected testimony.

Taylor was involved in a text message exchange with two other U.S. diplomats made public earlier this month after one of the others testified. In it, Taylor outlined what he saw as a possible “nightmare scenario” resulting from ongoing negotiations to set up a meeting between Trump and Zelensky.

Over the summer, the other two diplomats — Kurt VolkerKurt VolkerMulvaney helped organize controversial Ukraine meeting State Dept. official told to ‘lay low’ after voicing concerns about Giuliani: Dem lawmaker Top State Department official arrives for testimony in impeachment probe MORE, then Trump’s special envoy to Ukraine, and Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union — had worked with Giuliani to win a statement from Zelensky addressing both Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company that employed Biden’s son, and Russia’s interference in the 2016 elections.

In a Sept. 8 text to Volker and Sondland, Taylor worried that Ukraine would make good on providing an unspecified “interview” but that Trump would renege on the military aid.

“The nightmare is they give the interview and don’t get the security assistance,” Taylor texted to Volker and Sondland, according to the transcripts released by Democrats. “The Russians love it. (And I quit).”

The next day, Taylor warned Sondland that Trump’s previous decision to withhold almost $400 million in assistance to Ukraine had already strained relations between the two allies to the benefit of Russia, which launched an incursion into Ukraine in 2014 and still supports rebel forces in eastern parts of the country.

“The message to the Ukrainians (and Russians) we send with the decision on security assistance is key,” Taylor wrote. “With the hold, we have already shaken their faith in us. This is my nightmare scenario.”

Sondland, a Trump megadonor, responded with confidence that “we have identified the best pathway forward.”

Taylor, however, was skeptical, saying, “It’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign” — a reference to the potential harm to Biden’s presidential chances if he became enmeshed in a scandal surrounding the foreign business interests of his son.

Sondland pushed back hard, saying Taylor was “incorrect” about Trump’s reasons for withholding the funding.

“The president has been crystal clear no quid pro quo’s of any kind,” Sondland wrote. “The President is trying to evaluate whether Ukraine is truly going to adopt the transparency and reforms that President Zelenskiy promised during his campaign.”

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Kinzinger challenges Trump's defense chief on Syria in closed-door meeting

Rep. Adam KinzingerAdam Daniel KinzingerTrump-GOP tensions over Syria show signs of easing George Conway hits Republicans for not saying Trump’s name while criticizing policy GOP lawmaker says Trump shows ‘weakness’ in Syria MORE (R-Ill.) directly challenged Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperCastro: Trump ‘is caging kids on the border and effectively letting ISIS prisoners run free’ White House, Pentagon, Giuliani reject House subpoenas 281 lobbyists have worked in Trump administration: report MORE during a closed-door GOP meeting over President TrumpDonald John TrumpWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Five takeaways from the Democratic debate in Ohio Democrats debate in Ohio: Who came out on top? MORE’s controversial decision to pull U.S. troops out of Syria, Republican sources told The Hill.

Kinzinger has been extremely critical of Trump’s actions in Syria in both tweets and media appearances. But GOP lawmakers in Tuesday evening’s meeting say they sat up in their seats when Kinzinger, an Iraq and Afghanistan war veteran, went to the microphone and voiced frustration and anger to Esper over the Syria issue.

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“Kinzinger let Esper know exactly how he felt about the Syria decision and the damaging, deadly repercussions it will have,” said a Republican source familiar with the exchange, which occurred at the weekly GOP whip meeting hosted by Majority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseFurious Republicans prepare to rebuke Trump on Syria Five ways Trump’s Syria decision spells trouble Cheney slated to introduce bill to place sanctions on Turkey MORE (R-La.).

Neither Kinzinger’s office nor the Pentagon had any comment. Republicans described the meeting to CNN as “a little heated,” with one lawmaker calling Trump’s Syria move “the worst foreign policy decision of my lifetime.” 

Kinzinger has been one of the most vocal GOP critics of Trump’s decision to withdraw troops from northern Syria — a move that has allowed Turkey to launch deadly military strikes against Kurdish forces that assisted the U.S.-led fight against ISIS.

“@realDonaldTrump I thought you were going to defeat ISIS, that is why people voted for you. What changed? This is weakness. America is far more honorable than this,” Kinzinger tweeted at Trump after he announced his Syria decision.

“How is reconstituting ISIS, abandoning the Kurds, and green lighting a slaughter by the Turks not our concern?” Kinzinger tweeted earlier Wednesday.

The meeting with Esper came a day before the House voted 354 to 60 to pass a resolution rebuking Trump’s decision to pull troops out of Syria and condemning Turkey’s attacks on the Kurds. 

Scalise had invited Esper to speak at the whip meeting weeks ago, before Trump set his new policy in Syria. But because of the urgency of the issue, the Syria withdrawal and Turkey’s aggression quickly became the focus of the private gathering in the basement of the Capitol. 

Earlier this year, Kinzinger, a lieutenant colonel in the Air National Guard, had pitched himself to become Trump’s secretary of the Air Force. But Trump nominated Barbara Barrett, a businesswoman and former diplomat, instead. The Senate confirmed her nomination Wednesday in an 85-7 vote.

Rebecca Kheel contributed.

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Overnight Defense — Presented by Boeing — House passes resolution rebuking Trump over Syria | Sparks fly at White House meeting on Syria | Dems say Trump called Pelosi a 'third-rate politician' | Trump, Graham trade jabs

Happy Wednesday and welcome to Overnight Defense. I’m Ellen Mitchell, and here’s your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. CLICK HERE to subscribe to the newsletter.

 

THE TOPLINE: The House on Wednesday approved a resolution formally rebuking President Trump over his decision to withdraw U.S. troops from northern Syria.

The measure passed in a 354-60 vote, with four lawmakers voting present. All 60 votes against the resolution came from Republicans, with the present votes coming from three GOP lawmakers and Rep. Justin AmashJustin AmashAmash says he’s happy not feeling ‘bound to a particular party’ Amash on Syria: Trump’s not ending anything Trump says House Democrats ‘unfortunately’ have the votes to impeach MORE (I-Mich.). The top three House Republicans supported the motion in a rare split from the president. 

What the resolution does: The resolution — which was sponsored by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelTrump-GOP tensions over Syria show signs of easing Trump invites congressional leaders to meeting on Turkey House to vote on resolution condemning Trump’s Syria pullback MORE (D-N.Y.) and the panel’s top Republican, Rep. Michael McCaulMichael Thomas McCaulTrump-GOP tensions over Syria show signs of easing Trump invites congressional leaders to meeting on Turkey Pelosi: No House vote on impeachment inquiry MORE (Texas), “opposes the decision to end certain United States efforts to prevent Turkish military operations against Syrian Kurdish forces in Northeast Syria.”

The measure also calls on Turkey to end its military action, calls on the United States to protect the Kurds and calls on the White House “to present a clear and specific plan for the enduring defeat of ISIS.”

“The measure we’re considering today will send an unambiguous bipartisan, hopefully bicameral rejection of Trump’s policy in Syria,” Engel said ahead of the vote.

The background: Trump has ordered all U.S. troops in northern Syria to pull back, paving the way for Turkey to launch an offensive against Kurdish forces that were instrumental in the U.S.-led fight against the ISIS.

The decision was swiftly condemned by lawmakers in both parties as abandoning the Kurds, signaling to future partners the United States is untrustworthy and enabling ISIS to resurge in the chaos.

The House’s resolution came to the floor under suspension of the rules, meaning it needed two-thirds approval to pass. The measure garnered support from all Democrats and 129 Republicans.

While the resolution breaks with Trump’s decision, Trump is named just once in the measure when it notes he spoke with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Oct. 6.

 

 

More action coming: The vote on the House resolution comes as lawmakers are crafting sanctions legislation against Turkey. Engel and McCaul have said they plan to introduce a bill to sanction Turkey, and Rep. Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyThe Hill’s 12:30 Report: Hunter Biden speaks out amid Ukraine controversy Fury over Trump Syria decision grows George Conway hits Republicans for not saying Trump’s name while criticizing policy MORE (R-Wyo.) on Wednesday unveiled the text of her Turkey sanctions bill with more than 90 Republican co-sponsors.

In the Senate, Sens. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamTrump-GOP tensions over Syria show signs of easing Trump invites congressional leaders to meeting on Turkey Graham opens door to calling Hunter Biden to testify MORE (R-S.C.) and Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenTrump-GOP tensions over Syria show signs of easing Trump invites congressional leaders to meeting on Turkey House to vote on resolution condemning Trump’s Syria pullback MORE (D-Md.) are expected to introduce sanctions legislation on Thursday.

The push for sanctions comes even after Trump levied sanctions on top Turkish officials, including the defense minister, interior minister and energy minister. Lawmakers have said Trump’s sanctions did not go far enough to convince Turkey to change course.

Trump’s reasoning: Trump said Wednesday that Turkey’s offensive against U.S.-allied Kurdish forces in northern Syria has “has nothing to do with us,” defending his decision to withdraw U.S. troops from the region amid criticism.

“It’s not our land,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office during a meeting with Italian President Sergio Mattarella.

“If Turkey goes into Syria that’s between Turkey and Syria,” he added. “That’s not between Turkey and the United States, like a lot of stupid people would like you to believe.”

Trump reiterated his plan to withdraw the United States from “endless wars.”

“Our soldiers are not in harm’s way, as they shouldn’t be, as two countries fight over land,” Trump told reporters. “That has nothing to do with us.”

Trump also downplayed the U.S. alliance with the Kurds, calling them “no angels” and saying the U.S. “paid a lot of money” for the Syrian Kurdish forces to fight alongside U.S. troops against ISIS.

More criticism from Graham: Graham said Wednesday that Trump appears “hell-bent” on repeating former President Obama’s mistakes in Iraq after Trump said Graham should focus on investigating the 2016 election rather than the Middle East. 

President TrumpDonald John TrumpWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Five takeaways from the Democratic debate in Ohio Democrats debate in Ohio: Who came out on top? MORE is being told EXACTLY what President Obama was told before he withdrew from Iraq. He appears to be hell-bent on making the same mistakes in Syria as President Obama made in Iraq,” Graham tweeted.

“The worst thing any Commander in Chief can do is to give land back to the enemy that was taken through blood and sacrifice. I fear those are the consequences of the actions being taken right now,” he added. 

 

TRUMP URGED TURKISH PRESIDENT TO MAKE A DEAL ON SYRIA IN LETTER: Trump sent a letter to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan urging him to make a deal with the U.S. on Syria, according to a letter obtained by Fox Business. 

In the letter, sent ahead of the U.S. delegation meeting with Erdoğan on Thursday, Trump warned the Turkish president that “you don’t want to be responsible for slaughtering thousands of people, and I don’t want to be responsible for destroying the Turkish economy–and I will.” 

Vice President Pence and Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoOvernight Defense — Presented by Boeing — Trump isolated amid Syria furor | Pompeo, Pence to visit Turkey in push for ceasefire | Turkish troops advance in Syria | Graham throws support behind Trump’s sanctions Graham: Erdoğan pledged to Trump to stay away from Kurdish territory in Syria Trump honors Stanley Cup champions, talks impeachment, Turkey MORE are on their way to Turkey to convince Erdoğan to call a cease-fire in his country’s offensive against the Kurds in Syria. Trump announced the removal of U.S. troops from Syria last week, prompting Turkey’s action.

“History will look upon you favorably if you get this done the right and humane way. It will look upon you forever as the devil if good things don’t happen. Don’t be a tough guy. Don’t be a fool!” Trump’s letter reads. 

A meeting gone awry: The letter was released following a meeting between Trump and Democratic and Republican leaders at the White House to discuss Turkey’s incursion into northern Syria.

During the meeting, Trump called his former Defense secretary, Jim Mattis, “the world’s most overrated general,” after Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerTrump defends ‘crime buster’ Giuliani amid reported probe Louisiana voters head to the polls in governor’s race as Trump urges GOP support Trump urges Louisiana voters to back GOP in governor’s race then ‘enjoy the game’ MORE (D-N.Y.) read a quote from Mattis’s appearance Sunday on “Meet the Press,” where he warned that “ISIS will resurge” if the U.S. does not keep the pressure on in that region.

Trump cut Schumer off, according to two Democratic aides, and said that Mattis was “the world’s most overrated general.”

“You know why? He wasn’t tough enough,” Trump said, according to the aides. “I captured ISIS. Mattis said it would take two years. I captured them in 1 month.”

A ‘meltdown‘: The meeting ended in conflict after Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiTrump-GOP tensions over Syria show signs of easing Democratic debate starts with immediate question on Trump impeachment White House, Pentagon, Giuliani reject House subpoenas MORE (D-Calif.) said Trump had a “meltdown.” Democrats claimed that the president disparaged Pelosi as a “third-rate politician,” and the party’s leaders walked out soon after.

The meeting was intended to focus on the response to Turkey as it carries out an offensive in northern Syria that has led to the bloodshed and uncertainty in the region. Trump has dug in on his decision earlier this month to pull U.S. troops out of northern Syria, even as lawmakers in both parties have warned him against the consequences of the move.

Read about what the members of the Democratic primary field think about Trump’s Syria decision here and here.

 

And here are Five unintended consequences of Trump’s Syria withdrawal

 

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SENATE CONFIRMS TRUMP’S AIR FORCE SECRETARY PICK: The Senate on Wednesday confirmed Trump’s nominee to be the top civilian leading the Air Force.

The Senate voted 85-7 to approve Barbara Barrett to be Air Force secretary.

“Ms. Barrett will serve as the civilian head at the Air Force at a pivotal time for our military,” Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jim InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeThe Hill’s 12:30 Report: Trump declares ‘case closed’ as text messages raise new questions Top House Democrat: Trump did ‘on camera’ what Romney warned about GOP senators attack whistleblower’s credibility MORE (R-Okla.) said in a statement after the vote. “We need to modernize and innovate if we want to keep up with China and Russia, and this is especially important if we want to maintain air and space supremacy. At her nomination hearing, Ms. Barrett demonstrated she shares these priorities, understands the challenges we face and is prepared to tackle these issues head-on.”

The opposing votes all came from Democrats: Sens. Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Tammy DuckworthLadda (Tammy) Tammy DuckworthMissouri Republican wins annual craft brewing competition for lawmakers Democrats ignore Asian American and Pacific Islander voters at their peril Republicans grumble over Trump shifting military funds to wall MORE (Ill.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandLobbying world 2020 Presidential Candidates Krystal Ball: Yang campaign a ‘triumph of substance over the theatre’ MORE (N.Y.), Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeySanders: ‘Damn right we will’ have a job for every American Democrats urge Rick Perry not to roll back lightbulb efficiency rules Ocasio-Cortez taps supporters for donations as former primary opponent pitches for Kennedy MORE (Mass.), Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyDemocrats urge Rick Perry not to roll back lightbulb efficiency rules Democratic senator on Trump’s ‘treason’ comments about whistleblower: ‘I worry about threats on his or her life’ Overnight Energy: Lawmakers show irritation over withheld Interior documents | Republican offers bipartisan carbon tax bill | Scientists booted from EPA panel form new group MORE (Ore.), Tina SmithTina Flint SmithOur hidden infrastructure crisis: School cafeterias Democrats urge Rick Perry not to roll back lightbulb efficiency rules Overnight Health Care — Presented by Coalition Against Surprise Medical Billing — Planned Parenthood charges into 2020 | PhRMA CEO warns against Pelosi drug pricing bill | Medicaid work requirements costing states millions MORE (Minn.) and Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenDemocrats urge Rick Perry not to roll back lightbulb efficiency rules Bipartisan senators want federal plan for sharing more info on supply chain threats PhRMA CEO warns Pelosi bill to lower drug prices would be ‘devastating’ for industry MORE (Ore.).

 

Months without leader: The Air Force has been without a Senate-confirmed secretary since the end of May when former Secretary Heather Wilson stepped down to become president of the University of Texas at El Paso.

Wilson’s relationship with Trump soured over his Space Force proposal. At her confirmation hearing, Barrett pledged to prioritize setting up a Space Force, a separate military branch for space that first must get congressional approval.

About Barrett: Barrett’s resume includes past stints as chairwoman of the Aerospace Corporation, deputy administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and ambassador to Finland.

Barrett’s nomination slowed after being advanced out of the Senate Armed Services Committee last month after Blumenthal placed a hold on her. Though she had her confirmation hearing and was advanced out of committee alongside Army Secretary Ryan McCarthyRyan McCarthyOvernight Defense — Presented by Boeing — Trump to slap sanctions on Turkey for Syria offensive | Trump calls on Turkey to broker ceasefire | Pelosi, Graham seek deal on sanctions | Ex-Trump aide testifies in impeachment probe Overnight Defense: Pentagon insists US hasn’t abandoned Kurds | Trump expands sanctions authority against Turkey | Ex-Ukraine ambassador says Trump pushed for her ouster Overnight Defense — Presented by Huntington Ingalls Industries — Intel chief defends handling of whistleblower complaint | Complaint alleged attempt to cover-up Ukraine call | US to send 200 troops to Saudi Arabia | Senate confirms Joint Chiefs No. 2 MORE, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump-GOP tensions over Syria show signs of easing Trump again vetoes resolution blocking national emergency for border wall Trump invites congressional leaders to meeting on Turkey MORE (R-Ky.) had to file a motion to invoke cloture on Barrett’s nomination rather than her being voice-voted like McCarthy.

Blumenthal has said he opposes Barrett because she would not commit to issuing a service-wide policy banning stays at Trump properties.

 

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ON TAP FOR TOMORROW

Defense Undersecretary for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen Lord will speak at the IDEEA Inc. ComDef Conference on “Partnering for Rapid Change,” at 8 a.m. in Washington, D.C. 

The Senate Armed Services Committee will hear from Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperCastro: Trump ‘is caging kids on the border and effectively letting ISIS prisoners run free’ White House, Pentagon, Giuliani reject House subpoenas 281 lobbyists have worked in Trump administration: report MORE, and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley during a classified hearing on “The Situation in Syria and the Wider Region,” at 9:30 a.m. in the Capitol Visitor Center Rm. SVC-217.

Principal Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary for Indo-Pacific Affairs David Helvey will speak “The Korean Peninsula Issues and United States National Security,” at 1 p.m. at the Institute for Corean-American Studies symposium in Washington, D.C. 

 

ICYMI

— The Hill: Trump adviser lays out plans to slash national security staff

— The Hill: Senate Democrat demands details of Trump call with Erdoğan

— The Hill: US envoy insists Syria pullout doesn’t affect Iran strategy

— The Hill: Poll: 57 percent of Republicans approve of Trump’s Syria withdrawal

— The Hill: Graham warns Trump Syria pullout could be ‘complete and utter national security disaster’

— The Hill: Trump adviser heads to Turkey ahead of Pence to urge cease-fire

— The Hill: US hit Iran with cyberattack after strikes on Saudi oil facilities: report

— The Hill: Opinion: US withdrawal from Syria makes countering ISIS more difficult

— The Hill: Opinion: America adrift: Trump has ended the ‘post-World War II era’

US hit Iran with cyber attack after strikes on Saudi oil facilities: report

The U.S. hit Iran with a secret cyberattack after a September strike on two Saudi oil facilities that Washington and Riyadh both blame on Tehran, according to Reuters.

Two U.S. officials told the news service that the operation, which took place late last month, targeted Tehran’s ability to spread “propaganda.” One of the officials said the attack hit physical hardware ,but declined to provide further information. 

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“They must have dreamt it,” Iranian Minister of Communications and Information Technology Mohammad Javad Azari-Jahromi responded, according to Iran’s Fars news agency.

The U.S., Saudi Arabia, Britain, France and Germany have all publicly blamed the Sept. 14 strike against on Iran, which denied any involvement in the attack. The Iran-aligned Houthi rebel group in Yemen claimed responsibility.

The Pentagon responded to the attack by sending thousands of additional troops and equipment to Saudi Arabia to help reinforce its defenses. 

Neither the White House nor the National Security Council immediately responded to requests for comment from The Hill regarding the cyberattack. 

“As a matter of policy and for operational security, we do not discuss cyberspace operations, intelligence, or planning,” Pentagon spokeswoman Elissa Smith told The Hill. 

While the effects of the cyberattack are currently unclear, experts say the response could be seen as less provocative than an armed response. 

“You can do damage without killing people or blowing things up; it adds an option to the toolkit that we didn’t have before and our willingness to use it is important,” James Lewis, a cyber expert with the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Reuters.

Tensions in the Gulf have skyrocketed since President TrumpDonald John TrumpWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Five takeaways from the Democratic debate in Ohio Democrats debate in Ohio: Who came out on top? MORE last year withdrew the U.S. from the Obama-era nuclear deal with Iran. Tehran has since beefed up its nuclear program beyond the limitations placed on it under the pact, bombed oil tankers in the region and shot down an unmanned U.S. surveillance drone. Trump authorized a retaliatory strike over the drone shootdown, but aborted the operation after learning as many as 150 Iranians could be killed.

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Obama calls on Canada to reelect Trudeau

Former President Obama called on Canadian voters to reelect Prime Minister Justin TrudeauJustin Pierre James TrudeauThe Hill’s Morning Report – Dems to hit gas on impeachment Greta Thunberg: I don’t understand why ‘grown-ups’ mock ‘acting on the science’ Thunberg leads climate change strike in Montreal MORE on Wednesday as Trudeau faces a tough battle marred by racial controversies.

In a tweet, the former president harkened back to his time in the White House, commenting that Trudeau was a “hard-working, effective leader” who “takes on big issues” such as climate change.

“The world needs his progressive leadership now, and I hope our neighbors to the north support him for another term,” Obama tweeted.

The tweet from America’s first black president came after Trudeau faced a storm of criticism at home for wearing blackface on multiple occasions, a scandal that threatened to consume his reelection bid even as he faced a separate controversy involving his efforts to pressure officials to drop charges against a company based in Quebec.

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Canadians head to the polls in five days, at which point Trudeau will need to hold on to 170 of the 338 seats in the Canadian Parliament’s House of Commons to win control of a majority government. A minority government coalition with other left-leaning parties is also a possibility.

Polls indicate that Trudeau is in a tight race against the Conservative Party’s Andrew Scheer.

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House investigators receive initial documents from top tech companies

House lawmakers tasked with investigating the country’s largest tech companies on Tuesday said they have received an initial round of documents from Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Google’s parent company Alphabet to aid their probe.

The announcement came on Oct. 15, the deadline lawmakers had set to receive the slew of documents they requested from the companies last month.

“We have received initial submissions from Alphabet, Amazon, Apple and Facebook as part of our investigation,” the lawmakers – including the top Democrat and Republican on the House Judiciary Committee – said in the statement.

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The statement came from House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerBarr to speak at Notre Dame law school on Friday The 13 House Democrats who back Kavanaugh’s impeachment Ignore the hype — this is not an impeachment inquiry MORE (D-N.Y.) and ranking member Rep. Doug CollinsDouglas (Doug) Allen CollinsHouse investigators receive initial documents from top tech companies US, UK sign agreement allowing British authorities to quickly obtain data from tech giants Joe Lieberman’s son running for Senate in Georgia MORE (R-Ga.) as well as the leaders of the panel’s antitrust subcommittee, Reps. David CicillineDavid Nicola CicillineHouse investigators receive initial documents from top tech companies Celebrating the LGBTQ contribution to progress in business The Memo: Trump’s rage may backfire on impeachment MORE (D-R.I.) and Jim SensenbrennerFrank (Jim) James SensenbrennerHouse investigators receive initial documents from top tech companies Here are the lawmakers who aren’t seeking reelection in 2020 Republicans pour cold water on Trump’s term limit idea MORE (R-Wis.).

“The committee will review all of the information received from the companies in order to help inform next steps,” they said. “We will hold additional hearings, discussions and roundtables as our investigation continues.”

The House Judiciary Committee also requested documents from more than 80 other companies as part of its probe into the digital marketplace, a source familiar with the matter confirmed to The Hill. The committee has also asked for those documents by this week.

Over the summer, the Judiciary Committee – which has jurisdiction over antitrust issues – announced a formal investigation into the power of Big Tech. The probe is focusing on whether the dominant technology firms unfairly wield their power to quash competitors and take advantage of users, who offer up reams of personal information in exchange for free services.

The committee has held several hearings about the issue over the past few months, hauling in representatives from companies including Facebook, Google and Apple. The companies have all denied that they function as monopolies or take advantage of their powerful market position in areas including social media and digital advertising.

In September, the leaders of the antitrust probe sent letters to Facebook, Google, Apple and Amazon requesting an enormous tranche of internal communications and records regarding the use of their market dominance.

The panel requested communications among each company’s executives, records that were handed over in past antitrust investigation and internal documents detailing their organizational structures.

As of Tuesday, the companies had only begun to offer some of the documents that the committee has requested.

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Democrats have left open the possibility that they would subpoena the companies if they do not answer the committee’s requests in a timely or forthcoming manner, though Republicans on the panel have balked at the possibility.

Last month, after a meeting with Facebook CEO Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergHouse investigators receive initial documents from top tech companies Hillicon Valley: Warren turns up heat in battle with Facebook | Instagram unveils new data privacy feature | Advocacy group seeks funding to write about Big Tech Warren turns up heat over Facebook’s ad rules MORE in Nadler’s personal office, Cicilline – the head of the antitrust subcommittee and leader of the investigation – told reporters that the tech executive has agreed to cooperate with the probe.

“I look forward to his cooperation,” Cicilline said in September, noting the investigation will include “document requests, requests for information, participation in a number of different ways.”

Buttigieg defends court-packing proposal at Democratic debate

South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Five takeaways from the Democratic debate in Ohio New study: Full-scale ‘Medicare for All’ costs trillion over 10 years MORE was the only Democratic presidential candidate on the debate stage Tuesday night to explicitly endorse court packing as way to prevent Roe v. Wade from being overturned by a conservative majority on the Supreme Court.

Buttigieg said he wasn’t wedded to expanding the number of justices but believes it would be an effective approach to limiting partisan control of the high court.

“Now, one way to fix this would be to have a 15-member court where five of the members can only be appointed by unanimous agreement of the other 10,” Buttigieg said.

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He also proposed term limits for Supreme Court justices as a potential alternative.

Other candidates who were asked about court packing were more wary of the idea.

Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Five takeaways from the Democratic debate in Ohio New study: Full-scale ‘Medicare for All’ costs trillion over 10 years MORE said he would rather focus on the strength of a court nominee’s support for upholding abortion rights.

“I would not pack the court,” Biden said. “What I would do is make sure that the people that I recommended for the court from — Ruth Bader GinsburgRuth Bader GinsburgButtigieg defends court-packing proposal at Democratic debate Ocasio-Cortez is getting her own action figure Harris v. EEOC and the women’s rights legacy of Ruth Bader Ginsburg MORE to Elena KaganElena KaganButtigieg defends court-packing proposal at Democratic debate Puerto Ricans joke online about what it would be like to be part of Denmark Trump pays respects to late Justice Stevens at Supreme Court MORE, who used to work for me, to others — that they, in fact, support the right of privacy, on which the entire notion of a woman’s right to choose is based.”

Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro also pushed back on the notion of court packing, saying, “I think the plan that Mayor Pete mentioned is an interesting one, but I actually believe that if we were selecting from one of those things that the smarter move might be to look at term limits or having people cycle off from the appellate courts, so that you would have a replenishment of perspective.”

Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Five takeaways from the Democratic debate in Ohio New study: Full-scale ‘Medicare for All’ costs trillion over 10 years MORE (D-Mass.) largely sidestepped the question, but said that given the broad support for Roe v. Wade, Congress should codify it into law.

“We should not leave this to the Supreme Court,” she said. “We should do it through democracy, because we can.”

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Warren plays defense on wealth tax during debate

Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Five takeaways from the Democratic debate in Ohio New study: Full-scale ‘Medicare for All’ costs trillion over 10 years MORE (D-Mass.) was forced to play defense Tuesday during an exchange in the Democratic presidential debate on her signature wealth tax plan.

 

Warren has floated a wealth tax of 2 percent on net worth between $50 million and $1 billion, and 3 percent on net worth over $1 billion. Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Five takeaways from the Democratic debate in Ohio New study: Full-scale ‘Medicare for All’ costs trillion over 10 years MORE (I-Vt.) has also proposed a wealth tax.

 

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Now a leader in many polls, Warren suggested that candidates who don’t support a wealth tax are prioritizing protecting billionaires — a comment that drew criticism from others on stage.

 

Warren said that her wealth-tax plan would raise enough revenue to finance a number of social causes, including universal child care for children up to 5 years, universal pre-K, raising wages for child care workers and teachers, and tuition-free college.

 

“My question is not why do Bernie and I support a wealth tax, it’s why is it does everyone else on this stage think it is more important to protect billionaires than it is to invest in an entire generation of Americans,” she said.

 

Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Five takeaways from the Democratic debate in Ohio New study: Full-scale ‘Medicare for All’ costs trillion over 10 years MORE, who earlier spoke about his plans for raising the capital gains tax rate and eliminating tax breaks, then responded, “no one is supporting billionaires.”

 

Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Five takeaways from the Democratic debate in Ohio Warren leads in speaking time during debate MORE (D-Minn.) said she’s open to a wealth tax, but also said she wants to give Warren “a reality check.”

 

“No one on this stage wants to protect billionaires. Not even the billionaire wants to protect billionaires,” she said, referencing fellow candidate Tom SteyerThomas (Tom) Fahr SteyerWarren leads in speaking time during debate Democrats debate in Ohio: Who came out on top? Yang compares U.S. election tampering to Russia’s election interference efforts MORE. “We just have different approaches. Your idea is not the only idea.”

 

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Klobuchar added that she wants to roll back much of President TrumpDonald John TrumpWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Five takeaways from the Democratic debate in Ohio Democrats debate in Ohio: Who came out on top? MORE‘s 2017 tax cut law.

 

Warren then replied that taxing income won’t be as effective as taxing wealth “because the rich are not like you and me” and make their money off their accumulated wealth. She said that Democrats win when they “dream big and fight hard, not when we dream small and quit before we get started.”

 

Klobuchar responded that just because candidates have different ideas doesn’t mean they’re not fighting for regular people.

 

Businessman Andrew YangAndrew YangWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Warren leads in speaking time during debate Democrats debate in Ohio: Who came out on top? MORE criticized a wealth tax, saying such taxes make sense “in principle” but noting that other countries have repealed their wealth taxes. He said he thinks it would be a better idea to impose a value-added tax.

 

Former Rep. Beto O’RourkeBeto O’RourkeWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Warren leads in speaking time during debate Democrats wrangle over whether to break up Big Tech in debate first MORE (D-Texas) said that he thinks a wealth tax is “part of a solution” for income inequality but that policymakers also need to lift people up.

 

“Sometimes I think that Sen. Warren is more focused on being punitive or pitting some part of the country against the other,” he said.

 

Warren replied, “I’m really shocked at the notion that anyone thinks I’m punitive.”

 

She added that she doesn’t “have a beef with billionaires” but that the wealthy should pay more in taxes so that others have a chance at success.

Pompeo to join Pence on Turkey visit urging ceasefire

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoOvernight Defense — Presented by Boeing — Trump isolated amid Syria furor | Pompeo, Pence to visit Turkey in push for ceasefire | Turkish troops advance in Syria | Graham throws support behind Trump’s sanctions Graham: Erdoğan pledged to Trump to stay away from Kurdish territory in Syria Trump honors Stanley Cup champions, talks impeachment, Turkey MORE will join Vice President Pence on a trip to Turkey this week in an attempt to broker a cease-fire in northern Syria.

Pence will lead a delegation on behalf of President TrumpDonald John TrumpWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Five takeaways from the Democratic debate in Ohio Democrats debate in Ohio: Who came out on top? MORE that includes Pompeo and national security adviser Robert O’Brien, the vice president’s office announced Tuesday.

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Pence will meet Thursday with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for a bilateral meeting as the two sides seek to broker a deal to end the bloodshed that was sparked after Trump announced he was pulling U.S. troops out of the region.

The delegation will depart on Wednesday. It’s unclear when they will return.

The vice president has become the leading voice on the push for a cease-fire in the region as Trump remains committed to pulling troops out of Syria and has called on other countries to fill the void left by the U.S.

“We’re having very strong talks with a lot of people,” Trump said at a White House ceremony on Tuesday afternoon to honor the Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues. “We want to bring our soldiers back home after so many years. They’re the greatest warriors in the world. They’re policing. They’re not a police force.”

“We’re being very tough on Turkey and a lot of others,” he added. “They have to maintain their own properties now. They have to maintain peace and safety.”

Pence told reporters on Monday that Trump urged Erdoğan to halt a Turkish invasion into northern Syria and begin negotiations with Kurdish forces in the region.

Efforts to broker a cease-fire, paired with sanctions on Ankara announced Monday, mark a shift in strategy for the White House amid fierce bipartisan backlash over Trump’s decision to pull U.S. troop out of northern Syria.

The change in strategy has had a ripple effect in the roughly 10 days since it was announced.

Within days, Turkey had launched an offensive into the region. The Turks targeted Kurdish forces, which have served as a key ally to the U.S. in the years-long fight against ISIS in the region.

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In an effort to turn back the Turkish offensive, the Kurds struck a deal to join Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces. The two had previously been on opposing sides of a bloody civil war, and Assad is backed by Russia.

China pushes for further talks to hammer out Trump 'phase one' deal

China reportedly wants more talks to hammer out details on a trade deal promoted by President TrumpDonald John TrumpBusiness school deans call for lifting country-specific visa caps Bolton told ex-Trump aide to call White House lawyers about Ukraine pressure campaign: report Federal prosecutors in New York examining Giuliani business dealings with Ukraine: report MORE before it is signed by Chinese President Xi Jinping. 

The country could send a delegation including Vice Premier Liu He to finalize a written deal to be signed at a summit next month, a person familiar told Bloomberg News. Another person told the news outlet that China wants to end a planned December tariff increase in addition to an increase scheduled for this week, which the administration hasn’t yet backed.  

After talks last week, President Trump said that a “phase one” deal had been reached, while Liu said progress had been made.

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“We’ve come to a very substantial phase one deal,” Trump said. 
 
“We have come to a deal, pretty much, subject to getting it written. It’ll take probably three weeks, four weeks, or five weeks,” he said. 

“We’re going to be in Chile together for a big summit. And maybe it’ll be then, or maybe it’ll be sometime around then,” he added. 

Liu after the negotiations mentioned progress had been made.

“We are making a lot of progress towards a positive direction,” he said. “We have made substantial progress in many fields. We are happy about it. We’ll continue to make efforts.”

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told Bloomberg Monday that both sides made progress and that he hopes “the U.S. will work with China and meet each other halfway.”

Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinTrump hypes China trade deal as new doubts emerge Overnight Defense — Presented by Boeing — Trump to slap sanctions on Turkey for Syria offensive | Trump calls on Turkey to broker ceasefire | Pelosi, Graham seek deal on sanctions | Ex-Trump aide testifies in impeachment probe Trump calls on Turkey to broker ceasefire MORE told CNBC on Monday that he expects to have a deal, but if not, tariffs will go into place on Dec. 15.