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WASHINGTON — Deputy Attorney General Jeff Rosen told former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe on Thursday that his appeal against possible criminal charges against him has been rejected, according to a person familiar with the decision.

The rejection may pave the way for an indictment of McCabe, who according to a Justice Department Inspector General’s report made false statements to federal investigators about his disclosure of information to a journalist in 2016.

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McCabe was fired without receiving a pension by then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions in 2018 after the IG concluded McCabe “lacked candor” when questioned about the incident.

McCabe authorized the discussion of the FBI’s investigation into the Clinton Foundation to the Wall Street Journal in order to rebut a story that he was not impartial in the investigation. The Wall Street Journal reporter had previously written about McCabe’s wife, who took campaign donations from Hillary Clinton’s close political ally Terry McAuliffe for her run in a state election in Virginia.

When Sessions fired McCabe, McCabe was less than 48 hours away from retiring.

McCabe sued the FBI and the Justice Department in August, claiming that his firing was part of the Trump administration’s “unconstitutional plan and scheme to discredit and remove DOJ and FBI employees who were deemed to be his partisan opponents because they were not politically loyal to him.”

Critics of the IG probe and McCabe supporters have said he has been treated unfairly by those who wish to retaliate against him for his role in the Justice Department’s investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

McCabe supporters also point to the recent acquittal of Democratic White House Counsel Greg Craig on similar charges relating to false statements about his work for the Ukrainian government in 2012.

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White House tried to limit what former Russia aide Fiona Hill could say to Congress, letters show

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The White House tried to limit what Fiona Hill, who until August served as President Donald Trump’s top Russia analyst, could say to Congress in its impeachment inquiry, correspondence between her lawyers and a White House deputy counsel shows.

The letters, obtained by NBC News, illustrate that while the White House did not try to block Hill from testifying, it did tell Hill’s lawyers about four areas that could potentially fall under executive privilege.

Those areas involved direct communications with the president, diplomatic communications, meetings with other heads of state and staffing the president had on calls with foreign heads of state, the correspondence shows.

Hill testified under subpoena on Monday to the House. Previously, she agreed to testify at Congress’ written request.

Trump impeachment inquiry: Live updates and the latest news

The House has launched an impeachment inquiry over matters that include Trump’s communication with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy that involved a request for an investigation by that country into former vice president Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.

There is no evidence of wrongdoing by either Joe or Hunter Biden.

Former White House advisor on Russia, Fiona Hill, leaves Capitol Hill after testifying before congressional lawmakers as part of the House impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, on Oct. 14, 2019.Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP

Hill’s lawyers wrote back to the White House on Sunday, presenting their argument for why executive privilege did not apply, based in part on the fact that some of the information has already come into the public sphere and thus is no longer confidential, the correspondence shows.

Hill’s lawyers also made a legal argument that executive privilege disappears when there’s reason to believe there was government misconduct. Hill’s lawyers asked the White House to weigh in further, according to the correspondence.

Monday morning, via an emailed letter from White House Deputy Counsel Michael Purpura to Hill’s attorney Lee Wolosky, the White House wrote back and generally dismissed most of the arguments by Hill’s lawyers.

“As the White House Counsel has explained, there is no valid impeachment inquiry underway,” Purpura wrote in the letter.

The White House did not tell Hill not to testify, but reminded her in the emailed letter Monday morning that “it is incumbent on Dr. Hill and you, as her counsel, to guard against unauthorized disclosure. To be clear, Dr. Hill is not authorized to reveal or release any classified information or any information subject to executive privilege.”

In her closed-door testimony, Hill planned to tell Congress that Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland circumvented the administration to pursue a shadow foreign policy on Ukraine, a person familiar with her expected testimony told NBC News last week.

A source familiar with Hill’s closed-door testimony Monday says it followed along the lines of NBC News’ previous reporting of her planned testimony. Hill, the source said, raised concerns about Giuliani’s efforts in Ukraine and also spoke in support of ousted U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch.

A former senior White House official had told NBC News that Hill’s appearance has caused concern among those close to Trump because she played a central role in the administration’s Russian and Ukrainian policy.

Hill’s testimony comes after Yovanovitch told House investigators last week that Trump pressured the State Department to remove her. Pushing for Yovanovitch’s ouster was central to an effort from two Soviet-born business associates of Giuliani who now face federal charges over campaign-finance violations.

Sondland is scheduled to testify Thursday. He is expected to testify that he did not know why Congress- approved military aid to Ukraine was withheld, a person with knowledge of his testimony told NBC News.

Sondland is set to say he “relied” on Trump’s pledge that there was no quid pro quo with regard to Ukraine investigating the Biden family and a conspiracy theory involving the 2016 presidential election when Sondland texted the current top diplomat in Ukraine last month saying no quid pro quo was taking place.

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Warren, Buttigieg reject O’Rourke threat to tax anti-LGBTQ churches

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Democratic presidential hopefuls Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, rejected a threat by fellow 2020 hopeful Beto O’Rourke to strip the tax-exempt status of churches that oppose same-sex marriage.

O’Rourke’s proposal, first made Thursday evening at a presidential forum on LGBTQ issues, has spawned a backlash against the former Texas congressman.

“Do you think religious institutions like colleges, churches, charities should lose their tax-exempt status if they oppose same-sex marriage?” CNN’s Don Lemon asked O’Rourke at Thursday’s forum.

“There can be no reward, no benefit, no tax break for anyone, or any institution, any organization in America, that denies the full human rights and the full civil rights of every single one of us,” O’Rourke responded to applause. “And so as president, we are going to make that a priority, and we are going to stop those who are infringing upon the human rights of our fellow Americans.”

O’Rourke appeared to go further than the existing political and legal conversation over LGBTQ rights and religious discrimination, which has centered on questions about private businesses declining services and refusing to hire or maintain LGBTQ employees.

During an appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday, Buttigieg, the only openly gay candidate in the 2020 field, rejected O’Rourke’s tax threat. While Buttigieg emphasized the importance of anti-discriminatory policies in many institutions, including schools, he drew the line before O’Rourke’s more controversial take on tax-exemption.

“The idea that you’re going to strip churches of their tax-exempt status if they haven’t found their way toward blessing same-sex marriage — I’m not sure he understood the implications of what he was saying,” Buttigieg said of O’Rourke.

Withholding tax-exempt status from religious organizations, according to Buttigieg, could dishonor the separation of church and state outlined in the First Amendment.

“That means going to war with not only churches but also mosques and organizations that don’t have the same view of religious principles as I do,” he continued. “Going after the tax exemption of churches, Islamic centers or other religious facilities in this country is just going to deepen the divisions we’re already experiencing.”

Elizabeth Warren also rejected O’Rourke’s tax threat. In a statement sent to NBC News on Monday, the Warren campaign’s deputy press secretary, Saloni Sharma, made clear she and O’Rourke are not aligned on the issue.

“Elizabeth will stand shoulder to shoulder with the LGBTQ+ community until every person is empowered and able to live their life without fear of discrimination and violence,” Sharma stated. “Religious institutions in America have long been free to determine their own beliefs and practices, and she does not think we should require them to conduct same-sex marriages in order to maintain their tax exempt status.”

Prior to O’Rourke’s 2020 primary opponents chiming in, the Texas Democrat’s comments had already sparked condemnation from prominent Republicans and conservatives. Even President Donald Trump sought to capitalize on O’Rourke’s remarks.

Speaking on Saturday at the Values Voter Summit, Trump, without using O’Rourke’s name, told religious conservatives that he “will never allow the IRS to be used as a political weapon.”

“As you know, just a few days ago, a Democrat running for president proposed revoking the tax-exempt status of many churches and religious groups,” Trump said at the annual event. “And you know why it is. He’s a wacko.”

Hours after Trump’s remarks, O’Rourke fired back on Twitter.

“This from a man who’s used his office to stoke hate, fear, and discrimination. Who tried to ban Muslims,” O’Rourke wrote. “Anyone can believe what they want — but organizations that discriminate when they provide public services should not be tax-exempt.”

O’Rourke and his campaign staff, however, appeared to walk back his initial comments. On Friday, his spokeswoman, Aleigha Cavalier, suggested the candidate’s remarks had been misinterpreted.

“Of course, Beto was referring to religious institutions who take discriminatory action,” Cavalier said. “The extreme right is distorting this for their own agenda.” She added that O’Rourke defined discriminatory action as “denying public accommodation” on the basis of gender, sexuality or marriage.

Then on MSNBC’s “Kacie DC” on Sunday, O’Rourke sought to clarify his stance.

“The way that you practice your religion or your faith within that mosque or that temple or synagogue or church, that is your business, and not the government’s business,” he said. “But when you are providing services in the public sphere, say, higher education, or health care, or adoption services, and you discriminate or deny equal treatment under the law based on someone’s skin color or ethnicity or gender or sexual orientation, then we have a problem.”

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Associated Press contributed.



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E.U. ambassador to testify that ex-Ukraine ambassador was ‘great’ despite Trump ouster

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U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland will tell Congress on Thursday that he thought former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch was “great” and that he has nothing negative to say about her job performance, despite her ouster by President Donald Trump.

A person with knowledge of Sondland’s testimony tells NBC News that Yovanovitch was an able and professional diplomat, and that he had no issues with her whatsoever. The person spoke to NBC News on the condition of anonymity.

Yovanovitch told House impeachment investigators last week that Trump personally pressured the State Department to have her removed from her position. Sondland is expected to testify under subpoena on Thursday as part of the impeachment inquiry.

Sondland will also testify that after he attended Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s inauguration in May, he met with Trump, Energy Secretary Rick Perry and former U.S. special envoy Kurt Volker in the Oval Office. In that meeting, Sondland will say, Trump told them that any in-person meeting between Trump and Zelenskiy would have to be approved by Rudy Giuliani.

Sondland will testify that it was only later that he became aware that a public commitment by Ukraine’s new government to address corruption – including Burisma Holdings – was a prerequisite for a Trump-Zelenskiy meeting. Sondland will also say that at the time that he learned that, he did not know that Burisma was linked to former Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter.

In a July 25 interview with state-run Ukrainian television, Sondland said he’d spoken directly with Trump before the president’s phone call with Zelenskiy that same day, in which the president pressed Zelenskiy to investigate the Biden family. The July phone call set off a torrent of events that led to the impeachment inquiry.

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