WASHINGTON — Law classmates of White House Counsel Pat Cipollone sent him a letter on Thursday, claiming his decision to block material and witnesses from the House impeachment inquiry “distorts the law and the Constitution,” according to a copy of the letter obtained by NBC News.
“We are sorry to see how your letter to the congressional leadership flouts the traditions of rigor and intellectual honesty that we learned together,” said the letter from members of the class of 1991 at the University of Chicago Law School.
The letter was signed by 21 out of 32 alumni whose contact information was available to the solicitors, who estimated there were more than 160 students in their class. According to the text, the signers “hold a range of political views.” The two alumni who began circulating the letter this week, Joshua Davis, an employment lawyer based in Boston, and Jeremy Feigelson, a cybersecurity and data privacy litigation lawyer based in New York, have both donated to Democratic campaigns. A review of public databases reveal at least three of the alumni who signed are Republican donors and others have not donated to either political party.
The House of Representatives, led by Democrats, has launched an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump after a whistle-blower complaint revealed a phone call he had in July with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in which Trump appeared to be asking for dirt on one of his political opponents, Joe Biden.
As part of the inquiry, House committees have asked for internal documents from the White House.
On Tuesday, Cipollone sent an 8-page letter to Congressional Democrats, stating that Trump “cannot permit his administration to participate in this partisan inquiry under these circumstances.” Cipollone’s letter came hours after the White House blocked the testimony of Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union.
The University of Chicago Law School alumni said, “When any president openly invites the help of foreign powers for partisan political purposes, Congress in the exercise of its constitutional powers should conduct an inquiry and the White House should cooperate. Fair-minded lawyers can easily agree on this regardless of their politics. Your letter instead distorts the law and the Constitution for other purposes, including cable news consumption.”
AOC, Omar set to endorse Bernie Sanders for president
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is feeling the Bern.
The freshman congresswoman plans to endorse Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders for president at a rally in New York on Saturday, the Sanders campaign told NBC News.
The endorsement was first reported by The Washington Post.
Another member of “the squad,” Rep. Ilhan Omar, announced on Tuesday night that she is endorsing Sanders. The other two members are Reps. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts.
Sanders mentioned he’d have a “special guest” at his “Bernie’s Back” rally in Queens during Tuesday’s debate, and the campaign later acknowledged that guest is “Green New Deal” champion and democratic socialist Ocasio-Cortez.
The sought-after endorsement is a blow to Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who’s teamed with Ocasio-Cortez on various causes over the past year.
Ocasio-Cortez and Sanders have some history. She was a volunteer organizer for Sanders’ 2016 campaign, and he hailed her long-shot win in the Democratic primary last year. “What she did is talk about the real issues,” he said then.
They also paired on legislation to cap credit card rates this year.
George Kent tells lawmakers he was told to ‘lay low’ after raising concerns about Giuliani
WASHINGTON — State Department official George Kent told lawmakers in a closed-door deposition Tuesday that acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney appointed three other Trump administration officials to spearhead the president’s efforts in Ukraine.
According to Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., who was present for the deposition, Kent testified that Mulvaney oversaw a meeting where he sidelined State Department officials and tapped three political appointees — Energy Secretary Rick Perry, European Ambassador Gordon Sondland and special envoy Kurt Volker — to oversee Ukraine policy for the United States.
Kent, a deputy assistant secretary of state who worked on Ukraine and five other countries, told congressional investigators that the trio called themselves “the three amigos” and elbowed all the other officials at State out of the way, according to Connolly.
This not the first time Mulvaney was mentioned in depositions as part of the impeachment inquiry. President Donald Trump’s former Russia adviser Fiona Hill testified that then-national security adviser John Bolton said he wanted nothing to do with Mulvaney and Giuliani’s objectives in Ukraine, which Bolton said amounted to a “drug deal.”
Just weeks before the May 23 meeting, Marie Yovanovich was told that she was being recalled as the ambassador to Ukraine despite being told that she had done nothing wrong, according to her congressional testimony last week.
According to Connolly, Kent also testified that after the May 23 meeting, he was told to “lay low” by a superior when he raised concerns about Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who was working to pressure the Ukrainian government to investigate Hunter Biden, the son of former Vice President Joe Biden.
“The way I took it,” Connolly told NBC News, was that Kent “had just finished describing how he had told people that this is wrong, that Giuliani is out of control.”
Kent also said, according to Connolly, that the Trump allies who pushed for Ukraine to investigate corruption made it clear that “POTUS” wanted cooperation from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and the Ukrainian government.
Kent, who attended meetings and receptions with Zelenskiy and his advisers, said that Sondland and Volker floated the idea of a meeting with Trump, according to Connolly. Text messages between Volker and Sondland released this month also show that Zeleneskiy’s cooperation was expected in order to meet with Trump.
Volker testified behind closed doors last week that Trump wanted the Ukrainian government to investigate corruption in Ukraine but that there was “no quid pro quo” for military and security aid, which the administration had put on hold for nearly four months. Sondland is expected to testify under subpoena on Thursday.
During his nearly 10 hours of testimony, Kent also told members of Congress and their staff that Burisma, the energy company where Hunter Biden was a board member, was corrupt, according to a separate person who was present in the room. Kent said he told the Obama administration in 2016 that they should not hold an event with Burisma because of the company’s extensive corruption in Ukraine.
Kent was called in to testify because he raised the alarm about the disinformation campaign that Giuliani and his associates pushed regarding Ukraine, according to a emails included in the packet that the Intelligence Community’s Inspector General Michael Atkinson provided to Congress, obtained by NBC News. He sent a series of emails to colleagues alerting them of the “fake news driven smear out of Ukraine.”
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