Impeachment hearing: Taylor claims staffer overheard Trump asking about ‘investigations’

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Trump impeachment inquiry hearings

Bill Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, testified on Wednesday that a staff member recently told him that they overheard a phone conversation between President Trump and Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland in which the president asked about “the investigations.”

Taylor, who was appearing in the first public hearing of the House Intelligence Committee’s impeachment inquiry, said some of his staff were at a restaurant in Ukraine with Sondland when he made a phone call to Trump. The staffer told Taylor they could hear Trump on the phone asking about “the investigations,” he said.

Sondland purportedly replied that the Ukrainians were ready to move forward, Taylor said. The phone call took place the day after Trump had his July phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that sparked a whistleblower complaint. The new claim from Taylor would connect Trump more closely to the pursuit of investigations from Ukraine; Taylor clarified that he understood "investigations" to refer to the Biden family.

Republicans, however, noted that Taylor was still not providing first-hand information to the committee.

SCHIFF OPENS IMPEACHMENT HEARING, AS NUNES BLASTS ‘SCORCHED EARTH WAR’ AGAINST TRUMP

“Following the call with President Trump, the member of my staff asked Ambassador Sondland what President Trump thought about Ukraine,” Taylor said in his opening statement. “Ambassador Sondland responded that President Trump cares more about the investigations of Biden, which [Trump’s personal attorney Rudy] Giuliani was pressing for.”

Taylor’s comment was immediately picked up by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., following the ambassador’s statement.

"I think you said that after the call when your staff asked Ambassador Sondland what President Trump thought of Ukraine, his response was that President Trump cares more about the investigations of Biden, is that right?" Schiff asked.

George Kent: US, Ukrainian national interests undermined by attacks from AmericansVideo

"And Burisma, yes, sir," Taylor responded, in reference to the natural gas firm Burisma Holdings — where former Vice President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, was on the board.

"And I take it the import of that is he cares more about that than he does about Ukraine? Schiff then asked.

"Yes, sir," Taylor said.

Taylor has already testified behind closed doors to congressional investigators that the president pushed Ukraine to investigate election interference, Joe and Hunter Biden, and their Ukraine dealings. The ambassador said that at the time of his closed-door testimony, he was not aware of the information regarding the phone call.

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Republicans have been critical of Taylor’s testimony, arguing that the acting ambassador does not have first-hand knowledge of the events in question, pointing out that he was not on the call between Trump and Zelensky that is at the center of the impeachment inquiry.

“Neither of [Schiff 's] witnesses testifying today listened to the original Ukraine call,” Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind., tweeted. “Both admitted ZERO firsthand knowledge of a ‘quid-pro-quo.’ They have as much inside knowledge about Ukraine call as you and me, since we can all read the transcript.”

Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent also appeared Wednesday. Kent testified behind closed doors last month and told the committees he had concerns about Hunter Biden’s role on the board of Burisma Holdings in 2015 but was rebuffed by the former vice president’s staff, which said the office was preoccupied with Beau Biden’s cancer battle.

At the heart of the impeachment inquiry is Trump's attempt to get Ukraine to investigate the Bidens' dealings in the country, and whether that was linked to military aid.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Original Article

Yovanovitch communicated with Dem staffer on ‘delicate’ issue after complaint, emails show, despite denial

closeDemocratic staffer emailed Ukraine ambassador to discuss 'delicate' issue following whistleblower complaintVideo

Democratic staffer emailed Ukraine ambassador to discuss 'delicate' issue following whistleblower complaint

Staffer emailed about 'time-sensitive' issue days after complaint was filed.

EXCLUSIVE: Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, a key witness in House Democrats' impeachment inquiry, communicated via her personal email account with a Democratic congressional staffer concerning a "quite delicate" and "time-sensitive" matter — just two days after the whistleblower complaint was filed, and a month before the complaint became public, emails obtained Thursday by Fox News showed.

During Yovanovitch's deposition on Capitol Hill last month, New York Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin asked her about an email she received on Aug. 14 from the staffer, Laura Carey — and Yovanovitch testified under oath that she had never personally responded to it.

"They — from the Foreign Affairs Committee, and they wanted me to come in and talk about, I guess, the circumstances of my departure," Yovanovitch said, describing Carey's initial email. "I alerted the State Department, because I'm still an employee, and so, matters are generally handled through the State Department."

Yovanovitch continued: "So, she emailed me. I alerted the State Department and, you know, asked them to handle the correspondence. And, she emailed me again and said, you know, who should I be in touch with?"

Fox News is told it is a breach of normal procedure for congressional staff to reach out to a current State Department employee at their personal email address for official business.

Former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch on Capitol Hill in October. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

Former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch on Capitol Hill in October. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

Asked whether she responded to Carey, Yovanovitch testified that someone in the "Legislative Affairs Office" at the State Department had responded to the email, to the best of her knowledge. Yovanovitch said she did not reply to the staffer's follow-up email concerning whom she should contact at the State Department.

However, emails obtained by Fox News' "Tucker Carlson Tonight" showed that in fact, Yovanovitch had responded to her Aug. 14 email, writing that she "would love to reconnect and look forward to chatting with you."

Zeldin told Fox News on Thursday it was "greatly concerning" that Yovanovitch had testified incorrectly that a State Department employee was the only person to respond to Carey's email.

READ YOVANOVITCH'S DEPOSITION TESTIMONY — ZELDIN'S QUESTIONS ARE ON PG. 213

"I would highly suspect that this Democratic staffer's work was connected in some way to the whistleblower's effort, which has evolved into this impeachment charade," Zeldin said. "We do know that the whistleblower was in contact with [House Intelligence Committee Chairman] Adam Schiff's team before the whistleblower had even hired an attorney or filed a whistleblower complaint even though Schiff had lied to the public originally claiming that there was no contact. Additionally, while the contents of the email from this staffer to Ambassador Yovanovitch clearly state what the conversation would be regarding, Yovanovitch, when I asked her specifically what the staffer was looking to speak about, did not provide these details."

GOP lawmaker calls on Schiff to testify about whistleblowerVideo

Zeldin added: "I specifically asked her whether the Democratic staffer was responded to by Yovanovitch or the State Department. It is greatly concerning that Ambassador Yovanovitch didn't answer my question as honestly as she should have, especially while under oath."

A Democratic House Foreign Affairs Committee spokesperson, however, characterized the outreach as innocuous, saying it was related to Yovanovitch's public ouster as the envoy to Ukraine.

"The committee wanted to hear from an ambassador whose assignment was cut short under unusual circumstances," the spokesperson said. "This staff outreach was part of monthslong efforts that culminated in the September 9 launch of an investigation into these events. Congress has a constitutional duty to conduct oversight. The State Department doesn’t tell Congress how to do that job, and should be more concerned with the culture of retaliation and impunity that has festered under this administration."

'COUP HAS STARTED,' WHISTLEBLOWER ATTORNEY ANNOUNCES IN 2017

Neither Carey nor the State Department immediately responded to Fox News' requests for comment.

The full text of the staffer's exchange with Yovanovitch, who is slated to testify soon in an open hearing in the impeachment inquiry, made plain that Yovanovitch was eager to speak to her.

On Aug. 14, Carey reached out to Yovanovitch with pleasantries about the last time the two had "crossed paths" — "when I was detailed to" the Senate Foreign Relations Committee — before noting that Carey had resigned from the State Department to join the House Foreign Affairs Committee staff performing oversight work.

"I'm writing to see if you would have time to meet up for a chat —in particular, I’m hoping to discuss some Ukraine-related oversight questions we are exploring," the staffer then wrote to Yovanovitch. "I'd appreciate the chance to ground-truth a few pieces of information with you, some of which are quite delicate/time-sensitive and, thus, we want to make sure we get them right."

Republicans call on Schiff to testify in impeachment probeVideo

Carey continued: "Could you let me know if you have any time this week or next to connect? Happy to come to a place of your choosing, or if easier, to speak by phone at either of the numbers below. I'm also around this weekend if meeting up over coffee works."

UKRAINE ENVOY CLAIMS 'CLEAR KNOWLEDGE' OF QUID PRO QUO, BUT NO 'DIRECT KNOWLEDGE' OF TRUMP PLANS

On Aug. 15, Yovanovitch responded: "Thanks for reaching out — and congratulations on your new job. I would love to reconnect and look forward to chatting with you. I have let EUR know that you are interested in talking and they will be in touch with you shortly."

On Aug. 19, Carey wrote, "Great — thanks for the response and I look forward to hearing from them. As mentioned, it would be ideal to connect this week… assuming this week is doable for you schedule-wise?"

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President Trump ordered Yovanovitch to be recalled from her post this past May following allegations of partisanship and political bias. Democrats have suggested her service was terminated so that the Trump administration could carry out illicit foreign policy with Ukraine.

George Kent, a career official at the State Department, told House investigators conducting the impeachment inquiry that a Ukrainian official told him Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani had conspired with Yuriy Lutsenko, the then-prosecutor general of Ukraine, to "throw mud" as part of a “campaign of slander” against Yovanovitch.

READ KENT'S FULL DEPOSITION

That accusation came out in testimony released earlier Thursday.

"Well, Mr. Giuliani was almost unmissable starting in mid-March," Kent told investigators. "As the news campaign, or campaign of slander against, not only Ambassador Yovanovitch unfolded, he had a very high a media promise, so he was on TV, his Twitter feed ramped up and it was all focused on Ukraine."

"Tucker Carlson Tonight" investigative producer Alex Pfeiffer contributed to this report.

Original Article

NSC staffer discussed Trump-Ukraine call outside council, called conversation ‘outrageous’: sources

closeFormer Amb. Marie Yovanovitch denies disparaging Trump administration, claims she was unfairly pushed outVideo

Former Amb. Marie Yovanovitch denies disparaging Trump administration, claims she was unfairly pushed out

The former U.S. ambassador to the Ukraine's congressional appearance was in doubt until the last minute; chief intelligence correspondent Catherine Herridge reports.

After President Trump’s July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, it was reported to then-senior National Security Council (NSC) leadership that an NSC staffer had relayed information about the call to individuals outside the NSC — and characterized the president's conversation as "outrageous," sources familiar with the matter told Fox News.

The development comes as Fiona Hill, a former special assistant to the president who worked on European and Russian affairs, is set to give a deposition next week. Fox News has reached out to Hill for over a week with questions about whether she helped prep for the July 25 call or received any readout of the call.

Hill departed the White House in July, after working under ex-National Security Advisers H.R. McMaster and John Bolton.

The White House has yet to comment on the matter to Fox News.

WHISTLEBLOWER ATTORNEY ACKNOWLEDGES CLIENT HAD 'CONTACT' WITH PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES

Other top administration officials linked to the Ukraine situation are also set to testify next week. On Friday, Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. envoy to Kiev and someone President Trump called "bad news," according to a memorandum of the telephone call with Ukraine's leader, arrived on Capitol Hill for a transcribed interview with lawmakers and staff.

FILE - In this March 6, 2019 file photo, then U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, center, sits during her meeting with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in Kiev, Ukraine. (Mikhail Palinchak, Presidential Press Service Pool Photo via AP)

FILE – In this March 6, 2019 file photo, then U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, center, sits during her meeting with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in Kiev, Ukraine. (Mikhail Palinchak, Presidential Press Service Pool Photo via AP)

Trump and his allies have sought to paint Yovanovitch as a rogue employee with an anti-Trump bias. She was ousted in May amid alleged attempts by Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani to press Ukraine into investigating Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son.

Former Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, who reportedly was involved in Yovanovitch's ouster, said in a statement Thursday that "after several congressional colleagues reported to me that the current U[.]S[.] Ambassador to Ukraine was disparaging President Trump to others as part of those official duties, I wrote a letter to the Secretary of State to refer this matter directly. My entire motivation for sending the letter was that I believe that political appointees should not be disparaging the President, especially while serving overseas."

On Friday, U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland announced that he will testify before Congress. The announcement came a week after the State Department directed him not to appear before lawmakers at a scheduled deposition. House Democrats on Wednesday then subpoenaed Sondland to appear before the joint committees to testify, prompting the shift.

TRUMP ALLED FORMER UKRAINE DIPLOMAT 'BAD NEWS'…AND NOW SHE'S SET TO TESTIFY

GRAPHIC LANGUAGE WARNING: Trump says Biden was only a good VP because he understood how to 'kiss Obama's a--'Video

Meanwhile, the whistleblower at the center of the House Democratic impeachment inquiry wants to testify to Congress in writing instead of appearing in person, Fox News has confirmed.

The Wall Street Journal first reported that lawyers for the anonymous CIA officer have asked lawmakers if the whistleblower could submit testimony in writing, but the House and Senate Intelligence Committees have not yet responded.

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The request comes as Democrats have expressed a desire to protect the identity of the whistleblower, along with worries over safety and media scrutiny.

President Trump and Republicans believe the president should have a right to confront his accuser and have also cited recent reports indicating the whistleblower could have partisan motives. Attorneys for the whistleblower have acknowledged he is a registered Democrat who has worked with at least one 2020 candidate. On Thursday, the Washington Examiner reported that the candidate was Joe Biden.

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Warren campaign staffer fired for ‘inappropriate behavior’

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Elizabeth Warren's 2020 campaign reaches a tentative deal to unionize

Talk radio show host Howie Carr says this is 'virtue signaling' on behalf of the Warren campaign.

A campaign staffer for 2020 presidential hopeful Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., has been fired after complaints of "inappropriate behavior," Fox News has learned.

"Over the past two weeks, senior campaign leadership received multiple complaints regarding inappropriate behavior by Rich McDaniel," Communications Director Kristen Orthman told Fox News. "Over the same time period, the campaign retained outside counsel to conduct an investigation."

McDaniel served as the campaign's national organizing director.

ELIZABETH WARREN HAULS IN $24.6M, TOPPING JOE BIDEN IN LATEST FUNDRAISING QUARTER

"Based on the results of the investigation, the campaign determined that his reported conduct was inconsistent with its values and that he could not be a part of the campaign moving forward," she said.

Details of the "inappropriate behavior" were not immediately available, but a source told Politico there were no reports of sexual assault.

McDaniel released a statement saying he'd "separated" from the campaign, according to Politico.

TRUMP ADMINISTRATION MEDICARE OFFICIAL: SANDERS AND WARREN'S 'SOCIALIST EXPERIMENTS' WON'T WORK FOR SENIORS

"I have tremendous respect for my colleagues despite any disagreements we may have had and believe departing at this time is in the best interest of both parties," he said. "I would never intentionally engage in any behavior inconsistent with the campaign or my own values. If others feel that I have, I understand it is important to listen even when you disagree. I wish the campaign and my colleagues well."

McDaniel previously worked as Hillary Clinton's primary-states regional director in the 2016 campaign, per Politico.

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Fox News' Mike Emanuel contributed to this report.

Original Article

Former Trump campaign staffer drops ‘forcible kissing’ lawsuit: report

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Fox News Flash top headlines for Sept. 5

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A former campaign staffer who claimed then-candidate Donald Trump forcibly kissed her during a rally in August 2016 has ended her lawsuit against the president, according to a report.

Alva Johnson, 44, of Alabama, claimed in a February court filing that Trump kissed her “without her consent” in front of several people at a Florida event. The suit was filed in federal court in Tampa.

The White House later denied Johnson’s claims.

ALVA JOHNSON SPEAK SOUT IN TEARFUL INTERVIEW ABOUT HER CLAIM TRUMP 'FORCIBLY KISSED' HER

“This never happened and is directly contradicted by multiple highly credible eyewitness accounts,” then-White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said at the time.

In June, a federal judge tossed out Johnson’s lawsuit, describing it as “a political lawsuit, not a tort and wages lawsuit.”

U.S. District Court Judge William Jung ruled, however, that Johnson could refile her lawsuit if she reframed her arguments.

Alva Johnson, a former Trump campaign staffer, has droper her lawsuit against the president, according to a report. (Erica Aitken Photography)

Alva Johnson, a former Trump campaign staffer, has droper her lawsuit against the president, according to a report. (Erica Aitken Photography)

In July, video footage surfaced of the interaction between Trump and Johnson. It showed Trump briefly kissing Johnson on the cheek and then briefly placing his hands on her shoulders as the pair exchanged greetings.

Johnson is heard on the video telling the president: “We’re going to get you in the White House. I’ll see you in February.”

Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal attorney, claimed on Fox News’ “Hannity” at the time that the video vindicated the president.

Rudy Giuliani on Trump accuser's case getting dismissed Video

On Wednesday, Johnson told the Daily Beast that she withdrew her lawsuit because she felt at a disadvantage against the president.

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“I’m fighting against a person with unlimited resources, and repeatedly the judicial system has failed to find fault in his behavior,” Johnson told the news outlet. “That’s a huge mountain to climb.”

Johnson served as director of outreach and coalitions for the Trump campaign in advance of the 2016 Alabama GOP primary and also did similar work in Florida.

Fox News' Alex Pappas, Charles Creitz and Danielle Wallace contributed to this story.

Original Article

Marianne Williamson defends hiring ex-Sanders staffer accused of forcibly kissing subordinate

closeIs Marianne Williamson right about the US health care system?Video

Is Marianne Williamson right about the US health care system?

Democratic presidential candidate Marianne Williamson says Americans have 'sickness care' rather than a health care.

Democratic 2020 presidential candidate Marianne Williamson on Friday defended hiring a former Bernie Sanders staffer to head her Iowa campaign even though he was accused by a subordinate of sexual assault in 2016.

Robert Becker served as Sanders’ Iowa caucus director in 2016 and would likely have worked on his 2020 campaign, Politico reported. Instead, he was ousted from Sanders’ team earlier this year after a much younger staffer who worked underneath him alleged he forcibly kissed her on the last night of the Democratic National Convention and put his tongue in her mouth, according to Politico.

The woman also claimed Becker said he had always wanted to have sex with her and made other lewd references, which Politico reported others corroborated.

MARIANNE WILLIAMSON: TRUMP 'FANNED FLAMES' OF WHITE SUPREMACY, BUT 'UNFAIR' TO SAY HE IS DIRECTLY RESPONSIBLE FOR EL PASO, DAYTON SHOOTINGS

Robert Becker, who was the Iowa state director for Sen. Bernie Sanders' 2016 presidential bid, has been accused of forcibly kissing a younger female subordinate during the campaign. (Getty Images)

Robert Becker, who was the Iowa state director for Sen. Bernie Sanders' 2016 presidential bid, has been accused of forcibly kissing a younger female subordinate during the campaign. (Getty Images)

But Williamson said she was willing to look past the allegations against Becker.

“I believe in forgiveness. I believe in redemption. I believe in people rising up after they’ve fallen down,” Williamson said. “I had not read anything or heard anything that made me feel this was a man who never deserved to work again.”

“I believe in forgiveness. I believe in redemption. I believe in people rising up after they’ve fallen down. I had not read anything or heard anything that made me feel this was a man who never deserved to work again.”

— Marianne Williamson, Democrat running for president

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Becker “categorically” denies the accusations and said he remembered the night was filled with “hugs and kisses," Politico reported.

The Sanders campaign in 2016 was rocked by numerous complaints of sexual harassment by members of the staff. In January, Sanders wrote an apology said his campaign staffers' standards for personal conduct should have been higher.

"The allegations speak to unacceptable behavior that must not be tolerated in any campaign or any workplace," Sanders wrote in a statement.

Original Article