Adam Schiff: Impeachment 'may be the only remedy'

Impeachment may be "the only remedy" should a recent whistleblower complaint against President Donald Trump prove true, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said Sunday.

"I have been very reluctant to go down the path of impeachment, for the reason that I think the founders contemplated in a country that has elections every four years, that this would be an extraordinary remedy, a remedy of last resort, not first resort," the California Democrat said on CNN's "State of the Union."

"But if the president is essentially withholding military aid at the same time that he is trying to browbeat a foreign leader into doing something illicit that is providing dirt on his opponent during a presidential campaign, then that may be the only remedy that is coequal to the evil that that conduct represents," Schiff added.

His comments, following a series of reports that Trump pressed Ukrainian officials to investigate the son of 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden, appear to be the most forceful Schiff has made on impeachment.

It's a matter that has sparked a chasm among Democrats, with House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler of New York pushing for an investigation and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California arguing the House Democrats lack the votes.

Last week, Nadler's panel held what it billed as its first “impeachment hearing” to question former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, and Pelosi stressed in a private meeting that Democrats should be cautious as it decides whether to move forward.

Schiff's committee plans to hear from Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire on Thursday to "make sure we get that [whistleblower] complaint," Schiff said. Maguire has, as of Sunday, refused to provide it to Congress.

"It may be that we do have to move forward with that extraordinary remedy," Schiff said of impeachment.

Still, he acknowledged, the Republican-controlled Senate would not go along.

"There's no chance of us persuading the Senate, the Senate Republicans, in an impeachment trial. They have shown their willingness to carry the president's baggage, no matter how soiled its contents," Schiff said.

"I want to make sure, before we go down this road, that we can persuade the public that this was the right thing to do. And part of persuading the public that impeachment is the right thing to do is making sure that the country understands that this was a last resort," Schiff explained.

"The president is pushing us down this road."

Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine

Trump's Ukraine conversations must be 'private,' Pompeo and Mnuchin say

President Donald Trump's conversations with Ukrainian leaders must remain "private," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Sunday.

"Those are private conversations between world leaders," Pompeo said on "Fox News Sunday" when asked about a series of reports that Trump pressed Ukrainian officials to investigate the son of 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden.

"I would leave whether that should be released" to the White House, Pompeo said.

Mnuchin went a step further, saying on NBC's "Meet the Press": "I think it would be highly inappropriate to release a transcript of a call between two world leaders."

Congress would be overreaching should it request to see such a transcript, he continued.

"What I have a problem with is Congress asking for a transcript between world leaders," Mnuchin said. "I think that those are confidential discussions, and that’s a difficult precedent."

Both Cabinet members acknowledged to not being on the call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Their comments come as the Trump White House attempts to deflect blowback from the allegations of Ukrainian collusion by redirecting the conversation to claims that the then-vice president threatened to withhold $1 billion in aid from Ukraine while demanding the firing of a prosecutor who was investigating gas company where Biden's son, Hunter, held a board position.

Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine

Mike Pompeo puts onus in Ukraine squabble on Biden

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Sunday he hasn’t seen the Ukraine whistleblower complaint, but if former Vice President Joe Biden behaved inappropriately then “we need to know.”

Following reports that President Donald Trump pressured Ukrainian officials to investigate Biden's son, Hunter Biden — which led to a whistleblower complaint and stalled congressional review — Pompeo joined many Trump allies in pivoting the conversation to discrediting the Democratic 2020 front-runner.

At the center of the controversy is Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, which has spiked demands from Democratic lawmakers for investigations and impeachment proceedings. Those seeking an investigation want to know if the president made U.S. aid contingent on Ukraine investigating Trump’s political opponent.

Biden has been attacked by those who say that while he was vice president, he threatened to withhold $1 billion in U.S. aid from Ukraine and called for the firing of a state prosecutor looking into a gas company where Hunter Biden held a board position. Trump himself has doubled down on these claims against Biden.

“If Vice President Biden behaved inappropriately, if he was protecting his son and intervened with the Ukrainian leadership in a way that was corrupt, I do think we need to get to the bottom of that,” Pompeo said on ABC‘s “This Week.“

He added, “America cannot have our elections interfered with … If there was that kind of activity engaged in by Vice President Biden, we need to know.”

Trump tweeted Saturday that the call was “perfectly fine and routine.” But critics of the administration, including Biden, have labeled Trump’s actions as “an overwhelming abuse of power” and “betrayal of our nation.”

Pompeo reiterated Sunday that the U.S. wants a “good relationship” with Ukraine. He pointed to Ukrainian Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko’s statement that there was no pressure applied in the conversation between the world leaders. In response to a question about releasing the phone call transcript, Pompeo deferred to the White House.

“We don’t release transcripts very often,” he said Sunday. “Those are private conversations between world leaders and it wouldn’t be appropriate to do so except in — in the most extreme circumstances.”

Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine

Giuliani charges 'this town protects Joe Biden'

President Donald Trump's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, charged on Sunday that "this town protects Joe Biden."

"His family has been taking money from his public office for years," Giuliani asserted in an animated interview on "Fox News Sunday." "Ladies and gentlemen, go look at what the press has been covering up."

Giuliani's comments come as the White House attempts to deflect blowback from a series of reports that Trump pressed Ukrainian officials to investigate the son of 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden. The president, Giuliani and others have repeatedly attempted to redirect the conversation to allegations that the then-vice president threatened to withhold $1 billion in aid from Ukraine while demanding the firing of a prosecutor who was investigating gas company where Biden's son, Hunter, held a board position.

"I went there to get dirt on Joe Biden," Giuliani said. "I got a nice straight case of Ukrainian collusion, and the minute I say 'Biden' the Washington press corps is going to go nuts. They've been covering it up for years."

PolitiFact has rated the allegations against Biden as "half-true," clarifying that the accusation overreaches "by assuming that Joe Biden acted to protect the company his son was affiliated with," and noting that the prosecutor in question had drawn criticism in the past.

"These are very important things that have been covered up to protect slimy Joe," Giuliani declared.

Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine

Trump wants ‘diplomatic solution’ with Iran, Pompeo says

President Donald Trump "would like a diplomatic solution" with Iran, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Sunday.

"Our mission set is to avoid war. That's the task in front of us," Pompeo said on "Fox News Sunday." "That's what we've been aiming for for a little over two years now, with the strongest sanctions that have ever been put in place against this revolutionary regime."

"The whole world understands that Iran is the bad actor," Pompeo went on. "They are the evil force in the region, they are destabilizing in the Middle East."

Iran bears responsibility for a Sept. 14 attack on the world's largest oil processor, located in Saudi Arabia, that caused oil prices to spike by the biggest percentage since the Gulf War, the U.S. alleges. Iran, for its part, denies it was behind the assault. And Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Saturday accused the U.S. of "posturing" by sending troops missile defenses to Saudi Arabia in response.

"As for Zarif, I don't know why anyone listens to him," Pompeo said. "He has nothing to do with Iranian foreign policy, he lies all the time."

Pompeo will attend high-level meetings at the United Nations this week, where Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has separately pledged to unveil a peace plan for the region.

"We simply want Iran to behave like a normal nation," Pompeo said.

Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine

Legal showdown looms over Trump deposition order

A lawsuit brought by protesters who contend they were roughed up by security personnel outside Trump Tower in 2015 has suddenly become an urgent problem for President Donald Trump’s legal team after a New York judge ruled Friday that Trump must submit to a videotaped deposition in the case.

Despite the swirl of congressional litigation involving Trump and the intensifying efforts to impeach him in the House, the Bronx-based suit jumped to the forefront of the White House’s legal concerns because — as it stands now — the new order by Bronx Supreme Court Justice Doris Gonzalez requires Trump’s testimony before the trial. The case is currently set to open Thursday.

“More than 200 years ago our founders sought to escape an oppressive, tyrannical governance in which absolute power vested with a monarch. A fear of the recurrence of tyranny birthed our three-branch government adorned with checks and balances,” Gonzales wrote in her ruling. “No government official, including the Executive, is above the law.”

Trump’s lawyers could ask the judge to delay the trial or file an appeal to try to block the order for the president’s testimony. There’s also the chance of an emergency appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court or that Trump might simply ignore the judge’s order and see what sanctions she imposes.

Trump’s attorneys could seek to appeal or stay the ruling, but their chances in New York state courts appear slim.

Persuading judges to delay the trial further at this point could be difficult. The suit was filed more than four years ago and the trial has been put off repeatedly, including after one of the five plaintiffs died in February.

Trump is named personally as a defendant in the suit, along with the Trump Campaign, the Trump Organization and Keith Schiller, who served Trump for years as a security guard and later as Director of Oval Office Operations at the White House.

Trump’s efforts to avoid testifying in the case have collided with the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1997 ruling requiring President Bill Clinton to submit to a deposition in a federal lawsuit brought by a former Arkansas state employee, Paula Jones, who accused Clinton of sexual harassment while he was governor of the state. The unanimous opinion said there is no immunity for a president sued over events taking place before he left office.

Trump’s lawyers have seized on one issue left open in the Clinton v. Jones case: whether a state court has the same power over a president that a federal court does. Trump’s legal team has argued that a state judge might not be as deferential as a federal court judge would to the need to accommodate a president’s schedule and important national security duties.

Gonzalez’s order Friday and its suggestion that Trump submit to a deposition within days could reinforce that perception.

But Trump’s legal team seems to have little prospect of victory in New York state courts in light of an appeals panel’s ruling in March of this year rejecting Trump’s bid to halt a defamation lawsuit brought by former “Apprentice” contestant Summer Zervos.

Gonzales said that decision foreclosed Trump’s arguments for immunity in the protesters’ suit.

Trump has also been ordered to give a pretrial deposition in the Zervos suit. However, the deadline has been extended to Oct. 31.

Trump lawyers did not respond to repeated requests for comment on Gonzalez’s ruling or what next steps they plan in the case. A White House spokesman declined to comment.

A lawyer for the protesters, Roger Friedman, welcomed Gonzalez’s decision. “The judge’s ruling was clearly correct. President Trump’s testimony will be highly relevant to the trial,” Friedman said.

Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine

Iran asks West to leave Persian Gulf

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran’s president called Sunday on Western powers to leave the security of the Persian Gulf to regional nations led by Tehran, criticizing a new U.S.-led coalition patrolling the region’s waterways as nationwide parades showcased the Islamic Republic’s military arsenal.

President Hassan Rouhani separately promised to unveil a regional peace plan at this week’s upcoming high-level meetings at the United Nations, which comes amid heightened Mideast tensions following a series of attacks, including a missile-and-drone assault on Saudi Arabia’s oil industry.

The U.S. alleges Iran carried out the Sept. 14 attack on the world’s largest oil processor in the kingdom and an oil field, which caused oil prices to spike by the biggest percentage since the 1991 Gulf War. While Yemen’s Iranian-allied Houthi rebels claimed the assault, Saudi Arabia says it was “unquestionably sponsored by Iran.”

For its part, Iran denies being responsible and has warned any retaliatory attack targeting it will result in an “all-out war.” That’s as it has begun enriching uranium beyond the terms of its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, which the U.S. unilaterally withdrew from over a year earlier.

Rouhani spoke from a riser at the parade in Tehran, with uniformed officers from the country’s military and its paramilitary Revolutionary Guard beside him. The cleric later watched as goose-stepping soldiers carrying submachine guns and portable missile launchers drove past as part of “Holy Defense Week,” which marks the start of the Iran-Iraq war in 1980.

Rouhani said Iran was willing to “extend the hand of friendship and brotherhood” to Persian Gulf nations and was “even ready to forgive their past mistakes.”

“Those who want to link the region’s incidents to the Islamic Republic of Iran are lying like their past lies that have been revealed,” the president said. “If they are truthful and really seek security in the region, they must not send weapons, fighter jets, bombs and dangerous arms to the region.”

Rouhani added that the U.S. and Western nations should “distance” themselves from the region.

“Your presence has always been a calamity for this region and the farther you go from our region and our nations, the more security would come for our region,” he said.

He said Iran’s plan would focus on providing security in the Persian Gulf, the Strait of Hormuz and the Gulf of Oman “with help from regional countries.” Iran has boosted its naval cooperation with China, India, Oman, Pakistan, and Russia in recent years.

The U.S. maintains defense agreements across the Persian Gulf with allied Arab nations and has tens of thousands of troops stationed in the region. Since 1980, it has viewed the region as crucial to its national security, given its energy exports. A fifth of all oil traded passes through the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf. The U.S. plans to send additional troops to the region over the tensions.

The parades and maneuvers Sunday appeared aimed at projecting Iranian strength with naval vessels, submarines and armed speedboats swarmed across the Persian Gulf and troops showed off land-to-sea missiles capable of targeting the U.S. Navy. Commandos fast-roped down onto the deck of a ship, resembling Iran’s July seizure of a British-flagged oil tanker.

Iranian ship seizures, as well as oil tanker explosions that the U.S. blames on Iran, saw America create a new coalition to protect Mideast waters. So far, Australia, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates have agreed to join it.

Iranian parliament speaker Ali Larijani called the U.S-led coalition a “a new means for plundering the region,” according to Iran’s semi-official Tasnim news agency.

“We regard the emergence of such coalitions as the start of a new game to make the region insecure,” Larijani said, according to Tasnim.

Iran separately displayed its Khordad-3 surface-to-air missile that downed a U.S. military surveillance drone in the Strait of Hormuz in June.

Sunday also marked the one-year anniversary of an attack on a military parade in Ahvaz that killed 25 people. Both separatists and the Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the assault, while Iran blamed Saudi Arabia and the UAE for allegedly supporting the attackers. Both nations denied the claim, though a propaganda video published by a semi-official news agency in Iran close to the Guard later circulated threatening them with missile attacks.

Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine

Chasten Buttigieg goes from opening act to fundraising star

Chasten Buttigieg has gone viral on social media and supported his husband on the presidential campaign trail. Now, he’s playing a new role for Pete Buttigieg’s 2020 bid: rainmaker.

Chasten is slated to be the sole headline draw for several Pete for America fundraisers over the next month, starting with an event in Chicago this week. In October, Chasten will swing through New York City for another fundraiser, followed by a trip overseas to raise money from Americans living abroad in London on Oct. 22, according to event invitations obtained by POLITICO.

Chasten is also striking out on his own for other events, like a ribbon-cutting for a dozen new field offices in New Hampshire earlier this month, while Pete did the same for 20 offices in Iowa. The split-screen events show Chasten — a 30-year-old teacher who was nearly anonymous at the beginning of 2019 — cutting a campaign profile more akin to well-known former second lady Jill Biden than most 2020 spouses. And that prominence could be a force-multiplier for the Buttigieg campaign through the fall, keeping the fundraising spigot open while Pete stumps in all-important Iowa and New Hampshire.

"Chasten is as big of a draw for people who want to connect with the campaign as Pete, and that’s at all levels, not just high-dollar fundraisers,” said John Atkinson, a Buttigieg donor based in Chicago. And, he added, “to the extent that Chasten frees up bandwidth for the candidate, that is a competitive advantage."

Spouses can “speak for the candidate in a way no other surrogate can,” said Julianna Smoot, who led Barack Obama’s finance team in 2008, when future First Lady Michelle Obama became a national draw.

It’s no different in 2020. Jill Biden has also been aggressively deployed as a surrogate for former Vice President Joe Biden, both in public campaign events and private fundraisers, while Doug Emhoff, Sen. Kamala Harris’ husband, has also headlined his own fundraisers. Jane Sanders has played a critical strategic role in her husband’s political career, especially Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential runs. And Bruce Mann, Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s husband, occasionally lingers with reporters as he waits for his wife to navigate the often hours-long selfie line at the end of her campaign events.

But Buttigieg’s campaign is leaning on Chasten to a notable extent, playing off his rise to social media stardom by ramping up his public schedule since this summer. That has freed Pete to spend less time courting donors — which he’s done successfully, leading the Democratic field with nearly $25 million raised last quarter — and more time talking to voters in the early states, where the campaign is putting a heavy emphasis on building its infrastructure.

“He’s something of a secret weapon for this campaign,” Pete Buttigieg said in an interview with POLITICO. “One of the things you need to do on a campaign, especially when you’re new on the scene, is introduce yourself and convey your values to as many people as possible. Chasten, through his own story and his own approach and his focus on making sure that people have a sense of belonging, really embodies a lot of the values of this campaign.”

Chasten’s spousal status stands out especially in its history-making context: He appeared on Time magazine’s cover with an arm around Pete, under the headline “First Family.”

"Chasten is introducing America to what a same-sex couple looks like,” said Stephanie Cutter, a Democratic consultant, who served as Barack Obama’s deputy campaign manager and Michelle Obama’s chief of staff. “In that, he does a remarkable job of humanizing Pete, a candidate who is already very relatable.”

The Buttigieg donor invitations obtained by POLITICO show that Chasten’s events cater to a mix of high- and low-dollar attendees. Tickets for the Sept. 24 event in Chicago range from $25 for “young professionals” up to $500 to be a co-host and guarantee a photo. In New York, “Cocktails and Conversation” at a Manhattan residence will cost donors $500 to $1,000. Chasten has already held fundraisers in Miami, Tampa and St. Petersburg earlier this year.

Pete averages about $100,000 raised per event, while Chasten is expected to bring in about a third of that, according to a person familiar with the fundraising totals.

Though Chasten appears frequently in private settings for the campaign, he has kept a low profile with the media. In May, the Washington Post wrote about Chasten’s upbringing, including his stint as a homeless community college student in Michigan, and he sat for a rare interview on CBS’ “This Morning” alongside his husband — and their dogs.

Instead, Chasten, who took a leave of absence from teaching to join the campaign full-time, developed his own unfiltered social media presence. He tweets like the millennial he is, deploying well-timed gifs and pop culture insights to more than 380,000 followers. Last week, Chasten dropped a Lizzo lyric and a Bachelor reference in a single tweet about his dog, Truman, who has earned his own Twitter handle.

“There's a generational element to Chasten's appeal — creating a profile for himself on social media where we've gotten to know their pets, what they're doing on a daily basis,” Cutter said. “We can debate the role Twitter plays in our politics, but Chasten's feed has been a lens into who Pete is. Nobody else is doing that quite like Chasten.”

The massive field of candidates, coupled with the intense interest in the Democratic primary, may mean voters are “looking at [spouses] earlier in the process than we’ve seen in other primaries, and if yours is an asset — like the potential first husband — then you get him into rooms where he works best,” said Henry Munoz III, the former Democratic National Committee finance chairman.

Before he started headlining his own fundraisers, Chasten would frequently introduce his husband at events, retelling a story about their first date, when Chasten asked Pete if he had aspirations for higher office. Pete, who had run for state treasurer in 2010, responded: Maybe another statewide run in Indiana?

But by their first wedding anniversary, the couple showed up on that Time magazine cover and Chasten adds, “with a wink, ‘This isn’t what I signed up for,’” according to several Buttigieg donors.

The campaign has also turned Chasten into a draw for other groups’ events: On Sunday, he is co-headlining a champagne brunch fundraiser for the Victory Fund, the pro-LGBTQ group that supports political candidates and has endorsed his husband for president.

Some attendees might be attracted by “the novelty — ‘oh, it’s a husband’” on the campaign trail, said Annise Parker, the former Houston mayor who is now Victory Fund’s president.

But Parker added that Chasten offers a kind of alter ego to his husband, who can be “pretty buttoned-down, reserved, a bit introverted,” she said. “Chasten softens him up a little bit.”

Chasten has also proven to be an adept public speaker, particularly in front of LGBTQ audiences. At the DNC’s LGTBQ gala in June, Chasten replaced Pete for the keynote address at the last minute, after Pete returned to South Bend, Ind., when a black resident was shot and killed by a police officer.

“The entire room looked at him and said to each other, ‘Why isn’t this guy running?’” said Munoz, who hasn’t yet formally endorsed in the primary. “He plays the role of the spouse in a way that no one in American history ever has — and people want to meet him.”

Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine

Bad blood: Rand Paul moves to thwart a Liz Cheney Senate run

Rand Paul began his offensive against Liz Cheney as soon as a Senate seat opened up in May, reigniting a years-long feud between their families and warring wings of the Republican Party.

The Kentucky GOP senator quickly made contact with Cynthia Lummis, a former conservative House member, to encourage her to run for the Senate seat opening up in Wyoming now that Mike Enzi was retiring.

Lummis soon jumped into the race, leaving Cheney, her successor in Congress, with a tough choice: Embark on a brutal primary against Lummis or take the safer route and seek her fortune in House leadership.

That was only the beginning of Paul’s slugfest with Cheney, one that included a fierce back and forth over Twitter on foreign policy, dueling Sunday show appearances and a highly unusual phone call from Paul into a Casper, Wyo., TV station to assert that Wyoming Republicans are “tired” of Cheney’s support for nation-building abroad.

Cheney, the No. 3 House Republican in just her second term, responded with her own show of strength. She said she was looking forward to having dinner with President Donald Trump that evening.

The assertion from Cheney that Paul has surrendered “to terrorists” and Paul’s response that Cheney is a “NeverTrump warmonger” was, in the words of Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.), “weird, wild stuff.”

The bad blood between the Cheneys and Pauls goes way back. The fathers, former Rep. Ron Paul and former Vice President Dick Cheney were on opposite sides of the Iraq War. Dick Cheney backed Rand Paul’s primary opponent in 2010. Since Rand Paul was elected, he’s backed Liz Cheney’s challenger in each of her congressional races.

“Rand likes to pick a fight, that’s his way,” said Rep. Paul Mitchell (R-Mich.), who serves in House leadership with Cheney but is neutral on the Wyoming Senate race.

But the battle is much more than personal beef. It’s a preview of a divisive Senate primary; a public display of the long-running effort to influence Trump’s loose policy views; and a test for how best to claim the Trump mantle in a party whose sharp divides have been papered over since winning the White House in 2016.

A safe red state is the perfect place for it all to play out, with Lummis as a proxy for Paul’s libertarian-inflected conservatism against Cheney’s sharp-edged ambition at home and abroad.

“Cynthia Lummis is going to be the next U.S. senator from Wyoming. If [Cheney] runs, it may be the most significant Republican primary in the country,” Paul said in an interview. “She’ll have to decide whether she wants to match conservative credentials with somebody who actually lives in Wyoming and has been there her whole life.”

Cheney’s allies scoff at Paul’s early intervention in the race and insist it won't impact her decision making. In fact, they say his aggressive maneuvering could backfire in a state where GOP voters have hugged Trump tightly. Paul, they point out, once called Trump an "orange-faced windbag" and has only voted with Trump 69 percent of the time on key votes, compared to Cheney’s 96 percent, according to the website 538.

Early polling shows Cheney leading Lummis by over 20 points in a potential match-up, according to a survey conducted by the GOP firm The Tarrance Group.

Though she's made no final decision and isn't expected to do so for a couple months, Republicans believe she's likely to run for the Senate, according to interviews with a dozen members of Congress and aides. For now, Cheney says only that she’s “going to do what’s best for Wyoming.” And even some of her closest allies don’t know where she will land.

“She and I have talked about it several times,” said Rep. Bradley Byrne, a Cheney friend who is running for Senate in Alabama. “She’d be a terrific senator, she’d be a terrific speaker. I think that is the dilemma.”

Her decision will have an outsized effect on both the Senate, where she could one day mount a presidential run, and the House, where she’s viewed as a potential future speaker. Many are already taking sides.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is eager for Cheney to run, according to three sources familiar with his preference in the race. McConnell sees Cheney as a dynamic addition to his conference and a likely ally for his agenda. Lummis was often at odds with House leadership and served in the hard-line House Freedom Caucus.

Hawkish Republicans like Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) also back Cheney.

“I don’t know the other lady, I just know Liz,” Graham said. “She’d be an outstanding senator.”

Yet the “other lady” also has plenty of supporters in the Senate, and they are making a not-so-subtle effort to head Cheney off from running. In addition to Paul, Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah), Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) all support Lummis. Plenty of Senate Republicans are also still peeved by Cheney’s aborted primary campaign against Enzi six years ago.

“Liz very well could be the first Republican woman speaker of the House,” Cramer said, adding that the state and party will be stronger without a divisive primary. “If I was in Wyoming I’d go, ‘gosh, we have an opportunity to have a couple superstars.’ And if Liz does [run for Senate], we don’t.”

Cheney has risen quickly in the House, and at times staked out more conservative territory than Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) — moves that could better position herself to run for speaker one day.

If Cheney instead decides to challenge Lummis for the Senate, the contest would elevate the larger split in the Republican Party over foreign policy and the still simmering debate over whether Trump’s worldview is closer to Paul’s and Lummis’ or Cheney’s.

Lummis told POLITICO she "received encouragement from Senator Paul and a number of other fiscally conservative senators." And despite Cheney’s leadership position, Lummis still has allies in the House, where she served for nearly a decade.

Conservative Rep. Mark Meadows, one of Trump’s closest confidants on Capitol Hill, has already contributed to Lummis’ campaign. Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), who leans libertarian like Paul, said it’s an “easy call” to back Lummis.

Some GOP lawmakers and aides interpreted the Cheney-Paul Twitter spat as an audition for an audience of one: Trump. If Cheney does jump into the race, there would undoubtedly be a battle for Trump’s endorsement. His supporters in Congress are unsure if Trump would weigh in.

Cheney’s allies, though, say she has a leg up, catching Trump’s eye on Fox News as a fierce champion of the military. At a White House event in July, the president heaped praise on Cheney, saying she has a “pretty unlimited future.”

Yet Lummis was also considered for Interior secretary, a sign the president has gotten over a disparaging comment she made during the 2016 campaign — that she was “holding my nose” to vote for Trump.

Regardless of who wins, the Senate will be far different with the departure of the low-key Enzi. Lummis might be a headache for GOP leaders if she resumes the same confrontational stance she had in the House and joins Paul as a thorn in McConnell’s side.

And if Cheney wins, well, those who sit between her and Paul at the weekly Republican lunches better look out.

“I don’t think anybody will stab anybody,” said Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), not entirely convincingly.

Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine

Trump sets sights on Indian American voters ahead of 2020

President Donald Trump is expected to headline his largest rally yet on Sunday when he appears in Houston in an effort to appeal to a growing political force in the United States: Indian Americans.

Trump will speak to an expected crowd of 50,000, mostly Indian Americans, who are flocking to the most diverse city in the nation to catch a glimpse of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at what is being touted as the largest event in the U.S. for a leader of foreign country.

He hopes to peel off some Indian American voters who could be attracted to his business friendly agenda, especially the 2017 tax cuts, his tough talk on terrorism and his decision to show up at the rally even though the ethnic group has generally backed Democrats.

“It’s giving a message to the Indian community that Trump is a big friend of India,” said Rupesh Srivastava, a Michigan businessman and founding member of the Republican Hindu Coalition. “That message will definitely motivate people.”

Republicans have been trying for years to make inroads with Indian Americans, one of the fastest growing ethnic groups in the United States, who register and vote at high rates.

The Republican National Committee is holding events for Asian Americans, including voter drives, appointed a director of Asian Pacific American Engagement and stresses the record low Asian unemployment rate of 2.1 percent. Still, Trump’s re-election campaign is expected to forego an official Asian American coalition in lieu of those for blacks, women, Hispanics and workers, according to people familiar with the plans.

“These are your Indian American hotel owners, they’re your Indian American doctors, maybe retired doctors, who frankly like some of the president’s policies, right?” Ohio state Rep. Niraj Antani, an Indian American Republican. “We are the most highly educated, highest-earning ethnic group in the country so when we are talking about pro growth-policies, Republican policies work for them.”

Still, more than 80 percent of Indian Americans voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton over Trump in 2016, according to polling by the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund.

Some Indian Americans, whose families came to the United States legally to study or work, don’t mind Trump’s rhetoric on immigration since it’s primarily about illegal immigration but others are turned off.

Trump’s job approval with Indian Americans was only 28 percent in 2018, according to the Asian American Voter Survey, a poll of registered Asian-American voters. About 66 percent of disapproved.

“If Republicans believe Donald Trump's appearance with Prime Minister Modi will move our community towards the president, they're sadly mistaken,” said North Carolina State Sen. Jay Chaudhuri, an Indian Ameican Democrat. “In 2020, I believe the Indian-American community will overwhelming reject Donald Trump because his anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies run completely counter to our community's story in America.”

Trump delighted — and surprised — Indian Americans when the White House announced that he would join Modi at Howdy Modi: Shared Dreams Bright Features at NRG Stadium, home of the National Football League's Houston Texans.

Trump may have agreed to attend to appease Modi after a tense few months between the two leaders, according to some observers of U.S.-India relations.

Trump kicked India out of a trade preference program for developing countries in March and then infuriated Indians again in July by insisting Modi asked him to mediate in the long-standing dispute between India and Pakistan over the region of Kashmir. But the two leaders are now expected to finalize a limited trade deal later this week when they meet for a second time in New York.

Trump may also be fascinated by the popularity of Modi, who — like Trump — rode to office on a wave of populist fury and launched a “Make in India” campaign years. Trump previously commented on the number of Modi’s Twitter followers and insinuated last week the Houston rally’s attendees grew because of him.

“He’s got a big crowd coming and I guess the crowd just got a lot bigger because...he asked, would I go, and I will go,” he told reporters.

Houston’s Indian-American community, consisting of roughly 150,000 people, lobbied Modi to visit after he announced he would visit the United States. All 50,000 tickets for the event were claimed in three weeks — before Trump announced he would attend, according to event organizers. Another 5,000 remain on a waiting list.

It will take place in a state that long served as a Republican stronghold but where Democrats are making a play after their party saw significant gains in the 2018 midterms and a series of GOP congressional retirements.

The rally — which will be broadcast on U.S. and Indian TV — will include a cultural program and speeches by Trump and Modi. Thousands of watch parties have been organized across the U.S.

The first time he ran for office Trump promised to work with Indian Americans. He spoke to 10,000 Hindus waving signs that read “Trump for Hindu Americans at a Bollywood themed event in Edison, N.J., home to a thriving Indian community. “I am a big fan of Hindu, and I am a big fan of India,” Trump said awkwardly.

During that campaign, Illinois businessman Shalabh Kumar donated nearly $1 million to the joint fundraising campaign comprised of Trump’s campaign and the Republican National Committee

In 2016, about 1.2 million Indian-American were registered to vote with Indian-Americans, according to Asian American and Pacific Islanders Data. Estimates put Indian American voter registration at 1.4 million in 2020.

After he got into office, Trump celebrated Diwali, the most important holiday for most Indians, and appointed Indian Americans to numerous high-ranking positions — Nikki Haley to ambassador to the United Nations; Seema Verma to administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Neomi Rao to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and Ajit Pai to chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, among others

“Looking back to the 2016 election cycle, Donald Trump was the first candidate who stood on stage and said ‘I loved Indians,’ ” said Adi Sathi, who served as director of Asian Pacific American Engagement at the RNC for two years. “That was unprecedented.”

Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine

Democrats grapple for open congressional seat in the Bronx

NEW YORK — Ruben Diaz Sr.’s enemies call him a homophobic egomaniac — more of a mini-Trump than a Democrat.

But they also insist the longtime New York legislator is the man to beat in the South Bronx as Rep. José Serrano prepares to retire next year after nearly three decades in office, leaving a wide-open race in one of the poorest, most Democratic districts in America.

Welcome to one of the more unusual 2020 Democratic primaries, a brewing Bronx showdown where the staunchly conservative Pentecostal reverend with a history of controversial anti-gay comments is facing off against a host of progressive candidates — including Ritchie Torres, a 31-year-old gay Council member who enjoys a large financial advantage in the race, but maintains that he is the underdog.

“Ruben Diaz Sr. is the frontrunner by default. If the race were held today, he would win on the sheer strength of name recognition,” Torres said.

“There’s a real risk that the most Democratic Congressional district in America could be represented by a de facto Trump Republican,” he said. “The notion of Ruben Diaz Sr. succeeding a larger than life icon like Jose Serrano represents a nightmare for the Democratic party, for the progressive movement.”

The race will be a test of whether the new progressive politics that have dominated New York politics of late translate to a community where longstanding ties to leaders like Diaz still hold significant sway over the electorate — especially in a population where religious and social issues still drive votes.

Diaz, who opposes abortion rights and was the only Democrat to vote against gay marriage as a state senator, was stripped this year of his committee overseeing the taxi industry for saying the City Council was “controlled by the homosexual community.”

Not long thereafter, he interrupted a sensitivity training session to insist he would never “rat” on a colleague accused of sexual harassment, and then defended himself by telling the Daily News that sometimes “sexual harassment is a compliment.” He also campaigned in the Bronx with Sen. Ted Cruz during the 2016 presidential election.

That history makes him a useful foil for his many rivals for the seat, but political observers say there’s a real chance he could win.

The core voters in the district have traditionally been senior Latina women, said Eli Valentin, a political consultant and professor at Monroe College.

“They tend to be socially conservative,” he said. “His comments don’t shock them too much.”

Diaz Sr. shares a name with his son, the popular Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., who has distanced himself from his father’s political views but could still help him at the polls.

“The Diaz name is golden. People are used to voting for a Diaz in the Bronx — that counts for something,” Valentin said.

Diaz said his opponents are unduly focused on attacking him.

“We live in America. Everybody has the right to say and do everything they want. I respect people’s right to speak … so I hope they also respect my right to free speech. This is America, praise the Lord,” he said.

“I’m not the front runner. I am the victim here. Everybody’s shooting at me. I don’t know why.”

The latest high-profile entrant into the race is Melissa Mark-Viverito, the former speaker of the City Council.

Mark-Viverito, who led pushes to close Rikers Island, decriminalize minor offenses, and restrict New York’s cooperation with federal immigration authorities, says she was pushing boundaries as a progressive long before the current insurgent movement in the Democratic party became popular. She has pledged not to accept money from real estate or corporate PACs.

“We’ve seen such a change,” she said. “When I came into politics … people were calling me the communist, and I was too far left, and too progressive.”

But Mark-Viverito does not live in the Bronx, a potential liability in a district located entirely in the borough. A longtime resident of East Harlem, she declined to commit to moving to the district immediately if elected, but said she would do so at some point.

Mark-Viverito, whose Council district included part of the Bronx, said voters would not care about her residency. “It’s about what kind of representative are you going to be, how available are you going to be to me, how are you going to change my life?” she said.

Both Mark-Viverito and Assemblyman Michael Blake, another candidate for the seat, were runners up in the recent race for public advocate.

Blake, who worked in the Obama administration on minority- and women-owned businesses, says that being the only candidate with federal experience makes him the best qualified for the job.

“It cannot be understated, the significance of this race. You’re talking about the most Democratic district in America, the poorest Congressional district in the country,” he said. “This will send a very clear message to the country and to the world of what direction are we going in in the south Bronx.”

With so many candidates in the race - at least nine are running so far — there is some fear that progressives may split the vote, making a victory by Diaz more likely.

State Sen. Gustavo Rivera, who considered running for the seat but ended up opting out, said he hoped the field would narrow and progressives could coalesce behind a candidate.

“How can we all get together and get behind someone who is going to make us proud, and not someone who’s going to embarrass us?” he said.

“It would be obscene for this person to occupy this seat,” he said of Diaz, predicting the Councilman known for his trademark cowboy hat would end up a maverick ally of President Trump. “He with his crazy freaking cowboy hat will show up to the White House with 20 cameras and will talk about this great leader we have. Because of the way his ego works, he will not be able to help himself.”

Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine

Warren on pace with Biden in Iowa

Elizabeth Warren has pulled slightly ahead of Joe Biden for the first time in Iowa, as the gulf between the two frontrunners and the rest of the field widens.

Bernie Sanders has fallen to 11 percent in the state, while Warren is running ahead of Biden by a slight margin, 22 percent to 20 percent, according to a Des Moines Register/CNN/Mediacom poll released Saturday evening.

The poll reflects both the resilience of Warren's months-long surge and a potential softening of Biden's campaign. And it exposes the brutal landscape confronting every other Democratic candidate in the state, even as they become increasingly active in Iowa.

South Bend (Ind.) Mayor Pete Buttigieg is now running in fourth place, with 9 percent, and California Sen. Kamala Harris is fifth, with 6 percent.

Earlier this week, Harris’ campaign signaled she planned to nearly double her staff operation in Iowa, while making weekly visits.

Then, hours before the poll’s release, Sen. Cory Booker’s campaign manager, Addisu Demissie, warned in a memo to staff and supporters that “time is running out” for Booker’s campaign and that “we do not see a legitimate long-term path forward” if the campaign can’t raise another $1.7 million by Sept. 30.

The survey is no anomaly, broadly mirroring an Iowa poll released by Focus on Rural America earlier this week. That poll put Biden and Warren in a statistical tie, at 25 percent and 23 percent, respectively.

But while Warren and Biden were significantly ahead of the rest of the field in the latest measure, there are still strong indications the race remains wide open: Nearly two-in-three likely caucus-goers, 63 percent, say they could be persuaded to change their mind after picking a top choice.

Only two-in-10, 20 percent, say their mind is made up about a first-choice candidate. And more Biden supporters (26 percent) than Warren supporters (12 percent) say their minds are made up about whom they would support.

Lesser-polling candidates will take a small degree of comfort in the fact that neither frontrunner is pulling even one-quarter of the electorate’s support. In addition, Biden, a centrist, and Warren, a more progressive Democrat, represent different ideological wings of the party, reducing the likelihood that if one of them collapses, his or her supporters would rush to the other.

The poll on Saturday comes in a state where Warren began investing heavily in organization early in the primary. Biden has worked in recent months to catch up to her there, assembling one of the largest organizations in the state and visiting more frequently.

Jeff Link, a Democratic strategist in Iowa and co-founder of Focus on Rural America, said Saturday that Iowans’ views of the candidates have yet to harden – and the race could still swing.

Recalling that then-Sen. Barack Obama trailed Hillary Clinton in the state in mid-2007, Link said, “Remember where we are in the calendar. We have five months to go.”

But there is an enthusiasm gap in Warren's favor. Nearly one-in-three Warren supporters, 32 percent, say they are "extremely enthusiastic" about caucusing for the Massachusetts senator, compared to 22 percent of Biden's backers.

And Warren is the second choice for twice as many caucus-goers, 20 percent, as Biden, who is the second choice for only 10 percent of caucus-goers.

“Warren’s been working her butt off in this state. ... She has got boots on the ground everywhere," said Tom Courtney, a former Iowa state senator and now co-chairman of the Des Moines County Democrats.

From an operational perspective, "Joe Biden, he just doesn't have it together," said Courtney, who is neutral in the contest.

The poll comes as all the major candidates descended on Iowa for the Polk County Democratic Party’s annual steak fry, which drew the largest crowd in the event’s history.

The sharpest divide among likely caucus-goers is between younger and older voters. Biden is the first choice of more than a third of seniors aged 65 or older, 35 percent. But Warren is the top choice for caucus-goers under 35, with 27 percent to Sanders' 11 percent and Biden's 9 percent.

The Des Moines Register’s poll, conducted by the West Des Moines-based Selzer & Co., is considered the most authoritative measure of caucus-goers among public surveys.

The latest poll was conducted Sept. 14-18, surveying 602 likely caucus-goers. The margin of error is plus or minus 4 percentage points.

In the previous poll, Biden (24 percent) led Sanders (16 percent) and Warren (15 percent), though the new poll is not directly comparable to the previous survey because of methodological differences between the two polls. In June, the poll included voters who said they would participate in “virtual caucuses,” which the Iowa Democratic Party aimed to add to incorporate voters who were unable to attend caucuses on Feb. 3, 2020.

But since then, the Democratic National Committee has rejected Iowa’s plans, concerned about the security of the virtual caucuses, which were set to account for 10 percent of delegates awarded. The new survey included registered voters who said they "definitely" or "probably" would attend the Democratic caucuses, with no option for a "virtual" caucus.

Warren is the field's best-liked candidate, with three-in-four caucus-goers, 75 percent, saying they view her favorably. Buttigieg (69 percent) and Biden (66 percent) are second and third on that measure, respectively.

After the top four candidates, Booker (N.J.) and Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) are tied for fifth, with just 3 percent. Behind them, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (Hawaii), former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (Texas), businessman Tom Steyer and entrepreneur Andrew Yang are at 2 percent.

Gabbard, who was excluded from the third debate earlier this month, is on the verge of becoming the 12th candidate to qualify for the fourth debate in mid-October. According to POLITICO’s calculations, Gabbard only needs to earn 2 percent in one more qualifying poll before the Oct. 1 deadline to make the stage.

Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine

Trump Didn’t Bribe Ukraine. It’s Actually Worse Than That.

Reports that President Donald Trump pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate the son of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has prompted a flurry of speculation that the president, by withholding military aid, has committed bribery or extortion.

This is wrong and even counterproductive to efforts to hold Trump accountable.

If what Trump is accused of doing is true, it is a kind of corrupt conduct that the criminal system is not equipped to handle. Labeling his behavior with criminal terms such as bribery and extortion not only misunderstands the statutory language, it gives Trump and his supporters ammunition with which to defend themselves, making impeachment—the proper constitutional remedy for presidential corruption—harder to achieve.

It’s easy to see why Trump’s alleged conduct has generated outrage and why lay people have rushed to describe it as categorically criminal. Using presidential power to withhold aid to a nation that was recently invaded by Russia unless they investigate your political rival sounds like the definition of a criminal quid pro quo. The possibility that Trump pressured another nation to interfere in the next presidential election on his behalf—not long after the completion of a multi-year investigation into interference in the 2016 election by Russia on his behalf—is jaw-dropping.

But the impulse to label this as a potential crime, as many respected former prosecutors and legal analysts have done, is flawed legally and even strategically. Even if true, this is not a case that would end up in a criminal proceeding even if Trump was no longer in office.

Let’s look at the actual law. Even if Trump explicitly offered $250 million in military aid to Ukraine in exchange for an investigation of Biden’s son, that wouldn’t fit the federal bribery statute, which prohibits public officials for taking or soliciting bribes. In this case, Trump would be “bribing” the Ukrainians, who are not “public officials” for purposes of the statute.

The argument would have to be that Trump is soliciting a bribe in exchange for granting foreign aid to the Ukraine, with the investigation of Biden’s son being the thing of value demanded in exchange for granting the aid. While the statute defines “anything of value” very broadly, it is odd to think of a foreign government launching an investigation as “payment” of a bribe. The investigation is itself an official governmental act and the result of the investigation is uncertain. What if the investigation turned up no wrongdoing by either Hunter Biden or his father? Would that still be a thing of value?

Besides, presidents push foreign governments to take official acts all the time. The Constitution contemplates that the president will interact with foreign leaders and use his power to persuade them to do things that help the United States. What is abhorrent about the alleged conduct here is not that Trump is pushing a foreign government to do something, but rather that he might have used his presidential power to get a foreign government to help him win the next election.

This is self-serving and corrupt, but it is difficult to think of this alleged activity as “extortion.” It is true that there are multiple federal statutes that make extortion a crime, but extortion is defined as “the extraction of anything of value from another person by threatening or placing that person in fear of injury to any person or kidnapping of any person.”

It is hard to construe the alleged conduct as a “threat” against Ukraine in the manner contemplated by the extortion statute. Presidents threaten to withhold aid, to send troops, or to impose sanctions against foreign governments. I have trouble believing that a federal judge would permit an indictment to move forward against a president for “extorting” a foreign government through his official duties as president.

This is not to say there aren’t crimes on the books that better match what Trump is alleged to have done. For instance, it is a campaign finance crime to knowingly and willfully solicit a campaign contribution from a foreign national. Given that Biden could be Trump’s next political opponent, an argument can be made that the Ukrainian investigation would be an in-kind contribution (a “thing of value,” as defined by the statute) to Trump’s campaign. The bribery of a foreign official like the Ukrainian president can also be a criminal violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

But both of these statutes contain at least some of the problems presented by the bribery and extortion statutes. Courts won’t send presidents to prison for cajoling foreign governments to do things, even if that involves horse trading an official act by our government in exchange for an official act by someone else’s.

What Trump is alleged to have done is not a garden variety crime; it’s worse. It involved misusing $250 million in aid appropriated by Congress for his benefit—the kind of gross misconduct that easily clears the bar of high crimes and misdemeanors set by the Constitution when impeaching a president. Which means the best way to hold Trump accountable for that misconduct isn’t a criminal trial; it’s for Congress to impeach him.

Pursuing criminal cases that won’t stand legal scrutiny, or arguing that Trump has violated a criminal statute, risks undermining that goal.

First, it gives the false impression that this is something the criminal justice system can deal with. But the criminal system is not built to handle misconduct by a president who is acting corruptly through the use of his immense constitutional powers in this manner.

Second, it suggests that if critics can point out that it is not really bribery or extortion, then it is not a huge problem, which is not true. This is already happening, as allies of the president assert that there was no explicit quid pro quo.

Third, it may give the public a false impression about what happened. Impeachment in many respects is a political act, and that means Congress needs public support to pursue it. Anything that confuses or fails to persuade the public is therefore counterproductive.

Finally, it understates the magnitude of the alleged misconduct. Labeling Trump’s alleged conduct as “bribery” or “extortion” cheapens what is alleged to have occurred and does not capture what makes it wrongful. It’s not a crime—it’s a breach of the president’s duty not to use the powers of the presidency to benefit himself. And he invited a foreign nation to influence the 2020 election on the heels of a nearly three-year investigation that proved Russia had tried to influence the last presidential election.

No one should expect law enforcement to act if our elected representatives are unwilling to do so.

Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine

Iran's Zarif: U.S. 'posturing' by sending troops to Saudi Arabia in wake of attacks

Iran's foreign minister said the U.S. is "posturing" by sending troops and defense equipment to Saudi Arabia in response to last week's attacks on a major Saudi Arabia oil facility, for which he again denied Iran was responsible.

"I think it's posturing. I think it's all going the wrong direction in addressing this issue," Mohammad Javad Zarif said in response to a question on how Iran sees the development in an interview set to air Sunday on CBS' "Face the Nation."

The Trump administration has blamed Iran for the Sep. 14 attack by Iran-backed Houthi rebels on Saudi Arabia’s Abqaiq plant and its Khurais oil field that adversely affected up to half of the supplies from the world’s biggest oil exporter.

President Donald Trump on Friday approved the deployment of U.S. troops and missile defense equipment to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday said the attacks were an "act of war" while Trump announced he would "substantially increase" sanctions on Iran.

Zarif also denied that Iran had anything to do with the attacks and said it will likely not accept the results of any United Nations investigation into them. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Thursday that experts been dispatched to Saudi Arabia to investigate.

"We were not informed by the U.N. We were not consulted by the U.N. We do not know on what basis this has taken place. So we will take it up with the United Nations. We are confident that if the United Nations carries out an impartial investigation the outcome will be that it was not launched from Iran," Zaris said.

Asked if he was confident Iran could avoid a war, Zarif said, "I'm confident that we will not start one but I'm confident that whoever starts one will not be the one who finishes it."

"That means that there won't be a limited war," Zarif said, echoing his previous comments that a military strike on Iran by the United States or Saudi Arabia would result in an “all-out war."

Zarif also said that the U.S. made it clear he was not welcome at the United Nations General Assembly in New York City next week that he planned to attend, despite being approved for a visa waiver.

"Well not necessarily, because the United States is under obligation, being the host of the U.N. headquarters to issue visas to member states. So they made it very clear in a letter that they attached to my visa that I'm not eligible to get a visa, but they're doing it on a waiver basis. So they want me to know that I'm not supposed to be here," Zarif said.

Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine

Sanders deputy field director in Iowa is no longer with campaign

Bernie Sanders has parted ways with one of his deputy field directors in Iowa, the campaign confirmed Saturday.

Kevin Lata joined the Vermont senator's 2020 team after working in several positions during his first run for the White House. Lata said he left the campaign a few months ago. He is now managing Margaret Good's congressional bid in Florida.

Lata's departure is the latest in a series of staff shakeups in the critical early states of Iowa and New Hampshire. Sanders' political director in Iowa and senior adviser in New Hampshire are also no longer with the campaign, and his former New Hampshire state director has been reassigned to Massachusetts.

Some of Sanders' allies have recently sounded the alarm, saying his campaign has been hampered by personality clashes and poor communication between state operations and national headquarters. Expectations are high for Sanders in the first-in-the-nation caucus and primary: In 2016, Sanders came within nearly a third of a percentage point of winning in Iowa, and defeated Hillary Clinton by 22 percentage points in New Hampshire.

Sanders' campaign did not immediately provide further details about the departure.

After Sanders lost in 2016, Lata worked for Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign.

Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine

Biden accuses Trump of ‘abuse of power’ in whistleblower scandal

DES MOINES, Iowa – An angered Joe Biden on Saturday accused President Donald Trump of “using every element of his presidency to try and smear me,” and called for an investigation into Trump’s phone call with the Ukrainian president.

“You should be asking him the question: why is he on the phone with a foreign leader, trying to intimidate a foreign leader?” Biden said. “This appears to be an overwhelming abuse of power. To get on the phone with a foreign leader who is looking for help from the United States and ask about me and imply things … this is outrageous. You have never seen anything like this from any president.”

Biden grew irate, pointing his finger at a reporter who asked the former vice president if he had ever spoken to his son about his overseas business dealings. Biden said he hadn’t.

“You should be looking at Trump,” Biden said. “Everybody looked at this and everybody who’s looked at it said there’s nothing there. Ask the right question.”

Biden briefly spoke to whether the episode was a possible preview of a general election battle against Trump.

“I know what I’m up against, a serial abuser. That’s what this guy is. He abuses power any way he can,” Biden said. “This crosses the line.”

Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine