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Republican-led committee is now ‘ratcheting up pressure’ on Trump as scrutiny over whistleblower intensifies

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Senator Richard Burr appears on CBS (Youtube/screen grab)

Since the explosion of the scandal surrounding President Donald Trump’s efforts to induce Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, Democrats have mostly taken the lead in drawing attention to the blatant corruption. But that changed Tuesday, when the Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee revealed its own investigation into the matter and requested that an intelligence community whistleblower appear in closed session by the end of the week.

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Chair Richard Burr, a North Carolina Republican, wrote a letter to lawyer Andrew Bakaj, the lawyer representing the still-unidentified whistleblower, asking for the testimony “no later than Friday, September 27, 2019, in a mutually agreeable secure location.” Yahoo News’ Michael Isikoff first reported on the letter. The committee said the hearing would be conducted to “ascertain an appropriate path forward for your client while protecting your client’s privacy.” Democratic Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia signed the letter as well.

Isikoff noted that this effort signals that Congress is “ratcheting up pressure on White House.”

Since Democrats took control of the House of Representatives in 2019, most oversight of the president and the administration has occurred in the committees controlled by the opposition party. While those investigations have touched on wide-ranging allegations of abuse and misconduct, the newest controversy has the potential to be the most incendiary yet. For all the furor and partisan bickering surrounding the case, the basic facts don’t seem to be in dispute: Trump, via his lawyer Rudy Giuliani and in his own account of a phone call, has been pressuring Ukraine to investigate the Biden family, in an apparent attempt to smear his potential 2020 rival. At the same time, Trump has been delaying military aid from Ukraine that Congress had already approved. It is pretty much as clear an abuse of power as one can imagine.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff first drew attention to the whistleblower complaint supposedly tied to this issue, and he has been at the forefront thus far of pressing for more information from the administration. Now, however, it seems at least one powerful Republican — Burr — is interested in having questions answered about the series of events, a signal that there may be more danger here for the president than he might have thought.


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2020 Election

The FDA repeatedly stood up to Trump on coronavirus — and even won some victories: NYT

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President Donald J. Trump has repeatedly tried to undermine the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (F.D.A.) and now, with just two weeks until Election Day, the world is learning more about the behind-the-scenes battles that have shaken these governmental entities to the core.

Approximately two weeks after Trump's release from Walter Reed Medical Center, there is no "cure," as the president stated, and he is not "immune." No one is immune - and there is no successful vaccine, regardless of how much Trump claims one will arrive before Nov. 3. The F.D.A. published the guidelines in briefing materials to an advisory committee that will discuss them on Thursday, effectively making them official. To be clear, the F.D.A.has not approved Trump's miraculous cure of a cocktail - even though he has claimed differently.

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2020 Election

America is on pace for record-shattering early voter turnout — including in critical states: report

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On Tuesday, The Washington Post reported that voters are casting early ballots in numbers on track to set a historic record — including in some critical battleground states.

"Early-voting counts suggest a record level of civic participation before Election Day. The tens of millions of ballots already cast show highly enthusiastic voters are making sure their votes are counted amid a pandemic," said the report.

15.8 million people in battleground states have already voted, and in some states, like Michigan and Wisconsin, more people have voted early so far than did in the entire early voting period of 2016. In North Carolina, meanwhile, 2 million ballots have been cast — more than double the same amount at this point in 2016.

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Pro-Trump activist who claims he’s from the future will represent himself against federal charges for stealing NFL brain scans

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On Tuesday, The Daily Beast's Will Sommer reported that Austin Steinbart — a QAnon activist controversial even within the pro-Trump conspiracy world — plans to act as his own attorney in an upcoming federal criminal case.

Some QAnon news: QAnon figure Austin Steinbart, who goes by the alias "Baby Q" and has claimed to be the leader of QAnon visiting from the future via time travel, just filed to act as his own attorney in a federal felony case. What could go wrong?

— Will Sommer (@willsommer) October 20, 2020

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