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House investigating whether Trump lied to Mueller, lawyer tells court



WASHINGTON — The House of Representatives’ top lawyer told a federal appeals court Monday that the House is investigating whether President Donald Trump lied to special counsel Robert Mueller, and the attorney urged the judges to order the release of still-secret material from Mueller’s investigation.

Two of the three judges who heard arguments at the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit — Judith Rogers, a Clinton appointee, and Thomas Griffith, an appointee of George W. Bush — seemed prepared to order at least some of the material sought by the House to be turned over.

House General Counsel Douglas Letter told the judges that the need for the still-secret material redacted from the Mueller report is “immense” because it will help House members answer the question, “Did the president lie? Was the president not truthful in his responses to the Mueller investigation?” in his written responses to the probe.

The House Judiciary Committee is seeking grand jury testimony and other details redacted from the public version of Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

Last month a judge ordered the Justice Department to turn over the redacted material, but the Trump administration appealed. Whatever the appeals panel decides, the case is likely headed to the Supreme Court.

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Griffith suggested that the House had a particular need for the material since the Mueller report ultimately left it to Congress to decide whether Trump had obstructed the Mueller probe.

But a third judge, Trump appointee Neomi Rao, seemed more sympathetic to the Justice Department’s arguments against releasing the information. She questioned whether the courts should get involved in any way in a dispute over impeachment between the legislative and executive branches.

Justice Department lawyers say they are barred from releasing the redacted material, in part because an impeachment inquiry does not qualify as a “judicial proceeding” under the federal law governing release of grand jury materials. Trump has called the impeachment inquiry “a witch hunt.”

Griffith, in his questioning, raised the possibility of releasing less material than what U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell called for in her Oct. 25 order. Griffith asked whether it made more sense for a judge to hold a hearing and go through each redaction in the Mueller report and hear arguments on whether Congress could articulate a particularized need for that information.

He also asked whether the information could perhaps be released on a limited basis to House staff and lawyers while the courts continue to hear arguments on the broader question of what can be fully provided to Congress.

Democrats believe the redacted information could shed light on key episodes of the investigation, including discussions Trump is reported to have had with associates about the release of stolen emails during the campaign and conversations about a 2016 Trump Tower meeting at which Trump’s eldest son expected to receive damaging information about Hillary Clinton.

In court papers, House lawyers cited one redaction that “appears to relate to grand jury evidence indicating that President Trump sought or obtained advance knowledge of WikiLeaks’s plans during the campaign” to release damaging emails related to Hillary Clinton’s campaign. In his written testimony, Trump said he had no recollection of any particular conversations about the hacked emails.

The questions about whether Trump lied in his written testimony to Mueller come as Trump tweeted Monday he might be willing to offer written testimony as part of the House impeachment inquiry.

Other redactions cited in the court papers relate to contacts members of the Trump campaign met with Ukrainian officials “and therefore may be relevant to the House’s examination of whether the President committed impeachable offenses by soliciting Ukrainian interference in the 2020 Presidential election.”

In public proceedings last week in front of the House Intelligence Committee, the impeachment inquiry focused on whether the president withheld aid from Ukraine to pressure the government there to launch a public investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

At the court hearing Monday, Griffith asked Letter whether the material sought was still relevant, given the apparent recent focus on Ukraine as opposed to the Mueller report.

“Don’t believe everything you’ve read in the press,” Letter responded.

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Rapper Scarface of The Geto Boys in runoff for Houston City Council seat



HOUSTON — As a member of Houston’s pioneering rap group The Geto Boys, Brad Jordan co-wrote the early 1990s hip-hop anthem “Mind Playing Tricks on Me.”

Now, the 49-year-old rapper better known as Scarface is working to ensure Houston voters that no, their minds are not playing tricks on them: He is running for City Council, and he’s a serious candidate.

Jordan says he knows his celebrity carried him into a runoff election slated for Saturday. But he’s hoping he can persuade the voters who got him there to turn out again so he can represent the council’s District D.

“You can sit back and point out the problems or you can address them and bring solutions to the table,” Jordan said Tuesday, referring to chronic poverty and crime that afflicts his neighborhood.

With more than 200,000 residents, District D stretches into the south and southeast sides of Houston. 2017 data compiled by the current city council member, Dwight Boykins, says African Americans make up 53 percent of the district. Thirty percent of the population earns less than $25,000 a year, and although that figure has risen over the past two decades, it’s still a plurality.

While campaigning, voters ask him what he plans to do if he’s elected, but many can’t help themselves and ask to take a smartphone photo with him.

Though his name recognition is his chief asset in his mostly African American district, Jordan insists that his Scarface persona is part of his past, not his future.

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Political observers note that two big obstacles lie in Jordan’s path to getting elected.

“Voter turnout for runoffs is usually low,” said Mark Jones, a political science fellow at the Baker Institute at Rice University.

Michael Adams, a political scientist at Texas Southern University, a historically black college that is in the district Jordan wants to represent, says the rapper also has to convince the most dependable voting bloc in his neighborhood to vote for him — black women over 60.

“He needs to improve voter turnout from his home ground in subdivisions like Sunnyside,“ Adams said. “Older African Americans may be not swayed by the notion a hip-hop artist can be in public office.”

Jordan’s opponent, Dr. Carolyn Evans-Shabazz, may be more to such voters’ liking.

“My belief is that City Council is not a training ground, it’s a proving ground. I’ve already proven my record,” said Evans-Shabazz.

The 66-year-old sits on the Houston Community College Board of Trustees and the executive committee of the local NAACP, and she worked for the Houston Independent School District as as an education evaluation specialist.

“I know she’ll get our potholes filled, our ditches dug out and more police in the neighborhood,” 81-year-old Lula Wilson said outside of the Sunnyside Multi-Service Center, which is a polling place. Wilson, clad in a Evans-Shabazz campaign T-shirt, said her preferred candidate has “always had a seat at the table.”

But Gerry Monroe said Jordan’s political outsider status is what attracted him to campaign for the rapper. “We have a serious gang issue in District D,” Monroe said this week outside of the polling station at the Sunnyside Multi Resource Center. As he spoke, a group of teenage boys down the street fought in a brawl that was quickly broken up when adults arrived.

“Who can go into one of these rough gang infested neighborhoods and have a conversation with gang members to put guns down? Carolyn (Evans-)Shabazz or Brad Jordan? I’m gonna ride with Brad because I’ve seen him do it,” Monroe said.

The weekend before the run-off, the two candidates were busy hitting up the district’s churches, temples and mosques, eager to be seen among the faithful and hoping turnout for the mayor’s race can drive their numbers, too.

There have also been lighter campaign moments — Evans-Shabazz’s husband, upon seeing his wife’s opponent, also asked for a selfie.

“Everything’s cordial, “ Jordan said.

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Brexit LIVE: Michael Gove to be given major promotion by Boris with key Brexit role



MICHAEL GOVE is tipped to become Boris Johnson’s new negotiator for post-Brexit trade deals with the EU and with the US as the Prime Minister’s Cabinet prepares to undergo a major transformation following Thursday’s election victory.

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What a second term Trump presidency would mean for the future of a China trade deal



Following the news that a phase one China trade deal had been forged, President Donald Trump tweeted that phase two negotiations would begin “immediately,” rather than after the 2020 election, as he had suggested in recent days.

Trade and market experts cautioned, though, that although the phase one deal included key market concerns such as some tariff reductions and a cancellation of sanctions on consumer goods that had been set to kick in on Sunday, it would take time to tackle more entrenched challenges such as forced technology transfers and Chinese state subsidies of key industries.

“Structural issues like subsidies and the role of state-owned enterprises must wait for additional phases of negotiations,” said Doug Barry, spokesman for the U.S.-China Business Council, adding, “The hope is that both sides will leverage the goodwill generated by this initial phase and build on it with additional agreements that level the playing field for U.S. companies.”

Many expressed skepticism that negotiators would reach a resolution before next November, though. “Trump and his advisers might still talk about trying for a phase two deal aimed at tackling China’s subsidies, but even they must realize now that it’s not going to happen,” said Mark Williams, chief Asia economist at Capital Economics. “China has no interest in changing course on any of this,” he said.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s major economic plans such as “The Belt and Road Initiative” and “Made in China 2025” depend on practices American negotiators — and executives — see as trade deal breakers.

“If you include in phase two a lot of the really contentious issues, trade in advanced technology, investment — I just don’t see any way that can be resolved in the short run and possibly not even after the election,” said Peter Petri, a professor of international finance at the Brandeis International Business School. “They’re really fundamental to the differing strategies of the two countries.”

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The White House decision to pull out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership cost the U.S. the kind of leverage it needed to effectively pressure Beijing. “Usually, in dealing with China, their hand is best forced when they’re approached by a large contingent of other countries, but so far, we’ve approached them alone,” said Jeff Mills, chief investment officer of Bryn Mawr Trust. “I think that makes it more difficult for us to make progress on some of those larger issues.”

Some experts say that regardless of the outcome of the 2020 election, these issues are likely to remain entrenched — and that a second-term Trump presidency could add unpredictability and market risk.

“The China issue isn’t going away, and it’s not going to go away if we have another Trump presidency or if we have a Democrat,” said Monica de Bolle, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. “These are all issues that are going to be with us for the long haul.”

One particular hurdle to forging a sweeping trade pact would be Beijing’s unwillingness to commit publicly to a deal with a president who has a habit of making pronouncements or commitments only to reverse them later, and who has threatened tariffs against economic and diplomatic allies over non-trade-related disputes.

“People won’t trust his delivery,” Petri said. “Trump is very keen both on the unpredictability of it and on using tariffs to gain negotiating leverage.”

To the extent that Trump views re-election as a mandate from the American people to get tough on China, experts warn that he could pursue a protectionist agenda without fearing repercussions from any economic fallout.

“If President Trump is re-elected, I expect the trade war with China will reintensify next year,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics. “The president will view his reelection as a green light to take another crack at China’s trade practices. This will remain a cloud over the American economy,” he said.

“I think he would definitely be emboldened and he will continue to be ‘tariff man’ because he thinks they’re effective,” de Bolle said. “The fact that he wants to appear as if he’s playing nice with China now has absolutely no bearing on what he’ll do if he gets re-elected.”

This has implications not only for policymakers, but for corporate America, which has by and large been holding off on big investments until more clarity on trade emerges — clarity that could remain elusive in a second-term Trump presidency. “A big uncertainty facing [the] business community is that a re-elected Trump could go either way,” said David Dollar, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

“To the extent he remains in office and runs trade policy as he seems to be doing… there will be this on-and-off-again character that drives businesses mad,” Petri said. “It’s very difficult to plan and invest in this kind of environment.”

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