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Senior Trump admin official Mina Chang resigns after embellishing resumé

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WASHINGTON — Senior Trump administration official Mina Chang resigned from her job at the State Department two and a half hours after NBC News went to her spokesperson to ask about newly discovered false claims she had made about her charity work.

NBC News had previously reported that Chang, the deputy assistant secretary in the State Department’s Bureau of Conflict and Stability Operations, had embellished her resume with misleading claims about her educational achievements and the scope of her nonprofit’s work — even posting a fake cover of Time magazine with her face on it.

“It is essential that my resignation be seen as a protest and not as surrender because I will not surrender my commitment to serve, my fidelity to the truth, or my love of country,” Chang wrote in her resignation letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. “Indeed, I intend to fight for those things as a citizen in the days and years to come.”

Chang said she had been “unfairly maligned, unprotected by my superiors, and exposed to a media with an insatiable desire for gossip and scandal, genuine or otherwise.”

NBC News had reported that Chang, who assumed her post in April, invented a role on a United Nations panel, claimed she had addressed both the Democratic and the Republican national conventions, and implied she had testified before Congress.

She was being considered for an even bigger government job, one with a budget of more than $1 billion, until Congress started asking questions about her resume.

The newly discovered false claims include misrepresenting a trip to Afghanistan as a humanitarian mission, listing an academic who says he never worked for her nonprofit as an employee, claiming a nonexistent degree from the University of Hawaii, inflating an award and claiming to be an “ambassador” for the United Nations’ cultural agency UNESCO.

Chang had portrayed the 2015 trip to Afghanistan as a humanitarian mission for her nonprofit, but a defense contractor footed the bill and no aid was delivered, according to documents from the company and a former employee.

Mina Chang and unnamed others in Afghanistan in a photo from the Facebook page of Automotive Management Services (AMS), a defense contractor operating in Afghanistan.via Facebook

After the Afghanistan trip, Chang posted photos of herself meeting a group of Afghan women in a room. In a video posted on her charity’s website, she refers to the photo and says the Afghan women are “in hiding” at a secret location.

“This is in Afghanistan, I am sitting with women in our program, they are living in hiding. I can only say they are right outside of the Kabul area,” Chang said in an interview posted on her nonprofit’s website.

But the women were not part of any program run by her charity, Linking the World. They were wives of local employees of the defense contractor that paid for her trip, Automotive Management Services, and they were not in hiding, a former employee said.

“They were photo-ops,” the former employee said of Chang’s trip to Afghanistan and another to Iraq.

Company documents obtained by NBC News show Chang was asked to help the firm manage an association of Afghan wives, whose spouses worked for the company. The plan would free up AMS to “focus on our commercial prospects,” according to a document outlining the project. AMS, which helped Afghan security forces maintain a fleet of armored vehicles, paid for Chang’s airfare and accommodation, according to documents and the former employees.

On her charity’s website, Chang posted photos from the Afghanistan trip, without indicating that the defense contractor bankrolled the visit and that her NGO conducted no aid work during the trip.

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In an email to NBC News, Chang said her organization was helping the defense contractor “create shared value” in Afghanistan. “Our work was not ‘humanitarian aid,’ it was to help a company with critical presence on the ground incorporate [creating shared value] into their business model.”

Chang also continued to claim the women were “in hiding,” saying “it’s irresponsible for anyone to share someone’s identity who says they’re hiding from the Taliban.” However, the pictures of the women Chang shared with an interviewer show the women’s faces.

Ian Dailey, Linking the World’s chief of staff, did not respond to a request for comment about the AMS sponsorship of Chang’s trip to Afghanistan.

The data scientist

In promotional material for Linking the World, under the heading “Who We Are,” the group lists a “chief data scientist,” Michel Leonard, an adjunct professor at New York University and Columbia University.

But Leonard told NBC News that “I was never an employee of this organization.” He said he had never seen the document touting his expertise, didn’t initially recognize the name of the charity and performed no work for it.

Dailey of Linking the World told NBC News in an email, “Linking the World is a volunteer-based organization, so no persons addressed on our site were employees. At the time, Mr. Leonard was employed by the United States Institute of Peace (USIP), and I was personally working with him on a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the two organizations, to share data, skills and analyzes (sic). However, Mr. Leonard left USIP before that MOU was completed.”

In her email to NBC News, Chang also said that Leonard was a volunteer like other advisers.

Michel Leonard from the “Linking the World” website, archived on Oct. 7, 2016.Linking the World

In numerous bios, including one when she was a fellow at the New America think tank in Washington, Chang said she had served as a “cross cultural ambassador” for UNESCO.

But Chang does not appear on a list of ambassadors for UNESCO. Spokesman Roni Amelan said the organization does not have a “cross-cultural ambassador” category.

Chang told NBC she was named cross-cultural ambassador at a club promoting UNESCO’s work at Sorbonne University in France in 2015. Her bios did not mention the title was conferred by a university club rather than UNESCO itself.

Chang has cited winning a “CBS Humanitarian of the Year Women That Soar” award in 2012. In fact, it was a local award in Dallas and the event was broadcast by a local CBS affiliate.

“It’s not a CBS award. It aired on a CBS station,” said Lori Conrad, market communications director for the CBS Corporation.

A spokesperson for the Women That Soar event did not respond to a request for comment but Chang’s bio has been removed from the organization’s website.

Facebook banner picture for defense contractor Automotive Management Services(AMS) featuring Mina Chang.via Facebook

In a profile published in 2012 with DFWChild, a Dallas publication, Chang is described as having earned a degree in international development from the University of Hawaii.

A University of Hawaii spokesperson says they do not have a Mina Chang of her age in their records, and that the university does not offer a “degree in international development.”

The magazine Monday published an editor’s note, saying the article was based on false information from Chang.

“As other falsehoods and misleading statements come to light, we’ve made the decision to preserve the text as it was originally published in May 2012. We stand by our reporting at the time, and we want this article to serve as a snapshot of the narrative Ms. Chang promoted then.”

Chang denies that she exaggerated her resume or the extent of her charity’s work.

In a statement issued through a spokesman, Chang said that she had been vetted by the FBI and the State Department’s diplomatic security service for her current job as well as the post she was nominated for at USAID and received a “top-secret” security clearance.

After the NBC report last week, the State Department reviewed her application materials again and found she had “in no way misled officials during the investigation,” Chang’s statement said.

The State Department has declined to comment on her case.

Chang was not allowed by the State Department to respond to NBC News’ requests for comment before the report was published last week, her statement said.

Chang insisted it was her decision to withdraw her nomination in September for a senior post at USAID. “She voluntarily elected to withdraw her nomination because after working with her team at the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations, she became excited by the team’s talent and potential and the impact they could have together,” the statement said.

As for the fake Time magazine cover, “Ms. Chang was not responsible for the creation of the Time magazine cover, nor promoted it,” the statement said.

NBC discovered the fake TIME cover from watching a video that was posted on her charity website.

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Trump target Lisa Page sues DOJ, FBI for ‘unwanted invasion of privacy’

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Former FBI lawyer Lisa Page sued her old employers Tuesday, charging they unlawfully released inflammatory text messages between her and FBI agent Peter Strzok in order to redirect Republican anger from top officials at the Department of Justice.

“I sued the Department of Justice and FBI today. I take little joy in having done so. But what they did in leaking my messages to the press was not only wrong, it was illegal,” Page tweeted Tuesday.

The lawsuit was filed one day after the Justice Department’s inspector general found Page “did not play a role in the decision” to open an investigation into the Trump campaign’s involvement with Russia in the 2016 election, despite President Donald Trump having tweeted that she’s one of the people “who started the disgraceful Witch Hunt.”

Page resigned in May of last year. The suit says the torrent of attacks from the president and his allies has caused her “permanent loss of earning capacity due to reputational damage” and cost her an undisclosed amount in legal and therapy fees.

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In papers filed in federal court in Washington, D.C., Page suggests she was intentionally made a scapegoat for Trump’s anger at the Russia investigation to the benefit of then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

Strzok and Page first made headlines in December of 2017, when it was announced they’d been removed from then-special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation because of text messages that had been critical of the president, including calling him “a loathsome human.”

Republican members of Congress demanded to see the texts and the DOJ decided to oblige, even though they were being investigated by the DOJ’s inspector general, the suit says. The DOJ decided to release them to the press the night before Rosenstein was set to testify before Congress.

“Disclosure of the text messages before Rosenstein’s hearing would serve multiple goals: it would protect the Deputy Attorney General from criticism during his testimony; it would show that the Department was addressing matters of concern to the President; and it would dominate coverage of the hearing, which otherwise could be unfavorable for the Department,” the suit says, with the only cost being Page’s and Strzok’s privacy.

The night before the hearing, “DOJ officials, including then-DOJ spokesperson Sarah Isgur Flores, summoned a select group of reporters to the Department’s offices. There, they allowed the reporters to view the 375 text messages. The reporters were told they were not permitted to remove or copy the messages and could not source the messages to DOJ,” the suit says, noting the procedures were not “routine.”

“Reporters were admitted to the building to view the text messages after close of business,” the suit says, adding that subterfuge was designed to make it look like the messages were leaked by members of Congress and not the DOJ.

Rosenstein acknowledged the messages had been released by the DOJ during his Dec. 13, 2017, testimony.

Two separate inspector general reports found that Page’s opinions about the president hadn’t had an impact on her work at the FBI, but the DOJ’s “unlawful conduct” had already turned Page into “a subject of frequent attacks by the President of the United States, as well as his allies and supporters. In the two years since the December 12 disclosure, the President has targeted Ms. Page by name in more than 40 tweets and dozens of interviews, press conferences, and statements from the White House.”

Trump, the suit notes, “has referred to Ms. Page as “incompetent,” “corrupt,” “pathetic,” “stupid,” a “dirty cop,” a “loser,” a “clown,” “bad people,” “sick people,” a “lover,” a “great lover,” a “wonderful lover,” a “stupid lover,” and “lovely.” He has called the text messages a “disaster” and an “embarrassment.” He has accused Ms. Page of treason and other crimes.”

The suit seeks an unspecified amount in damages for violating the federal privacy act, but “not less than $1,000.”

The Department of Justice did not immediately respond to a request for comment.



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House leaders unveil two articles of impeachment, accusing Trump of ‘high crimes and misdemeanors’

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WASHINGTON — House Democrats on Tuesday unveiled articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump about two and a half months after Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., first announced a formal impeachment inquiry into the president.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., announced that his committee will consider two articles of impeachment — one for abuse of power and the other for obstruction of Congress — charging Trump “with committing high crimes and misdemeanors.”

Nadler said the articles of impeachment were being filed in response to Trump allegedly soliciting foreign interference in the 2020 election, compromising national security, threatening the integrity of the upcoming election and concealing evidence from Congress and the American people. Trump, he said, violated his oath of office.

Democrats released the draft articles later Tuesday morning. The articles allege that Trump “corruptly solicited the government of Ukraine to publicly announce investigations” into the Bidens and a conspiracy theory alleging Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election. Trump also “conditioned two official acts on the public announcements that he requested,” Democrats wrote, citing nearly $400 million in military aid and an official White House meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

“Wherefore President Trump, by such conduct, has demonstrated that he will remain a threat to national security and the Constitution if allowed to remain in office and has acted in a manner grossly incompatible with self-governance and the rule of law,” the articles read. “President Trump thus warrants impeachment and trial, removal from office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust, or profit under the United States.”

The second article, focused on obstructing Congress, states that Trump’s conduct violated his oath of office and the Constitution, and that through that alleged obstruction, the president “sought to arrogate to himself the right to determine the propriety, scope, and nature of an impeachment inquiry into his own conduct, as well as the unilateral prerogative to deny any and all information to the” House.

The articles are expected to be considered in the House Judiciary Committee this week and voted on soon after, which would send them to the floor for a vote on impeachment by the full House, possibly this month. If one or more of the articles pass, the Senate would then hold a trial to consider removing Trump. That would take a vote by at least two thirds of the Senate, most likely some time in January.

Trump, Nadler said, exercised “the powers of his public office to obtain an improper personal benefit” and engaged in “indiscriminate defiance of the impeachment inquiry.”

Trump fired back within an hour of the announcement, tweeting, “WITCH HUNT!”

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“Nadler just said that I ‘pressured Ukraine to interfere in our 2020 Election,'” Trump wrote. “Ridiculous, and he knows that is not true. Both the President & Foreign Minister of Ukraine said, many times, that there “WAS NO PRESSURE.” Nadler and the Dems know this, but refuse to acknowledge!”

He later told reporters again that the White House “did nothing wrong.”

“I think it’s a disgrace, so people can make impeachment out of nothing. That was a perfect conversation,” he told reporters on the south lawn of the White House late Tuesday as he left for a campaign rally in Hershey, Pennsylvania. “They were perfect conversations, there’s nothing done wrong and I think it’s a disgrace….I think it’s an absolute disgrace.”

Pelosi and Nadler were flanked by Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters, D-Calif., Ways & Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., Oversight Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., and Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel, D-N.Y.

“The argument, ‘Why don’t you just wait?’ amounts to this: ‘Why don’t you just let him cheat in one more election. Why not let him cheat just one more time. Why not let him have foreign help just one more time,'” Schiff said.

“The president’s oath of office appears to mean very little to him,” Schiff added, citing Trump’s chief of staff Mick Mulvaney’s October call to “get over it” when asked about whether there was any link between the president’s push for Ukrainian investigations and the withholding of nearly $400 million in military aid to that country. Mulvaney later walked back his comments.

Pointing to Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani’s recent trip to Ukraine, Schiff said Trump “still wants Ukraine to interfere” in the 2020 election and boost his campaign.

Trump blasted Schiff on Twitter, calling him a “totally corrupt politician.” The president also pointed to the call summary of his July 25 conversation with Zelenskiy, saying when he asked Zelenskiy to do “us” a favor and probe Democrats, the president was talking about the country and not himself.

Speaking at the Wall Street Journal CEO Council Forum on Tuesday, Mulvaney said the articles of impeachment “should surprise nobody,” adding that “politics can and should influence foreign policy and hopefully always will.”

The White House, the Trump campaign and their allies swiftly pushed back too. White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham called the articles of impeachment “baseless” and said Trump “will address these false charges in the Senate and expects to be fully exonerated, because he did nothing wrong.”

Brad Parscale, Trump’s campaign manager, said in a statement that Democrats “are putting on this political theater because they don’t have a viable candidate for 2020 and they know it.” Ronna McDaniel, chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, said Pelosi “can invent whatever false charges she wants, but the American people see this for what it is: yet another partisan attempt to overthrow a duly-elected president and rob voters of the chance to re-elect him in 2020.”

Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, a top Trump ally who sits on the Judiciary and Oversight committees, said in a statement that the articles of impeachment were “the product of a baseless attempt to upend the will of the people less than 11 months before the next election.”

“The Democrats’ impeachment effort is a miscarriage of the House of Representatives’ constitutional obligations and marks a shameful chapter in American history,” he added.

The announcement comes a day after the Judiciary Committee held its second public impeachment hearing, in which lawyers for the Democrats and the Republicans took turns summarizing the cases they’ve built. NBC News reported Monday night that Democrats had settled on bringing two articles of impeachment against the president.

The impeachment inquiry began after Congress was made aware of a whistleblower complaint alleging that Trump was soliciting foreign interference in 2020. That led to the White House releasing the summary of the July 25 call between Trump and Zelenskiy, which showed Trump asking his counterpart to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, and a debunked conspiracy about the 2016 election.

Multiple current and former Trump administration officials testified before the impeachment probe, but the administration has so far refused to provide investigators with a trove of documents, as well as allow several firsthand witnesses, such as Mulvaney, to testify.

With Congress slated to leave Washington by the end of next week, Democrats are expected to move swiftly to hold a vote in the Judiciary Committee to adopt and recommend the articles to the House for a floor vote before the holiday break.

Democrats had been wrestling with whether to make the articles narrow, focusing only on the president’s alleged misconduct in Ukraine, or expanding them to include issues such as obstruction of justice, raised in former special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia report, or alleged violations of the emoluments clause of the Constitution.

Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., signaled Tuesday that he was disappointed not to see an article on obstruction of justice.

“I will vote for the two articles of impeachment,” he said, though he joked, “But I would also vote for third…It’s a matter of public record — I’ve said, I think one of the articles should be obstruction of justice.”

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., a co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, told reporters Tuesday that she wished Trump had cooperated with the inquiry.

“I wish we had the president testifying,” she said. “They keep shouting about process and yet they’ve engaged not at all. They have not submitted — it’s unprecedented the president’s obstruction of Congress. They have not given us any documents, he hasn’t allowed anybody to come and testify.”



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House Democrats praise new trade deal to replace NAFTA amid impeachment

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WASHINGTON — Democratic leaders Tuesday praised a new trade deal to replace the decades-old North American Free Trade Agreement, which President Donald Trump and Democrats had frequently criticized.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., said they were poised to move forward with the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement (USMCA) less than an hour after Democratic leaders, including Pelosi, Neal and House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., unveiled two articles of impeachment against the president accusing him of high crimes and misdemeanors.

“There is no question, of course, that this trade agreement is much better than NAFTA, but in terms of our work here, it is infinitely better than what was initially proposed by the administration,” Pelosi said. “It’s a victory for America’s workers, it’s one that we take great pride in advancing.”

“It’s a win for the market as a whole. It’s definitely good for the U.S. economy,” said Chris Zaccarelli, chief investment officer for Independent Advisor Alliance.

Democrats sought to highlight their contributions to the deal — such as removing carveouts for pharmaceutical companies, among others, and barriers to generic medications — and how hard they’d worked on the deal to improve it from the White House’s first draft.

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“These were intense, argumentative, angry negotiations,” Neal said, joking that he and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer set a record for hanging up on each other.

Getting the deal approved by Congress has been a top legislative priority for Trump, who pushed Democrats to sign off on it before the end of the year. Successful passage would give Trump a win ahead of his 2020 re-election bid and allow him to declare victory on a signature campaign promise to repeal the trade deal he railed against.

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“It will be the best and most important trade deal ever made by the USA,” he tweeted before the Democrats’ news conference.

He later told reporters at the White House that Democrats had held the event to detract attention from their announcement of articles of impeachment just a short time earlier.

“They were very embarrassed by it. And that’s why they brought up USMCA an hour after because they think it will muffle it a little bit,” he said late Tuesday, as he left for a campaign rally in Hershey, Pennsylvania.

Democrats, who wanted the deal to include tougher enforcement of labor rules, could use the trade pact to show they can legislate even amid impeachment proceedings.

“This will be a big deal in the upper Midwest. For the Democrats to say OK to this must mean that they’re getting a pretty good deal, in their view,” said Michael O. Moore, professor of economics and international affairs at George Washington University. “This is the kind of compromise that used to be done in Washington where both sides could claim victory.”

“There’s some people who say why make it look like he has a victory. Well, we’re declaring victory for the American worker,” Pelosi said, when asked about giving Trump a win on the same day as they announced impeachment articles.

Pelosi and administration officials have been going back and forth for weeks over changes Democratic lawmakers wanted to the language reached by representatives from the three countries.

The AFL-CIO announced its support of the new trade agreement Tuesday, a key endorsement for Democrats.

“For the first time, there truly will be enforceable labor standards — including a process that allows for the inspections of factories and facilities that are not living up to their obligations,” the union’s president, Richard Trumka, said in a statement.

“The AFL-CIO has complained for decades that labor, especially low cost labor, and not enforcing environmental rules has given Mexico an advantage,” Moore said. “We’re now moving into a stage where there are stronger commitments to core international labor organization standards.”

“The willingness on Pelosi’s side to go along with this seems to indicate it’s a wonderful precedent for the Democratic party to get a Republican administration to implement enforcement that’s acceptable to Democrats, including labor unions, to labor agreements,” said Jacob Kirkegaard, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. “It’s a historic win.”

Democrats repeatedly thanked Trumka in their remarks, while Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross complained Tuesday morning that Democrats have held up the process to appease the labor leader.

“The remarkable thing is that it took so long to make such small changes insisted on by the Democrats,” he said on Fox Business Network on Tuesday. “In effect, they gave Trumka, the leader of the union, veto power over the House of Representatives. That seems weird.”

Despite the claims of victory on both sides, though, Zaccarelli said the China trade war — and the prospect of tariffs on $156 billion worth of primarily consumer goods — threatened to eclipse any market boost USMCA might have delivered.

“When you talk about trade, it’s all about U.S.-China negotiations. That’s the elephant in the room,” he said. “What happens on Sunday’s deadline is critical.”

Shannon Pettypiece reported from Washington, and Jane C. Timm reported from New York.

Shannon Pettypiece and Shannon Pettypiece contributed.



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