What to Know in Washington: Trump’s EU Envoy Subpoenaed by House

President Donald Trump’s ambassador to the European Union has been subpoenaed to testify to House investigators looking into Trump’s dealings with Ukraine as part of the impeachment inquiry, a person familiar with the matter said last night.

Gordon Sondland had been scheduled to testify on Tuesday to the Foreign Affairs, Intelligence and Oversight and Reform committees, but was prevented from appearing by the State Department. The subpoena is for a closed-door session next Wednesday, according to the person, who was granted anonymity to discuss it.

Less than an hour before his deposition was supposed to begin on Tuesday, Robert Luskin, the lawyer representing him, informed the committees that the State Department instructed his client not to appear.

Sondland, a hotel executive who donated $1 million to Trump’s inaugural committee, had come under increased scrutiny after Kurt Volker, former special envoy to Ukraine, turned over text messages in his closed deposition last week that showed Sondland seeking to encourage Ukrainian officials to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden.

He said Sondland had agreed to appear willfully, not under subpoena, and “is profoundly disappointed that he will not be able to testify today,” but that “he stands ready to answer the committee’s questions fully and truthfully.”

The former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, is scheduled to testify behind closed doors today. Read more from Billy House.

Trump at the White House on Thursday.
Photographer: Alex Wroblewski/Bloomberg
Trump at the White House on Thursday.

Giuliani Draws Prosecutors’ Scrutiny: Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s attorney, is being scrutinized by federal investigators for his financial dealings following the indictment of two of his associates for violating campaign finance laws, according to a law enforcement official. The official, who asked to remain anonymous speaking about the sensitive matter, declined to discuss details about the scrutiny, but it’s a dramatic development for a man who made his reputation as a crusading mob prosecutor when he was the U.S. attorney in Manhattan. He now finds himself drawn into an expanding criminal probe run by his old office into illegal campaign contributions. Read more from Greg Farrell and Chris Strohm.

Perry Gets Subpoena: Energy Secretary Rick Perry was subpoenaed by three House committees as part of Democrats’ impeachment inquiry. In a letter, the committee chairmen demanded documents from Perry to help them determine if he played a role in “conveying or reinforcing the president’s stark message“ to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy about a possible investigation into Biden and his son, Laura Litvan reports.

Shielding Whistleblower: House officials say they are considering several ways of protecting the whistleblower’s identity, including questioning at a location away from the Capitol, and a setting in which committee members wouldn’t see the whistleblower. Those ideas may involve the use of a screen and possibly a voice disguiser. There remains no agreement on a date for the session. The whistleblower is asking to provide testimony to House committees in the form of written answers to questions instead of testifying in pe rson, a separate person familiar with the matter said, Billy House reports.

Gowdy Can’t Start Yet: Trump said former Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) can’t start work as the president’s outside counsel on his impeachment defense until after January because of apparent restrictions related to lobbying work. “I just heard Trey Gowdy can’t start until sometime after January because of the lobbying rules and regulations. So I don’t know. So we’ll have to see,” Trump said yesterday, Jordan Fabian reports.

On Lawmakers’ Radars

DeLauro, Kaptur Eye Appropriations Chair: Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) both say they’re interested in being the next top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, following a statement from Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) announcing her retirement yesterday, Laura Curtis reports.

House GOP to Offer Turkey Sanctions: Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) said nearly 30 of her Republican colleagues will unveil legislation to impose sanctions on Turkey in response to its military actions in Syria. “These sanctions are not only a response to the Erdogan regime’s violent attacks in northern Syria. Congress has long had concerns about the regime’s cooperation with U.S. adversaries, such as Russia,” Cheney said in a statement. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) will be co-sponsors, Cheney said. Read more from Chelsea Mes.

The decision on Syria has tested Republican support for Trump more than any of the president’s scandals and allegations of wrongdoing — right when he needs GOP lawmakers to protect him from impeachment. Daniel Flatley takes a closer look at the president’s dip in support.

NRA-Russia Probe: The IRS shouldn’t launch an investigation into the National Rifle Association at the request of Democratic lawmakers, Senate Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said yesterday. Senate Finance Democrats in September released a report detailing links between the NRA and Russia in advance of the 2016 election, including possible violations of U.S. tax laws. The Democrats, led by ranking member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), urged the IRS to review the NRA’s status as a tax-exempt organization. Read more from Patrick Ambrosio.

Repealing Power Rule Rollback: Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) vowed yesterday that Democrats would force a Senate floor vote to repeal the Trump administration’s efforts to weaken carbon pollution limits for U.S. power plants. Democrats plan to launch the maneuver next week as Congress returns from a two-week recess, Schumer said. Democrats will try to leverage expedited floor procedures provided under the Congressional Review Act, a 1996 law signed by President Bill Clinton that gave Congress fast-track procedures for holding an up-or-down vote on final regulations, policy guidance, and other final agency actions. Read more from Dean Scott.

Subpoenaes for Customs, Immigration Agency Chiefs: House Oversight and Reform Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said he’ll subpoena acting Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Ken Cuccinelli and acting Director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Matthew T. Albence to testify before the panel on Oct. 17. The move is part of the committee’s investigation into the Trump administration’s decision to deport critically ill children and their families, Cummings said in memo, Chelsea Mes reports.

Elections & Politics

Biden Camp Warns Rivals Off Attacks on Family: Joe Biden has a warning for his Democratic rivals as they prepare for the fourth televised debate next week: Stay away from the issue of Ukraine and Hunter Biden. The 12 candidates participating in Tuesday’s debate in Westerville, Ohio, are honing their answers to questions about the House impeachment inquiry. But the front-runner’s campaign suggests they shouldn’t stray into shots about the Biden family. An aide to Biden said that any candidate who “calls themselves a ‘Democrat’” and repeats what the aide said were “discredited lies” about Biden and his son “would be making a profound statement about themselves.” Read more from Tyler Pager and Sahil Kapur.

Buttigieg Recalls Inner ‘Civil War’ Over Identity: Pete Buttigieg, the first openly gay Democratic presidential candidate, recalls the battle he fought within himself to understand and accept his sexuality. “What it was like was a civil war because I knew I was different long before I was ready to say that I was gay and long before I was able to acknowledge that that was something that I didn’t have power over,” Buttigieg said last night in Los Angeles at a town hall on LGBTQ issues hosted by the Human Rights Campaign. Read more from Jennifer Epstein.

Warren Responds to ‘One Man and One Woman’: Democratic co-frontrunner Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) was asked at the CNN town hall what she’d say to a supporter on the campaign trail who says their faith teaches them that marriage is only between one man and one woman. Her response is going viral. “Well, I’m going to assume it’s a guy who said that and I’m going to say, “Then just marry one woman. I’m cool with that.” She paused as the crowd laughed and applauded. Then resumed: “Assuming you can find one.”

The question strikes at a key issue for the progressive Warren, who has faced concerns over how she’ll approach voters who flipped from Barack Obama to Trump, especially in rural areas and the Midwest. Yet Warren has methodically risen in Democratic primary polls in recent months into a virtual tie with Biden, who pushed the Obama administration to embrace same-sex marriage equality but hasn’t defined as clearly how he’d move from this point forward. Read more from Derek Wallbank.

Trump Rallies No Longer Assured Airtime: Trump’s rallies were once a surefire magnet for live TV, with cable news networks drawn to the chanting crowds, the unscripted candidate and even occasional fisticuffs in packed arenas. Three years later, the novelty is waning and the events are drawing less airtime. Networks criticized for handing free airtime to Trump are cutting back, worrying some of the president’s backers. That was evident last night when CNN and MSNBC stuck to scheduled news programming as Trump’s rally began in Minneapo lis. Fox News, known for its closeness to the Trump administration, carried the event live from its start to its finish more than 90 minutes later. Read more from Todd Shields.

Defense & Foreign Affairs

Trump Floats Mediator Role: Trump said the U.S. has three options in dealing with Turkey’s incursion into northern Syria: send the American military back in, unleash punishing sanctions on Turkey or mediate between the two sides. Trump has pushed back at rising bipartisan criticism of his decision this week to have U.S. forces in northern Syria pull back as Turkish troops move into the country, attacking Kurdish militias that long fought Islamic State terrorists alongside U.S. troops. Trump says he’s carrying out campaign promises to start getting the U.S. out of “endless wars,” but critics say he’s exposed loyal allies to risks of slaughter. Read more from Jordan Fabian and Nick Wadhams.

Meanwhile, European Union leaders said they’ll discuss sanctions against Turkey at a summit next week in protest against the offensive in northern Syria. The Turkish operation has provoked criticism from the U.S., the EU and some Arab states and Erdogan has threatened to “open the doors” to Europe for 3.6 million refugees currently sheltering in Turkey. Selcan Hacaoglu and Taylan Bilgic have the latest.

Iran Oil Tanker Hit by Missiles in Red Sea Near Saudi Arabia: Iran said missiles struck one of its tankers in the Red Sea, the latest in a series of attacks on oil infrastructure in the region that have roiled energy markets. The Islamic Republic’s tanker company initially said the attacks probably came from Saudi Arabia, but later withdrew the claim. The incident, which caused a spill and a jump of as much as 2.6% in crude prices, comes weeks after a devastating attack on major Saudi oil facilities that Riyadh blamed on Tehran. Read more from Arsalan Shahla, Golnar Motevalli and Yasna Haghdoost.

Trump Touts Day One of U.S.-China Trade Talks: Trump said the first day of high-level trade negotiations between the U.S. and China yesterday went “very well” and that he plans to meet with the top Chinese negotiator Friday. The talks between Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are expected to resume today, Trump told reporters as he left the White House. It’s the first senior-level in-person talks since late July to try and end an 18-month trade war that is taking a toll on the global economy and U.S. manufacturing. Read more from Jenny Leonard, Ye Xie and Jordan Fabian.

Trump Says He Still Supports Brazil in OECD: Trump last night asserted that he still supported Brazil’s entry into the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, despite a State Department letter in August that showed the U.S. withholding support for the country’s current bid. Trump addressed the matter on Twitter — hours after the Aug. 28 letter sent to OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurria surfaced. In it, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said that Washington only backed the membership candidacies of Argentina and Romania as part of the group’s enlargement effort. That came despite bids by Brazil and at least three other countries to join the intergovernmental economic group. Read more from Samy Adghirni and Justin Sink.

Al Jazeera Target of U.A.E. Campaign in U.S.: The United Arab Emirates wants to silence the Al Jazeera Media Network and is running a lobbying campaign in the U.S. to try to hobble the broadcaster. The push includes using a law firm to meet with dozens of congressional staffers in Washington as well as a separate digital information operation involving U.A.E.-controlled Twitter accounts and websites that are hiding their affiliations. Al Jazeera — one of the Arab world’s most prominent TV networks — is in the crosshairs in a regional pow er struggle between Qatar, on one side, and Saudi Arabia, the U.A.E. and their allies, on the other. Read more from Joe Light.

What Else to Know Today

Ethiopian Premier Abiy Wins Nobel Peace Prize: Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work to end almost two decades of conflict with neighboring Eritrea. Abiy was honored for his “efforts to achieve peace and international cooperation, and in particular for his decisive initiative to resolve the border conflict with neighboring Eritrea,” the Oslo-based Norwegian Nobel Committee said in a statement Friday. It’s the second successive year the prize has gone to an African — in 2018 Congolese doctor Denis Mukwege was the joint winner of the award for his work against sexual violence. Read more from Nizar Manek and Mikael Holter.

More Open Carry Permits Mean Longer Waits at Airports: The Transportation Security Administration has gone to great lengths to get the message through to Atlanta airport passengers: Don’t bring your gun through security. And yet, 298 firearms were seized at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International’s security checkpoints in 2018, the most at any U.S. airport that year. According to a Bloomberg Government analysis of TSA records, gun seizures there have tripled since 2014, when then-Gov. Nathan Deal signed a law that allowed Georgians to carry a fire arm in more places.

The 10 major airports with the highest gun seizure rates are in states that either don’t require a permit to carry a concealed weapon or require officials to issue a permit to all law-abiding applicants, while 8 of the 10 with the lowest rates are in states that allow the government more discretion to deny permits, according to an analysis of National Rifle Association data. Read more from Courtney Rozen and Michaela Ross.

Lawyers See Blunted Impact from Trump’s Executive Orders: Environmental law experts are still grappling with the implications of a pair of executive orders aimed at revamping how agencies use informal documents while regulating. Trump signed the two orders Oct. 9, promising protection from “out-of-control bureaucracy.” One of Trump’s new orders requires agencies to review all guidance documents, rescind any they find “should no longer be in effect,” and post the remaining ones online. The second blocks agencies from enforcing rules or interpretations they haven’t publicized. But the directives include a variety of exceptions and disclaimers that could blunt their effects on the ground. Read more from Ellen M. Gilmer.

Trump Better for Western States Than Reagan, Official Says: Trump has been better for Western states than President Ronald Reagan, said William Perry Pendley, acting director of the Bureau of Land Management. “Frankly he had more to work with,” Pendley said of Trump, during an exclusive interview Oct. 10 at the bureau’s National Operations Center in Lakewood, Colo. “President Reagan was responding to one-term Jimmy Carter, which for Westerners was bad enough,” Pendley said. “But President Trump was responding to 16 years of [Bill] Clinton and [Barack] Obama and righting the wrongs during that.” Read more from Tripp Baltz.

Posthumous Pardon to Zay Jeffries: Trump has issued a full posthumous pardon to Zay Jeffries for his conviction for engaging in anti-competitive conduct in violation of the Sherman Act, the White House said in a statement. “Jeffries was crucial to the United States war effort in World War II,” the statement said. His efforts enabled the U.S. to develop artillery shells capable of “piercing the armor of German tanks, and his contributions to the Manhattan Project helped end the war in the Pacific theater,” it said, Kim Chipman reports.

Editor’s Note: Bloomberg Government’s What to Know in Washington won’t publish on Monday, Oct. 14. We’ll return on Tuesday, Oct. 15.

To contact the reporters on this story: Zachary Sherwood in Washington at zsherwood@bgov.com; Brandon Lee in Washington at blee@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Giuseppe Macri at gmacri@bgov.com; Loren Duggan at lduggan@bgov.com

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