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Jamie Dupree's Washington Insider

    The second day of impeachment hearings against President Donald Trump was thrown off stride on Friday by the President himself, as he went on Twitter and ridiculed the former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine as she testified before the House Intelligence Committee on Friday, prompting Democrats to accuse Mr. Trump of blatant witness intimidation. 'As we sit here testifying, the President is attacking you on Twitter,' said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA). 'He is smearing you right now as you are testifying,' said Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA). 'Expect witness tampering to be an article of impeachment,' tweeted Rep. Justin Amash (I-MI), who left the Republican Party after endorsing an impeachment investigation against the President. The President's tweets came as in the midst of questioning for Marie Yovanovitch, as Democrats swiftly moved to bring Mr. Trump's real time comments into the hearing. 'I mean, I can't speak to what the President is trying to do, but I think the effect is to be intimidating,' Yovanovitch said in her impeachment appearance. The President's tweets unexpectedly upended whatever GOP planning had been done for the hearing, forcing Republican lawmakers yet again to answer for the reactions of Mr. Trump, and leading to headlines which clearly took Republicans off script. GOP lawmakers tried their best to steer around Yovanovitch, engaging in no line of questions which had any type of confrontational element during the hearing. Instead, Republicans praised her diplomatic work, noting that she had landed a fellowship at Georgetown University, at the same rate of pay as her ambassadorial post. Democrats mocked that talk. 'It's like a Hallmark movie, you ended up at Georgetown! It's all okay!' said Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL) in a sarcastic tone. Democrats returned again and again to the President's tweets during the hearing, accusing him of trying to undermine the impeachment investigation. 'This is another step by the President to intimidate witnesses,' said Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT). 'He didn't intimidate you,' Welch told Yovanovitch. Republicans again did their best to simply say the entire process was a sham. 'The American people know this is nonsense,' said Rep. Chris Stewart. At the end of the hearing, top Republican Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) called the second hearing an 'embarrassment.' But a couple minutes later, members of the public were standing and cheering for Yovanovitch.
  • With President Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress continuing to denounce investigative proceedings led by Democrats, the U.S. House Intelligence Committee was holding a second day of impeachment hearings on Friday, continuing to focus on efforts by the President's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, to undermine American diplomats in Ukraine. After hearing on Wednesday from the acting U.S. Ambassador and a top State Department official, the focus in this hearing is the ex-Ambassador, Marie Yovanovitch, who was forced out of her post earlier in 2019, after a campaign which she - and other State Department officials - have blamed on Giuliani. 'I do not know Mr. Giuliani's motives for attacking me,' Yovanovitch said in a closed door deposition in October. Follow here for updates on today's hearing. - 3:25 pm. Schiff ends the hearing with a quick gavel, much to the GOP's aggravation. The audience stands and cheers for Yovanovitch as she leaves the hearing room.  That is not a usual scene in a hearing room. 3:00 pm.  This hearing is almost over.  But down in the bowels of the Capitol, another deposition is beginning in the impeachment investigation.  This one is with a staff aide to the acting U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, who reportedly overheard a conversation between the President and Gordon Sondland. 2:55 pm.  After a break, Rep. Jim Jordan R-OH again presses the GOP case about why President Trump should feel worried over political actions by people in the Ukraine government in 2016.  After Jordan rattles off a series of statements, Yovanovitch dryly says politicians say stuff - and that she did not see any evidence of a concerted effort by the government of Ukraine to meddle in the 2016 election. 2:25 pm. Asked by Rep. John Ratcliffe R-TX about the prep she received for her nomination in 2016 as Ambassador to Ukraine, Yovanovitch said her guidance was - if asked by a Senator about Hunter Biden and Burisma - to say, “I would refer you to the Vice President's office on that.”  Later, Yovanovitch again says the situation could create the perception of a conflict of interest. 2:05 pm. Yovanovitch was asked about how she dealt with the question of what to do about the campaign against her spurred by Rudy Giuliani.  Yovanovitch said she asked Gordon Sondland, the U.S. Ambassador to the European Union, what to do. Sondland had close ties to the President. 1:50 pm. Yovanovitch repeats again that certainly a President can remove an Ambassador for any reason - but she openly asks why there needed to be a smear campaign against her. Rep Wenstrup R-OH: 'Well, I wasn't asking about that.'   1:25 pm. GOP lawmakers are repeatedly asking Yovanovitch about her post-Ukraine career (now on a fellowship at Georgetown), making the case that she has not been fired or punished after her removal. 1:05 pm.  Castor's time for questions to Yovanovitch finally ends.  He almost seemed relieved. 12:55 pm.  After starting by making clear that Yovanovitch did not have first hand knowledge about what happened with the President's actions with respect to Ukraine, now the GOP counsel is asking about items which happened before she arrived in Ukraine in 2016. 12:45 pm.  In a lengthy line of questioning, Castor is allowing Yovanovitch to more fully explain how Giuliani was trying to push her out. 12:30 pm.  The GOP committee counsel continues to make the case that since Yovanovitch was not the Ambassador after May 20, she has no evidence to offer.  12:25 pm.  The 45 minutes of time for Rep. Nunes begins, as Republicans press the argument that she knows nothing about the events related to impeachment. 'I'm not exactly sure what the Ambassador is doing here today,' said Nunes. 12:15 pm.  President Trump is not pleased with the Stone verdict. 12:00 pm.  Stone guilty of lying to Congress, obstruction of justice and more. 11:55 am.  Meanwhile, just a few blocks away, news is breaking, as Trump confidant Roger Stone has been found guilty on seven counts stemming from the Mueller investigation.  Some of the still photographers in the hearing room here are scrambling to grab their gear and run down to get pictures. 11:45 am.  From Fox News about today's events.  The President's tweets have clearly derailed whatever GOP messaging plans Republicans had for today's hearing. 11:40 am.  Critics of the President see his tweets this morning about Yovanovitch as yet another marker for impeachment efforts in the House. 11:20 am.  House Republicans grabbed one of my tweets this morning, and it has become a hot property for GOP voices on Twitter in the last hour. 11:15 am.  Don't expect an avalanche of negative reaction from the GOP over today's tweets from the President. 11:05 am.  There are a number of votes on the House floor. We are being told not to expect the hearing to reconvene for maybe another hour or more. 10:55 am.  It seems that viewers on Fox News are getting a different portrayal than usual today. 10:50 am.  The President's tweets are quickly frowned on by one member of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Elise Stefanik R-NY. 10:45 am.  The President's tweets are getting a lot of attention.  This from Fox News. 10:25 am.  It is an extraordinary moment.  Yovanovitch is testifying, and at the same time the President is attacking her on Twitter.  Rep. Adam Schiff D-CA interrupts questioning to read the new tweets.  “It's very intimidating,” says Yovanovitch.  “The effect is to be intimidating.” 10:15 am.  Asked about the President's comments about her in his July 25 phone call with the leader of Ukraine, Yovanovitch said she was alarmed. “She's going to go through some things,” Yovanovitch quotes the President from the call transcript.  “It didn't sound good.  It sounded like a threat.” 10:10 am.  As Yovanovitch tells her story to the impeachment hearing, President Trump is attacking her on Twitter. 10:05 am.  Yovanovitch says State Department officials asked her in early March to stay through July of 2020 as Ambassador.  Six weeks later, they told her to get on the next flight out of the country. 9:55 am.  As on Wednesday, most of the initial 45 minutes of questioning by Democrats will be done by the Democratic counsel on the House Intelligence Committee. 9:55 am.  Not only is Yovanovitch talking about why she was ousted, but she is also sticking up for fellow diplomats - and basically skewering Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for not standing up for those in the Foreign Service. 9:45 am.  Yovanovitch repeatedly says she did nothing wrong as U.S. Ambassador in Ukraine.  And she repeatedly returns to the efforts of Rudy Giuliani to target her.  “I do not understand Mr. Giuliani's motives for attacking me.”  Yovanovitch also said she had done nothing to undermine President Trump.  “The Obama Administration did not ask me to help the Clinton campaign or harm the Trump campaign.” 9:37 am.  Yovanovitch details her diplomatic career.  She joined the Foreign Service during the Reagan Administration.  Like the two witnesses on Wednesday, she stresses the importance of serving the U.S. overseas, no matter who is President, as Yovanovitch said she had no 'agenda' as U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine. 9:28 am.  Schiff follows Nunes by calling on President Trump to release documents withheld from investigators.  Also asks the White House to reveal why - after this April call - Vice President Pence was not sent to attend the inauguration of the new Ukraine leader. 9:25 am.  Nunes is now reading from a rough transcript of the first phone call between President Trump and the leader of Ukraine in April. 9:20 am.  The top Republican on the Intelligence Committee, Rep. Devin Nunes R-CA, starts his statement with another blistering attack on the impeachment investigation, arguing Democrats are engaged in an effort to 'fulfill their Watergate fantasies.' 9:15 am.  Democrats begin by going after Rudy Giuliani, asking why the President's lawyer had coordinated a concerted campaign to undermine the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine. 'Why did Rudy Giuliani want her gone?' asked Rep. Adam Schiff D-CA. 9:07 am.  The hearing is underway. 8:55 am.  Normally, I would have a perfect view of the dais and witness table.  But the Intelligence Committee has brought in giant television screens to be used for visuals during the hearing.  And they planted one between me and the lawmakers on the panel.  So, this is my view. 8:45 am.  Lots of familiar faces are here in terms of my colleagues, as we work shoulder-to-shoulder in the hallways of the Capitol.  There are a series of press tables in the room behind the witness table.  Right across from me, Manu Raju of CNN and Chad Pergram of Fox News. 8:35 am.  Most of you would not know the former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine if she were sitting next to you.  And that was her life until late 2018 and 2019, when something changed.  She says it was a campaign run against her by President Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani - and State Department officials agree. 8:25 am.  Most of the electronics in this room are set out by C-SPAN, which is running the “pool” television coverage.  I'm seated in an area by some of the C-SPAN technical personnel, along with the still photographers, who have a very high tech operation to take photos, quickly edit, them, and then send them out immediately across the world. 8:15 am.  I am in the room along with other reporters, producers, still photographers, and press people.  There is a lot of elbowing going on as photographers try to get the best shot of the witness arriving for testimony.
  • After hearing testimony earlier this week from two State Department officials about an 'irregular' diplomatic channel in Ukraine led by President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, the House Intelligence Committee will hear from the former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, who was the target of a campaign led by Giuliani in March of 2018, which led to her replacement. In her closed door testimony to impeachment investigators, veteran U.S. diplomat Marie Yovanovitch joined in pointing a finger of blame at Giuliani for leading what one State Department official called a 'campaign of slander' against the Ambassador. 'I do not know Mr. Giuliani's motives for attacking me,' Yovanovitch said in her deposition. Not a household name by any stretch of the imagination, the veteran diplomat suddenly found herself the subject of attacks on Fox News and in conservative media circles starting on March 20, 2019. An article by John Solomon was quickly followed by a tweet by President Trump, segments on Fox News, questions about Hunter Biden, George Soros and more - all in a short four day rush. All of it came just a few days after Yovanovitch had agreed to a State Department request for her to stay on as the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine through 2020. As Ambassador Yovanovitch repeatedly told investigators last month, she still has no idea why President Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani had targeted her, accusing her of corruption, and working against President Trump - what colleagues called a 'campaign of slander' against her which had no truth. 'That allegation is false,' she testified of charges that she told U.S. embassy personnel to ignore orders from President Trump. 'Honestly, it's a mystery to me,” Yovanovitch said of why Rudy Giuliani was drumming up opposition to her inside Ukraine - and back at the White House. 'Well, clearly, they didn't want me in Ukraine anymore,' Yovanovitch told impeachment investigators, as she was removed by President Trump soon after. What did Yovanovitch do wrong? There is no clear answer. In reviewing press releases, news stories, and social media posts from 2017 and 2018, absolutely nothing jumps out about the Ambassador's actions under President Trump. In Ukraine, she spoke at events with dry titles like 'Economic Opportunities for people affected by Conflict in Ukraine,' made visits and speeches to places like the Ukrainian Catholic University, and spoke about innovation by businesses in Ukraine. But starting in March 2019, everything changed once the John Solomon article was published. She gets her chance on Friday in the impeachment hearings to speak in public for the first time about what happened.
  • Trying to boost Republican efforts to defeat Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards, President Donald Trump rallies again in Louisiana on Thursday evening, just two days before a Saturday runoff election that's being closely watched by leaders in both parties. It's second time in eight days that the President has come to the Bayou State for a campaign rally to help Republican Eddie Rispone, as polls have basically shown a dead heat. 'You're going out to replace a radical, liberal Democrat,' Mr. Trump said to cheers last week, using an attack line which has had mixed success for Republicans in recent elections. 'John Bel Edwards has not done the job,' the President added ahead of Louisiana's unusual November 16 runoff. For Republicans, the Louisiana race for Governor is a chance to offset a loss earlier this month in Kentucky, where GOP Gov. Matt Bevin lost by just over 5,000 votes to Democrat Andy Beshear. While the President campaigned for Bevin - as he has for Rispone in Louisiana - Bevin was an unpopular Governor, as he netted fewer votes than other Republicans on the ballot running in statewide elections. After making various unsupported claims about possible voter fraud, and holding out the possibility of an extended challenge to the results, Bevin on Thursday afternoon conceded defeat. That came after a recanvass in each Kentucky county showed no evidence of any changes in vote totals, as the Governor never produced any evidence of voter fraud. There were three races for Governor in 2019 - Democrats won in Kentucky, and Republicans kept control with a victory in Mississippi. That makes the Louisiana runoff the rubber match for this political year.  Recent polls have shown a dead heat between Edwards and Rispone.
  • The first day of impeachment hearings against President Donald Trump included new evidence from the acting U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, who told lawmakers that one of his aides had listened to a top U.S. diplomat speak with the President, reporting that Mr. Trump had inquired repeatedly about political investigations he was seeking. William Taylor told the House Intelligence Committee that since his recent deposition in October, one of his staffers had reported the unsecured cell phone call between U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland and the President, saying the message was clear. 'President Trump cares more about the investigation of Biden, that Giuliani was pressing for,' Taylor told the first day of impeachment hearings. At the White House, the President denied the assertion by Taylor, telling reporters he did not remember any such call with Sondland, which Taylor said occurred a day after a July 25 phone call with the leader of Ukraine, where the President asked for Ukraine to start certain political investigations. In the hearing, Taylor and State Department official George Kent repeatedly found themselves trying to walk an almost impossible tightrope of being a truth-telling non-partisan diplomat, thrust into the midst of a politically explosive impeachment hearing, in which their every answer could be used by one party or the other to buttress or undermine their impeachment arugments. 'I'm not here to do anything having to do with, to decide about impeachment.' Taylor said at one point to Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-TX). 'That is not what either of us are here to do. This is your job.' But Republicans tried to use the first hearing to undermine the testimony of both Taylor and Kent, repeatedly saying that they had no first hand knowledge of what President Trump was doing. 'Not only no conversations with the President of the United States about Ukraine, you've not had any contact with the President,' said Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH). 'Correct?' In a back and forth with Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), Taylor tried to keep a smile on his face as Jordan described Taylor as the supposedly prime witness for Democrats out to get President Trump. 'I don't consider myself a star witness for anything,' Taylor said. 'They do,' Jordan said of Democrats. While Ambassador Taylor dominated most of the headlines, Kent also provided some news, as he made clear that he felt the naming of Hunter Biden - the son of the former Vice President - to the board of a Ukrainian energy company, was a red flag which needed to be watched. But under questioning, Kent said he never found any evidence that it led to corruption - or anything illegal involving the younger Biden. Both Kent and Taylor raised questions about the President's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, as Taylor frowned on what he described as an 'irregular' diplomatic back channel in Ukraine led by Giuliani. 'What interest do you believe he was promoting?' asked Rep. Val Demings (D-FL). 'I believe he was looking to dig up political dirt against a potential rival in the next election cycle,” Kent said. “I agree with Mr. Kent,” Taylor added, as the two officials reinforced the suspicions of Democrats that Giuliani was leading an effort which not only unseated the U.S. Ambassador, but led to the President pressing Ukraine for investigations of the Bidens, and of Ukraine interference in the 2016 elections. Asked about the question of Ukraine interference, Kent said there was 'no factual basis,' pointing the finger directly at Russia - as U.S. Intelligence agencies have done. There likely will be more discussion of Giuliani's role in Ukraine in the next hearing on Friday, when lawmakers hear from the ousted U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. Kent testified there was a campaign of 'slander' against Yovanovitch, which began March 20, 2018.
  • Historic impeachment hearings aimed at President Donald Trump are underway on Capitol Hill on this Wednesday, as Democrats charge the President wrongly used the power of his office to try to get Ukraine to launch investigations which would have benefited Mr. Trump's political standing. The hearings before the House Intelligence Committee represented a high stakes challenge for Congressional Republicans and President Trump. Here's the latest from inside the hearing room. - 4:00 pm.  One thing that Republicans repeated multiple times in the hearing was that nothing wrong happened, because President Trump ultimately allowed aid to flow to Ukraine, even after the 55 day delay.  But that decision on September 11 didn't just happen in a vacuum - as Democrats correctly pointed out that just before the decision, word had emerged about a whistleblower complaint involving Ukraine and the President. 3:45 pm.  The hearing ended in an interesting manner, as Rep. Adam Schiff D-CA directly denied that he knew the identity of the whistleblower.  Republicans say he is lying. 3:25 pm.  In one of the most direct comments from both witnesses today, Rep. Val Demings D-FL asked both Kent and Taylor about the work of Rudy Giuliani in Ukraine, asking what they thought Giuliani was doing. 'I believe he was looking to dig up political dirt against a potential rival in the next election cycle,” Kent said. “I agree with Mr. Kent,” Taylor added. 3:10 pm.  The impeachment hearings are as much about what goes on in the committee room, as how both parties frame it - after it happens. Republicans have argued today that President Trump was trying to end corruption in Ukraine - Democrats say that's not the case. 3:00 pm.  Rep. John Ratcliffe R-TX continues a GOP request for more information on the Ukraine whistleblower, trying to draw Rep. Adam Schiff D-CA into a back and forth over the contacts between the whistleblower and the Democratic staff - and/or lawmakers - on the House Intelligence Committee.  Schiff steers around it again.  One would think the GOP will return to this again in coming days. 2:50 pm.  Acting Ambassador Taylor is trying very hard to not shade one way or the other in this hearing today.  As Rep. Joaquin Castro D-TX tried to get him to answer a series of rhetorical questions, which would obviously not shine well on the President. 2:45 pm.  Rep. Will Hurd R-TX asks about who Rudy Giuliani has met with in Ukraine.  Acting Ambassador Bill Taylor says he did get one call from a Ukraine official, worried about why Giuliani had been in contact with him. 2:10 pm.  Republicans are pushing hard that Taylor has no information which could result in impeachment of President Trump. 2:00 pm.  Rep. John Ratcliffe R-TX tries to stir things up with Taylor, demanding to know whether Taylor thought the leader of Ukraine was lying in statements about his phone call with President Trump.  Under repeated pressure from Ratcliffe about the investigation, Taylor said, 'I'm not here to do anything having to do with, to decide about impeachment. That is not what either of us are here to do. This is your job.' 1:45 pm.  With lawmakers now asking questions, the political blood pressure of the hearing room has increased in a noticeable way.  Rep. Jim Jordan R-OH tangled with Taylor, accusing him of being the 'star witness' for Democrats. Taylor: 'I don't consider myself a star witness for anything' 1:10 pm.  Critics of President Trump are ridiculing Castor's questions.   1:05 pm.  President George W. Bush's White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer is not impressed with Castor's line of questioning. 1:00 pm.  GOP Committee Counsel Stephen Castor is pressing Taylor repeatedly about his view of President Trump's opinion that he had been targeted by various Ukraine government elements during the 2016 elections. Taylor sounds like he has no idea what Castor is talking about. Castor: So you certainly can appreciate President Trump's concerns about 2016.    Taylor: I don't know the exact nature of President Trump's concerns. 12:50 pm.  The hearing is underway again, with Republicans controlling the next 45 minutes.  Rep. Devin Nunes R-CA starts by blasting Democrats, knocking out a number of arguments which would be well received at the White House.  As for the President, he says that he is not watching. 12:40 pm.  Outside at the press stakeout, Rep. Mark Meadows R-NC tangling with reporters about the impeachment hearings.  “It is partisan, and it is political.”  Meadows brings up Nellie Ohr.  “You can look at the transcripts.” 12:30 pm.  Sometimes when you are in the hearing room, you miss stuff going on in the hallway outside.  This area outside the Ways and Means Committee  room is known as “Gucci Gulch.”  This photo may not qualify for that. 12:20 pm.  Under questioning by the Democratic committee counsel, George Kent knocks down charges that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 elections, saying there is no evidence that it was any country other than Russia.  Kent also all but ridicules the idea that the DNC computer server is being hidden in Ukraine - as President Trump suggested in a July 25 phone call with the leader of Ukraine. 12:15 pm.  The House Intelligence Committee has scheduled a Friday deposition with an aide of Taylor. This may well be the staffer involved in this phone call described to lawmakers today. 11:50 am.  Taylor relating the story from his staffer about a call between Gordon Sondland, the U.S. Ambassador to the European Union, and President Trump.  “Ambassador Sondland responded that President Trump cares more about the investigations of Biden that Giuliani was pressing for.” 11:35 am.  Our first big new piece of information. Taylor recounts a story from one of his staffers, who heard Sondland talk on the phone with President Trump, and that the staffer could hear the President asking about Ukraine and investigations, and that Sondland indicated the President was very interested in investigations about the Bidens.  “President Trump cares more about the investigations of Biden and Burisma,”  Taylor said, adding that he learned about this since his October deposition. Schiff starts the Q&A by asking questions about this episode. 11:30 am. Taylor now getting into the root of the disagreement between the two parties - whether President Trump was seeking a quid pro quo, where Mr. Trump would not release aid for Ukraine until the leader of Ukraine publicly announced political investigations sought by President Trump - with that announcement being made on CNN. 11:20 am.  Taylor continues to talk about how opposition to security aid to Ukraine grew within the White House, as he was told by one official that, “the President doesn't want to provide any assistance at all.” 11:05 am.  Taylor describes at length, how he straddled the 'regular' diplomatic channels with the new government in Ukraine, but also an “irregular” diplomatic channel, which involved figures like Rudy Giuliani, acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, and Secretary of Energy Rick Perry. 10:55 am.  The acting U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, William Taylor, is now testifying.  Like Kent, Taylor is giving details and background about the ongoing war between Ukraine and Russia, and the importance of American aid to Ukraine. Taylor said when he was asked to go back to Kyiv as the top U.S. diplomat, he was worried about the role of Rudy Giuliani. 10:50 am.  George Kent says he raised red flags about Hunter Biden being on the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company, but never saw any unethical behavior.  Kent then segues into the work of Rudy Giuliani, and his efforts to undermine the U.S. Ambassador, and “gin up politically motivated investigations.” 10:35 am.  The two witnesses have been sworn in.  GOP lawmakers are starting off with a series of parliamentary requests, including asking for a hearing with the whistleblower. 10:25 am.  Top Republican Rep. Devin Nunes R-CA slams the impeachment effort, saying it's nothing more than the back up plan from Democrats after the Russia investigation failed.  “They are trying to impeach the President for inquiring about Hunter Biden's activities,” Nunes said, referring to the gathering as a 'star chamber.' 10:00 am.  The hearing gets underway.  Republicans start with a quick parliamentary inquiry, and then Rep. Adam Schiff D-CA begins his opening statement.  President Trump has made clear his feelings about what's happening today. 9:55 am.  The witnesses take their seats, along with their lawyers.  William Taylor, the acting US Ambassador to Ukraine, and George Kent, a deputy assistant Secretary of State. 9:45 am.  It took a while for me to get inside the Ways and Means Committee room and to get my seat.  Then the power didn't work.  Then the audio feed didn't work.  My internet didn't work.  But I'm here. 9:30 am.  The line outside the hearing room was long. There were all sorts of people in line, most of them well versed in what was going on.  A 77 year old man from Blacksburg, Virginia behind me spoke to a Canadian TV reporter, and said he was convinced this was the 'most corrupt' President he had ever encountered.
  • The first day of impeachment hearings against President Donald Trump will feature two State Department witnesses who raised questions about actions in Ukraine by the President's personal lawyer, with one alarmed by Rudy Giuliani's efforts to undermine the former U.S. Ambassador in Ukraine, and another who saw Giuliani leading an effort to press for investigations desired by Mr. Trump. 'Mr. Giuliani was almost unmissable starting in mid-March,' Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent testified, saying Giuliani conducted a 'campaign of slander' against former Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. 'I worried about what I had heard concerning the role of Rudolph Giuliani,' said William Taylor, now the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, who said he was worried about entering a 'snake pit' involving Giuliani. Here is some of what we might expect from these two witnesses in the first day of impeachment hearings. DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE GEORGE KENT - After working at the U.S. embassy in Ukraine, Kent returned to the State Department in the second half of 2018, taking on a post where he was responsible for Ukraine and five other eastern European nations often targeted by Russia. It was in that position where Kent said he witnessed the media attack which unfolded, spurred by Giuliani and conservative news media organs. In his impeachment deposition, Kent said an article by conservative journalist John Solomon spurred a sudden attack on Ambassador Yovanovitch and the U.S. embassy in Ukraine in general, which was then amplified by Fox News hosts Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham. Kent said much of what was alleged, that Yovanovitch was bad mouthing President Trump, that she was working against Ukraine prosecutors, was simply false. 'It was, if not entirely made up in full cloth,' Kent testified, 'it was primarily non-truths and non-sequiturs.' Kent described how U.S. diplomats were blindsided by what was clearly a concerted campaign against the U.S. Ambassador and the U.S. embassy in Ukraine, spread over four days in March of 2019. It started first with arrows aimed at Ambassador Yovanovitch, but then spread to accusations against former Vice President Biden and his son Hunter, along with other charges mentioning conservative bogeyman George Soros - all of it given a push by President Trump, his son, conservative websites, and Fox News. The attacks on Yovanovitch came two weeks after she had been asked by the State Department to stay on in Ukraine until 2020 - but her extension would not survive the conservative media attacks against her. 'I was then abruptly told in late April to come back to Washington from Ukraine 'on the next plane,'' Yovanovitch told Congressional investigators. She will testify on Friday. + WILLIAM TAYLOR, U.S. Chargé d'Affaires IN UKRAINE. With the recall of Ambassador Yovanovitch, Taylor is the top-ranking U.S. diplomat in Ukraine - basically the acting Ambassador. Several months after Yovanovitch had been ousted, Taylor described how the work of Giuliani had seemingly led to a situation where U.S. military aid for Ukraine was being withheld - in an effort to gain a quid pro quo - where the government of Ukraine would launch investigations sought by President Trump. 'By mid-Ju1y, it was becoming clear to me that the meeting President Zelensky wanted was conditioned on investigations of Burisma and alleged Ukrainian influence in the 2016 elections,' Taylor said, referring to a focus on the Bidens, and the debunked theory that Ukraine - and not Russia - was behind the hacks of Democrats in 2016. Taylor said the impetus for the situation was obvious. 'It was also clear that this condition was driven by the irregular policy channel I had come to understand was guided by Mr. Giuliani,' Taylor said in his closed door deposition. Mr. Taylor said he had determined that link in 'mid-July' - it was on July 25 that President Trump spoke with the leader of Ukraine, and spelled out the need for Ukraine to launch investigations into the Bidens, and the Ukraine-2016 elections theory, which included the evidence-free allegation that the hacked computer server from the Democratic National Committee was being hidden in Ukraine. Some Republicans have mocked the choice of Taylor as an opening witness, saying he has no firsthand knowledge of why the President would want investigations conducted related to the Bidens or the 2016 elections. 'No, I've never talked to the President,' Taylor said in his deposition. Look for Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) to bring this up during the first day of questioning with Taylor. Three hearings have also been set for next Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, with eight different witnesses.
  • While President Donald Trump will welcome the Turkish leader to the White House on Wednesday, the last visit of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in May of 2017 still echoes in Washington, D.C., when security guards for the Turkish President openly attacked protesters in an unprecedented act of violence less than two miles from the White House. With video that showed Erdoğan watching the pitched battle along what's known as 'Embassy Row' in the middle of Washington, D.C. - the Turkish leader's planned return drew sharp comments from Capitol Hill in recent days, as none of his guards were ever held accountable for the violence. 'This behavior is sadly routine for President Erdoğan on Turkish soil,' said Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), who asked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a letter this week to 'immediately' expel any of the guards involved in that 2017 violence if they are on this week's trip to Washington. 'The Erdoğan regime's use of violence against innocent civilians anywhere is inhumane, uncivilized, and unacceptable,' Cheney wrote. This was what the scene looked like on May 16, 2017, as Turkish security forces broke through police lines, and openly attacked protesters on the streets of the nation's capital. Some of the most graphic video was shot by the Voice of America's Turkish Service. At least nine people were injured in the attacks, which took place several hours after the Turkish leader met with President Trump. An in-depth review of multiple videos of the May 16, 2017, violence left no doubt as to the actions of the Erdoğan security detail, with descriptions of guards who 'punched a protestor' or 'kicked man on ground,' and 'knocked over woman, kicked man,' or 'choked, slammed woman.' You can see the New York Times video analysis of the violence at this link. In court documents revealed in recent days, U.S. security officials said the Turkish bodyguards also attacked American Secret Service agents during the incident, but were quickly spirited out of the country, and thus avoided any legal charges. A grand jury in Washington, D.C. indicted 15 Turkish security guards, but most of the charges were ultimately dropped. Several months after the incident, the Turkish leader said in an interview that President Trump had apologized for the incident - the White House denied that had occurred.
  • On the eve of convening historic impeachment hearings aimed at President Donald Trump, House Democrats publicly set out guidelines for conduct by lawmakers in the proceedings, seemingly anticipating the possibility of procedural tussles with GOP lawmakers when the hearings begin on Wednesday. In a six page memo released by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Schiff directly warned Republicans not to try to use the hearings to veer into certain areas of interest for the GOP. Schiff wrote, 'it is important to underscore that the House’s impeachment inquiry, and the Committee, will not serve as venues for any Member to further the same sham investigations into the Bidens or into debunked conspiracies about 2016 U.S. election interference.' In his memo, Schiff said the questions should stick to three main areas of inquiry: The Schiff memo also indicated Democrats are still reviewing the requests of GOP lawmakers to call certain witnesses in the hearings. Republicans asked for a series of witnesses on Saturday, headlined by the son of Vice President Biden, Hunter Biden, and the Intelligence Community whistleblower whose complaint kicked off the Ukraine investigation earlier this fall. As for the whistleblower, the Schiff memo warned GOP lawmakers not to make any efforts to use the public hearings to reveal the name of the whistleblower, raising the specter that it could lead to ethics charges. You can read the full memo from Rep. Schiff at this link.
  • The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday considers a politically explosive trio of cases on the future of an estimated 700,000 illegal immigrant 'Dreamers' in the United States, and whether the Trump Administration has properly exercised its legal authority to take away the protection those people have had since 2012 to avoid being deported from the United States. Legal experts say the Trump Administration certainly has the right to terminate the DACA program - because it is a discretionary use of authority by the Executive Branch.  But experts also argue that the Trump Administration bungled that simple move, resulting in several years of court challenges, culminating in these arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court. 'This is a program put in place by a government agency - it is not something the Congress put in place - which is important, because now the agency says it can get rid of the program,' said Nicole Saharsky, a lawyer who worked on one of the three DACA cases before the Justices. 'It seemed to me the government had such an easy argument,' Saharsky said at a Georgetown University symposium earlier this fall. 'This is discretionary - we're going to exercise our discretion and not have it anymore.' But Saharsky and other legal experts say the way the Trump Administration went about ending the program undermined its authority to easily make a change. For example, it took the Trump Administration months to produce policy points from the Secretary of Homeland Security - used in a later court case before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals - to support the reason why the DACA program should be changed. 'Part of the debate is about whether those additional policy reasons are properly before the court or not,' said Irv Gornstein, the Executive Director of the Supreme Court Institute and a Visiting Professor at Georgetown University Law Center. That 'after-the-fact-justification' - as Gornstein labeled it during a Supreme Court preview this fall - is one of a series of administrative matters the Justices must consider, in what otherwise would seem to be a legal slam dunk for the Trump Administration. When lower courts first blocked the feds from changing DACA, law professor Josh Blackman called it 'ludicrous,' denouncing a decision from a federal judge in San Francisco as an 'amateur act of punditry.' But as the issue has wound its way through the courts, Blackman has joined others in acknowledging the Trump Administration fell short in offering the proper rationale for the change. 'Offer other reasons that are legitimate, and the policy can be rescinded,' Blackman argued in a lengthy argument on Twitter earlier this year. The outcome of this case could also find roots in the Supreme Court rebuke of the Trump Administration over the Census, where Chief Justice John Roberts clearly laid out a path for the feds to take without violating the Administrative Procedures Act - which could apply as well to the DACA situation. All of that will play out in 80 minutes of arguments - covering three different cases before the Supreme Court on Tuesday.

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  • Police said a 9-year-old boy brought a BB gun to an elementary school in California on Thursday and shot three of his classmates, according to multiple reports. >> Read more trending news  The victims were not seriously injured and required no medical attention, Pasadena police spokesman Lt. Bill Grisafe told the San Gabriel Valley Tribune. Authorities responded around 8:45 a.m. to a report of the shooting at Washington Elementary STEM Magnet School, KNBC-TV reported. Pasadena police Lt. Kim Smith told KTLA the boy was never arrested but the case was sent to the district attorney's office for consideration. In a statement obtained by KTLA, officials with the Pasadena Unified School District said they were cooperating with police and 'implementing an enhanced awareness of safety by both students and staff.' The incident happened Thursday, shortly before authorities responded to a deadly shooting about 40 miles to the northwest at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita.
  • A jury found Roger Stone guilty Friday of obstruction, giving false statements to Congress and tampering with witnesses in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. >> Read more trending news  The verdict came on the second day of jury deliberations. Stone had denied any wrongdoing and framed the charges as politically motivated. Update 12:20 p.m. EST Nov. 15: Jurors found Stone guilty Friday of all seven counts against him, including one charge of obstruction, one charge of witness tampering and five charges of making false statements connected to his pursuit stolen emails damaging to Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential bid. U.S. District Judge Amy Berman set a February 6 sentencing date for Stone, Fox News reported. Until then, Berman allowed Stone to be released on his own recognizance. Stone, who did not take the stand during his trial, is the sixth Trump aide or adviser to be convicted of charges brought as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. The president slammed the jury's verdict Friday, questioning in a tweet whether Stone fell victim to 'a double standard like never seen before in the history of our Country.' Original report: Jury deliberations in the case against Roger Stone, a political consultant and confidant of President Donald Trump, extended into a second day Friday after jurors failed to reach a verdict on whether he lied to Congress about his attempts to contact WikiLeaks during the 2016 presidential election. Jurors asked U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson two questions Thursday during their six hours of deliberations, Reuters reported. The questions were about what was considered testimony in the case and a request for a clarification of the charges, according to the Courthouse News Service. Authorities arrested Stone in January on charges brought by then-special counsel Robert Mueller, who headed the Justice Department's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Stone was charged with obstruction, giving false statements and witness tampering. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Kravis said Stone lied to protect the Trump campaign from embarrassment and scrutiny in its quest for emails hacked by Russian officials and disseminated by WikiLeaks, according to The Washington Post. Attorneys for Stone claimed he never intentionally deceived Congress and that he was simply wrong in his testimony after committee members unexpectedly peppered him with WikiLeaks-related questions. 'There was nothing illegal about the campaign being interested in information that WikiLeaks was going to be putting out,' defense attorney Bruce S. Rogow said, according to the Post. 'This is what happens in a campaign. … It happens in every campaign.' In testimony, several witnesses highlighted how Trump campaign associates were eager to gather information about the more than 19,000 emails the U.S. says were hacked by Russia and then provided to WikiLeaks. Former campaign CEO Steve Bannon reluctantly testified last week and told jurors Trump's campaign saw Stone as an 'access point' to WikiLeaks. He said Stone boasted about his ties to the anti-secrecy group and its founder, Julian Assange. Bannon said campaign officials tried to use Stone to get advanced word about hacked emails damaging to Trump's rival in the 2016 presidential election, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Rick Gates, who served as a campaign aide for Trump, told jurors Stone asked him in June 2016 for the contact information of Trump's son-in-law and then-senior campaign adviser, Jared Kushner. Stone wanted to 'debrief' him on developments about the hacked emails, Gates said. Stone has proclaimed his innocence and accused Mueller's team of targeting him because of his politics. He could face up to 20 years in prison if he's convicted. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
  • Roger Stone was one of the key figures of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into alleged Russian election meddling, accused fo trying to contact WikiLeaks during the 2016 presidential race, NBC News reported. Stone was found guilty of all charges he faced including making false statements to Congress and obstruction of justice. Stone's lawyers said that any misstatements their client made to lawmakers were unintentional, the Washington Post reported shortly after his arrest. Who is Roger Stone? Stone was born in 1952 and was raised in Lewisboro, New York. His mother was a newspaper writer and his father was a well digger. Stone started his conservative leanings when a neighbor gave him a book, “The Conscience of a Conservative,” written by Barry Goldwater. It was given to him before he turned 13. Shortly after, he started working on the mayoral campaign for William F. Buckley Jr. in New York on weekends in 1965, The New Yorker uncovered in an article published in 2008.  He attended George Washington University but didn’t graduate because he got into politics, working with Republican candidates for more than 40 years, according to The New Yorker. >> Read more trending news  He was only 19 when Watergate happened, and he, under the name Jason Rainier, made contributions to Pete McCloskey, who was challenging President Richard Nixon for the Republican nomination. Stone, as Rainier, made the contributions through the Young Socialist Alliance and then released the receipt to a newspaper to show that McCloskey was a left-wing candidate, according to The New Yorker. Stone also hired another person to work in  George McGovern’s Democratic presidential campaign. Both events were uncovered during the Watergate hearings in 1973. He lost a job on the staff of Republican Bob Dole because of the hearings and started the National Conservative Political Action Committee, which backed Republicans Chuck Grassley in Iowa and Dan Quayle in Indiana. Stone also worked twice on the Republican presidential campaigns of Ronald Reagan -- once in 1976, when Reagan didn’t win, and again in 1980, when he did -- then as political director for New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, The New Yorker reported. After Reagan took office, Stone stayed in the private sector, creating a political consulting and lobbying firm that went under different names, including Black, Manafort, Stone & Atwater.  The firm worked for corporations like Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. to lobby former co-workers in the Reagan campaign who held jobs in the administration. It also served clients like Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos, The New Yorker found. Focusing more on political campaigns as a solo entity instead of lobbying as part of a group, Stone worked as a senior consultant for the successful campaign of George H.W. Bush and worked three campaigns for Republican Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter. He also ran unsuccessful campaigns for Dole’s 1996 quest for president. He was brought in when the 2000 presidential recount started in Florida. He played the political game on radio stations in southern Florida, saying that the recount was Al Gore’s left-wing power grab, The New Yorker reported. His efforts, along with other Republican assets, empowered George W. Bush’s Republican supporters to protest the second recount. Stone wanted, and got, the recount in Miami shut down in what became the “Brooks Brothers riot,” The Washington Post and The New Yorker reported. Stone also worked on  the younger Bush’s re-election campaign. It is believed documents obtained by CBS News that showed that Bush got out of military service for Vietnam were actually fake and that Stone was the person who created the documents, The New Yorker reported. Stone was one of President Donald Trump’s panel of long-time advisors, The Washington Post reported. He was connected to Trump when the now-president floated the idea of running in 2000.  Then, Trump said, “Roger is a stone-cold loser,” who “always takes credit for things he never did,” according to The New Yorker. Despite the harsh words then-private sector member Trump had for Stone, he used Stone for his campaign not once, but twice, teaming up in 2011 when Trump toyed with, but eventually decided against a presidential run. They went their different ways in August 2015, the Times reported.  But who pulled the plug on Stone’s tenure on the Trump campaign? Stone said he resigned and Trump’s campaign officials said he had been fired, The New York Times reported. Trump said of the firing, “I hardly ever spoke to the guy; he was just there. He played no role of any kind,” the Times reported in 2015. But Stone was listed on Federal Election Commission filings as being on the campaign payroll and he used Twitter to defend Trump during the campaign, according to the Times. What is his connection to Trump? Stone has been scrutinized for having ties to WikiLeaks by using an associate as an intermediary between himself and people associated with WikiLeaks, CNN reported. Stone spoke about having “back channel communications” with Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, during the campaign. Stone later said the “back channel” was really a New York radio host, Randy Credico, who allegedly shared only information gleaned from interviews with Assange, CNN reported. Stone also predicted releases of information by WikiLeaks in the final days of the campaign between Trump and his Democratic challenger, Hillary Clinton, CNN reported.  Stone said in a column for Breitbart, the website run by former Trump campaign adviser Steve Bannon, that it wasn’t the Russians who hacked the servers containing the emails leaked by WikiLeaks, but it was actually a hacker who went by the name Guccifer 2.0.  >>Read: Russian hackers indicted: Who is Guccifer 2.0? Here are 15 things to know Despite Stone’s assertions in the column, some have linked Guccifer 2.0 to Russian web services, Foreign Policy reported.  In July 2016, the Times reported that intelligence agencies had “high confidence” that the Russian government was behind the email leaks and that Guccifer 2.0 was in reality an agent of the Russian military intelligence service, or GRU. Mueller’s team is investigating whether there were other connections between Stone and WikiLeaks. That connection could come in the form of Jerome Corsi, another associate of Stone’s who said this week that he expects to be indicted by Mueller for “giving false information to the special counsel or to one of the other grand jury,” CNN reported. If Corsi’s prediction comes true, he could face charges from perjury to making false claims and even obstruction of justice, all related to false statements he made about his alleged connection between WikiLeaks and Stone, CNN reported. Stone, however, said he was truthful in previous testimony before a congressional panel. >>Read: 12 Russians indicted: Here’s what the DOJ says happened “My attorneys have fully reviewed all my written communications with Dr. Corsi,” Stone wrote in a statement to CNN. “When those aren’t viewed out of context they prove everything I have said under oath regarding my interaction with Dr. Corsi is true.” Stone went on to write, “I stand by my statement to the House Intelligence Committee and can prove it is truthful if need be. I have passed two polygraph tests administered and analyzed by two of the nation's leading experts to prove I have (been) truthful.” >>Read: 12 Russians indicted: Military officials accused of hacking DNC, stealing voter info Corsi said Stone warned that there would be trouble for Clinton campaign Chairman John Podesta after Corsi published an article for InfoWars. After Stone’s statement, WikiLeaks released thousands of hacked emails from Podesta, CNN reported.  >>Read: WikiLeaks emails: FBI investigates, Podesta claims he was targeted by Russian hackers Stone tweeted “it will soon the Podesta’s time in the barrel” six weeks before WikiLeaks published the emails, The Washington Post reported. >>Read: Julian Assange: WikiLeaks source was 'not the Russian government' Stone said he did not tell Trump that WikiLeaks was going to release the hacked emails and denied working with Russia, CNN reported. But Stone did say in a recent opinion piece for The Daily Caller, that he emailed Bannon during the campaign, CNN reported. Stone, in the column, clarified that the information he shared with Bannon was publicly available. Stone said the statements he made during the campaign were exaggerations or tips only and that he didn’t know details of WikiLeaks’ plans before the document drops, the Post reported.
  • An Arkansas paramedic is charged with felony theft after authorities allege she cut a 1.7-carat diamond ring off a dead patient’s finger last month and pawned it for $45. Lisa Darlene Glaze, 50, of Hot Springs Village, is charged with theft by receiving and misdemeanor transfer of stolen property to a pawn shop, according to Garland County court records. Arrested Monday, she has since been released on $4,500 bond. >> Read more trending news  The Sentinel-Record in Hot Springs reported that Glaze, a paramedic at CHI St. Vincent Hot Springs, was one of the paramedics who attended to Gloria Farrar Robinson on Oct. 16 when the 72-year-old Whie Hall woman suffered a medical emergency. A probable cause affidavit obtained by the newspaper stated Robinson was taken to CHI St. Vincent, where she later died. After Robinson died, her personal effects were given to her husband, identified in her obituary as Leonard Robinson, and her sister, Alesia Massey. Massey asked Glaze about three of Robinson’s rings that were missing. Glaze “did not answer her and walked away,” according to the affidavit. Robinson’s husband and sister went to Fuller Hale South Funeral Home in Pine Bluff two days later to make funeral arrangements, at which time they were given a bag with two of the missing rings, the Sentinel-Record reported. A 1.7-carat diamond, gold solitaire ring was still missing. The ring, which was adorned with a marquise-cut diamond, had been cut off Robinson’s finger, according to the affidavit. On Oct. 24, eight days after Robinson died, Glaze went to Hot Springs Classic Guns and Loan with a marquise-cut, solitaire diamond ring with a gold band. She sold the ring, which the pawnshop worker noted had a cut in the band, for $45, the court documents allege. Glaze used her driver’s license for identification during the transaction, the Sentinel-Record reported. Five days after the sale, a Montgomery County investigator went to the pawnshop and took photos of the ring, sending the images to Robinson’s husband and sister. Both identified the ring as belonging to the deceased woman, the affidavit said. The pawnshop employee who bought the ring identified Glaze in a photo as the woman who sold the piece of jewelry, the Sentinel-Record reported. Massey, Robinson’s sister, retrieved the ring from the pawnshop and had it appraised. The ring was determined to be worth nearly $8,000. Robinson’s son, Ben Ellis, castigated Glaze in a Facebook post Wednesday, calling her an expletive before questioning her care of his dying mother. “You stole my mother’s rings off her hands after she died?” Ellis wrote. “Did you let my mother die so you could steal her jewelry?” A woman named Diane McAlister offered Ellis her condolences. “Gloria was a wonderful, hardworking person. She respected everyone,” McAlister wrote. “I hope this person is prosecuted to the highest degree.” According to her obituary, Robinson worked as a payroll officer at Southeast Arkansas College for more than 20 years. Glaze has been placed on administrative leave with pay by the hospital, which issued a statement to the Sentinel-Record about the case. “CHI St. Vincent Hot Springs places a priority on the safety and well-being of our patients and our healing ministry is committed to their security while in our care,” the statement read. The hospital is continuing to cooperate with the investigation, officials said. If convicted, Glaze faces up to 10 years in prison on the felony theft charge and up to a year in county jail for the charge of selling stolen property to the pawnshop, the newspaper said.
  • No students were injured a school bus crash in front of Merrill Road Elementary School.  Five students were on the bus, which was headed to Terry Parker High School.   Jacksonville Fire and Rescue reports there were no transports from the scene.  The crash happened just before 7 am.   A second crash happened on the JTB westbound ramp to I-295 south and involved a bus that was headed to Atlantic Coast High School just before 7AM. The Duval County School District says it was working to learn the number of students that may have been on the bus. According to the crash report from FHP, the bus and another car were getting on to the ramp to I-295 South when the bus stopped on the ramp and the car didn't in time and hit the back of the bus. Troopers say one student on the bus was taken to the hospital with minor injuries. FHP says the driver of the car, who has been identified as an 18-year-old woman, has been cited for careless driving.

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