Washington (CNN)Tim Morrison, the top Russia and Europe adviser on President Donald Trump’s National Security Council, is expected to provide one of the most revelatory testimonies to date in the House Democrat led impeachment inquiry on Thursday, one day after it became clear he will soon be leaving his job, according to a source familiar with the situation and a senior administration official. On the eve of his testimony, Morrison told his colleagues of his plans to leave the administration, a decision that was his and has been “planned for some time” given that he was an ally of former national security adviser John Bolton, who was fired by Trump in September, the source familiar said. Morrison appeared before investigators Thursday, and he is expected to corroborate key elements of a top US diplomat’s account that Trump pressed for Ukraine to publicly announce investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, using military aid the country sought to fight back against Russian aggression as leverage, sources told CNN. There is not evidence of wrongdoing by either Biden.The House Intelligence Committee issued a subpoena Thursday morning for Morrison’s testimony after an attempt by the White House to direct him not to appear, an official working on the impeachment inquiry told CNN.Morrison will also become the second White House official to testify who was on the July 25 phone call when Trump pressed his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky, to investigate the Bidens, according to a rough transcript of the conversation released by the White House and witness testimony of officials familiar with the situation. It was one of Morrison’s deputies, Alexander Vindman, who was the first official on the call to testify on Tuesday, telling lawmakers he raised concerns about the call to White House lawyers. Morrison, a lawyer, joined the administration last July as the senior director of Weapons of Mass Destruction and Biodefense where he was intimately involved in the Russia and North Korea portfolios.This summer, he was tapped by Bolton to replace Fiona Hill, who had been the White House’s top official on Russian affairs. Hill testified before the committees earlier this month. Creature of processMorrison’s hawkish views align with those of Bolton and he has been described as a creature of process by some close to him. Bolton always told those who worked for him that process was their protector and sometimes you have to listen to the person elected — advice Morrison adopted, sources said. Morrison is a lifelong Republican described as a Reaganite and is referred to as “‘Bolton’s Bolton,’ he is really hard right,” according to one source familiar with Morrison. A Baltimore native, Morrison attended law school at George Washington University and was planning to head to the Department of Justice when he graduated until an offer came in from former Arizona Republican Sen. Jon Kyl’s office. Morrison was impressed by Kyl’s record so accepted the offer. He spent more than 17 years on the hill — working for Kyl and the House Armed Services Committee — before joining the NSC. Bolton brought Morrison on at the NSC as a political appointee. The two men met over a decade ago when Morrison was working for Kyl and Bolton was Ambassador to the United Nations.When Bolton was fired, Morrison kept his job. The two old allies have been in touch on a personal basis but it is unclear if they have discussed the Ukraine probe specifically, according to a source close to Morrison. ‘It could have gone better’After the July 25 call took place, Morrison informed Bill Taylor, the top US diplomat in Ukraine, that it “could have gone better.” He told Taylor that Trump suggested Zelensky and his staff meet with Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and Attorney General William Barr, according to Taylor’s testimony last week.Taylor meticulously documented how he believed the White House had conditioned releasing security aid to Ukraine and providing a one-on-one meeting with Zelensky on Kiev publicly announcing an investigation that could help the President politically. He said that Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the European Union, had told him that “everything” depended on the investigation being announced.His opening statement mentioned Morrison 15 times by name.Vindman, one of Morrison’s deputies at the NSC, told lawmakers that he raised concerns about that phone call — which lies at the heart of the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry — with lawyers at the White House. CNN has reported that multiple NSC officials could have raised concerns on the discussion, and Morrison could be one of them.Morrison is also an integral player because he was serving in the top NSC role when security assistance to Ukraine was put on hold in mid-July due to a review announced internally by the Office of Management and Budget — a review that CNN has reported never actually happened. While Morrison is expected to corroborate parts of Taylor’s account, he is also expected to paint a picture of the NSC keeping the train on the tracks and not carrying out any illegal actions.”The NSC process does not allow anything that isn’t legal. It just, it would never get to the President. Certainly not any process that Tim was ever a part of,” said a source close to Morrison. “A piece of paper does not get to the national security adviser without first going through the lawyers, much less to the President.”It is also unclear what Morrison will say when asked if there was a quid pro quo.Morrison has been “completely aligned with the end result of all the administration’s decisions,” the source said, without getting into the key details of all the elements of the administration’s process to reach decisions.He is not likely to say there was a quid pro quo, another source close to Morrison said, adding that Morrison will stay in the lanes of the policy process that he was following and directing.But Morrison will be asked to detail what he meant when he told Taylor, according to Taylor’s testimony, that he had a “sinking feeling” after learning about a conversation between Trump and Sondland. During that conversation Trump said he was not asking for a “quid pro quo” but he still “insisted” that Zelensky “go to a microphone” to announce investigations into Biden and 2016 election interference.Democrats seized on the information Taylor laid out as showing that there was a quid pro quo, but Taylor would not explicitly say that himself during his closed-door testimony, according to multiple sources familiar with what he said. Taylor said that was a legal definition lawmakers should decide on, and he was just there to provide the facts. One-on-one with Trump Unlike Taylor, Morrison has had one-on-one conversations with Trump throughout his 15-month tenure at the NSC, according to the source close to him. The fact they have interacted directly means Morrison will have to decide how he handles the constraints of executive privilege. In technical terms executive privilege is defined by interactions with the President — meaning there will be other ways Morrison handled or did his job that do not directly tie to Trump, which he will be able to reveal. Morrison views Trump as the same on TV as he is in person. “He’s not acting,” the source familiar with Morrison’s thinking said.He has grown to believe that Trump often has a long-term vision for where he wants policy to go, though he does not necessarily share his thinking with anyone and frequently encounters potholes along the way, sources said.Barbara Van Gelder, Morrison’s lawyer, told CNN that privilege issues are fact specific and they will be handled in accordance with the House rules if they come up during the deposition. Van Gelder would not provide comment further on Morrison’s testimony.CNN’s Jeremy Herb contributed to this report.
European leaders seized more power during the pandemic. Few have ‘exit plans’ to hand it back
The move was seen as controversial by some of Macron’s liberal allies: after all, instructing your citizens to be home by a certain time and tracking their medical information is hardly consistent with France’s liberal traditions. It wasn’t long ago that the French president was extolling the values of democracy. Speaking to the US Congress…
The move was seen as controversial by some of Macron’s liberal allies: after all, instructing your citizens to be home by a certain time and tracking their medical information is hardly consistent with France’s liberal traditions.
Macron’s loosening relationship with democracy doesn’t stop at tracking who’s been injected and forcing people indoors. Throughout the pandemic, the president has reduced the role that his parliament plays in scrutinizing his policy announcements.
“Parliament’s role in France is more limited under the new state of health emergency than before,” said Joelle Grogan, senior lecturer in UK public and EU law at the University of Middlesex. “There is no obligation for governments and administrations to send copies of orders they adopt to parliament.”
France is not the only EU nation that has backslid on democracy.
In Austria, Slovenia, Belgium and Lithuania to name a few, there is serious concern that governments have misused existing laws to restrict the liberty of citizens. In fact, DRI listed only Spain out of the 27 EU member states as a country of “no concern” when it came to parliamentary or legal oversight of Covid measures.
The most egregious example probably comes from Hungary, where the government passed legislation that allowed it to rule by decree with no judicial review.
Courts in Cyprus and the Czech Republic claimed to have no jurisdiction over coronavirus measures. This significantly reduced moves to safeguard any attempted government overreach.
A central concern of DRI’s report is that few European countries have a clear “exit plan” for ending states of emergency and returning to normal ways of governance.
This is a real concern in the case of France. Phillippe Marlière, professor of French and European politics at University College London, notes that in recent years, France has introduced numerous states of emergency in response to terror attacks. Many of the measures introduced at these times concerning personal liberty have remained in place.
“I would bet that a lot of the illiberal measures that have come in under Covid, like the health pass and threats of curfews will remain in place or be seen again,” he said. “Politicians are very good at taking authority but less good at handing it back.”
There is particular concern among some that Macron, who is facing election next year, might see keeping a tight grip on power as advantageous.
“The French president has more power on paper than the American [resident. He can control the police, the army, all domestic policy, all foreign policy. He even appoints his own prime minister,” said Marlière. “This, combined with someone seeking re-election who is already shifting to the right on issues like Islam with no real oversight is very concerning.”
More worryingly, the DRI report also states that only five EU member states — the Czech Republic, France, Lithuania, the Netherlands and Portugal — have adequate exit strategies for a return to normal.
“It’s far easier to govern by decree than to govern within limits, so it’s obvious why leaders would want to hang onto powers,” said Grogan, who also noted that undermining the rule of law has been a problem within the EU for some time.
In recent years, Hungary and Poland had both abused the rule of law to such an extent that article 7 of the EU’s treaty, which, if approved by all member states, would restrict both nations’ voting rights with the EU and restrict access to EU money, has been triggered against both.
The problem is that both Hungary and Poland are able to veto actions against the other, rendering the EU somewhat toothless. “What happens next is the big problem. We can talk about legal mechanisms and the laws. But ultimately we need political consensus,” Grogan adds.
Last summer, Brussels tried to force Hungary and Poland to fall in line though a mechanism in the EU’s long-term budget, but ultimately choked at the last minute and agreed a fudge in order to get the bloc’s Covid recovery funds approved.
That was two member states. What happens when it’s many more is a real unknown for the EU.
“Fundamentally, the EU is a legal structure. It exists to obligate mutual rights between states and citizens,” said Grogan. “But it would be remiss to ignore the complexity beyond that. As Brexit proved it is a group of states deciding to be part of the club. Brexit showed us you can leave, but the problem is if someone doesn’t accept the values and doesn’t want to leave, it is legally impossible to remove a state.”
Where this ends is anyone’s guess. The EU is unlikely to fall apart, as many have predicted, but it is possible that Euroskeptics across the bloc can force changes that undermine the whole thing. And if you were looking for a way to destabilize the EU, making a mockery of the rule of law would be a good place to start.
“We’re seeing, as usual with emergencies, a shift of power towards the executive with oversight from parliaments, judiciary and other bodies getting weaker,” said Jakub Jaraczewski, research coordinator at DRI.
“The EU could work towards better legal oversight — be it through the Commission, the Fundamental Rights Agency or even through the Court of Justice. But that would require political will from the leadership in member states for the central EU to take control of policy areas they prefer to keep close to their chests.”
It’s sometimes said that EU law is a complicated mess of narrow political interests dressed in a legal cloak. Those narrow political interests have had a greater impact on the bloc’s direction of travel than the ideals that supposedly unite 27 vastly different nations.
For the best part of a decade, member states bickering over precisely what Europe should be and how it should respond to crises has been the hardest thing for the EU to navigate. The disregard for law, however, is a more fundamental headache than disagreements on migration or how money should be spent.
When politics returns to something resembling normal, Brussels might find itself with more than just Poland and Hungary on the naughty step. And if these recent delinquents decide that their newfound powers matter more to them than keeping their EU neighbors happy, there is very little that EU grandees can do to stop the fallout destabilizing the whole bloc.
Thousands evacuated as powerful Cyclone Tauktae threatens Indian region grappling with Covid
Tropical Cyclone Tauktae, which formed in the Arabian Sea, is moving northward along India’s western coast, bringing damaging winds, heavy rain and the threat of storm surges to the state of Gujarat. The storm is packing maximum sustained winds of 205 kilometers per hour (127 mph), according to the Joint Typhoon Warning Center. That’s equivalent…
The storm is packing maximum sustained winds of 205 kilometers per hour (127 mph), according to the Joint Typhoon Warning Center. That’s equivalent to a strong Category 3 Atlantic hurricane and just shy of Category 4 strength, which begins at 209 kph (130 mph).
Tauktae has killed at least six people in southern Goa and Karnataka states.
At least two people died Sunday as a result of the storm, which caused heavy rainfall in Goa, the state’s chief minister Pramod Sawant said at a news conference.
“One boy died due to a tree falling on his head and the second death, two people were on a motorcycle when an electric pole fell on them and one died on the way to the hospital,” Sawant said.
In Karnataka, four people died, 216 houses were damaged and 253 people sought shelter in relief camps due to the cyclone as of Sunday evening, according to data from the Karnataka State Disaster Management Authority.
A rescue operation was conducted in Karnataka Monday, after two tug boats capsized Saturday with 10 people aboard. One body was recovered Saturday and the coast guard and navy rescued five people. The remaining four were stranded overnight but were airlifted by a navy helicopter, according to the coast guard on Monday.
Rescue and repair efforts are also underway in Kerala state, where several districts are on red alert for extremely heavy rainfall following strong winds and rain that damaged houses, downed trees, cut power lines and brought flooding as the cyclone moved northwest up the coast.
Rains over 200 millimeters (8 inches) have fallen in parts of India’s west coast and an additional 200 millimeters is possible in and around the Gujarat peninsula, according to CNN Weather. The threat to lives and property is likely to increase with storm surges expected between 1.5 and 3 meters (5 to 10 feet) in and around the landfall.
“If you head down to southern India, the town of Koch in Kerala — already over 500 millimeters of rainfall,” Sater added. “So communities have (already) been dealing with massive flooding, evacuations, downed trees, power outages. It’s a massive undertaking.”
India’s National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) said it has deployed more than 100 teams across six coastal states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, Kerala, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu to help with evacuations and relief and rescue measures. Some 22 teams have been readied for back up, according to Satya Pradhan, director general of the NDRF.
“The main impact state will be Gujarat, and that’s where we expect maximum impact,” Pradhan said, adding that more than 50 teams had been deployed to that region alone.
In addition, the Indian Coast Guard and Navy have also deployed ships and helicopters for search and rescue operations.
Covid vaccines suspended, patients evacuated
The cyclone comes as India battles a devastating second wave of Covid-19, with millions infected across the country in the past month and hospitals running out of oxygen and medicine. Thousands are dying every day.
Vaccinations have been suspended across Gujarat for Monday and Tuesday, and the state’s chief minister, Vijay Rupani, has asked officials to ensure electricity supplies to Covid-19 hospitals and other medical facilities are not disrupted and the supply of oxygen is maintained, the state government said, according to Reuters.
“The state government is completely ready to deal with the Tauktae cyclone,” Rupani said Monday. “People in 655 villages have been identified across 17 districts for evacuation. More than 100,000 people have been evacuated.”
Rupani urged Gujarat residents to “remain indoors considering the possibility of heavy rains along with cyclone in the state.”
In Mumbai, 580 Covid patients from “jumbo centers” — the city’s makeshift coronavirus care centers — were shifted to various hospitals ahead of the storm on Friday and Saturday, a statement from the city’s municipal corporation said.
The state government said it has also “taken adequate precautions to ensure continuous electricity and oxygen supply to hospitals.”
On Saturday, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi directed senior officials to “ensure special preparedness on Covid management in hospitals, vaccine cold chain and other medical facilities on power back up and storage of essential medicines and to plan for unhindered movement of oxygen tankers,” according to a statement.
After making landfall, the cyclone is expected to lose some of its wind strength, CNN meteorologist Sater said. But heavy rainfall is still expected to continue to move into the high terrain of northern India.
CNN’s Gene Norman, Swati Gupta, Akanksha Sharma, Manveena Suri and Derek Van Dam contributed reporting.
‘Money, Explained’ and more of what you need this weekend
All right, yes, I also like having it.’Money, Explained’Get-rich-quick schemes. Swindlers. Chasing the American dream. Money — and how we need it, don’t have it and maybe could get it — is never far from the mind.Netflix made note of that and has blessed us with this new docuseries.”We spend it, borrow it and save…
All right, yes, I also like having it.
Netflix made note of that and has blessed us with this new docuseries.
Mo’ money, mo’ problems? I am personally willing to risk it.
The series currently is streaming.
‘The Underground Railroad’
Academy Award-winner Barry Jenkins has adapted a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Colson Whitehead into a new limited series.
But there is a twist.
The series starts streaming Friday on Amazon Prime.
He was one of the first international superstars of fashion and now, more than 30 years after his death, he’s getting the biopic treatment.
The limited series starts streaming on Netflix Friday.
Two things to listen to:
“Daddy’s Home” is the sixth and latest album from the artist known as St. Vincent.
It’s inspired by her father’s decade-long stint in prison for a white-collar financial crime.
The new album drops Friday.
If you ever have been to a J. Cole concert, you know that the rapper has a tendency to perform all the tracks from his current album.
As of Friday, he will have some new material.
The North Carolina native is releasing his latest studio project, “The Off-Season.”
Can’t wait for the next tour.
One thing to talk about:
The ripples of the #MeToo movement still are being felt.
Franco has denied claims that he was inappropriate and sexually exploitative with multiple women over the years.
But Rogen’s stance is a reminder that Hollywood takes claims seriously.
Something to sip on
Can we get to the next season of “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” already?!
Here’s the deal: Businessman Simon Guobadia and his wife, Falynn, were introduced on the Bravo reality series this season — with her being listed as Williams’ “friend” in their first scenes.
“What we have is what we wish every single one of you out there — happiness. So when I asked … she said yes,” Guobadia now has said of his relationship with Williams.
For the record, Williams said their relationship began a month ago.
Yes, you read that correctly.
It’s unclear as to whether the Guobadias are legally divorced yet, but either way it all adds up to some possible not-to-miss content for Season 14.
“Real Housewives” maestro Andy Cohen is somewhere smiling so hard right now.