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Effort to freeze Ukraine aid began about 90 minutes after call between Trump and Zelensky – CNN

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“Based on guidance I have received and in light of the Administration’s plan to review assistance to Ukraine, including the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, please hold off on any additional DoD obligations of these funds, pending direction from that process,” Mike Duffey, the White House official in the Office of Management and Budget responsible for overseeing national security money and a Trump political appointee, wrote to select OMB and Pentagon officials on July 25.
Duffey’s email suggests that he knew the hold could raise concerns.
Trump's 2020 case got a boost this week, except for that one big thing that happened
“Given the sensitive nature of the request, I appreciate your keeping that information closely held to those who need to know to execute direction,” Duffey said.
While a formal notification would be sent later that day, this was the first clear sign that the aid was being held — a short time after the phone call in which Trump pressed Zelensky for investigations that could boost Trump politically.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer renewed his call for Duffey to be a witness at the Senate impeachment trial, saying that email showcases the information he may be able to offer.
“This email from Michael Duffey — approximately 90 minutes after President Trump’s call with the president of Ukraine — is all the more reason why we need Duffey and others to testify in a Senate trial,” the New York Democrat tweeted Saturday. The budget office dismissed linking the hold of the aid to the call, noting it was announced at a mid-July interagency meeting.
“It’s reckless to tie the hold of funds to the phone call. As has been established and publicly reported, the hold was announced in an interagency meeting on July 18. To pull a line out of one email and fail to address the context is misleading and inaccurate,” Rachel Semmel, a spokeswoman for the OMB, said in a statement to CNN.
While an OMB official notified other agencies of the freeze on July 18, it is notable that the first official action to withhold Pentagon aid came the same day as Trump’s call with Zelensky.
The call between Trump and Zelensky went from 9:03 am to 9:33 am and then the email from OMB’s Duffey is time stamped at 11:04 am. That same email also appears elsewhere in the same batch released Friday with a 3:03 pm time stamp.
A judge ordered the Office of Management and Budget and the Pentagon to hand the documents over to the Center for Public Integrity Friday in response to a FOIA request. The Center for Public Integrity published the documents late Friday night.
While much of the release was redacted, the documents shed some light on the conversations between two government organizations who were carrying out the President’s orders even amid concerns by some that they could run afoul of the law.
One of the earliest signs of President Trump’s concerns about the funds stems from a June 19 article in the Washington Examiner discussing the congressionally approved military aid for Ukraine totaling $250 million.
The President apparently took note of the article and Duffey asked the Pentagon’s chief financial officer about the plan to support Ukraine the same day the article was published.
“The President has asked about this funding release, and I have been tasked to follow-up with someone over there to get more detail.”
Trump would go on to freeze the funds and, as the freeze dragged on, officials began raising concerns about the possibility of getting the money to Ukraine in time — even if the hold was lifted.
On September 5, Department of Defense Comptroller Elaine McCusker mentioned the “increasing risk of execution,” a nod to concerns at the Pentagon that continuing hold could prevent all the money from being spent.
Finally, on the evening of September 11, Duffey alerted McCusker that he is releasing the money for Ukraine.
“Copy. What happened?” McCusker asks.
The first line of Duffey’s response is redacted. He goes on to say he hopes to sign the apportionment to release the money that evening and signs off, “Glad to have this behind us.”
Also on Friday night, the government transparency group American Oversight received five pages of heavily redacted emails about the Ukraine aid, including some sent by Department of Defense Secretary Mark Esper.
The document releases Friday come in response to FOIA lawsuits, which members of the public and third-party groups often use to gain access to documents the executive branch has not released otherwise.
Though these releases have been heavily redacted, they begin to shade in more detail about officials’ exchanges regarding the Ukraine aid pause, which House Democrats pursued as they investigated and impeached the President but could not access because of the White House’s refusal to comply with congressional subpoenas.
More public document releases are scheduled in January to groups that have sued.
UPDATE: This story has been updated with additional details and reaction from the document release.

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Crosbie vows to clean up ‘Liberal corruption’ in Newfoundland and Labrador politics – TheChronicleHerald.ca

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While campaigning in Marystown on Thursday, Progressive Conservative Leader Ches Crosbie berated the Liberals over their governance of the province, saying he would put an end to “Liberal corruption.”

Though technical issues interrupted the livestream of Crosbie’s speech, a transcript was sent to reporters, and Crosbie took questions by phone.

Crosbie again said the most critical issue in the province is jobs, “but Liberal corruption, scandal and cronyism are barriers to job growth.”

Crosbie says after filing a freedom-of-information request for the draft of a report commissioned by the Liberal government and done by consulting firm Goss Gilroy, a discrepancy between the final report and the draft was discovered.

The $22,000 report asked people who had left the province why they left and what it would take for them to return.

“They tried to bury the finding that … a leading reason for not working in Newfoundland and Labrador is the perception that it was who you know that would get you a job,” Crosbie said.

Crosbie said the PCs would hire people based on merit, and the government has a role in setting an example for everyone, including the private sector.

When asked why Newfoundland and Labrador voters should trust this wouldn’t happen if he is elected, Crosbie said voters can look to his decades-long career as a lawyer.

“My practice has consistently been all about holding corporations and governments to account,” he said.

Crosbie said, “(Industry, Energy and Technology Minister Andrew) Parsons is still in cabinet … despite being investigated by police. This is banana republic stuff. You can quote me on that.”

RNC officer Joe Smyth alleges political interference by Parsons, who was formally the justice minister, regarding a previous charge of obstruction of justice against Smyth that was dropped. The allegations are currently being investigated by the Nova Scotia RCMP.


Industry, Energy and Technology Minister Andrew Parsons. - Telegram File Photo
Industry, Energy and Technology Minister Andrew Parsons. – Telegram File Photo

Parsons responded to Crosbie’s corruption comments on behalf of the Liberals Thursday.

“Well, It’s the same old song and dance from Ches and the same Conservative line. Normally, I don’t care too much about what he says, but I do get frustrated when he impugns my character wrongly and he knows this,” Parsons said in a phone interview from his district on the west coast.

“If he wants to talk about ethics, I don’t need a lecture from him. Let’s me and him have a little contest and go back and talk about personal ethics. … If he wants to talk about the PCs, the biggest corruption job on the people of this province ever committed was the billion-dollar

Muskrat debacle that was committed on the backs of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians that he supports.”

Parsons said the PCs have former cabinet minister Nick McGrath running in Labrador, despite the Humber Valley Paving controversy.

And he slammed Crosbie for slinging mud when politicians should be moving away from personal attacks to policy discussions.

“Ches talks a big game and it’s too bad — he’s not putting forward any semblance of a plan why people should trust him,” Parsons said.

“His goal is to smear everybody and hope it makes him looks good in comparison.”

Meanwhile, Crosbie said people have the right to know who’s donating money to political parties and how much.

“Right now, we have a system where there’s no limit on donations and there’s nothing to prevent corporations, or unions for that matter, making donations,” he said. “There’s no better disinfectant than sunlight.”

He says they will look into the code of conduct for MHAs and introduce recall legislation so, “voters have recourse when their elected representatives are not doing their jobs.”

On Wednesday, Crosbie called for the immediate release of the interim report of the Dame Moya Greene-led Economic Recovery Team.

Premier Andrew Furey said there is no report, but a group of individuals tasked with coming up with ideas.

Crosbie said he laughed when he heard Furey’s comments.

“Either it’s not a report yet, because it hasn’t been written yet, or he’s appointed a bunch of people to sit around and shoot the breeze and have good ideas and none of us are ever going to know what those ideas are because they’re not going to be written down,” Crosbie said. “That last explanation would be absurd.”

At a media event Thursday morning, Furey said he doesn’t want to rush Greene and her team, as that’s how the government has made mistakes and economic flops in the past. An interim report is due later in February, and a final report at the end of April.

“I’m trying to shift decision-making more to a more rational, logical approach, and this is one I think will work,” Furey said.

“I think this is a solid decision-making process. We’re going to gather evidence, and broadly consult with all stakeholders. Every person in Newfoundland and Labrador will have an opportunity to have a say should they choose. Then we are going to table that to the House of Assembly as a very open and transparent process.”

Fixing the province’s financial troubles will require short-, medium- and long-term solutions and lots of collaboration, Furey said.

“There is no simple solution to this. There’s not going to be like an incredibly blunt and frightful budget that shocks everybody into their basements,” he said.

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Should Politics Play A Role In Our Investments? – Forbes

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With yesterday’s inauguration of Joe Biden, it seems the perfect time to consider the role that politics may play in our investments. Over the past weeks and months, politics has been a hot topic. Undoubtedly, we can expect the economy to change and the markets to react as policies and priorities shift. Many are worried about the outcome of the election—and many others are excited. So, with all of the different emotions at play, how do we think about politics as we make our investment decisions?

The Choice Facing Financial Advisors

As Commonwealth’s chief investment officer, I serve a wide range of advisors and clients. They all have political opinions, and I may fundamentally disagree with many of them (half?) on very important issues. How can I handle this disconnect?

As I see it, I have a choice. I can take public positions that might feel good but will both alienate and ill serve a substantial portion of my community, while convincing no one. Or, I can focus on communicating what I both know about and have been tasked to do, in order to help people, as investors, navigate the current turmoil.

All financial advisors face the same decision. For all of us, no matter what our opinions, stating them can make us less effective for a substantial portion of our clients. And we can’t sidestep the issue by saying we have no opinions, because of course we do. What to do?

The way I have tried to deal with it is by explicitly separating the two roles I have: as a citizen (where I have very strong opinions) and as an economist and investment advisor (where all that matters is the data). By decoupling the two, I acknowledge I have my own opinions, but I try to make them less relevant to the discussions we are having.

I might say something like this. “As a citizen, I certainly have my own opinions, which may (or may not) be the same as yours. As your advisor, however, they don’t matter. My job here is to help you navigate the uncertainty around these events in your investments, not in the rest of your life. Because of that, we can look at the economic and market facts, which is what I am here to do, and make a decision that is best for you. My only concern, sitting in this chair, is your financial future.” I have used something like this with multiple client groups, on both sides, and it has been effective.

A Focus on Long-Term Outcomes

Another way to approach this is to demonstrate how it works in practice. In the last two elections, for example, I had people—on different sides—who wanted to sell out when Obama was elected and when Trump was elected. In both cases, it would have been a mistake. This example is a good follow-up, as you can directly look at emotional decisions, tie them back to the factual results, and make the point that as an investor, data is what is needed most. And that is the job of an advisor. However good or bad things are now, investors need to be focused on the long-term outcomes, not the short-term headlines. Taking the politics out can and does yield better long-term results.

Bumps in the Middle of the Road

This approach doesn’t always work, of course. I typically get feedback, some of it ferocious, whenever I write a piece that touches on politics, with my recent blog post on Washington turning a light shade of blue a good example. Several people felt very strongly, based on that post, that I must be a hard-core Republican. Others thought that the piece showed a clear Democratic basis and needed to be rewritten.

What I tried to do, though, was write something straight down the middle, presenting the facts and reasonable conclusions in a nonpartisan way. With this one, more than some of the others, I clearly failed in the eyes of some readers. That is inevitable, and the feedback helps me get better, so I appreciate it. I will try to do better. But I also draw comfort from the fact that I got fire from both sides. The middle of the road can be an uncomfortable place as well.

Recognize the Disconnect

What if you are not an advisor but just concerned about your own investments? The advice is the same. Look at the data. Don’t make emotional decisions. Realize the U.S. economy and markets are largely disconnected from politics. And keep an eye on the long term. No matter how you feel about either administration, investing is a game of decades during which we will have a wide range of politics.

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Nova Scotia finance minister says she will leave politics when next election called – Toronto Star

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HALIFAX – A key member of outgoing Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil’s cabinet says she too will leave politics once the next provincial election is called.

Finance Minister Karen Casey, who is also deputy premier, made the announcement following a cabinet meeting Thursday, saying that after 15 years representing the riding of Colchester North, she is ready to retire and wants to spend more time with her four grandchildren.

Casey said while she had been pondering her future for some time, she only made a final decision over the last week.

“Fifteen years, I think, is a good amount of public service to give to my constituents,” Casey told reporters. “I’m happy with the work that we (government) have achieved, and it’s time to let somebody else represent Colchester North.”

Casey, a former teacher, also served in the education and health portfolios and was named deputy premier in 2017.

Over her time in the education portfolio, she was instrumental in the Liberal government’s move to rein in contract demands by the province’s teachers — a battle that ultimately saw the imposition of a contract that ended a two-month work-to-rule campaign by public school teachers in February 2017.

As finance minister, Casey also played a part in helping the government table five consecutive balanced budgets.

“I learned a lot personally in the finance portfolio, but there were challenges there, and I quite like a challenge,” she said.

McNeil, who is leaving politics next month, said he counts Casey as a personal friend and believes she played an “integral role” in helping return the province to fiscal health.

“We have really run a duo operation here in lots of ways,” McNeil said. “She is one person that I have always sought counsel of in my most difficult days.”

Casey was a former interim leader of the Progressive Conservatives and defected to the Liberals in January, 2011 at McNeil’s invitation.

“That allowed me to join a caucus and a leader … whose values I thought I shared,” said Casey. “What motivated me? It would be knowing that my ideas and those of my constituents and me as a person would be respected.”

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Casey confirmed she would stay on until the next election, which must be called by the spring of 2022.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2021.

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