It’s Friday, so that means it's panel time.
US President Donald Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky reportedly included a “promise” that was regarded as so troubling that it prompted an official in the US intelligence community to file a formal whistleblower complaint with Inspector General for the intelligence Community Michael Atkinson. The IG investigated the complaint, determined that it meets the definition of an "urgent concern," which could include a violation of the law or an executive order, and found the complaint "credible." Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire went before the House Intelligence Committee Thursday morning to discuss his role in holding back the whistleblower report from Congress. Is this really as serious of a problem as the mainstream media outlets are making it out to be?
"In the days following the phone call, I learned from multiple US officials that senior White House officials had intervened to 'lockdown' all records of the phone call, especially the official word-for-word transcript of the call that was produced — as is customary — by the White House Situation Room. This set of actions underscored to me that White House officials understood the gravity of what had transpired in the call," reads the whistleblower's complaint, which was released Thursday. The complaint adds that "the transcript was loaded into a separate electronic system that is otherwise used to store and handle classified information of an, especially sensitive nature. One White House official described this act as an abuse of this electronic system because the call did not contain anything remotely sensitive from a national security perspective."
A Thursday New York Times article on the whistleblower at the center of the impeachment inquiry into Trump has caused many to be concerned for the person's safety. In the article, the Times calls the whistleblower a CIA officer who worked at the White House and has experience with Ukraine. Dean Baquet, the Times’ executive editor, responded to the concerns in a discussion with the paper's Reader Center, saying: "The president and some of his supporters have attacked the credibility of the whistleblower, who has presented information that has touched off a landmark impeachment proceeding. The president himself has called the whistleblower’s account a 'political hack job.'"
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been given the first chance to try to form a new government after negotiations with his main rival, Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, failed to produce a governing coalition. Someone said last week that a cat has nine lives, and Netanyahu has used 13. "The decision to give the mandate [to Netanyahu] was based on the question of who has the better chance of forming a government," Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said Wednesday. "Right now, Benjamin Netanyahu's chance of forming a government is higher." The prime minister, who heads the Likud party, currently has a coalition of 55 seats in the Knesset, owing to his alliances with right-wing Orthodox and Zionist parties. However, after the previous election in April, Netanyahu mustered 60 seats, falling just short of the 61 needed to form a government. He has four weeks to reach the threshold, and the possibility of two more weeks if needed. He may need every second of that time.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson was forced to cut short his visit to the UN General Assembly in New York on Tuesday and return to face the ire of British legislators, after the UK Supreme Court voted unanimously to block his attempt to abrogate Parliament until October 14. Supreme Court President Lady Brenda Hale called Johnson's advice to the queen to suspend Parliament "unlawful, void and of no effect."
The Trump administration announced Wednesday that the US had reached a migration deal with Honduras which would allow US immigration officials to send asylum seekers to Honduras if they passed through the Central American country on their way to the US but did not apply for asylum there. Honduras is currently one of the most violent and poverty-stricken nations in the world. "Department of Homeland Security officials reached the accord with the government of President Juan Orlando Hernández, who is embroiled in allegations of government corruption and charges that he and others have been operating the nation as a criminal enterprise — Hernández has been named as a co-conspirator in a major US drug trafficking case," the Washington Post reported Wednesday.
David Schultz — Professor of political science at Hamline University and author of "Presidential Swing States: Why Only Ten Matter."
Jim Kavanagh — Political analyst and commentator and editor of The Polemicist.
Daniel Lazare — Journalist and author of three books: "The Frozen Republic," "The Velvet Coup" and "America's Undeclared War."
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