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Associated Press

Ukrainian president felt pressure from Trump on political investigations of Biden long before July call

U.S. State Department officials were informed that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy was feeling pressure from the Trump administration to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden even before the July phone call that has led to impeachment hearings in Washington, two people with knowledge of the matter told The Associated Press.

In early May, officials at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, including then-Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, were told Zelenskiy was seeking advice on how to navigate the difficult position he was in, the two people told the AP. He was concerned President Donald Trump and associates were pressing him to take action that could affect the 2020 U.S. presidential race, the two individuals said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because of the diplomatic and political sensitivity of the issue.

State Department officials in Kyiv and Washington were briefed on Zelenskiy’s concerns at least three times, the two sources said. Notes summarizing his worries were circulated within the department, they said.

The briefings and the notes show that U.S. officials knew early that Zelenskiy was feeling pressure to investigate Biden, even though the Ukrainian leader later denied it in a joint news conference with Trump in September.

November 18, 2019
CBS News

Pay-for-play scheme between the RNC and Trump nominee for ambassador to the Bahamas; asked to give $500,000 while nomination hung in air

A CBS News investigation has uncovered a possible pay-for-play scheme involving the Republican National Committee and President Donald Trump’s nominee for ambassador to the Bahamas. Emails obtained by CBS News show the nominee, San Diego billionaire Doug Manchester, was asked by the RNC to donate half a million dollars as his confirmation in the Senate hung in the balance, chief investigative correspondent Jim Axelrod reports.

When Hurricane Dorian ravaged the Bahamas in September, Manchester wanted to help. So the San Diego real estate developer, who prefers the nickname “Papa Doug,” loaded up his private jet with supplies and headed for the hard-hit Caribbean country where he owned a home – and hoped to soon be serving as U.S. ambassador.

A Trump supporter, Manchester donated $1 million to Trump’s inauguration fund. He was offered the Bahamas post the day after Mr. Trump was sworn in. Manchester said Trump told him, “I should probably be the ambassador to the Bahamas and you should be president.”

Then, for two and a half years, Manchester’s nomination stalled in the Senate.

His Bahamas relief trip caught the attention of the President. Trump tweeted, “I would also like to thank ‘Papa’ Doug Manchester, hopefully the next Ambassador to the Bahamas, for the incredible amount of time, money and passion he has spent on helping to bring safety to the Bahamas.”

Three days after the tweet, RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel hit up Manchester for a donation. It was no small sum. In an email, obtained exclusively by CBS News, she asked Manchester, “Would you consider putting together $500,000 worth of contributions from your family to ensure we hit our ambitious fundraising goal?”

“Did you feel like they were putting the arm on you?” Axelrod asked.

“No, I didn’t. That’s part of politics. It’s unbelievable. You give and you give and you give and you give some more and more and more,” Manchester said.

“Does any part of you feel if you had just cut the check for $500,000 that you would be the ambassador to the Bahamas?” Axelrod asked.

“No, because first of all, you have to get out of committee and you have to be voted on the floor,” Manchester said. “It’s a big process.”

The Senate confirmation process is exactly what Manchester quickly addressed. He wrote back to McDaniel’s request for $500,000, “As you know I am not supposed to do any, but my wife is sending a contribution for $100,000. Assuming I get voted out of the [Foreign Relations Committee] on Wednesday to the floor we need you to have the majority leader bring it to a majority vote … Once confirmed, I our [sic] family will respond!”

“You know what this looks like,” Axelrod said.

“Well — it looks like it to you. But it’s not the facts,” Manchester said. “My wife gave out of separate funds and she in fact loves Donald Trump.” […]

Former Senator Bob Corker, who was the chair of the Senate’s foreign relations committee before he retired in January, held up Manchester’s nomination.

“We had concerns about judgment, about demeanor, about just the whole reason for taking the job,” Corker said.

He found McDaniel’s fundraising pitch problematic. “The timing of that request obviously was not appropriate,” he said.

Even worse, he said, was Manchester’s response. His big mistake was copying staffers of two senators who controlled his nomination, Kentucky’s Rand Paul and Idaho’s Jim Risch, alerting them to his willingness to donate more after confirmation.

“I can only tell you that if I received an email like that, there would have been a five-bell alarm that went off,” Corker said.

November 18, 2019
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"A nationwide review ... identified at least 36 criminal cases where Trump was invoked in direct connection with violent acts, threats of violence or allegations of assault."
ABC News, 08/14/19