Former White House aide: John Bolton called Giuliani a ‘hand grenade’

Giuliani, who is Trump’s personal lawyer, was heavily involved in the effort to pressure Ukraine on the investigations. (AFP)
Updated 15 October 2019

Former White House aide: John Bolton called Giuliani a ‘hand grenade’

  • Bolton also told her he was not part of “whatever drug deal Sondland and Mulvaney are cooking up,” an apparent reference to talks over Ukraine

WASHINGTON: National security adviser John Bolton was so alarmed by Rudy Giuliani’s back-channel activities in Ukraine that he described President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer as a “hand grenade who is going to blow everybody up,” according to a former White House aide.
The testimony from Fiona Hill in the impeachment inquiry is among what could eventually become dozens of closed-door depositions as House Democrats work methodically to pin down the details in Trump’s pressure campaign on Ukraine.
Investigators heard Tuesday from Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent, who was among those officials concerned about the “fake news smear” against the US ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, whom Trump recalled in May, according to emails obtained by The Associated Press.
Hill testified for more than 10 hours on Monday as part of the Democrats’ impeachment probe into Trump’s dealings with Ukraine.
The former White House aide detailed Bolton’s concerns to lawmakers and told them that she had at least two meetings with National Security Council lawyer John Eisenberg about the matter at Bolton’s request, according to a person familiar with the testimony who requested anonymity to discuss the confidential interview.
Those meetings took place in early July, weeks before a July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, in which Trump urged that Zelenskiy investigate political rival Joe Biden’s family and Ukraine’s own involvement in the 2016 presidential election.
A whistleblower complaint about that call, later made public, prompted House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to launch the impeachment inquiry.
Giuliani, who is Trump’s personal lawyer, was heavily involved in the effort to pressure Ukraine on the investigations.
He said Tuesday he was “very disappointed” in Bolton’s comment. Bolton, Giuliani said, “has been called much worse.”
Giuliani also acknowledged he had received payments totaling $500,000 related to the work for a company operated by Lev Parnas who, along with associate Igor Fruman, played a key role in Giuliani’s efforts to launch a Ukrainian corruption investigation against Biden and his son, Hunter. The two men were arrested last week on campaign finance charges as they tried to board an international flight.
Hill’s interview, like the others conducted by House impeachment investigators, took place behind closed doors.
Hill also told the investigators that she had strongly and repeatedly objected to Yovanovitch’s ouster, according to the person familiar with the testimony. Yovanovitch testified to the impeachment investigators Friday that Trump pressured the State Department to fire her.

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Hill, a top adviser on Russia, also discussed US ambassador Gordon Sondland and acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, the person said, telling the three committees leading the investigation that Bolton also told her he was not part of “whatever drug deal Sondland and Mulvaney are cooking up,” an apparent reference to talks over Ukraine.
She quoted Bolton, whom Trump forced out last month, as saying in one conversation that Giuliani was “a hand grenade who’s going to blow everybody up.”
Five more officials are scheduled this week, mostly from the State Department, though it is unclear if they will all appear after Trump declared he wouldn’t cooperate with the probe. Sondland is expected to appear for a deposition under subpoena Thursday and will certainly be asked about those talks.
Sondland, who is the US ambassador to the European Union, is expected to tell Congress that a text message released earlier this month reassuring another envoy that there was no quid pro quo in their interactions with Ukraine was based solely on what Trump told him, according to a person familiar with his coming testimony.
The cache of text messages was provided by one of the inquiry’s first witnesses, former Ukrainian envoy Kurt Volker, and detailed attempts by the diplomats to serve as intermediaries around the time Trump urged Zelenskiy to start the investigations into a company linked to Biden’s son.
In the emails from March, Kent shares with other State Department officials a “daily update of the fake news driven smear out of Ukraine.” The emails include news reports and other commentary, some from US journalists, that “goes after Masha,” as Yovanovitch was known.
Five more officials are scheduled this week, mostly from the State Department, though it is unclear if they will all appear after Trump declared he wouldn’t cooperate with the probe.
Michael McKinley, a former top aide to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who resigned last week, is scheduled to testify Wednesday. McKinley, a career foreign service officer and Pompeo’s de facto chief of staff, resigned Friday, ending a 37-year career.
While interviews have focused on the interactions with Ukraine, the probe could broaden as soon as next week to include interviews with White House budget officials who may be able to shed light on whether military aid was withheld from Ukraine as Trump and Giuliani pushed for the investigations.
The three committees leading the probe are seeking interviews next week with Russell Vought, acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, and Michael Duffey, another OMB official who leads national security programs, according to a person familiar with those requests. That person wasn’t authorized to discuss the invitations and requested anonymity.
Once Democrats have completed the probe and followed any other threads it produces, they will use their findings to help determine whether to vote on articles of impeachment.
Because of the Trump administration’s edict, the Democrats have been subpoenaing witnesses as they arrived for their interviews — a move sometimes known as a “friendly” subpoena that could give the witnesses additional legal protection as they testify. Both Yovanovitch and Hill received subpoenas the mornings of their testimony, and Kent was subpoenaed for Tuesday’s interview, officials said.
One witness who may not be called before Congress is the still-anonymous government whistleblower who touched off the impeachment inquiry.
Republicans complained Tuesday that the whistleblower’s identity should be made available.
“The question I keep coming back to is why don’t we know who this individual is?” Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio said Tuesday. “I mean they’re basing an impeachment process, trying to remove the president of the United States based on some anonymous whistleblower again with no firsthand knowledge.”
Top Democrats say testimony and evidence coming in from other witnesses, and even the Republican president himself, are backing up the whistleblower’s account of Trump’s July 25 phone with Zelenskiy.


Court says EU states must label Israeli settlement products

Updated 12 November 2019

Court says EU states must label Israeli settlement products

  • Consumers will be able to make choices based on ethical considerations and those relating to the observance of international law
  • The ECJ ruling effectively backs the EU guidelines issued in 2015 on labelling goods from Israeli-occupied areas

BRUSSELS: The European Union’s top court ruled Tuesday that EU countries must identify products made in Israeli settlements on their labels, in a decision that was welcomed by rights groups but sparked anger in Israel.
The European Court of Justice (ECJ) said that when products come from an Israeli settlement, their labels must provide an “indication of that provenance” so that consumers can make “informed choices” when they shop.
The EU rejects Israeli settlement expansion, saying it undermines the hopes for a two-state solution by gobbling up lands claimed by the Palestinians. Israel says the labeling is unfair and discriminatory and says other countries involved in disputes over land are not similarly sanctioned.
The volume of settlement goods coming into Europe, including olive oil, fruit and wine but also industrial products, is relatively small compared to the political significance of the court ruling. It is estimated to affect about 1% of imports from Israel, which amount to about 15 billion euros ($16.5 billion) a year.
The EU wants any produce made in the settlements to be easily identifiable to shoppers and insists that it must not carry the generic “Made in Israel” tag.
Israel captured the West Bank and east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war and began settling both areas shortly afterward. The Palestinians claim both areas as parts of a future state, a position that has global support.
The international community opposes settlement construction and they are consider illegal under international law. Their continued growth is seen to undermine the establishment of an independent Palestine alongside Israel. Today, nearly 700,000 Israelis live in the two areas, almost 10% of the country’s Jewish population.
The ECJ underlined that settlements “give concrete expression to a policy of population transfer conducted by that State outside its territory, in violation of the rules of general international humanitarian law.”
It said any failure to identify the point of origin of produce meant that “consumers have no way of knowing, in the absence of any information capable of enlightening them in that respect, that a foodstuff comes from a locality or a set of localities constituting a settlement established in one of those territories in breach of the rules of international humanitarian law.”
It’s not entirely clear, however, how the ruling will be enforced because the real origin of the produce is not always easy to identify, experts say.
The European Commission said it’s up to individual EU countries to ensure that labels are correct, but that the origin of settlement produce must be made known in a way that is “not misleading to the consumer.”

An Israeli settler prepares olive oil containers at the Achia Olive press factory in the Jewish settlement of Shilo in the occupied West Bank. (File AFP)

Human Rights Watch welcomed the ruling. The rights watchdog’s EU Director, Lotte Leicht, said it’s “an important step toward EU member states upholding their duty not to participate in the fiction that illegal settlements are part of Israel.”
Oxfam’s director in the Palestinian territories, Shane Stevenson, said settlements “are violating the rights and freedoms of Palestinians” and that “consumers have a right to know the origin of the products they purchase, and the impact these purchases have on people’s lives.”
Israel’s Foreign Ministry rejected the ruling, saying it set a “double standard” that unfairly singles out Israel when there are dozens of territorial disputes worldwide.
“The European Court of Justice’s ruling is unacceptable both morally and in principle,” said Foreign Minister Israel Katz. “I intend to work with European foreign ministers to prevent the implementation of this gravely flawed policy.”
The head of the local settler council, Israel Ganz, said the ruling is part of “a double standard that discriminates against Jews living and working in their homeland of thousands of years. This decision will directly hurt the Arab population working at these factories, and manufacturing these products.”
Ganz said he did not expect sales to be hurt as settlement products are of “high standards.”
Hanan Ashrawi, a senior Palestinian official, welcomed the ruling as a “first step” and encouraged Europe to ban settlement products altogether. “If they do not allow these illegal products to enter European soil, then that would really serve the cause of justice,” she said.
The case came to court after an Israeli winery based in a settlement near Jerusalem contested France’s application of a previous ECJ court ruling on the labeling. That ruling had backed the use of origin-identifying tags but did not make them legally binding.
The winery’s director, Yaakov Berg, said “the Winery is proud of its contribution to combating this decision and intends to continue the struggle. We are happy to see the support of all the relevant people in Israel and the United States.”
EU Commission Spokeswoman Mina Andreeva noted that Israel has a special trading relationship with the EU, with products originating in its internationally recognized borders benefiting from preferential tariff treatment.
“This situation will remain unchanged,” she said. “The EU does not support any form of boycott or sanctions against Israel.”
How to do business in or with the Israeli settlements has been a tricky issue for companies before. Airbnb stopped listings there last year, before reversing its decision .