2020 Daily Trail Markers: Indicted Giuliani associates gave to Sessions

Former Texas U.S. Representative Pete Sessions could potentially find himself in the middle of the indictment of two Soviet-born businessmen linked with helping Rudy Giuliani investigate Joe and Hunter Biden. The indictment refers to a “Congressman-1,” and while it does not name or charge the individual, it does lay out references to donations and activities that align with Sessions’ contact with the two indicted businessmen, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman.  

According to a now-deleted Facebook post by Parnas, then-Representative Sessions met with the two businessmen in May 2018. The indictment alleges the two were lobbying Sessions to call for the dismissal of the United States ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch. Sessions wrote a private letter asking for the removal of Yovanovitch to Secretary Mike Pompeo that same month and said in a statement today that he wrote the letter “after several congressional colleagues reported to me that the current U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine was disparaging President Trump to others as part of those official duties.”

In his statement, he said his May 2018 meeting was about the “need for Ukraine to become energy independent…There was no request in that meeting, and I took no action. Over time, I recall that there were a couple additional meetings. Again, at no time did I take any official action after these meetings.” 

CBS News Political Unit Broadcast Associate Aaron Navarro found FEC records showing $5,400 in donations from Parnas and Fruman for then Rep. Sessions’ re-election campaign in June of 2018, months after the meeting with Parnas and Fruman. “The defendants concealed the scheme from the candidates, campaigns and federal regulators. Therefore, if I am ‘Congressman One’, I could not have had any knowledge of the scheme described in the indictment or have involvement or coordination of it,” Sessions wrote.

Sessions launched an effort to reboot his Congressional career earlier this month for Texas’ 17th congressional district, a seat that became open after Congressman Bill Flores announced his retirement. Sessions previously served more than 20 years in Texas’ 32nd District in the Dallas area but was beaten by Democrat Colin Allred in 2018.  Sessions did not reply to CBS News request for comment.

FROM THE CANDIDATES

MICHAEL BENNET

Colorado Senator Michael Bennet unveiled his plan today to combat what he calls “America’s housing affordability crisis.” In a statement Bennet said, “A home is a platform for stability and upward mobility in America, but for too many families, owning a home is out of reach and the high cost of paying rent has pushed them to a breaking point.” 

CBS News Campaign Reporter Adam Brewster says Bennet’s plan proposes building, preserving or refurbishing nearly 4 million affordable housing units. Bennet says combining that with an effort to push communities to eliminate zoning laws that block affordable housing could eliminate the shortage of 7.2 million affordable homes. 

The plan would addresses rising transportation costs by investing in “major mass-transit projects,” such as commuter rail and rapid transit buses. The plan also aims to help middle class families by fully funding voucher programs, providing down payment assistance and making changes to the tax code “that currently provide a disproportionate benefit to high-income taxpayers.”

JOE BIDEN

While the main focus of Joe Biden’s two New Hampshire speeches yesterday was his embrace of an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, he also sniped at a feature of his Democratic primary race: plans. The former vice president said that while “plans are important” they’re “not enough.” Biden jabbed,”We’re not electing a planner!” 

The comment could potentially be seen as a swipe at Sen. Elizabeth Warren and her “I’ve got a plan for that” mantra. Even if Biden did not intend to invoke Warren, attendees in line at his Rochester, New Hampshire speech a few hours earlier were openly opining about their Senator-next-door. As Warren continues to rise in the polls, she keeps pitching overturning systems of government like they’re a cart full of rotten apples.

Biden continues to maintain his front-runner status while embracing his own plans—with some of his marquee ideas attracting fans simply because they are not as free-spending as Warren’s. But even as it seems Biden and Warren at times represent the tug-of-war between factions of the Democratic Party, their supporters in this week’s Morning Consult poll most frequently cited one another as their preferred second pick. Could their supporters have their pie and eat it, too?

Elaine and David Ahearn from Hampton Falls, New Hampshire, who said they hosted Delaware Senator Chris Coons and other Biden supporters at their home on Tuesday evening, certainly hope so. “I would love a Biden and Warren ticket,” Elaine told CBS News Campaign Reporter Bo Erickson when asked about the race. “Everywhere we go people are talking about those two together.” 

She added that many New Hampshire Democrats want to “see a woman on the ticket” too. “Could they compromise with each other and compromise with the country? I think they have the potential,” Karen Chandler said as she debated the potential ticket to herself. “I love it!” she declared.  

Former Rochester Mayor T.J. Jean, a Biden supporter, also endorsed the combo. “Now, are you going to ask me which one is on top?” Jean asked, pondering whether Biden would accept Warren’s #2 spot if the primaries go her way. “I wouldn’t blame him if he passed on it but regardless having him part of some administration in some form or fashion would only benefit the country.” 

Sitting in the last row for the Biden speech, Elizabeth Ejarque said, “I think Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren would be a great team. Wouldn’t it be wonderful?” But Ejarque also had another idea that excited her. “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Elizabeth Warren picked another woman?”

CORY BOOKER

New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, who played football at Stanford University, released a plan Thursday morning to reform college and professional athletics, according to CBS News Campaign Reporter Jack Turman. At the collegiate level, Booker’s plan would call for the creation of a commission that would address economic justice issues and the health and safety of student athletes. 

“For too long, we have allowed exploitative practices in professional and college sports to fester — somehow treating sports as different from our broader economy,” Booker said in a statement. “But sports at these levels is a multi-billion dollar business. Just as we shouldn’t accept collusion, wage theft, and a massive gender pay gap in any other industry, we shouldn’t accept them in sports.” 

Under his plan, student athletes would be able to unionize and profit from the use of their “name, image, and likeness (NIL) rights.” Booker also outlines ways to advance pay equity for female athletes and includes labor protections for NBA dancers and NFL cheerleaders.

PETE BUTTIGIEG

South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg released a plan Thursday aimed at protecting and advancing LGBTQ+ rights, according to CBS News Campaign Reporter Jack Turman. Buttigieg’s plan indicates that if elected president, he will sign the Equality Act into law, which he has mentioned on the campaign trail. The plan also aims to expand health care access for every LGBTQ+ person through Buttigieg’s major health care proposal, named Medicare for All Who Want It. 

“Twenty years ago, an awkward teenager at St. Joe High, who didn’t know a single out LGBTQ+ student there, never would have imagined how far we would come,” Buttigieg said in a statement. “And yet discrimination and the ever-present fear of it continue to govern aspects of LGBTQ+ people’s lives who question if they can be who they are and keep their job, or come out at school knowing they might be bullied for it. When I’m President, we will implement solutions bold enough to meet the challenges the LGBTQ+ community faces while bringing the American people together to understand that our freedoms are bound up in each other.” 

Buttigieg’s plan includes ending “conversion therapy” and ending the blanket ban on blood donations by gay and bisexual men. The plan states that the ban would be replaced with a science-based approach with funds allocated to the Food and Drug Administration.

TULSI GABBARD

Hawaii Representative Tulsi Gabbard tweeted a video saying she is “seriously considering” boycotting the Democratic debate on October 15th, according to CBS News Campaign Reporter Jack Turman. Gabbard, who qualified for the debate, said the DNC and the corporate media are “rigging” the election against voters in the four early voting states. “They’re holding so-called debates which really are not debates at all, but rather commercialized reality television meant to entertain, rather than to inform or enlighten,” she said. Gabbard said she is going to announce her decision over the next few days.

KAMALA HARRIS

CBS News Campaign Reporter Tim Perry has learned exclusively that tonight Sen. Kamala Harris will announce her commitment to establish a chief advocate for LGBTQ+ affairs in the White House.  This position would “ensure a whole of government approach and strategy” in partnership with the LGBTQIA+ community to address specific issues facing the community.  In addition Harris will also commit to appointing LGBTQ+ people to leadership roles including cabinet-level positions and the federal bench.  During a recent swing through Iowa, Harris called LGBTQ+ rights “one of the biggest civil rights fights of our time.”  She will make these announcements tonight during the HRC Town Hall.

AMY KLOBUCHAR

Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar’s campaign announced she’ll be doing a three-day bus tour through eastern and central Iowa Friday October 18 through Sunday October 20, according to CBS News Campaign Reporter Adam Brewster. “During her ‘For All of America’ bus tour, Senator Klobuchar will meet with caucus-goers from all backgrounds – in liberal, conservative and independent parts of Iowa – to make the case that she will be the president to bring our country together and focus on the issues that affect us all,” Klobuchar’s Iowa State Director Lauren Dillon said in a statement. 

Part of Klobuchar’s visit will take her through four Obama/Trump counties in Iowa, including Louisa, Dubuque, Cerro Gordo and Jasper counties.

ELIZABETH WARREN

Elizabeth Warren’s campaign announced Thursday two new backers in Nevada: Chris Giunchigliani, a former gubernatorial candidate who served as president to both of Nevada’s largest teachers unions, and Alex Goff, the state’s DNC National Committeeman and a labor activist in northern Nevada. “I made up my mind for who I was going to caucus for last month or the month before,” Goff tells CBS News Campaign Reporter Alex Tin, citing the Massachusetts senator’s work addressing labor issues. 

“Sen. Sanders, I think in 2016, gave a lot of people a different option than Hillary Clinton which was much needed at the time,” says Goff, who had served as an alternate delegate for Sanders. “I decided to go with Elizabeth Warren because I thought her plans were really impressive and she’s speaking to the issues that are important,” adds Goff.

CONGRESSIONAL COVERAGE

IN THE SENATE

Kentucky Senate candidate Amy McGrath is amassing an impressive campaign war chest as she faces an uphill challenge to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, reports CBS News Political Unit Associate Producer Sarah Ewall-Wice. The retired Marine combat pilot’s campaign announced Thursday it raised $10.7 million in the third quarter of 2019. This comes after McGrath raised $2.5 million in the first 24 hours after announcing her bid in July. The $10.7 million comes from some 299,000 contributions, but it’s unclear how much of that cash was donated by Kentucky voters. According to the campaign, the average donation was $36. McGrath previously ran an unsuccessfully House race in 2018, and Cook Political Report currently rates the Kentucky Senate race as likely Republican, but McGrath’s massive cash haul signals this will be an expensive race. McGrath even raised more than a number of presidential candidates.  Neither McGrath or McConnell have filed their third quarter numbers yet with the FEC, but McConnell raised more than $3 million in the second quarter of the year and finished June with more than $7 million cash on hand.

Read more about it here, in CBSNews.com political reporter Grace Segers‘ story. 

IN THE HOUSE

Democratic Congresswoman Nita Lowey, the chair of the powerful House Appropriations Committee and an ally of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, announced that she is not running for reelection on Thursday. CBSNews.com political reporter Grace Segers says Lowey, 82, has served her New York City area district since 1989. “It is my deep honor and privilege to serve my community and my country, and I will always be grateful to the people of Westchester, Rockland, Queens and the Bronx who have entrusted me to represent them during my tenure in Congress,” Lowey said in a statement

Lowey, the first woman to serve as chair of the Appropriations Committee, was first elected in 1988. She has been a staunch supporter of Pelosi. The New York representative would have faced her first primary challenge since that election in 2020, from 32-year-old Mondaire Jones who planned to run against Lowey from the left.

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