May 5, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Obama slams GOP request for Biden-Ukraine records as aiding "Russian disinformation"

Photo: Samir Hussein/Samir Hussein/WireImage

The office of former President Barack Obama privately claimed in March that a Republican request for records related to Joe Biden and Ukraine would "give credence to a Russian disinformation campaign," according to a letter obtained by BuzzFeed News.

Why it matters: President Trump's efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate unsubstantiated corruption allegations against Biden and his son fueled his impeachment last year.

  • Immediately after Trump's Senate acquittal, Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) announced a review of "potential conflicts of interest posed by the business activities of Hunter Biden and his associates during the Obama administration."
  • The pair of GOP senators also requested records of meetings between Obama officials and Alexandra Chalupa, a Democratic operative who has been at the heart of unfounded conspiracy theories about Ukrainian election interference.

What they're saying: A representative for Obama claimed in a letter to the National Archives and Records Administration that the Republicans' request "arises out of efforts by some, actively supported by Russia, to shift the blame for Russian interference in the 2016 election to Ukraine."

  • "The request for early release of presidential records in order to give credence to a Russian disinformation campaign — one that has already been thoroughly investigated by a bipartisan congressional committee — is without precedent."
  • "This use of the special access process serves no legitimate purpose, and does not outweigh or justify infringing confidentiality interests that all presidents have sought to protect."

The letter points to testimony by former top White House Russia expert Fiona Hill, who called the theory that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election as "a fictional narrative that is being perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services."

Yes, but: The letter conceded that the records could be released "in the interest of countering the misinformation campaign underlying this request."

Read the letter.

Go deeper

Updated 4 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Trump says RNC is looking outside of North Carolina for convention site

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper in 2018. Photo: Sara D. Davis/Getty Images

President Trump tweeted on Tuesday night that because of ongoing coronavirus restrictions in North Carolina, the Republican Party will be "forced to seek another state" to host its convention in August.

The big picture: The late-night tweet came after North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) told convention organizers earlier Tuesday that Republicans should plan for a "scaled-down convention with fewer people, social distancing and face coverings" given the impact of the pandemic.

Updates: George Floyd protests continue past curfews

Police officers wearing riot gear push back demonstrators outside of the White House on Monday. Photo: Jose Luis Magana/AFP via Getty Images

Protests over the death of George Floyd and other police-related killings of black people continued Tuesday across the U.S. for the eighth consecutive day, prompting a federal response from the National Guard, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection.

The latest: Even with early curfews in New York City and Washington, D.C., protesters are still out en masse. Some protesters in D.C. said they were galvanized by President Trump's photo op in front of St. John's Church on Monday and threat to deploy U.S. troops in the rest of country if violence isn't quelled, NBC News reports.

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Trump backs off push to federalize forces against riots

Photo: Brendan Smialowski /AFP via Getty Images

A day after threatening to federalize forces to snuff out riots across the country, the president appears to be backing off the idea of invoking the Insurrection Act, sources familiar with his plans tell Axios.

What we're hearing: Aides say he hasn’t ruled out its use at some point, but that he's “pleased” with the way protests were handled last night (apart from in New York City, as he indicated on Twitter today) — and that for now he's satisfied with leaving the crackdown to states through local law enforcement and the National Guard.