It’s Thursday, Sept. 26, 2019. Let’s start here.
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1. Ukraine call
President Donald Trump repeatedly urged the president of Ukraine to investigate his potential 2020 rival Joe Biden, offering the help of Attorney General William Barr, according to a memorandum released by the White House of their July phone conversation. The memo is not a verbatim transcript.
“There’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that, so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great,” Trump told Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, the memo said. “Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it … It sounds horrible to me.”
Trump was referring to the former vice president’s work in Ukraine and any ties it might have had with his son Hunter Biden’s business dealings in the country, but there has been no evidence of wrongdoing.
The Department of Justice said Barr learned of the call weeks later and was not involved.
Trump has insisted he applied no pressure on Zelenskiy and denies that the $400 million in military aid withheld by the Trump administration for weeks was “quid pro quo.”
The aid wasn’t mentioned directly in the White House transcript, notes ABC News Chief Legal Analyst Dan Abrams, “The vast majority of it is about what President Trump wants from the president of Ukraine in an effort to harm his political rivals or enemies,” but he adds, “Prosecutions happen all the time in courtrooms where there’s an implicit agreement. It doesn’t get him off the hook but it’s helpful to him.”
2. Congress and the complaint
Behind closed doors on Wednesday, lawmakers reviewed the whistleblower complaint about the Ukraine call, which sparked the firestorm and an impeachment inquiry, ahead of Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire’s public testimony today.
Maguire is expected to be grilled by the House Intelligence Committee on his handling of the complaint and his decision to consult the Department of Justice before relaying the information to Congress, as required by law.
ABC News’ Trish Turner previews the acting intel chief’s testimony on the podcast, “The $10,000 question is… how much will the DNI be able to answer? How much will he be able to say about the complaint?”
The president told reporters on Tuesday he supported “transparency on the so-called whistle-blower information,” but called the investigation a witch hunt.
3. Juul change
Juul CEO Kevin Burns has stepped down from his role as the e-cigarette company announces plans to stop marketing in the U.S. while vowing not to fight a Trump administration proposal to ban flavored vaping products.
K.C. Crosthwaite, a former top executive at tobacco giant Altria, is lined up as Burns’ replacement, a decision made amid increased scrutiny from federal health officials and the e-cigarette industry’s rapid rise, according to the Financial Times’ Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson.
“I think it very much reflects the need to have a kind of tobacco graybeard with experience of navigating the tricky regulatory politics of tobacco at a time when those regulatory politics are really up in the air,” he tells the podcast.
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‘Awful hard to avoid the conclusion’: Biden, appearing Wednesday night on “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” called Trump’s Ukraine call a “blatant abuse of power.”
‘They were not ready to go’: Though it didn’t come to fruition, the leaders of France, Germany and the U.K. urged Trump to meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani while the two were both at the United Nations on Tuesday.
‘Residents of the district should come forward’: A local regulatory agency in Washington dismissed a review of Trump International Hotel’s liquor license after a group of purported District of Columbia residents filed a complaint arguing that the hotel’s owner, President Trump, is “not of good character.”
From our friends at FiveThirtyEight:
Very, very bad? A FiveThirtyEight chat asks, “How Bad Is This Ukraine Situation For Trump?”
Doff your cap:
For the first time, Mattel, the maker of Barbie, has unveiled a gender-fluid doll that keeps “labels out.”
On Wednesday, the brand announced the launch of Creatable World — a customizable doll kit allowing kids to create their own toys. The kit includes one doll, two hairstyles and different outfits.
“Toys are a reflection of culture and as the world continues to celebrate the positive impact of inclusivity, we felt it was time to create a doll line free of labels,” Kim Culmone, senior vice president of Mattel Fashion Doll Design, said in a press release.