Two associates to Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani have been indicted on federal campaign finance violations after allegedly scheming to undermine Joe Biden’s 2020 candidacy and purchase political influence on behalf of a Ukrainian official. 

The news arrives as the GOP has been conspicuous by its absence from American TV screens in recent days, with usually loyal Trump supporters on Capitol Hill making themselves scarce and declining media opportunities to defend the president, clearly unnerved by the White House’s refusal to co-operate with the House of Representatives’ inquiry into his dealings with Ukraine.

Mr Trump is meanwhile under fire for washing his hands of responsibility for the Turkish assault on Kurdish fighters in Syria, made possible by his decision to withdraw US troops from the territory earlier this week, with #TrumpGenocide and #TrumpBetrayedTheKurds trending on Twitter and protesters hanging a banner outside Trump Tower in Las Vegas denouncing the betrayal.

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He is set to host a rally in Minneapolis this evening, where he has begun a feud with the Democratic mayor, Jacob Frey, over $530,000 in costs associated with the event that the mayor says remain outstanding.

It might be a pretty decent idea to try and get the Trump campaign to pay upfront — while they have raised more than $100 million for Mr Trump's re-election in 2020, they are notorious for skipping out on rally bills.

But, the president's campaign has threatened Mr Frey and his city with a lawsuit, claiming extortion.

On the silly side of news, Mr Trump's ally Lindsey Graham was reportedly duped by a couple of Russian comedians in August, who pretended to be a Turkish official. Mr Graham appeared to contradict his public comments about Kurds, at least his recent comments.

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Donald Trump has reportedly been calling Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell up to three times a day to complain about Republican disloyalty as the threat of impeachment grows, griping about the disloyalty of senators like Ben Sasse, Susan Collins, Mitt Romney and Rob Portman who have criticised his conduct in office.

The GOP has been conspicuous by its absence from American TV screens in recent days, with usually loyal Trump supporters on Capitol Hill making themselves scarce and declining media opportunities to defend the president, clearly unnerved by the White House’s refusal to co-operate with the House of Representatives’ inquiry into his dealings with Ukraine.
 
"We invited the White House on to answer questions on the show this morning," CNN's Jake Tapper explained to his viewers on Sunday's State of the Union. "They did not offer a guest."

It's a well-worn strategy in the Trump White House: Senior officials conveniently manage to be elsewhere when major controversies engulf the building. The frequent absences of Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law and senior adviser, and presidential daughter Ivanka Trump during moments of consequence have long been a running joke among their detractors. Their detours included a trip to Florida during the partial government shutdown. Plenty of others have jumped town during tense moments.

As Trump struggled with mounting Republican defections over his decision to declare a national emergency to pay for the stalled border wall back in February, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney wasn't at the Capitol cajoling his former colleagues or in the West Wing making calls. Instead, he was in Las Vegas for an annual friends and family getaway.

More recently, embattled national security adviser John Bolton scheduled a trip to Mongolia while Trump became the first sitting US president to set foot in North Korea, a gesture that didn't sit well with Bolton, who would leave the administration a few months later.
Indeed, knowing "when to be out of town" was one of the top nuggets of advice that Kevin Hassett, the president's former top economic adviser, said he'd received from a predecessor and had to offer his successor.
 
Even when they're in Washington, many of the White House's most visible officials have been staying out of public view, letting the president's indignant Twitter feed and his frequent commentary drive the public conversation.

That includes White House spokesman Hogan Gidley, a frequent guest on Fox News shows and the gaggles with reporters that often follow on the White House driveway. White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, an aggressive defender of the president, has not made an appearance on the driveway since a highly contentious 27 September gaggle in which she berated reporters and dismissed a question about whether the White House was organising an impeachment war room. "I'm the only person out here taking your questions," Conway noted then.

Appearances have come instead from lower-profile staffers, including the vice president's chief of staff, Marc Short, the acting director of Office of Management and Budget, Russell Vought, and economic adviser Larry Kudlow, who tried to stay out of the controversy. He's said repeatedly that questions about Ukraine and the president's efforts to dig up damaging information about former vice president Joe Biden are way out of his lane. Adding to the vacuum is the continued lack of White House briefings. White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham has yet to hold one.

"It's surprising that they're not using the many levers on the most powerful communications platform in the world, which is the White House," said Joe Lockhart, who served as press secretary during the impeachment of Bill Clinton. He said that the White House is losing out on effective platforms to try to drive its message.

"Nobody is vouching for him or validating him and filling in the blanks," Lockhart said of Trump.
 
Here's Chris Baynes on the McConnell calls.
 
Trump is meanwhile under fire for washing his hands of responsibility for the Turkish assault on Kurdish fighters in Syria, made possible by his decision to withdraw US troops from the territory earlier this week, with #TrumpGenocide and #TrumpBetrayedTheKurds trending on Twitter and protesters hanging a banner outside Trump Tower in Las Vegas denouncing the betrayal.
 
Last night, speaking in the Roosevelt Room at the White House, Trump acted as though he had nothing to do with the matter, stating that parties "have been fighting each other for hundreds of years" as though that justified standing aside and giving the green light for the killing of soldiers from the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), America's allies in the fight against Isis but a group Istanbul considers to be a terrorist organisation. 
 
He also appeared to be equally unconcerned about the threat posted by a resurgent Isis because escapees from the Islamist militant group are likely to head for Europe are thus not Washington's problem.
 
Even more incredibly, Trump argued that the Kurdish people "didn't help us in the Second World War" so why should the US protect them now? He then attempted to make light of the argument on Twitter, before saying the US had removed two (count them, two) dangerous Isis militants so wasn't abandoning the SDF entirely.
 
Zamira Rahim has more.
 
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For more on Trump's comments about Isis fighters escaping to Europe, here's Samuel Osborne.
 
Look at the state of that picture, goodness me.
 
Trump also used his address last night - which came after a phone call with British prime minister Boris Johnson - to defend Anne Sacoolas, the wife of a US diplomat accused of killing a British teenager in a road accident, suggesting it is difficult to drive on the other side of the road and that “it happens”.
 
Harry Dunn, 19, was riding a motorcycle when the crash happened on 27 August near RAF Croughton, a British military base used by the US Air Force in Northamptonshire.
 
Here's Andrew Buncombe's report
 
The polls aren't getting any kinder for Trump and now even the extremely partisan Fox News is saying the majority of Americans back the impeachment inquiry.
 
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Trump continues to use his Twitter account to attack the CIA whistleblower whose complaint about the Zelensky call sparked the whole impeachment furore.
 
Here's some timely context on the extent of his desperation and lack of discrimination when it comes to sources.
He has also been busy attacking Joe Biden, repeating a remark he made last month (see below) about a Republican getting the electric chair if they had been accused of the same outrages he and Rudy Giuliani have laid against the Democratic front-runner. With no evidence whatsoever.
 
More abuse followed on Twitter.
 
Why the sudden pivot back to this line of attack? Because Biden has been hitting back. Bigly.
 
The candidate made his most explicit call for Trump's impeachment yet at a rally in Rochester, New Hampshire, last night.
 
His campaign has meanwhile called on Twitter to reject bogus political ads from the president's team zeroing in on the Ukraine scandal after Facebook singularly failed to act.
 
Writing to the social media giant's general counsel Vijaya Gadde, Biden's campaign manager Greg Schultz said Team Trump's latest promo “spreads false, definitively debunked conspiracy theories”, according to Politico.
 
Perhaps even more damning than Biden is this attack on Trump from Stephen Moore, the economist he nominated to the board of the Federal Reserve before his candidacy was rejeted when it emerged he'd written an article for the conservative magazine National Review arguing that only attractive women should be allowed to referree basketball games
 
Moore said of the president in an interview with Medhi Hasan on Al Jazeera's Head to Head: “I think when Trump says things that are false, that does undermine his presidential authority and I wish he wouldn't do it... He should stop saying things that are untrue."
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Trump will finally get his "Keep America Great" rally in Minneapolis, Minnesota, this evening after spending the week slamming the Midwestern city's Democratic mayor Jacob Frey in a feud over who should pay his security fees, totalling $500,000 (£408,000).
 
Trump traded Twitter insults with Frey over who should pay the costs for Thursday's downtown rally. He denounced the mayor as a "Radical Left" lightweight and blasted the Democrat for a police policy banning officers from wearing their uniforms in support of political candidates. He sprinkled in a reference to his favourite foil - the city's congresswoman Ilhan Omar - just for good measure.
 
"Yawn," Frey tweeted back. "Welcome to Minneapolis where we pay our bills, we govern with integrity, and we love all of our neighbours."
 
It was just a warm-up to Trump's first campaign rally since being engulfed in the swirl of an impeachment investigation, an event expected to pack an extra punch. Heading to Omar's home turf, something of a regional liberal outpost, Trump quickly stirred up passions and partisanship as few politicians can.
 
Trump will land in Minnesota as polls show Americans' support for impeachment and for removing him from office have ticked up in the weeks since House Democrats launched an impeachment investigation. While his GOP allies have launched a campaign to reverse the trend, Trump's self-defence may be the best preview of how he intends to fight back in the weeks ahead.
 
"He needs to be able to show right now, given all of this impeachment stuff, that America is rallying to his defence. And I don't think that that is going to be the optic that's created," said Ken Martin, the state Democratic chairman.
 
Both sides are tuned in to the symbolism of the moment. The rally at Target Center - the city's basketball arena - is expected to draw thousands of supporters as well as protesters outside. Trump will be joined by vice president Mike Pence, who had a separate schedule of appearances in the state Trump is trying to tip his way next year.
 
At a White House event on Wednesday, Trump made it clear he was looking forward to the rally. "I think it's a great state, and we're going to have a lot of fun tomorrow night," he said.
 
Minneapolis is a difficult place for the president to try to bask in the glow of support. Trump won just 18 per cent of the vote in the dense, relatively diverse and liberal congressional district where he's staging his rally.
 
But the venue serves another purpose: The district is now held by Omar, the Somali-American lawmaker whom Trump often holds up as a symbol of the liberal shift in the Democratic Party. It's a message viewed as racist by some. He has tweeted that Omar should "go back" to her home country if she wants to criticise the US. Trump supporters broke into chants of "Send her back!" at a rally this summer in North Carolina.
 
The episode is weighing heavily on Trump's Thursday rally. It drew criticism from fellow Republicans uncomfortable with the prospect of putting race at the center of the campaign.
 
Some lawmakers, including Senate majority leader McConnell, and some of the president's closest outside advisers privately warned Trump about the damage those chants could inflict on the GOP. They believed the sight of thousands of mostly white attendees chanting "Send her back!" would dominate news coverage and turn off moderate voters, particularly women and suburbanites. Trump has held four rallies since. The chant has not erupted since.
 
Still, the attacks on the "socialist" wing of the Democratic Party are the heart of Trump's plan to hold onto the Rust Belt and become the first Republican presidential candidate to carry Minnesota since Richard Nixon in 1972. Trump fell about 45,000 votes short of beating Democrat Hillary Clinton statewide in 2016. He's had staff in the state since June and they have been busy building a network to turn out supporters next November.
 
The campaign needs to pump up Trump's support in the rural and suburban areas he carried in 2016 to overcome Democratic strength in Minneapolis, St. Paul and some other cities, plus suburbs that swung Democratic in 2018. The Minneapolis rally will also win media coverage well into western Wisconsin, widely seen as a critical battleground in 2020.
 
GOP congressman Tom Emmer, who leads the House Republican campaign arm and will attend the rally, said the opposition to Trump's visit could backfire on Democrats. Emmer was among Republicans accusing Frey of trying to block Trump's rally.
 
Federal campaign law does not require presidential campaign committees to pay for expenses incurred by state and local governments in connection with a campaign event.
 
"I think this visceral hatred, the blatant attempt to shut down some people's point of view and deny thousands of Minnesotans their voice... I think Democrats are going to pay for it at the ballot box next November," Emmer said.
 
Indeed, the rally plans provoked strong passions. Omar, whose family fled Somalia when she was a child and who became an American in 2000, tweeted shortly after the trip was announced: "Our beautiful state welcomes everyone with open arms. But to be clear: we will continue to reject you and your campaign of lies and bigotry."
 
Sophia Jungers, 21, of Minneapolis, was planning to protest Thursday, just as she did when Trump rallied in the southern Minnesota city of Rochester last October.
 
"I feel like we're falling apart as a democracy, and we're not taking advantage of all the voices that need to be heard," said Jungers, a University of Minnesota student.
 
Michelle Urevig-Grilz, 49, a teacher from suburban Ramsey who identified herself as a longtime Republican voter but a Trump opponent, said she was considering joining the protests.
 
"He's a misogynist pig. He always has been... And it is surprising to me how many women voters did vote for Trump. That's absolutely scary," she said.
 
But few of Trump's Minnesota supporters could be more excited than Mike Lindell, known to TV viewers nationwide as the "MyPillow guy" after the pillow company he founded.
 
Lindell, a significant donor who has appeared at previous Trump rallies, credits the president with creating a booming economy and giving entrepreneurs like him the confidence to take chances. He said he's scheduled to speak Thursday.
 
"Everybody voted for him on faith that there would be something good, finally, and boy has he provided it," Lindell said.
 
AP
The US and China's top trade negotiators will also resume their talks on Thursday for the first time since late July to try to find a way out of a 15-month trade war as new irritants between the world's two largest economies threatened hopes for progress.
 
Chinese Vice premier Liu He, US trade representative Robert Lighthizer and treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin will seek to narrow differences enough to avoid a scheduled 15 October tariff rate increase on $250bn (£2bn) worth of Chinese goods.

But the atmosphere surrounding the talks was soured by the US Commerce Department's decision on Monday to blacklist 28 Chinese public security bureaus, technology and surveillance firms, citing human rights violations of Muslim minority groups in China's Xinjiang province. A day later, the US State Department imposed visa restrictions on Chinese officials related to the Xinjiang issue.

If negotiations break down again, by 15 December, nearly all Chinese goods imports into the United States - more than $500bn (£400bn) - could be subject to punitive tariffs in the dispute that erupted during Trump's time in office.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in Sydney, Australia, on Thursday that the tariffs were working, forcing Beijing to pay attention to US concerns about its trade practices.

"We do not love tariffs, in fact we would prefer not to use them, but after years of discussions and no action, tariffs are finally forcing China to pay attention to our concerns," Ross said.

Although some media reports suggested both sides are considering an "interim" deal that would suspend planned further US tariffs in exchange for additional purchases of American farm products, Trump has repeatedly dismissed this idea, insisting that he wants a "big deal" with Beijing that addresses core intellectual property issues.

Speaking to reporters in Washington on Wednesday, Trump said: "If we can make a deal, we're going to make a deal, there's a really good chance.... In my opinion China wants to make a deal more than I do."

The two sides have been at loggerheads over US demands that China improve protections of American intellectual property, end cyber theft and the forced transfer of technology to Chinese firms, curb industrial subsidies and increase US companies' access to largely closed Chinese markets.

But Chinese officials, surprised and upset by the US blacklisting of Chinese companies, including video surveillance gear maker Hikvision, along with the suspension of US visas for some Chinese officials, told Reuters that Beijing had lowered expectations for significant progress from the talks.

"I've never seen China respond with concessions to someone throwing down the gauntlet in this manner," said Scott Kennedy, a China trade expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. "It suggests to me that the US may have determined that progress was impossible so everyone is just going through the motions."

Other flashpoints that have cropped up in recent days include China's swift action to cut corporate ties to the National Basketball Association over a team official's tweet in support of Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters.

But in a possible easing of tensions, The New York Times reported that the Trump administration will soon issue licences allowing some US companies to sell non-sensitive goods to China's top telecom equipment maker Huawei Technologies.

But a Commerce Department spokesman said the agency has been given no such direction. Huawei since May has been on the same trade blacklist affecting Hikvision because the United States says the company can spy on customers - an allegation Huawei denies.
 
Here's Adam Withnall on the blacklisting.
 
Here's Bel Trew with the latest on Syria, as Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatens to send millions of refugees to Europe if the EU labels its military operation against the Kurds an “invasion”.
 
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This is weird.
 
America's largest spice retailer, Penzeys Spices, has spent the most advertising capital on adverts mentioning "impeachment" outside of Trump himself in the last two weeks, paying out a whopping $92,000 (£72,000), according to Axios
 
Founder Bill Penzey of Wisconsin, it turns out, is actually a long-term liberal activists who has previously attacked Trump as an "openly racist candidate" and is using his latest advertising blitz to celebrate the impeachment inquiry of a president he loathes.
 
Democratic 2020 candidate Andrew Yang, continues to enjoy himself on the campaign trail and took the opportunity to appear on stage with rapper Rich Brian in New York on Tuesday night.
More damning criticism of Trump from his ex-press secretary Anthony Scaramucci, who declares with some confidence the man is "finished".
 
The president has also been under the cosh for his recent rhetoric on social media from ex-Arizona senator Jeff Flake, who had been tipped to join Bill Weld, Joe Walsh and Mark Sanford in challenging him to a GOP primary.
 
Democratic House Judiciary Committee chairman Jerrold Nadler sounded a very similar warning over the same tweet.
 
 
Singer, actress and "washed up psycho" Bette Midler meanwhile speaks for an entire planet on Syria.
 
But none of the above manages to be as scathing as pop icon Rihanna though, who tells the latest issue of Vogue Trump is “the most mentally ill human being in America”.
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An update on something we touched on yesterday: former South Carolina congressman Trey Gowdy has indeed decided to join Trump's impeachment defence team.
 
That's this guy. Who thinks this.
Preparations are underway in Minneapolis for the Trump rally tonight, where as many as 10,000 protesters are expected, according to Newsweek.
 
Local congresswoman Betty McCollum says Trump's latest rally is just "another stop along the road to impeachment."

"His vision of 'American carnage' is not a winning message," she adds.
 
"The president's outrageous conduct will be addressed in Congress through the impeachment process, but what is quite surprising are the contortions Republicans are putting themselves through defending the indefensible."
California governor Gavin Newsom, emerging as a regular Trump antagonist, has been mocking defence secretary Mark Esper over the lack of diversity at the Pentagon after he posted a picture of the Oval Office loaded up with ageing white men.
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More on the Republican vanishing act from Zamira Rahim.
 
For Indy Voices, reporter Andrew Feinberg has the latest on the mood in DC regarding impeachment. 
 

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