January 13, 2020

Russian hackers were able to get into a server belonging to Burisma, the Ukrainian company at the center of President Trump's impeachment, security experts told The New York Times.

The security firm Area 1, which first detected the hacking on New Year's Eve, told the Times that Russian efforts began in early November, when Trump's impeachment was all over the news. The hackers are from a Russian military intelligence unit formerly known as the GRU, and they used phishing emails that tricked users into entering their usernames and passwords, giving the hackers their login credentials. The tactics mirror the Russian hacking of the Democratic National Committee in 2016, Area 1 co-founder Oren Falkowitz told the Times. "The Burisma hack is a cookie-cutter GRU campaign," he said. "Russian hackers, as sophisticated as they are, also tend to be lazy. They use what works. And in this, they were successful."

It is unclear what the hackers were looking for, or what they found. Hunter Biden, the son of 2020 Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden, once sat on the board of Burisma. During a July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Trump asked him to investigate the Bidens and Burisma, a request that ultimately triggered the events that led to his impeachment. Experts told the Times the timing of the hacking could indicate the Russians wanted to find any information about the Bidens that could be incriminating.

Biden campaign spokesman Andrew Bates told the Times that Trump "tried to coerce Ukraine into lying" about Biden because "he recognized that he can't beat the vice president," and now it's clear Russian President Vladimir Putin "also sees Joe Biden as a threat." For more on Area 1's research, visit The New York Times. Catherine Garcia

2:57 p.m.

Well, that's one way to spin it.

President Trump's lawyer Alan Dershowitz argued Wednesday during the Senate impeachment trial that Trump's alleged Ukraine quid pro quo wasn't impeachable because he was actually just acting in the "public interest." Dershowitz's reasoning didn't have to do with rooting out corruption or anything of that sort, however. Instead, he was making the case that because every president believes it's in the public interest to win an election, any action geared toward securing victory is immune from impeachment.

You may have some questions — like, say, by that logic shouldn't Watergate have been acceptable? — and you're not alone.

Dershowitz's comments reportedly left some Democratic lawmakers flabbergasted, as well. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) apparently turned to Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and silently express his incredulity, Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Jeff Merkely (D-Ore.) were left visibly frustrated, and a slow grin crept its way on to the face of Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).

2:51 p.m.

Senators from both sides brought some real "my question is more of a comment" energy to President Trump's impeachment trial.

After the conclusion of opening arguments, the impeachment trial Wednesday entered its next phase, with senators submitting questions for the House managers and Trump's defense. But most of their early questions weren't exactly hard-hitting.

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) asked Democrats, for instance, "Is there any way for the Senate to render a fully informed verdict in this case without hearing the testimony of Bolton, Mulvaney, and the other key eyewitnesses or without seeing the relevant documentary evidence?" Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), given the perfect opportunity to make his case, responded that no, there's not.

Later, Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) asked Trump's defense, in part, "Have the House managers met their evidentiary burden to support a vote of removal?" You'll never guess the response from Trump's defense: no, they haven't.

A few more useful inquiries made their way into the mix here and there, but they came in between questions that barely even qualified as questions at all, like when Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) asked, "Would the House managers care to correct the record on any falsehoods or mischaracterizations in the White House's opening arguments?"

"Many of the questions are thinly veiled efforts to tee up talking points," The Washington Post's Aaron Blake observed, while CBS News' Kathryn Watson tweeted, "Senators who ask rhetorical questions get milk dumped on their head." Brendan Morrow

2:06 p.m.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) isn't letting his USMCA fight die.

On Wednesday, President Trump signed the United States-Mexico-Canada agreement, a renegotiation of the NAFTA trade deal he's been working on for years. It proved a rare example of a Trump administration law that even Democrats agreed with — save for Sanders, who made it clear Wednesday that he's still not a fan of the deal.

Sanders, who's among the most popular choices for the Democratic presidential nomination right now, said that if he's elected, he'll "immediately begin renegotiating this disastrous deal." His main issues with it include that the deal doesn't "combat climate change, stop the outsourcing of American jobs, and end the destructive race to the bottom," he said in a statement.

Sanders later added a few more words to the matter, tweeting that he "proudly oppose[s] Trump's NAFTA 2.0" because "our trade agreements must stop outsourcing and address the climate crisis threatening our planet." That puts him at odds with pretty much everyone else running for president, with even his main progressive rival Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) voting in favor of the USMCA when it was in the Senate earlier this month. Kathryn Krawczyk

1:15 p.m.

Shortly before the Senate's impeachment trial resumes, another John Bolton revelation has arrived.

Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, revealed in a statement Wednesday that he spoke with Bolton, President Trump's former national security adviser, after his White House firing in September. In this conversation that occurred at Engel's request just one day before the impeachment inquiry was announced, Bolton evidently urged the committee to look into the ouster of Marie Yovanovitch, former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.

"On that call, Ambassador Bolton suggested to me — unprompted — that the committee look into the recall of Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch," Engel said. "He strongly implied that something improper had occurred around her removal as our top diplomat in Kyiv."

Yovanovitch was removed as ambassador to Ukraine in May 2019, and she testified in the impeachment inquiry her ouster was a result of a smear campaign backed by Trump's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani.

This latest Bolton revelation comes after The New York Times reported on Sunday that the former national security writes in his upcoming book that Trump tied aid to Ukraine to investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son. Democrats want Bolton to be called to testify as part of the impeachment trial, and in his statement, Engel says he told his colleagues about this conversation and it "was one of the reasons we wished to hear from Ambassador Bolton, under oath, in a formal setting." Brendan Morrow

1:01 p.m.

And with that, Nigel Farage is on his way out of Brussels.

Farage, a British Member of the European Parliament and leader of the U.K.'s Brexit Party, at long last got to say good bye to the European Union after MEPs ratified U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson's withdrawal agreement Wednesday, setting up the country's departure from the governing body at the end of the week. And, boy, did he enjoy it.

Farage and his bellow Brexit Party members stood up and proudly waved the Union Jack as a farewell before getting cut off for breaking parliamentary rules, and he didn't seem to mind one bit. His allies then began a "hip-hip-hooray" chant.

It certainly wasn't a happy day for everyone, though. Some British MEPs expressed their dismay over Brexit, while others said they were determined to one day bring the U.K. back into the fold. MEP Martin Horwood, a Liberal Democrat, received a standing ovation after declaring "We will be back." Tim O'Donnell

12:44 p.m.

Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) is using President Trump's top insult against his own party.

Collins, the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee who's seen a heightened profile during Trump's impeachment process, confirmed Wednesday he'll be running to oust Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) later this year. But when his own party attacked him for "put[ting] two Senate seats, multiple House seats, and Georgia's 16 electoral votes in play," well, Collins decided to say that's all "fake news."

The National Republican Senatorial Committee, which fundraises for GOP Senate candidates, issued a statement Wednesday saying it would support Loeffler in 2020's special election. In response, Collins tweeted that the NRSC is simply a "Washington-based group" whose head is beholden to bylaws that "require him to support all incumbents, even unelected ones."

Loeffler was appointed to fill retiring Sen. Johnny Isakson (R) late last year, putting the seat in play again later this year. Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) is also up for re-election this fall. Kathryn Krawczyk

12:38 p.m.

Not long before Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker's release, Adam Driver knew what he had to do: get into character as Kylo Ren while stuffed in a closet.

That's according to sound editor Matthew Wood, who recently appeared on the SoundWorks Collection podcast to talk about his work on the latest Star Wars film. As flagged by Twitter user Sleemo, asked about the strangest place he's had to record dialogue, Wood provided an answer that didn't disappoint, revealing Driver recorded "two or three" Kylo Ren lines for the movie while "stuffed" in his closet.

"The very last recording we did was, we had to change some lines of Kylo when he had his mask on," Wood said. "... I went to [Driver's] house in Brooklyn ... I ended up opening up one of his closets where he had all of his suits, and I just pushed the suits out of the way and said, 'hang your head in here.'"

Wood didn't mention when exactly this took place, but he did say Driver "left to go do Seth Meyers' show immediately after that," and Driver appeared on Late Night on Nov. 20, about a month before the film hit theaters. Wood also didn't specify what dialogue was added, but should there ever be a special Academy Award for best performance from a closet, Driver should be a shoo-in. Brendan Morrow

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