McNeely: Texas politicians and Ukraine

Texas, and its politicians, are getting drawn into national and international affairs.

Donald Trump says his secretary of energy, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, urged him to call newly elected Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Trump phoned Zelensky July 25. That call accelerated efforts to impeach Trump.

House committees working on the impeachment effort have subpoenaed Perry — mostly for documents about the call. Perry swears his recommendation to Trump was solely to encourage energy dealings between Ukraine and the U.S.

Perry said “as God is my witness,” his call had nothing to do with Trump holding up almost $400 million in U.S. arms aid to Ukraine.

A CIA whistleblower reported Trump was using the arms money as leverage to get Zelensky to dig up dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter, for his involvement with a Ukrainian gas company. Joe Biden is a leading candidate for the Democratic nomination for president.

Another Texan suddenly linked to Ukraine is former U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions of Dallas, a Republican who lost his try for a 12th term in Congress in 2018. He has been identified as “Congressman 1” who assisted in recommending that the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine be recalled.

Two Soviet-born business associates of Trump’s personal attorney, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani — Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas — were nabbed on the way out of the country last week, charged with “violating campaign finance rules, including funneling Russian money into President Trump’s campaign.”

As for Sessions, the indictment also says the two men“committed to raise $20,000 or more for a then-sitting U.S. Congressman” referred to in the court document as “Congressman 1.”

This revelation came a few days after Sessions had announced he was running for another term in the U.S. House — though not in Dallas’s 32nd Congressional District. He instead tossed his hat into the ring in the more solidly Republican Central Texas 17th District, which stretches from Waco to Bryan to Austin.

He was born in Waco, and lived there through the 8th grade. He later represented a few of the northern counties in the district, during the six years he represented the 5th Congressional District from Dallas south, before it was re-drawn, and he moved to the 32nd district.

The 17th district’s incumbent, Bill Flores of Bryan, announced in September he’ll be retiring in 2020, after a decade in Congress.

Flores, who had not been contacted by Sessions before his decision to run in the 17th, promptly stomped on Sessions’ hat.

“I find it unacceptable that someone from outside the district would attempt to drop in and try to elbow their way to the front of the line ahead of our local leaders” Flores said in a statement.

Another former congressman, Democrat Beto O’Rourke from El Paso, a long-shot candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, has organized a counter-rally to one Donald Trump is holding Thursday ((Oct. 17.)) in Dallas.

Trump’s is in the 20,000-seat American Airlines Center at 7 p.m. O’Rourke’s rally is at 6 p.m., 13 miles west of Trump’s, in The Theatre at Grand Prairie. It seats 6,350.

The Dennis Bonnen Show? The state House Republican Caucus on Friday has its first meeting since the regular legislative session ended in late May. It could produce fireworks.

It’s the first official get-together since a June 12 meeting between first-term Republican House Speaker Dennis Bonnen and Michael Quinn Sullivan, the controversial head of Empower Texans, an ultra-conservative group that harasses mainstream GOP legislators including Bonnen.

Also at the meeting was Bonnen sidekick Rep. Dustin Burrows, R-Lubbock, who was chair of the House Republican Caucus.

Burrows has since resigned that post, after Sullivan charged that Bonnen offered to swap House press credentials for House floor access for Sullivan’s publication branch.

Sullivan was to agree that Empower Texans would limit its attacks against Republican House members — except for a list of 10 opponents of Bonnen’s effort to outlaw local governments spending tax money for legislative lobbyists.That was an effort to kill city and county organizations that have staff to represent them in the capitol. .

— Dave McNeely is an Austin-based columnist covering Texas politics. His column appears Thursday.

Today's Bible verse

“Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end.”

Proverbs 29:11

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