Newsletter: A former Ukraine prosecutor speaks out

The scoop from a cafe in Kyiv.


A Former Ukraine Prosecutor Speaks Out

Ukraine’s former top law enforcement official Yuri Lutsenko says he repeatedly rebuffed demands by President Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani to investigate Joe Biden and his son, insisting he had seen no evidence of wrongdoing that he could pursue. In an interview with The Times in Kyiv, Lutsenko said he told Giuliani that he would be happy to cooperate if the FBI or other U.S. authorities began their own investigation, but he didn’t want Ukraine used to conduct a political vendetta that could affect the U.S. election. “I told him I could not start an investigation just for the interests of an American official,” said Lutsenko, who was fired as Ukraine’s prosecutor general last month.


Yuri Lutsenko, the former prosecutor general of Ukraine, at an interview in a Kyiv cafe on Sept. 28, 2019.
(Sergei L. Loiko/Los Angeles Times)

More About the Impeachment Inquiry

Bitter partisan divisions have emerged, with Trump allies and Democrats taking to talk shows to present stridently opposing views. Trump himself fanned the flames more by tweeting that Rep. Adam B. Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, should be “questioned at the highest level for Fraud & Treason” and accused Democrats of destabilizing the nation. Democrats pushed back, saying that if the whistleblower’s complaint is borne out, Trump’s misconduct would merit removal from office.

— Meanwhile, after straining all year to make their candidacies about things bigger than disgust with Trump, Democratic White House hopefuls now find themselves in the thick of a primary contest abruptly upended by the party’s clamor to impeach him.

— House investigators have scheduled a deposition with Kurt Volker, who stepped down from his role as the State Department’s special envoy for Ukraine on Friday. As it turns out, a 20-year-old student at Arizona State University broke the news of Volker’s departure.

A State of Emergency on Homelessness?

Should California’s governor declare a state of emergency over the homelessness crisis? L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and City Councilman Joe Buscaino have made such a proposal, with the idea being that it could cut through red tape and free up funding. But some question whether such a declaration would be merely symbolic.

Don’t Even Vape, Bro

School officials in California have long been concerned about young people vaping, but those worries have taken on new urgency as reports of vaping-linked illnesses and deaths have grown. Now, educators are stepping up campus patrols, installing detection devices, bringing in addiction counselors and modifying health classes. They’re also enlisting students in the campaign.

Down, but Don’t Count Him Out

For months, Endeavor CEO Ari Emanuel had been carefully choreographing his Wall Street entrance. Last week, those best-laid plans went awry, and the company — the owner of talent agency WME-IMG and mixed martial arts league UFC — pulled the plug on its initial public offering. What now? It’s new territory for Emanuel, a brash dealmaker who famously struck out on his own after being hit by a car.

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— Investigators found many red flags in 2017 when a man was found dead inside Democratic donor Ed Buck‘s home. Why did it take so long to arrest him?

— California has a new law for contract workers taking effect Jan. 1. But many businesses aren’t ready for change.

— After a turbulent year, L.A. rabbis are wrestling with the politics of faith. “People love to say, ‘Talk about politics,’ but none of us are prophets — it’s not our job,” one says.

— For those with disabilities, scooters and bad sidewalks aren’t the only hazards in L.A.

Communist China will turn 70 on Tuesday. Here are the personal memories of some citizens during key moments in its history.

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— In Bakersfield, officials are considering putting homeless people in jail for misdemeanor drug offenses and potentially for trespassing.

— These politicians once helped regulate legal marijuana. Now they’re working for the industry.

— The Los Angeles Police Department has opened an inquiry after a recruitment ad went up on the right-wing website Breitbart, saying such a job listing would conflict with the department’s “core values.”

— A rare tornado touched down in Yolo County. Of course, people took video of it.


Journalists are having a moment on the big screen in “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” “The Friend” and “Hustlers.” It might be because of podcasts ... or the president.

— At the world premiere of “The Irishman,” there was a mob scene for Martin Scorsese’s mob masterpiece.

— At the box office, “Abominable” opened with an estimated $20.8 million. It was the best showing for an original animated film this year.

— Is it worth the drive from L.A. to San Diego to see the musical stage adaptation of “Almost Famous”? Theater critic Charles McNulty gives an emphatic “yes.”


— Authorities say a man accused of driving an SUV through a suburban Chicago shopping mall is facing a state terrorism charge.

— Protesters in Hong Kong stepped on and, in some cases, stomped on printed images of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s face as demonstrations continue ahead of Communist China’s 70th anniversary.

— Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said on “60 Minutes” that he takes “full responsibility” for the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, but denied allegations that he ordered it.

— British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has denied wrongdoing over his links to an American businesswoman who allegedly received money and favorable treatment because of their friendship during his time as mayor of London.


— Elon Musk has unveiled a prototype of SpaceX’s Starship Mars spaceship. He claims it could reach orbit in less than six months and fly humans next year, but there is reason for skepticism.

— Low-price fashion chain Forever 21 has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Back in July, we looked at where the company went wrong.

— For Postmates, the food delivery app service poised to go public in the coming weeks, there’s one place it needs to win big: in L.A.


— Another horse has died at Santa Anita, which is trying to shake the memories of a winter/spring meet in which 30 horses died. The latest fatality is likely to intensify the debate over the safety and viability of horse racing in California.

— The Dodgers set a franchise record with their 106th victory in their regular-season finale. They will play Game 1 of the National League Division Series on Thursday against either the Washington Nationals or Milwaukee Brewers.


— The Times’ editorial board writes that anti-China fervor is gripping Washington, D.C., and the collateral damage could be 800 mostly union jobs at the BYD electric bus factory in the high desert city of Lancaster.

— Columnist Robin Abcarian examines six arguments against impeaching Trump — and why they are dead wrong.


— The Trump administration has in recent weeks been investigating and retroactively classifying the emails of current and former State Department officials who sent messages to Hillary Clinton‘s private account. “I’d like to think that this is just routine, but something strange is going on,” said one former official. (Washington Post)

Plant intelligence: a brief history of the idea that plants have sentience and how it might be rethought. (Paris Review)

— Who wrote this catchy new wave song? Ever since it appeared online 12 years ago, people have been trying to figure it out. (Rolling Stone)


If you ever find yourself in Ione, about an hour‘s drive southeast of Sacramento, you’ll want to visit a haunted hotel, which was originally built to house miners during the Gold Rush, and Preston Castle, a former boys reform school called Preston School of Industry. Among those who served time there was country singer Merle Haggard, who had a small “PSI” tattoo on his wrist. As Haggard once sang, Mama tried.

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