Headlines: December 10, 2018
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Several leading Democrats have raised the prospect of impeachment and even possible jail time for President Donald Trump as a result of new information from an investigation related to the Special Counsel’s probe. Court filings made on Friday indicate that Trump is at the center of a major probe regarding election campaign finance over “hush money” payments made to two women ahead of the election. Representative Jerry Nadler, who will be chair of the House Judiciary Committee next year said that Trump was, “at the center of a massive fraud,” and that, “They would be impeachable offenses.” In an interview on Face the Nation, Representative Adam Schiff even suggested jail time. Schiff will be the Chair of the House Intelligence Committee next year.
Trump denied any wrongdoing, tweeting on Monday morning that, “Democrats can’t find a Smocking Gun tying the Trump campaign to Russia after James Comey’s testimony. No Smocking Gun…No Collusion.” @FoxNews That’s because there was NO COLLUSION. So now the Dems go to a simple private transaction, wrongly call it a campaign contribution…” Mr. Trump misspelled “smoking” twice in that tweet. He added in a second tweet, “it is only a CIVIL CASE, like Obama’s – but it was done correctly by a lawyer and there would not even be a fine. Lawyer’s liability if he made a mistake, not me.” But AP explained that, “federal law requires disclosure of payments made ‘for the purposes of influencing’ an election,” regardless of whether the money came from a campaign or personal funds.
In other news, Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner is at the center of an exposé by the New York Times. The paper on Saturday published a lengthy investigation into how Kushner, “had been having private, informal conversations with [Saudi Crown] Prince Mohammed bin Salman.” The two men were on a first-name basis and their conversations continued even after the brutal killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi which the crown prince is known to have orchestrated. The Times reporters wrote, “the ties between Mr. Kushner and Prince Mohammed did not happen on their own. The prince and his advisers, eager to enlist American support for his hawkish policies in the region and for his own consolidation of power, cultivated the relationship with Mr. Kushner for more than two years, according to documents, emails and text messages.” Kushner has been the Crown Prince’s most stalwart supporter inside the White House.
President Trump’s pick for Attorney General is being met with strong skepticism on several fronts even from inside his own party. In an interview on NBC, Republican Senator Rand Paul said he opposed the nomination of William Barr, who served as George H. W. Bush’s Justice Department head as well. Others have raised the worrying prospect of Barr’s tenure during the elder Bush’s administration. Slate.com said that, “Barr recommended to Bush that he pardon six individuals involved in the Iran-Contra scandal, four of whom had already been convicted of lying to federal and congressional investigators about the secret illegal operation.” This is significant given that Trump has openly considered pardoning his former campaign chair Paul Manafort and others charged in the Special Counsel’s probe.
Meanwhile the White House is struggling to fill the position of Chief of Staff to replace Gen. John Kelly – yet another member of the staff that Trump is pushing out. Vice President Mike Pence’s Chief of Staff Nick Ayers reportedly turned down the job. Others that have been considered include Mick Mulvaney, Steve Mnuchin, Robert Lighthizer, and Matthew Whitaker. The White House has been roiled in scandal and high staff turnover from the start of Trump’s tenure.
James Fields Jr., the man who ran his car through a crowded street during the Charlottesville, Virginia racist rally last year has been found guilty of murder in the first degree for killing Heather Heyer and injuring 40 others. The 21-year old faces life in prison.
And, a young woman who was only 16 when she was convicted of killing a 43-year old man in 2004, will have to remain in prison for a total of 51 years before she is eligible for parole. Cyntoia Brown, who is African American, is at the center of a case questioning the constitutionality of mandatory life sentences for juveniles. She killed the man who raped her and forced her into prostitution, making her a victim of sex trafficking. She was tried as an adult. Late last week the Tennessee Supreme Court refused to grant her parole. Since Brown was sentenced, Tennessee’s law has changed so that minors are no longer given life sentences but that apparently is not retroactive and does not apply to Brown. She may be age 67 before she is freed unless she is granted clemency by Gov. Bill Haslam. Her case will now go before the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.
In international news, China is warning of a strong response to the arrest of Meng Wanzhou, the Chief Financial Officer of Huawei, China’s top telecommunications equipment manufacturer. Ms. Meng was arrested in Canada last week and faces extradition to the US over Huawei’s alleged breaking of international sanctions. Chinese authorities have summoned US and Canadian ambassadors, calling Meng’s arrest, “lawless,” and “extremely vicious.” In a statement the Chinese Foreign Minister called upon Canada to, “release the detainee immediately and earnestly protest the person’s legal and legitimate rights and interests, otherwise it will definitely have serious consequences, and the Canadian side will have to bear the full responsibility for it.”
And finally more than a thousand protesters in France have been arrested over the weekend in on-going clashes. It was the fourth weekend in a row that clashes have occurred between the so-called “Yellow Vest” protesters and police over deep anger with the French economy and government. Thousands of protesters descended on Paris but police cut them off with arrests. Police said 118 protesters and 17 police were injured.