Headlines: December 11, 2019
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The Justice Department’s Inspector General Michael Horowitz testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday about a report that he released earlier this week on the FBI’s motives in the Russia investigation. The report had been authorized by Attorney General William Barr based on accusations that Barr and President Donald Trump had made against the FBI saying the Special Counsel investigation into 2016 election interference was politically motivated. While Mr. Horowitz said the report did not vindicate the FBI he also debunked the various Republican conspiracy theories of anti-Trump motivations. In an opening statement that stretched for more than 40 minutes, Senate Judiciary Committee chair Lindsey Graham insisted that the FBI was biased against Trump. Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein in her questioning of Inspector General Horowitz, attempted to get at the report’s actual conclusions. Meanwhile Attorney General Barr dismissed Horowitz’s conclusions and blamed the press and the FBI. In an interview on NBC he said, “I think our nation was turned on its head for three years based on a completely bogus narrative that was largely fanned and hyped by a completely irresponsible press…I think there were gross abuses … and inexplicable behavior that is intolerable in the FBI.”
On the impeachment front, the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday night plans to debate the 2 articles of impeachment that committee members drew up and announced on Tuesday. The debate will begin at 7 pm Eastern on Wednesday and continue at 9 am on Thursday. A committee vote on the impeachment articles is expected later this week or next week, setting up a full House vote possibly before Christmas. Both Democrats and Republicans are weighing their strategy going forward with the GOP reportedly considering doing away with witnesses in the Senate trial portion of the post-impeachment process. But the White House apparently wants House Intelligence Committee chair Adam Schiff to testify, as well as Hunter Biden and the original CIA whistleblower whose complaint sparked the inquiry. On the Democratic front, some moderate lawmakers are apparently pushing to censure rather than impeach Trump.
Meanwhile President Trump on Tuesday hosted a closed-door meeting with Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov. The White House handed reporters a statement saying that, “President Trump warned against any Russian attempts to interfere in United States elections,” but Mr. Lavrov said later, “No we haven’t even actually discussed elections.” In a public press conference alongside State Secretary Mike Pompeo Lavrov claimed Russia was wholly innocent on election interference and that, “There are no facts that would support that. We did not see these facts. No one has given us this proof because, simply, it does not exist.” Pompeo did not push back against this claim despite the fact that the US has charged 12 Russian nationals on this issue and the Special Counsel’s report has detailed evidence contrary to Lavrov’s claim. Meanwhile Republican lawmaker Mike Crapo on Tuesday blocked a Democrat sponsored bill to deter Russian interference in elections.
On Tuesday evening Mr. Trump held one more of his trademark political rallies, this time in Hershey, Pennsylvania, where he slammed the impeachment efforts and gloated over the agreement he reached with Democratic lawmakers and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Trump also falsely claimed that his poll numbers were “through the roof.” In what was perhaps the most disturbing moment of the raucous rally was Trump’s reaction to security guards escorting out a female protester. Critics described Trump’s words as “nakedly authoritarian.” Meanwhile the campaign for Trump’s reelection continued the theme of veiled violence by tweeting a doctored video of the President as Thanos, a mythical genocidal supervillain from the Marvel movies who destroys whole worlds and civilizations by vaporizing human beings. The campaign’s video is captioned, “President Trump’s re-election is inevitable,” and shows Democratic lawmakers announcing the articles of impeachment before disappearing at a snap of Trump’s fingers. The Marvel creator of Thanos, Jim Starlin, responded saying, “After my initial feeling of being violated, seeing that pompous dang fool using my creation to stroke his infantile ego, it finally struck me that the leader of my country and the free world actually enjoys comparing himself to a mass murderer. How sick is that?”
In other news, two armed people, a man and a woman, targeted a Kosher grocery store in Jersey City, New Jersey on Tuesday killing 3 bystanders and a police officer. The two suspects, David Anderson and Francine Graham, who were also killed, are linked to a Black Hebrew Israelite group that the Southern Poverty Law Center has deemed a “hate group.” Officials believe the Kosher store was targeted in what turned out to be a prolonged gun battle.
Meanwhile Trump plans to sign a controversial executive order designating Jewish people as a separate ethnic group. Currently Jews are protected as a religious minority but if Trump has his way, they will also be designated an ethnic minority. The move is apparently intended to make it easier to make charges of anti-Semitism on college campuses. But Trump just days ago engaged in virulently anti-Semitic language himself, calling Jewish Americans “killers,” and playing up stereotypes of moneyed elites in the community. Critics suspect the change in designation is to clamp down on student criticism of Israel’s anti-Palestinian policies.
Days after an investigative report published a horrific video of an immigrant teenager dying of the flu through neglect in a detention center, reports have emerged that immigration authorities are refusing to allow doctors to vaccinate detainees against the flu. The Guardian reported that, “Licensed physicians arrived at the Chula Vista border patrol station in San Ysidro [,California] prepared to operate a free flu clinic for the detained migrants, but CBP would not let them inside, claiming it was not ‘feasible’ to provide the medical care.”
The Swedish teen activist Greta Thunberg has been named Time Magazine’s “Person of the Year.” Thunberg becomes the youngest person to ever receive the distinction. A Time spokesperson explained, “She became the biggest voice on the biggest issue facing the planet this year, coming from essentially nowhere to lead a worldwide movement.” Thunberg, who has urged press against lionizing her, spoke at the COP25 climate meeting in Madrid, Spain on the same day. She denounced politicians in her trademark style, saying, “The real danger is when politicians and CEOs are making it look like real action is happening, when in fact almost nothing is being done, apart from clever accounting and creative PR.”