Headlines: December 12, 2019
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The House Judiciary Committee began debating its articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump on Wednesday night, kicking off a contentious and argumentative rhetorical battle as the minority party was determined to throw up as many roadblocks as possible ahead of the committee vote. The ranking Republican on the committee, Doug Collins of Georgia complained that his party had no rights even though they were fully participating in the proceedings. The proceedings continued on Thursday morning and Democratic Congresswoman from California Zoe Lofgren, who has participated in the last three Presidential impeachments raised the issue of Trump’s affair with Stormy Daniels in the context of the Clinton impeachment. Republican Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida was among those who continued to justify Trump’s abuse of power in attempting to gain a political edge in the election by leveraging US military aid. Congressman Jamie Raskin of Maryland countered that it was ludicrous to consider Trump an anti-corruption crusader.
Ahead of the Judiciary Committee’s debate on impeachment, House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff turned over a piece of classified evidence around a phone call between Ukraine’s President and US Vice President Mike Pence. The White House Office of Management and Budget, which has come under scrutiny for delaying the military aid to Ukraine, just filed a new legal memo justifying the delay and saying it was routine. Meanwhile CNN is reporting that if Trump is impeached and the Senate takes up the charges, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is moving to acquit the President rather than just dismiss the articles of impeachment.
Civil liberties advocates are combing through the recently released Justice Department Inspector General report on the FBI’s motives for the Russia interference probe. Although the report confirms that there was no partisan effort inside the FBI aimed at Trump, it does expose the government’s surveillance overreach. Hina Shamsi of the ACLU told the New York Times, “The concerns the inspector general identifies apply to intrusive investigations of others, including especially Muslims, and far better safeguards against abuse are necessary.”
Former Attorney General Eric Holder who served under President Obama, ripped the current AG William Barr in a scathing op-ed in the Washington Post on Wednesday night calling Barr “unfit” for his office. Holder accused Barr of making statements and taking actions, “that are so plainly ideological, so nakedly partisan and so deeply inappropriate for America’s chief law enforcement official that they demand a response from someone who held the same office.”
In spite of the partisan battles playing out over impeachment, the House of Representatives just passed a massive military budget in renewing the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) with bi-partisan support. The NDAA increased the military budget by a whopping $22 billion and Democratic supporters of the bill lauded it as “progressive.” California representative Ro Khanna, who voted against the bill, ripped into the vote on the House floor.
The House is expecting to pass a prescription drug bill that would bring down the costs of pharmaceuticals as Trump and some Republicans have said they have wanted to do. But, perhaps because the bill is sponsored by Democrats, the White House has already indicated it will veto it. Meanwhile New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez ripped into health insurance industry tactics in tweet on Wednesday evening pointing out that, “Health insurance costs have gone up *20%* in the past year… Meanwhile, Big Pharma & insurance lobbyists treat Congressional staffers to spa weekends.” She linked to evidence of the 20% increase and the “spa weekends” that congressional staffers are treated to by lobbyists.
The House on Wednesday passed the Farm Workforce Modernization Act which gives, among other things, legal status to thousands of undocumented agricultural workers across the US. The bill passed along party lines and was welcomed by agricultural industry representatives. Conservatives predictably slammed it as a “mass amnesty” for immigrants.
As part of Trump’s remaking of the judiciary, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell helped the President confirm his 50th circuit court judge this week. By comparison President Obama confirmed 55 circuit court judges over 8 years of his Presidency. Between Trump and McConnell, there’s more to come. Politico explained that, “Now that he’s filled virtually every vacancy in the powerful appellate court system, the Senate majority leader will try and cram through 18 lower-level lifetime judges next week, some of them supported by Democrats.”
Meanwhile an appeals court will be hearing arguments on Thursday in one of several cases that are challenging Trump on his violations of the Constitution’s Emoluments clause. The case in question centers on the Trump International Hotel in Washington DC which lawyer say are seen as a way to curry favor with the President. Representatives and leaders from around the world have been booking rooms in the President’s hotels worth hundreds of thousands of dollars leading other hotels to lose business. Even Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky in the infamous July 25th phone call to Trump made sure that the President knew he stayed at New York’s Trump Tower when he had visited the US.
And finally, voters in Britain are heading to the polls on Thursday in a contentious election that was prompted by the never-ending Brexit saga. It is the third general election in five years and voters will pick their Parliamentary representatives for 650 seats. The majority party will declare victory and polls have shown the conservative Tory party favored to win. But the Labor Party, led by Jeremy Corbyn, could make inroads as its casts itself a defender of the nation’s universal healthcare system. Smaller parties including the Green Party and Liberal Democratic Party could help build a coalition.