Headlines: December 13, 2019
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The House Judiciary Committee on Friday morning voted 23 to 17 to pass 2 articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, sending them to the full House for a vote as early as next week. Two days of contentious debates among the panel’s committee members were ended abruptly on Wednesday night by Committee chair Jerrold Nadler. On Friday morning the proceedings resumed for a vote followed by Nadler’s announcement. Republican lawmakers continued their theme of outrage with Representative Louie Gohmert of Texas expressing the GOP’s trademark anger at the challenge facing Trump. Trump on Friday responded to the vote saying he would do what he wanted and making clear that the Republican leadership in the Senate was coordinating with him.
CNN reported on Wednesday that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell met with the top White House lawyer Pat Cippolone to coordinate their strategy in the Senate Impeachment trial. Given that the Senate will vote on whether to remove Trump from office, Senators are de facto jurors in the case and McConnell’s move may be akin to a juror collaborating with the defendant – something that would not be tolerated in a court of law. McConnell told Fox News, “My hope is that it will be a shorter process rather than a lengthy process,” and added that he would be, “in total coordination with the White House counsel… There will be no difference between the President’s position and our position in how to handle this.”
Political historian Jon Meacham in an interview this week accused the Republican Party of “following a man,” rather than the US Constitution.” Meacham said on MSNBC, “The Republicans have basically become a monarchist party. Trump is their king, and their king right or wrong.” His accusations were underscored by former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee who says he plans to assert on Fox News that Trump is eligible for a third term and that he would be running Trump’s 2024 campaign.
In international news Trump’s counterpart in Britain Boris Johnson won a huge victory on Wednesday in a general election that he called in order to resolve the Brexit impasse. Out of 650 seats in Parliament, the Conservative Party won 365, compared to the Labor Party’s 203. Labor Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, who had downplayed Brexit and focused instead on preserving the National Health System and expanding social programs, will be stepping down as party leader. The Scottish National Party increased its presence in Parliament winning a total of 48 seats and suggesting that there is an appetite for Scottish independence from the UK. Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party crashed, failing to win a single seat. Mr. Farage has said he plans to come to the US to campaign for President Trump’s reelection. Trump lauded the election results saying on Twitter that the US and UK would now be, “free to strike a massive new Trade Deal after BREXIT.” Given the mandate Mr. Johnson has won, he will likely have a far smoother path to extricating the UK from the European Union.
In a major victory for the Armenian American community, the US Senate unanimously passed a resolution recognizing the Armenian genocide as perpetrated by Turkish forces more than a hundred years ago. The House passed the resolution some months ago. The bill had been before the Senate multiple times but was blocked by the Republican majority repeatedly. Democratic Senator Bob Menendez who had been a long-time sponsor of the bill hailed the victory saying, “By passing my Armenian Genocide resolution, the Senate finally stood up to confirm history: What happened from 1915 to 1923 was ― most assuredly ― genocide. There is no other word for it. There is no euphemism. There is no avoiding it.” Because it passed unanimously the bill does not require Trump’s signature. Trump, who has aligned himself with Turkey’s leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan, had vociferously opposed the bill.
In other news, a federal judge had said that Samoans ought to be recognized as US citizens. Residents of the US territory are currently considered “US Nationals,” which means they pay taxes but cannot vote or run for higher office. A US District judge in Utah ruling on a legal case that has been stuck for decades, said that Samoans ought to be considered citizens.
The state of Kentucky has restored voting rights to nearly 150,000 former felons who were convicted of non-violent crimes. The bill was signed by the newly seated Democrat Andrew Beshear on his third day as Governor. AP explained that, “Kentucky has one of the country’s highest voter disenfranchisement rates, with nearly one in 10 Kentuckians and nearly one in four African-Americans currently not allowed to vote.”
The recent mass shooting in Jersey City, New Jersey is being investigated as a terrorist act according to New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal. Two people, a man and a woman, linked to a group called Black Hebrew Israelites, fired weapons in a Kosher grocery store killing four people including a police officer before being fatally shot. Meanwhile the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) is singling out Fox News for spreading anti-Semitism. Jonathan A. Greenblatt, CEO of the ADL, wrote an op-ed on NBCNews.com saying, “what we are seeing today is the mainstreaming and normalizing of anti-Semitic tropes by elected leaders and media personalities that then empower bigots to speak and act with greater regularity and force than they would have even five or 10 years ago.” Greenblatt added, “One of the worst offenders is the president’s favorite network: Fox News.” Greenplatt supported Trump’s recent executive order identifying Jewish Americans as an ethnic group, not just a religious one. That order has divided the American Jewish community.
The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in a major decision has approved a settlement with the mega fast food corporation McDonald’s over workers rights. In a case that dragged on for year, organizers asserted that labor violations committed in McDonald’s franchises were the responsibility of the parent company. But McDonald’s offered a settlement in order to avoid a ruling that it was the “joint owner” of the franchises, and the NRLB gave its seal of approval. Union leaders will not be able to bargain directly with McDonald’s and the company will not be held liable.
A military camp in Niger has faced a massive attack that left 71 dead. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack. According to AP, “Islamic State claimed its fighters held the camp for several hours and seized a large cache of weapons and ammunition. Its jihadists took 16 vehicles and set the camp on fire before leaving.”
And finally in Madrid, Spain, the final hours of the COP 25 meeting are approaching as country representatives from nearly 200 nations struggled to come to an agreement on climate action. Chile’s Environment Minister Carolina Schmidt who is heading the talks said, ““Now is the time we must show the world that we are capable to get to consensus and agreement that are needed to tackle the crisis that we are facing all over the world.”