Headlines: December 16, 2019
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The House Judiciary Committee released its 658-page report early on Monday morning that laid out the arguments for two counts of impeachment charges against President Donald Trump ahead of a vote by the full House. The report concluded that, “the articles charge that President Trump has placed his personal, political interests above our national security, our free and fair elections, and our system of checks and balances. He has engaged in a pattern of misconduct that will continue if left unchecked. Accordingly, President Trump should be impeached and removed from office.” Committee members also specified several federal crimes that they say Trump committed including bribery and fraud. The Democrat-dominated House is expected to impeach the President which will then lead to a trial in the Senate presided over by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts. Although Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has promised a biased process during which he plans to closely coordinate with the White House, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has requested the presence of several witnesses who did not testify to the House. Specifically Mr. Schumer in a letter to McConnell requested that Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and former National Security Advisor John Bolton be brought in among others to testify in front of the Senate. In his letter, Schumer also requested that McConnell adopt the bi-partisan process established during the Senate impeachment trial of former Democratic President Bill Clinton.
Conservative Democrat Jeff Van Drew announced his resignation from his party and his intention to defect to the Republican Party later this week over opposition to Trump’s impeachment. But six of his staffers were so opposed to his switching parties that they resigned together saying in a letter that they were, “deeply saddened and disappointed” by Van Drew’s decision. Meanwhile, Justin Amash, a Republican who left his party to become an Independent, is being held up by a group of freshmen Democrats as the perfect impeachment manager during the Senate trial. They say Amash, who hailed from the Tea Party movement but left the GOP disgusted by Trump, could draw support from conservatives for impeachment.
A federal judge on Friday ordered the State Department to release documents that include correspondence between Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and State Secretary Mike Pompeo over the withholding of US military aid to Ukraine. Mr. Giuliani, who audaciously spent time in Ukraine during the House Judiciary committee’s hearings, has now returned saying he has proof of no wrongdoing by Trump and evidence of corruption over former Vice President Joe Biden’s role in Ukraine. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham says he wants the Senate Judiciary Committee to hear Giuliani out on the results of his trip.
A new report by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) examining corporate tax avoidance has found that the tax reform law that Republicans passed two years ago achieved the party’s aim: to further enrich wealthy corporations. Among the report’s key findings are that, corporations, “paid an effective federal income tax rate of 11.3 percent on their 2018 income,” and that, “91 corporations did not pay federal income taxes on their 2018 U.S. income.”
Hallmark came under fire from conservatives for airing ads on its television channel showing same-sex bridal couples kissing one another. After it pulled the ads, the company garnered backlash from groups backing LGBTQ rights and decided to reinstate the ads. The company’s initial decision to pull the ads was in response to a conservative group’s petition that claimed the ads go against, “Christian and conservative values.” Hallmark executives explained their decision to pull the ads saying, “We are not allowed to accept creatives that are deemed controversial.” After outrage over their decision, the company backtracked saying it was sorry for the, “hurt and disappointment it has unintentionally caused.”
Undocumented immigrants in the state of New York can now start applying for driver’s licenses. A law that was passed earlier this year and signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo finally went into effect on Monday after a federal court judge threw out a challenge last Friday. New York Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement, “The Green Light law is legal and enforceable, and two separate federal courts have now already dismissed the meritless claims of two county clerks.” She added, “the law will help make our roads safer, our economy stronger, and will allow immigrants to come out of the shadows to sign up as legal drivers in our state.” More than a dozen states already allowed undocumented immigrants to obtain legal driver’s licenses.
In electoral news, Associated Press has reviewed Ohio voter rolls and found that thousands of eligible voters who requested absentee ballots in last year’s general election were turned down. The majority were turned down due to missing or mismatched signatures. And, in Wisconsin a judge on Friday ordered the purging of nearly 234,000 voters from the rolls over a controversial Republican-backed effort to prove they have moved residences. The decision is expected to disproportionately impact Democratic voters in a closely-watch swing state that President Trump won by a few tens of thousands of votes in 2016.
A new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist Poll on the 2020 election has found former Vice President Joe Biden holding on to a slim lead among Democratic voters at 24% followed by Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders at 22%. Sanders has surged in popularity in recent weeks. Sanders leads Biden among Independents. And, broken down by race, white prefer Biden over Sanders at 22% to 16% but non-whites prefer Sanders at 29% to 26%. Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren has slipped in recent polls.
The US Supreme Court has decided not to review a lower court ruling on homelessness in a case around Boise, Idaho. The federal 9th circuit court of appeals had held that it was unlawful to criminalize homeless people for sleeping on the streets in cities where there were not enough shelter beds. In refusing to take up the case the Supreme Court has allowed that ruling to stand in a victory for advocates of homeless people.
A black woman whose 1-year old baby was harshly ripped out of her arms and then tackled to the floor by multiple law enforcement officers at a benefits office last year will receive a $625,000 settlement. The woman, Jazmine Headley, sued New York City earlier this year over the incident that was videotaped and widely viewed online.
The US military is investigating an incident in which cadets from West Point military academy apparently flashed a “white power” sign with their hands while on national television during a sporting event. The Anti-Defamation League has designated the “ok” sign made by hand as a symbol of hate.
US and Chinese officials have announced a trade deal after many months of anticipation. Stocks rose in response to the announcement. Associated Press explained that the first part of the deal which was agreed to last Friday meant that, “The world’s two largest economies agreed to reduce some punitive tariffs imposed in their fight over China’s technology ambitions and trade surplus. Beijing agreed to buy more American farm exports.”
And finally Amnesty International has released a new report on Iran’s crackdown on protesters. According to the human rights organization, Iran has arbitrarily arrested thousands of people including children and many have been disappeared and tortured. More than 300 people have so far been killed in a wave of dissent prompted by rising fuel prices.