Headlines: December 17, 2019
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The House Rules committee met on Tuesday to set parameters for a Wednesday debate that will precede a historic impeachment vote aimed at President Donald Trump. If Trump is impeached as expected, it will trigger a Senate impeachment trial as early as the first week of January. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky rejected Minority Leader Chuck Shumer’s request to bring to the floor additional witnesses such as Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and former National Security Advisor John Bolton, saying it was, “a strange request at this juncture.” But a new Washington Post/ABC poll found that, “Among Democrats, 79 percent say Trump should let his advisers appear before the Senate, while among Republicans, 64 percent agree. Among independents, 72 percent favor their appearance.”
That same poll found that 49% of Americans want to see Trump impeached and removed from office, compared to 46% who do not. Meanwhile, a number of freshmen Democratic lawmakers who consider themselves politically moderate now say they will vote to impeach Trump regardless of the political risk of losing their seats next year. A large group of 750 historians including Nobel prize winners have signed on to a letter demanding Trump be impeached. And nationwide protests are being held in cities across the country on Tuesday night to support impeachment. There will be more than 500 gatherings in all 50 states organized by more than 100 organizations. More information is available at impeach.org.
The New York Times published an interview with Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani in which he said that he warned the President multiple times about former US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch and that he thought she should have been fired. Yovanovitch was one of several key witnesses called by the House Intelligence Committee in their impeachment hearings. Giuliani explained to the paper that Yovanovitch had been trying to block the improper investigations that the White House sought on Trump’s political rival Joe Biden. Mr. Giuliani is known for blurting out incriminating details about his client.
A new organization called the Lincoln Project is seeking to oust Trump and lobby against his reelection. Consisting of a small group of Trump’s conservative critics, the organization is seeking to form a Political Action Committee (PAC) to fundraise. On the same day that the group launched its website, several of its leaders penned an op-ed in the New York Times explaining their goal. The op-ed writers, which included George Conway, the husband of ardent Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway, accused Congressional Republicans of “craven acquiescence” toward Trump and said they were abdicating their responsibilities.
A federal judge just ruled that the state of Georgia can purge the names of 309,000 registered voters. The Atlanta Journal Constitution explained that, “Georgia is one of nine states with a law known as ‘use it or lose it,’ which allows registrations to be canceled after voters fail to participate in elections for several years.” Among the 309,000 voter purges about 120,000 people have apparently not cast a ballot since 2012. Proponents of the purge say that the rest either had mail that was undeliverable or had moved out of the state. Georgia became notorious in 2018 for harsh voter suppression driven by then State Secretary Brian Kemp overseeing his own election bid as governor. Kemp’s rival Stacey Abrams formed a voting rights organization after she narrowly lost, and that group has now filed an emergency motion to try to stop the voter purge.
The latest Democratic Presidential debate is expected to take place this Thursday in Los Angeles at the Loyola Marymount University. A labor feud centered on unionized food workers had threatened to derail the debate but a last-minute deal with the university means that candidates who said they could not participate in good conscience will now be able to. Tom Perez, the current DNC Chair and Obama’s Labor Secretary oversaw negotiations. According to the Wall Street Journal, “Unite Here Local 11 said the three-year agreement includes a 25% increase in compensation, a 50% drop in health-care costs and increased job security.”
Congress members have come to an agreement on a $1.3 trillion spending bill to fund the federal government that includes extensions for some aspects of the 2017 tax reform bill. Republicans had hoped for a second round of tax cuts but the spending bill largely keeps in place the status quo. Among the highlights of the spending bill are an increase in the minimum tobacco-buying age from 18 to 21, and a permanent repeal of taxes related to the Affordable Care Act. It also excludes the $5 billion that President Trump had demanded to build a border wall with Mexico. A major detail in the bill is $25 million in funding for gun violence research which Congress has not approved in more than 20 years. The funding will be split between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health.
A newly revealed report on Purdue Pharmaceuticals shows that the company at the center of the opioid epidemic paid out more than $10 billion to its owners, the Sackler family as the crisis was growing. The report was originally written by a company consulting for Purdue and was filed in a New York bankruptcy court on Monday and may be used to determine how much of the money should be paid out to state and local governments tackling the opioid crisis.
After months of controversy over two deadly 737 crashes Boeing has finally decided to indefinitely suspend the manufacturing of its popular aircraft by January. The decision was based on the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) extending its review of the 737 aircraft into next year. According to CNBC the decision to stop manufacturing is, “set to ripple through the aerospace giant’s supply chain and broader economy. It also presents further problems for airlines, which have lost hundreds of millions of dollars and canceled thousands of flights without the fuel-efficient planes in their fleets.”
A black man named Curtis Flowers was just released on bail in Mississippi after 23 years in prison and a whopping 6 murder trials around the killings of 4 people. The first three trials resulted in convictions by all-white juries that were then overturned by State Supreme Court decisions. Flowers, who maintains his innocence, was released on a $250,000 bond while he awaits the news of whether or not he will face a 7th trial.
In international news, a court in Pakistan has sentenced former Prime Minister Pervez Musharraf to death on charges of treason. Mr. Musharraf, a former Army general who ruled Pakistan from 2001 to 2008 after coming to power through a military coup, remains in exile in the United Arab Emirates. He was closely allied with the US in the early years of the war in Afghanistan. It is the first time that Pakistan has sentenced a former ruler to death although the country has a long history of military coups. The case that has resulted in the death sentence was begun by former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
And finally Pope Francis has just announced major reforms in the Catholic Church over the decades-long and international scandal of sexual assault of children by priests. According to Reuters, “Two documents issued by the pope back practices that have been in place in some countries, particularly the United States, such as reporting suspicion of sex abuse to civil authorities where required by law.” Additionally, “The documents, which put the practices into universal Church law, also forbid imposing an obligation of silence on those who report sex abuse or allege they have been a victim.” Survivors of assault say the announcements do not go far enough and want accountability for those bishops that helped cover up the crimes.