Headlines: December 18, 2019
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The House voted on rules early on Wednesday morning over how the Articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump should be debated. Republicans attempted to throw up procedural obstacles at every turn and tried to dismiss the articles but failed. Many asserted that Democrats were intent on impeaching Trump just as he took office. After the rules themselves were debated they were passed a vote by the Democratic dominated House 228 to 197 with all but two members of the liberal party joining in. Speaker Nancy Pelosi then addressed the chamber, which kicked off 6 hours of debate, divided equally between the majority party and the minority party ahead of a vote on the articles of impeachment. The equal time means that Republicans will get disproportionately more time per representative given that they are in the minority. As of this recording the vote to impeach has not yet taken place but the House is expected to pass the two articles.
The day before the historic impeachment vote President Trump sent a lengthy letter to Speaker Pelosi that analysts widely derided. In it he denounced the impeachment effort as an “attempted coup,” and liberally sprinkled in lies and exaggerations in order to paint an Orwellian picture of being unfairly persecuted. He even made a little noticed claim that, “Each one of your members lives in fear of a socialist primary challenger — this is what is driving impeachment.” Huffington Post published a round-up of the letter’s analysis: ‘Conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin of The Washington Post described it as ‘bizarre and frightening’ and said the president was ‘unhinged.’ GOP strategist Rick Wilson denounced it as ‘pure crazy, weapons-grade nuts.’ The New York Times called it “rambling and angry.” Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) said it was a ‘tantrum’ while Twitter users slammed the screed.”
Across the country more than 600 rallies took place in support of impeachment drawing tens of thousands of people many of them braving extremely cold or wet weather. The goal of organizers was to show lawmakers widespread public support for impeachment. This is Times Square, New York City, Louisville, Kentucky, and Portland, Oregon .
On the same day that the House debates and votes on the Articles of Impeachment the Justice Department’s Inspector General Michael Horowitz testified to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee about his recent report on the origins of the Russia investigation. The Washington Post explained that, “Horowitz criticized how the FBI handled its probe of former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, asserting that agents used inaccurate information to obtain Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court orders to surveil Page, even as they discussed among themselves that the investigation was coming up empty.” Apparently Horowitz was, “so alarmed that he launched a broader review of the FBI’s use of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.” Meanwhile the FISA Court’s chief judge said on Tuesday that the FBI offered scant evidence to justify its request to surveil Page. The rebuke was a rare instance of the secretive court speaking out.
In other news President Trump’s former campaign manager Rick Gates has been sentenced to weekend jail time and 3 years of probation – a relatively light sentence for his conviction of financial fraud and perjury.
The US Senate on Tuesday passed a massive defense spending bill days after the House passed it, authorizing among other things, the creation of a Space Force as a sixth branch of the US military. The bill contains many other provisions including 12 weeks of paid parental leave for federal workers but leaves out a House passed resolution ending funds for the Saudi-led war on Yemen. The bill also includes sanctions against the perpetrators of the war in Syria including the Syrian government, Russia, and Iran.
As Democrats reached a deal with the White House to fund the federal government, the party faced an internal revolt from members of the Hispanic Caucus who were outraged that certain aspect of border militarization and harsh immigration enforcement remained in the bill. Reports also emerged that the White House slashed Medicaid funding for Puerto Rico even as a deadline looms for a funding shortfall. Trump has openly denigrated the island, its leaders, and its residents.
The White House has unveiled a plan to allow States to purchase cheaper wholesale prescription drugs from neighboring Canada. Trump has talked a lot about reducing the high cost of prescription drugs. It is not yet clear how or when his plan will go into effect.
Meanwhile a new federal survey of high-school and middle-school aged children has found that marijuana vaping has soared in that age group, replacing alcohol, hard drugs, and cigarette smoking. There was also a drop in the use of opioid prescription pain killers. Lawmakers have attached an increase in the tobacco-buying age from 18 to 21 in the latest spending bill.
Associated Press published a special report into the health crisis across the US border in Mexico among asylum seekers awaiting their claims for US entry. The outlet profiled, “a movement of health professionals and medical students from both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border that is quietly battling to keep asylum seekers healthy and safe while their lives remain in flux.” Among the most dire health problems are mental trauma that not all volunteers are trained to handle as they, “try desperately to tend to a need left largely unmet by the governments of both countries.”
In climate change news a massive outbreak of deadly tornadoes has hit the Southeastern part of the US this week. The twisters hit multiple parts of the nation from Western Louisiana to Southern Georgia including Mississippi where ten tornadoes hit in two days alone. At least 4 people have been killed so far. Meanwhile Huffington Post, which conducted an analysis of fossil fuel company documents has found that even though the industry publicly acknowledges the reality of climate change, it continues to fund climate denialism. Specifically, “the Independent Petroleum Association of America has spent almost $2 million a year for the last two years on Energy In Depth, a “research, education and public outreach campaign” that regularly attacks scientists whose research is critical of industry. The campaign has received financial backing from 14 different oil and gas companies including Shell, Occidental Petroleum, BP, Chevron and Halliburton.
And finally Human Rights Watch has released a new report on horrific conditions facing unaccompanied migrant children on the Greek island of Lesbos. The report outlines the “inhuman and degrading” facing the children who are living in overcrowded camps on their own with few resources.