Headlines: December 19, 2019
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The House of Representatives on Wednesday December 18th 2019, voted by large majorities to impeach the 45th President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, only the third time in US history that such a step has been taken. Voting along almost strict partisan lines lawmakers passed two articles of impeachment after more than 8 hours of debate: the abuse of power, and obstruction of Congress. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the results, as President Trump’s loyal Republican backers booed in protest. The vote came at the end of a very long day of debate during which Republicans stuck to a narrow set of arguments repeated over and over: that the President did nothing wrong, that Democrats had no evidence to impeach, and that their rival party was impeaching a Republican President because they resented his election. Democratic lawmaker and iconic civil rights activist John Lewis reminded his fellow members of Congress that the vote was about right and wrong rather than partisanship. One Democrat, Tulsi Gabbard, who claims to be progressive refused to cast her vote, declaring only that she was present.
A day after the historic vote, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has announced he plans to remain loyal to Trump rather than fairly preside over a Senate trial, blasted the impeachment vote as partisan. So far 56 Senators have not yet announced their intention on how they plan to vote when the Senate trial begins. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi implied that she may not send the articles of impeachment to the Senate right away and there are suggestions that she may hold out until she is assured that the Senate rules on the impeachment trial will be fair. At a press conference on Wednesday night after the impeachment vote she spoke with reporters.
Meanwhile President Trump, who alternated between raging on Twitter against the impeachment vote and claiming it did not bother him, ended the night at a raucous rally in Battle Creek, Michigan. He said moments after the vote that it was an action to, “nullify the ballots of tens of millions of patriotic Americans.” He continued his pattern of attacking news media and denounced a female protester who showed up as a “slob” and “disgusting person.” Perhaps the most shocking moment of his rally was when he denigrated a recently deceased Congressman whose wife voted to impeach Trump. Representative Debbie Dingell responded saying, “I’m preparing for the first holiday season without the man I love. You brought me down in a way you can never imagine and your hurtful words just made my healing much harder.” White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham retorted that the President was “just riffing,” when he made the cruel remarks.
In other news a conservative radio host made waves when he said during his Colorado-based talk show said, “You know…you wish for a nice school shooting” to interrupt the nonstop impeachment coverage.” His wife and co-host jumped in and cut him off. Meanwhile analysts are pointing out that Trump’s Facebook political ads are increasingly violent and sound fascist. One of the latest ads tells Trump’s supporters, “It’s US against THEM in this impeachment war. And we need to strike first.”
The next Democratic Presidential debate is being held Thursday night in Los Angeles at Loyola Marymount University. Only seven candidates qualified under the Democratic National Committee’s strict rules: Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Andrew Yang, Amy Klobuchar, Pete Buttigieg, and Tom Steyer. Meanwhile Republican Congressmen Mark Meadows, who has been one of Trump’s most loyal supporters in the House, has announced he is retiring and will not run for reelection in his North Carolina district. Meadows has expressed interest in joining Trump’s reelection campaign.
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy has just signed a new bill restoring the voting rights of people who are on probation or parole. The bill impacts more than 80,000 people and is along the same lines as a bill that Kentucky’s newly elected Democratic Governor Andrew Beshear recently signed.
A federal appeals court has struck down the Affordable Care Act’s insurance mandate calling it unconstitutional. The fifth circuit court of appeals has invalidated that aspect of the law but left the rest of it intact. Now, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra has announced he will appeal the decision to the US Supreme Court. Becerra said, “We will move swiftly to challenge this decision and seek certification because this could mean the difference between life and death for so many Americans and their families.”
A court on Wednesday ruled that the “incidental collection” of surveillance information on Americans and their non-American contacts by the National Security Agency was constitutional. Reuters explained that, “The NSA surveillance program is sometimes called PRISM, which gathers data from tech and telecom companies under court supervision and under the authority of section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) but without individual warrants.”
In international news a report has detailed the disturbing impact of United Nations peacekeeping forces that occupied Haiti for years and found that troops fathered hundreds of children and then abandoned them. According to the Washington Post the report found, “a troubling stream of coercion and abuse that left girls as young as 11 to raise children by themselves in conditions of extreme poverty.” Additionally, “Some participants alluded to instances of rape or sexual violence, but more often, the Haitians surveyed relayed stories describing a ‘common pattern’ where women received small amounts of money or food in exchange for sex.”
Protests continue in India against the controversial bill to grant citizenship to non-Muslim residents of neighboring nations. Police responses are getting increasingly violent and include mass arrests of thousands of people at a time. Among those arrested are several high profile academics and political activists. The Indian government of Hindu nationalist leader Narendra Modi has resorted to shutting off the internet in the capitol New Delhi.
And finally in Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) has announced just days after pro-Brexit conservatives won a majority in the UK parliament that she intends to push for a new referendum on Scottish independence. Sturgeon called it a matter of “self-determination.”