Headlines: December 2, 2019
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The House Intelligence committee released its report behind closed doors on the impeachment of President Donald Trump based on the testimonies of a number of witnesses over several weeks. The report is being reviewed by committee members before they vote on sending it to the House Judiciary Committee before a critical new phase of the impeachment process begins this week. The House Judiciary committee will hold the first public hearing. According to Associated Press that hearing, “is expected to convene legal experts whose testimony, alongside the report from the Intelligence Committee, could lay the groundwork for possible articles of impeachment, which the panel is expected to soon draw up.”
After weeks of President Trump complaining that he was not being given due process (even though the impeachment inquiry was not a legal process), House Democrats offered him the chance to be represented at the Judiciary Committee hearings and also have his lawyers participate. Judiciary committee chair Jerrold Nadler gave the President a deadline of December 6th to confirm participation but the White House has announced that it would not take part in the proceedings. White House Counsel Pat Cipollone sent a letter to Mr. Nadler accusing him of scheduling the hearings at the same time that President Trump would be in Europe for this week’s annual NATO Summit and decrying the whole process as “unfair.” State Secretary Mike Pompeo, who is also personally implicated in the Ukraine scandal that the impeachment process is centered on, has suggested the proceedings should be put on hold while Trump is abroad.
House Republican Doug Collins, who is the ranking member of the minority party on the Judiciary Committee, has announced that he will call Intelligence Committee chair Adam Schiff as his first witness in this week’s hearings. Mr. Schiff dismissed the idea saying that it displayed a, “fundamental lack of seriousness,” and added, “The only reason for them to go through this is to mollify the president, and that’s not a good reason to call a member of Congress.”
Meanwhile Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky, whose phone call with Trump initially set off the impeachment scandal, gave Time Magazine an interview and said this of Trump’s withholding of US military aid: “If you’re our strategic partner, then you can’t go blocking anything for us. I think that’s just about fairness. It’s not about a quid pro quo.” He also denounced Trump’s repeated name-calling of Ukraine as a “corrupt country.” Under Zelensky’s leadership Ukraine is purging more than 500 prosecutors from their positions by the end of the year. Among them are prosecutors that Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani is associated with, implying the US president might actually have been taking advantage of corruption in Ukraine.
Former FBI Attorney Lisa Page has broken her silence after months of being the target of President Trump’s lies and ridicule. Page’s emails with former FBI agent Peter Strzok had been made public in the scandal over the leaks of emails from Hillary Clinton’s servers and her name has repeatedly cropped up in demeaning ways in the President’s tweets and speeches. In an interview with The Daily Beast Page says she is done being silent. She slammed Trump for his “sickening” attacks on her and said, “He’s demeaning me and my career.” The Justice Department is expected to release a report on December 9th focused on Trump’s claims that the FBI spied on his 2016 Presidential campaign. The report is expected to clear Page of wrong-doing.
Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg in an interview with CBS’s Gayle King defended his company’s on-going policy of allowed political ads to make false claims. He appeared with his wife Pricilla Chan and said, “I just think that in a democracy, people should be able to see for themselves what politicians are saying.” President Trump, who Zuckerberg has dined with, has taken great advantage of Facebook’s policy and spent millions to place ads maligning his rivals with deceptive and false claims. Zuckerberg defended his dinner with Trump saying, “it was a private dinner and … private discussion.” Other social media and technology companies have paid greater lip service to filtering out Trump’s lies. In recent months, Google and YouTube have apparently taken down hundreds of Trump ads because they were in violation of their policies.
The US Supreme Court heard arguments on Monday in a gun regulations case stemming from a challenge to strict gun laws in the city of New York and its home state. It is the first time in ten years that the court, which has a conservative majority, will be hearing a gun-related case. Although the case was brought by gun owners who saw the laws as too restrictive, the city and state have already relaxed those laws to mollify them so the court’s ruling could be unnecessary.
Associated Press has reported that a new wave of lawsuits around the Catholic Church’s child sex abuse scandal could be the biggest yet and could cost the church more than $4 billion. Across the US, more than a dozen states have extended the statute of limitations for cases involving people being raped by Catholic priests decades ago when they were children. There are more than 5,000 lawsuits filed since the new laws took effect and center on harrowing stories of abuse and trauma.
Former US State Secretary John Kerry has announced the formation of an ambitious coalition to tackle climate change called World War Zero. He said we have to treat the fight against climate change, “like a war.” His announcement came just as the latest United Nations climate summit, COP25 opened in Madrid, Spain. The meeting is centered on the implementation of the Paris Accord signed by countries 4 years ago. Although the US has withdrawn from that Accord as per President Trump’s wishes, lawmakers say they want to stick with it. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is in Madrid along with more than a dozen Democratic Party lawmakers and has pledged to respect the treaty. United Nations Secretary General António Guterres said he was “disappointed” with the lack of progress on cutting emissions and hoped countries would think twice before building dirty energy infrastructure. As COP25 commenced, thousands of climate activists in Germany targeted three major coal mines and clashed with police during their protest. The action came just days after a massive march and protest last Friday as part of the on-going worldwide Fridays for Future movement. And Oxfam has just released a report on how climate-related disasters have cause mass displacement worldwide. The report called Forced From Home concludes that, “Climate-fueled disasters were the number one driver of internal displacement over the last decade – forcing an estimated 20 million people a year from their homes.”
The Syrian and Turkish governments have reportedly escalated airstrikes on civilian areas in war-torn Syria with casualties mounting. Syrian government forces apparently struck two towns in the Northwestern part of the country killing at least 10 people while Turkish forces hit a Kurdish-held area killing ten, mostly children. And on Sunday the New York Times published an investigative report finding that Russian forces together with Syrian government forces conducted airstrikes on civilian areas in the late summer causing horrific injuries and deaths.
And finally at least 20 people were killed in Mexico near the US border with Texas during a gun-battle that lasted two days. The violence was centered around drug cartels that President Trump has decided to classify as terrorist groups.