Headlines: December 23, 2019
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The White House turned over 146 pages of documents related to the Ukraine scandal to the Center for Public Integrity late on Friday in response to a Freedom of Information Act request. The documents reveal that just 90 minutes after President Donald Trump’s July 25th phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky a budget official named Michael Duffey contacted the Pentagon requesting that US military aid to Ukraine be placed on hold. Mr. Duffey also asked the Pentagon to keep it quiet because of the, “sensitive nature of the request,” implying that he realized Mr. Trump was pushing the boundaries of law. The White House documents also show that Duffey indicated Trump first considered withholding US aid from Ukraine after reading a July 19th article in the Washington Examiner about the impending military assistance. The documents obtained by the Center for Public Integrity reveals why House Democrats sought to subpoena Mr. Duffey and adds impetus to their request for additional witnesses in a Senate impeachment trial. Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen on Monday sent a letter to the Government Accountability Office seeking an opinion on the legality of withholding the aid.
As House Speaker Nancy Pelosi withholds the articles of impeachment from the Senate that the House passed last week in a historic vote, Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell accused Democrats of trying to tell him how to run the trial in his chamber. Pelosi explained that she needed to know, “what sort of trial the Senate will conduct,” while McConnell called the delay “absurd.” Republicans have accused Democrats of withholding the articles to create leverage for Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to demand documentary evidence and more witnesses. Still, in an interview on Fox and Friends on Monday McConnell said, “We haven’t ruled out witnesses.” It is likely there will be no progress on the issue until the new year. David Super, a professor of law at Georgetown University, wrote in the Washington Post on Monday that, “McConnell has less power to shape the impeachment trial than Democrats think.” Super explained that: “McConnell is unlikely to be making the key decisions about the shape of a Senate trial. The contours of the trial will be set by rules dating to the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson, in 1868. Those rules leave answers to such questions as whether witnesses will appear, and when the trial may be adjourned, to the chief justice of the United States, John G. Roberts Jr., who — as set forward in the Constitution — presides over the proceedings. By comparison, Schumer and McConnell are bit players.”
In other news, Dennis Muilenburg, the CEO of Boeing, has just been fired as part of the on-going controversy over its flawed 737 aircraft – two of which crashed causing the deaths of 346 people. The 737 had been grounded as Boeing decided when to restart production. Last week the company announced it would stop manufacturing them indefinitely. According to the New York Times, the decision to fire Mr. Muilenburg came after he, “repeatedly made overly optimistic projections about how quickly the plane would return to service. That has created chaos for airlines, which have had to cancel thousands of flights and sacrifice billions of dollars in sales.” Meanwhile The Guardian reported that Boeing was under fire from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for trying to pressure federal regulators into reauthorizing the 737.
An Iowa woman named Nicole Franklin has been charged multiple times over the assault of a 14-year old girl that Franklin says she targeted because she believed the victim was, “a Mexican.” Franklin, a white woman, was also charged with physically and verbally assaulting in racist terms a convenience store clerk soon after she hit the 14-year old. Domingo Garcia, the president of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) has demanded that Franklin be charged with committing hate crimes as well.
Just days after being linked to cozying up with billionaires in a “wine cave,” South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg is once more in the crosshairs of the media after Axios published a damning email solicitation showing Buttigieg’s campaign offering influence for cash. A person named H.K. Park who works for the global business consultancy The Cohen Group, is a so-called “bundler” working for the Buttigieg campaign. Axios explained that these are people who, “bundle together donations from rich friends and colleagues and are among the highest value assets to traditional campaigns. Sanders and Warren have pledged not to raise money this way.” Park’s email to potential donors said, “If you want to get on the campaign’s radar now before he is flooded with donations after winning Iowa and New Hampshire, you can use the link below for donations.”
In other electoral news, The Hill is reporting that, “former President Obama has gone to bat for [Presidential candidate Elizabeth] Warren (D-Mass.) when speaking to donors reluctant to support her given her knocks on Wall Street and the wealthy.” Mr. Obama, who many expected to back his former Vice President Joe Biden has apparently decided not to formally endorse a candidate for the Democratic nomination. Meanwhile, front runner Bernie Sanders from Vermont, who continues to be ignored by corporate media held a massive rally with New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in Southern California on Saturday drawing more than 14,000 people to Venice Beach. The rally got almost no coverage by the national media. A bare-bones article by California News Wire Service reported that additional guests to the rally included, “Los Angeles City Councilmembers Mike Bonin and Gil Cedillo, actor Tim Robbins and author Cornel West.”
President Trump has racked up a tax-payer tab of $118 million since his tenure began, on his golf playing trips to his for-profit swanky Palm Beach, Florida resort. The Huffington Post explained that, “The new total is the equivalent of 296 years of the $400,000 presidential salary that his supporters often boast that he is not taking.” Trump had often slammed Obama for spending too much time on the golf course. According to Huff Post, “At this exact point in former President Barack Obama’s first term, he had spent 88 days on a golf course. Saturday was Trump’s 227th day as president on a course that he owns.” Additionally, “Trump’s costs are so much higher than Obama’s because Trump insists on playing golf at his own courses — primarily in Bedminster, New Jersey, and Florida — during which he greets and spends time with paying club members whose dues continue to enrich him. Each trip to Bedminster costs taxpayers about $1.1 million, while each Mar-a-Lago trip costs about $3.4 million. Trump has also visited his courses in Los Angeles; Doral, Florida; Turnberry, Scotland; and Doonbeg, Ireland — all on the taxpayer dime.”
In international news, US ally and prime weapons buyer Saudi Arabia has said it has sentenced five people to death over the killing of dissident journalist Jamal Al Khashoggi. A criminal court in the capital Riyadh announced the verdicts and sentences after nearly a year of deliberations.
Protests in India continue over the Hindu Nationalist government’s anti-Muslim “citizenship amendment law.” Tens of thousands of people have been protesting in cities around the country and over the weekend, India’s Congress party joined in. AP reports that, “Twenty-three people have been killed nationwide since the citizenship law was passed,” most of them in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh which is 20% Muslim.
And finally protests in Paris, France also continue – now on their 19th day – against reforms to the state pension plan. AP explained that, “A wildcat protest by union activists Monday disrupted traffic on one of only two Paris subway lines that’s been functioning normally — and prevented shoppers from reaching the shopping mecca along the Champs-Elysees.”