Headlines: December 3, 2019
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House Republicans released their own report on the impeachment inquiry to rebut the official report from Committees that was shared with members on Monday. The 123-page report, which was obtained by media outlets claims that, “The evidence presented does not prove any of these Democrat allegations and none of the Democrats’ witnesses testified to having evidence of bribery, extortion, or any high crime or misdemeanor.” House Intelligence chair Representative Adam Schiff denounced the report as having been written for “an audience of one,” and added that it, “ignores voluminous evidence that the president used the power of his office to pressure Ukraine into investigating his political rival by withholding military aid and a White House meeting the President of Ukraine desperately sought.” Committee members voted on the official report on Tuesday after being given copies on Monday.
President Donald Trump, who is currently in London for the annual NATO summit, took an opportunity to blast his political rivals to reporters. He dismissed an idea of censuring him as a weaker alternative to impeachment, saying, “I did nothing wrong. You don’t censure somebody when they did nothing wrong.” He also accused Democrats of being “unpatriotic.” While at the summit Trump also clashed with French President Emmanuel Macron saying he had made, “very, very nasty” comments about Trump’s role in NATO. Macron had recently claimed that Trump’s US leadership was leading to a “brain death” of NATO. Trump on Tuesday responded saying, “You just can’t go around making statements like that about NATO. It’s very disrespectful.” He may have forgotten the many times he has personally insulted NATO, including calling members of the alliance “delinquent” only a year ago.
Despite Trump’s trip to Europe, the impeachment process here in the US will continue with the House Judiciary Committee holding hearings starting Wednesday. Committee chair Jerrold Nadler revealed the list of legal scholars that will testify, including, “Noah Feldman, a Harvard Law professor, Pamela Karlan, a law professor at Stanford, and Michael Gerhardt, a law professor at the University of North Carolina.” Republicans are calling their own witnesses, including Jonathan Turley, a Law professor at George Washington University. There are now reports that Democrats may be considering expanding the list of Trump’s impeachment offense beyond the Ukraine scandal.
The Justice Department’s Inspector General has reportedly concluded that the FBI had enough reason to launch a probe of the 2016 Trump presidential campaign and collusion with Russia, but Attorney General William Barr is apparently skeptical of that conclusion. The highly anticipated report on December 9th was the culmination of an investigation done at Barr and Trump’s behest in order to undermine the Special Counsel’s investigation. If Barr rebuts his own department’s conclusion it would confirm the partisan-ship he has been accused of in repeatedly siding with Trump. Meanwhile Barr slammed a judge’s recent ruling that allowed lawmakers to see secret grand jury evidence from the Special counsel’s probe saying it would discourage future witnesses.
Republican lawmaker Duncan Hunter has pled guilty to one of a series of campaign finance violations. Hunter, who represents areas in Southern California including parts of Riverside and San Diego, had been accused of violating laws for years, and, in language reminiscent of President Trump, had denounced the investigations as “fake news,” a “witch hunt,” and the product of the “deep state.” The Los Angeles Times explained that, “Hunter’s wife and former campaign manager, Margaret Hunter, admitted to her role in a widespread scheme that saw the couple allegedly spend more than $200,000 in campaign donations on family expenses like vacations, gas, groceries, school lunches and oral surgery.”
A US Appeals Court on Tuesday directed Deutchebank and Capital One Financing Group to turn over Trump’s financial records to House Committees that have subpoenaed them. The ruling represents another defeat for the President who has striven to keep his finances a secret for years.
The California State Utilities Commission has just released its report on Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), the state’s embattled private utilities company. The findings are damning and conclude that PG&E was responsible for the devastating Camp Fire that destroyed the town of Paradise last year and killed 85 people. According to the report, “The identified shortcomings in PG&E’s inspection and maintenance of the incident tower were not isolated, but rather indicative of an overall pattern of inadequate inspection and maintenance of PG&E’s transmission facilities.” A day before the report was released, Loretta M. Lynch, the former President of the California State Utilities Commission had changed her position on PG&E, saying that she thinks the state should take it over.
The US Senate on Monday confirmed a former Auto industry lobbyist to head the Energy Department, replacing outgoing Secretary Rick Perry. Dan Brouillette was once a lobbyist for Ford Motor Company and won over 70 Senators including several Democrats to oversee the Energy Department.
The Washington Post on Monday obtained emails showing that state senators in Montana took direction from health insurance industry lobbyists in writing op-eds that slammed a Medicare-for-All plan. The lobby group called Partnership for America’s Healthcare Future is funded by the industry that relies on our current healthcare system and that one of the group’s consultants provided language for the anti-Medicare-for-all op-eds.
The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) has just published a report on ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, showing that it has generated bills that promote racism and white supremacy in states across the country. ALEC, whose annual summit opens on Wednesday, has been the source of cookie-cutter state-level bills on a host of conservative issues. The report by CCR is called ALEC Attacks and was produced by a collaboration with Dream Defenders, Palestine Legal and other groups.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has just fired Police chief Eddie Johnson, weeks before he was due to retire. Although the controversial action was prompted by reports of Johnson having fallen asleep in his car at a stop sign, Lightfoot said in her announcement that he had, “engaged in conduct that is not only unbecoming, but demonstrated a series of ethical lapses and flawed decision-making that is inconsistent with having the privilege of leading the Chicago Police Department.” Chicago police have been at the center of numerous charges of racist police brutality.
In international news, seven men have been sentenced to up to 50 years in the murder of Honduran environmental and indigenous rights activist Berta Caceres. The men were convicted a year ago after a court ruled that the leadership of a dam-building company ordered her murder.
Tensions have once more ratcheted up between the US and North Korea with President Trump again resorting to demeaning name-calling against Kim Jong Un. Trump called Mr. Kim, “rocket man,” while the North Korean leader slammed talks with the US as a “foolish trick.” He also warned the US to drop its “hostile policy,” and ominously added, “it is entirely up to the U.S. what Christmas gift it will get.”
Protesters in Iran continued their activism against the Iranian regime even as leaders admitted that security forces had killed what they called “rioters.” Amnesty International released a report on Monday concluding that more than 200 people have been killed by the government crackdown on dissent and anger over rising fuel prices. Meanwhile US intelligence sources have announced that Iran faces a serious economic recession as a result of being cut off from access to funds through severe international sanctions.
And finally California Senator Kamala Harris has just announced her withdrawal from the Democratic Party Presidential race. Harris’s bid made an initial splash but she had recently struggled to make headway in the polls and her campaign was suffering from infighting and a lack of cash.