Headlines: December 4, 2019
Listen to story:
Download: mp3 (Duration: 8:28 — 7.8MB)
The House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday morning began its public hearings to determine whether to draw up articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump. Four constitutional scholars were invited to testify, three from the Democrats’ side, and one from the Republicans. Chairman Jerrold Nadler made a strong opening statement underscoring the seriousness of Trump’s conduct in the Ukraine scandal. Harvard Law Professor Noah Feldman laid out the logic that the constitution’s authors followed in establishing an impeachment process and concluded that Trump committed impeachable offenses. Stanford Law Professor Pamela Karlan slammed Republican efforts to claim that there is no factual basis for impeachment directly addressing Republican Congressman Doug Collins on the Judiciary Committee. The lone witness brought by Republicans was Jonathan Turley, a professor at the George Washington University School of Law, who claimed that Trump’s impeachment would set a “dangerous precedent.”
The House Judiciary Committee’s hearings are based on evidence presented in a report released by the House Intelligence Committee, based on many hours of witness testimonies. The 300-page report lays out how Trump withheld US military aid and a White House meeting from Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky in exchange for a promise to investigate his political rival Joe Biden. It also explains the many ways in which the President refused to cooperate with Congress’s constitutional duty to conduct an impeachment process. Additionally it highlighted the improper role of Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and the phone calls he received from a mysterious number identified only as “-1.” Mr. Giuliani, who has remained relatively quiet in recent weeks, took to Twitter to defend his constant communication with the White House saying he was the president’s attorney. The report also shows how the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes of California, had numerous calls with Giuliani as well as his associate Lev Parnas who is currently on trial for campaign finance violations. Meanwhile Mr. Nunes has also filed a $435 million lawsuit against CNN for impeachment-related reporting that he says was a “false hit piece.”
Among the baseless claims that Trump, Giuliani, and the President’s backers made to justify their actions on Ukraine, and continue to make during the impeachment proceedings is a conspiracy theory that Ukraine’s government was involved in the election interference in 2016. Now, top Republican Senator Lindsey Graham has publicly broken with his colleagues in declaring that Russia and no one else was involved. Senator Mitt Romney, who has been the lone GOP voice in the Senate backing Trump’s impeachment, has also said there is no evidence to back the claim of Ukraine’s election meddling.
In other news the Trump administration has just finalized a new rule allowing states greater discretion in distributing food aid. The rule is likely to result in hundreds of thousands of Americans losing access to food stamps by the middle of next year.
Attorney General William Barr in a speech on Tuesday to prosecutors and law enforcement made a stunning threat to groups protesting police brutality. Taking an entirely pro-police approach Barr denounced District Attorneys that have been taking steps to hold law enforcement accountable for excessive force and suggested there should be “zero tolerance” for resisting police. Meanwhile in Baltimore, Maryland, 25 correctional officers were just indicted for abusing prisoners at state-operated jails in the city.
The New York Times and Pro-Publica have released a report on how the international consulting firm McKinsey and Company made recommendations to the Trump administration on immigration detention that were so harsh that even government employees balked. The suggestions included cutting food and medical care and deporting immigrants so fast that it violated their due process rights.
Republican Congressional Candidate George Buck of Florida is under fire for suggesting that Minnesota’s Congresswoman Ilhan Omar be “hanged” for treason. Mr. Buck joins a growing group of Republicans that have aimed hate-filled and violent white supremacist views against Ms. Omar, one of two of the nation’s first Muslim women to serve in Congress. Earlier Omar’s Republican rival for her Congressional seat Danielle Stella, lost her right to a Twitter account over her violent threats against Omar and also for saying she should be hanged.
President Trump unexpectedly cut short his trip to Europe for the annual NATO summit after a video recording emerged of his European counterparts mocking him in conversation. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, French President Emmanuel Macron and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson – who is seen as a Trump ally – were engaged in a conversation at Buckingham Palace unaware that their remarks were partially captured by a hot mic. President Trump responded in his usual way by name-calling and announced that Mr. Trudeau was “two-faced.” Meanwhile there are reports that NATO leaders are at odds with one another and not just because Trump has threatened the strength of the alliance. NATO leaders have also decided to not hold a summit next year and wait until 2021 to meet again, when there might be a new US president.
The government of Samoa has been forced to shut down its services for two days as they struggle to control a deadly measles outbreak that has claimed the lives of dozens of people, mostly children. There have been thousands of cases of the disease in the past few months alone as vaccination rates on the islands have plummeted. A scandal last year in which an improperly mixed vaccine caused two infants to die led to vaccine skepticism in the population. Now Samoan households have been instructed to place red flags outside their homes to alert government officials if they are not vaccinated.