Headlines: December 5, 2019
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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has asked Committees working on the impeachment inquiry to proceed with drawing up Articles of Impeachment against President Donald Trump. In a speech early on Thursday morning Speaker Pelosi made the announcement. She gave no indication of the timeline of the process but it is expected that the House will pass them to impeach Trump with a Democratic majority. After that the US Senate will take up a trial to determine whether or not to remove the President. Trump responded on Twitter (here and here) saying, “if you are going to impeach me, do it now, fast, so we can have a fair trial in the Senate, and so that our Country can get back to business.” He added, acting as though he was in complete control of the US Senate, “We will have Schiff, the Bidens, Pelosi and many more testify, and will reveal, for the first time, how corrupt our system really is.”
President Trump’s personal attorneys asked the Supreme Court on Wednesday to intervene in the fight over turning over his financial records to Congress. The case involves Trump’s former accounting firm Mazars International, which has pledged to comply with the outcome of the legal challenge to a House subpoena for Trump’s records. A federal district court judge and a District Court of Appeals have already ruled in favor of the House Oversight and Reform Committee. If the US Supreme Court takes up the case it would draw up new battle lines over political power between the Executive and Legislative branches of government.
Trump’s most controversial personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, who is central to the Ukraine scandal that the President faces impeachment on, is also in the news. While the House Judiciary Committee was holding public impeachment hearings on Tuesday Mr. Giuliani was in the Ukrainian capital meeting with a former pro-Russian lawmaker named Andriy Derkach. Mr. Derkach has been eager to investigate the Bidens and has written to US lawmakers asking for their cooperation in investigating corruption in Ukraine. Giuliani has also been meeting with former Ukrainian prosecutors whose conspiracy theories the Republican Party has embraced.
Attorney General William Barr is facing a disappointing prospect in his crusade to show that the Special Counsel investigation into 2016 wrongdoing was an FBI conspiracy. The prosecutor that Mr. Barr handpicked to investigate the origins of the probe apparently cannot confirm Barr’s suspicions and President Trump’s claims. The report from the investigation is expected to be released on December 9th and may be a disappointment to conservatives who have long sought to undermine the need for Robert Mueller’s investigation.
The Republican-dominated Senate just voted to confirm Sarah Pitlyk as a federal judge, an attorney that the American Bar Association has deemed “unqualified” for the position. Not only does Pitlyk lack the necessary experience, but, according to the Washington Post, “has been lambasted by reproductive rights advocates for her vigorous opposition to abortion, surrogacy and in vitro fertilization.” The only Republican to vote against her was Senator Susan Collins. President Trump counts among his greatest achievements thus far, a conservative-dominated federal judiciary, boasting on Thursday morning of the “182 great new judges,” that he has nominated and has had confirmed.
The New York Times has published disturbing drawings made by Abu Zubaydah, a detainee held at the US facility in Guantanamo, Cuba, depicting the CIA’s torture methods. Mr. Zubaydah was the first person to have experienced the CIA’s so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques,” that were widely denounced as torture. The drawings were part of a report published by Zubaydah’s lawyer Mark P. Denbeaux called “How America Tortures.” They are horrifying depictions of the hundreds of times he was waterboarded, shackled naked, and made to fit into confined boxes. President George W. Bush whose reputation has seen a bit of sanitizing in recent years, approved the torture that violated international law.
The man who killed the black teenager Trayvon Martin in Florida has decided to sue Martin’s family for $100 million. Martin’s murder sparked the rallying cry of “Black Lives Matter,” after the killer, George Zimmerman was acquitted. According to the Guardian newspaper, “In a 36-page lawsuit circulated by his lawyers, Zimmerman claims his reputation was destroyed by the ‘malicious prosecution.’” Zimmerman’s lawyer is Larry Klayman, the founder of the rightwing group Judicial Watch.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the number of workplace immigration investigations by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) under President Trump has quadrupled compared to the Obama years. The startling jump coincides with far fewer investigations into gangs, financial crimes and weapons.
In electoral news, the Los Angeles Times reported that Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is leading polls in the state of California, pushing past Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and former Vice President Joe Biden. Both Warren and Biden’s popularity has dropped while South Bend, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sanders’ popularity has risen. Sanders is now at 24% followed closely by Warren at 22%. California’s early primary next year helps the Golden State set the electoral agenda for the first time. Being the most populous state in the nation, whoever wins California will also win the largest single chunk of delegates to the Democratic National Convention. Meanwhile Sanders plans to join youth climate strikers in Iowa on Friday, another state with electoral agenda-setting power. Warren has taken on Michael Bloomberg’s candidacy, attacking the billionaire for attempting to “buy the presidency.” And Mr. Biden has won the endorsement of former State Secretary John Kerry. Kerry was the Democratic nominee against George W. Bush and lost to him.
The Guardian newspaper has uncovered a major source of online hate and propaganda using social media aimed at the first two Muslim women to serve in the US Congress: Minnesota’s Ilhan Omar and Michigan’s Rashida Tlaib. The investigative report is called “Inside the hate factory: how Facebook fuels far-right profit,” and details how a group of Israel-based Facebook accounts are spreading right-wing Islamophobic content, much of it aimed at the two Muslim Congresswomen.
In international news, French cities came to a standstill on Thursday as a general strike was launched over pension plan reforms. Thousands of people gathered in the capital Paris and shut down high-speed trains and even the Eiffel Tower as police fired tear gas at them and arrested nearly 90. The mass action comes as French President Emanuel Macron is attempting to solidify his leadership in NATO at the annual conference. Changes to the pension plans are a centerpiece of Mr. Macron’s economic reforms.
And finally in Bogota, Colombia, thousands of protesters also shut down their capital, in what was the third such strike aimed at President Ivan Duque. According to Reuters, “Workers’ unions, pensioners, students and ethnic groups, among others, have taken to the streets in the longest-running protests Colombia has seen in decades.” And, “Protesters are angry over a wide range of issues from the poor health system, inadequate pensions, violence, inequality, corruption and the weak implementation of the 2016 peace deal.”