HEADLINES: December 9, 2019
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The House Judiciary Committee held yet another public hearing on the impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump on Monday as Democratic lawmakers sought to summarize the evidence and build a case for articles of impeachment. Committee chair Jerrold Nadler emphasized the danger of foreign interference in US elections. During his opening statement Mr. Nadler was interrupted by a Trump supporter who turned out to be the Owen Shroyer, a staffer with Infowars, the far-right outlet known for promoting racist and misogynist content and conspiracy theories echoed by the President. Representative Doug Collins, the ranking Republican on the panel rejected any and all claims made by Democrats despite evidence to the contrary brought forth by the largely Republican witnesses. Collins asserted, “They can’t get over the fact that Donald Trump is the president of the United States and they don’t have a candidate that can beat him.” A day earlier, President Trump, apparently rattled at the pace of the impeachment inquiry and the imminent articles of impeachment, fired off more than 100 tweets on Sunday, a possible record for him. According to Associated Press, “A committee vote is coming, possibly as soon as this week, on two or more articles of impeachment on charges of abuse of power, bribery and obstruction against the Republican president.”
Republicans appear to remain united behind Trump with his one-time critic Senator Ted Cruz of Texas repeating the same conspiracy theory that Trump promoted: that Ukraine was involved in the 2016 election interference. In an interview with Chuck Todd on NBC Mr. Cruz dug his heels in on the issue. Meanwhile on Sunday the Washington Post reported on Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who is deeply implicated in the Ukraine scandal that the impeachment inquiry is centered on. According to the Post, “In several conversations in recent months, Attorney General William P. Barr has counseled Trump in general terms that Giuliani has become a liability and a problem for the administration, according to multiple people familiar with the conversations. In one discussion, the attorney general warned the president that he was not being well-served by his lawyer…”
Meanwhile the long-awaited Justice Department Inspector General report on the FBI’s role in prompting a Special Counsel investigation into Trump’s campaign has just been released. In order to try to undermine Robert Mueller’s probe, Trump and Attorney General Barr have repeatedly claimed the FBI acted improperly but Barr’s hand-picked federal prosecutor did not find evidence to that effect in the 434-page report. There was evidence that the FBI used its surveillance powers carelessly and there may be prosecutions that emerge from the investigation. But on the wild conspiracy claims that Trump and his allies made against the FBI, the report exonerated the agency.
In other news, President Trump in a widely denounced speech on Saturday made shocking, anti-Semitic, and racist remarks to the Israeli American Council. The Jewish Democratic Council called the remarks, “deeply offensive” and “unconscionable.”
The House of Representatives on Friday passed a major piece of legislation to try to restore the Voting Rights Act of 1965, whose provisions were eroded by rightwing Supreme Court justices in recent years. The bill passed with 228 to 187 with all Democrats supporting it and only one Republican joining in. Representative Terry Sewell of Alabama, who sponsored the bill said, “I know I’m not the only black and brown colleague of ours who owes their very presence in this chamber to the Voting Rights Act passed in 1965.” Given the Republican domination of the Senate and White House the bill is unlikely to become law.
Former Democratic Representative Katie Hill of California, who was forced to resign from her position after only months in Congress, wrote a lengthy and moving op-ed in the New York Times on Monday. In it she detailed the misogynist Republican-led effort to shame her and openly discussed how she seriously contemplated suicide. She vowed to be “in the fight.”
The US Supreme Court has refused to take up an appeals court decision affirming an anti-abortion and anti-woman Kentucky law. The law, one of many put forward by right-wing fundamentalist groups requires doctors to conduct an unnecessary ultrasound of pregnant women’s wombs and force them to listen to the sound of fetal tissue while describing it in detail. The ACLU brought the lawsuit on the grounds of violating doctor’s free speech rights. But now the law will stand given the Supreme Court’s inaction.
In a rare moment of bi-partisanship lawmakers in the House and Senate have come to an agreement on legislation that would stop patients from being hit with surprise medical bills. The New York Times described it this way: “The proposal would prevent doctors from sending unexpected bills to patients when they are treated in a hospital that accepts their insurance, and would establish a system for resolving related billing disputes between those doctors and insurance companies.”
The online retail behemoth Amazon has just announced it will expand operations in New York City. The decision is a vindication for Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who battled Amazon over its demand for billions of dollars in subsidies from cities it was considering for its new headquarters.
A church in Claremont, California has made national headlines for its Christmas nativity scene in which it depicts Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus in separated from one another in chain-link cages. Reverend Karen Clark Ristine said, “we’ve seen how these asylum seekers have been greeted and treated. We wanted the Holy Family to stand in for those nameless people because they also were refugees.”
The Washington Post on Monday published a damning investigative report on the war in Afghanistan. The documents consisted of “interviews, [where] more than 400 insiders offered unrestrained criticism of what went wrong in Afghanistan and how the United States became mired in nearly two decades of warfare.” Additionally, according to the Post, “With a bluntness rarely expressed in public, the interviews lay bare pent-up complaints, frustrations and confessions, along with second-guessing and backbiting.” The document leak comes at the same time as the Trump administration has just restarted peace talks with the Taliban.
And finally in the latest on the shooting at Pensacola Air Base, the gunman, a Saudi national, apparently tweeted anti-US sentiments just before the fatal action that killed several people. The FBI is now presuming that the action was an act of terrorism. But President Trump, who has long befriended the Saudis in the face of their human rights violations, once more defended the fundamentalist monarchy. His national security advisor Robert O’Brien said on Face the Nation, “We’re going to take them at their word.”