Headlines: January 14, 2020
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The House of Representatives will hold a vote on Wednesday to transmit two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump to the US Senate for a trial, and name the House impeachment managers. In a statement released Tuesday morning, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, “The Senate GOP Leader has signed on to a dismissal resolution. A dismissal is a cover-up. The American people will fully understand the Senate’s move to begin the trial without witnesses and documents as a pure political cover-up. Leader McConnell and the President are afraid of more facts coming to light.” However it is likely that Republicans will not have the required 51 votes in the Senate to dismiss the impeachment despite President Trump’s demand for a quick end to the trial. GOP Senator Roy Blunt said, “I don’t think there’s any interest on our side of dismissing.” According to the Washington Post, “Republicans were maneuvering behind the scenes about the vexing issue of witnesses as former national security adviser John Bolton said last week that he would be willing to testify if he receives a Senate subpoena.”
Senate Republicans are facing pressure from their own party on the impeachment issue. A GOP group critical of Trump called The Lincoln Project has targeted senators like Cory Gardner of Colorado with a critical ad. The ad refers to the GOP Senator as, “just another Trump servant: weak, frightened, impotent.” Meanwhile Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who is himself central to the series of events in the impeachment articles, is reportedly desperate to join the President’s defense team. Huffington Post reports that the White House legal team told Giuliani, “thanks, but no thanks.” In other impeachment news, the Ukrainian natural gas company Burisma that Trump was fixated with, has apparently been hacked by Russian spies. The same Russian organization called GRU that has been implicated in interfering with the 2016 US election, gained access to Burisma’s files. And, the US Energy department will begin releasing correspondence between former Energy Secretary Rick Perry and Ukrainian officials in response to a lawsuit filed by an ethics group.
In electoral news, CNN is coming under fire for publishing what critics say is a “hit piece” against Vermont Senator and Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. The outlet, that has been generally critical of Sanders, published an article on Monday headlined, “Bernie Sanders told Elizabeth Warren in private 2018 meeting that a woman can’t win, sources say.” Writing for the media watchdog group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, journalist Dave Lindorff countered, that the, “journalistically shoddy” piece never used the word “allegedly” to make its dubious claims and did not actually use sources that were witness to what was said between Mr. Sanders and Ms. Warren. Sanders countered in the article, “It’s sad that, three weeks before the Iowa caucus and a year after that private conversation, staff who weren’t in the room are lying about what happened. What I did say that night was that Donald Trump is a sexist, a racist and a liar who would weaponize whatever he could. Do I believe a woman can win in 2020? Of course! After all, Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump by 3 million votes in 2016.” Warren has refused to comment on the piece and several media outlets have now revived charges of sexism against Sanders similar to those raised in 2016 when he ran against Hillary Clinton.
In other election-related news, the Public Policy Institute of California released a new poll showing Sanders leading the field in California at 27% public support, followed by Joe Biden at 24% and Warren at 23%. Sanders jumped 10 points from November when the same poll was last done while Biden and Warren’s numbers remained flat. Strangely the LA Times chose to report on the poll results with the following headline, “Sanders, Biden and Warren in three-way race in California as primary nears, poll shows.” Meanwhile Warren announced a new plan on Tuesday to help Americans reduce their college debt. According to AP Warren said she would, “order her secretary of education to cancel up to $50,000 in college debt for about 95% of student borrowers on her first day in office, effectively erasing outstanding loans for about 42 million Americans.” Another candidate, Mayor Pete Buttigieg of Indiana who has been struggling to win over black voters, has won an endorsement from Quentin Hart, an Iowa mayor. Hart, an African American, presides over Waterloo, Iowa’s most racially diverse town. And the ACLU has been calling attention to Joe Biden, saying that the former Vice President has not taken positions on most major issues. The top six Presidential candidates will face off in the last Democratic debate in Des Moines, Iowa on Tuesday evening.
In a blow to voting rights, a judge in Wisconsin has ordered that state’s elections commission to proceed with the purging of 200,000 people from voter rolls. Judge Paul Malloy sided with a conservative group that sued to purge the voters and has now fined the elections commission over its refusal to commence. President Trump won the state of Wisconsin in 2016 by less than 23,000 votes.
The city of Seattle, Washington, has just passed a major new campaign finance law that could be a model for other municipalities. In a bid to undermine the effect of the Supreme Court’s Citizen’s United decision allowing corporations to flood elections with campaign cash, city council members curbed donations from “foreign influenced firms.” The move is clearly aimed at the online retail giant Amazon which is headquartered in Seattle and which has poured money into the recent local elections. Ellen Weintraub, a commissioner on the Federal Election Commission, encouraged the move and explained in an op-ed in the New York Times on Tuesday that, “Citizens United allowed corporations to spend freely in politics, calling them ‘associations of citizens’; their right to do so flows from the collective First Amendment rights of their individual shareholders. It logically follows, then, that restrictions on the rights of shareholders must also apply to the corporation.” She added, “One of our most important campaign-finance limits is that ‘foreign nationals’ are barred from spending in any American election, city, state or federal.” At least 9% of Amazon’s stocks are owned by foreign shareholders. St. Petersburg, Florida passed a similar bill to Seattle’s in 2017.
In news on Iran, three European countries have put the regime on notice of violations of their 2015 nuclear pact and threatened UN sanctions. Britain, France and Germany formally accused Iran of violating the agreement that originally included the US and that Trump pulled out of. It was only after the US pulled out of the agreement that Iran began openly flouting the deal. Meanwhile as the political fallout over Iran’s accidental downing of a passenger plane continues to build, the government has announced arrests in connection to it. After conducting what it called “extensive investigations,” the arrests were announced but no names or numbers were released. And here in the US, the story over why a drone strike was launched to kill a top Iranian general in Iraq continues to change. After asserting there was evidence of imminent attacks on US embassies, Trump administration officials have now settled on the claim that the strike killing General Qassem Soleimani was for “deterrent” effect. State Secretary Mike Pompeo gave a speech at Stanford University titled, “The Restoration of Deterrence: The Iranian Example,” in which he said, “Your adversary must understand not only that you have the capacity to impose cost but that you’re in fact willing to do so.” He added, “The importance of deterrence isn’t confined to Iran.”
And finally, as Australia struggles with searing heat that triggered devastating bush fires pushing many species to the brink of extinction, the United Nations this week released an ambitious plan to curb the earth’s “sixth mass extinction” by 2030. The plan is modeled on the 2015 Paris climate accord and was drafted by the UN Convention on Biological Diversity with the hopes that it will pass at a critical UN summit this fall. According to the Guardian, among the plan’s aims is to, “promote the full and effective participation of indigenous peoples and local communities in decision-making about biodiversity.”