Headlines: January 17, 2020
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News broke that President Donald Trump’s legal defense team for the Senate Impeachment trial includes Ken Starr, the man who served as independent counsel in investigating President Bill Clinton, as well as Harvard Professor Alan Dershowitz, a vociferous supporter of the President. The team is being led by White House Counsel Pat Cippolone and Trump’s personal attorney Jay Sekulow. Trump’s defense team released a statement explaining, “Professor Dershowitz will present oral arguments at the Senate trial to address the constitutional arguments against impeachment and removal.” Dershowitz has represented high-profile clients such as O.J. Simpson and Jeffrey Epstein.
In other news related to the impeachment State Secretary Mike Pompeo in an interview with a rightwing radio host said on Friday that he had no knowledge of any surveillance of former US Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch in Ukraine. The evidence that Yovanovitch was being surveilled by a non-governmental US citizen and Trump supporter was part of the trove of evidence from Lev Parnas, an associate of Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani. Parnas has also implicated a wide circle of Trump’s colleagues including Vice President Mike Pence who apparently canceled a trip to Ukraine as part of the Trump team’s pressure campaign to obtain political dirt on Joe Biden. Mr. Pence has denied knowing who Parnas was. Instead the Vice President is exhorting Democrats to acquit Trump in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal on Friday. Pence raised the historical events of Andrew Johnson’s impeachment and lauded those Senators who voted against their party but made no references to the facts of Trump’s impeachment charges.
The conservative anti-Trump organization Republicans for the Rule of Law have spent $1 million in ads running on the President’s favorite Fox News shows demanding that witnesses like former National Security Advisor John Bolton be allowed to testify at the Senate impeachment trial. Meanwhile journalists are decrying the restrictive new rules that have been put in place for coverage of the Senate trial. Journalists have normally been given free rein to ask lawmakers questions as they walk between rooms but this practice will be barred during the trial.
The city of Richmond, Virginia is on edge ahead of a major so-called gun-rights rally planned by extremist, white-supremacist, and neo-Nazi hate groups. Virginia governor Ralph Northam has temporarily banned guns from the grounds of the State Capitol as many fear a potential repeat of the hate-gathering in Charlottesville in 2017. Northam said in a statement, “I took this action to protect Virginians from credible threats of violence. These threats are real — as evidenced by reports of neo-Nazis arrested this morning after discussing plans to head to Richmond with firearms.” On Thursday the FBI arrested three members of a neo-Nazi group that were planning on participating in next Monday’s Richmond rally.
Meanwhile the Transportation Security Administration this week announced that the number of firearms seized from travelers in 2019 totaled 4,432 – a 5% increase from the year before, and the highest number ever apprehended. What’s more disturbing is that 87% of the weapons were loaded. While it is not illegal to bring a gun to an airport it must be brought unloaded, packed in the proper way, declared at the check in counter, and checked in with luggage.
An excerpt from a new book by Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post reporters Philip Rucker and Carol Leonnig details President Trump’s disturbing tirade against US military generals. The book, A Very Stable Genius: Donald J. Trump’s Testing of America, will be out on January 21st and details many never-before reported aspects of Trump’s leadership style, erratic behavior, and shocking ignorance. In the excerpt published in the Washington Post on Friday, the reporters describe a White House discussion on the war in Afghanistan where military leaders told Trump about reducing troops in Afghanistan. To that Trump retorted, “I want to win,” he said. “We don’t win any wars anymore . . . We spend $7 trillion, everybody else got the oil and we’re not winning anymore.” The authors wrote:
Trump by now was in one of his rages. He was so angry that he wasn’t taking many breaths. All morning, he had been coarse and cavalier, but the next several things he bellowed went beyond that description. They stunned nearly everyone in the room, and some vowed that they would never repeat them. Indeed, they have not been reported until now.
“I wouldn’t go to war with you people,” Trump told the assembled brass.
Addressing the room, the commander in chief barked, “You’re a bunch of dopes and babies.”
A new Washington Post/Ipsos poll of African Americans has found that most are deeply pessimistic about the state of the country, and incredibly critical of Trump. As per the poll, “More than 8 in 10 black Americans say they believe Trump is a racist and that he has made racism a bigger problem in the country. Nine in 10 disapprove of his job performance overall.” Additionally, “77 percent of black Americans say it is a ‘good time’ to be a white person, with a wide majority saying white people don’t understand the discrimination faced by black Americans.”
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has issued a rare sermon during Friday prayers aimed squarely at the US. The leader told thousands of worshippers gathered that the US was “an arrogant power,” and that with God’s support Iran had been able to “slap the face” of the US. He was referring to the missile strikes on US bases in Iraq that Iran had launched in retaliation for the US’s drone killing of their top general Qassem Suleimani. Khamenei also dismissed protesters who are both critical of the US and of the Iranian regime as, “stooges of the United States.” Meanwhile 11 soldiers who were at the Iraq bases that Iran attacked are being treated for concussion injuries. President Trump had initially triumphantly announced that no US soldiers were hurt in the attack.
The US is readying a minor trade deal with India ahead of a planned trip to the South Asian nation by President Trump in the coming weeks. The deal, as per the Wall Street Journal, “could ease some of the U.S.’s longstanding concerns with India’s trade and economic practices, while in return restoring India’s preferential trade status, allowing the nation to ship billions of dollars of duty-free products to the U.S.” Meanwhile Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, during his trip to India this week faced protests and was snubbed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for what he says is negative coverage of his government in the Washington Post. Bezos is the owner of the Post and hopes to greatly expand Amazon’s footprint in India.
The World Food Programme in a statement this week announced a massive food emergency in southern Africa. A record number of people – 45 million – face serious food insecurity as a result of drought and floods. A WFP spokesperson said, “This hunger crisis is on a scale we’ve not seen before and the evidence shows it’s going to get worse.” The organization is calling on the international community for emergency assistance.
And finally as the Women’s March rally takes place this Saturday organized in Los Angeles by the Women’s March Foundation, the Los Angeles chapter of Black Lives Matter has denounced the organization’s decision to exclude them from the high-profile march.