Headlines: November 7, 2019
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Former National Security Advisor John Bolton appears to be willing to defy a White House order and testify before House Committees conducting the impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump. Although Bolton failed to respond to a request for testimony on Thursday, the Washington Post on Thursday reported that Bolton’s lawyers are apparently waiting for a court decision on the constitutionality of House summons in a case involving former White House counsel Don McGahn. It is not clear if that decision will come in time for the start of public hearings next week. Bolton’s willingness to eventually testify would be bad news for Trump.
Meanwhile House hearings continued this week with an aide to Vice President Mike Pence testifying on Thursday. Jennifer Williams was on the controversial July 25th phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Her lawyer told reporters, “We expect her testimony will largely reflect what is already in the public record.”
News emerged that in addition to US military aid, Ukraine’s new President Zelensky, was angling for an invitation to the White House given that the optics of meeting Trump in the Oval Office would send a strong message to Russia. According to AP, “Trump and his allies made clear that the meeting and millions of dollars in military aid were contingent on Ukraine agreeing to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and the dealings in Ukraine of Biden’s son Hunter.”
President Trump is denying reports that he demanded Attorney General William Barr to hold a press conference defending his actions on Ukraine. According to sources speaking with the Washington Post, Trump asked Barr to exonerate him publicly soon after the White House released the rough transcript of the Ukraine phone call and that Barr demurred. The President denied the story and claimed that the Justice Department had, “already ruled that the call was good.”
Analysis of the recently released transcript of top diplomat William Taylor shows that the veteran statesman saw the Ukraine controversy as a “nightmare” scenario. Taylor referred to the figures pushing for extortion of Ukraine as part of a “Washington snake pit.” The transcript of his deposition is more than 300 pages long, and according to the Washington Post, “offers a window into why Democrats believe he will provide compelling testimony, given his meticulous accounting of texts, emails and phone calls, and his unsparing criticism of an effort he viewed as unethical and transactional.” Taylor will be among those publicly testifying next week.
And Trump allies and supporters are engaged in a fierce campaign to expose the name of the original whistleblower who filed the complaint that triggered the House impeachment inquiry. Right wing media outlets like Breitbart News have apparently circulated the name, and Trump supporters have bought ads in Facebook to do the same. Donald Trump Jr. has also been part of the effort to expose the whistleblower.
Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions is apparently on the verge of announcing that he plans to run for the Senate seat in Alabama that he had vacated. Sessions’ seat is now held by Democrat Doug Jones who faces a reelection battle next year. But in doing so, Sessions also faces other Republican challengers for the nomination. President Trump repeatedly mocked and insulted him in public before forcing him out of the Justice Department last year. As Attorney General Sessions oversaw the rollout of Trump Administration’s family separation policy among other things.
The Justice Department has charged two former employees of Twitter with spying for Saudi Arabia. According to the New York Times, Ali Alzabarah and Ahmad Abouammo face accusations of, “using their positions and their access to Twitter’s internal systems to aid Saudi Arabia by obtaining information on American citizens and Saudi dissidents who opposed the policies of the kingdom and its leaders.”
And Facebook is in trouble on multiple fronts. On Wednesday the state of California revealed that it had been conducting an 18-month long probe into the company’s privacy practices. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra has demanded access to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s emails. A court filing revealed that California’s investigation was sparked by the role of Cambridge Analytica’s use of Facebook to impact the 2016 election but, “expanded over time to an investigation into whether Facebook has violated California law, by among other things, deceiving users and ignoring its own policies in allowing third parties broad access to user data.” There are currently 47 states suing Facebook. And, thousands of pages of internal emails and other documents from Facebook were made public this week. A third company had sued Facebook to obtain the documents but they were leaked online and are now public. Business Insider’s analysis of the documents found that, among other things Facebook used user data as leverage against other tech companies and even considered charging for access.
Five years after residents of Flint, Michigan were exposed to toxin-laden water, school children in the community are requiring extensive special education assistance. Given that the developing brains of young children were exposed to years of neurotoxins, it is no surprise that Flint schools are now overwhelmed with a demand for special ed teachers and behavioral counselors. A whopping 28% of the city’s students now qualify for special education services.
The retail pharmacy chain Walgreens is facing an opioid-crisis related lawsuit. An estimated 1 in 5 opioid pills were distributed through Walgreens between the years 2006 to 2012 and plaintiffs contend that the company acted as its own distributor and failed to notify authorities of suspicious sales.
The Nevada city of Las Vegas has just banned homeless people from sleeping on streets in a move that critics denounced as a “war on the poor.” Members of Las Vegas City Council voted on the controversial measure on Wednesday as homeless advocates protested. The measure, which passed 5-2, makes it a misdemeanor for people to camp out on city streets when shelter beds are available. Activists denounced the vote yelling “Housing not Handcuffs.”
And finally in international news, Iraq continues to be roiled by anti-government protests as security forces shot and killed 6 people on Thursday. Facing its worst political crisis in years Iraq has responded violently to dissenters. According to Reuters, “A crackdown by authorities against mostly unarmed protesters has killed more than 260 people since unrest broke out on Oct. 1 over lack of jobs, poor prospects and corruption.” The government has also resorted to internet outages to thwart political organizing but that has also hit businesses hard and caused major economic losses.