Headlines: October 10, 2019
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Two associates of Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani have been arrested and charged with campaign finance violations in the latest chapter of the impeachment related investigations roiling Washington DC. The two Russian born businessmen from Florida Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman are charged with funneling Russian money into Trump’s election campaign and are also implicated in helping Mr. Giuliani with investigating Trump’s political rival Joe Biden’s ties to Ukraine. The Wall Street Journal, which broke the story on Thursday morning explained that, “Both men have donated to Republican campaigns including Mr. Trump’s, and in May 2018 gave $325,000 to the primary pro-Trump super PAC, America First Action, through an LLC called Global Energy Producers, according to Federal Election Commission records.” Additionally, “Messrs. Parnas and Fruman had dinner with the president in early May 2018, according to since-deleted Facebook posts captured in a report published by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project. They also met with the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr. , later that month at a fundraising breakfast in Beverly Hills, Calif., along with Tommy Hicks Jr. , a close friend of the younger Mr. Trump who at the time was heading America First Action. Mr. Parnas posted a photo of their breakfast four days after his LLC donated to the super PAC.” A group called Campaign Legal Center had apparently urged the FEC last July to investigate Parnas and Fruman.
In other news, Bloomberg reported that in 2017 Trump himself tried to use his position to demand a favor for one of Giuliani’s client through then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Specifically, Trump pressured Tillerson to, “persuade the Justice Department to drop a criminal case against an Iranian-Turkish gold trader who was a client of Rudy Giuliani, according to three people familiar with the 2017 meeting in the Oval Office. Tillerson refused, arguing it would constitute interference in an ongoing investigation of the trader, Reza Zarrab, according to the people. They said other participants in the Oval Office were shocked by the request.” Bloomberg opined that the “2017 episode bears [the] hallmarks of Trump[‘s] approach to [the] Ukraine call.”
In other news, Fox News conducted a new poll spelling more bad news for President Trump. The Fox News poll results show 2 percentage points higher support for Trump’s impeachment and removal from office than a poll done just days earlier by the Washington Post. The new poll also found that, “51 percent of voters think the Trump administration is more corrupt than previous administrations, up from 46 percent last month.” Trump fretted on Twitter about the poll results from his favorite news network saying, “Whoever their Pollster is, they suck.” In remarks to reporters at the White House Trump said on Wednesday that, “if the rules are fair,” and “If Republicans get a fair shake,” he would cooperate with the Democrat-led impeachment inquiry. Just a day earlier White House Counsel Pat Cippolone sent an 8-page letter to lawmakers putting them on notice that the White House would not cooperate in the inquiry. Meanwhile Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden in a speech this week came out explicitly in favor of impeachment.
In other impeachment-related news, Vice President Mike Pence has said he is working to release transcripts of his phone calls with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky. And Zelensky himself has been speaking out on the controversial phone call he had with Trump saying that the US president did not “blackmail” him and that he was not Trump’s puppet. And Trump heads to Minneapolis, Minnesota on Thursday for a political rally where thousands are expected to protest him. Many Minneapolis residents are angered by Trump’s constant racist attacks against their House representative Ilhan Omar. Trump has also been locked in a battle with the city’s mayor Jacob Frey over the cost of security for his campaign event. Trump has refused to reimburse municipalities for security expenses for his events.
The 21-year old white male Texas shooter who is charged in the massacre of 22 people at a Walmart store in El Paso is facing a trial judge this week for the first time since he was arrested. According to Associated Press, “Local prosecutors have said they will seek the death penalty. Federal authorities are weighing capital murder and hate crime charges. The Department of Justice has called the shooting an act of domestic terrorism.” And a white man in Florida has just been sentenced to 20 years in prison for his 2018 conviction in the killing of a young black man named Markeis McGlockton. The convict had been charged with manslaughter over his shooting of the unarmed McGlockton after confronting him over a parking spot. He attempted to use Florida’s controversial “Stand Your Ground” laws in his defense.
In California, the embattled utilities company PG&E has continued its power shutoff aimed at preventing wind-driven wildfires from its faulty power lines. More than 1 million Californians have been without power or more than 24 hours. Some Californians may be affected for up to 5 days. A new report found that the outage could cost the state’s economy more than $2 billion. Also in news from California, about 600 former staffers with the federal Environmental Protection Agency are demanding an investigation into the Trump EPA’s recent threats to cut off funding to California.
In international news, a Turkish offensive on northern Syria that President Trump helped to unleash, is continuing into its second day, taking aim at Kurdish fighters that helped defeat the Islamic State. Some reports say that so far 16 fighters were killed and 4 civilians including an infant. But Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that his forces killed 109 “terrorists.” In remarks to reporters on Wednesday President Trump continued to try to justify his abandonment of the US’s Kurdish allies making a bizarre claim about how the Kurds did not help the US during World War II.
And finally German authorities on Thursday released more information about a man who attacked a Synagogue a day earlier killing two people. The 27-year old perpetrator is apparently a right-wing anti-Semitic extremist who live-streamed his attack in the hopes that copycat anti-Semites might follow his lead and commit similar crimes. He is being identified only as Stephan B. In a manifesto that he apparently wrote, he said his aim was to, “kill as many anti-Whites as possible, jews preferred.” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in a speech, “We only narrowly avoided a terrible attack on those inside the synagogue. It could have ended much worse.” Many have blamed Germany’s far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party for fueling hate.