Headlines: October 15, 2019
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Mr. George Kent, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Ukraine is testifying behind closed doors to various House Committees on Tuesday as part of the Democrat-led impeachment effort. Kent is expected to shed light on whether President Donald Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giulilani improperly pushed out the US Ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch. Giuliani apparently accused Yovanovitch of trying to protect Joe and Hunter Biden from investigation. The Washington Post explained that, “Giuliani and a columnist for the news outlet the Hill had alleged that Yovanovitch provided a ‘do not prosecute list’ to Ukrainian officials to protect the Bidens and other allies. But Kent, according to the documents, told his colleagues that the list was phony, pointing to incorrect name spellings that longtime officials like Yovanovitch and himself would never have gotten wrong, he said.” On Monday Fiona Hill, the former top White House Russia advisor also testified behind closed doors. Hill apparently had confronted the US Ambassador to the EU, Gordon Sondland, over Trump’s Ukraine policy and Giuliani’s improper involvement. Sondland was to testify last week but has since decided to appear this week before House committees. Lawmakers are now deciding whether to question Trump’s former National Security Adviser John Bolton. According to people who were present during Hill’s testimony, she alleged that Bolton confronted Sondland over the Ukraine issue, and, according to the New York Times, “Bolton told her to notify the chief lawyer for the National Security Council about a rogue effort by Mr. Sondland, Mr. Giuliani and Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff.” Apparently Bolton said to Hill, “I am not part of whatever drug deal Sondland and Mulvaney are cooking up.”
Meanwhile, aside from House Representatives looking into Giuliani’s affairs, news emerged that federal prosecutors have been looking into his business dealings in Ukraine for months now. Giuliani said he had not been informed of any investigation and said, “They can look at my Ukraine business all they want.” But Giuliani told the Washington Post that he had been paid a $500,000 consulting fee by a company owned by one of two of his associates arrested last week on charges of funneling Russian money to the Trump reelection campaign. Giuliani maintains that the payment was legitimate. Meanwhile, Hunter Biden, whose business dealings in Ukraine are the focus of Giuliani and Trump’s obsession, has said he did nothing wrong when he served on the board of a Ukrainian natural gas company while his father served as the US Vice President. In an interview with ABC, this is what the younger Biden said.
In other news, another white police officer has killed a black American in the Dallas, Texas area just weeks after the conviction and sentencing of white officer Amber Guyger for the killing of a black man named Botham Jean. Aaron Dean has been charged with murder in the killing of a 28-year old black woman named Atatiana Jefferson who was in her own home with her 8-year old nephew. Dean, a Forth Worth officer, shot Jefferson through the window of her house without identifying himself as law enforcement and without giving her any time to respond. Dean was taken into custody on Monday and is out on a $200,000 bond. Interim Fort Worth police chief Ed Krause said the shooting, “eroded the trust we have built with the community,” and that there was, “absolutely no excuse” for it. Initially reports suggested that Jefferson was shot because there was a gun in her home but there is no evidence suggesting that she was holding it. Additionally Krause implied that even if she was holding it, given that there were two men prowling outside her house in the dark, it would have, “made sense” if she did.
President Trump and his allies are under fire for the screening of a violent video clip at Trump’s Florida resort during a recent extremist rightwing conference. The video is doctored to show Trump killing journalists and his political rivals. White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham says that Trump condemned the video, but the outspoken President has made no direct mention of it. Among the attendees at the conference where it was shown include former Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, and Trump’s son Donald Jr. Meanwhile social media companies have continued to host the offensive content on their platforms and in fact the clip had been available on YouTube for more than a year. And Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg is under fire for meeting recently with conservative political figures in private including Fox News’ Tucker Carlsen and right wing radio shock jock Hugh Hewitt. In the face of pushback under the hashtag #DeleteFacebook, Zuckerberg defended the meetings. Democratic Presidential frontrunner Elizabeth Warren has been in a feud with Zuckerberg over his platform promoting and profiting off of fake news and violent content. Warren recently launched a series of provocative ads on Facebook taking on the issue.
Numerous Trump administration officials are under fire for improperly promoting Christianity at official government events leading critics to warn that Trump is trying to turn the government into a theocracy. State Secretary Mike Pompeo and Attorney General William Barr both spoke at prominent events in the past few days about Christian values and the American system of governance. Pompeo spoke at a Christian event in Tennessee saying, “I ask God for direction in my work,” among other things, while Barr said at the University of Notre Dame’s Law School, “Judeo-Christian moral standards are the ultimate utilitarian rules for human conduct.”
In international news, Russia is moving into the military vacuum created by the departure of US troops in Northern Syria. The US had two military bases in the region until Monday. The New York Times explained, “President Trump decided last week to abruptly yank American forces from a Kurdish enclave of northern Syria, ending a longstanding alliance with Syrian Kurdish fighters regarded by Turkey as terrorists. Turkey’s military then invaded, driving tens of thousands of civilians from their homes and forcing the Syrian Kurdish fighters to align themselves with the Syrian military in a stunning switch of allegiances for survival.” Trump had defended his decision saying that he would not tolerate violence from Turkey and on Monday he called for a ceasefire and imposed sanctions on the Turkish government. The White House announced that Vice President Mike Pence and National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien would be shortly leading a delegation to Turkey. Turkish President Erdogan defended his actions in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal on Monday saying, “Turkey Is Stepping Up Where Others Fail to Act.”
Canadians voted in elections on Monday with incumbent Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hoping to retain his position. His Liberal Party has been neck-in-neck in the polls with Canada’s Conservative Party. A third party, the New Democrats, led by charismatic progressive leader Jagmeet Singh also has significant support. Among Trudeau’s appeal to voters was that he was the only leader capable of standing up to US President Donald Trump. Trudeau had been under fire for appearing in photos dressed in racially offensive outfits and makeup.
And finally dozens of people are dead and thousands stranded without power or water after a massive typhoon hit Japan. Typhoon Hagibis is one of the strongest storms to ever hit Japan and among the tragic deaths being reported is that of one family of four whose car was swept in a torrential flood and pushed off a bridge. One area received 3.3 feet of rain within 24 hours and other areas were slammed with 40% of their annual expected rainfall within 48 hours. The damage from the Typhoon is expected to cost at least $9 billion.