Headlines: October 2, 2019
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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff gave a press briefing on Wednesday morning addressing the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump. Pelosi explained her reluctance to go down this path while Schiff warned that the White House’s foot-dragging would amount to “obstruction of justice.” President Trump live-tweeted the press conference railing angrily and resorting to name calling, profanity, and lies. He called Schiff a “low-life,” and claimed that he “got overwhelmingly elected in 2016,” even though he lost the popular vote by 3 million. On Tuesday Trump went as far as claiming he was facing a “coup,” writing on Twitter (here and here), “what is taking place is not an impeachment, it is a COUP, intended to take away the Power of the…People, their VOTE, their Freedoms, their Second Amendment, Religion, Military, Border Wall, and their God-given rights as a Citizen of The United States of America!”
State Secretary Mike Pompeo has confirmed that he was listening on the July telephone conversation between Trump and Ukraine’s President that is at the heart of the whistleblower complaint against Trump. His confirmation came a day after reports emerged in the news. At his press conference on Wednesday morning Congressman Adam Schiff singled out Pompeo’s refusal to allow State Department staffers to testify in front of Congress and accused him of interference. Meanwhile the State Department Inspector General Steve Linick has requested an urgent meeting with lawmakers on Wednesday afternoon. According to CNN Linick is expected to, “provide staff with copies of documents related to the State Department and Ukraine.” CNN also reported that, “One congressional aide described the State inspector general’s request as “highly unusual and cryptically worded.” And, on Thursday, Kurt Volker, the US’s Envoy to Ukraine who resigned last week after the whistleblower complaint came to light, will testify to Congress. Marie Yovanovitch, the US ambassador to Ukraine who Trump disparaged in his July phone call and who was fired in May, will be testifying next week. Meanwhile House Oversight and Reform Committee chair Elijah Cummings has warned the White House that it will issue a subpoena for documents related to the Ukraine scandal if staffers did not turn them over to Congress.
Politico reported that the House Oversight Committee is also looking into a separate allegation over, “whether groups tried to curry favor with Trump by booking rooms at his hotels but never using them.” The line of investigation is apparently part of the impeachment inquiry that had not yet been reported. Rep. Gerry Connolly, a Democratic members of the committee said, “Now we’re looking at near raw bribery… That was the risk from Day One: foreign governments and others trying to seek favor because we know Trump pays attention to this. … It’s an obvious attempt to curry favor with him.”
Meanwhile Neal Katyal, who served in President Obama’s Justice Department, wrote an op-ed in the New York Times together with a fellow law professor suggesting that there may have been a third coverup in the Trump Administration over the Ukraine scandal. The first coverup was the White House’s attempt to keep the Ukraine call transcript secret, the second one was to prevent Congress from seeing the whistleblower’s complaint. And the third, allege the writers, appears to be the Justice Department’s decision to not inform the Federal Election Commission of the whistleblower’s complaint even though it clearly involved a potential federal campaign finance violation.
The New York Times published a bombshell investigation on Tuesday based on interviews with more than a dozen Trump administration officials about a peculiar meeting in March of this year regarding the President’s demands to fortify the US-Mexico border. Here is the critical portion of the story: “Privately, the president had often talked about fortifying a border wall with a water-filled trench, stocked with snakes or alligators, prompting aides to seek a cost estimate. He wanted the wall electrified, with spikes on top that could pierce human flesh. After publicly suggesting that soldiers shoot migrants if they threw rocks, the president backed off when his staff told him that was illegal. But later in a meeting, aides recalled, he suggested that they shoot migrants in the legs to slow them down. That’s not allowed either, they told him.”
In other immigration news, Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan in an interview with the Washington Post revealed how uncomfortable he was with the Trump Administration’s anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies. He admitted that the policy to separate children from parents “went too far.” He said, “When you see the impact in the six-week period on 2,500-or-so families and understand the emotional pain for those children, it’s not worth it…It’s the one part of this whole thing that I couldn’t ever be part of again.”
A federal judge has just ruled in favor of Harvard University in a case around affirmative action case involving Asian applicants. The judge wrote, “the Court finds no persuasive documentary evidence of any racial animus or conscious prejudice against Asian Americans,” and that, “ensuring diversity at Harvard relies, in part, on race conscious admissions.”
Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been caught in a secret audio recording warning against Elizabeth Warren as President. This is what Zuckerberg said: “You have someone like Elizabeth Warren who thinks that the right answer is to break up the companies … if she gets elected president, then I would bet that we will have a legal challenge, and I would bet that we will win the legal challenge. And does that still suck for us? Yeah….I mean, I don’t want to have a major lawsuit against our own government … But look, at the end of the day, if someone’s going to try to threaten something that existential, you go to the mat and you fight.” Warren responded on Twitter, saying, “What would really ‘suck’ is if we don’t fix a corrupt system that lets giant companies like Facebook engage in illegal anticompetitive practices, stomp on consumer privacy rights, and repeatedly fumble their responsibility to protect our democracy.”
And finally in Iraq, Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi is facing the largest uprising of his tenure. Iraqi security forces on Tuesday fired tear gas and live rounds at a crowd of about 1,000 protesters in the capital Baghdad injuring hundreds of people. Iraq’s Interior Ministry said it “regretted” the violence but also blamed protesters for inciting it. There were protests in other Iraqi cities as well with security forces firing into crowds and killing two people.