Headlines: October 21, 2019
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President Donald Trump has backtracked on his idea to host the next G7 meeting at his own resort in Florida. News media are reporting that Trump’s reversal was a response to moderate Republicans who have grown tired of defending him and whose votes he is counting on to survive an impeachment trial in the Senate. But in a series of angry tweets Trump blamed Democrats and the media instead, saying, “based on both Media & Democrat Crazed and Irrational Hostility, we will no longer consider,” the resort. Trump claimed to have offered the space at zero profit but given how badly the resort is struggling financially critics pointed out that, in addition to the free publicity, he would still have improperly benefitted. Meanwhile his Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, who had announced the G7 site last week and who admitted to press that Trump withheld military aid to Ukraine in exchange for political favors, further embarrassed himself and the president on Sunday in an interview with Fox News’ Chris Wallace.
The main topic of Mulvaney’s appearance was to address the comments he made on Friday admitting to press that Trump engaged in a “quid pro quo” on Ukraine after the President had claimed repeatedly that that didn’t happen.
That’s Mick Mulvaney on Fox News on Sunday in remarks that continue to implicate the President on a topic that he is facing an impeachment inquiry on. Meanwhile, one of Trump’s top Republican allies Lindsey Graham has said in response to a question of whether he would support impeachment, “If you could show me that, you know, Trump actually was engaging in a quid pro quo outside the phone call, that would be very disturbing.”
Vermont Senator and Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders held his first major rally since undergoing a medical procedure for a heart attack. On Saturday he was joined by New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez who has officially endorsed him for President. Sanders gave an impassioned speech challenging rally-goers to stand up for all Americans.
In other news, the US Supreme Court once more sided with Republican attempts to gerrymander voting districts in their favor. In a 5-4 ruling on Monday morning along strict political lines, the conservative justices voted to overturn a major ruling by the sixth circuit court of appeals requiring Michigan’s districts be redrawn in a fairer manner. Meanwhile the group Common Cause released a major report on Monday on how states use of citizenship data to draw district lines unfairly favors white Americans and Republicans. The report, titled, “Whitewashing Representation: How Using Citizenship Data to Gerrymander will Undermine our Democracy,” claims that, “Using citizen voting age data to draw districts will exclude millions of young people and people of color, violates the Constitution and undermines the principles of equal representation that our country strives towards.”
A massive federal lawsuit on the opioid crisis in Ohio was staved off by a settlement just hours before it was due to begin. Two counties in Ohio settled with four pharmaceutical companies for the sum of $260 million and avoided going to trial.
Tens of thousands of people in Dallas, Texas are without power after a tornado slammed the northern part of the city. Although there were no fatalities, several buildings and other structures were totally destroyed and several rooftops were blown away. Meanwhile New York’s Attorney General is pursuing charges against Exxon Mobil for how it valued its stocks in spite of internal projections for major climate change.
In US foreign policy, the US has withdrawn most of its troops from Syria, but instead of returning home as President Trump promised, most are being redeployed to Iraq. Defense Secretary Mark Esper announced on Monday that a small contingent of US troops would remain in northeastern Syria to protect oil fields from the Islamic State. Associated Press reported that, “Angry over the U.S. withdrawal, residents of a Kurdish-dominated Syrian city hurled potatoes at departing American military vehicles as they drove by on Monday.” Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, on whose behalf Trump appears to have withdrawn US troops, reportedly has higher ambitions. Reports have now emerged that Erdogan wants Turkey to acquire nuclear weapons.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi led a surprise delegation to Afghanistan and Jordan over the weekend – an apparent response to Trump’s moves in Northern Syria. In a statement on Sunday night Pelosi said she had been briefed on violent attacks by the Taliban and the anticipated results of the recent Afghan elections. She said, “Meeting with and hearing directly from our troops and diplomats on the ground is essential for Congress to conduct effective oversight of our mission in Afghanistan.” Defense Secretary Esper also visited Afghanistan on Sunday, saying, “The aim is to still get a peace agreement [with the Taliban] at some point, that’s the best way forward.” President Trump abruptly withdrew from peace talks with the Taliban that were years in the making. A peace deal would have been a first step toward drawing down US troops from the longest official war in modern US history. Still, Esper announced that the US was looking to withdraw thousands of troops even without a deal, reducing the 14,000 troops down to about 8,500.
In Lebanon, mass protests over the past several days have brought the country to a standstill. The uprising was triggered by announced economic reforms and austerity measures. Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Monday reversed course, capitulating to protesters and announcing a new set of reforms that he claims would not impact individuals.
On the other side of the planet, in Latin America, a similar situation has transpired in Chile, which has been wracked by violence. At least 8 people were killed during a state of emergency that was declared during a nation-wide uprising. President Sebastián Piñera’s decision to raise subway fares sparked demonstrations two weeks ago that have continued despite his decision on Saturday to reverse the policy.
And finally in Haiti, a political crisis has pushed the Caribbean nation to the brink. A mass uprising against President Jovenel Moïse for many weeks now has crippled Haiti’s infrastructure leading many to claim this is the worst crisis of their lifetime. More than 30 people have been killed in the last few weeks, about half of them by police officers. Hospitals are struggling with scarce resources leading doctors to ration oxygen supplies to recovering patients.