Headlines: October 24, 2019
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Donald Trump’s personal lawyer William S. Consovoy has said the President is so far above the law that he could shoot someone and not be prosecuted. Consovoy made the outrageous claim while asking the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals to block a subpoena for Trump’s financial records as part of an investigation into hush money payments made to women that Trump allegedly had affairs with before the 2016 election. One of the three judges, Denny Chin, invoked Trump’s own claim made ahead of the election that he could “stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody” and not “lose any voters.” Judge Chin asked, “Local authorities couldn’t investigate? They couldn’t do anything about it…Nothing could be done? That is your position?” Mr. Consovoy’s response was “That is correct.”
In news from the impeachment inquiry against Trump, Republican Senator and ardent Trump backer Lindsey Graham says he is introducing a Senate resolution condemning the Democrat-led House impeachment inquiry. This, despite the fact that the Senate has no power to stop the inquiry given that the constitutional authority to introduce articles of impeachment against presidents lies with the House of Representatives. On Wednesday House Republicans delayed a closed-door deposition of a Pentagon official named Laura Cooper by five hours, staging an angry occupation of the room where the deposition was to be conducted. Representative Matt Gaetz, a Trump loyalist, led the action of more than 2 dozen GOP lawmakers. They contended that Republicans were being shut out of the process even though Republican members of the 3 House committees conducting the inquiry were fully participating in the process. Bloomberg reported that Trump knew of the Republican action to block Cooper’s testimony in advance. Democratic Representative Bennie Thompson, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee wrote a letter to the Sergeant-at-Arms demanding that the Republicans be warned of the “unprecedented breach of security” they engaged in.
The GOP’s actions came a day after damning testimony from the acting US Ambassador to Ukraine, William Taylor. Trump loyalist Gordon Sondland, a former hotelier and current US Ambassador to the EU, disputed portions of Taylor’s testimony through his lawyer. And, Associated Press is reporting based on sources in Ukraine’s government that then-President elect Volodymyr Zelensky was worried months before the infamous phone call with Trump about Rudy Giuliani’s demand that he investigate Trump rival Joe Biden. Meanwhile, not much has emerged of Laura Cooper’s deposition which began late on Wednesday afternoon. According to CNN, “Once Cooper’s testimony began, she provided a very technical readout of how foreign aid is disbursed, according to lawmakers. Several lawmakers say her testimony helped show that the Ukraine aid deviated from that normal process. Cooper, who was issued a subpoena in the same manner as State Department officials who have testified, did not give an opening statement, lawmakers said.”
A new survey has honed in on the precise American demographic that Trump and Republicans are claiming allegiance to. The Public Religion Research Institute found that a whopping 99% of Republican white evangelical Protestants oppose Trump’s impeachment and removal from office.
In the midst of the political whirlwind of impeachment, Trump visited the city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on Wednesday to address a forum on fracking. Protesters descended outside the event as Trump gave a rambling speech for about an hour defending his administration’s undoing of environmental regulations. Inside the event Trump inexplicably raised the idea to build a wall in Colorado. Pittsburgh was the location of the worst massacre of Jews in US history when a gunman entered a synagogue and killed 11 people last year. One woman addressed Trump in front of protesters on Wednesday.
Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg addressed the House Financial Services Committee on Wednesday about his plans to launch a new digital currency called Libra. New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez grilled Zuckerberg during the hearing. She continued to press him on paid ads that make false claims that Facebook profits off of.
Wildfires are once more plaguing Northern California as the Kincade fire in Sonoma County expanded to 10,000 acres overnight. Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) has once more cut power to Californians in what it says is an effort to prevent more fires, this time impacting half a million households. Meanwhile the Trump administration has filed a lawsuit against the state over its cap-and-trade agreement with Canada. The basis of the lawsuit is that only the federal government, according to Trump, is allowed to sign off on such agreements. California lawmakers countered that the suit was a political attack against the state’s efforts to reduce carbon emissions.
In foreign policy Defense Secretary Mark Esper chastised Turkey for its “unwarranted” attack on Northern Syria, despite the fact that President Trump appears to have greenlit the invasion with a pullout of US troops. Esper is due to meet Turkey’s defense minister on Thursday. Now Al Jazeera is reporting that in addition to Turkey, Russia has emerged victorious from Trump’s actions and that Russian police have entered the Kurdish enclave of Kobane as part of an agreement with Turkey. Despite the fact that Trump declared a ceasefire in Northern Syria as “permanent,” there are reports that Turkish forces had attacked several villages causing thousands of people to be displaced from their homes.
In Bangladesh, 16 people have been sentenced to death in the killing of a 19-year old woman named Nusrat Jahan Rafi. Rafi had accused a schoolteacher of sexual harassment and after she refused to withdraw her complaint she was horrifically burned to death.
And finally in Britain, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said he would give Parliamentarians more time to debate his Brexit deal with the EU but only if they agree on a general election on December 12.