Headlines: October 3, 2019
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President Donald Trump has doubled down on his practice of enlisting the help of foreign governments in the American political system, this time calling out for China to help him. In response to a reporter’s question about what exactly he wanted Ukraine to do about former Vice President Joe Biden, this is what Trump said on Thursday morning. A day earlier, one of Trump’s most loyal allies, Senator Lindsey Graham, decided to embark down a similar path, writing a letter to the heads of state of Australia, Italy and Britain, asking for their, “continued cooperation with Attorney General Barr as the Department of Justice continues to investigate the origins and extent of foreign influence in the 2016 election.” Whether Trump and Graham’s tactic is to normalize the solicitation of foreign help to undermine Trump’s impeachment process is not yet clear.
Meanwhile the Democrat-led House is speeding forward with its impeachment inquiry, carrying out a closed-door hearing with the recently resigned US Special Envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker. Volker had been mentioned by name in the whistleblower’s complaint that helped to trigger the official impeachment inquiry. News emerged on Wednesday that House Intelligence Committee chair Adam Schiff knew about the whistleblower’s concerns days before the unnamed CIA officer filed his complaint over Trump’s July phone call with Ukraine’s President. The New York Times explained that, “The early account by the future whistle-blower shows how determined he was to make known his allegations that Mr. Trump asked Ukraine’s government to interfere on his behalf in the 2020 election. It also explains how Mr. Schiff knew to press for the complaint when the Trump administration initially blocked lawmakers from seeing it.” While neither Schiff nor the whistleblower broke any rules in being in contact before the complaint, the news gave the President reason to continue targeting Schiff. Trump said to a reporter, “I think it is a scandal…I’d go a step further, I think he probably helped write it. That’s what the word is.”
Meanwhile government officials, in anonymous statements to the press have claimed that Trump had repeatedly tried to rope Vice President Mike Pence into his project of eliciting dirt on Biden. Although there is still no clear evidence that Pence knew about the whistleblower’s complaint. And, Trump has also fueled suspicions about the rough transcript of the Ukraine call that he had ordered to be released last week. He said on Wednesday, “This is an exact word-for-word transcript of the conversation, taken by very talented stenographers,” even though the document released made it clear that there were some redactions.
Republican allies of Trump are worried that the President does not have a clear strategy to counter the impeachment process. According to the New York Times, Trump is the White House’s “only empowered communicator, a one-man war room responding to developments almost hour by hour. And that is making many Republicans anxious.” But on Thursday it seemed as though one strategy was coalescing that was to reach out to about 31 vulnerable Democrats in Republican districts to oppose impeachment to help their reelection prospects. That may be an uphill battle though. A New York congressman from Staten Island named Max Rose, who won his seat in 2016 in a district that voted for Trump has now thrown his weight behind impeachment. Rose was one of only a handful of Democrats nationwide who had not yet taken a position on impeachment. He said, “I intend to fully support this impeachment inquiry and follow the facts.”
Just over two years after the nation’s worst mass shooting in modern history, that left 58 people dead in Las Vegas, MGM has reached a massive $800 million settlement for the families of victims. MGM Resorts owns the Mandalay Bay hotel where the shooting took place and was charged with negligence over the shooter’s stockpiling of massive amounts of weaponry and ammunition in his room. Meanwhile a number of Democratic candidates for the 2020 Presidential nomination convened in Las Vegas to mark the anniversary and address a forum on gun violence. Here are some of the highlights from the forum.
In immigration news, the Department of Homeland Security has announced it will send the DNA of detained immigrants to the FBI’s national criminal database. The decision will affect hundreds of thousands of people. Privacy and immigrant rights advocates denounced the decision which also includes collecting DNA samples from detained children seeking asylum at legal ports of entry. And, Associated Press and Frontline have found in an investigation that, “the Trump administration has started shifting some of the caretaking of migrant children toward the private sector and contractors instead of the largely religious-based nonprofit grantees that have long cared for the kids.” One private contractor named Caliburn runs a for-profit shelter called CHS that holds kids. Former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly now sits on Caliburn’s board. Kelly had openly backed the idea of separating migrant children from their parents. AP writes, “Critics say this means Kelly now stands to financially benefit from a policy he helped create.”
Amber Guyger, the white ex-police officer in Dallas, Texas, was sentenced to ten years in prison for the killing of her black neighbor Botham Jean in a case that has been closely watched nationally. Critics denounced the leniency of the sentence and also the compassion that Jean’s brother, but even more importantly, the judge showed Guyger as they both hugged her. Many have called Judge Tammy Kemp’s embrace of Guyger deeply inappropriate. Meanwhile a new poll by Associated Press and NORC Center for Public Affairs Research has found that across all racial groups in the US, the public feels that white Americans receive more fair treatment by police than black people. Additionally, “About 7 in 10 black Americans, and about half of Hispanics, call police violence against the public very serious, compared with about a quarter of white Americans.”
California Governor Gavin Newsom has just signed his state’s public banking bill in a huge victory for progressives. California now becomes the second state in the nation where public banks could be formed letting municipalities fund banks at rates lower than commercial banks in order to finance public interest projects such as affordable housing. The first state to approve public banking is North Dakota.
And finally violence has continued to rise in Iraq where anti-government protests have faced a violent reprisal resulting in 22 deaths across the nation. There are now curfews in several southern cities in Iraq where the protests have taken place including the capital Baghdad. CNN explained that the protests were aimed at, “unemployment, government corruption and the lack of basic services.”