Headlines: October 7, 2019
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A federal judge on Monday ordered President Donald Trump to hand over 8 years of personal and corporate tax returns to the office of the Manhattan District Attorney, but just hours later Trump’s lawyers won an appeal to temporarily block the order. The initial ruling would have required Trump’s former accounting firm Mazars USA to turn over the materials by 1 pm Eastern on Monday. The Manhattan District Attorney’s office is investigating whether Trump broke campaign finance laws in paying hush money to the actress named Stormy Daniels before the 2016 election. The federal judge who ordered the release of the returns struck down the argument that sitting presidents cannot be indicted, writing in his ruling that the idea was, “repugnant to the nation’s governmental structure and constitutional values.” Trump’s lawyers have said that releasing the President’s returns would cause him “irreparable harm.”
In news related to the on-going impeachment inquiry against Trump, House committees issued subpoenas for documents from the Pentagon and Office of Management and Budget in order to examine the Trump Administration’s conduct on Ukraine. They gave the two agencies a deadline of October 15th. Committees also wrote to Vice President Mike Pence on Friday requesting documents related to the Ukraine scandal. Meanwhile a State Department official named George Kent, who was required to testify to House committees on Monday failed to show up. Also expected to testify behind closed doors on Tuesday is the US Ambassador to the EU, Gordon Sondland, and, on Friday, Marie Yovanovitch, former US Ambassador to Ukraine. And news broke over the weekend that lawyers representing the whistleblower on who complained about Trump’s conduct on Ukraine are now representing a second whistleblower on the same issue. This second whistleblower apparently has first-hand knowledge of the matter. One of the lawyers on the legal team, Andrew Bakaj, said on Twitter that “I can confirm that my firm and my team represent multiple whistleblowers in connection to the underlying August 12, 2019, disclosure to the Intelligence Community Inspector General. No further comment at this time.” Trump has now attempted to drag Energy Secretary Rick Perry into his mess, reportedly saying in a conference call with House members over the weekend that he did not want to make the call to Ukraine’s President but that he did so at Perry’s behest over a Liquified Natural Gas plant development.
Political mudslinging is in full force since the weekend between the President’s supporters and critics. Trump himself late on Sunday accused House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Twitter of being part of some farfetched conspiracy that Trump says Representative Adam Schiff has perpetrated and then decided to accuse Pelosi of treason before declaring that they, “must all be immediately Impeached!” Trump also decided that Republican Senator Mitt Romney of Utah should be impeached after Romney wrote, “By all appearances, the President’s brazen and unprecedented appeal to China and to Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden is wrong and appalling.” Former State Secretary Colin Powell, a Republican, said in an interview on CNN that the GOP “has got to get a grip on itself,” and that Republicans, “are holding back because they’re terrified of what will happen to any one of them if they speak out.” And former GOP Congressman Joe Walsh said, also on a CNN interview, “This president deserves to be impeached. Jake, nobody from the White House and no high-level Republicans are on this show today because there’s nothing to defend. This president betrayed his country again this week.”
In other news, just days after a white Texas former police officer was convicted and sentenced in the fatal shooting of a black man, a key witness in the trial was murdered. Amber Guyger was sentenced to ten years for killing Botham Jean, who was resting in his own apartment. Joshua Brown, who had lived in the same complex as Guyger and Jean when the killing happened had testified during the trial. The 26-year old African American accountant was killed with multiple gunshot wounds in the parking lot of his new apartment complex several miles from where he used to live. Lee Merritt, one of the attorneys on the case said Brown’s mother, “suspects foul play and it is difficult to rule it out. He had no known enemies. He worked for a living. He was not in the streets. We need answers. Immediately.”
Vermont Senator and Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is recovering at his home from a heart procedure and has released his latest campaign plan – to reduce the influence of money in politics. In a statement he took specific aim at the corporate funders of the Democratic National Convention saying, “In 2016, seventeen donors gave three-quarters of the [DNC] funding, with large corporations like Bank of America, Peco Energy, Comcast, and Facebook each donating over $1 million. Their lobbyists were everywhere and filled the VIP suites. This type of corporate sponsorship is a corrupting influence and must end if politicians are going to represent the American people.”
In foreign policy, the Trump administration has made an about-face on the Kurdish-led fight against ISIS in Syria making a surprise announcement that it would stand aside and allow the Turkish government to invade Kurdish-held territory in Northern Syria. Turkish President Recep Tayip Erdogan has been pushing for the invasion for months, fearing that Kurdish forces would threaten Turkey’s borders. The US has long aligned with Kurdish forces that have proven more adept at beating back the Islamic State than other troops. The US decision was announced late on Sunday and did not mention the Kurds. The President’s Republican allies vehemently opposed the move with top GOP Senator Lindsey Graham issuing a sharp rebuke in an interview. Graham said that the, “impulsive decision by the president has undone all the gains we’ve made, thrown the region into further chaos,” and added, “I hope I’m making myself clear how shortsighted and irresponsible this decision is in my view.” Trump responded on Twitter in what may be one of his most bizarre posts. He said, “As I have stated strongly before, and just to reiterate, if Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey (I’ve done before!).”
In Iraq, anti-government protests that have been targeting Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi ramped up over the weekend resulting in more than a hundred deaths and thousands of injuries. According to the Washington Post, “Demonstrators gathered last week to decry what they described as endemic corruption. But by Sunday, it was a revolt against the entire system.”
Thousands of people protested in France on Sunday against a bill that would allow the use of In-Vitro Fertilization or IVF procedures for same-sex couples or single women to have children. The protests were dominated by Catholic and far-right groups.
Climate activists with the group Extinction Rebellion marched in the European cities of Berlin, London, Paris and Amsterdam demanding climate action. Their counterparts also protested in New York City where activists smeared themselves with fake blood. In London 135 activists were arrested as they blocked an area outside the Ministry of Defense.
And finally in Ecuador massive protests led by indigenous groups have paralyzed major parts of the country. The protests have been on-going for 5 days straight. So far nearly 500 people have been arrested. The unrest was sparked by President Lenin Moreno’s decision to end fuel subsidies as part of an economic reform package.