Headlines: September 30, 2019
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The House Intelligence Committee chair Adam Schiff says he has reached a deal with the unnamed whistleblower at the heart of the on-going Ukraine scandal, to testify to the panel. The whistleblower’s complaint about President Donald Trump’s conduct in a July phone call with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky is the focus of an impeachment inquiry in the House that is proceeding quickly as Democrats agree to work during their recess. On Friday, House Democrats issued a subpoena for State Secretary Mike Pompeo who has also been implicated in the scandal, as well as for Kurt Volker, the US Ambassador to Ukraine who abruptly resigned from his post last week. Meanwhile Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, when asked if the Senate would take up an impeachment vote said, “I would have no choice but to take it up, based on a Senate rule on impeachment.” McConnell has not shown such deference to Senate rules in the past.
Sounding increasingly desperate on what he faces Trump spent the weekend lashing out on Twitter. Among the many warnings and threats he issued was a post quoting a Fox News guest who said, “If the Democrats are successful in removing the President from office (which they will never be), it will cause a Civil War like fracture in this Nation from which our Country will never heal.” He also threatened to have Representative Adam Schiff arrested for casting the President’s phone call to Zelensky as similar to the way a mafia boss would make threats during a hearing last week. Trump wrote that Schiff, “illegally made up a FAKE & terrible statement, pretended it to be mine as the most important part of my call to the Ukrainian President, and read it aloud to Congress and the American people. It bore NO relationship to what I said on the call. Arrest for Treason?” Trump has also demanded to meet the whistleblower saying, “I want to meet not only my accuser, who presented SECOND & THIRD HAND INFORMATION, but also the person who illegally gave this information, which was largely incorrect, to the ‘Whistleblower.’ Was this person SPYING on the U.S. President? Big Consequences!” Lawyers representing the whistleblower wrote to the acting Director of National Intelligence saying they feared for their client’s safety. They quoted Trump’s earlier threat revealed in a secret recording last week.
On Sunday Tom Bossert, a former Homeland Security Department adviser under Trump expressed frustration with the President’s faith in conspiracy theories regarding the 2016 election. This is what he said on ABC’s This Week. Reports emerged over the weekend that in addition to hiding the original transcript of Trump’s call with Zelensky on a secret server, White House staff also hid transcripts of Trump’s calls with Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Saudi Arabia’s Mohammad bin Salman. Fox News’ Chris Wallace revealed over the weekend that Trump had engaged two private lawyers, Joseph diGenova and Victoria Toensing to engage with Ukrainian officials to dig up dirt on his political opponent Joe Biden. Wallace challenged White House adviser Stephen Miller about the story.
In other news, a Sikh American police officer named Sandeep Dhaliwal was fatally shot in Houston, Texas on Friday. Dhaliwal was a ten-year veteran of the force and wore the traditional Sikh turban. He was the first observant Sikh to become a sheriff’s deputy in Harris County. He was shot by one of two suspects during a routine traffic stop. The encounter was apparently not provocative, and the suspect appear to have shot him in the back. Forty seven year old Robert Solis has been arrested. Dhaliwal was known for building bridges between law enforcement and Houston’s Sikh community.
The New York Times published an extensive and disturbing study about the explosion of Internet images showing child abuse. According to the article, “Last year, tech companies reported over 45 million online photos and videos of children being sexually abused — more than double what they found the previous year.” Reporters interviewed survivors of abuse whose images are still being spread online and found, “Many of the survivors and their families said their view of humanity had been inextricably changed by the crimes themselves and the online demand for images of them.”
On Friday, a second wave of climate strikes took place in cities around the world, coming just one week after the historic September 20th climate strike that broke records. On September 27th, a whopping 6.6 million people marched in thousands of cities around the world – that’s 2.5 million more than on September 20th. Canadian cities in particular mobilized last Friday with half a million people marching in Montreal alone in an event led by Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg.
Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman gave an interview to CBS’s 60 Minutes on Sunday during which he took “full responsibility” for the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi because members of his government were found to have brutally murdered him. Khashoggi’s fiancé, Hatice Cengiz wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post on Monday, the first anniversary of Khashoggi’s death. In it she wrote, “the true perpetrators are known the world over — and extend to the highest levels of the Saudi government.”
Elections in Austria saw the dramatic fall of the ultra right wing Freedom Party which lost dozens of seats. The People’s Party led by conservative leader Sebastian Kurtz has won the largest bloc of seats, about 37%. The BBC explained that, “The snap general election was called after secret recordings published in May led to the government’s collapse.”
And finally mass uprisings are taking place in numerous countries the world over. In Hong Kong, the 17th week of protest against Chinese domination is timed to coincide with commemorations of China National Day. Tens of thousands marched on Sunday in Russia to demand the unfair persecutions of dissidents. Mass protests are taking place in Indonesia on Monday against the government’s efforts to pass bills restricting freedoms. And Haitian President Jovenel Moïse is facing a serious uprising calling for him to step down over corruption and an economic crisis.