On Capitol Hill, the president’s former top adviser on Russia and Europe told the House impeachment inquiry Thursday that Donald Trump sacrificed U.S. foreign policy goals by pressuring Ukraine’s leaders to announce an investigation into Joe Biden and his son. The adviser, Fiona Hill, said she came to realize the president was personally directing his attorney Rudy Giuliani and U.S. Ambassador Gordon Sondland to pressure Ukraine into helping Trump’s re-election bid by smearing one of his main political rivals.
Fiona Hill: “He was being involved in a domestic political errand. And we were being involved in national security/foreign policy. And those two things had just diverged.”
During her opening remarks, Fiona Hill blasted what she called a “fictional narrative” promoted by Trump and his Republican allies that it was Ukrainian operatives — not Russians — who meddled in the 2016 election.
Fiona Hill: “Right now Russia’s security services and their proxies have geared up to repeat their interference in the 2020 election. We are running out of time to stop them. In the course of this investigation, I would ask that you please not promote politically driven falsehoods that so clearly advance Russian interests.”
Hill said she warned Ambassador Sondland that his efforts in Ukraine on behalf of Trump would “blow up.” Another witness, David Holmes — an aide at the U.S. Embassy in Kiev — testified that he overheard President Trump discussing “investigations” into the Bidens with Ambassador Sondland over an unsecured cellphone at an open-air restaurant in Kiev, Ukraine. Late Thursday, House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff gaveled the impeachment proceedings to a close.
Rep. Adam Schiff: “This president believes he is above the law, beyond accountability. And in my view, there is nothing more dangerous than an unethical president who believes they are above the law. And I would just say to people watching here at home and around the world, in the words of my great colleague, 'We are better than that.' Adjourned.”
As the House Intelligence Committee wrapped up its final public hearing, President Trump lashed out on Twitter, writing, “Corrupt politician Adam Schiff’s lies are growing by the day. Keep fighting tough, Republicans, you are dealing with human scum.” His latest outburst came as The Washington Post reported top White House officials met privately with Republican Senate leaders Thursday to discuss limiting Trump’s impeachment trial to just two weeks. A Senate trial could come as early as January if the House passes articles of impeachment as expected.
In Colombia, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets Thursday in the largest national strike the country has seen in years. Labor unions, students, teachers, indigenous and Afro-Colombian activists joined in peaceful marches across urban and rural Colombia as anger mounts against right-wing President Iván Duque and his Cabinet. The peaceful movement was met with police repression and tear gas in Bogotá, Cali and Medellín. Colombia shut down its borders with Venezuela, Ecuador, Brazil and Peru in response to the strike.
In Bolivia, military forces tear-gassed a massive funeral procession in La Paz Thursday as supporters of ousted President Evo Morales carried coffins of slain protesters through the streets. Thousands of demonstrators were mourning the eight indigenous protesters killed by the Bolivian police and military Tuesday in El Alto. But security forces descended on the procession as it drew near the presidential palace. Coffins were left in the streets as tear gas forced the demonstrators to disperse. It was the latest act of military repression since the coup that forced Evo Morales out of office almost two weeks ago. At least 32 people have been killed by security forces in the violence that followed — mainly indigenous people. Bolivia’s ousted President Evo Morales called Wednesday for an international truth commission to investigate his ouster.
Evo Morales: “From the north, we are informed, the United States does not want me to return to Bolivia, and the right wing in Bolivia, the coup right, the massacre-led right, expressed that 'Evo can't return to Bolivia.’”
Evo Morales was speaking from Mexico, where he’s been exiled. Click here to see all our coverage of the crisis in Bolivia.
In Iran, a government blackout of all internet traffic has entered its fifth day, leaving tens of millions of people accustomed to high-speed data cut off from the outside world. The blackout came amid a government crackdown on protests over soaring increases in the price of fuel. Amnesty International says more than 100 people were killed and over 1,000 arrested at protests in 21 cities, as Iranian forces fired live rounds into crowds from rooftops and helicopters. The fuel price hikes came after the Trump administration walked away from the Iran nuclear agreement last year, imposing harsh economic sanctions on Iran.
Israel’s top prosecutor on Thursday indicted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust in three separate cases. This is Israel’s Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit.
Avichai Mandelblit: “A day in which the attorney general decides to indict a serving prime minister with severe offenses of administrative corruption is a difficult and sad day for the Israeli public and for me personally.”
Netanyahu is accused of trading political favors for positive press coverage and, separately, for accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of luxury goods — including jewelry, cigars and champagne — from a Hollywood producer and an Australian billionaire in return for favors. Netanyahu railed against the charges Thursday, calling them an “attempted coup.” He is the only sitting prime minister to be indicted in Israel’s history.
Back in the United States, former Vice President Joe Biden was confronted by protesters at a campaign stop in Greenwood, South Carolina, Thursday over his support for the Obama administration’s deportation policies.
Protesters: “Not one more deportation! Not one more deportation! Not one more deportation!”
The protest came after Carlos Rojas of the immigrant rights group Movimiento Cosecha confronted Biden over the 3 million people deported from the U.S. under President Obama — a record pace of deportations. Biden responded to Rojas by saying, “You should vote for Trump.”
More than 100 members of Congress called Thursday for President Trump to fire senior adviser Stephen Miller after emails emerged detailing Miller’s longtime support for white nationalism, far-right extremist ideas and racist conspiracy theories. In a letter to the White House, the lawmakers write, “Given Mr. Miller’s role in shaping immigration policy for your administration, his documented dedication to extremist, anti-immigrant ideology and conspiracy-mongering is disqualifying.”
In California, over a thousand students linked arms and tried to physically block people from attending a talk by far-right TV personality Ann Coulter on the UC Berkeley campus Thursday evening. Police in riot gear escorted Coulter and her fans inside Berkeley’s famed Wheeler Hall for the talk, which was hosted by the College Republicans. Students projected a giant sign reading “Berkeley Stands United Against Hate” on the outside of the hall, while inside a student was handcuffed and removed as she disrupted Coulter’s speech. Six other protesters were arrested throughout the evening. The Southern Poverty Law Center has called Coulter “an infamous far-right attack dog” with ties to white nationalist organizations.
Syracuse University has suspended four students in connection with a string of racist incidents, including a verbal assault on an African-American student. There have been at least 12 reports of racist graffiti and swastikas found on campus, and in one instance students at the university’s library received a white supremacist manifesto on their cellphones. On Thursday, Chancellor Kent Syverud signed a memorandum agreeing to 19 demands presented by student groups who organized a week-long sit-in protest of a campus building.
Facebook has admitted that CEO Mark Zuckerberg secretly met with President Donald Trump over dinner at the White House in October. Also at the meeting was Facebook investor Peter Thiel, a major Trump donor and chair of the data technology company Palantir, a defense contractor whose case management system is used by Immigration and Customs Enforcement to surveil, track and deport immigrants. It’s not clear what Thiel, Zuckerberg and Trump discussed. Massachusetts senator and 2020 presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren tweeted, “This is how the government keeps working for giant corporations and the wealthy and well-connected. It’s no wonder that companies like Facebook have been allowed to consolidate economic and political power without any real accountability.”
Wisconsin’s Democratic Governor Tony Evers has signed a bill making it a felony to trespass on the grounds of an oil or gas pipeline. Critics say the bill was inspired by ALEC — the American Legislative Exchange Council — and pushed through the Wisconsin Legislature by the American Petroleum Institute. Opponents of the law include members of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, whose reservation is crossed by the Enbridge Line 5 tar sands oil pipeline. The tribe’s chair, Mike Wiggins, said, “Over and over, we’ve seen peaceful, nonviolent protests met with militarization, threats of violence and actual violence from some of these corporate mechanisms.”
More women have stepped forward to accuse the late serial sexual predator Jeffrey Epstein of rape and sex trafficking. On Monday, a woman identifying herself as “Jane Doe” publicly announced a lawsuit against Epstein’s estate, saying she was raped by Epstein at his New Mexico ranch when she was 15 years old. And on Thursday, Teala Davies told reporters in New York City that Epstein frequently raped and sexually assaulted her at his homes in New York, New Mexico, Florida, the Virgin Islands and France, beginning when she was 17 years old.
Teala Davies: “I was a little girl. It took me a long time to break free from his mind control and abuse.”
On Thursday, the attorney representing the women, Gloria Allred, said Britain’s Prince Andrew should be obliged to meet with investigators to disclose his ties to Epstein. Virginia Giuffre, who is one of several Epstein accusers, says she was sexually trafficked by Epstein and forced to have sex with the prince when she was 17 years old. Prince Andrew has denied the accusations. He said this week he’s stepping back from public duties after he showed little remorse for Epstein’s victims in an interview with BBC “Newsnight.”
Emily Maitlis: “Do you regret the whole friendship with Epstein?”
Prince Andrew: “Now, still not, and the reason being is that the people that I met and the opportunities that I was given to learn, either by him or because of him, were actually very useful.”
Jeffrey Epstein has counted Presidents Donald Trump and Bill Clinton among his friends. Trump told New York magazine in 2002, “I’ve known Jeff for 15 years. Terrific guy. He’s a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side.”