Televised impeachment hearings against President Trump are scheduled to begin on Wednesday. The leading witness will be William Taylor, the top American diplomat in Ukraine. He has previously testified to House investigators that there was a quid pro quo making the release of U.S. military aid to Ukraine conditional on Ukraine investigating Trump’s political rival Joe Biden and his son Hunter. On Wednesday, House investigators released the transcript from Taylor’s closed-door testimony. One of the key takeaways: Taylor said it was Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani’s idea to have Ukraine’s president commit to the investigations into the Bidens.
The Washington Post is reporting that President Trump wanted Attorney General William Barr to hold a news conference declaring Trump broke no laws during his July 25 phone call with the Ukrainian president, which is at the center of the impeachment inquiry. Attorney General Barr reportedly refused to do so. On Wednesday, President Trump lashed out at Democrats over the impeachment inquiry during a rally in Monroe, Louisiana.
President Donald Trump: “But Democrats must be accountable for their hoaxes and for their crimes. Now corrupt politicians, Nancy Pelosi and shifty Adam Schiff, and the crooked media have launched the deranged, delusional, destructive and hyperpartisan impeachment witch hunt. Now we go again.”
In election news, the San Francisco district attorney race remains too close to call, although latest results show interim District Attorney Suzy Loftus pulling ahead of public defender Chesa Boudin. Boudin is the child of Weather Underground activists Kathy Boudin and David Gilbert and ran on a platform of ending cash bail and dismantling the war on drugs. Some San Francisco leaders have accused the Police Officers Association of trying to buy the district attorney race, accusing the officers’ association of spending up to $650,000 on ads attacking Boudin.
Meanwhile, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions is slated to announce today that he’s planning to run for his old Alabama Senate seat. The primary race would likely pit Sessions against accused sexual predator Roy Moore, who lost to Democrat Doug Jones after several women came forward accusing Moore of sexually abusing them when they were underage.
In Massachusetts, Democratic Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley has backed Senator Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign. Pressley becomes the only member of the so-called Squad of four young progressive congresswomen to endorse Warren. The other three — Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan — have all endorsed Senator Bernie Sanders.
Meanwhile, Warren is continuing to come under fire from billionaires. On Wednesday, Bill Gates implied he was worried about how much money he would have left over under Warren’s tax plan. The Microsoft founder has over $100 billion. In response, Warren tweeted at Gates, offering to sit down with him and explain exactly how much he’d pay under her proposed 6% tax on the richest Americans.
On Friday, Democracy Now! will be broadcasting the first-ever Presidential Forum on Environmental Justice at South Carolina State University in Orangeburg. Candidates taking part include Senators Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker and businessman Tom Steyer. The forum begins at 6 p.m. Eastern. Amy Goodman will be moderating with former EPA official Mustafa Ali, and we’ll be live-streaming at democracynow.org. We’ll also be broadcasting on stations across the country.
In Syria, President Trump has approved an expanded military mission to secure a 90-mile expanse of oil fields in the eastern part of the country, meaning hundreds of U.S. troops will remain in Syria. This comes despite President Trump’s repeated claims he was bringing the troops home. The mission complicates the U.S. troops’ role in Syria and could bring them into direct confrontation with the Russian or Syrian military. Virginia Democratic Senator Tim Kaine condemned Trump’s decision, saying, “Risking the lives of our troops to guard oil rigs in eastern Syria is not only reckless, it’s not legally authorized. President Trump betrayed our Kurdish allies that have fought alongside American soldiers in the fight to secure a future without ISIS — and instead moved our troops to protect oil rigs.”
CNN is reporting that Defense Secretary Mark Esper is planning to urge President Donald Trump not to intervene in the cases of U.S. soldiers facing war crimes allegations. Trump has already ordered a review of the charges against Army Lieutenant Clint Lorance and Army Green Beret Major Mathew Golsteyn. Clint Lorance is serving a 19-year murder sentence in the military prison in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, for ordering soldiers to open fire on unarmed Afghan motorcyclists in 2012. Mathew Golsteyn is facing murder charges related to the 2010 killing of an alleged Afghan bombmaker. He reportedly told CIA interviewers he had shot the unarmed man and then destroyed his body in a burn pit on the military base. Trump is also reportedly considering restoring the rank of Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher. Gallagher has been accused of multiple war crimes, including shooting two Iraqi civilians and fatally stabbing a captive teenager in the neck. A California jury acquitted him of murder charges in July.
A federal judge has voided the Trump administration’s so-called conscience rule, which would have allowed healthcare workers to refuse to offer medical care to patients, including abortions, if the procedures conflicted with the healthcare worker’s private religious beliefs. The rule would have also allowed these medical workers to refuse to refer patients to other healthcare providers who could carry out the procedures. The now-voided rule was part of the Trump administration’s broader effort to limit access to abortion.
A new ProPublica investigation reveals how Vice President Mike Pence’s office interfered with foreign aid programs in order to reroute the money to Christian groups abroad, particularly in Iraq. The investigation reveals how longtime officials worried that the White House interference in USAID funding programs could be unconstitutional because it favored one religion — Christianity — over others. The officials also worried that perceptions that the U.S. was favoring some religious groups could worsen sectarian divisions in Iraq.
The Department of Justice has charged two former Twitter employees with spying for Saudi Arabia by accessing private user data and giving it to Saudi officials in exchange for payment. The charges were unveiled Wednesday in San Francisco. One Twitter employee, Ahmad Abouammo, has already been arrested.
Meanwhile, California has sued Facebook for documents related to California’s investigation into Facebook’s privacy policies. California’s probe into Facebook began last year following the revelations that voter-profiling company Cambridge Analytica harvested the data of more than 50 million Facebook users, without their permission, in efforts to sway voters to support President Donald Trump. Facebook has also paid the Federal Trade Commission $5 billion to settle a case over Facebook’s data sharing with Cambridge Analytica.
The New Zealand Parliament has approved landmark climate legislation that commits New Zealand to zero carbon emissions by 2050. This is New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern: “Our world is warming, and so therefore the question for all of us is: What side of history will we choose to sit on in that moment in time? I absolutely believe and continue to stand by the statement that climate change is the biggest challenge of our time. And for us here in Aotearoa, New Zealand, that means for this generation this is our nuclear moment.”
In Mexico, new details are emerging about the massacre of the American-Mexican Mormon family in the northern state of Sonora. Three women and six children were killed when gunmen ambushed their SUVs as they traveled along the highway. Experts have determined that the ammunition used in the attack was manufactured in the United States by the American weapons manufacturer Remington. Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has announced he’s impaneling an investigation.
López Obrador ran on a campaign promise of ending Mexico’s U.S.-backed drug war and improving security. But the homicide rate this year is on track to hit a record high — threatening public support for the president’s long-term strategy of reducing cartel violence through social and educational programs. This is Julián LeBarón, a member of the American-Mexican Mormon community.
Julián LeBarón: “The whole family wants to know exactly who the attackers were and why they did it. And we don’t want the government to manipulate the facts, and we want no lies. During yesterday morning’s media conference by Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, they came out to say that the victims were in the middle of crossfire, but they don’t even have the facts of what happened. We, the family, arrived at the crime scene before members from Sonora’s public prosecutors arrived, who did not even show up, and public prosecutors from the state of Chihuahua, the same. We live in an area where criminals do as they wish and authorities don’t even defend women or children.”
About 100 people are murdered every day in Mexico. Six of the children wounded in the attack are recovering in a Tuscon hospital.
In New York City, immigration activist Marco Saavedra is heading to his final asylum hearing today, where he will argue that his life would be at risk if he is sent to Mexico. Saavedra has been involved in several high-profile immigration actions. In 2012, he purposely got arrested by federal authorities to infiltrate the privately owned Broward Transitional Center in Florida in order to investigate firsthand allegations of human rights abuses inside the secretive facility. This is Marco Saavedra explaining how he got arrested for the action.
Marco Saavedra: “I got arrested undercover. I had to lie and say that I was a recently arrived undocumented immigrant, that I was looking for my cousin that was also a day laborer, and I flashed my Mexican matrícula, and as bait, which the Border Patrol agent had to take and asked me — he asked me directly, 'Are you undocumented?' As soon as he said that, I said, in broken English, Spanglish, 'Yes, sí.' And he said, 'You know I have to arrest you now.' And we have the audio of that, too, on file, where he arrests me. And that’s our entry point into the Broward Transitional Center, which housed 600 undocumented immigrants of low priority for detention, which we wanted to infiltrate.”
As we broadcast, Marco Saavedra is holding a press conference before he heads into his final asylum hearing. Click here to see our full interview with Marco Saavedra.
In media news, New York’s longtime community-supported radio station WBAI is back on the air with local programming. On Wednesday, a state judge restored the radio station to local control. In October, the Pacifica Foundation abruptly laid off WBAI’s staff and ended local programming, setting off a legal battle over the future of the station. WBAI is one of five stations in the Pacifica Radio network, which was founded in 1949 by the peace activist Lew Hill.