A senior State Department official, George Kent, told impeachment investigators that President Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani carried out a “campaign of lies” to smear U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch before she was abruptly recalled from her post in May. That’s according to a full transcript of Kent’s closed-door testimony released Thursday. Kent is slated to testify next Wednesday on the first day of televised hearings in the impeachment inquiry into whether President Trump withheld military aid from Ukraine in order to pressure the Ukrainian president to investigate Trump’s political rival Joe Biden and his son.
The New York Times reports Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was prepared to bow to Trump’s demands and was planning to announce the investigations in an interview with CNN on September 13. But only days before the scheduled interview, the Trump administration released the $400 million aid, after news about the freeze leaked, sparing the Ukrainian president from having to announce the investigation.
The United States and China are pledging that an initial trade deal would remove some tariffs, in a move that could de-escalate the ongoing trade war between the two countries. The initial trade deal has not yet been finalized. Since taking office, President Trump has levied tariffs on $360 billion worth of Chinese goods.
A midnight self-massacre. That was the plan hatched by some senior Trump administration officials, who considered resigning en masse last year to sound the alarm about Trump’s conduct. They ultimately rejected the idea over concerns it would further destabilize the government.
The aborted warning is one of a series of revelations in a forthcoming book titled “A Warning.” Its author is an anonymous senior official within the Trump administration who published an anonymous op-ed in The New York Times last year titled “I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration.”
In the book, the author describes senior officials waking up and trying to respond to Trump’s overnight Twitter announcements, writing, “It’s like showing up at the nursing home at daybreak to find your elderly uncle running pantsless across the courtyard and cursing loudly about the cafeteria food, as worried attendants tried to catch him. You’re stunned, amused, and embarrassed all at the same time. Only your uncle probably wouldn’t do it every single day, his words aren’t broadcast to the public, and he doesn’t have to lead the U.S. government once he puts his pants on.”
The author also claims Trump once asked White House lawyers to write a bill to send to Congress aimed at reducing the number of federal judges, after various judges had thwarted Trump’s policies. Trump reportedly said, “Can we just get rid of the judges? Let’s get rid of the [expletive] judges. There shouldn’t be any at all, really.” This according to the forthcoming book “A Warning.”
The billionaire former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is reportedly preparing to jump into the 2020 presidential race. The New York Times reports Bloomberg has sent staffers to Alabama to gather signatures in order to qualify him for the primary. His possible 2020 run comes as he is reportedly skeptical that former Vice President Joe Biden can beat out his progressive challengers — Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders — in the Democratic primary.
Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders unveiled his immigration plan Thursday promising to abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement, ICE, to push for a path to citizenship, cease deportations and immediately grant legal status to the nearly 2 million immigrants who are eligible for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. Sanders said he would accomplish many of these reforms through executive actions. Sanders also vowed to end family separation at the border and allow asylum seekers to remain in the United States while their cases are resolved. He also said he would halt the construction of Trump’s border wall, which has already begun construction in the Sonoran Desert in Arizona.
Undocumented students across the United States are walking out of school today in solidarity with immigrants who have Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, an Obama-era program that grants work permits and deportation relief to nearly 1 million undocumented people who were brought to the country as children. Next week, the Supreme Court will begin to hear oral arguments in lawsuits demanding the Trump administration preserve DACA, which Trump tried to kill in 2017. Under the banner of “Home Is Here,” dozens of immigrants with DACA have led a 16-day march from New York to Washington, D.C., to pressure the Supreme Court to save the program.
The online news outlet Quartz reports the Department of Homeland Security plans to have biometric data on hundreds of millions of people by 2022. In a recent presentation, which was reviewed by Quartz, DHS said it expects to have a database containing the fingerprints, as well as the face and iris scans, of nearly 260 million people traveling in and out of the United States — raising major privacy concerns over the agency’s growing surveillance efforts.
In Iraq, security forces are continuing their bloody crackdown against the massive anti-government protests sweeping the country. On Thursday, forces killed five protesters in the southern city of Basra. Today, there are reports of another five protesters killed in the capital Baghdad. Protesters have taken to the streets across Iraq for over a month, demanding jobs, better public services and an end to government corruption.
In Bolivia, tensions are rising over last month’s presidential election, in which Bolivian President Evo Morales was declared the winner of a controversial fourth term. Some members of the opposition have disputed the results, claiming election fraud. On Wednesday, opposition protesters kidnapped a mayor loyal to President Morales, forcibly cut her hair, doused her in red paint and paraded her through the streets. This is Mayor Patricia Arce.
Mayor Patricia Arce: “I am with the truth, and I am not afraid to say my truth. I’m in a free country, and I’m not going to be silenced. If you want me dead, kill me. And now I say: For this movement for change, I’m going to give my life.”
That was Mayor Patricia Arce of the Bolivian town of Vinto. Anti-government demonstrations have also been growing in the capital La Paz. This is Marco Pumari.
Marco Pumari: “If our democracy is still trampled over, then we will not leave La Paz without removing from the Government Palace those who are killing us, those who are assaulting us, those who are persecuting us.”
Brazil has sided with the United States for the first time in choosing not to condemn the U.S. embargo against Cuba during the annual United Nations resolution vote Thursday. The U.N. General Assembly still voted overwhelmingly to condemn the U.S. embargo, with 187 out of 193 countries voting against the United States. This is Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez.
Bruno Rodríguez: “The blockade has caused incalculable humanitarian damages. It is a flagrant, massive and systematic violation of human rights. It qualifies as an act of genocide under Articles 2(b) and (c) of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide adopted in 1948. There is not one single family that has not suffered the consequences of this.”
In Brazil, former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva could be freed from prison following a Brazilian Supreme Court ruling to end the mandatory imprisonment of people convicted of a crime who have lost their first appeal. The ruling restores a previous policy that allows people convicted of a crime to exhaust all of their appeal options before being sent to prison. In addition to Lula, the Supreme Court’s decision could help free some 5,000 prisoners who are still appealing their convictions. Meanwhile, a far-right Brazilian journalist tried to punch Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and co-founder of The Intercept Glenn Greenwald after a heated argument during the live taping of a radio show. The far-right journalist Augusto Nunes had previously made insulting comments about Greenwald’s family.
In Hong Kong, a student has died from injuries sustained after he fell during a clash between student protesters and police earlier this week. The death of Chow Tsz-lok has sparked widespread anger among student protesters, whose demonstrations have rocked Hong Kong. This is Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong.
Joshua Wong: “We mourn together, and we urge Hong Kong people: Wear black T-shirts together today and tomorrow to show our solidarity and unity. And now is the time for the government to set up the independent investigation on the clash. We need to know and seek for truth and justice, and which is really insane and unreasonable for how the government allow the police attempt to murder the Hong Kong people, which prove that reform the police force is a must.”
In New York City, longtime immigration activist Marco Saavedra attended his final asylum hearing Thursday in which he argued his life would be at risk if he were sent to Mexico. The immigration judge overseeing Saavedra’s case will have a final decision by January 17, 2020. Saavedra has been living in the United States since he was 3 years old. He has been involved in several high-profile immigration actions. In 2012, he purposely got arrested by federal authorities in order to infiltrate GEO Group’s for-profit immigration jail, the Broward Transitional Center in Florida, and investigate allegations of human rights abuses inside the secretive facility. In 2013, Saavedra self-deported to Mexico with eight other DREAMers to protest the separation of immigrant families under the Obama administration. Click here to see our interview with Marco Saavedra before his final asylum hearing.