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House Democrats moved rapidly forward with their impeachment inquiry into President Trump Wednesday, after the White House released a rough transcript of a phone call showing the U.S. president repeatedly pressured Ukraine’s leader to launch a corruption probe into Trump’s campaign rival Joe Biden. In the five-page transcript, dated July 25, President Trump alludes to $400 million in military aid to Ukraine that he ordered cut off just days prior to the phone call, before telling Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, “[T]he United States has been very very good to Ukraine. I wouldn’t say that it’s reciprocal necessarily.” President Zelensky responds by praising past U.S. aid to Ukraine, saying he’s interested in purchasing more Javelin anti-tank missiles, which Ukraine has used in its fight against Russian-backed separatists. Trump responds, “I would like you to do us a favor though.” He goes on to urge Zelensky to work with Attorney General William Barr and Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, to open a corruption investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, who served on the board of one of Ukraine’s largest natural gas companies. “Whatever you can do, it’s very important that you do it if that’s possible,” Trump says in the transcript, and President Zelensky promises to launch an investigation into the Bidens. The transcript’s release prompted Democratic leaders to charge the president with blatantly impeachable offenses. Many lawmakers are also calling for the impeachment of Attorney General William Barr. This is California Democratic Congressmember Adam Schiff, chair of the House Intelligence Committee.
Rep. Adam Schiff: “Like any mafia boss, the president didn’t need to say, ’That’s a nice country you have. It’d be a shame if something happened to it,’ because that was clear from the conversation. There is no quid pro quo necessary to betray your country or your oath of office, even though many read this as a quid pro quo.”
Speaking from the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York, President Trump sought to defend his actions, saying he’d engaged in nothing improper and had held a “beautiful conversation” with Ukraine’s leader.
President Donald Trump: “And the witch hunt continues. But they’re getting hit hard on this witch hunt, because when they look at the information, it’s a joke. Impeachment for that?”
Trump’s problems are set to increase, after a whistleblower’s complaint against Trump’s interactions with Ukraine was declassified and is set to be released today. That complaint was initially withheld from Congress, even though the inspector general for the intelligence community found it to be “credible” and “urgent.” The man who refused to turn the complaint over to Congress as required by law — acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire — is set to testify before the House Intelligence Committee this morning. The Washington Post reported Maguire threatened to resign if the Trump administration tried to restrict his testimony to Congress, though Maguire later issued a statement strongly denying the report. The Washington Post’s executive editor says the paper stands by its reporting.
By Thursday morning, at least 217 Democrats and one independent congressmember said they support an impeachment inquiry into President Trump’s actions — just over half of the majority of representatives who would be needed to pass articles of impeachment. A two-thirds majority of senators would be required to convict Trump and remove him from office — meaning at least 20 Republican senators would need to turn against the president. So far only one Republican senator has spoken out sharply against Trump’s actions: Mitt Romney of Utah, who on Wednesday called Trump’s behavior “troubling in the extreme.” Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse complained that Democrats were rushing toward impeachment, but warned his Repubilcan colleagues not to dismiss the whistleblower complaint, saying it contains “lots that’s very troubling.”
At the United Nations General Assembly, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani ruled out any negotiations with the U.S. until the Trump administration cancels harsh sanctions that have devastated Iran’s economy.
President Hassan Rouhani: “The government and people of Iran have remained steadfast against the harshest sanctions in the past one-and-a-half years and will never negotiate with an enemy that seeks to make Iran surrender with the weapon of poverty, pressure and sanctions.”
Rouhani warned the region was “on the verge of collapse, as a single blunder can fuel a big fire.” Last Friday, the Trump administration said it would deploy military forces to Saudi Arabia, while imposing new sanctions on Iran’s Central Bank and other financial institutions.
Officials in Yemen say seven children were among 16 people killed Tuesday when a Saudi-led coalition airstrike tore through a residence in a Houthi-controlled province in Yemen’s southwest. Graphic video posted on social media showed the remains of children’s bodies, and residents burying victims in a mass grave. The latest deadly attack on civilians by the U.S.-supported coalition comes less than a week after Houthi rebels claimed responsibility for an attack on a Saudi oil facility. Houthi leaders have offered to halt missile and drone attacks on Saudi Arabia in exchange for a similar ceasefire.
In Israel, President Reuven Rivlin has instructed far-right Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to form a new government following last week’s election that left him deadlocked with rival candidate Benny Gantz. The pair had been in negotiations over a proposed power-sharing deal Tuesday, but talks failed. Gantz previously said he would not join a government led by Netanyahu, who is facing indictments over three corruption cases. The prime minister now has 28 days to form a government.
In Bolivia, environmental groups warned Wednesday that more than 2 million wild animals, including jaguars and pumas, have died as fires continue to ravage the country’s grasslands and forests. The fires began in May but intensified in August, completely devastating Bolivia’s tropical savanna and destroying at least 10 million acres of forest and grassland. More than 200,000 fires have burnt in the Amazon Basin this year, destroying at least 29 million acres of rainforest — mostly in Brazil.
Italian authorities have evacuated communities and closed roads around Mont Blanc, warning the mountain’s glacier is at risk of collapse, with 9 million cubic feet of ice set to break away. This is Stefano Miserocchi, mayor of the town of Courmayeur, which was partially evacuated.
Mayor Stefano Miserocchi: “This risk of collapse is definitely due to global warming. The average temperatures in the mountains keep getting higher, and there is less rain in the winter, therefore all the glaciers are in crisis.”
This comes after the Northern Hemisphere experienced its warmest summer on record, and all five of the hottest summers on record have occurred in the last five years.
In San Francisco, California, police arrested seven protesters who locked themselves together to blockade an entrance to a Wells Fargo building Wednesday. The protesters joined more than 100 climate activists who shut down part of the city’s financial district, blocking traffic to demand banks and government institutions divest from fossil fuels.
In London, England, four medical doctors superglued themselves to a government building in the latest Extinction Rebellion protest against climate change. The group plans to shut down parts of Central London for two weeks in October to demand urgent action on the climate.
In Mexico, lawmakers in the southern state of Oaxaca approved a bill Wednesday decriminalizing abortion during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Oaxaca becomes just the second region of Mexico — after Mexico City — to permit abortions. This is pro-choice activist Pilar Muriedas.
Pilar Muriedas: “The victory is not only for Oaxaca — the law, yes — but it means this gives hope to the other states where women who decide to have an abortion legally are punished.”
This comes just days after Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador sent lawmakers a bill that would grant amnesty to women serving prison terms for abortion.
Legislators in Australia’s most populous state, New South Wales, voted Thursday to decriminalize abortion, ending a century-old law that made terminating a pregnancy a crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison. The move will allow abortions up to the 22nd week of pregnancy — or later if two doctors agree.
Honduras has signed an agreement with the United States that would force asylum seekers who cross through the Central American country to first seek refuge there rather than the United States. A similar agreement with the Trump administration was signed by the Guatemalan government in July and by the Salvadoran government last week. This is just the latest policy pushed by the Trump administration aimed at deterring migration from Central America and other regions.
In Chicago, thousands of Park District employees have voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike, demanding higher wages, stable healthcare costs, and equal pay and benefits for part-time workers. Their strike authorization came as thousands of members of the Chicago Teachers Union are wrapping up a vote today on whether to authorize a work stoppage as early as October 7. The teachers are demanding more staffing and lower class sizes. And more than 7,000 unionized school support staffers are also considering a strike. Several labor groups held a rally in Chicago this week with 2020 presidential candidate Bernie Sanders in attendance.
On Capitol Hill, freshman Congressmember Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez released a sweeping policy package Wednesday aimed at tackling poverty and inequality. The plan, titled “A Just Society,” would offer full social services to formerly incarcerated people and undocumented immigrants, cap annual rent increases, push government contractors to improve benefits, and update the way the government tracks poverty by taking into account geographic location and healthcare and child care access. This is Representative Ocasio-Cortez introducing the legislative plan.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: “America today is at its wealthiest point than in its entire history. And, in fact, many would argue that today the United States represents one of the richest societies in global history — except, among all these record profits, 40 million Americans are living in poverty, and 18.5 million Americans are living in extreme poverty, which is measured as less than $2 a day. That’s why I’m so excited to introduce a suite of legislation, including five bills and one resolution, that begins to chip away at our issues of economic injustice. And we’re calling it 'A Just Society.'”