President Trump’s legal team offered an extraordinary new defense during the president’s impeachment trial on Wednesday. Attorney Alan Dershowitz said that a sitting president could take any action to boost his re-election chances if he felt his re-election was in the public interest.
Alan Dershowitz: “If a president does something which he believes will help him get elected in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment.”
Meanwhile, Democrats are trying to secure enough votes to get Trump’s former national security adviser John Bolton to testify. Bolton has written in a forthcoming book that Trump personally told him he wanted to maintain a freeze on military aid to Ukraine until Ukraine turned over materials related to former Vice President Joe Biden. The White House is attempting to halt publication of Bolton’s book, claiming it contains classified information. This is Virginia Democratic Senator Tim Kaine.
Sen. Tim Kaine: “Before there’s a vote on conviction or acquittal, there’s going to be a vote on whether this is a trial or a sham. That’s what the vote’s going to be, likely, on Friday: Is this a trial, or is this a sham?”
Hundreds of protesters descended on Capitol Hill Wednesday to demand the Senate call witnesses as part of Trump’s impeachment trial. This is Reverend William Barber speaking at the protest.
Rev. William Barber: “What we’re seeing in the United States Senate is as bad as what we saw in Jim Crow. It is McConnell and other senators bringing old Southern justice to the United States Senate.”
We’ll have more on the impeachment trial after headlines.
The European Parliament voted overwhelmingly to ratify the Brexit withdrawal agreement, meaning that Britain will formally withdraw from the European Union on Friday at midnight Brussels time. This is Michel Barnier, the head of the European Commission’s U.K. Task Force.
Michel Barnier: “It is obviously a very sad and serious day. And I feel that way about it because, for both sides, separating will make us weaker, as in a divorce.”
In election news, presidential candidate Senator Amy Klobuchar is facing calls to suspend her campaign over the case of Myon Burrell, an African-American teenager who was sentenced to life in prison over the 2002 murder of 11-year-old Tyesha Edwards. Klobuchar led the case against Myon Burrell when she was Hennepin County’s district attorney. But a new Associated Press report says she may have mishandled the case and that Burrell could be innocent. The Associated Press report shows how prosecutors had no DNA or fingerprints tying Burrell to the murder and that they relied on jailhouse informants, some of whom have since recanted their testimonies. Burrell has always maintained his innocence. The Minneapolis NAACP, Black Lives Matter Twin Cities and other racial justice groups are calling on Klobuchar to suspend her presidential campaign.
In France, thousands of protesters poured into the streets of Paris, Marseille, Nantes, Rennes, Toulouse and Bordeaux Wednesday in the latest mass demonstration against French President Emmanuel Macron’s proposed pension overhaul. In Paris, thousands of protesting firefighters clashed with riot police. French workers and unions have staged mass demonstrations for months to protest the pension overhaul. This is one of the protesters.
Protester: “It’s scandalous. They’re putting us in a 'hold-up' situation with ordinances and executive orders. Macron is presenting an incomplete bill. We say France is not a dictatorship, but it starts to seem that way if that’s the way it works.”
A Cuban man died in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Miami on Monday, marking the sixth immigrant to die in ICE custody since October. He was the second immigrant to die in ICE custody in the past week alone, after a British man died inside the Baker County Detention Center in Florida on Saturday.
Retired Salvadoran General Juan Rafael Bustillo has acknowledged for the first time that elite United States-trained forces were responsible for carrying out the 1981 El Mozote massacre in which nearly 1,000 unarmed villagers were killed. Most of those tortured and murdered by the U.S.-backed troops were women and children. This comes as the U.S. State Department has banned 13 former Salvadoran military officials from entering the United States after they allegedly orchestrated the extrajudicial killings of six Jesuit priests in 1989. Like the El Mozote massacre, the killing of the Jesuit priests was also carried out by soldiers trained by the United States.
In South Dakota, the Republican-controlled House has passed a bill that criminalizes gender-affirming surgery for transgender youth. Lawmakers voted 46 to 23 in favor of House Bill 1057, which would make it a felony for doctors to provide anyone under the age of 16 with puberty blockers, hormones and other transition-related healthcare. Parents and health professionals say the bill will take away life-saving treatments for transgender youth. Click here to see our full coverage of House Bill 1057 with the ACLU’s Chase Strangio and the Oscar-nominated director Yance Ford, the first openly transgender director nominated for an Academy Award.
The publisher Flatiron Books has canceled the author tour of the controversial novel “American Dirt,” after the book faced massive criticism and backlash for its stereotypical and inaccurate portrayal of Mexicans and the current migration crisis. The book by Jeanine Cummins tells the story of a Mexican mother and her son fleeing cartel violence. Before its release, it was heralded as the next great American novel, and Flatiron Books paid Cummins, who is not Mexican, a seven-figure advance. But a slew of Latino writers say the book is a poorly researched caricature of Mexico and have slammed the publishing industry for ignoring Latino writers who are telling their own stories of migration and displacement. This is author and writer Myriam Gurba speaking with Maria Hinojosa on NPR about reading “American Dirt” while in Mexico.
Myriam Gurba: “It felt insulting that I am in a country with a tremendous cultural history and a tremendous literary history, and I’m reading a book with an introductory letter from a publisher that argues that this author is going to give a face to the faceless. And I’m looking around at my Mexican family, and we all have faces. And faces and voices matter in my family.”
The book’s critics also say “American Dirt” completely erases Central Americans, who actually make up the largest number of asylum seekers currently fleeing to the U.S.-Mexico border. Myriam Gurba and other Latino writers have launched a campaign called #DignidadLiteraria — or “Literary Dignity” — in order to promote Latino writers.