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Vindman's lawyer requests Fox News issue retraction over guest's espionage allegation

Yahoo News - Wed, 11/20/2019 - 17:15

Vindman's lawyer requests Fox News issue retraction over guest's espionage allegationA lawyer for Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman sent a letter to Fox News on Wednesday, requesting that the network either retract or correct a "deeply flawed and erroneous" segment that aired during the Oct. 28 episode of The Ingraham Angle.Vindman is the National Security Council's Ukraine expert, and the segment aired prior to his closed-door testimony as part of the House impeachment inquiry. Host Laura Ingraham said it was "kind of an interesting angle" that Vindman "is advising Ukraine, while working inside the White House, apparently against the president's interest, and usually, they spoke in English." Yoo replied, "I found that astounding. Some people might call that espionage."In his letter, lawyer David Pressman wrote that Vindman "had never in his 20-year career of service to his country been accused of having dual loyalties or committing espionage," which is a felony punishable by death. This falsehood was repeated by others, Pressman said, and Vindman, a Purple Heart recipient who served in Iraq, and his family "have been forced to examine options, including potentially moving onto a military base, in order to ensure their physical security in the face of threats rooted in the falsehood that Fox News originated."In a statement, Fox News said that "as a guest on Fox News, John Yoo was responsible for his own statements, and he has subsequently done interviews to clarify what he meant." Yoo told The New York Times in an email that he "didn't say that Lt. Col. was a spy or that he had committed espionage. I had no reason to question that he was doing his duty as an officer. But I think the Ukrainians are engaged in espionage against us." That argument, Pressman said, is "as legally irrelevant as it is factually incredible."More stories from theweek.com Ken Starr on the Sondland testimony: 'It's over' Women are the majority on the debate stage — for the 1st time in history Democrat Deval Patrick had to cancel one of his first campaign events — because no one showed up

Cooper Discloses Ukraine Query on Aid Freeze: Impeachment Update

Yahoo News - Wed, 11/20/2019 - 16:25

 Impeachment Update(Bloomberg) -- The House Intelligence Committee heard from Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, on the fourth day of public testimony Wednesday in the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.Sondland testified first, and his opening statement is here. Later in the day, the panel resumed its session to hear from Laura Cooper, the Defense Department’s top official on Russia and Ukraine, and David Hale, the under secretary of State for political affairs.Here are the latest developments:Cooper Discloses Ukraine Query on Aid Freeze (6:19 p.m.)Cooper disclosed that her staff received two emails from the State Department inquiring about aid to Ukraine on July 25 -- the same day of Trump’s call with the president of Ukraine.One email said the Ukrainian embassy in Washington and House Foreign Affairs Committee were asking about “an issue” involving security assistance. The second one said the Ukrainian embassy and the Hill newspaper knew about the aid situation, she said.Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said this is the first time anyone has placed Ukrainian knowledge of the hold on security assistance as far back as the same day Trump talked to Zelenskiy.The July 25 date of Ukrainian knowledge about the freeze is significant because a central argument by Republicans has been that Ukraine didn’t know about the block on funds until much later. Therefore Trump’s demand for investigations couldn’t have been a quid pro quo, GOP lawmakers contend.Cooper said she doesn’t recall being made aware of the emails at the time. Her staff told her about them after her deposition was made public and they read the transcript, she said.Cooper Describes Learning of Hold on Aid (6:09 p.m.)Cooper said she became aware of the hold on funds for Ukraine in July. She said she “made clear” to interagency leaders at a July 31 meeting that there were “only two legal ways” to discontinue the funds, and either one would require notification to Congress. She said she never heard that either alternative was being pursued.Cooper said she advocated a Cabinet-level meeting with Trump to explain why the aid should go forward.“Although I heard to attempts to discuss the issue with the president, I never received details about any conversations other than a status update that the hold had not been lifted,” she said.She said the aid is “critical” for “bolstering Ukraine’s security and deterring Russia.”House Hearing Resumes With Cooper, Hale (5:40 p.m.)The Intelligence Committee reconvened to hear testimony from Cooper and Hale.Trump Calls Sondland Testimony ‘Fantastic’ (5:04 p.m.)Trump said Sondland’s testimony was “fantastic” and that the impeachment inquiry should end now.The president spoke to reporters while visiting an Apple Inc. plant in Austin, Texas.Sondland ‘Completely Exonerates’ Trump, Aide Says (4:47 p.m.)Sondland’s testimony “completely exonerates” Trump of wrongdoing, says a statement from Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham.Sondland’s statement that Trump told him “I want nothing. I want no quid pro quo” on Sept. 9 should be the “only takeaway from today’s sham hearing,” Grisham said.Sept. 9 was the day that lawyers for a whistle-blower notified the House and Senate Intelligence Committees about an “urgent” matter filed with an inspector general.“In his July 25 call with President Zelenskiy, President Trump did not condition any part of the United States-Ukraine relationship on a quid pro quo,“ the press secretary said.Sondland Says Trump Would Benefit From Probe (3:48 p.m.)Representative Sean Patrick Maloney, a New York Democrat, lectured Sondland about his forthrightness as it took several tries to get Sondland to say who would benefit from an investigation of former vice president Joe Biden.Eventually, Sondland offered, “I assume President Trump.”Maloney then asked what position the demand would put the Ukrainians in.“A terrible position,” Sondland said. “Obviously, they’re not receiving ultimately what they thought was coming to them, and they’re put in a position that jeopardizes their security.”Maloney responded, “You might say they’re being asked to give him a personal benefit in exchange for an official act.”Sondland said he wasn’t in charge of the policy during questioning minutes later by Illinois Democrat Raja Krishnamoorthi.“If I had been in charge, I would have asked President Trump to have the meeting without preconditions and the meeting would have occurred a long time ago,” Sondland said. “The president, through Mr. Giuliani, as conveyed through Mr. Giuliani, wanted the investigations.”Krishnamoorthi got a moment of levity from Sondland by saying, “On October 8 of this year, the president tweeted you were a really good man and a great American.”“November 8, one month later, he said I hardly know the gentleman,” the lawmaker said.“Easy come, easy go!” responded Sondland.Giuliani Rips GOP Lawyer Over His Questions (2:18 p.m.)Rudy Giuliani criticized the Republicans’ staff lawyer, Steve Castor, for saying that Giuliani had business interests in Ukraine in addition to his representation of Trump.Castor, while questioning Sondland, said, “Granted, Mr. Giuliani had business interests in Ukraine, correct?”“Now I understand he did; I didn’t know that at the time,” said Sondland.Castor mentioned two Giuliani associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, who have since been indicted in New York on allegations that they hid the source of campaign donations.Giuliani wrote on Twitter: “Republican lawyer doesn’t do his own research and preparation, and is instead picking up Democrat lies, shame. Allow me to inform him: I have NO financial interests in Ukraine, NONE! I would appreciate his apology.”Pompeo Stays Silent on Sondland’s Testimony (1:34 p.m.)Secretary of State Michael Pompeo refused to address an impeachment witness’s testimony putting him at the heart of Trump’s alleged quid pro quo with Ukraine but said he was confident about U.S. policy toward the country.“I didn’t see a single thing today, I was working -- sounds like you might not have been,” Pompeo told reporters in Brussels when asked his response to the testimony from Sondland.Sondland provided an email exchange putting Pompeo within the loop of getting Ukraine’s president to appease Trump’s demand for investigations into Democrats. Sondland also faulted the State Department for refusing to turn over other documents relevant to the investigation.Pompeo has repeatedly refused to answer questions about details of the impeachment inquiry, arguing that Democrats have orchestrated a process that’s unfair to the president. He said Wednesday he knew “precisely what American policy was with regards to Ukraine.”“I’m proud that President Trump led that effort to get our policy on Ukraine right,” Pompeo said. “Our focus at the State Department is making sure we get the policy right, execute it flawlessly.”Perry Aide Says Sondland Misrepresented Role (1:05 p.m.)Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s press secretary said Sondland “misrepresented” Perry’s interactions with Rudy Giuliani and the secretary’s instructions from Trump.“Secretary Perry spoke to Rudy Giuliani only once at the president’s request,“ aide Shaylyn Hynes said in a statement. “No one else was on that call. At no point before, during or after that phone call did the words ‘Biden’ or ‘Burisma’ ever come up in the presence of Secretary Perry.”Sondland Can’t Recall Talk Morrison Outlined (12:55 p.m.)Sondland said he can’t recall telling special envoy Kurt Volker and National Security Council official Tim Morrison that Trump himself instructed that Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, not the country’s prosecutor general, must make a public announcement of investigations.Morrison testified Tuesday that Sondland said on July 26 that this instruction came directly in a telephone call from Trump, that Zelenskiy had to “clear things up” and make the announcement in public.Sondland said Wednesday he can’t remember, but that he has no reason to dispute that he told them Zelenskiy needed to be the one to make the announcement. Sondland said Trump “never told me directly the aid” was tied to the demand for investigations.Giuliani Says Sondland is ‘Speculating’ (12:34 p.m.)Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, said Sondland’s testimony was speculation based on little contact between the two.“I came into this at Volker’s request. Sondland is speculating based on VERY little contact. I never met him and had very few calls with him, mostly with Volker,” Giuliani wrote on Twitter, referring to Kurt Volker, the former special envoy to Ukraine.“Volker testified I answered their questions and described them as my opinions, NOT demands. I.E., no quid pro quo!”Giuliani later deleted the tweet.Sondland testified earlier Wednesday that Trump told him and other U.S. officials to work with Giuliani on Ukraine issues, and that they “weren’t happy” that they had to do so.No One Said to ‘Back Off,’ Sondland Says (12:10 p.m.)Sondland said nobody ever told him to hold back on actions regarding Ukraine.“No one said back off of Ukraine, this is dangerous, you are doing something untoward, we have concerns,“ he said during questioning by a GOP staff attorney. “No one ever said that to me, by phone, by text, by email.”“I don’t remember anybody sounding an alarm bell,” Sondland said. “I would have sat up and taken notice.“During his testimony, Sondland repeatedly said he was unable to recall specifics because the administration has refused to release notes and records related to the inquiry. He also said, though, that he doesn’t take many notes and prefers to conduct complicated discussions by phone.“This is like the trifecta of unreliability,” Castor said.“I think I’ve filled in a lot of blanks,” Sondland responded.“A lot of it’s speculation,” Castor said.GOP Questions Sondland on Trump’s Conditions (11:58 a.m.)A Republican staff lawyer zeroed in on Sondland’s statement that he never heard Trump specifically tie financial aid to a demand that Ukraine conduct investigations.“The president never told you about any preconditions for the aid to be released?” GOP lawyer Steve Castor asked Sondland. No, Sondland replied, nor did Trump directly tell him about conditions for a White House meeting.Everything was “funneled through others” including Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, Sondland said.“When the president says talk to my personal attorney,” and then Giuliani “makes certain requests or demands, we assume it’s coming from the president,” Sondland said.“This is speculation, right?” Castor said.“It was a presumption,” Sondland said. “Two plus two equaled four in my mind” because “the aid wasn’t being released and we weren’t getting anywhere with the Ukrainians.”Trump Says He Doesn’t Know Sondland ‘Well’ (11:42 a.m.)Trump attempted to distance himself from Sondland after his European Union ambassador testified that the president directed an effort to compel the Ukrainian government to investigate his political rivals.“This is not a man I know well,” Trump told reporters as he departed the White House to visit an Apple Inc. factory in Austin, Texas.Trump nominated Sondland for his European Union post after the Oregon hotelier donated $1 million to the president’s inauguration committee.The president read excerpts of Sondland’s testimony that had been written on a note pad with a Sharpie. He didn’t take any questions.Pence Aide Alleges Sondland Lied to Congress (11:38 a.m.)Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff alleged that Sondland lied to Congress, saying a conversation with Pence that the European Union ambassador related in testimony on Wednesday “never happened.”“The vice president never had a conversation with Gordon Sondland aboutinvestigating the Bidens, Burisma or the conditional release of financial aidto Ukraine based upon potential investigations,” Pence’s Chief of Staff Marc Short said in a statement.Pence has maintained that he wasn’t involved in Trump’s alleged scheme to pressure the Ukrainian government to investigate his political rivals. Pence met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Sept. 1 in Warsaw, as Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani was working with Sondland and other officials to secure an announcement by Zelenskiy of the investigations.Short’s statement also distanced Pence from Trump, who asked Zelenskiy in a July 25 phone call to investigate a discredited allegation that Ukrainians interfered in the 2016 election via a cybersecurity company called CrowdStrike, and also to investigate Burisma Holdings, a company connected to former Vice President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter.“Multiple witnesses have testified under oath that Vice President Pence never raised Hunter Biden, former Vice President Joe Biden, Crowdstrike, Burisma, or investigations in any conversation with Ukrainians or President Zelenskiy before, during, or after the Sept. 1 meeting in Poland,” Short said.Sondland Says Trump Didn’t Mention Aid (11:16 a.m.)Sondland said he never directly heard Trump spell out conditions for the release of military aid.”I don’t recall President Trump ever talking to me about any security assistance, ever,” Sondland said.But Sondland said it was clear to him and others that the aid was tied to Trump’s desire for an announcement of investigations by Ukraine.”By the 8th of September it was abundantly clear to everyone that there was a link,” he said. “We were discussing the chicken-and-egg issue of should the Ukrainians go out on a ledge and make the statement that President Trump wanted them to make and then they still don’t get their White House visit or their aid, that would be really bad for our credibility,” he said of his texts at the time with the top U.S. envoy to Ukraine, William Taylor, who testified publicly last week.Sondland Says Probe Announcement Was Key (10:54 a.m.)Sondland said Trump wasn’t necessarily insisting that Ukraine carry out the investigations on Burisma and the 2016 election.“He had to announce the investigations, he didn’t actually have to do them, as I understood it,” Sondland said during questioning by Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff.Later, he stressed the point, saying he never heard “anyone say that the investigations had to start or be completed.”Schiff sought to show that the White House meeting and military aid amounted to official acts that were being withheld by Trump while the president sought a Ukrainian promise to conduct investigations. An official act would be an element of a charge of bribery of a public official.“The military aid was also an official act, right?” Schiff said.Sondland was asked by a Democratic staff lawyer to confirm an embassy aide’s testimony that he overheard Sondland tell Trump over the phone on July 26 that Ukraine’s president “loves your ass.”“It sounds like something I would say,” Sondland said, drawing a laugh from the audience. “That’s how President Trump and I communicate, a lot of four-letter words, three-letter.“Envoy Says He Told Pence Aid Tied to Probe (9:41 a.m.)Sondland will say he expressed his concerns about the delay in U.S. aid to Vice President Mike Pence before they met with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in Warsaw on Sept. 1.“I mentioned to Vice President Pence before the meetings with the Ukrainians that I had concerns that the delay in aid had become tied to the issue of investigations,” Sondland will say, according to his opening statement. “I recall mentioning that before the Zelenskiy meeting.“During the meeting, Zelenskiy raised the issue of security aid with Pence, and the vice president said he would speak to Trump about it, Sondland will say.Sondland will also say that he pulled Zelenskiy aide Andriy Yermak aside and told him that Sondland believed U.S. aid wouldn’t resume until Ukraine took action on the public statement sought by the U.S.Sondland also will say, “I really regret that the Ukrainians were placed in that predicament, but I do not regret doing what I could to try to break the logjam and to solve the problem.”Sondland Confirms Account of Trump Call (9:27 a.m.)Sondland confirms an account from other witnesses that he called Trump from a restaurant in Kyiv on July 26 but he said he didn’t remember key details. He said he didn’t recall later discussing Joe Biden and his son with David Holmes, the embassy staffer who described the incident.“I have no reason to doubt their accounts,” Sondland will say in his opening statement. “I would have been more surprised if President Trump had not mentioned investigations, particularly given what we were hearing from Mr. Giuliani about the president’s concerns. However, I have no recollection of discussing Vice President Biden or his son on that call or after the call ended.”Holmes testified that Sondland called Trump to assure him that the Ukrainian president would commit to “the investigations” that Rudy Giuliani was pushing.Sondland Says ‘Everyone Was in the Loop’ (9:18 a.m.)Sondland will say that “everyone was in the loop” on the demand for investigations of Burisma and the 2016 election in exchange for a White House call and a meeting for Ukraine’s president. “It was no secret.”Sondland will say that among those who got his July 19 email about the demand were Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, the chief of staff for Vice President Mike Pence, and acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney.“We all understood that these pre-requisites for the White House call and White House meeting reflected President Trump’s desires and requirements,” Sondland will say.Sondland Says Pompeo Knew of Demands for Aid (9:10 a.m.)Sondland also provides an email exchange putting Secretary of State Michael Pompeo within the loop of getting Ukraine’s president to appease Trump’s concerns and “break the logjam” on providing the security funds. That would include setting up a meeting in Warsaw “for a short pull-aside” for Trump to meet President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.“I would ask Zelenskiy to look him in the eye and tell him that once Ukraine’s new justice folks are in place (mid-Sept), that Ze should be able to move forward publicly and with confidence on those issues of importance to Potus and to the US,” Sondland told Pompeo on Aug. 22. “Hopefully, that will break the logjam.”Pompeo replied “Yes,” according to Sondland’s opening statement.Sondland Confirms ‘Quid Pro Quo’ for Probe (9:01 a.m.)Sondland will say, “as I testified previously, Mr. Giuliani’s requests were a quid pro quo for arranging a White House visit for President Zelenskiy.”“Mr. Giuliani demanded that Ukraine make a public statement announcing investigations of the 2016 election/DNC server and Burisma,” Sondland will say. “Mr. Giuliani was expressing the desires of the president of the United States, and we knew that these investigations were important to the president.”He will say that he learned in July and August that U.S. security aid to Ukraine was being suspended. Sondland plans to say he was “adamantly opposed” to the suspension and never received a “clear answer” of why it was delayed.“I later came to believe that the resumption of security aid would not occur until there was a public statement from Ukraine committing to the investigations of the 2016 election and Burisma, as Mr. Giuliani had demanded,” Sondland’s opening statement says. He will say he shared his concerns with the Ukrainians and with Republican Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin.Sondland Worked With Giuliani on Trump Order (8:53 a.m.)Sondland will tell the committee that he, Energy Secretary Rick Perry and U.S. envoy Kurt Volker worked with Rudy Giuliani on Ukraine matters at Trump’s “express direction.”“We played the hand we were dealt,” Sondland will say, according to his prepared opening statement obtained by Bloomberg.“We all understood that if we refused to work with Mr. Giuliani, we would lose an important opportunity to cement relations between the United States and Ukraine. So we followed the president’s orders,” he will say.Bondi Says Trump Probably Won’t Testify (8:47 a.m.)President Trump would relish the opportunity to testify in the impeachment probe before Congress under oath but probably won’t because the proceedings are tantamount to a “sham court,” White House aide Pam Bondi said.“I know why he wants to testify, because he did nothing wrong,” Bondi said on CBS in one of her first interviews after being hired by the White House to manage communications and strategy on impeachment.Separately, Bondi distanced Trump from Gordon Sondland, U.S. Ambassador to the EU, who is at the center of the impeachment inquiry and is scheduled to testify before the House Intelligence Cmte on Tuesday. Trump knows Sondlland, but “does not know him well,” Bondi said.Sondland to Say Pompeo Looped In on Ukraine (8:01 a.m.)Sondland looped in Secretary of State Michael Pompeo on efforts to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy into making public commitments to appease Trump so he would grant an Oval Office meeting, the New York Times reported Wednesday.Sondland advised Pompeo in August about drafting a statement with Ukrainian officials that they hoped would satisfy Trump, the newspaper said, according two anonymous people briefed on the matter. Sondland also discussed pressure on Zelenskiy to take steps Trump sought prior to a scheduled meeting between the two leaders in Poland that was later canceled.It’s unclear how detailed Sondland was in his communications with Pompeo, who is said to have approved of the plan, according to the report. The previously undisclosed details link Pompeo more directly to the Trump administration’s campaign to push Ukraine to make commitments that House Democrats say would benefit Trump politically and possibly damage U.S. national security. -- Elizabeth WassermanSondland to Be Questioned on Call With Trump (7 a.m.)Sondland has put Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani at the center of the effort to extract a promise from Ukrainian officials to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden.Sondland, a Trump donor, is likely to come under intense questioning after new information emerged about a telephone call he had with Trump on July 26, the day after Trump’s phone conversation with Zelenskiy.David Holmes, a member of the embassy staff in Kyiv, told House investigators last Friday that he overhead Trump asking Sondland about “the investigations.” Holmes said that Sondland told him after he hung up that the president “didn’t give a s--- about Ukraine” and that Trump only cares about the “big stuff” that benefits him “like the Biden investigation.” -- Billy HouseCatch Up on Impeachment CoverageKey EventsKurt Volker, the former special envoy to Ukraine, said Tuesday he wasn’t initially aware of attempts to prod that country into investigating Biden but later realized the anti-corruption efforts sought by the administration meant probes of the former vice president.The Sondland transcript is here and here; Volker’s transcript is here and here. Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch’s transcript is here and here; the transcript of Michael McKinley, former senior adviser to the secretary of State, is here. The transcript of Holmes, a Foreign Service officer in Kyiv, is here. The transcript of Hale is here. The transcript of William Taylor, the top U.S. envoy to Ukraine, is here and here. State Department official George Kent’s testimony is here and here. Testimony by Alexander Vindman can be found here, and the Fiona Hill transcript is here. Laura Cooper’s transcript is here; Christopher Anderson’s is here and Catherine Croft’s is here. Jennifer Williams’ transcript is here and Timothy Morrison’s is here.Taylor’s opening statement is here; Kent’s statement is here. Yovanovitch’s opening statement is here. Kurt Volker’s opening statement is here; Tim Morrison’s statement is here. Alexander Vindman’s statement is here. Jennifer Williams’s opening statement is here. Gordon Sondland’s opening statement is here.\--With assistance from Caitlin Webber, Nick Wadhams and Josh Wingrove.To contact the reporters on this story: Billy House in Washington at bhouse5@bloomberg.net;Steven T. Dennis in Washington at sdennis17@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Joe Sobczyk at jsobczyk@bloomberg.net, Laurie AsséoFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

U.S. considers pulling up to 4,000 troops from South Korea: Chosun Ilbo

Yahoo News - Wed, 11/20/2019 - 16:14

 Chosun IlboThe United States is considering a significant cut to its troop numbers in South Korea if Seoul does not contribute more to the cost of the deployment, South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo reported on Thursday. Washington broke off defense cost talks with South Korea this week after demanding Seoul raise its annual contribution to $5 billion, more than five times what it pays now, in a rare public display of discord in the alliance. Neither side has publicly confirmed the numbers, but U.S. President Donald Trump has said the U.S. military presence in and around South Korea was "$5 billion worth of protection".

Indiana officer fired after telling black men he had the right 'to do anything I want'

Yahoo News - Wed, 11/20/2019 - 16:00

Indiana officer fired after telling black men he had the right 'to do anything I want'The viral video, which has more than 450,000 views, shows the constable yelling "I got my rights to do anything I want to do! I'm a police officer!"

Arizona border activist found not guilty of hiding migrants

Yahoo News - Wed, 11/20/2019 - 15:54

Arizona border activist found not guilty of hiding migrantsAn Arizona jury on Wednesday found a human rights activist not guilty of harboring two migrants who crossed the U.S.-Mexico border illegally, after the U.S. government prosecuted him for giving them food, water and shelter in the desert. The Tucson jury took just over two hours to decide that Scott Warren, 37, a geography professor, provided the men with legal humanitarian aid in January 2018 and did not deliberately conceal them from U.S. Border Patrol. A previous jury was unable to decide whether he broke the law by letting the men stay in a building near Ajo, Arizona, to recover from a two-day trek.

Sondland Scorches Trumpland: ‘Easy Come, Easy Go’

Yahoo News - Wed, 11/20/2019 - 15:23

 ‘Easy Come, Easy Go’Olivier Douliery/AFP/GettyBefore his testimony even concluded Wednesday, U.S. Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland was in a rush to leave Washington. “Ambassador Sondland had intended to fly back to Brussels to resume his duties at the end of the day, so it would be a great convenience to ... try and wrap up in time that he might be able to make his flight,” asked his lawyer, during a break in the proceedings three hours into the hearing. The request was ignored. Sondland’s testimony in front of House impeachment investigators began  to ruffle feathers within the first hour of his public hearing. It took just ten minutes for him to tie President Donald Trump, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the president’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani and three different government agencies to his efforts to convince Ukraine to open specific investigations in exchange for a White House visit for President Volodymyr Zelensky. The ambassador to the EU was arguably one of the most important witnesses in the House impeachment probe because of his direct communications with Trump, including a now infamous July 26 phone call from a restaurant in Kyiv where the president asked if Zelensky would commit to launching “the investigations.” Sondland replied “he’ll do it,” according to David Holmes, a State Department staffer in Kyiv, who is slated to testify Thursday. His testimony Wednesday pushed top administration officials, including Trump, into the spotlight when he said that his bosses were aware of his work with Giuliani on UkraineIt wasn’t long before members of the administration wanted to get as far away from him as possible.President Trump—who Sondland said he spoke with more than twenty times—held an impromptu press conference with reporters to try and distance himself from the ambassador, saying he didn’t know Sondland “that well.” Energy Secretary Rick Perry, too, sent out a public statement during Sondland’s testimony saying the ambassador had “misrepresented” his interaction with Rudy Giuliani and the direction he received from Trump. Pence’s office flatly rejected the vice president’s role in a statement. Pompeo, who was flying back from a trip to Asia, also denied Sondland’s account. Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer and a particular target of Sondland’s testimony, tweeted that he barely knew the guy, too. “I came into this at Volker’s request. Sondland is speculating based on VERY little contact. I never met him and had very few calls with him, mostly with Volker.”Gordon Sondland Provides the ‘John Dean Moment’ of Trump’s ImpeachmentThe State Department fired back at Sondland later in the day following the end of the public hearing. “Gordon Sondland never told Secretary Pompeo that he believed the President was linking aid to investigations of political opponents,” spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said on Twitter. “Any suggestion to the contrary is flat out false.”Sondland was a man on an island, but he didn’t seem to mind. As some of the Republicans’ toughest inquirers asked—and at times yelled—questions, he smiled slightly as he answered, at times laughing and joking, seemingly aware that at this point there was very little either side of the partisan divide could do to him and that his fate rested with Pompeo and Trump.His opening statement left few unscathed. Sondland said it was Giuliani who coordinated the campaign in Ukraine to convince officials to investigate Burisma and the 2016 elections, adding that he only joined the cause when President Trump told him to. He also said multiple senior officials at the State Department, including Pompeo, were aware of his work with Giuliani and had been read in on specific conversations regarding the investigations. “We did not want to work with Mr. Giuliani. Simply put, we played the hand we were dealt. We all understood that if we refused to work with Mr. Giuliani, we would lose an important opportunity to cement relations between the United States and Ukraine,” Sondland said. “So we followed the President’s orders.”How Giuliani’s Trash-Talking Became the ‘Tipping Point’ for ImpeachmentDemocrats watched Sondland’s testimony unspool on Wednesday and believed they were finally getting the made-for-TV moment they craved to drive home the core of their impeachment case. “These facts have never been in question,” said a Democratic aide. “But having the TV moment inscribes the scandal indelibly in history.”During an early break in the hearing, Rep. Denny Heck (D-WA), a member of the intelligence panel, told The Daily Beast: “I don’t think he helped the president.”“I thought he had three choices: he could perjure himself, he could have a profound case of amnesia, or he would attempt to come clean,” said Heck. “There was some interesting amnesia going on there, but I also think that he was pretty forthcoming. He has to know that retribution is around the corner.”On the other side, Republicans seemed to struggle to come up with a clear-cut strategy on how to handle the star witness.At one point Republican counsel Steve Castor attempted to undercut Sondland’s testimony by saying he didn’t have first-hand notes outlining his conversations with Trump officials on Ukraine. “You don't have records. You don't have your notes because you didn’t take notes. You don't have a lot of recollections,” said Castor. “This is like the trifecta of unreliability. Isn't that true?”“I think I filled in a lot of blanks,” Sondland replied. In another series of questions, Castor remarked that Sondland “only had a couple conversations with the president” himself —even as earlier witnesses had been pilloried for not having access to Trump.Castor also tried to underscore Sondland’s statement that he did not know in real time that the investigation into Burisma he was pushing the Ukrainians to take on was actually code for an investigation into the Bidens.Sondland repeatedly told House investigators it wasn’t until much later, after the release of the call transcript between Trump and Zelensky, that he understood there to be a connection between the two. Republicans attempted to flesh that point Tuesday, too, when former top diplomat for Ukraine Kurt Volker appeared for his public hearing. He also said he did not make the connection between Burisma and the Bidens. But by the second hour Sondland had thrown a wrench in that specific Republican strategy, saying that like Volker, he in retrospect would have raised his own objections if he had made the connection between Burisma and Biden. That assertion was prompted by a question from Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Adam Schiff.Schiff said Volker had testified that he wished he had understood the connection between Burisma and the Bidens earlier and that had he done so, he would have raised his own objections.“Does that sum up your views as well?” Schiff asked.“It does,” Sondland said.The testimony from Sondland forced the GOP to once again rework its talking points to defend Trump amid an intensifying impeachment inquiry. When Ambs. Bill Taylor and George Kent testified last week, Republicans dismissed their testimony by saying it was second or third-hand hearsay—they hadn’t listened to Trump’s July 25 phone call and didn’t know what they were talking about. Then, when they heard from  former National Security Council official Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who listened to the call and was troubled by it, Republicans suggested he had a deep-state, anti-Trump agenda and that it was merely his opinion that Trump appeared to demand investigations from Zelensky on their phone call—and that he never talked to the president, anyway.Now, with a witness with firsthand conversations with Trump, they zeroed in on his lack of notes and called his recollections conjecture. As Republicans moved into their questioning of the ambassador, they settled on the line that it was merely the ambassador’s own conclusion that Trump wanted investigations, stressing that the president never personally spelled out the fact that he wanted something out of the Ukrainians.  Sondland testified, however, that Giuliani made it clear a quid-pro-quo was sought, saying he conveyed to Perry, Volker, and others that Trump “wanted a public statement from President Zelensky committing to investigations of Burisma and the 2016 election.”“Mr. Giuliani expressed those requests directly to the Ukrainians,” said Sondland. “Mr. Giuliani also expressed those requests directly to us. We all understood that these prerequisites for the White House call and White House meeting reflected President Trump’s desires and requirements.”But Sondland said he never was explicitly told this by Trump himself—giving Republicans an opening. “So you really have no testimony today that ties President Trump to a scheme to withhold aid from Ukraine?” asked Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH). Not other than “my own presumption,” replied Sondland. “Which is nothing!” Turner bellowed in response.After a while, the deluge of questioning from both sides—which was often frustrated and angry in tone—seemed to wear on the witness at the center of the inquiry.Near the end of the hearing, Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) struggled to get Sondland to confirm that the person who would benefit from investigations of the Bidens was Trump himself. Finally, on his fourth try, Sondland said it. “Didn’t hurt a bit!” Maloney quipped, as the crowd burst into applause and laughter.But Sondland wasn’t laughing. “I’ve been very forthright,” he huffed. “And I resent what you’re trying to do.”The serious tenor didn’t last long. When Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL) told Sondland near the end of the hearing that Trump had said he didn’t know Sondland, the diplomat started to laugh. “Easy come, easy go,” he replied. Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.

Who's scheduled to publicly testify next in Trump's impeachment hearings

Yahoo News - Wed, 11/20/2019 - 15:20

Who's scheduled to publicly testify next in Trump's impeachment hearingsThis week's impeachment hearings will kick off on Tuesday with four officials including Jennifer Williams and Alexander Vindman scheduled to testify.

Sheriff: School-based deputy had sex with student, arrested

Yahoo News - Wed, 11/20/2019 - 15:15

 School-based deputy had sex with student, arrestedA former deputy working at a South Carolina high school had sex with a 17-year-old student in his patrol car while in uniform, Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said Wednesday. Lott said 40-year-old Jamel Bradley is charged with third-degree criminal sexual conduct and the investigation into his conduct with other students at Spring Valley High School in Columbia continues. Bradley, a star basketball player at the University of South Carolina at the turn of the century, had been assigned to the school since 2009 but was removed in 2018 when he was sued in federal court over a relationship with a different student.

Rep. Omar asks judge for 'compassion' when sentencing man who threatened to kill her

Yahoo News - Wed, 11/20/2019 - 14:28

Rep. Omar asks judge for 'compassion' when sentencing man who threatened to kill herRep. Ilhan Omar wrote that she acknowledges the crimes Frank P. Carlineo pleaded guilty to are “grave” and were a “threat against an entire religion.”

A Lack of Money Will Stop Russia from Building More Stealth Fighters

Yahoo News - Wed, 11/20/2019 - 14:00

A Lack of Money Will Stop Russia from Building More Stealth FightersOr at least enough more to make a big difference.

Biden just sent out a post-debate email hours before the debate starts

Yahoo News - Wed, 11/20/2019 - 13:54

Biden just sent out a post-debate email hours before the debate startsFormer Vice President Joe Biden is getting a little ahead of himself.Hours before the fifth Democratic debate was set to begin, Biden's campaign on Wednesday sent out a fundraising email obviously not intended for release until the debate ended. The message hit inboxes roughly eight hours early."I'm leaving the fifth Democratic debate now," read the very first sentence of this email, sent long before the debate even started. "I hope I made you proud out there and I hope I made it clear to the world why our campaign is so important." Well, he made clear why sending prepared emails at a time that actually makes sense is so important, at least.> Looks like Biden's campaign has accidentally sent a post-debate fundraising email out early. It suggests he may target Warren again tonight. > > "We need more than plans... We need to reach across the aisle and demand that our leaders do what's right." pic.twitter.com/7YSvzy1bGm> > -- Jess Bidgood (@jessbidgood) November 20, 2019Spoiler alert: expect some more slams on Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) from Biden this evening, something supporters were presumably supposed to have already seen before they read, "we need more than plans" in his emailWith the White House having accidentally sent talking points to Democrats at least two times in recent months, should Biden defeat President Trump in 2020, the White House tradition of totally incompetent email use may continue for years to come.More stories from theweek.com Ken Starr on the Sondland testimony: 'It's over' Sondland just obliterated Trump and put the entire White House in peril White House and Trump campaign officials are reportedly 'freaking out' about Sondland's testimony

Lawyer for NSC Adviser Vindman Sends Letter to Fox Demanding Retraction of ‘Espionage’ Allegation

Yahoo News - Wed, 11/20/2019 - 13:50

Lawyer for NSC Adviser Vindman Sends Letter to Fox Demanding Retraction of ‘Espionage’ AllegationA lawyer for Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman sent a letter to Fox News on Wednesday demanding the network either retract or issue a correction for a segment of the The Ingraham Angle, in which guest John Yoo, a former top lawyer in the Bush administration, seemed to suggest that Vindman might be guilty of espionage.Vindman, who listened to the July 25 phone call between President Trump and Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky that forms part of the impeachment probe, testified in House hearings on Tuesday regarding the matter. Vindman is a long-serving military officer whose family fled Soviet Ukraine when he was three years old.During the October 28 airing of "The Ingraham Angle," host Laura Ingraham speculated on Vindman's motives for testifying."Here we have a U.S. national security official who is advising Ukraine, while working inside the White House, apparently against the president’s interest," Ingraham said. "Isn’t that kind of an interesting angle on this story?""I found that astounding,” Yoo responded. "Some people might call that espionage.""LTC Vindman and his family have been forced to examine options, including potentially moving onto a military base, in order to ensure their physical security in the face of threats rooted in the falsehood that Fox News originated," Vindman's lawyer David Pressman wrote.Pressman noted that espionage is a crime punishable by death, and that Vindman "had never in his decorated 20-year career of service to his country been accused of having dual loyalties or committing espionage."A spokeswoman for Fox News said she had no immediate comment when asked by the New York Times.Yoo wrote an op-ed in USA Today after the segment aired in which he clarified that he meant Ukraine may have committed an espionage operation, but that he didn't accuse Vindman specifically of espionage.Pressman wrote in his letter that "Mr. Yoo’s argument that he did not intend to accuse LTC of Vindman of ‘espionage’ — that he was accusing the nation of Ukraine instead — is as legally irrelevant as it is factually incredible."

Macron’s Freelancing on EU Policy Earns a Swift German Rebuke

Yahoo News - Wed, 11/20/2019 - 13:44

Macron’s Freelancing on EU Policy Earns a Swift German Rebuke(Bloomberg) -- Emmanuel Macron has spent weeks rubbing European Union allies the wrong way. Germany has finally had enough.Angela Merkel, usually measured, deployed the full power of her words on Wednesday night to say she would exert intense pressure on France to allow two western Balkan nations to begin negotiations to join the EU. This came after Macron had vetoed their accession efforts and moved to make it tougher for the bloc to accept new members.“I want to tell the states of the western Balkans that they too have a prospect for membership in the European Union. That’s what they should know from here, from Zagreb,” Merkel said from the Croatian capital. “We will live up to that, we will make that happen.”The rebuke comes as the French leader seeks to exert greater influence on EU policy. In addition to blocking the start of accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia, Macron went against all his counterparts earlier this year in objecting to a long extension of the Brexit deadline.And in an interview this month, he further angered his allies by calling for a wholesale change in Europe’s security architecture and questioning the efficacy of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s collective defense clause.The timing of Merkel’s comments is significant, mere days before her domestic party convention and ahead of NATO’s anniversary summit in London. Her voice once carried more weight than anyone else in the 28-nation bloc, but Macron is vying for that role. Her political career is coming to an end while his is taking off. Together, Germany and France, have dominated the EU agenda.Nations with complicated histories that aspire to join the bloc look to Merkel, who grew up under Communism, for support.Macron wielded a veto last month to block the EU’s plan to start membership negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania during a meeting of the bloc’s leaders. Macron argued that no date should be set for opening accession deliberations until the EU revamps its entire enlargement approach.European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker called the inconclusive EU summit a “major historical error.” European Council President Donald Tusk, who chaired the meeting, sought to reassure the Balkan nations not to give up. “Both countries have the right to start EU negotiations,” Tusk said.Germany has argued that the prospect of EU entry talks for the two nations would bolster geopolitical stability in the historically volatile Balkans. Merkel said on Wednesday that the Western Balkan countries needed to have a realistic accession perspective.“We must now talk with France, and we will do this very intensely, about which elements exactly will have to be improved or changed in the accession process,” Merkel told reporters. “We want an agreement about this as soon as possible so that we will be able to make progress in the concrete cases.”Strengthening NATOSeparately, on the same day, her top diplomat brought Germany’s own ideas about reforming NATO -- that were a far cry from the radical rethink Macron envisions. Foreign Minister Heiko Maas suggested a group of experts could offer advice on transatlantic security challenges: “We want above all in this process to make clear that NATO functions and has a future.”In an interview with The Economist, Macron memorably said that “what we are currently experiencing is the brain death of NATO.”The effort to bolster the organization comes after the U.S. withdrew forces from northeastern Syria, giving Turkey a green light to get involved. Neither country consulted with their fellow NATO partners before acting -- and that infuriated Macron.But Merkel was not on board with the French president’s damning assessment. For her, NATO remains “irreplaceable.”“The French President has chosen drastic words,” she said earlier this month. “This is not my view of cooperation within NATO.”\--With assistance from Caroline Alexander.To contact the reporters on this story: Arne Delfs in Berlin at adelfs@bloomberg.net;Ian Wishart in Brussels at iwishart@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Ben Sills at bsills@bloomberg.net, Richard Bravo, Flavia Krause-JacksonFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

Russia air raids, regime strikes in Syria kill at least 21: monitor

Yahoo News - Wed, 11/20/2019 - 13:27

 monitorAttacks by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces and air raids by his ally Russia killed at least 21 civilians including 10 children in rebel-held Idlib province on Wednesday, a monitoring group said. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, in an updated toll, said a ground-to-ground missile fired by regime forces that hit a makeshift camp for the displaced near Qah village close to the border with Turkey killed 15 civilians, including six children, and wounded around 40 others. Elsewhere, "Russian military aircraft" targeted the town of Maaret al-Numan in the south of the province, the Observatory said, and "six civilians were killed, among them four children".

2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime Extends Plug-In Electrification Beyond the Prius

Yahoo News - Wed, 11/20/2019 - 12:54

2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime Extends Plug-In Electrification Beyond the PriusThe new 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime was introduced today at the 2019 LA Auto Show. “Prime” is Toyota-speak for plug-in hybrid. The current RAV4 hybrid is among the most competitive compact SUVs in CR’...

Fox News' take on Sondland's testimony: nothing to see here

Yahoo News - Wed, 11/20/2019 - 12:47

 nothing to see hereSondland’s impeachment testimony prompted the conservative channel to put forth the limpest text possibleFox News broadcasts as Gordon Sondland testifies in the public hearing in the impeachment inquiry of Donald Trump on Wednesday. Photograph: Spencer Platt/Getty ImagesAn ostrich, according to common parlance, sticks its head in the sand when threatened. When Gordon Sondland gave his damning testimony on Wednesday, Fox News arguably adopted a similar strategy.As the US ambassador to the European Union told the House that he and others “followed the president’s orders” in pressuring Ukraine, CNN and elsewhere quickly changed their chyrons to reflect his revelations.Over on Fox News, Sondland’s admission prompted the conservative channel – which is not normally associated with banality – to put forth the limpest text possible.“House intelligence committee members question Ambassador Sondland in public hearing,” was the text banner, or chyron, on Fox News, as Sondland confirmed that Giuliani stipulated a quid pro quo between US aid to Ukraine and an investigation into Burisma and the 2016 elections.Fox News largely stuck diligently to that language for almost two hours, as Sondland went on to add that Giuliani “was expressing the desires of the president of the United States”.When the channel did change its text, it presented a rather different take from other media. At 11am, as CNN was chyroning: “Sondland: Giuliani pushed for ‘quid pro quo’ with Ukraine, as ‘desired by Trump’.” Other channels had similar wording.Not Fox News, however. It opted for the rather more mundane, and very much more exonerating, “Sondland: Trump never told me directly that the aid was conditioned on the meetings.”The Fox News website followed a similar playbook, as CNN media reporter Oliver Darcy pointed out.> Meanwhile, this is how Fox's "straight news" website is presenting the news to its viewers pic.twitter.com/ztNT2gSLpQ> > — Oliver Darcy (@oliverdarcy) November 20, 2019At about 11am, the hearing broke for a short recess.It was finally an opportunity for Fox News hosts and reporters to put forward a defense of Trump, one that the channel clearly was struggling to mount through onscreen text. They couldn’t.“This, listen, on its face, is very damaging to some of the arguments the GOP has been making,” said Bret Baier, host of Special Report with Bret Baier.Baier noted that the testimony was particularly damaging given Trump had, not long ago, called Sondland “a really good man and a great American”. As Baier spoke there was a heavy sigh in the background.embedChris Wallace, a relative centrist host on Fox News, noted that Sondland “certainly makes it clear that in the direct conversations he had with the president he saw a conditionality” between an Ukraine investigation and the release of aid.Next, Fox News wheeled out Ken Starr, best known as the lawyer whose investigation led to the impeachment of Bill Clinton. Starr has consistently been a critic of the impeachment hearings, but he could not muster a defense.“We’ve gotten closer to the president,” Starr said. “It doesn’t look good for the president, substantively.”Starr did add, that the president “may have covered himself by saying no quid pro quo” – Sondland testified Trump told him that, but that was the one bright light in Starr’s take.“I think the articles of impeachment are being drawn up if they haven’t already been drawn up,” Starr continued.

Bolivia in crisis after ‘coup’ against president

Yahoo News - Wed, 11/20/2019 - 12:34

Bolivia in crisis after ‘coup’ against presidentEvo Morales, who had been president of Bolivia for 14 years, resigned last week amid allegations he fixed an election. In his absence, the country is teetering on the brink of violence and authoritarianism.

American Airlines admits a midair accident that knocked out 2 flight crew was not caused by spilled soap

Yahoo News - Wed, 11/20/2019 - 12:19

American Airlines admits a midair accident that knocked out 2 flight crew was not caused by spilled soapAmerican Airlines admitted Tuesday the powerful fumes that knocked two flight attendants unconscious and forced a flight to make an emergency landing were not caused by spilled soap, as the airline had previously claimed.

Mayor Pete’s Convenient Excuse

Yahoo News - Wed, 11/20/2019 - 12:10

Mayor Pete’s Convenient ExcuseIf Pete Buttigieg doesn’t win the Democratic nomination, it won’t be because African Americans were too homophobic to vote for him.While the Buttigieg campaign has never explicitly endorsed this theory, it started the ball rolling back in July, when the Berenson Strategy Group, consulting with the Buttigieg campaign, conducted three focus groups with 24 uncommitted African-American voters in South Carolina and wrote up a memo on the results. They concluded, “Being gay was a barrier for these voters, particularly for the men who seemed deeply uncomfortable even discussing it. Their preference is for his sexuality to not be front and center.”(Which voters want a presidential candidate’s sexuality to be front and center?)That entire memo seemed tone-deaf and condescending, declaring, “They are going to need to see real demonstrations of broad enthusiasm and likely some endorsements from ‘cool’ black people to help them believe that ‘other people’ don’t have a problem with it and it won’t be a vulnerability in a general election matchup with Trump.”Recent weeks have brought more signs that while Buttigieg is wowing Iowa caucusgoers and raking in the cash from the Democratic party’s donor class, he is, at least so far, getting nowhere with this demographic in this key early state. Buttigieg received 0 percent among South Carolina African-American likely primary voters in the latest Quinnipiac poll, 0 percent in the October Winthrop poll, and 1 percent among this demographic in the Monmouth poll. The Post and Courier poll showed him trailing billionaire Tom Steyer among African Americans in South Carolina.This is not complicated: A candidate who cannot win support among African Americans is extremely unlikely to become the nominee, and if by some miracle Buttigieg did win the nomination, a Democratic nominee who couldn’t generate enthusiasm among African-American voters would have a tough time beating Donald Trump. African-American turnout in presidential elections declined 4.7 percent from 2012 to 2016, and while Hillary Clinton prefers to blame a massive secret scheme of voter suppression, it doesn’t seem quite so unthinkable that some black voters were more motivated to reelect the first African-American president than vote for her. (One study calculated 4.4 million Obama voters stayed home in 2016, a third of them black.)But as much as the Buttigieg campaign might prefer to blame homophobia, it’s easy to find reasons -- compelling reasons -- why African Americans might not make him their first choice. * At the beginning of the year, almost nobody had heard of the mayor of South Bend, Ind., and few Democrats outside Indiana knew anything about him. In the Quinnipiac poll, 60 percent of African Americans said they hadn’t heard enough about Buttigieg to have an opinion about him. * In mid-June, just as Buttigieg was starting to get national media attention and shortly before the first debate, a white South Bend police officer shot and killed Eric Logan, a black man who was allegedly armed with a knife. The officer’s body camera wasn’t turned on during the incident. The shooting inflamed racial tensions in the city, and when Buttigieg returned from the campaign trail for a town-hall meeting, attendees shouted, “You are lying!” and “We don’t trust you.” Just as Buttigieg was meeting his national audience, he could not argue that he had improved race relations in his home city. * Days later, in the first debate, Rachel Maddow noted that the police force in South Bend is now 6 percent black in a city that is 26 percent black and asked Buttigieg, “Why has that not improved over your two terms as mayor?” Buttigieg answered, “Because I couldn’t get it done.” That answer is blunt and humble but not one that is likely to reassure any African Americans with doubts about him. * Buttigieg’s recent outreach to African Americans was painfully awkward. His campaign sought out Democratic figures to sign on in support of his “Douglass Plan for Black America” and then put out a release that left the impression they were endorsing Buttigieg’s presidential bid. Of the 297 names of figures registered to vote in South Carolina, at least 42 percent were white. Then the media determined that the photo of a black woman smiling at a young black boy that had been splashed for weeks across the web page detailing Buttigieg’s plan to combat racial inequality . . . depicted a woman and boy from Kenya. Buttigieg himself didn’t pick out the photo, but it reinforced an existing tone-deaf image. * Think of the sorts of Democratic voters who are wowed by Buttigieg so far -- gays, the donor class, the meritocratic elites in Manhattan or California -- and now compare them with African Americans living in the South Carolina cities of Marion (median income $31,725), Orangeburg ($27,564), or Dillon ($38,344). Do you think Buttigieg’s résumé of Harvard University, Oxford, and McKinsey Consulting is automatically going to impress them? Or do you think they might see his life experience as quite different from theirs? Note that in the Quinnipiac poll, 32 percent of black likely primary voters said “someone who cares about people like you” is the most important quality they seek in a candidate. * At 37, Buttigieg is the youngest candidate, and whether or not you concur with President Trump’s assessment that he looks like Alfred E. Neuman, he looks young, and it doesn’t help that he’s roughly five feet, eight inches tall. Buttigieg is seeking the support of voters older than him. In 2016, almost two-thirds of the people who voted in the Democratic presidential primary in South Carolina were over age 45.It’s not like African Americans in the Palmetto State dislike Buttigieg; only 16 percent had an unfavorable opinion of him in that Quinnipiac poll. But they barely know him, and they have a lot of more familiar options they like better. Only an opportunist with an axe to grind would look at that phenomenon and conclude, “Ah-ha! It must be homophobia!”But perhaps the “sour grapes” instinct is almost irresistible in politics; when a candidate doesn’t win the support of a particular demographic, the fault must lie with the demographic, not the candidate. Just as Kamala Harris publicly speculated that hostility to African-American women was holding her back (in a Democratic primary!), and Amy Klobuchar contended that women candidates were being held to a tougher standard, candidates are almost inevitably drawn to the reassuring belief that the voters who aren’t supporting them are morally defective in some way. This is how you get American leaders denouncing segments of the electorate as “deplorables” and “human scum” and so on.Because after all, it couldn’t possibly be the candidate’s fault that some voters don’t like him.

Israel Nears Unprecedented Third Vote as Gantz Coalition Bid Fails

Yahoo News - Wed, 11/20/2019 - 12:03

Israel Nears Unprecedented Third Vote as Gantz Coalition Bid Fails(Bloomberg) -- Former military chief Benny Gantz failed to muster enough support in parliament to form a government and dislodge Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, bringing Israel closer to its third election in a year and prolonging its drawn-out political gridlock.Four weeks after Netanyahu fell short in that same task, political newcomer Gantz -- the only politician to present a serious challenge to the prime minister over the past decade -- informed Israeli President Reuven Rivlin that he couldn’t cobble together a governing coalition.Gantz, in a televised address, said he was “willing to make far-reaching concessions” to form a broad-based government uniting his Blue and White faction and the legally embattled Netanyahu’s Likud, but was confronted by “a bloc that insisted on putting the interests of one man before the interests of the country.”Now, in a development that has never happened before in Israel’s 71-year history, the ball goes to parliament’s court.If a majority of Israel’s 120 lawmakers can line up behind a member of parliament -- including Netanyahu or Gantz -- they can ask Rivlin to give that person 21 days to take a crack. But that appears to be a long shot, potentially paving the way for another vote early next year.“Short of one or both of the leaders coming down a little bit further from their tree, or perhaps a game-changing decision from the attorney general,” who will soon decide whether to indict Netanyahu on corruption charges, “we’re going to third elections,” said political strategist Ashley Perry.Political ParalysisWhile Netanyahu and Gantz stare each other down, the country has been run by caretaker governments with limited ability to fix urgent problems like the budget deficit, an antiquated transportation system and overcrowded hospitals -- let alone the country’s intractable conflict with the Palestinians.“It could really hurt the economy,” said Alex Zabezhinsky, chief economist for Meitav Dash Investments Ltd. “If you don’t have a government for a long period of time, like about a year, you feel substantially the impact of this on investment, infrastructure, in many industries.”The stalemate has already frustrated the Trump administration’s efforts to introduce its long-delayed play for Middle East peace.“For the sake of Israel’s security, for the sake of the will of the nation, for the sake of national reconciliation, we have to form a unity government,” Netanyahu said. “We have historic opportunities, but we also have tremendous challenges, and we can’t lose any time.”Polls suggest a third round of balloting would produce another deadlock. But the cards could be shuffled if Attorney General Avihai Mandelblit decides before the election to charge Netanyahu with bribery and fraud, as he’s signaled he intends to do. An indictment would ratchet up calls for the prime minister’s immediate resignation and could weaken him and his Likud party ahead of the vote. If cases are dropped, or he’s charged with less serious offenses, his prospects would improve.Israeli TV stations have reported that the attorney general aims to render a decision by mid-December at the latest.Although Netanyahu denies wrongdoing, he’s angling to change Israeli law to grant sitting prime ministers immunity from prosecution. For this reason, he’s been less willing to compromise than Gantz, analysts say.Options ClosedGantz, who promised a respite from the divisiveness and corruption scandals that tarnished Netanyahu’s tenure, started the day with a midnight deadline and two problematic routes to a coalition government that would send the prime minister packing. By mid-day, both seemed closed.Talks with Netanyahu on Tuesday night on teaming up their parties in government broke down, in part due to disputes over allowing Netanyahu to remain in office if indicted. His other alternative -- forming a minority government -- was shot down by political kingmaker Avigdor Liberman, whose party he would have needed to get there.“There’s no option other than a unity government,” Liberman said.(Updates with Netanyahu comment in eleventh paragraph)To contact the reporter on this story: Yaacov Benmeleh in Tel Aviv at ybenmeleh@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Alaa Shahine at asalha@bloomberg.net, Mark Williams, Amy TeibelFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


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