By Robert A. Vella
Before getting to today’s stories, the fourth Democratic presidential debate was held last night which I did not watch. I’ve linked two articles for readers to examine which are the best ones I could find, but I won’t comment on the event beyond these general objections:
- It shouldn’t be up to the Democratic National Committee, nor to political pundits given air time by the mainstream media, to determine which candidates “won” and which ones “lost” before even a single vote has been cast in a primary election or caucus.
- If this process was truly democratic, the amount of money raised by each candidate would be irrelevant and each candidate would be given equal time to answer the exact same questions asked of all the candidates.
Today’s stories include President Erdogan’s sharp rebuke of President Trump’s pathetic attempts to rein-in the Turkish invasion of northern Syria against the Kurds which Trump had foolishly consented to, new developments in the House of Representatives’ impeachment inquiry, Trump-related news including an opinion poll on the 2020 election, an errant and biased federal judge in Texas, international news, and more domestic news.
WASHINGTON – Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Wednesday that he will not meet with Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo when the two senior officials arrive in Turkey on Thursday to urge a ceasefire in Syria.
Erdogan said he’d meet with President Donald Trump, who is not traveling to Turkey.
Pence and Pompeo leave for Ankara on Wednesday afternoon. News of Erdogan’s refusal to meet with them was first reported by Sky News, a British broadcaster.
Earlier, Erdogan rejected Trump’s request in a phone conversation to call a halt to Turkish military operations in northeastern Syria. Turkey’s leader said he will not negotiate with Kurdish forces his government is trying to push out of the area.
“They say ‘declare a ceasefire.’ We will never declare a ceasefire,” Erdogan told reporters on flight back from Baku late on Tuesday where he attended a regional business summit in Azerbaijan’s capital.
Rudolph W. Giuliani privately urged President Trump in 2017 to extradite a Turkish cleric living in exile in the United States, a top priority of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, according to multiple former administration officials familiar with the discussions.
Giuliani, a Trump ally who later became the president’s personal attorney, repeatedly argued to Trump that the U.S. government should eject Fethullah Gulen from the country, according to the former officials, who spoke on the condition on anonymity to describe private conversations.
Turkey has demanded that the United States turn over Gulen, a permanent U.S. resident who lives in Pennsylvania, to stand trial on charges of plotting a 2016 coup attempt against Erdogan. Gulen has denied involvement in the plot.
WASHINGTON — A former top adviser to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who abruptly resigned last week appeared on Wednesday before congressional investigators pursuing an impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump.
Michael McKinley, the latest senior administration official to give closed-door testimony, entered a secure area in the U.S. Capitol to face questions from investigators who could recommend Trump’s impeachment to the House of Representatives by the end of the year.
McKinley, a career diplomat who had served as ambassador to Brazil and Afghanistan, was not directly involved with Ukraine. But he could provide insight into State Department communications on the matter, given his role as an adviser to Pompeo from May 2018 until last week.
Previous witnesses have described how policy staff were sidelined on Ukraine by Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and others.
WASHINGTON — A senior State Department official in charge of Ukraine policy told impeachment investigators on Tuesday that he was all but cut out of decisions regarding the country after a May meeting organized by Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, describing his sidelining by President Trump’s inner circle as “wrong,” according to a lawmaker who heard the testimony.
The revelation from George P. Kent, the deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, emerged as he submitted to hours of closed-door testimony to the House committees investigating how President Trump pressured Ukraine to investigate his political rivals.
Despite an edict by the White House not to cooperate with what it has called an illegitimate inquiry, Mr. Kent was one of a procession of top officials who have made the trip to the secure rooms of the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill, unspooling a remarkably consistent tale. They have detailed how Mr. Trump sought to manipulate American policy in Ukraine to meet his goals, circumventing career diplomats and policy experts and inserting his personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani into the process, raising alarms in the West Wing and throughout the government.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, is prepared to tell lawmakers this week that top White House national security officials never personally raised concerns with him about his dealings with Rudy Giuliani in Ukraine, a person familiar with his account told The Associated Press on Tuesday.
That statement would be contrary to earlier testimony that Sondland’s actions set off alarms in the West Wing.
Sondland’s appearance is scheduled for Thursday, three days after former White House aide Fiona Hill testified that ex-national security adviser John Bolton was so disquieted by the back-channel Ukraine activities that he referred to Giuliani as a “hand grenade who is going to blow everybody up.” Hill recounted that Bolton said he was not part of “whatever drug deal Sondland and Mulvaney are cooking up.” That’s a reference to White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump has vetoed a joint resolution of Congress that sought to terminate his declaration of a national emergency on the southern border with Mexico, the White House said on Tuesday.
Last month, the Democratic-led House passed the joint resolution by 236-174, as 11 Republicans and one independent joined Democrats to vote in favor.
The Republican-led Senate had approved the measure days earlier, by 54-41. Eleven of the Senate’s 53 Republicans joined Democrats favoring the resolution.
Documents obtained by ProPublica show stark differences in how Donald Trump’s businesses reported some expenses, profits and occupancy figures for two Manhattan buildings, giving a lender different figures than they provided to New York City tax authorities. The discrepancies made the buildings appear more profitable to the lender — and less profitable to the officials who set the buildings’ property tax.
WESTERVILLE, Ohio – Fifty percent of Americans said they would vote for the Democratic presidential nominee over President Trump, according to a new Georgetown University Politics Battleground Poll.
The survey, which was released hours before the fourth Democratic primary debate, also found that 42 percent of respondents would choose Trump over the eventual Democratic nominee.
The same poll found that 56 percent of Americans said they had an unfavorable view of Trump, while 42 percent said they viewed him favorably.
The survey also found that 43 percent of voters approve of Trump’s overall job performance, while 53 percent disapprove.
A biased judge
Judge Reed O’Connor in the Northern District of Texas vacated an Obama-era regulation that prohibited insurers and providers who receive federal money from denying treatment or coverage to anyone based on sex, gender identity or termination of pregnancy.
It also required doctors and hospitals to provide “medically necessary” services to transgender individuals as long as those services were the same ones provided to other patients.
O’Connor, the same judge who last year ruled that the entire Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional, said the rule violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
His ruling is likely to be appealed.
Police in Spain said Wednesday they arrested 51 people across Catalonia overnight after violent protests over the jailing of nine separatist leaders for their role in a failed 2017 independence bid.
Pro-independence groups staged sit-ins outside Spanish government offices in a number of Catalan cities late Tuesday, with around 40,000 people taking part in Barcelona and 9,000 in the separatist stronghold of Girona, according to police.
The protests descended into clashes with police in many cities.
(Bloomberg) — Hong Kong’s legislature adjourned shortly after Chief Executive Carrie Lam began her annual policy address on Wednesday, as opposition lawmakers repeatedly shouted protest slogans.
As she tried to speak, pro-democracy lawmakers projected the slogan “Five demands, not one less” onto the podium. Lam immediately left the building, and the government announced she would deliver the address via video at 12:15 p.m.
The address was scheduled amid the city’s most serious political crisis in decades, which has put the economy on the brink of recession. The U.S.-China trade war has impacted exports while protests have scared away visitors from the city’s shopping malls, restaurants and luxury hotels.