By Robert A. Vella
President Trump was impeached by the House of Representatives on Wednesday in a vote that transpired as expected. A link below details how the members voted. Since then, fallout from the historic event includes Russian strongman Vladimir Putin rhetorically aiding Trump’s defense, and a stinging condemnation of the president from a surprisingly source – Mark Galli, the Editor in Chief of the evangelical Christian publication Christianity Today:
“The facts in this instance are unambiguous: The president of the United States attempted to use his political power to coerce a foreign leader to harass and discredit one of the president’s political opponents. That is not only a violation of the Constitution; more importantly, it is profoundly immoral.”
Meanwhile, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is cleverly using Trump’s injured ego to exert political pressure on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to conduct a fair and impartial impeachment trial. Knowing that Trump desperately wants enough time for a preordained show trial to vindicate his proven criminal conduct in the Ukraine scandal, and that Senate Republicans want instead to end the trial as quickly as possible and without calling any witnesses, Pelosi is delaying official submission of the impeachment articles (which is required to begin the trial) as way to drive a wedge between them. If Trump was smart, he would keep his mouth shut and let McConnell ram through a perfunctory sham trial. But, we all know Trump isn’t smart… and, so does Pelosi.
Also, the sixth Democratic presidential debate was held last night. The only notable development was an announcement that the debate qualifications have been raised once again (to further winnow the field of candidates) which will take effect after the January event and before the Iowa caucuses.
Here is Friday’s new roundup:
From: Former White House officials say they feared Putin influenced the president’s views on Ukraine and 2016 campaign
After meeting privately in July 2017 with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Group of 20 summit in Hamburg, Trump grew more insistent that Ukraine worked to defeat him, according to multiple former officials familiar with his assertions.
The president’s intense resistance to the assessment of U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia systematically interfered in the 2016 campaign — and the blame he cast instead on a rival country — led many of his advisers to think that Putin himself helped spur the idea of Ukraine’s culpability, said the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal discussions.
One former senior White House official said Trump even stated so explicitly at one point, saying he knew Ukraine was the real culprit because “Putin told me.”
From: How members of Congress voted on Trump’s impeachment
President Trump became the third president in American history to be impeached when members of Congress voted Wednesday night to charge him with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
The vote on Article One, abuse of power, was 230-197, with one vote of present. All Republicans voted against the article, joined by two Democrats. The vote on Article Two, obstruction of Congress, was 229-198, with one vote of present. All Republicans voted against the article, joined by three Democrats.
Congressman Justin Amash: One other member voted for both articles of impeachment: Amash, a former Republican who became an independent over the summer. Democrats praised Amash before the vote on the House floor.
See also: 3 lawmakers miss historic impeachment votes
From: Appeals court rules ACA’s individual mandate unconstitutional; lower court to decide whether rest of law can stand without it
A federal appeals court on Wednesday struck down part of the Affordable Care Act, ruling that its requirement that most Americans carry insurance is unconstitutional while sending back to a lower court the question of whether the rest of the law can remain without it.
The long-awaited decision by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit has little immediate practical effect on consumers because Congress already has removed the penalty for the insurance requirement. But the panel’s two-to-one ruling leaves the rest of the sprawling statute in limbo and catapults questions about insurance coverage and consumer protections for people with preexisting medical conditions to the forefront of the 2020 presidential and congressional campaigns.
The panel’s one Democratic appointee dissented from the 98-page opinion, writing that the Republican states challenging the law did not have standing to do so. If they did, she wrote, she would find the mandate constitutional.
From: Warrant not always needed for ‘inadvertent’ NSA surveillance of Americans: U.S. court
(Reuters) – The U.S. government may collect information about U.S. citizens without obtaining a warrant if the information is gathered inadvertently while legally carrying out surveillance of non-nationals abroad, a U.S. appeals court ruled on Wednesday.
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York ruled in an appeal by Agron Hasbajrami, a U.S. resident arrested in 2011 and who later pleaded guilty to a charge of attempting to provide material support to a terrorist organization.
Hasbajrami challenged the charges, questioning whether the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) had legally obtained information about him without a warrant.
From: North Carolina’s Mark Meadows won’t run for reelection
North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows, one of President Donald Trump’s closest allies and most vocal defenders on Capitol Hill, is not running for reelection in 2020.
In an exclusive interview with CQ Roll Call, Meadows said he knows the timing of his retirement announcement — just after House Democrats voted to impeach Trump — will be spun a thousand different ways but that he’s been mulling this decision a long time.
To be clear, Meadows is still planning to defend the president against the impeachment charges as the process moves to the Senate for trial. The former chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus acknowledges that his role as one of Trump’s chief defenders has encroached on his ability to serve his district and was a factor in his decision.
From: Ex-Trump aide Manafort’s fraud case in New York dismissed
NEW YORK — Paul Manafort, U.S. President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, on Wednesday won the dismissal of New York state fraud charges, in a defeat for the Manhattan district attorney’s efforts to hold him accountable even if pardoned by Trump.
Justice Maxwell Wiley of the state Supreme Court in Manhattan said at a hearing that letting the district attorney, Cyrus Vance, prosecute Manafort would violate Manafort’s protection against double jeopardy, or being prosecuted twice for the same conduct.
Manafort, 70, has been serving his sentence at a federal prison in Pennsylvania, but was hospitalized last week for what his lawyer called a cardiac incident.
From: State Department issues travel advisory to Mexico
The U.S. Department of State has issued a travel advisory to Mexico because of an increased risk of violent crime in some parts of the country.
Violent crime, such as homicides, kidnappings, carjackings and robbery, are “widespread” and the U.S. government “has limited ability to provide emergency services” to Americans in many areas, according to the advisory.
Americans are being advised not to travel to the states of Colima, Guerrero, Michoacán, Sinaloa and Tamaulipas due to crime.
From: Enormous Methane Leak From Ohio Gas Well Was One of Worst in American History, Satellites Reveal
In February and March 2018, a gas well blowout in Belmont County, Ohio leaked methane—a potent greenhouse gas—into the atmosphere. Now, analysis of satellite data has revealed that the relatively little-known leak was one of the most significant ever to occur in the country.
In a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a team of scientists estimated that the gas well—owned by ExxonMobil—leaked around 120 metric tons of methane per hour over a period of 20 days before the company managed to fix the problem. This amounted to a total of more than 50,000 tons of methane.
The authors—led by Sudhanshu Pandey from SRON Netherlands Institute for Space Research—said that the hourly emission rate from the leak was about twice that of the widely reported event at an oil and gas storage facility in Alison Canyon, California, which took place in 2015—the largest known methane leak in the country.
While the emission rate of the Ohio event was higher, the California event lasted longer and produced more emissions overall, The New York Times reported. Nevertheless, the leak at the Belmont County well still released vast amounts of methane into the atmosphere, according to the researchers. In fact, it emitted more of the gas in 20 days than the oil and gas industries of some European nations do in a year.
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Man, today, with the court ruling on the ACA, and various other Trump administration rulings and attempted rulings, I’m very down. It’s hard not to feel defeated, but, we must keep fighting.
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Hang in there. When I get down, I remind myself that giving up only guarantees defeat.
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Trump retains his base: Putin.
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