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US Monthly Headline News November 2019 Page 1

Legislative paralysis gripped Capitol Hill well before impeachment started.

By Ella Nilsen

There’s a pervasive sense of legislative paralysis gripping Capitol Hill. And it’s been there long before the impeachment inquiry began.

For months, President Donald Trump has fired off tweet missives accusing House Democrats of “getting nothing done in Congress,” and being consumed with impeachment.

Trump may want to look to the Republican-controlled Senate instead. Democrats in the House have been passing bills at a rapid clip; as of November 15, the House has passed nearly 400 bills, not including resolutions. But the House Democratic Policy and Communications Committee estimates 80 percent of those bill have hit a snag in the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is prioritizing confirming judges over passing bills.

Congress has passed just 70 bills into law this year. Granted, it still has one more year in its term, but the number pales in comparison to recent past sessions of Congress, which typically see anywhere from 300-500 bills passed in two years (and that is even a diminished number from the 700-800 bills passed in the 1970s and 1980s).

Ten of those 70 bills this year have been renaming federal post offices or Veterans Affairs facilities, and many others are related to appropriations or extending programs like the National Flood Insurance or the 9/11 victim compensation fund.

This has led to House Democrats decrying McConnell’s so-called “legislative graveyard,” a moniker the Senate majority leader has proudly adopted. McConnell calls himself the “grim reaper” of Democratic legislation he derides as socialist, but many of the bills that never see the Senate floor are bipartisan issues, like a universal background check bill, net neutrality, and reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act.

Cuomo Prime Time
CNN's Chris Cuomo breaks down the four debunked GOP-backed conspiracy theories concerning Ukraine and former Vice President Joe Biden.

By David Brennan

The Russian military has allowed U.S. officials to inspect a hypersonic nuclear missile that Moscow claims can evade any American military defenses.

According to Interfax, U.S. inspectors traveled to Russia this week on a two-day visit to see the weapon as part of the New START bilateral nuclear arms control treaty, which is set to expire in 2021.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his forces would be ready to deploy the hypersonic Avangard missile by the end of 2019. It is one of a host of futuristic weapons announced by Putin in 2018, as he sought to advertise Russia's supposedly growing military prowess.

Putin said the Avangard can fly at 20 times the speed of sound—or about 1 mile per second—thus defeating any existing missile defense systems. Russia's military also released footage of the weapon being fired from a silo in a test launch.

"The Avangard is invulnerable to intercept by any existing and prospective missile defense means of the potential adversary," the president said when announcing the existence of the missile.

Interfax reported that Russia's Defense Ministry held a demonstration of the Avangard platform for the visiting American group. "The Russian side held a demonstration to help ensure the viability and effectiveness of the [New] START Treaty," the Russian military said, according to the news agency.

The military also told Interfax that it still intends to put the Avangard into full combat duty by the end of 2019, in keeping with Putin's timeline. But its development has not been without problems, according to some reports.

Ohio introduces one of the most extreme bills to date for a procedure that does not exist in medical science
By Jessica Glenza

A bill to ban abortion introduced in the Ohio state legislature requires doctors to “reimplant an ectopic pregnancy” into a woman’s uterus – a procedure that does not exist in medical science – or face charges of “abortion murder”.

This is the second time practising obstetricians and gynecologists have tried to tell the Ohio legislators that the idea is currently medically impossible.

The move comes amid a wave of increasingly severe anti-abortion bills introduced across much of the country as conservative Republican politicians seek to ban abortion and force a legal showdown on abortion with the supreme court.

Ohio’s move on ectopic pregnancies – where an embryo implants on the mother’s fallopian tube rather than her uterus rendering the pregnancy unviable – is one of the most extreme bills to date.

“I don’t believe I’m typing this again but, that’s impossible,” wrote Ohio obstetrician and gynecologist Dr David Hackney on Twitter. “We’ll all be going to jail,” he said.

By Jenni Fink

Former Director of the United States Office of Government Ethics Walter Shaub said that Fox News host Tucker Carlson's rooting for Russia in the Ukraine conflict shows a shift in contrasting opinions in America. "This clip is just one more exhibit supporting the case that it's no longer left vs. right but democracy vs. authoritarianism," Shaub tweeted on Tuesday. "I think many still underestimate the threat to the republic."

On Monday night, Carlson had Richard Goodstein, who served as an adviser to both President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, on his show, Tucker Carlson Tonight, to discuss impeachment. During the segment, Carlson said he supported Russia and asked Goodstein why people should have to root for Ukraine.

"Those of us that are watching think preserving democracy is important," Goodstein said. "Russia is trying to undo our democracy. They're jealous of us." Goodstein also pointed to a comment former Vice President Dick Cheney made at The Economic Times' Global Business Summit in 2017.

Cheney said there was no question that Russian President Vladimir Putin and his government tried to interfere with America's "basic fundamental democratic process." The Russians' interference in the 2016 election, Cheney said, would be considered an "act of war" in some quarters.

Carlson pushed back against the threat level Goodstein assigned to Russia, asking him if he thought Russia was a greater threat to the United States than China. The former Clinton adviser characterized the two countries as threats in different ways. While China was a threat to America economically, our democracy, according to Goodstein, hinges on Ukraine being able to stop the Russians' impositions against Western Europe.

By Joel Rose

For almost three decades, Jared Taylor has been publishing his ideas about race at the American Renaissance magazine and now at a website called AmRen, which is considered a mouthpiece for white supremacist ideology. "The races are not identical and equivalent," says Taylor, who calls himself a "race realist" and rejects the white supremacist label. "There are patterns of difference. But this is now something that's considered a huge, hateful taboo in the United States."

The website is not well-known outside white nationalist circles — but it found an audience in White House adviser Stephen Miller. Miller has recommended articles on AmRen and another white nationalist site called VDARE. We know this because the Southern Poverty Law Center has uncovered hundreds of emails that Miller wrote to a reporter at Breitbart News before he worked in the White House.

Civil rights activists and more than 100 members of Congress — all Democrats — have called for Miller's resignation since the publication of the emails. But the White House is standing behind him. And Republicans have been largely silent. Critics say that this suggests the line of what's acceptable in public discourse has shifted.  The latest batch of emails, released by the SPLC on Monday, shows Miller pushing a supposed link between immigrants and rising crime, an idea that has been debunked. Miller also flagged a story on AmRen written by Taylor, according to the Breitbart reporter, Katie McHugh.

Taylor frequently promotes ideas that are widely considered racist and cloaks them in the language of science. For example, he talks about black people having higher levels of testosterone and therefore being predisposed to commit more violent crimes — an idea that simply has no scientific support. In another email to McHugh, Miller suggested that she write about The Camp of the Saints, a French novel from the 1970s that depicts the destruction of Western civilization by immigrants. It has become a key inspiration in white nationalist circles.

To Miller's critics, the leaked emails — and the muted reaction on the right — suggest that the political dynamic around race and immigration has shifted to include ideas that were once beyond the pale.

By Paul LeBlanc, CNN

Washington (CNN) President Donald Trump had been briefed on the whistleblower complaint that's now at the heart of the House impeachment inquiry when he released military aid to Ukraine in September, The New York Times reported Monday, citing two people familiar with the matter.

The people told the Times that lawyers from the White House counsel's office briefed Trump on the complaint and explained that they were attempting to ascertain whether they were legally obligated to give it to Congress.

News of Trump's knowledge of the complaint before his decision to release the security assistance underscores a key question at the heart of the impeachment inquiry about whether the aid was tied to Trump's wish for Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.

CNN reported earlier Monday that the White House budget office's first official action to withhold $250 million in Pentagon aid to Ukraine came on the evening of July 25, the same day Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke on the phone, according to a House Budget Committee summary of the office's documents.

By Katelyn Polantz, CNN

Washington (CNN)A federal judge decided Monday that President Donald Trump's former White House counsel Don McGahn must testify to the House of Representatives in its impeachment probe. "However busy or essential a presidential aide might be, and whatever their proximity to sensitive domestic and national-security projects, the President does not have the power to excuse him or her from taking an action that the law requires," Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson wrote. The ruling is a blow to Trump and White House efforts to block parts of the impeachment inquiry. It could encourage resistant witnesses from the administration to testify and could bolster any case House Democrats make to impeach the President for obstructing its proceedings or obstructing justice.

By Andy Sheehan

HARRISBURG, Pa. (KDKA) — Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf says his administration will spend $3 million to explore the potential health impacts of the natural gas industry.

These planned studies come on the heels of the families of young adults stricken by Ewing sarcoma petitioning the state for a study of the potential health impacts of shale gas drilling.

“This is something we need to do,” Gov. Wolf said. “We need to understand the science. We need to make sure that if there’s something we need to do differently, if there’s something we can learn, let’s learn that.”

Janice Blanock’s son, Luke, succumbed to Ewing sarcoma three years ago, and she’s been fighting for this kind of study ever since.

In the past 10 years, six students in the Canon-McMillan School District have contracted the rare cancer. Three, including Luke, have died.

Their families have long suspected drilling and hydraulic fracturing.

By dr. monica saxena

Peak flu season is fast approaching North America and the U.S. government is actively encouraging anyone over 6 months old to vaccinate – that is, unless you are one of the thousands of people being detained in Customs and Border Protection facilities for undocumented entry.

The average number of people in CBP custody each day is about 3,500, according to the latest data released by the federal agency. That's down from a peak of about 20,000 earlier this year.

“To us in the medical community the situation is alarming. When the CBP stated in August that they weren’t planning on vaccinating we saw this as egregious to deny basic health care access to people forced to stay in their care," said Dr. Bonnie Arzuaga, a Boston-based pediatrician and one of the founders of Doctors for Camp Closure.

The organization is a volunteer group of 2,000 U.S. based physicians who support the closing of the Customs and Border camps because of public health concerns. The organization volunteered to provide free influenza vaccines to those detained but the government never responded.

“We got no response, not even an acknowledgement of the letter," said Arzuaga.

By Daniel Politi

Rudy Giuliani seems to have a penchant for talking about insurance while dismissing the possibility that President Donald Trump would ever turn on him. The latest instance came Saturday, when Giuliani sat down with Fox News for an interview and at one point refused to give a straight answer to the question of whether he had spoken to Trump in recent days. “You can assume that I talk to him early and often,” he said. Giuliani then went on to dismiss those who speculate that he is on the outs with the president, saying the two have a “very, very good relationship.”

“I’ve seen things written like he’s going to throw me under the bus. When they say that, I say he isn’t, but I have insurance,” Giuliani went on to say. “This is ridiculous. We are very good friends. He knows what I did was in order to defend him, not to dig up dirt on [former Vice President Joe] Biden.”

By Tareq Haddad

Devin Nunes, the ranking Republican member on the House Intelligence Committee, is reportedly threatening to sue CNN and The Daily Beast after the publications reported damaging allegations that could implicate him in the ongoing impeachment probe the committee is currently conducting.

Nunes—who has been one of President Donald Trump's fiercest defenders in the committee where Ukrainian "quid pro quo" allegations are currently being considered—faced calls to recuse himself and even to be investigated after it was alleged that he himself met with Ukrainian officials in order to discuss digging up dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden.

If accurate, the claim would implicate Nunes in the events his committee is investigating: president Trump and associates allegedly attempting to enlist a foreign government to dig up dirt on a domestic political opponent, while Congressionally approved aid was withheld until the request was met.

The allegations came from lawyers for Lev Parnas—a Ukrainian-born American who worked as a "fixer" for Rudy Giuliani before being indicted on charges of using foreign money to make illicit campaign contributions.

The lawyers, Joseph Bondy and Ed MacMahon, told CNN and The Daily Beast that Parnas helped Nunes arrange meetings with various Ukrainian officials, including ousted Ukrainian Prosecutor General Victor Shokin, during a secret trip to Vienna in December 2018.

Swalwell: Nunes "may be the fact witness if he’s working with indicted individuals around our investigation.”
By Igor Derysh

Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif, called out Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., on Thursday over his links to an indicted associate of Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani who assisted with the effort to pressure Ukraine into launching investigations to help President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign. Swalwell cited a Daily Beast report that Giuliani business partner Lev Parnas helped Nunes arrange meetings in Europe while the former House Intelligence Committee chairman led an investigation seeking to undermine former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia at Thursday’s impeachment hearing.

His comments came after Fiona Hill, the former top Russia expert on the National Security Council, hit out at Republicans on the committee who have pushed a conspiracy theory welcomed by Trump that Ukraine framed Russia in the 2016 election meddling case, which she said “clearly advance[d] Russian interests.”

“Dr. Hill, you cautioned us on the dangers of members of this committee perhaps peddling any Ukrainian conspiracy theories that could benefit Russia,” Swalwell said. “I want to ask you if you’ve heard the name Lev Parnas, of Ukraine, someone in this investigation who was influencing President Trump and Rudy Giuliani about some of the debunked conspiracy theories you referenced,” he added, referring to a baseless George Soros-linked conspiracy theory that led to the ouster of former Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch.

After Hill acknowledged that she had, Swalwell asked if she was aware that Parnas was indicted “for making foreign contributions to Republicans in U.S. elections.” “I am aware of those reports, yes,” Hill replied. “Are you aware of yesterday’s Daily Beast story reporting the indicted Ukrainian Lev Parnas has been working with ranking member Devin Nunes on Mr. Nunes’ overseas investigations?” Swalwell asked, before entering the report into the official record.

Swalwell quoted from the piece, which said that Parnas “helped arrange meetings and calls in Europe for Rep. Devin Nunes in 2018… Nunes aide Derek Harvey participated in the meetings… which were arranged to help Nunes’ investigative work.”

By Kevin Liptak and Caroline Kelly, CNN

(CNN) The White House helped arrange a phone call between Rudy Giuliani and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo the day after the President's personal lawyer handed over materials with unproven claims about former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, according to documents released by the State Department late Friday night. The documents show that Pompeo spoke with Giuliani briefly twice in late March -- both before and after he handed off a packet of information that included claims against the Bidens. Only the second conversation was facilitated by the White House.

The emails provide new insight into how Giuliani's efforts were coordinated through the White House. Pompeo had previously attempted to distance himself from the packet of information on Biden that Giuliani had compiled. Emails released Friday evening show Giuliani and Pompeo spoke first on March 26 for five minutes. Giuliani told NBC that he handed over the packet of material on March 28 and he spoke again to Pompeo on March 29, this time for four minutes.

That second phone call occurred after a senior manager in Giuliani's office reached out by email to Madeleine Westerhout, the then-personal assistant to Trump, to see if she had a phone number for Pompeo. "I've been trying and getting nowhere through regular channels," wrote Giuliani's assistant. Westerhout then asked the State Department how to get Giuliani and Pompeo in touch. The arrangement for the call happened even before the documents were given to Pompeo.

The emails released Friday also indicate Pompeo spoke with Republican Rep. Devin Nunes, the House Intelligence Committee ranking member, two days after his March 29 call with Giuliani. But like his calls with the former New York mayor, no topics are revealed. The documents were released to the non-partisan watchdog group American Oversight as part of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit for State Department Ukraine records.

Briefed by American intelligence officials in recent weeks on Russia’s untrue smear campaign against Ukraine, Republicans continue to push the story
By Peter Wade

For years now, Russia has sought to frame Ukraine for its own actions interfering with the 2016 presidential election, the New York Times reported, citing three American officials. And, despite being briefed on Russia’s efforts, some in Congress are pushing these conspiracy theories, as seen in Republicans’ questions and speeches during the impeachment hearings.

The White House’s former top Russia advisor, Fiona Hill, backed up the intelligence community’s assertion in her impeachment testimony on Thursday, saying, “Some of you on this committee appear to believe that Russia and its security services did not conduct a campaign against our country and that perhaps Ukraine did. This is a fictional narrative perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves.”

Fiona Hill addressed Republican members of Congress promoting the conspiracy theory that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election: "This is a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves." pic.twitter.com/1czUtCeWVT

— BuzzFeed News (@BuzzFeedNews) November 21, 2019

According to the Times, beginning in 2017, Russian intelligence agents spread misinformation that Ukraine was behind the 2016 election hacking, mixing facts — that a very small number Ukranians did try to stop Trump from being elected — with blatant conspiracy theories. These agents, trying to mask the source of this smear campaign, then used oligarchs and businessmen as intermediaries to spread the information to American politicians and journalists. American intelligence officials have briefed senators and their aides on this very issue in recent weeks.

But the success of the Russian smear campaign was evident in the impeachment inquiry hearings where Republicans, led by Rep. Devin Nunes, and backed up by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, were clearly ignoring intelligence officials’ warnings and pushing the conspiracy theories. Full Story

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