Current Events

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Current Events

What to expect in America’s first 21st century impeachment trial against a U.S. president.

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Quick Reminder

  • The House impeached Pres. Trump on two “charges” (abuse of power & obstruction of congress) related to Pres. Trump requesting Ukraine’s help investigating the Biden family.
  • The Senate will decide the punishment: whether or not the President should be removed from office.
  • Two presidents have been impeached (Andrew Johnson & Bill Clinton), but none have been removed from office.
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Impeachment Managers

  • The House selected seven managers. Six are former lawyers, and one is a former police chief.
  • Managers “prosecute” the case for impeachment (show why the House voted in favor of the impeachment articles) to the Senate, who act as the “jury.”
  • COMPARE: During the impeachment trial of Pres. Clinton, House republicans selected 13 impeachment managers.
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Witnesses

  • The Senate is expected to vote on whether to allow new witnesses during the trial.
  • Democrats want to hear from fmr. national security adviser John Bolton & acting WH chief of staff Mick Mulvaney. Republicans want the Bidens to testify.
  • COMPARE: During the Clinton trial, the Senate voted on whether to allow witnesses during the trial. 3 witnesses were deposed behind closed doors.
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Presiding Officer

  • Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts will preside over the trial, but his role is *limited* and largely ceremonial as the Senate can overrule his decisions by a majority vote.
  • The Senate decides BOTH the procedures governing the trial and its outcome — whether to oust the Pres.
  • Before the trial begins, the presiding officer and every senator must take an oath to “do impartial justice.”
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BIG PICTURE

  • The Senate impeachment trial will look like a criminal trial, but it isn’t. For example, there’s no burden of proof, or unanimous verdict needed to convict.
  • Number To Know: 51. The Senate is made up 47 Democrats (including 2 Independents) and 53 Republicans. 51 votes are needed to pass (or defeat) any motion. The Democrats drove the impeachment in the House; Republicans take the wheel now.
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What's next? The House managers will *formally* deliver the articles of impeachment to the Senate on Thursday, Chief Justice Roberts will take be sworn in to preside over the trial and then administer an oath to the full Senate. The "trial" will begin on Tuesday.

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Two U.S. soldiers killed in action in Afghanistan.

The first casualties of 2020.

The group taking responsibility is the same one America engages in peace talks.

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Important To Know

  • 2019: Deadliest year for American soldiers in Afghanistan since 2014. 23 soldiers killed in action.
  • Pres. Trump has publicly discussed wanting to withdraw from Afghanistan.
  • Both the Trump & Obama admins. attempted “peace talks” with the Taliban as a way to negotiate an exit.
  • The Taliban control more territory in Afghanistan than ever before during America’s longest war.
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What Happened:

  • The Taliban took responsibility for a roadside bomb Saturday in southern Afghanistan.
  • 29-year-old Staff Sgt. Ian McLaughlin of Virginia and 21-year-old Pfc. Miguel Villalon of Illinois died in the attack. The incident remains under investigation.
  • Both soldiers on their first combat deployment. McLaughlin survived by his wife and four children. Villalon survived by his parents.
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Something To Consider

“The Taliban has publicly stated its goals of the so-called ‘peace talks’ is the complete withdrawal of US forces and the re-establishment of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, the official name of the Taliban’s government.”

Bill Roggio, Long War Journal editor. Reports have indicated peace talks were set to resume between the U.S. & Taliban this week overseas.
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Why This Matters

Although not designated a terrorist group by the U.S. gov’t (an area of great debate) the Taliban provide safe haven to terrorist groups that have attacked America, most notably the 9/11 attackers.

The Taliban and Al-Qaeda remain longtime allies. Concerns remain that Afghanistan, left to the Taliban, will once again become a breeding ground & launching pad for terror.

 

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Pres. Trump cancelled talks with the Taliban in September after the group claimed to have killed a U.S. soldier. In November, during a Thanksgiving visit to Afghanistan's Bagram Airfield, the President opened the door for restarting peace talks. The base was attacked by the Taliban weeks later.

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THE CROWN IN CRISIS?

A 300+year old monarchy that remains one of the few of its kind in the world

Are we witnessing a moment that will change it forever?

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Why It Matters

The United Kingdom is one of the few surviving constitutional monarchies on the planet.

Constitutional monarchy: royals share their mostly symbolic power with elected officials who legislate.

Others include Belgium, Spain, Sweden, and Thailand.

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The Stakes

The Duke & Duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry & Meghan Markle, want to create a new hybrid role, one that has no precedent.

  • maintain their royal titles but step back as “senior members” of the royal family
  • become financially independent to pursue their own charity work while also maintaining *some* royal duties
  • partially split their time abroad
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The Modern UK Monarchy

  • Dates back to 1707 when the English and Scottish kingdoms merged to form the United Kingdom of Great Britain.
  • There have been 12 monarchs (Kings or Queens) and four Houses (dynasties) since 1707. Currently, led by Queen Elizabeth II of the House of Windsor.
  • Since its inception, the UK monarchy has fought to stay in existence with its strength largely dependent on the support of its citizens.
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The House Of Windsor

Did You Know? 3 of the 4 monarchs were not born likely to ascend to the throne.

  • 1917: The Queen’s grandpa King George V was born 3rd in the line to the crown
  • 1936: The Queen’s father (the second son of George V) became King after her uncle, King Edward VIII abdicated the throne to marry an American divorcee.
  • 1952: Queen Elizabeth II (25) ascends to the throne after death of her father.
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“I have found it impossible to carry the heavy burden of responsibility and to discharge my duties as King, as I would wish to do, without the help and support of the woman I love.”

Edward VIII resigning his role as King to marry his American lover Wallis Simpson. Although he had no children, when he abdicated or renounced his royal title to marry Simpson, any potential descendants forever lost their chance at the crown.
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Not Just About England…

  • “The Commonwealth” is made up of 53 independent nations, many once ruled by England, who support & recognize the Royal family (i.e. Canada, India, South Africa).
  • Commonwealth countries’ financial contributions vary & citizens who don’t reside in the UK don’t vote in UK.
  • The Queen is the Head of the Commonwealth and head of state in 15 of its countries.

 

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In February, the Queen (93) will mark 68 years on the throne. In 2015, she became the UK’s longest-reigning monarch, beating a record set by her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria. In 2016, she became the world's longest-reigning living monarch.

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Current Events

Targeting Terrorists, Waging War, and Beyond…

What actions a U.S. President may (and may not) take alone.

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RECENT HISTORY

  • Two Weeks Ago: An American was killed (& others wounded) by rocket fire the U.S. blamed on Iran. The U.S. killed approx. 2 dozen members of the Iranian-backed militia in Syria & Iraq.
  • Ten Days Ago: Violent protest threatened U.S. embassy in Baghdad.
  • Last Week: The U.S. killed Iran’s top general (Qasem Soleimani), the leader of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force.
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CURRENT LAW

U.S. CONSTITUTION: President is the “Commander in Chief” but only Congress has power to declare war.

WAR POWERS ACT: Passed in 1973 after the Vietnam War established procedures left unanswered in the Constitution about military decisions. Requires the President to consult with Congress before deploying (or withdrawing) U.S. forces where hostilities are imminent.

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HOWEVER…

  • The U.S. may attack in “self-defense” without congressional approval to stop an upcoming or “imminent threat” but not for PAST actions.
  • This is why you’ve heard the White House use the term “imminent” to describe the latest attack on the Iranian General; the term carries legal weight & validation for not consulting congress.
  • Critics challenge if that was indeed the case, and want to know the timeline.
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“We had specific information on an imminent threat and those included attack on US embassies. Period, full stop.”

Sec. of State Mike Pompeo, Friday January 11th. When pressed to define the timeline of an "imminent threat" he added: "We don't know exactly which day it would have been executed, but it was very clear. Qasem Soleimani himself was plotting a large-scale attack on American interests and those attacks were imminent."
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“At this point in time, the United States has not thus far provided any information suggesting that there was an imminent attack against the American interest.”

UN expert on extrajudicial executions Agnès Callamard. Those who question the legality point to the evolving narrative from the administration, including the Dept. of Defense's statement on the day of the killing that said it was "aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans" without more urgent, immediate specifics.
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“If the facts are as the Defense Department said, then the president relatively clearly has Article II authority to act in self-defense of American lives,”

University of Texas School of Law professor and international security law specialist Bobby Chesney. Pres. Trump revealed Soleimani was targeting 4 U.S. embassies. Some lawmakers briefed on the intelligence shared by the White House say it lacked specifics. Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) called it the "worst"' briefing he has attended.
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Uncharted Territory?

  • Debate over a President’s ability to “eliminate” threats surfaced in the past (e.g.: the killing of Osama Bin-Laden).
  • The killing of Gen. Soleimani differs as he was a gov’t official of a country rather than a terrorist group.
  • However, the U.S. designated Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a “foreign terrorist organization” in 2019, the first time America gave this designation to part of a foreign gov’t.
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This week, in reaction to the targeting of Soleimani, the House of Representatives passed a measure voting in favor of limiting Pres. Trump's future actions in Iran. It's a largely symbolic vote that passed mostly on partly lines. A similar measure is unlikely to pass in the Senate.

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“Bigger Than Bin Laden”

Who died.

What happened.

Why It Matters.

Here’s what’s going on between America & Iran.

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IMPORTANT CONTEXT:

  • Iran: Designated as a state sponsor of terrorism by U.S. State Dept. since 1984.
  • State Sponsor of Terrorism =“repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism.”
  • August 2019: U.S. designates Iran’s paramilitary (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps) including the Quds Force as a “Foreign Terrorist Organization” – first time a “part” of another country’s gov’t received this designation.
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ALSO IMPORTANT…

“If you see an Iraq war veteran with an artificial limb (or limbs), there’s a pretty good chance Soleimani and his Quds Force can take credit for the maiming. Iran supplied the IEDs that have penetrated so many of our armored vehicles in Iraq.”

@RepJimBanks (R-IN), veteran

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DURING THE LAST WEEK…

Dec. 27: American killed in Iraq
Several others injured.

“We know that the intent of this last attack was in fact to kill American soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, whoever was there…..”

Chair of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Milley who said rocket attacks against bases with Americans increased "in tempo" since October, blaming Iran.
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THEN THIS HAPPENED…

  • Dec. 29: America targets Iranian-backed militia in Syria & Iraq for reportedly killing/wounding Americans on Dec. 27, killing an estimated 25 militia members.
  • Dec. 31: “Protesters” (some dressed in militia uniform) breach walls at U.S. embassy in Baghdad, the capital of Iraq.
  • Jan. 2: U.S. takes responsibility for killing the head of Iran’s Quds force (General Soleimani).
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“General Soleimani was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region…This strike was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans. The United States will continue to take all necessary action to protect our people and our interests wherever they are around the world.”

U.S. Dept. of Defense
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“…this is bigger than bin-Laden…Bigger than Baghdadi. For two decades, Suleimani has been the most powerful, savvy & effective terrorist on the planet. He’s enjoyed full backing of powerful terrorist state.”

Mark Dubowitz, Foundation For Defense of Democracies, on the death of Gen. Soleimani, head of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force. The Quds Force is a specialized division within the IRGC.
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“The US’ act of international terrorism, targeting & assassinating General Soleimani—is extremely dangerous & a foolish escalation. The US bears responsibility for all consequences of its rogue adventurism.”

Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. According to reports, Iran's leader, Ayatollah Khamenei ordered 3 days of mourning and warned of “harsh retaliation."
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Why This Matters

Adds fuel to the already simmering tension between America and Iran. What’s next? No one knows.

Suleimani served as a prominent Iranian figure for 20+ years. America blames him for orchestrating deaths of hundreds of Americans during the Iraq war, and driving nefarious, terrorist activity worldwide.

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America has an estimated 60,000+ U.S forces in the Middle East including roughly 5,000 in Iraq.

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The Taliban attack America’s largest strategic air base in Afghanistan – as a special report claims those in power misled the American public about the longest war in U.S. history.

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What Happened:

  • Wednesday, Dec. 11: The Taliban attack Bagram airbase.
  • Reports: A suicide driver targeted a medical facility outside the base, using it as a position for a firefight that lasted the better part of a day.
  • Eventually, America called in airstrikes to end the battle.
  • Two weeks earlier, Pres. Trump visited the base for Thanksgiving, announcing the Taliban wanted a peace deal.
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“When I met the Talibs today, I expressed outrage about yesterday’s attack on Bagram, which recklessly killed two and wounded dozens of civilians. #Taliban must show they are willing & able to respond to Afghan desire for peace.”

U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, who also "paused" recently restarted peace talks following the attack.
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Why It Matters:

  • This year, more U.S. soldiers have died in Afghanistan (19) than at any point since the U.S officially halted combat operations (2014).
  • During “peace talks,” the Taliban has repeatedly attacked and/or killed U.S. forces & Afghans. The group controls at least half of Afghanistan – more than any other time during the war.
  • What would “success” look like for peace talks? No one knows for sure.
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Meanwhile…

  • The Washington Post (WAPO) gained access to more than 2,000 pages of a previously-private report on the war.
  • A gov’t watchdog interviewed those in powerful positions during Afghanistan war. Project called “Lessons Learned.”
  • WAPO sued for access to interviews on the behalf of the American public.
  • WAPO: Leaders expressed doubt about America’s strategy, priority, investment, while publicly announcing “progress.”
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“It is completely unsurprising that we have been lied to. What is galling is that the same people who have lied to us over the years continue to be propped up as the purveyors of truth and sound policy. This is the National Security Swamp on full display.”

Editor and terrorism analyst Bill Roggio of The Long War Journal, a website that tracks America's war on terror, on the Washington Post's conclusion after gaining access to the records.
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2,300+ Americans have died & more than 20,000 have been injured fighting the war in Afghanistan. What to watch: Pres. Trump has repeatedly mentioned America leaving Afghanistan. With the election cycle picking up, this is a topic to watch.

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Past As Precedent

A look at historical context as the House of Representatives gets ready to vote on whether to impeach the President.

 

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Big Picture

  • 11 U.S. presidents faced at least one impeachment resolution in the House of Representatives.
  • The resolutions differed depending on the president, and some never became serious movements by the House to *actually* impeach the Commander in Chief.
  • To date, only two U.S. presidents faced impeachment votes by the full House. Pres. Trump will be #3.
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Pres. Andrew Johnson

  • Impeached by House in 1868, but avoided removal from office by a single Senate vote.
  • Aftermath: Johnson served out the remainder of his term as president and was later re-elected to the Senate.
  • Context: Pres. Johnson was the first president impeached by the House. 25 years earlier, Pres. Tyler was the first president to face an impeachment attempt by Congress; it quickly failed.
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Pres. Bill Clinton

  • Impeached by House in 1998 for obstruction of justice & perjury in connection with his affair with Monica Lewinsky and acquitted in Senate.
  • Aftermath: Served two+ years after impeachment. Republicans lost public support & House seats during the impeachment process in the Senate.
  • Context: The full House & Senate vote was not completely partisan. Some Dems voted to impeach Pres. Clinton.
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Pres. Richard Nixon

  • In 1974, the House Judiciary Cmte. approved impeachment articles for abuse of power, obstruction of justice, and obstruction of Congress – all connected to the Watergate scandal.
  • Aftermath: Days later, the President resigned ahead of a full House vote.
  • Context: Pres. Nixon is the *only* U.S. president to resign in history.
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Important Context

  • America’s founding fathers provided a very general, arguably vague, standard for impeachment, in order to create the “check” on the Executive Branch through Congress.
  • Of the 11 presidents to face impeachment resolutions, 2 took place in the 1800s with the other nine occurring in “modern” times – showing lawmakers in both parties have started using impeachment more frequently.
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After the House votes, how long will it take the Senate? After the House voted to impeach Pres. Clinton, the Senate went on to conduct a 21-day trial - but the President wasn't acquitted by the Senate until 55 days after the House voted to impeach.

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Will these charges remove the President of the United States from office?

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What To Know

Democrats announced two articles of impeachment, formal charges capable of referring the President to the Senate and removing him from office.

The House Judiciary Committee will vote on these charges. If a majority of the committee votes in favor of them, the articles will go to the floor of the House of Representatives for a full vote.

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Articles of Impeachment

“President Trump, by such conduct, has demonstrated that he will remain a threat to national security and the Constitution if allowed to remain in office, and has acted in a manner grossly incompatible with self-governance and the rule of law…

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…President Trump thus warrants impeachment and trial, removal from office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, trust, or profit under the United States.”

This paragraph concludes both articles of impeachment. Article 1: "Abuse of Power" Article II: "Obstruction of Congress".
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“Abuse of Power”

Democrats allege Pres. Trump abused the power of his office by trying to recruit a foreign power (Ukraine) to investigate political opponent (Joe Biden) and by using foreign aid as leverage.

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“Obstruction”

Democrats allege Pres. Trump illegally prevented witnesses, testimony, and documents from being released during the impeachment investigation.

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“The facts are clear. The danger to our democracy is clear.”

Congressman Jerry Nadler (D-NY), House Judiciary Cmte. Chairman, who says Congress has a constitutional duty to impeach President Trump for his actions that he alleges threaten the integrity of American elections and democracy.
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“There’s nothing that has actually come close to an impeachable offense. Abuse of power is so amorphous. They’ve been telling the American people he’s committed a crime for three months and this is what we get?”

Congressman Doug Collins (R-GA), ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, who says Democrats don't have a strong "case" against President Trump and simply want to impeach the President before the 2020 election.
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Historical Context

  • Congress considered 11 articles of impeachment against Pres. Johnson (1868) and 4 articles of impeachment against Pres. Clinton (1998). That makes the two articles of impeachment relative to Pres. Trump the fewest in U.S. history.
  • The House only needs to pass one article of impeachment to formally impeach a president and move the process to Senate trial.
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The House voting to impeach a president has historic, but limited implications. If the House votes to approve articles of impeachment, the President will face a trial in the Senate which determines whether he is removed from office.

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3 Takeaways From This Week’s Historic Impeachment Hearings

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Quid Pro Quo

“something for something”

Witnesses, including those “friendly” to the administration, testified they believed a quid pro quo was being used in White House policy towards Ukraine.

Not one witness heard a quid pro quo demand from the President himself.

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Nuances

Witnesses agreed understood the “quid pro quo” in different ways.

Some believed a White House visit was being used as a “carrot” in exchange for an investigation into a Ukrainian company that employed Joe Biden’s son.

Some theorized or concluded military aid was being withheld for the investigation.

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Witness: Depth of Service

Army war veteran, son of a refugee from the Soviet Union. (Alexander Vindman)

Self-made millionaire, son of German holocaust survivors who fled to Uruguay before immigranting to Seattle. (Ambassador Sondland)

The daughter of a North England coal miner who has served as a nonpartisan adviser for 3 presidents. (Fiona Hill)

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Democrats, who have the majority in the house, will drive the timeline on what happens next; The House Judiciary Cmte can draw up articles of impeachment to vote on. If the Pres. is impeached by the house, Republicans, who have the majority in the Senate, will drive the timeline on a trial.

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Current Events

IMPEACHMENT INQUIRY
UPDATE

What to know ahead of Thursday’s procedural vote in the U.S. House of Representatives as we inch toward an impeachment outcome.

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IMPEACHMENT 101

  • An impeachment proceeding looks like a criminal trial, but isn’t.
  • First, the House Judiciary Cmte. drafts “articles of impeachment” (charges); simple majority is needed to impeach in the House.
  • Next, the Senate holds trial. A 2/3 supermajority is required for conviction (removal from office).
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BACKGROUND

  • The House opened the inquiry after accusing Pres. Trump of violating campaign finance laws during a July call with Ukraine’s president by urging
  • Ukraine to investigate fmr. VP Joe Biden while withholding military aid.
  • Pres. Trump has denied the quid pro quo allegations, saying that he is obligated to investigate potential corruption.
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WHO LEADS INQUIRY?

  • Led by U.S. House Intelligence Cmte Chair Adam Schiff (D-CA).
  • Involves six House cmtes (Financial Services, Foreign Affairs, Judiciary, Intelligence, Oversight, and Ways & Means).
  • Unlike the impeachment investigations into Pres. Clinton and Nixon, no independent prosecutor has been named by the AG to lead inquiry (yet).
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WHAT HAS HAPPENED?

So far, three cmtes have heard from many witnesses (mostly) behind closed doors, including:

  • Fmr. deputy national security adviser (a party to the phone call)
  • Fmr. White House aides
  • Career U.S. diplomats (including top Ambassador in Ukraine)
  • State Dept & Nat’l Security Council officials
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WHERE (IT HAPPENS)

  • To date, the impeachment inquiry has existed mostly behind closed doors in a secure room in the U.S. capitol – something many GOP leaders have criticized as unfair.
  • Trey Gowdy, the former GOP leader of the Benghazi probe recently acknowledged that critique, but said that private investigations are a “good thing” in light of possible leaks.
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DNA Collection At The Border And Beyond?

Will a new twist on an old law expand rules to collect the DNA of hundreds of thousands of people?

 

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Why Now?

  • Over the last year, 800,000+ people were apprehended at the U.S. southern border ~ the highest number in more than a decade.
  • Deputy AG Jeff Rosen said the aim of DNA collection is reducing “victimization of innocent citizens.”
  • Gov’t says DNA collection is a deterrent and a tool in crime fighting.
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“Make no mistake about it: As an entirely predictable consequence of today’s decision, your DNA can be taken and entered into a national DNA database if you are ever arrested, rightly or wrongly, and for whatever reason.”

Late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia dissenting in a 5-4 decision that affirmed after arrest (but pre-conviction) DNA collection does not violate the Fourth Amendment's prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures.
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OUT EAST

Secret Talks & Secret Trips at the site of America’s longest war.

 

The Latest From Afghanistan

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What’s Happening

  • This weekend, U.S. SecDef headed to Afghanistan.
  • Separately, a congressional delegation, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Adam Schiff traveled to Afghanistan.
  • The trip wasn’t announced ahead of time (this is typical, especially for areas with security concerns).
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Why It Matters

  • The sudden change of U.S. forces in Syria has raised further questions about what’s next for other deployed U.S. forces Pres. Trump has *also* discussed wanting to withdraw, such as U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
  • House Democrats, leading the impeachment charge, further highlight their critique of Pres. Trump’s foreign policy by heading overseas.
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Number to Know

8600

  • The number of U.S. forces American military believes it needs to maintain current counter terrorism operations (keep Afghanistan from harboring terrorists who attack the U.S.
  • Why 8600? We have little info other than this is what the military says they need.
  • Current troop levels approx: 14,000.
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Peace Talks between the U.S. and Taliban have broken off. Now reports have surfacedA they are restarting in China. Confirmation TBD. Pres. Trump stopped talks after the Taliban killed an American soldier. This is the deadliest year for American soldiers since 2014.

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