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Current Events

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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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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PRESIDENT’S CHOICE

A peek at a unique position at the White House with high-profile access to the Oval Office
(without the people’s approval).

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President’s Crew

  • Cabinet Members: Positions require Senate confirmation, a process mapped out by the U.S. Constitution and first used by Pres. Washington.
  • National Security Advisor: Position appointed by the President and part of the National Security Council (NSC). Some cabinet members & military leaders attend NSC meetings.
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National Security Advisor

  • Official title: Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs but “NSA” for short.
  • Established post-WWII as part of the National Security Act that tried to streamline work between gov’t agencies.
  • Past advisors: Condoleeza Rice (Pres. G.W. Bush) & Susan Rice (Pres. Obama).
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“The Council’s role is advisory only. It recommends; it does not decide.”

Robert Cutler, America's first National Security Advisor to Pres. Eisenhower in 1953. He says Cabinet members often develop a department's policy, while a National Security Advisor should help provide information to the president to develop his own national security policy.
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Robert O’Brien

  • Lawyer; worked as top hostage official at the State Dept.
  • Helped with the rescue of an American in Yemen & release of rapper A$AP Rocky in Sweden.
  • Worked with former NSA John Bolton at the United Nations under Pres. George W. Bush.
  • Worked with Bush & Obama administrations training lawyers & judges in Afghanistan.
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Robert O'brien is President Trump's 4th national security advisor.

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Applying for Asylum Just Changed in America

The White House announces a new rule for asylum seekers arriving at the U.S. southern border.

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PAST POLICY

  • Asylum seekers arriving at the southern border undergo a “credible fear” interview to show if they’re eligible for asylum.
  • Those with credible claims get referred to an immigration court.
  • To be granted asylum, an individual must prove a well-founded fear of persecution based on nationality, religion, race, politics, or social group.
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NEW RULE

Anyone who passes through another country en route to U.S. southern border w/o applying for protection from persecution or torture in a third country is ineligible for asylum in the U.S. …

EXCEPT if person is victim of trafficking, did not pass through a country with a refugee treaty, or applied but was denied protection.

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Context to Know:

  • Between 2012-2017, the number of those applying for asylum from Northern Triangle countries (El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras) increased 800%.
  • Approx. 1 out of 4 people (27%) last year ultimately received asylum status.
  • Asylum seekers can stay in the U.S. awaiting court dates; the U.S. has a backlog of 200,000+ cases.
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“Ultimately, today’s action will reduce the overwhelming burdens on our domestic system caused by asylum-seekers failing to seek urgent protection in the first available country, economic migrants lacking a legitimate fear of persecution, and the transnational criminal organizations, traffickers, and smugglers exploiting our system for profits.”

DHS Acting Secretary Kevin McAleenan
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Organizations like the ACLU promise to "sue swiftly" for "trying to unilaterally reverse our country's legal and moral commitment to protect those fleeing danger." The top 3 countries with the most asylum applications granted: China, El Salvador & Guatemala.

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Are You An American Citizen?

Why is this such a loaded question?

The nation’s highest court ruled against adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census, but its fate is *still* unclear.

Why?

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Backstory

  • 2018: Commerce Dept. says it will add a citizenship question to 2020 census. Critics say this will discourage respondents.
  • June: Supreme Court sends the case back to lower courts, saying the reason provided by Trump admin for adding the question (to enforce a federal law aimed at protecting minority voters) seemed “contrived.”
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Latest

  • Last Tuesday: DOJ said there would be “no citizenship question on 2020 census”; Census Bureau began printing questionnaires without the citizenship question.
  • Last Wednesday: Pres. Trump said the gov’t is “absolutely moving forward” in its quest to put the question on the census.
  • January 2020: Census counting starts.
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“I agree with him that the Supreme Court decision was wrong.”

Attorney General William Barr affirming on Monday he agrees with the President on adding the citizenship question to the census; he offered no specifics but said the Trump administration will soon take action he believes will permit the gov't to include the question regardless.
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Why We Count

  • Constitution mandates that gov’t count population every 10 years.
  • Used to distribute the 435 seats in the House of Representatives and shape congressional & state districts.
  • Many federal & state programs rely on data to distribute fund$ used to build schools, roads, etc.
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Also Worth Noting …

The Census Bureau is legally prohibited from disclosing any census information that identifies an individual or business – even to other federal agencies – until 72 years after it is collected.

EXCEPTION: Anonymous demographical information on neighborhoods.

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DID YOU KNOW? Since 1790, a citizenship question has been included in 10 of the 23 census questionnaires, however citizenship data from the whole population has not been collected since 1950.

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HISTORIC WALK

 

 

“Ok. Let’s do it.”

With 4 words & about 20 steps, Pres. Trump walks into the history books.

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Why this moment matter - politically and internationally. Click through to our "View Sources" page.

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HOW DID DEBATES BECOME THE NORM?

The first televised presidential debate in Americaa|featured no major candidates.

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The Backstory:

  • Happened in 1956.
  • The presidential race that year included Democrat Adlai Stevenson vs. incumbent Republican President Dwight Eisenhower, but they didnat face off on live TV.
  • Instead of candidates, surrogates for the major parties debated the issues in a televised broadcast *only* 2 days before the election.
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Ladies First

  • Fmr. first lady Eleanor Roosevelt represented the Democrats.
  • Sen. Margaret Chase Smith a the first woman to serve in both houses of congress a represented the Republicans.
  • Both women friendly and often viewed as amongst the “most admired” in America.
  • Reviews on who won? Mixed!
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Candidates Join The Party

  • During the next presidential cycle, the candidates took center stage for the first time. Sen. Kennedy debated VP Nixon in 1960.
  • VP Nixon infamously appearing sick alooked green, sallow, needed a shave.”
  • Sen. Kennedy, described as a amatinee idol,a shined.
  • Kennedy later won the election.
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“Should a presidential election turn on makeup? No, but this one did.”

Producer-director of the 1960 debate Don Hewitt who later went on to start 60 minutes. Nixon refused makeup and some, including Hewitt, believe it impacted the perception of him as a candidate.
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There will be 6 televised democratic primary debates by the end of 2019. Presidential debates will happen AFTER the major parties officially name their presidential candidates at the conventions next summer.

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WILL YOU WATCH?

 

 

The Democrats host the first presidential debates of 2020.
Why the location matters as much as the results.

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The Basics:

  • Democratic National Committee (DNC) hosts the debate in Miami.
  • Candidates qualify by money or favorable polling (65,000 donors across 20 states OR earning 1% in AT LEAST 3 polls the DNC qualifies as legit.)
  • Candidates get 60 sec to respond to a question, 30 sec to follow up; no opening statement but a closing one allowed.
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Why Location Matters

“There is no Republican winning coalition that doesn’t include Florida a you can’t make the math work.”

GOP strategist Brad Todd. President Trump narrowly won Florida in 2016. The DNC choosing Florida as the first site of the debate, and Michigan - another swing state Pres. Trump narrowly won - for next weekas second debate, shows the party is prioritizing these states.
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What To Watch:

  • Will Dems take aim at each other, OR zero-in on Pres. Trump?
  • Top issues may tell us more about the strategy of the individual candidates or the Democratic party overall.
  • Breakout moments for any candidate in this crowded field can shape the public’s perception & perhaps the election.
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“No matter how high the ratings are for these debates, most voters will learn what happened based on the coverage, not the debate itself. So the goal for every candidate is to make it into the highlight reel.”

Veteran Republican strategist Todd Harris on why the media is an important player in the debates.
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The DNC randomly selected candidates for each night. Here's a list of when each is appearing and the 4 candidates didn't make the cut.

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Two Sides Of The Law

 

 

A day after her husband was arrested for domestic violence, a FL mom took the law into her own hands and ended up getting arrested also – now she faces more prison time than he does.

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BACKSTORY

  • A FL man was arrested after he was accused of rear-ending his wife’s car and running her off the road.
  • The court issued a protective order prohibiting the husband from possessing any guns.
  • The following day,A the wife was arrested when she went to a police station to turn in guns she took from her husband’s apt.
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AFTERMATH

  • After the wife arrived at the police station she admitted to entering her husbandas home w/o his permission. She cited safety fears for herself & their two kids.
  • Husband charged with aggravated battery with a deadly weapon; faces up to 15 years.
  • Wife charged with grand theft & armed burglary; faces up to 25 years.
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“Prosecuting Ms. Irby sets a scary precedent that if someone seeks help to escape abuse, they will be punished for it.”

Florida State Rep. Anna Eskamani (D-Orlando) in a letter to State Attorney Brian Haas asking him drop the charges against Courtney Irby, noting that local law enforcement often donat have the resources needed to enforce risk protection orders in order to remove firearms from individuals.
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aWe have to safeguard every citizen’s rights. When a case is brought to us, we have to look at all sides of the cases and come to the fairest conclusion we can for everyone involved.”

Lakeland Police Chief Ruben Garcia. Both husband and wife are due back in court next month. The case has divided the local community.
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WHAT DO YOU THINK? Should the wife face prison time for trying to protect herself and her children? Does the case change if the husband IS convicted of domestic violence? Who's more at fault?

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ELECTION SECURITY

 

 

 

 

As the presidential race picks up the pace with the first 2020 debates approaching, one question lingers:
Are our elections safe?

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“There’s good news and bad news when it comes to election security.”

Andrew Grotto, coauthor of a new study out of Stanford University which examined the election security threats facing the U.S. The authors found that while strides have been made on the federal and state levels, more needs to be done to secure our elections, such as increased federal $ for election infrastructure, updated voting machines, & paper records of votes.
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What We Know

  • The Special Counsel report revealed that Russia interfered in the 2016 election (ex: fake social media accounts) in a “sweeping” fashion, but there was no proof of votes being changed.
  • Digital voting systems are particularly vulnerable to hacking.
  • A dozen states store at least some votes electronically without any paper trail backup system.
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STATE ACTION

  • Officials in 31 states want to replace their aging voting equipment before 2020, but not all have the funds to do so.
  • California is leading the charge, ordering all of its 58 voting districts to update their voting systems by the 2020 primaries.
  • Other states, like Pennsylvania, are aiming to have a paper backup system in place by 2020.
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FEDERAL ACTION

  • DHS created a system for states & localities to share information about threats to voting systems.
  • In 2018, Congress appropriated $380M to the states for election security upgrades.
  • Ahead of the 2018 midterm elections, the Pentagon launched its first cyber operation to block Russian interference by targeting Russian operatives.
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To date, most election security bills have failed to move through the Congress but in July, House Democrats are aiming to pass a package of election security measures, and the Senate is scheduled to hold an election security briefing.

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