Yesterday's impeachment hearings in the House Intelligence Committee went as one would expect, with two career diplomats testifying that President Donald Trump improperly held up military aid to Ukraine for his own political advantage, Democrats eagerly embracing and amplifying their statements as evidence of corruption, and Republicans denouncing their testimony as nothing but second-hand rumors.
"It's crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign," said William B. Taylor, the chargé d'affaires in Ukraine, at yesterday's hearing, saying that Trump—through his ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland—had relayed to him that $400 million in military assistance to Ukraine was to be withheld until Ukrainian officials publicly announced that they were investigating former Vice President Joe Biden's son Hunter Biden and his dealings with Ukrainian energy firm Burisma.
George Kent, a senior State Department official, testified that these efforts to get Ukraine to investigate the younger Biden were "infecting" U.S. policy toward the country.
Their message was one that Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff stressed in his opening remarks.
"If [Trump] sought to condition, coerce, extort or bribe an ally into conducting investigations to aid his re-election campaign, and did so by withholding official acts—a White House meeting or hundreds of millions of dollars of needed military aid—must we simply 'get over it'?" asked Schiff, referencing a remark from acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, who had told reporters to "get over" Trump's demand for a Ukranian investigation of his political rivals.
Republicans, for their part, stuck to two main talking points: that neither Taylor of Kent had first-hand dealings with Trump, making their testimony unreliable hearsay, and that the two were pushing their own political agenda.
Rep. Devin Nunes (R–Calif.) said that the accusations against Trump were coming from a politicized bureaucracy whose members "decided that they, not the president, are really in charge.
"So you both know that this impeachment inquiry is about the president of the United States, don't you—the man that neither one of you have had any contact with?" said Rep. Mike Turner (R–Ohio) to Kent and Taylor, declaring that their testimony would be inadmissible in any court.
The Cato Institute's Julian Sanchez argued on Twitter that the hearsay talk was a cheap dodge, given that they had first-hand dealings with senior Trump administration officials who were carrying out the will of the president.
This, but also: Characterizing this as "hearsay" is pretty weird and misleading. Taylor & Kent were direct witnesses to how other senior administration officials worked to put sustained pressure on Ukraine. That's a huge part of the case! https://t.co/nKzMumfVL8
— Julian Sanchez (@normative) November 13, 2019
Ben Friedman, a scholar at Defense Priorities, criticized Democrats for at times suggesting that Trump's relative dovishness toward Russia was the problem instead of focusing on his potentially corrupt dealings with Ukrainian officials.
Those pushing to impeach Trump should be clear that the problem with his Ukraine policy was that it was corrupt, not that it was dovish. Both Schiff and the witnesses so far seem to be conflating those things.
— Ben Friedman (@BH_Friedman) November 13, 2019
Rep. Justin Amash (I–Mich.) suggested Democrats were getting lost in the details.
This is simple. Keep it simple.
The White House released security assistance to Ukraine only after Congress started asking questions. Why? Considering that Bolton, Giuliani, Mulvaney, and others may have pertinent first-hand testimony, why won't President Trump let them testify?
— Justin Amash (@justinamash) November 14, 2019
The clashes between police and pro-democracy demonstrators worsen in Hong Kong, and even get a little medieval. Protestors have been building brick-throwing catapults, picking up bows and arrows, and walling off strongpoints at universities in the city.
Protesters are building a makeshift wall using concrete and bricks on Pok Fu Lam Rd at the University of Hong Kong. #HongKongProtests
Video: SCMP/Chris Healy pic.twitter.com/X7B71tb1UN
— SCMP Hong Kong (@SCMPHongKong) November 14, 2019
With Hong Kong protesters beginning to wield bows and arrows and occupying improvised breastworks, the tactics threaten to take the pro-democracy campaign to a new level of risk for all sides. More here: https://t.co/Z0p6xuSYCf pic.twitter.com/k2uh2AZ1S6
— Reuters (@Reuters) November 14, 2019
Meanwhile, mainland Chinese students are starting to be evacuated from the island city, raising concerns that officials in Bejing are planning to forcibly crush the protests.
Truck drivers in California are suing the state government over a new law that makes it harder for workers to be classified as independent contractors.
Passed earlier this year, AB5 imposes a three-part test to determine if a worker is an employee or a contractor. To be counted as the latter, you must be "free from control" from the direction of your hiring entity (meaning you can decide when to work and what jobs to take), you must be performing work outside the normal scope of the entity hiring you, and you must be customarily involved in the work you're being hired to do.
The truckers argue that this standard is far too rigid.
"AB5 threatens the livelihood of more than 70,000 independent truckers," California Trucking Association CEO Shawn Yadon lamented in a statement. "The bill wrongfully restricts their ability to provide services as owner-operators and, therefore, runs afoul of federal law."
- Former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick has announced his own presidential bid.
In a spirit of profound gratitude for all the country has given to me, with a determination to build a better, more sustainable, more inclusive American Dream for everyone:
— Deval Patrick (@DevalPatrick) November 14, 2019
- Sens. Mitt Romney (R–Utah) and Jeff Merkley (D–Ore.) have introduced a bill to ban most flavored nicotine vaping products. Vaping activists have argued a flavor ban would kill the industry—and a lot of people have relied on flavored vapes to quit smoking.
- Behold the first online archive of Mencken Award winners. From 1982 to 1996, the prize honored "outstanding writing, reporting, and cartooning that defend individual rights or expose abuses of power."
- Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has only just launched his presidential bid, but he might be getting canceled already.
Michael Bloomberg's history of demeaning comments about women is likely to draw scrutiny as he prepares a presidential run. His team issued a statement saying that some of them were "disrespectful and wrong." https://t.co/MvPKsHUrEo
— The New York Times (@nytimes) November 14, 2019