10 things you need to know today: December 2, 2019

Harold Maass

1.

Congressional Republicans on Sunday attacked the legitimacy of the House impeachment inquiry against President Trump as the process enters a new phase this week. The House Intelligence Committee is scheduled to start reviewing its report on depositions and public hearings it has held. Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, said he wants Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), chair of the Intelligence Committee, to testify. "If he chooses not to, then I really question his veracity and what he's putting in his report," Collins said on Fox News Sunday. A White House lawyer said in a letter released Sunday evening that Trump doesn't plan to participate in the Judiciary Committee's first hearing on Wednesday, because "it remains unclear whether the Judiciary Committee will afford the president a fair process through additional hearings." [NPR, The Washington Post]

2.

President Trump plans to leave Monday for what could be a tense NATO summit in London, where he will meet with leaders who he has pushed to increase defense spending. Trump will meet separately with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron, and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who announced last week that NATO members had agreed to lower America's contribution to NATO's $2.5 billion annual budget to 16 percent from 22 percent. Several countries have agreed to increase their military spending. The summit comes as Trump faces an ongoing impeachment inquiry at home, and calls from British Prime Minister Boris Johnson for Trump avoid commenting on a looming U.K. election intended to break a stalemate over Brexit. [Reuters, USA Today]

3.

The death toll from weekend gun battles between Mexican security forces and drug-cartel gunmen rose to at least 20 on Sunday, when government agents killed seven cartel members, Mexican authorities said. The violence began Saturday when dozens of armed cartel associates attacked a town hall in northern Mexico. It was the latest in a series of troubling signs about the state of security in the country. The attack came on the eve of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador's first anniversary in office. López Obrador, a leftist leader who is popular except for his failure to reduce violence, is under pressure from President Trump to get tougher on the cartels. Trump wants to brand Mexican cartels as terrorist groups, but the Mexican leader said he would not return to a "war on drugs" run by the military, calling it an "absurd and deranged strategy." [New York Post, The Washington Post]

4.

Iraqi lawmakers on Sunday approved the resignation of embattled Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi following two months of pro-reform protests that have left more than 430 demonstrators dead. Parliament now heads into a showdown over who will lead the country next. Demonstrators are demanding a new election law and a halt to a power-sharing arrangement dividing control of the government among powerful political groups. Iraqis also are fed up with high unemployment, poor government services, and corruption. The grassroots movement represents the most serious internal challenge to the government since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 that toppled Saddam Hussein. [The Washington Post]

5.

U.S. retailers are offering big discounts on Cyber Monday, hoping to outpace record Black Friday online sales of $7.4 billion. The Black Friday record marked the second biggest online shopping day ever seen in the U.S., second only to last year's Cyber Monday mark of $7.9 billion, according to Adobe Analytics data. Online sales have increased by 20 percent over the same period in last year's kick-off of the holiday shopping season. Shoppers also spent $4.2 billion online on Thanksgiving, another record. Adobe expected this year's Cyber Monday to set another record, with sales climbing 18.9 percent over last year to reach $9.4 billion. [CNBC]

6.

Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat announced his resignation on Sunday under pressure over a 2017 car bombing that killed anti-corruption journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. Muscat said he would step down as leader of the governing Labor Party on Jan. 12, and "in the days after I will resign as prime minister." Hours before the announcement, nearly 20,000 people protested in the capital, Valletta, demanding his departure. The slain reporter's family said Muscat's resignation wouldn't satisfy a population demanding an end to corruption. "People will be out in the streets again tomorrow," tweeted one of her sons, Matthew Caruana Galizia, also a journalist. Maltese businessman Yorgen Fenech was arraigned Saturday on charges of complicity in the killing. Muscat's former Chief of Staff Keith Schembri and Fenech are old friends. [The Associated Press, The New York Times]

7.

Former Rep. Joe Sestak, a retired three-star admiral, ended his longshot campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination on Sunday. "Without the privilege of national press, it is unfair to ask others to husband their resolve and to sacrifice resources any longer," Sestak tweeted. Sestak announced his candidacy in June, but never mustered enough support to make it onto the stage in any of the party's debates. He never got above 1 percent in the polls. His policy positions were in sync with those of the other moderates in the crowded Democratic field, but he had counted on his military leadership experience to help him stand out. [CNBC]

8.

Former FBI lawyer Lisa Page, whose text messages with colleague Peter Strzok have drawn frequent criticism from President Trump, broke two years of silence in an interview published Sunday by The Daily Beast. "I'm done being quiet," Page said. Page left the FBI 18 months ago, about six months after The Washington Post first reported that the Justice Department inspector general was investigating her, and that she and Strzok, an FBI investigator, had an affair. Page said the Trump administration "cherry-picked" text messages she and Strzok exchanged belittling Trump to suggest that there was a deep-state conspiracy. Trump has accused her of treason. Page called the attacks "very intimidating," but said, "I know there's no fathomable way that I have committed any crime at all, let alone treason." [The Daily Beast]

9.

A deadly winter storm is hitting the Northeast with snow and ice on Monday, forcing airlines to cancel hundreds of flights as the last travelers return from Thanksgiving trips. The storm disrupted holiday travel for days after hitting the West Coast as a powerful "bomb cyclone" and pushing through the Plains and the Midwest. In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo told non-essential employees to stay home, with sleet, snow, and rain forecast through the day. State police had already responded to more than 550 storm-related crashes across the state by 7 p.m. Sunday. Icy roads also were blamed for crashes in Pennsylvania. At least six storm-related deaths were reported in recent days in Arizona, Missouri, and South Dakota. [The Associated Press]

10.

Disney's Frozen 2 dominated the domestic box office for the second straight week, with $85.2 million in ticket sales over the weekend. The animated blockbuster also brought in a record $123.7 million over the full five-day Thanksgiving holiday period, smashing a mark of $109 million set by 2013's The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Frozen 2 now has a North America total of $278 million. Its $130 million debut set a record for Disney Animation. The fantasy film raked in another $164 million overseas to bring its international total to $451 million. Its global total now stands at $739 million, positioning it to soon become the sixth Disney movie in 2019 to make more than $1 billion. The whodunit Knives Out took the No. 2 spot in North America with weekend ticket sales of $27 million. [Variety]

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