10 things you need to know today: December 24, 2019

Harold Maass

1.

House Judiciary Committee lawyers on Monday told a federal appeals court that the panel might consider recommending "new articles of impeachment" against President Trump if former White House counsel Don McGahn testifies and provides fresh evidence. Democrats who lead the committee have been fighting in court to enforce a subpoena for McGahn to provide testimony. They say he has information "central" to parts of their impeachment investigation. The inquiry is ongoing even though the Democratic-led House approved two articles of impeachment accusing Trump of abusing his power to pressure Ukraine into investigating Democrats and obstruction of Congress. The Democrats' filing came after Justice Department lawyers told the court the House's approval of two articles of impeachment left no justification for enforcing McGahn's subpoena quickly. [CNBC, The Washington Post]

2.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Monday that he was not ruling out testimony from new witnesses in Trump's impeachment trial, as a dispute over the rules delays preparations for the trial. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) wants witnesses who refused to appear during House impeachment hearings to testify in the Senate. McConnell has declined, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has responded by delaying sending the Senate two articles of impeachment the House approved last week. "We haven't ruled out witnesses," McConnell told Fox and Friends. "We've said let's handle this case just like we did with President Clinton." Some witnesses testified in that trial, but Republicans have the votes to block anyone requested by Democrats. [The Associated Press]

3.

China, Japan, and South Korea have agreed to jointly promote dialogue between the U.S. and North Korea, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Tuesday after a summit in China. North Korea has threatened a "Christmas gift" − which experts say could include missile tests or a new hardline policy toward Washington − if the U.S. doesn't meet Pyongyang's year-end deadline to end what it calls a policy of hostility. President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un have met three times in a push to get North Korea to curb its nuclear weapons program in exchange for sanctions relief, but talks have stalled. New satellite imagery raised concerns that North Korea is expanding a factory that makes military equipment involved in launching long-range missiles, which one expert said would be "big news." [The Associated Press, Reuters]

4.

Many Christmas travelers in France will be stranded as rail workers continue their strike over a government proposal to reform the country's generous pension system. Striking workers marched through Paris' Gare de Lyon train station on Monday, trailed by riot police as travelers awaited late trains. "Usually, 15 of us get together for Christmas, but this year it's just going to be my wife and me," said Florian Cercea, whose train was delayed by several hours Monday at the Gare de Lyon train station in Paris. "It's going to be a sad Christmas. It means, even if we have presents, we can't give them to the children. I guess we'll give them next year after the strike is over." President Emmanuel Macron called for a holiday "truce" in the three-week general strike but there was no sign of a deal. [The New York Times]

5.

Boeing has fired CEO Dennis Muilenburg as the aircraft maker's best-selling 737 Max plane remains grounded after two fatal crashes that killed a total of 346 people. Ten-year board member David Calhoun will take over. "A change in leadership was necessary to restore confidence in the company moving forward as it works to repair relationships with regulators, customers, and all other stakeholders," the company said Monday in a news release. Regulators around the world grounded the 737 Max jet in March, and the plane's return to operation has been delayed several times as the company developed and tested a fix to a flight control system linked to the accidents. The crisis has cost Boeing billions of dollars, and recently forced it to announce that it would soon suspend production of the 737 Max. [The New York Times, CNN]

6.

Authorities at five U.S. airports have said that travelers with measles have passed through this month, possibly exposing an undetermined number of passengers to the highly infectious disease. Chicago's Department of Public Health said one infected person traveled through two O'Hare International Airport terminals in mid-December. Virginia authorities said another person with measles passed through Richmond International Airport on Dec. 17. On the same day, another infected person visited Austin-Bergstrom International Airport in Austin, Texas, and three unvaccinated children who tested possible for the highly contagious viral disease traveled through airports in Denver and Los Angeles. "A small number of cases are capable of quickly producing epidemics," Dr. Mark Escott, medical director for Austin Public Health, said in a statement. [ABC News]

7.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper is considering proposals to significantly reduce the number of U.S. forces in West Africa, The New York Times reported Tuesday, citing officials familiar with the matter. The options on the table reportedly include a total pullout, as well as the abandoning of a new $110 million drone base in Niger. The deliberations are part of the first phase of a review of U.S. military deployments around the world. A decision on West Africa troop strength is expected in January, and a similar move in Latin America reportedly could come next. The U.S. also is expected to follow through with expected drawdowns in Iraq and Afghanistan. President Trump took office in 2017 vowing to wrap up "endless wars." About 200,000 American service members are stationed abroad currently. [The New York Times]

8.

Christianity Today has followed up its controversial editorial criticizing President Trump with a second editorial urging fellow Christians to stop being loyal to Trump. The magazine's president, Timothy Dalrymple, asked Christians in the new editorial "to consider whether they have given to Caesar what belongs only to God: their unconditional loyalty." He said embracing Trump means being tied to his "corruption" and "race-baiting." The first editorial by the magazine, which was founded by the late Rev. Billy Graham, accused Trump of "profoundly immoral" conduct and called for his impeachment. A group of more than 100 conservative evangelical Christians responded Monday with a letter calling the magazine's position offensive, saying it questioned the "spiritual integrity" of tens of millions of Christian Trump supporters. [Reuters, Christianity Today]

9.

U.S. stock index futures edged higher early Tuesday, adding to gains that lifted Wall Street to the latest in a string of record highs. Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the S&P 500, and the Nasdaq all were up by 0.1 percent or less in the hours before the opening bell for a shortened Christmas Eve trading session. All three of the main U.S. indexes closed at record highs on Monday after the news that China will cut import tariffs on more than 850 products eased concerns about the U.S.-China trade war. Boeing shares surged 2.9 percent higher after the aircraft maker announced it had ousted CEO Dennis Muilenburg to help restore confidence in the company as it struggles to resolve its 737 Max jet crisis. [CNBC]

10.

Advance Auto Parts has bought the DieHard brand from Sears-owner Transformco for $200 million, the companies announced Monday in a joint news release. Sears stores will continue to sell DieHard car batteries. Advance Auto Parts also will sell DieHard products at its more than 4,800 auto supply stores. Advance Auto Parts is considering expanding DieHard into more "battery categories, such as marine and recreational vehicles," said its president and CEO, Tom Greco. The sale came after Transformco closed hundreds of Sears and Kmart stores in 2019. Sears and Kmart have shut down more than 3,500 stores over 15 years − 182 will remain after the next closures in February. The company dodged total liquidation in February with a sale to former CEO Eddie Lampert. [USA Today]

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