10 things you need to know today: November 9, 2019

Tim O'Donnell

1.

Two new transcripts of impeachment depositions from two witnesses, Fiona Hill and Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, were released Friday by House committees conducting an impeachment inquiry into President Trump. Vindman, the National Security Council's top Ukraine expert, told Congress "there was no doubt" Trump wanted Ukraine to investigate his political opponents in order to secure a White House meeting. He said Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, who did not show up for his scheduled deposition Friday, had reportedly arranged the demand. Hill, Trump's former top Russia and Europe adviser, also testified that Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland said "in front of the Ukrainians" that "he had an agreement" with Mulvaney "for a meeting with the Ukrainians if they were going to go forward with investigations." [The Washington Post, House Intelligence Committee]

2.

Former New York City Mayor and billionaire Michael Bloomberg filed paperwork to enter the Democratic presidential primary in Alabama on Friday. He has been weighing a bid for weeks, a Bloomberg adviser told The New York Times on Thursday, and has not yet made a final decision on whether to launch a full-fledged campaign, but entered the race in Alabama, where there is an early deadline to file. The adviser said Bloomberg, a moderate, feels "the current field of candidates is not well positioned to" defeat Trump. Bloomberg is reportedly planning to focus on Super Tuesday states if he runs, rather than sink time and resources into early-voting states like Iowa and New Hampshire. [Montgomery Advertiser, The Associated Press]

3.

President Trump's former national security adviser John Bolton knows about "many relevant meetings and conversations" connected to the House impeachment inquiry, his lawyer Charles Cooper wrote in a letter to the House general counsel. House investigators want to interview Bolton about Trump's interactions with Ukraine, but they have refrained from issuing a subpoena to avoid getting drawn into lengthy court proceedings. In the letter, Cooper said Bolton would be willing to cooperate, but only if a court rules he can ignore the White House's objections. Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, who skipped his scheduled deposition Friday, also filed to join a lawsuit started by Bolton's former deputy Charles Kupperman asking for a judicial ruling on whether they are obligated to comply with the congressional requests. [The New York Times, CNN]

4.

On Friday, Facebook announced it would take down any posts containing the name some conservatives are alleging belongs to the Ukraine whistleblower. Spreading the name "violates our coordinating harm policy," Facebook said in a statement, so it is "removing any and all mentions of the potential whistleblower's name." Under that policy, Facebook prohibits "outing of witness, informant, or activist." That would include the Ukraine whistleblower, who raised concerns about President Trump's call with Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky in which Trump pushed for an investigation into the Bidens. Right-wing sites have started speculating on the identity of the whistleblower, but Facebook said it would only reconsider its decision if their name was "widely published in the media or used by public figures in debate." [CNN]

5.

Thousands gathered Saturday in Hong Kong's Tamar Park next to the central government offices to mourn Chow Tsz-lok, a 22-year-old student at Hong Kong's University of Science and Technology who died after a high fall while police were dispersing pro-democracy, anti-government protests in the city earlier this week. The vigil, which was called "Heaven bless the Martyrs," was approved by police, unlike many recent marches. The demonstrators reportedly sang hymns and carried flowers, though there were also reportedly calls for revenge, as protesters have long accused Hong Kong police of using excessive force when breaking up rallies over the last several months. [The South China Morning Post, Reuters]

6.

India's Supreme Court ruled Saturday that a Hindu temple could be built on the site where a mosque was illegally razed by Hindus in 1992 in the town of Ayodhya, ending a decades-long dispute. Many Hindus believe the site to be where the god Ram was born, and that a Hindu temple once stood on the spot before India's Muslim rulers built a mosque there in the 16th century. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a Hindu, urged for calm Saturday, as did Muslim leaders. So far, that's held, although Ayodhya reportedly remains alert, and a heavy security presence has taken over the streets to prevent any clashes. Lawyers for the Muslim parties in the case said they will ask the court to review its decision, but it's reportedly unlikely to be overturned. [The Washington Post, Deutsche Welle]

7.

President Trump's former adviser Stephen Bannon testified Friday that fellow adviser Roger Stone was the "access point" between the 2016 Trump presidential campaign and WikiLeaks, which unveiled a slew of stolen emails damaging to Trump's opponent Hillary Clinton in the lead up to the election. Stone is facing charges of making false statements, obstruction, and witness tampering over his connections to WikiLeaks. Bannon also said he believed Stone "had a relationship" with the website's founder, Julian Assange, and that he and Stone discussed WikiLeaks on several occasions even though Stone told the House Intelligence Committee under a sworn statement that he never discussed Assange or WikiLeaks with any members of Trump's campaign. Bannon did testify, however, that he was not aware of Trump's campaign formally asking Stone to communicate with Assange about the emails. [The Hill, Reuters]

8.

After Brazil's Supreme Court on Thursday overturned a law requiring convicts to be imprisoned after losing an appeal, former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was freed from prison on Friday, on a judge's orders. Lula was sentenced to eight years in prison after being convicted of taking bribes from engineering firms when selecting government contracts. The Supreme Court's ruling was controversial because some analysts say the law was important in unraveling large-scale corruption cases by encouraging suspects to negotiate plea deals with prosecutors. Lula was president from 2003 until 2010, and was the frontrunner in the 2018 election until his arrest, which cleared the way for President Jair Bolsonaro's victory. [Al-Jazeera]

9.

Students across the country walked out of school on Friday in a demonstration to call for the protection of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. DACA recipients, undocumented students, and supporters alike joined the walkout, organized in part by United We Dream, a youth-led immigration nonprofit. The Trump administration has moved to end DACA, which provides protections and temporary work permits for undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children. The walkout was organized in tandem with a 16-day march from New York to Washington, D.C., which is set to end Tuesday, the first day that the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in a lawsuit demanding DACA be preserved. [ABC News]

10.

Nike launched an "immediate investigation" Friday to hear from former athletes of the Oregon Project, which was shut down last month after a doping scandal that resulted in coach Alberto Salazar being banned from the sport for four years. Mary Cain, who at 17 was the youngest American track and field athlete to make a World Championships team, said that after signing with Nike in 2013, an all-male staff told her she had to get thinner, and encouraged her to take birth control pills and diuretics to do so. Salazar told her she needed to be 114 lbs., and would publicly shame her if she wasn't losing weight, she said. Salazar denied the now-23-year-old Cain's claims in an email to The New York Times. In a statement, Nike said Cain had "not raised these concerns" before. [The Washington Post, The Week]

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