10 things you need to know today: November 23, 2019

Tim O'Donnell

1.

Joseph Bondy, the attorney who represents recently indicted Soviet-born American businessman Lev Parnas, said his client is willing to participate in the impeachment inquiry and inform Congress about a meeting between Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), the top-ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, and former Ukrainian Prosecutor General Victor Shokin in Vienna in 2018. Parnas, who worked with President Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani to push accusations of Democratic corruption in Ukraine, reportedly heard directly from Shokin that the prosecutor met with Nunes. Bondy's client also said he was in touch with Nunes prior to the Vienna trip, putting him in contact with Ukrainians who could help Nunes find dirt on Democrats in Ukraine, including former Vice President Joe Biden. [CNN]

2.

The Justice Department's Inspector General Michael Horowitz is expected to find that political bias did not hinder the FBI's investigation into 2016 Russian election interference as President Trump and his supporters have argued. However, Horowitz's report, which is expected to be released Dec. 9, did reportedly find that errors and lapses in judgment were made during the investigation, most notably that a "low-level" FBI lawyer inappropriately altered an email related to the surveillance of a former Trump campaign adviser, though there was reportedly a proper legal basis for the government's application to monitor the adviser in the first place. The finding didn't alter Horowitz's overall conclusion about the investigation. [The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post]

3.

Russia has been trying to frame 2016 election interference on Ukraine for years, and U.S. senators were reportedly well aware. Intelligence officials recently held a briefing for senators and their aides about how Russia has tried to make Ukrainians' "scattershot" hacking efforts seem just as big as Moscow's, three U.S. officials tell The New York Times. The briefing mirrored the warning from impeachment witness and Russia expert Fiona Hill, who cautioned lawmakers against spreading a "fictional narrative" that equated Russian interference with Ukraine's. But House Republicans doubled down on unproven claims that Ukraine had a physical server containing the hacked emails of the Democratic National Committee in an attempt to justify Trump's request for Ukraine to investigate the matter. [The New York Times]

4.

Documents released Friday by the State Department reveal that President Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani spoke to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on the phone at least twice in March. The timeframe lines up with events currently under investigation in the House impeachment inquiry, per Fox News. The released records seemingly bolster testimony from witnesses in the impeachment inquiry that senior Trump administration officials were involved in Giuliani's efforts to push Ukraine to launch corruption investigations and possibly tie Democrats like former Vice President Joe Biden to them. Austin Evers, the executive director of American Oversight — a non-profit ethics watchdog that published the documents — said they reveal a clear paper trail from Giuliani to Trump to Pompeo which allowed for Giuliani's smear campaign against former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch to come to fruition. [The Guardian, Fox News]

5.

President Trump called into Fox & Friends Friday morning, taking shots at former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, saying she was treated well in her impeachment hearing because "she's a woman." He also repeated the debunked theory that Ukraine has a single "server" containing the Democratic National Committee emails hacked in 2016. Trump also claimed the southern border wall is now "electrified" so "if anyone touches it," border agents can "get there within minutes," though there is no evidence of this. After complaining that Republicans couldn't call certain witnesses to publicly testify in the House impeachment inquiry, Trump said "I want a trial" on impeachment in the Senate. He suggested a trial would bring the whistleblower forward for questioning. [Fox News, Axios ]

6.

Billionaire and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has spent at least $19 million on TV ads across the U.S. as of Friday, reportedly the most ever spent in one week on political ads. Bloomberg has not announced a presidential bid, but has filed paperwork for the primary and is reportedly considering launching a campaign. The ad buy includes spots in California, Massachusetts, Colorado, and other states that come after the first four contests on the 2020 primary schedule. Bloomberg missed the deadline to file for the New Hampshire primary, and these ad purchases seem to solidify that he'll skip the early states altogether. The ads will run from Nov. 25–Dec. 3, and are just a fraction of the $100 million digital campaign Bloomberg reportedly has planned. [CNBC, Advertising Analytics]

7.

On Friday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) announced that Reps. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.), Katie Porter (D-Calif.), and Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) would be joining her presidential campaign as co-chairs. All three congressmembers were first elected in 2018's Democratic House sweep, and have remained in the spotlight ever since. Warren released a statement to announce the representatives' appointments, praising their work in 2018 and how they've continued to campaign for Warren across the country since endorsing her earlier this year. Haaland, Porter, and Pressley have spoken at Warren rallies and praised her platform. [Politico]

8.

Amazon filed a federal lawsuit Friday challenging the Pentagon's decision last month to grant a $10 billion cloud computing contract to its rival bidder Microsoft. The lawsuit's complaint is under seal, and the company has not explained its basis for filing the lawsuit. But the filings reportedly contain "proprietary information, trade secrets, and confidential financial information" that could "cause either party severe competitive harm." In a statement, an Amazon spokesperson said the company is "uniquely experienced and qualified" to handle the military's needs and accused the government of choosing Microsoft on account of political influence, which the Defense Department has denied. The Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure project will reportedly store and process massive amounts of classified data and is geared toward facilitating the military's use of artificial intelligence for planning and fighting. [CBS News, Reuters]

9.

About 80 percent of adolescents around the globe are getting less than the recommended 60 minutes of exercise, according to the World Health Organization's first-ever global study of physical activity among kids ages 11 to 17. The study found that girls were less active than boys worldwide, with the biggest gender gaps in the United States and Ireland. It also mentioned that many sports in the United States seem designed to attract boys more than girls. In a press release on Friday, Dr. Regina Guthold of WHO pushed for "urgent policy action." Leisure activities today tend to be "more sedentary and screen-based rather than being outdoor exercise, sport or play," said Dr. Juana Willumsen, a WHO expert on physical activity. [World Health Organization, CNBC]

10.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a warning Friday to retailers and consumers not to sell or eat any romaine lettuce from Salinas, California. At least 40 cases of E. coli infection that occurred nationwide were linked to products from the region. Those affected began to fall ill between Sept. 24 and Nov. 10. No deaths have been reported. The Food and Drug Administration said in a statement Friday that investigators are heading out to Salinas to look for the source of the contamination. The salads from Salinas were shipped to 20 states and reportedly have the number "EST.18502B" inside the Agriculture Department mark of inspection. This is the third straight year there's been a romaine-associated E. coli outbreak. [The New York Times, Forbes]

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