10 things you need to know today: October 10, 2019

Harold Maass

1.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday announced that his country's military had launched its planned operations in northern Syria against U.S.-allied Kurdish-led militia. "The Turkish Armed Forces, together with the Syrian National Army, just launched #OperationPeaceSpring against PKK/YPG and [ISIS] terrorists in northern Syria," Erdogan tweeted, referring to the Syrian Kurds and to the Islamic State. The Kurds fought alongside American forces to drive ISIS fighters out of their strongholds in northern Syria. President Trump ordered U.S. troops, which have numbered around 1,000 in the area, to move out ahead of Turkey's offensive. Turkey said it was trying to establish a terrorist-free corridor on its border. Kurdish commanders said they might have to abandon prisons holding ISIS fighters and focus on fighting back against Turkey. [The Washington Post]

2.

Former Vice President Joe Biden broke his silence on House Democrats' impeachment inquiry on Wednesday, saying Trump had "already convicted himself in full view of the world and the American people" by refusing to cooperate with Congress. "Trump has violated his oath of office, betrayed this nation, and committed impeachable acts," Biden said. "To preserve our Constitution, our democracy, our basic integrity, he should be impeached." Previously, Biden had only said Trump "could be impeached," but declined to make "that judgment now." Trump responded on Twitter, calling Biden's comments "pathetic" and saying the only reason Biden was speaking out now was that polls were showing him losing his status as frontrunner for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. Biden quickly responded, "Thanks for watching. Stop stonewalling the Congress. Honor your oath. Respect the Constitution." [ABC News, CBS News]

3.

President Trump asked then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to help get the Justice Department to drop a criminal case against one of Rudy Giuliani's clients in 2017, Bloomberg reported Wednesday, citing three people familiar with the matter. Tillerson said he couldn't because that would be interfering in an ongoing investigation. After the Oval Office meeting, Tillerson told then-Chief of Staff John Kelly doing what Trump asked would be illegal. The White House declined to comment. Giuliani, a longtime Trump supporter, is now Trump's personal lawyer, but wasn't at the time. Giuliani's client was Iranian-Turkish gold trader Reza Zarrab, who was facing charges of dodging U.S. sanctions against Iran's nuclear program. Prosecutors said he had "close ties" with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. [Bloomberg]

4.

The United Nations warned Wednesday that it soon will run out of money to pay staff and bills unless member nations that have failed to make their contributions pay up. The U.S., the largest contributor to the world body, owes the U.N. $674 million for this year, and another $381 million in back payments, according to America's U.N. mission. President Trump brushed off calls for the U.S. to make its contributions, tweeting: "So make all Member Countries pay, not just the United States!" The U.N. said 129 of its 193 members had paid their annual dues. The organization has brought in nearly $2 billion this year, with a total outstanding balance of $1.3 billion. [USA Today]

5.

Two people were fatally shot near a synagogue and a kebab shop in Halle, Germany, on Wednesday. The attacker apparently livestreamed the shooting in a video that started with the man denying the Holocaust and blaming social problems on Jews. Police said the suspected attacker fled by car. A witness said one the assailant, wearing a helmet and a military jacket, threw what appeared to be a grenade at the door of the kebab shop and fired at least one shot at the restaurant. "All the customers next to me ran, of course I did too," said the witness, Conrad Roessler. "The man behind me probably died." The shooting occurred on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year in Judaism and one of the busiest for synagogues. [The Associated Press, The Washington Post]

6.

Chinese organizers on Wednesday canceled a fan event ahead of a Thursday National Basketball Association exhibition game between the Brooklyn Nets and the Los Angeles Lakers in Shanghai. The move was the latest in a flurry of retaliation by China after Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted support for anti-government protesters in Chinese-ruled Hong Kong. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver later expressed support for Morey's right to express his views. The Shanghai Sports Federation said it scrapped the event because of the "inappropriate attitude" demonstrated by Morey and Silver. Other sponsors and broadcasters also have distanced themselves from the NBA in China, a key international market for the U.S. professional basketball league. [Reuters]

7.

A forthcoming book from journalists Barry Levine and Monique El-Feizy titled All the President's Women reportedly reveals 43 accusations of alleged inappropriate behavior, including 26 instances of unwanted sexual contact, made against President Trump. In an excerpt of the book published by Esquire, a woman named Karen Johnson alleges Trump groped her unexpectedly during a Mar-a-Lago New Year's Eve party in the early 2000s. Johnson said Trump grabbed her and pulled her behind a tapestry, abruptly kissing her. Johnson said Trump's leaked tape revealing him saying "grab them by the p---y" rang true to her, "because when he grabbed me and pulled me into the tapestry, that's where he grabbed me." Several women have previously publicly accused Trump of sexual assault and misconduct, which Trump has repeatedly denied. [Esquire]

8.

Pacific Gas & Electric on Wednesday cut power to as many as 800,000 customers in California to keep its equipment from igniting wildfires in "one of the most severe dry wind events we've seen in our territory in recent years." California's largest utility company apologized in advance for what was expected to be massive and widespread inconvenience from the blackouts, which started in the northern part of the state. Faulty PG&E electrical lines were blamed for starting devastating fires last year, including the Paradise fire. That fire killed 86 people and destroyed 1,900 buildings. PG&E faces billions of dollars in liability over that blaze, which has been deemed the worst wildfire in California history. [CBS News]

9.

Former NBC News host Matt Lauer and his rape accuser, Brooke Nevils, released dueling statements on Wednesday after Variety reported details of Nevils' allegations from journalist Ronan Farrow's forthcoming book Catch and Kill. Nevils, then an NBC News employee, said Lauer raped her in his hotel room at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. She conceded that they continued a relationship after that, but said it was "completely transactional" because she feared his control over her career. Lauer, who was fired as Today host in 2017 over allegations of sexual misconduct, released an open letter saying his affair with Nevils was "mutual and completely consensual." Nevils called Lauer's response "a case study in victim blaming." [Variety, Fox News]

10.

The Nobel committee announced Thursday that it had awarded Nobel prizes in literature to Polish author Olga Tokarczuk, and Austrian writer Peter Handke. The committee gave two prizes this year, after calling off the prize last year due to a sexual harassment scandal. The committee praised Tokarczuk, who won the 2018 Man Booker International prize for the novel Flights, "for a narrative imagination that with encyclopedic passion represents the crossing of boundaries as a form of life." She won the prize for 2018. The Nobel committee said Handke won the 2019 price "for an influential work that with linguistic ingenuity has explored the periphery and the specificity of human experience." [The Guardian]