In his questioning of David Hale, undersecretary of state for political affairs, Ratcliffe reprised a now familiar defense of the president, that putting a hold on military aid to Ukraine was done out of concern about corruption in the country. The reasons for the hold in summer 2019, during Ukraine's ongoing war with Russia, were not communicated either publicly or within the diplomatic and national security bureaucracy. Citing other recent instances in which congressionally approved U.S. foreign aid had been withheld without explanation, Ratcliffe asked Hale, “So, having no explanation for why aid is being withheld is not uncommon?
At the Democratic debate in Atlanta on Wednesday, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii and Sen. Kamala Harris of California clashed over their differing visions for the party, particularly when it comes to foreign policy. Gabbard had criticized Hillary Clinton as the “personification of the left that has sickened the Democratic Party” after the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee suggested in an interview last month that she believed Republicans were “grooming” Gabbard to be a spoiler as a third-party candidate. Clinton, who did not mention Gabbard by name, further suggested that the Hawaii Democrat is “the favorite of the Russians.
Andrew Yang didn't get much speaking time at Wednesday night's Democratic presidential debate in Atlanta, but he made memorable use of the time he got. Near the end of the debate, Yang was asked what he would say, if elected, in his first call with Russian President Vladimir Putin. "Well, first I'd say I'm sorry I beat your guy," he said.
Flickr/Oliver Holzbauer American Airlines admitted Tuesday that whatever knocked out two flight attendants and forced an emergency landing in October was not spilled soap, as the airline had previously claimed. On October 21, American Airlines flight 729 was flying from London Heathrow to Philadelphia, but was forced to land in Dublin, Ireland, when two staff members passed out. American Airlines said at the time that the incident was caused by "an odor caused by a spilled cleaning solution in the galley."
Mexico's government said Wednesday it has helped 10 Mexican citizens file lawsuits against Walmart over an August shooting at a store in El Paso, Texas, where a suspected white nationalist killed 22 people. "The objective of these suits, presented in El Paso county, is to hold the company responsible for not taking reasonable and necessary measures to protect its clients from the attack," the foreign ministry said in a statement. Eight Mexicans were killed and eight wounded in the August 3 attack in El Paso, a city on the US-Mexican border where 83 percent of the population is Latino.
In a tense exchange at Wednesday's impeachment hearing of President Trump, Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, D-N.Y., grilled Gordon Sondland, U.S. ambassador to the European Union, over his changing testimony on what he understood about Trump's motivation in seeking an investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter. “Who would benefit from an investigation of the Bidens?” Maloney asked after an extended back-and-forth with Sondland on that point. “I assume President Trump would benefit —” Sondland said.
Politics has, as its constant, President Donald Trump's approval rating. The only real exception came during the government shutdown at the beginning of this year, when the rating broke out to the downside for a month. This consistency — unique in the presidential polling — has many political pros characterizing the impeachment hearings, so riveting within the confines of the Beltway, as inconsequential.
Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg has taken the next step to join the scrum to unseat Donald Trump, formally filing to run as a Democrat for the post of President of the United States. The billionaire Democrat-turned-Republican-turned-Independent-turned-Democrat-again declared his candidacy with the Federal Election Commission early on Thursday afternoon. Mike Bloomberg 2020 Inc., his campaign committee, also filed FEC paperwork.
A speech by conservative commentator Ann Coulter at University of California, Berkeley drew hundreds of protesters Wednesday night. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, police in riot gear guarded the building's entrances and barricades were erected in anticipation of the protests. Coulter was invited to speak by the Berkeley College Republicans for a speech about immigration called “Adios, America,” the Chronicle reported.
Former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh was charged on Wednesday with wire fraud and tax evasion relating to sales of her self-published "Healthy Holly" children's book to charities where she worked, federal prosecutors said. The charges against the Democrat and former state lawmaker relate to her dealings with the University of Maryland Medical System, where she was a board member, and which paid her for her children's books. Pugh, 69, who initially defended the arrangement, called it a “regrettable mistake” in March and resigned in May.
The US aircraft carrier strike group Abraham Lincoln sailed through the key Strait of Hormuz on Tuesday to show Washington's "commitment" to freedom of navigation, the Pentagon said, amid tensions with Tehran. The group's move through the strategic waterway separating Iran and the United Arab Emirates towards the Gulf was scheduled, and unfolded without incident, the US Navy said in a statement. It was the first time a US aircraft carrier group went through the strait since Iran downed a US drone in June in the same area.
The Royal Navy may already have identified a possible replacement for its Type 45 destroyers. A version of the new Type 26 frigate, which should enter service with the U.K. fleet in the mid-2020s, ultimately could replace the air-defense-optimized Type 45s beginning in the 2030s. The prospect of developing an air-defense variant of the Type 26 offers some hope to the United Kingdom's beleaguered naval shipbuilders that they might be able to build a large number of ships of different classes without a long break in production.
Ambassador Gordon Sondland's explosive testimony Wednesday that “everyone was in the loop” on President Trump's efforts to secure an investigation of a political rival prompted rank-and-file Democrats to discuss whether it was time to expand their probe. Sondland testified in minute detail — down to the names of staffers and code words used internally to identify officials like Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — how Vice President Mike Pence, White House budget director Mick Mulvaney, former national security advisor John Bolton and others knew the intimate details of Trump's plans. “Was there a quid pro quo?” Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, testified.
The big cats are among the fiercest apex predators in the world. From Popular Mechanics
Vice President Joe Biden was asked Wednesday night how he would address sexual violence. “So we have to just change the culture, period,” Biden said. Biden was one of 10 Democratic candidates to take the stage in Atlanta to debate a range of topics that included, health care, violence, impeachment and defeating President Trump.
As Democratic presidential candidates addressed a national audience at the fifth 2020 primary debate, one candidate couldn't even find a single person to talk to. Former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick made a late entry into the 2020 race last week after expressing some dissatisfaction with the current field. Patrick was supposed to make one of his first campaign stops at the historically black college in Atlanta on Wednesday, not far from where the upper echelons of the Democratic field were debating.
Nearly three-fourths of transgender and gender non-conforming Americans slain in the last three years were killed with a firearm, according to data published this month by the gun violence prevention advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety. The data sheds grim new light on the role of guns in what's been called an epidemic of violence against transgender Americans, as advocates honor the victims with nationwide vigils Wednesday during the Transgender Day of Remembrance. The data is available for the first time publicly via EveryStat for Gun Safety, the group's database detailing gun deaths in America.