WASHINGTON — It’s only fitting that the decade is coming to an end with an impeachment vote against the president of the United States, because it’s been a dark ten years in American politics.
And it’s gotten progressively worse, especially in the last three years.
Consider this timeline of controversy, gridlock, outrage and resentment in our politics:
- The rise of the Tea Party (2010)
- The Health Car War (2010-present)
- Mitch McConnell’s “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president” (2010)
- The Tucson shooting (2011)
- The debt-ceiling debacle (2011)
- The Birther movement led by one Donald Trump (2011)
- The shooting of Trayvon Martin (2012)
- Barack Obama’s campaign nuking Mitt Romney over Bain Capital (2012)
- Romney’s 47-percent comment (2012)
- Benghazi and its political aftermath (2012-2016)
- The Newtown shooting (2012)
- Government shutdown (2013)
- The rise of Trump (2015-present)
- Merrick Garland’s Supreme Court nomination (2016)
- “Lock her up!” (2016)
- Trump’s “American carnage” inaugural address (2017)
- Trump’s 15,000 and counting false or misleading claims (2017-present)
- Trump’s controversial Muslim/travel ban (2017)
- The rise of the Resistance (2017)
- The Mueller investigation (2017-2019)
- The congressional baseball shooting (2017)
- Charlottesville (2017)
- The Helsinki press conference (2018)
- Trump’s comments after John McCain passed away (2018)
- Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination (2018)
- Pipe bombs sent to prominent Democrats and journalists (2018)
- The 35-day government shutdown (2019)
- Trump’s all-but certain impeachment (2019)
Add them all up, and it’s easily the darkest decade in politics since the 1960s. And think of anyone in their 20s right now — it’s all they’ve seen.
They weren’t old enough to remember when Democrats and Republicans came together after 9/11 (even though it later led to the disastrous Iraq war).
They weren’t old enough to vote in the “Hope and Change” election of 2008, when both political parties had popular presidential nominees.
And they wouldn’t believe you if you told them that Obama threw an inaugural ball in McCain’s honor after that election.
One other characteristic that has defined the past decade: When given the choice, political actors have typically pursued the more populist/radical/confrontational option.
That was especially true on the right earlier in the decade, and it’s become more true on the left in the last few years.
And it’s come amid growing polarization in our political media, the rise of social media, and the decline of local news.
And it’s all contributed to a dark and dysfunctional decade in our politics.
It’s Impeachment Vote Day
The U.S. House of Representatives today will vote to impeach a president for only the third time in U.S. history, per NBC’s Geoff Bennett.
The two articles of impeachment: 1) Abuse of power and 2) obstruction of Congress.
The House gavels in at 9:00 am ET, and the House Judiciary Committee chairman (Democrat Jerrold Nadler) and ranking GOP member (Doug Collins) lead six hours of debate, with time divided equally between Democrats and Republicans.
Barring any delays, NBC’s Alex Moe and Bennett believe the final vote on the articles of impeachment will occur between 6:30 pm ET and 7:30 pm ET.
And as it just so happens, Trump is scheduled to speak at a rally in Battle Creek, Mich., beginning at 7:00 pm ET.
Trump’s six-page tirade
On the one hand, you have to give credit to President Trump and his allies for fighting this impeachment to a near draw when it comes to public opinion.
Love him or hate him, one of Trump’s top political assets is how he wears down — and outlasts — his opposition.
On the other hand, however, you have to acknowledge just how dishonest and disturbed his defenses have been in this entire episode.
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And that was underscored by his six-page letter yesterday to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “In a rambling six-page letter, Trump accused Pelosi of having ‘cheapened the importance of the very ugly word, impeachment’ and said she was ‘declaring open war on American Democracy’ by pursuing his impeachment,” per NBC News.
Tweet of the day
Data Download: The number of the day is … at least 21
At least 21.
That’s the number of false or misleading claims counted by the Washington Post in President Trump’s letter to Nancy Pelosi yesterday.
Those falsehoods include: His characterization of the 2016 results, his description of his call with the Ukrainian president, and some of his boasts about his administration’s policy and economic record.
Susan Collins announces she’s running for re-election: It’s not a surprise, but it’s still significant: Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, announced this morning that she’s running for re-election.
“The fundamental question I had to ask myself in making my decision was this: in today’s polarized political environment, is there still a role for a centrist who believes in getting things done through compromise, collegiality, and bipartisanship?” she wrote in a letter to supporters, per NBC’s Frank Thorp.
“I have concluded that the answer to this question is ‘yes,’ and I will, therefore, seek the honor of continuing to serve as Maine’s United States Senator.”
Here’s the significance of Collins’ decision: Given that Democrats need a net pick up of at least three Senate seats to take back control of the chamber, it’s hard to see how Democrats win the Senate without defeating Collins.
Democrats’ top pick-up opportunities — from easiest to hardest: Colorado, Arizona, Maine, North Carolina.
And remember, the GOP has a pick-up opportunity in Alabama.
On the campaign trail today
It’s a quiet day before tomorrow night’s Dem presidential debate… Julian Castro, who didn’t qualify for the debate, stumps in the Los Angeles area… Michael Bloomberg holds a health-care roundtable in Medford, Mass… Cory Booker stumps in Nevada… And President Trump holds a rally in Battle Creek, Mich., at 7:00 pm ET.
Dispatches from NBC’s campaign embeds
Pete Buttigieg pitched himself to California Democrats last night in Hollywood, and his speech touched on some old Barack Obama themes — of hope and change. NBC’s Priscilla Thompson reports on Buttigieg’s remarks: “I refuse to be told that my hope is a function of my age. Because the truth is, my hope for more unified America is a function of my experience as a result of what I saw in my own city – written off at the beginning of this very same decade we’re living in now as a dying city that now stands tall, is growing for the first time in a long time, seeing jobs added neighborhoods lifted up the thousands lifted from poverty. It’s the hope that I cultivated in the dust of a war zone in Afghanistan among fellow Americans who I had nothing in common with besides the flag on our shoulders, different races, different backgrounds, different politic definitely different politics, but we learned to trust each other with our lives, because we had to.”
NBC’s Maura Barrett followed a YouTube livestream that Tom Steyer held with young Democrats and picked up on how this may become commonplace for the senators in the 2020 race: “I note the details regarding how the virtual town hall was conducted as speculations swirl around how senators who are also running for president while potentially sitting on an impeachment trial in January might continue to campaign. Obviously, this won’t be a problem for Steyer, but Cory Booker’s campaign manager floated the idea of tele-town halls on a press call last week and other campaigns are looking for creative solutions; the virtual town hall or other solutions utilizing new technology might something we see more of, come January.”
The Lid: Commercial break
Don’t miss the pod from yesterday, when we looked at new polling on the reach of Michael Bloomberg’s TV ads.
ICYMI: News clips you shouldn’t miss
Bookmark NBC’s impeachment live blog for today.
Adam Schiff is raising questions about how Vice President Mike Pence’s office described his call with the Ukrainian president.
Protestors rallied yesterday to show their support for impeachment.
House Republicans are running ads on impeachment, but Democrats are trying their best to change the subject.
Trump Agenda: My Man Mitch
Mitch McConnell says he’s not “an impartial juror” in the impeachment trial.
The House Rules Committee approved six hours of debate on the House floor today before the impeachment vote.
The House has passed a $1.4 trillion government spending bill.
Paul Manafort was hospitalized after a “cardiac event.”
2020: Biden releases his medical history
Joe Biden has released a three-page summary of his medical history.
Voting rights advocates are worried about a recent voter purge in Georgia.
Pete Buttigieg finally started going after his rivals. Is it working?
POLITICO delves into Pete Buttigieg’s Harvard days.
Both Bernie Sanders and Michael Bloomberg are trying to crack the code of how to win in California.
Boris Johnson hails Biden as ‘a big breath of fresh air’
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson hailed U.S. President Joe Biden on Thursday as “a big breath of fresh air”, and praised his determination to work with allies on important global issues ranging from climate change and COVID-19 to security.
Johnson did not draw an explicit parallel between Biden and his predecessor Donald Trump after talks with the Democratic president in the English seaside resort of Carbis Bay on the eve of a summit of the Group of Seven (G7) advanced economies.
But his comments made clear Biden had taken a much more multilateral approach to talks than Trump, whose vision of the world at times shocked, angered and bewildered many of Washington’s European allies.
“It’s a big breath of fresh air,” Johnson said of a meeting that lasted about an hour and 20 minutes.
“It was a long, long, good session. We covered a huge range of subjects,” he said. “It’s new, it’s interesting and we’re working very hard together.”
The two leaders appeared relaxed as they admired the view across the Atlantic alongside their wives, with Jill Biden wearing a jacket embroidered with the word “LOVE”.
“It’s a beautiful beginning,” she said.
Though Johnson said the talks were “great”, Biden brought grave concerns about a row between Britain and the European Union which he said could threaten peace in the British region of Northern Ireland, which following Britain’s departure from the EU is on the United Kingdom’s frontier with the bloc as it borders EU member state Ireland.
The two leaders did not have a joint briefing after the meeting: Johnson spoke to British media while Biden made a speech about a U.S. plan to donate half a billion vaccines to poorer countries.
Biden, who is proud of his Irish heritage, was keen to prevent difficult negotiations between Brussels and London undermining a 1998 U.S.-brokered peace deal known as the Good Friday Agreement that ended three decades of bloodshed in Northern Ireland.
White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters aboard Air Force One on the way to Britain that Biden had a “rock-solid belief” in the peace deal and that any steps that imperilled the accord would not be welcomed.
Yael Lempert, the top U.S. diplomat in Britain, issued London with a demarche – a formal diplomatic reprimand – for “inflaming” tensions, the Times newspaper reported.
Johnson sought to play down the differences with Washington.
“There’s complete harmony on the need to keep going, find solutions, and make sure we uphold the Belfast Good Friday Agreement,” said Johnson, one of the leaders of the 2016 campaign to leave the EU.
Asked if Biden had made his alarm about the situation in Northern Ireland very clear, he said: “No he didn’t.
“America, the United States, Washington, the UK, plus the European Union have one thing we absolutely all want to do,” Johnson said. “And that is to uphold the Belfast Good Friday Agreement, and make sure we keep the balance of the peace process going. That is absolutely common ground.”
The 1998 peace deal largely brought an end to the “Troubles” – three decades of conflict between Irish Catholic nationalist militants and pro-British Protestant “loyalist” paramilitaries in which 3,600 people were killed.
Britain’s exit from the EU has strained the peace in Northern Ireland. The 27-nation bloc wants to protect its markets but a border in the Irish Sea cuts off the British province from the rest of the United Kingdom.
Although Britain formally left the EU in 2020, the two sides are still trading threats over the Brexit deal after London unilaterally delayed the implementation of the Northern Irish clauses of the deal.
Johnson’s Downing Street office said he and Biden agreed that both Britain and the EU “had a responsibility to work together and to find pragmatic solutions to allow unencumbered trade” between Northern Ireland, Britain and Ireland.”
(Reporting by Steve Holland, Andrea Shalal, Padraic Halpin, John Chalmers; Writing by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Giles Elgood, Emelia Sithole-Matarise, Mark Potter and Timothy Heritage)
U.S. senator slams Apple, Amazon, Nike, for enabling forced labor in China
A U.S. senator on Thursday slammed American companies, including Amazon.com Inc, Apple Inc and Nike Inc, for turning a blind eye to allegations of forced labor in China, arguing they were making American consumers complicit in Beijing’s repressive policies.
Speaking at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on China’s crackdown on Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in its western Xinjiang region, Republican Senator Marco Rubio said many U.S. companies had not woken up to the fact that they were “profiting” from the Chinese government’s abuses.
“For far too long companies like Nike and Apple and Amazon and Coca-Cola were using forced labor. They were benefiting from forced labor or sourcing from suppliers that were suspected of using forced labor,” Rubio said. “These companies, sadly, were making all of us complicit in these crimes.”
Senator Ed Markey, who led the hearing with fellow Democrat Tim Kaine, said a number of U.S. technology companies had profited from the Chinese government’s “authoritarian surveillance industry,” and that many of their products “are being used in Xinjiang right now.”
Thermo Fisher Scientific said in 2019 it would stop selling genetic sequencing equipment into Xinjiang after rights groups and media documented how authorities there were building a DNA database for Uyghurs. But critics say the move didn’t go far enough.
“All evidence is that they continue to provide these products which enabled these human rights abuses,” Rubio said of Thermo Fisher, noting that he had written the Massachusetts-based company repeatedly about the matter.
“Whenever we receive proof of forced labor, we take action and suspend privileges to sell,” an Amazon spokesperson said.
Coca-Cola declined to comment. The other companies mentioned did not respond immediately to Reuters’ questions.
U.S. lawmakers are seeking to pass legislation that would ban imports of goods made in Xinjiang over concerns about forced labor.
Rights groups, researchers, former residents and some western lawmakers say Xinjiang authorities have facilitated forced labor by arbitrarily detaining around a million Uyghurs and other primarily Muslim minorities in a network of camps since 2016.
The United States government and parliaments in countries, including Britain and Canada, have described China’s policies toward Uyghurs as genocide. China denies abuses, saying the camps are for vocational training and to counter religious extremism.
Sophie Richardson, China director for Human Rights Watch, told the Senate panel that Beijing’s “extreme repression and surveillance” made human rights due diligence for companies impossible.
“Inspectors cannot visit facilities unannounced or speak to workers without fear of reprisal. Some companies seem unwilling or unable to ascertain precise information about their own supply chains,” she said.
(Reporting by Michael Martina, Richa Naidu, Aishwarya Venugopal and Jeffrey Dastin; editing by Jonathan Oatis)
Biden’s vaccine pledge ups pressure on rich countries to give more
The United States on Thursday raised the pressure on other Group of Seven leaders to share their vaccine hoards to bring an end to the pandemic by pledging to donate 500 million doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine to the world’s poorest countries.
The largest ever vaccine donation by a single country will cost the United States $3.5 billion but Washington expects no quid pro quo or favours for the gift, a senior Biden administration official told reporters.
U.S. President Joe Biden‘s move, on the eve of a summit of the world’s richest democracies, is likely to prompt other leaders to stump up more vaccines, though even vast numbers of vaccines would still not be enough to inoculate all of the world’s poor.
G7 leaders want to vaccinate the world by the end of 2022 to try to halt the COVID-19 pandemic that has killed more than 3.9 million people and devastated the global economy.
A senior Biden administration official described the gesture as a “major step forward that will supercharge the global effort” with the aim of “bringing hope to every corner of the world.” “We really want to underscore that this is fundamentally about a singular objective of saving lives,” the official said, adding that Washington was not seeking favours in exchange for the doses.
Vaccination efforts so far are heavily correlated with wealth: the United States, Europe, Israel and Bahrain are far ahead of other countries. A total of 2.2 billion people have been vaccinated so far out of a world population of nearly 8 billion, based on Johns Hopkins University data.
U.S. drugmaker Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech have agreed to supply the U.S. with the vaccines, delivering 200 million doses in 2021 and 300 million doses in the first half of 2022.
The shots, which will be produced at Pfizer’s U.S. sites, will be supplied at a not-for-profit price.
“Our partnership with the U.S. government will help bring hundreds of millions of doses of our vaccine to the poorest countries around the world as quickly as possible,” said Pfizer Chief Executive Albert Bourla.
‘DROP IN THE BUCKET’
Anti-poverty campaign group Oxfam called for more to be done to increase global production of vaccines.
“Surely, these 500 million vaccine doses are welcome as they will help more than 250 million people, but that’s still a drop in the bucket compared to the need across the world,” said Niko Lusiani, Oxfam America’s vaccine lead.
“We need a transformation toward more distributed vaccine manufacturing so that qualified producers worldwide can produce billions more low-cost doses on their own terms, without intellectual property constraints,” he said in a statement.
Another issue, especially in some poor countries, is the infrastructure for transporting the vaccines which often have to be stored at very cold temperatures.
Biden has also backed calls for a waiver of some vaccine intellectual property rights but there is no international consensus yet on how to proceed.
The new vaccine donations come on top of 80 million doses Washington has already pledged to donate by the end of June. There is also $2 billion in funding earmarked for the COVAX programme led by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), the White House said.
GAVI and the WHO welcomed the initiative.
Washington is also taking steps to support local production of COVID-19 vaccines in other countries, including through its Quad initiative with Japan, India and Australia.
(Reporting by Steve Holland in St. Ives, England, Andrea Shalal in Washington and Caroline Copley in Berlin; Writing by Guy Faulconbridge and Keith Weir;Editing by Leslie Adler, David Evans, Emelia Sithole-Matarise, Giles Elgood and Jane Merriman)
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