Political Roundup

In Our Headlines…

The Ukraine Scandal continues to unfold following Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s announcement of an impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump. Shortly after Pelosi’s announcement, the White House released a rough transcript of Trump’s call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in which Trump asks Zelensky to investigate 2020 Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden. At the time of this request, Trump was withholding $391 million in military aid to Ukraine. In an attempt to convince the American public that there was nothing unlawful regarding his communications with the Ukrainian President, President Trump publicly called on China to assist with investigations against Biden and his son Hunter on Thursday, Oct. 3rd. In the most recent development, Trump stated that though the House of Representatives has the votes to impeach him, he would “win” a trial in the Senate, which currently has 53 Republican senators to 47 Democratic senators. The possibility of impeachment poses important questions to the leaders of the Republican Party, as Trump claims that the Republican Party is unified in their support of him. However, senator and former presidential candidate Mitt Romney (R-UT) spoke up against Trump in a tweet: “By all appearances, the President’s brazen and unprecedented appeal to China and Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden is wrong and appalling” (The Washington Post, “Trump Says the Democratic-led House has the votes to impeach him” 10.04.19).

On Friday, Oct. 4, the Supreme Court agreed to hear a case that could significantly alter access to abortion throughout the United States. Hope Medical Group for Women sued the state of Louisiana in an attempt to block a state law that limits access to abortion doctors. The law requires that any doctor who performs abortions to have “admitting privileges,” the right to admit someone to a given hospital, at a hospital or clinic within 30 miles of the abortion clinic. Admitting privileges are difficult to obtain and this requirement would reduce the number of doctors willing and able to perform abortions. The law was originally passed in 2014, but a series of court decisions prevented it from ever going into effect. This is the first time the Supreme Court will hear an abortion case since Trump appointed Brett Kavanaugh to take Justice Anthony Kennedy’s seat in wake of his retirement. Kennedy sided with the Court’s four more liberal judges in 2016 in a decision that defended abortion rights. However, with Kennedy’s replacement, the Court has shifted further to the right while maintaining the 5-4 conservative advantage. A decision is due from the Court by June 2020, at the conclusion of the nine-month session that began Monday, Oct. 7 (Reuters, “U.S Supreme Court takes a major case that could curb abortion access.” 10.04.19).

On Friday, Oct. 4, Microsoft released a report outlining the Iranian government’s support of hacking attempts that would identify the email accounts of government officials and journalists as well as other email accounts related to a 2020 presidential campaign. However, Microsoft declined to reveal with which campaign the hackers were trying to interfere. Microsoft did reveal that there were 271 hacking attempts, four of which were successful. Owen Falkowitz, the CEO of Area 1, a Silicon Valley security company that helps maintain the security of presidential and senate campaigns, said that his company is experiencing attacks on both ends of the political spectrum. These new hacking attempts make it clear that foreign influence on American elections was not left in 2016, and may have major impacts on the upcoming 2020 race (The New York Times, “Iranian Hackers Targeted Presidential Campaign, Microsoft says,” 10.04.19).

Around the World…

The protests over the Extradition Bill that have dominated Hong Kong came to a violent climax on Oct. 2, when an officer responded to attacks from an 18-year-old student at Tsuen Wan Public Ho Chuen Yiu Memorial College by shooting at him. The incident occurred on the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, during which President Xi JinPing held the largest military parade in the country’s history. Hong Kong protests initially erupted four months ago over the bill, which would allow fugitives from Hong Kong to be transported to mainland China, Taiwan or Macau for trial. Opponents of the bill in Hong Kong fear that extradition will be used as a political tool, allowing Hong Kong residents to face unfair trial in mainland China. The bill was proposed in February, leading to unabating protests beginning in June without a loss in momentum. On Oct. 2, the violence of these protests reached new heights, with the police force elevating violence rather than de-escalating tensions. Throughout the day, 66 people were injured and 180 were arrested while those on mainland China simultaneously celebrated 70 years of Communist China. The violence received limited news coverage in mainland China (South China Morning Post, “Protestor shot by police, trail of destruction across Hong Kong, while Beijing celebrates National Day.” 10.02.2019).

Three years ago, Britain voted to leave the European Union in a shocking referendum. However, just this past Thursday, Oct. 3, the EU rejected a leave proposal from British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, stating that it had no chance of winning support from the 27 countries that need to sign off on the deal. Britain currently hopes to leave the EU by Oct. 31. Johnson claims that the country will leave the EU on Oct. 31 with or without a deal, while Parliament has passed a law stating that the PM must request an extension for the leave date if no deal is achieved by mid-October. Some speculate that Johnson wishes to leave the EU without a deal, though he denies this and states that he is working towards finalizing a deal by Oct. 17 or 18. In order to reach this goal, negotiations with other nations in the union will need to begin immediately. As of now, there are no public plans to move towards negotiations. (The Washington Post, “E.U. Rejects Boris Johnson’s Brexit Proposal, raising prospect of chaotic break within weeks.”10.03.2019).

The White House’s recent announcement of withdrawals from northeastern Syria drew international condemnations– particularly in regard to the fate of Kurdish troops that aided American forces in Syria. To Turkey, Kurds represent terrorists allied with seperatists in Turkey. After weeks of discussions aimed at improving U.S.-Turkish relations, Trump rebuked Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s threats to mobilize an operation in northern Syria. Trump doubled down on his withdrawal efforts, to which Turkish officials responded with announcements that the operation was complete. Kurdish forces responded to both sides with threats to abandon prisons holding former ISIL fighters (The Washington Post, “Furor over pulling troops from northeast Syria began with troubling Trump phone call and White House statement,” 10.08.19).

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