In Our Headlines…
After announcing that the impeachment inquiry will move into a public phase, Republican and Democratic legislators are battling over which witnesses will testify. These disagreements stem from fundamental differences over what the two parties believe the investigation should focus on. Democrats wish to keep the inquiry focused on the July 25 phone call between President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Republican leaders, in contrast, wish to extend the investigation to former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden’s involvement in Ukraine under the Obama Administration. The list of potential witnesses released by House Republicans on Nov. 9 includes Hunter Biden, his business partner Devon Archer and the unnamed whistleblower. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) stated that the impeachment inquiry will not be used to investigate the Bidens’ actions, or as a way to retaliate against the whistleblower by bringing them into public light. Representative Jackie Speier (D-CA) argued that the whistleblower’s testimony is unnecessary–as the whistleblower reported what they had heard about the call–and witnesses who were in the room for the call will be testifying, providing a direct source of information rather than the indirect information that the whistleblower could provide (The Washington Post “Lawmakers spar over impeachment witnesses as probe enters public phase.” 11.10.2019).
On Nov. 16, Lousianna re-elected Democratic Governor Bel Edwards, the only Democratic governor in the deep South. Edwards’ re-election came at the expense of President Trump’s pick for the seat, Republican Eddie Rispone. Trump visited Louisiana twice in the last two weeks to campaign for Rispone, a businessman who had never run for office before. In a recent rally for Rispone, Trump warned his audience that a Republican defeat in Louisiana would not reflect well on his presidency. The defeat is particularly striking after Kentucky’s Republican incumbent governor Matt Bevin lost re-election on Nov. 5, after President Trump spent considerable political capital campaigning for him (The New York Times, “In Louisiana, a Narrow Win for John Bel Edwards and a Hard Loss for Trump” 11.16.2019).
[TW: The following paragraph discusses rape, physical assault, a source’s use of a racial slur and possible false-conviction of a Black man.]
On Nov. 15, The Texas Court of Appeals blocked the execution of Rodney Reed due to the emergence of new evidence. In 1998, Reed was convicted of the rape and strangulation of 19-year-old Stacy Stites. His conviction was based on the claim that the DNA-matched semen inside Stiles could only have resulted from sexual assault. However, Reed said he was having an affair with Stites, who was engaged at the time of her death. Multiple witnesses have come forward to corroborate his story. Additionally, new evidence has emerged suggesting that Stites’s fiance, Jimmy Fennell, is guilty of the crime. Fennell, who served time for the sexual assault of a woman in 2007, was furious that his fiance was having an affair with a Black man. An inmate imprisoned with Fennell stated in an affidavit that Fennell once said, “I had to kill my [racial expletive] loving fiance.” Rodney Reed’s case garnered national attention as his previously set execution date of Nov. 20 neared, leading to an indefinite stay of execution. This indefinite ruling is extremely rare, especially in Texas, the state with the highest number of executions per year. Reed’s case will now be sent back to his district court in Bastrop County, where he will once again try to prove his innocence (The Washington Post, “Rodney Reed case: Texas appeals delays execution of Rodney Reed, whose murder case has drawn widespread attention over new evidence.” 11.15.2019).
Around the World…
On Nov. 17, Hong Kong police clashed with anti-government protesters occupying Hong Kong Polytechnic University. Police used tear gas and water cannons in an attempt to breach the protesters’ barricades. Protesters responded with gasoline bombs and fired on the police with bows and arrows. In the aftermath of the clash, during which protesters set fire to two bridges, schools throughout Hong Kong closed for the duration of Monday. Throughout the protests, police threatened to use “lethal force” to arrest protesters who refused to surrender. Protests began in Hong Kong in June over an extradition bill that would allow prisoners in Hong Kong to be transported to mainland China for trial. The Extradition Bill was soon scrapped. The protests have now expanded to encompass demands for police accountability and greater democracy, as Hong Kong residents fear the increasing influence of the government of Beijing on the affairs of the semi-autonomous region (The New York Times, “Hong Kong Protests: Activists Clash With Police Near Besieged Campus.” 11.17.2019).
The United States and South Korea have agreed to postpone air drills scheduled for this month, in an attempt to improve relations with North Korea. North Korea advocated for the postponement, stating that it would be a show of good faith and help to move discussions between North Korea and the United States forward. However, North Korea also threatened “hostile punishment” if the United States moved forward with the drills. U.S. Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper stated that the postponement was “A good faith effort…to enable peace.” Esper hopes that the move will give diplomats the space needed to negotiate the denuclearization of North Korea, a top priority in U.S. foreign policy (The Washington Post, “U.S. and South Korea postpone military drills in bid to save North Korea dialogue.” 11.17.2019).
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, backed gasoline price increases that have sparked protests throughout the country. In Tehran, protesters clashed with riot police and security forces. One protester died in the southwestern city of Sirjan on Nov. 15. There have been other unconfirmed reports of deaths as the protests center less on gasoline and turn more political. Iran’s intelligence agency released a statement that “appropriate action” was being taken against the leaders of the protests. Additionally, Khamenei condemned the protesters, stating, “Some people are no doubt worried by this decision… but sabotage and arson is done by hooligans and not our people” (Reuters, “Iran’s Khamenei backs fuel price hike, blames ‘sabotage’ for unrest.” 11.17.2019).