Political Roundup

In Our Headlines…

With the commencement of the Senate impeachment trial on Jan. 16, Americans first glimpsed the Trump legal team’s defense for aid withheld from Ukraine in the summer of 2019. The team echoed Trump’s own justifications and framed the impeachment trial as a calculated political move by Democrats to remove Trump from office. Many of the arguments presented by Trump’s legal team did not address evidence gathered by the House of Representatives during their investigation. Senate Republicans have largely rallied behind President Trump, while a few moderate Republicans declined to publicly comment (The Washington Post, “Trump’s lawyers begin their defense in impeachment trial as Republicans rally around the president,” 01.25.2020).

A new ABC national poll shows former Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT) pulling ahead of other candidates in the race for the Democratic nomination for the 2020 presidential election. Biden is currently polling at 32 percent, with Sanders trailing at 23 percent. The two candidates represent two different political positions within the Democratic party. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) is the only other candidate polling in double digits at 12 percent, a large drop from when she polled at 23 percent in October. Former NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg trails Warren at eight percent. Following Bloomberg is entrepreneur Andrew Yang at seven percent, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg at five percent and Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) at three percent. The Iowa Caucus, which will take place on Feb. 3, typically has a substantial impact on the following primaries and sets the stage for the general nominee (The Washington Post, “Biden and Sanders are breaking away from the pack of candidates among Democrats nationwide, ABC news poll findsm,” 01.26.2020).

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo raised his voice and dropped an expletive during an interview with National Public Radio (NPR) reporter Mary Louise Kelly on Jan. 24, when questions turned from Iran to Ukraine and former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovich. In her own interview with NPR, Kelly stated that Pompeo yelled “for about the same amount of time as the interview itself” and then requested that Kelly point to Ukraine on the map. Pompeo asked Kelly, “Do you think Americans care about Ukraine?” and reportedly used foul language. Pompeo stated that he had only agreed to talk about Iran—not about Ukraine, Marie Yovanovich or the events leading up to the impeachment trial. Kelly stated that she had informed Pompeo’s aides that she would ask about Ukraine as well as Iran (Reuters, “Radio reporter says Pompeo cursed at her after testy interview,” 01.24.2020).

Around the World…

The death toll from the Coronavirus has exceeded 100, with 6,000 more cases confirmed in Wuhan, China, the center of the outbreak. Among these deaths is one case in Shanghai, which previously had no cases. The virus has a 10 to 14 day asymptomatic period. This has raised anxieties about the spread of the virus, as infected individuals may travel before showing symptoms. In addition, a fourth case has been confirmed in the United States. An individual in Orange County, California tested positive for the virus recently but is currently in good condition. The other two cases in the United States were in Washington State and Chicago. In an attempt to slow the spread of the virus, China has banned wildlife trade until the epidemic passes. The Chinese government has also put considerable travel restrictions on Wuhan, including restrictions on the use of cars in the city and bans on leaving the city. Many Wuhan residents are frustrated with officials, believing the epidemic has not been adequately handled (The New York Times, “Coronavirus Live Updates: Death Toll Climbs, and So Does the Number of Infections,” 01.28.2020).

A 6.8 magnitude earthquake struck Elâzığ, Turkey on Friday, killing 32 and injuring more than 1,600 people. Rescue teams worked through the night to pull 45 individuals from the rubble. Among those rescued were a 35-year-old mother and her infant daughter who had been heard screaming for help. The woman’s husband was killed in the earthquake. The teams have located an additional six people who are still trapped. Environment and Urbanization Minister Murat Kurum stated that the government will begin reconstruction immediately, repairing 1.5 million structures that were affected across multiple provinces (Reuters, “Turkey quake rescue winds down after dozens pulled from rubble,” 01.26.2020).

Afghan forces killed 51 members of the Taliban, using both air and ground strikes. Officials in the Balkh province stated that three women and four children were also killed. The government stated they would begin a fact-finding mission into the civilian casualties. The Taliban also staged two attacks on security forces. The strikes show an escalation of tensions that will likely slow down the negotiations between the U.S. and the Taliban that began in Doha last year, during which sources state that the Taliban had agreed to halt attacks against U.S. forces. These negotiations have been halted twice before as a result of Taliban attacks on members of the U.S. military. Despite this, reports of Taliban attacks have continued throughout Afghanistan (Reuters, Afghan forces launch air, ground attacks on Taliban, killing 51,” 01.26.2020).

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