Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: September 25, 2019

Harold Maass
Pelosi speaks about impeachment


Pelosi announces start of official impeachment inquiry

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Tuesday said the House was launching formal impeachment proceedings against President Trump, accusing him of violating the Constitution by trying to get a foreign government to investigate and damage a political rival. "No one is above the law," Pelosi said. Pelosi for months resisted calls for impeachment from a rising number of Democrats, but pressure increased recently after reports that Trump pressured the Ukrainian president to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son. Several leading moderate Democrats who previously opposed impeachment came out in support this week, with a little more than 200 of the 225 House Democrats now backing the inquiry. Trump, who says his phone call with Ukraine's president was appropriate, tweeted that the inquiry was "PRESIDENTIAL HARASSMENT!" [The New York Times, The Washington Post]


Trump criticizes globalism, China, and Iran in U.N. speech

President Trump backed nationalism over globalism in his speech to the annual United Nations General Assembly in New York on Tuesday, and defended his confrontations with Iran and China. "The future does not belong to globalists, the future belongs to patriots," he said, before hammering on trade with China and touting his tariffs on the country. He also said he's closely monitoring China's handling of protests in Hong Kong. Trump also said "no responsible government should subsidize Iran's bloodlust," vowing not to lift sanctions on Iran as long as the government's "menacing behavior continues." Trump brought his "America First" message to his two previous speeches to the U.N., but this time sought to advocate for multilateral action he says is necessary to confront Iran. [The Associated Press, The Washington Post]


Trump approves release of Ukraine call transcript

President Trump said Tuesday he had authorized the release of a transcript of his controversial call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Trump said the read-out would confirm the call was appropriate. Trump also acknowledged he told his staff to hold back nearly $400 million in military aid for Ukraine about a week before the July 25 phone call, but only because he wanted other countries to contribute. Politico reported that the White House also planned to release the whistleblower complaint and subsequent report by the intelligence community's inspector general that called attention to allegations that Trump pressured Zelensky to investigate 2020 Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden. Trump denies doing anything inappropriate. [CNN, Politico]


GOP challenger says Trump's Ukraine call amounted to 'treason'

As Democrats stepped up calls to impeach President Trump, three Republicans challenging Trump in 2020 joined in, declaring him unfit for office. Former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld accused Trump of committing "treason" by pressuring Ukraine's president to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, who's running for the Democratic nomination, and his son. "Talk about pressuring a foreign country to interfere with and control a U.S. election," Weld told MSNBC's Morning Joe. "And that's not just undermining democratic institutions, that is treason. It's treason pure and simple." Weld noted that the penalty for treason is death. Two other GOP candidates, former congressmen Mark Sanford (S.C.) and Joe Walsh (Ill.), leveled criticism of their own. "Donald Trump needs to be impeached. Period," Walsh said. [CNN]


California executive gets 4-month sentence in college admissions scandal

A federal judge in California on Tuesday sentenced Los Angeles business executive Devin Sloane to four months in prison for paying $250,000 to get his son admitted to the University of Southern California, falsely portraying him as a water polo recruit. Sloane, 53, pleaded guilty in May in a deal with prosecutors. He is the second parent to be sentenced to prison in a nationwide college admissions scandal. Dozens of wealthy parents have been accused of working with a college admissions consultant to get their children into top schools through such tactics as cheating on standardized tests and faking athletic accomplishments. U.S. District Judge Indira Talwani also ordered Sloane to perform 500 hours of community service and pay a $95,000 fine. [The Associated Press]


Massachusetts temporarily bans vaping products

Massachusetts on Tuesday imposed a temporary ban on all vaping product sales in the most extensive statewide effort to curb use of e-cigarettes. The four-month ban comes after mysterious health problems associated with vaping that have been linked to nine deaths. Hundreds more have fallen ill after using vaping products. The Massachusetts ban applies to non-flavored products as well as flavored ones that have been linked to an explosion in e-cigarette use by teens. New York and Michigan recently banned sales of flavored vaping products. Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) said the ban would give medical experts time to determine what is causing vaping-related illnesses, and the state time to develop regulations for safer vaping products. [Reuters]


WeWork co-founder Adam Neumann steps down under pressure

WeWork co-founder Adam Neumann agreed Tuesday to step down as CEO and surrender majority control of the office-sharing startup in the face of an investor revolt. WeWork parent We Company had to postpone its initial public offering of stock last week as the company's valuation plummeted due to investors' crumbling confidence in Neumann. Leading shareholder SoftBank Group Corp. and other investors called for Neumann's departure as the company's losses mounted. "In recent weeks, the scrutiny directed towards me has become a significant distraction, and I have decided that it is in the best interest of the company to step down as chief executive," Neumann said in a statement. [Reuters]


U.N. report says some impact from warming oceans irreversible

A landmark United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report released Wednesday warns that sea levels are rising faster than previously believed, and that some ice melt could already be irreversible as many coastal areas face increased flooding. Even if countries significantly curbed emissions blamed for rising global temperatures and warming oceans, most of America's East and West coasts will face 100-year flood levels annually due to a one-meter sea-level rise. "This report highlights the urgency of timely, ambitious, coordinated, and enduring action," said IPCC vice chair Ko Barrett, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's deputy assistant administrator for research. "What's at stake is the health of ecosystems, wildlife, and importantly the world we leave our children." [The Hill]


VW executives accused of market manipulation in Germany

German prosecutors on Tuesday charged Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess, supervisory board chair Hans Dieter Potsch, and former CEO Martin Winterkorn with stock market manipulation. The executives are accused of failing to promptly tell shareholders when VW diesel vehicles' emissions came under investigation. The inquiries resulted in charges of cheating on emissions tests. Hiltrud Dorothea Werner, a member of VW's management board, defended the executives, saying the company had thoroughly investigated the matter and "the allegations are groundless." Daimler separately agreed to pay a $957 million fine for selling Mercedes-Benz diesel cars that polluted excessively. The cases marked the latest in a series of blows to the reputations of German automakers as they struggle with declining sales and the transition to electric vehicles. [The New York Times]


Scientists confirm solar system's second interstellar visitor

Following observations by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory Solar System Dynamics Group, scientists confirmed Tuesday that a comet seen traveling across the sky last month is "unambiguously" of interstellar origin. The visitor, renamed 2I/Borisov, is approaching the inner part of the solar system, and scientists will be able to get a better understanding of it once it gets closer to Earth. "The comet's current velocity is high, about 93,000 mph," NASA's David Farnoccia said. "The high velocity indicates not only that the object likely originated outside our solar system but also that it will leave and head back to interstellar space." 2I/Borisov was spotted about two years after the first known interstellar object, Oumuamua, entered the solar system in 2017. [CNN]