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10 things you need to know today: October 9, 2019

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Harold Maass
Trump in the Oval office
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1.

White House says it won't cooperate with impeachment inquiry

The White House sent House Democrats a letter Tuesday saying it would not cooperate in the impeachment inquiry of President Trump, claiming the investigation lacks a "legitimate constitutional foundation" and "any pretense of fairness." Earlier in the day, the White House blocked Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, from testifying to Congress about Trump's effort to pressure Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, a political rival. Trump said he would not send Sondland to testify "before a totally compromised kangaroo court." House Democrats launched the inquiry after a whistleblower complaint said Trump appeared to have abused his power by pressuring Ukraine to investigate Biden and his son, Hunter, who served on a Ukrainian energy company's board. [The Associated Press, The New York Times]

2.

Senators warn of Russian information 'warfare' on U.S. elections

A bipartisan panel of senators released a report Tuesday warning that Russia's efforts to disrupt American politics and swing elections did not end with the 2016 presidential vote. "Russia is waging an information warfare campaign against the U.S.," said Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee. "Their goal is broader: to sow societal discord and erode public confidence in the machinery of government." The report said that Russia has used social media to spread fake news and conspiracy theories, and sought to exploit divisions in American society, targeting African Americans most intensely. The Republican-led Senate panel bluntly said Moscow tried to damage Democrat Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign and benefit Trump. [The Washington Post, NPR]

3.

Giuliani says he won't testify unless Schiff removed

President Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, said in an interview with The Washington Post that he would refuse to testify before the House Intelligence Committee unless its chair, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), is removed. Giuliani noted that his position echoed that of Trump and his administration. "I wouldn't testify in front of that committee until there is a vote of Congress and he is removed," Giuliani said, referring to Schiff. "Let them hold me in contempt. We'll go to court. We'll challenge the contempt." Giuliani joined a growing list of administration officials who have refused to testify in House Democrats' impeachment inquiry, and he said he "can't imagine" that anyone in the Trump administration would cooperate with any Democrat-led committee investigating Trump. [The Hill, The Washington Post]

4.

Poll: Majority of Americans support impeachment inquiry

Fifty-eight percent of Americans say House Democrats were right to launch an impeachment inquiry of President Trump, according to a new Washington Post-Schar School poll. Forty-nine percent said the House should vote to recommend removing him from office. The poll was the latest indication that support for impeachment has jumped significantly across the board since the White House released a transcript of Trump's July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in late September. Poll respondents were split along party lines, but 28 percent of Republicans said they support the House impeachment investigation and 18 percent support voting to remove Trump from office. The Post and George Mason University's Schar School conducted the poll by phone Oct. 1-6 among 1,007 U.S. adults. [The Washington Post, FiveThirtyEight]

5.

Turkey to execute military plan in Syria despite U.S. backlash

Turkey said Tuesday it would move forward with its plan to send its military into northeastern Syria despite objections from the U.S. "Where Turkey's security is concerned, we determine our own path," Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay said. President Trump ordered U.S. soldiers in the area to move out of the way, sparking a bipartisan outcry over the abandoning of America's Kurdish allies who helped defeat Islamic State forces but are viewed as a threat by Turkey. Trump then threatened to "totally destroy and obliterate" Turkey's economy if its soldiers went too far in attacking Kurdish forces. Mazlum Kobani, the commander of the American-backed Kurdish-led militia in Syria, said his fighters would resist any Turkish incursion. "We have been at war for seven years," he told The New York Times, "so we can continue the war for seven more years." [The Associated Press, The New York Times]

6.

3 share chemistry Nobel for work on lithium ion batteries

Researchers John B. Goodenough, M. Stanley Whittingham, and Akira Yoshino won the 2019 Nobel Prize in Chemistry on Wednesday for their work developing lithium ion batteries. "Lithium ion batteries have revolutionized our lives and are used in everything from mobile phones to laptops and electric vehicles," the Nobel committee said via Twitter. "Through their work, this year's Chemistry Laureates have laid the foundation of a wireless, fossil fuel-free society." Sara Snogerup Linse, chair of the Nobel Committee for Chemistry, said the winners' discoveries marked "a huge step forward, so that we can really store solar and wind energy." The three researchers will share the $910,000 prize. [CNN, The New York Times]

7.

Warren leads Biden in new poll

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) led former Vice President Joe Biden in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination in a Quinnipiac University poll released Tuesday. Warren received the backing of 29 percent of the poll respondents, while Biden had 26 percent support. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) was third at 16 percent, with the next candidate, Andrew Yang, far behind with 5 percent. Biden held onto an edge in a category that has figured prominently in the wrangling over the Democratic nomination: electability. Biden led President Trump in a head-to-head contest 51 percent to 40 percent, while Warren was ahead by a narrower 49 percent to 41 percent margin. [Quinnipiac University]

8.

Report: China to curb visas for Americans with anti-China ties

China plans to increase visa restrictions on Americans linked to anti-China groups, Reuters reported Wednesday, citing people with knowledge of the proposal. The news came hours after the U.S. announced visa restrictions on Chinese government and Communist Party officials tied to the detention or abuse of China's Muslim minorities, the latest in a series of signs of rising tensions between the U.S. and China. China's Ministry of Public Security has been drafting rules for months to limit China travel by people tied to U.S. intelligence services and human rights groups, but the new U.S. visa curbs prompted swift action, a Reuters source said. "This is not something we want to do but we don't seem to have any choice," the source said. [Reuters]

9.

Study: Richest Americans paid lower effective tax rate than middle class

A new study by University of California at Berkeley economists found that America's richest billionaires paid a lower overall tax rate than the bottom half of U.S. households in 2018, for the first time in U.S. history. The report, The Triumph of Injustice by economists Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman, examined not just income taxes, but also state and local taxes and "indirect taxes," such as motor vehicle and business licenses, to provide the first such in-depth analysis of effective tax rates since the 1960s. The study determined that the nation's richest 400 families paid a 23 percent effective tax rate, while those in the bottom half paid 24.2 percent. In 1960, the wealthiest families had an effective tax rate as high as 56 percent. [The Washington Post]

10.

Simone Biles breaks record by winning 21st medal

Olympic gymnastics star Simone Biles won a record 21st medal at the world gymnastics championships on Tuesday, helping the U.S. women's team win its seventh straight all-around title. With her 15th career gold, Biles broke a tie with Russian Svetlana Khorkina for the most world championship medals by a woman, and she pulled to within two of Vitaly Scherbo's overall record of 23. "Every year it feels better and better just because we're adding to the legacy," Biles said. "I feel like I never think of records. I just go out there and do what I came to do, which is compete for the country." [The Associated Press]