Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: December 10, 2019

Harold Maass
William Barr speaks at an event in Washington
Drew Angerer/Getty Images


DOJ inspector general says Russia inquiry justified, Barr disagrees

The Justice Department's inspector general on Monday released a report criticizing the FBI over a wiretap application early in the Russia investigation, but rejecting President Trump's claim of a conspiracy against him. The inspector general, Michael Horowitz, reported that investigators found "no documentary or testimonial evidence" of anti-Trump bias in the investigation, and that there was sufficient evidence to justify launching the inquiry, known as Crossfire Hurricane. He found that officials followed procedures by approaching campaign aides using informants, but that investigators committed some serious errors. Attorney General William Barr publicly disagreed with Horowitz, saying: "The FBI launched an intrusive investigation of a U.S. presidential campaign on the thinnest of suspicions that, in my view, were insufficient to justify the steps taken." [The New York Times]


Democrats' lawyer makes impeachment case in contentious hearing

The top Democratic impeachment investigator testified to the House Judiciary Committee on Monday that President Trump tried to "cheat to win" the 2020 election in what amounts to a threat to the nation's security. Democrats used the hearing to make their case for impeaching Trump for allegedly withholding congressionally approved military aid and a White House meeting to get Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, a top contender for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. Republicans bitterly rejected Democrats' arguments for drawing up articles of impeachment, and said House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) should testify to present his panel's findings. Trump tweeted that the impeachment process was a "Witch Hunt!" [The Associated Press]


Democrats expected to unveil 2 articles of impeachment

House Democrats on Tuesday reportedly plan to announce two articles of impeachment against President Trump, one for abuse of power and the other for obstruction of Congress. The decision came after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) met with Judiciary Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), and other committee chairmen following Monday's Judiciary Committee hearing in which lawyers for both parties presented findings of the Intelligence Committee's inquiry into allegations that Trump withheld aid to pressure Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, a leading candidate for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. Democrats say the evidence indicates that Trump violated his oath of office; Republicans called the impeachment process a partisan "scam." [CNBC, The Washington Post]


Former Fed Chair Paul Volcker dies at 92

Former Federal Reserve Chair Paul Volcker, who led the central bank in the early 1980s, has died, his office said Monday. He was 92. Volcker became the Fed's lead policy maker in 1979 in a period of runaway inflation. On his watch, the Fed boosted interest rates to historic highs to bring down double-digit inflation. The moves made it so costly for individuals and companies to borrow money that the economy weakened, tumbling into a recession that lasted six months. Former President Jimmy Carter, who picked Volcker to serve in the job, said he was a "giant of public service." "Paul was as stubborn as he was tall, and although some of his policies as Fed chairman were politically costly, they were the right thing to do," Carter said. [The Associated Press]


Report: Documents show officials hid truth about Afghanistan war

Confidential government documents suggest that U.S. officials hid indications that the war in Afghanistan was not winnable, The Washington Post reported Monday. The documents, from an examination of failures in the 18-year campaign, were obtained by the Post and included 2,000 pages of notes from interviews with generals, diplomats, aid workers, Afghan officials, and others who played a role in the longest armed conflict in U.S. history. "We were devoid of a fundamental understanding of Afghanistan — we didn't know what we were doing," Douglas Lute, a three-star Army general and White House Afghan war czar in the Bush and Obama administrations, said in 2015. "What are we trying to do here? We didn't have the foggiest notion of what we were undertaking." [The Washington Post]


War of words escalates between Trump and North Korea

Tensions between the U.S. and North Korea continued to show signs of escalating on Monday, as a senior North Korean official called President Trump a "heedless and erratic old man." The insult came a day after Trump warned North Korean leader Kim Jong Un not to "void" their "special relationship" by continuing to conduct provocative missile launches like the "important" test Pyongyang boasted it conducted this week at a missile site. Ri Su Yong, the vice chairman of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea, was quoted by the state-run Korean Central News Agency saying that Trump should "quit abusive language which may further offend" Kim and "think twice if he does not want to see bigger catastrophic consequences." [CNN]


Alaska records warmest year to date

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported Monday that 2019 has so far been Alaska's warmest year on record. NOAA measuring stations in Anchorage, Cold Bay, Homer, and Kodiak have all reported their warmest November on record, culminating in the whole state's fourth-warmest autumn of all time. That leaves 2019 as Alaska's warmest year so far, narrowly beating out 2016 as Alaska's hottest year since measurements first started in 1925. The warm temperatures have coincided with an unprecedented low in the state's cod population in the Gulf of Alaska. Anchorage's federal cod fishery announced Friday it would close for the 2020 season, as there were "next to no" new eggs in the warmer waters. The closing of the fishery is expected to put communities dependent on the fishing economy at risk. [NOAA]


Death toll rises after New Zealand volcanic eruption

As many as 14 people are feared dead in Monday's volcanic eruption off the New Zealand coast. Six people were confirmed to have been killed and another eight were missing and feared dead. The volcano on White Island continued to send ash and scalding steam after the disaster. Helicopter crews managed to land on the island to help evacuate dozens of survivors, including some people who were critically injured, but hours after the disaster it remained too dangerous for rescuers to comb the island for the missing. Aircraft flew over the area but "no signs of life have been seen at any point," Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said. The missing and injured included tourists, some of them Americans. [The Associated Press, CNN]


Amazon accuses Trump of steering cloud contract to Microsoft

Amazon on Monday filed a complaint accusing President Trump of putting "improper pressure" on the Pentagon to award a $10 billion cloud computing contract to rival Microsoft. Amazon said in the complaint that Trump made "repeated public and behind-the-scenes attacks to steer" the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, or JEDI, contract away from Amazon Web Services. The online retail giant said Trump wanted to "harm his perceived political enemy Jeffrey P. Bezos, founder and CEO of AWS's parent company, Amazon.com ... and owner of The Washington Post." Trump has accused Amazon of paying too little in taxes and using the Post to spread "fake news" about Trump. The complaint said: "The question is whether the president of the United States should be allowed to use the budget of DoD to pursue his own personal and political ends." [Reuters]


2020 Golden Globe nominations announced

The 2020 Golden Globe nominations have been announced. In the category of Best Motion Picture - Drama, the nominees this year are 1917, The Irishman, Joker, Marriage Story, and The Two Popes, while in Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy, the nominees are Dolemite Is My Name, JoJo Rabbit, Knives Out, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, and Rocketman. In the television categories, the best drama series nominees are Big Little Lies, The Crown, Killing Eve, The Morning Show, and Succession, while the best comedy or musical series nominees are Barry, Fleabag, The Kominsky Method, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and The Politician. Netflix dominated with 34 nominations, while Apple TV+ scored its first nods with The Morning Show. [IndieWire, The Washington Post]