Through the looking glass
Accused by Republicans of benefitting from his father’s former role as vice president, Hunter Biden this week announced he was quitting the board of a Chinese company and pledged to stop working with foreign entities if his father is elected president. Biden, 49, called President Trump’s claim that then–Vice President Joe Biden pressured Ukraine on behalf of a company he worked for a “ridiculous conspiracy idea.” Though the younger Biden conceded that his work in Ukraine could be seen as an error in judgment, he insisted it was “absolutely not” an “ethical lapse.” He likened the efforts to attack him by the president—whose own attempts to pressure Ukraine into investigating the Bidens are at the center of the impeachment inquiry—to an Alice in Wonderland trip down the rabbit hole. Last week at a rally in Minneapolis, Trump’s son Eric invoked Hunter while leading a crowd in a chant of “Lock him up!”
El Paso, Texas
Diverting $6.1 billion in defense funding to pay for a border wall is “unlawful,” a federal judge ruled last week. U.S. District Court Judge David Briones appeared poised to halt at least $3.6 billion planned for hundreds of miles of 30-foot steel fencing, saying that President Trump can’t declare an emergency in order to supersede the will of Congress. Trump’s immigration agenda also took blows in New York, California, and Washington, where judges blocked a “public charge” rule that would prevent migrants from obtaining green cards if they use government benefits or appear likely to do so; the New York judge called it “unlawful, arbitrary, and capricious.” On border funding, the Supreme Court ruled in July that California plaintiffs lacked standing to challenge the wall in a similar case, but Briones said El Paso has a right to oppose an emergency declaration that implies the region is “crime-ridden and dangerous.”
Democratic presidential contenders went after emerging front-runner Elizabeth Warren at a debate this week, hammering the Massachusetts senator over the costs of Medicare for All and her ambitious liberal platform. Warren insisted middle-class families would pay less overall for health care under the plan, but refused to say whether their taxes would go up. The author of the plan, Sen. Bernie Sanders, conceded it would require a tax hike. “At least Bernie’s being honest here,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar, calling Warren’s plan a “pipe dream.” South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg said that Warren’s health-care solution required “kicking 150 million Americans off their insurance.” He and Klobuchar went after Warren aggressively, hoping to position themselves as moderate alternatives to her as former Vice President Joe Biden fell behind Warren in some national and early-state polls. Biden, for his part, took the opportunity to counter President Trump’s repeated attacks on his son, Hunter, proclaiming “My son did nothing wrong. I did nothing wrong.”
All 12 candidates onstage supported the Trump impeachment inquiry, and they took turns excoriating Trump’s handling of the crisis in Syria. Buttigieg, a veteran of Afghanistan, said Trump’s abandonment of Kurdish allies has U.S. forces feeling “ashamed,” while Biden said Trump “knows not a damn thing about foreign policy.” Sanders, 78, appeared vigorous after suffering a heart attack two weeks earlier, and said his health wouldn’t slow his campaign. This week, Sanders received the endorsements of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and two of her firebrand allies, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.).
Shot at home
A white police officer was charged with murder this week after he fatally shot a black woman, Atatiana Jefferson, inside her bedroom while she played video games with her 8-year-old nephew. Aaron Dean, 34, and another officer responded to an early-morning nonemergency call about a door ajar at Jefferson’s home. A bodycam shows Dean pushing through a gate to enter the backyard, shining a light through a window at Jefferson, 28, and yelling “Put your hands up! Show me your hands!” He then fires one shot through the glass. The officers never announced their identities. Jefferson’s nephew said his aunt thought a stranger was outside when she grabbed a handgun from her purse and pointed it toward the window—all legal in Texas. “Nobody looked at that video and said there was any doubt that this officer acted inappropriately,” police chief Ed Kraus said.
A conference at President Trump’s Doral resort last week featured a video that depicted him slaughtering journalists and political rivals in an action movie-style massacre. Organizers said the video—which shows Trump’s head superimposed on the body of a man shooting up the “Church of Fake News” in a mashup of a scene from Kingsman: The Secret Service—was “unsanctioned.” The targets in the video include Barack Obama, John McCain, and Bernie Sanders, as well as other figures covered with logos of media organizations such as NBC, NPR, and The Washington Post. The clip ends with Trump triumphantly standing on the church altar after “killing” CNN. Donald Trump Jr. and former White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders spoke at the conference but claimed not to have seen the video, which was created by a prolific but unidentified maker of pro-Trump memes. ■