July 22, 2019

There's apparently some agreement in Washington, D.C.

The Democrat-led House and the GOP-run Senate and White House are getting close to finalizing a deal that would lift the debt ceiling for another two years, multiple sources reported Monday morning. The near deal likely won't include major spending cuts, people familiar with negotiations have said, spelling a likely defeat for deficit hawk and Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney.

Deficit ceiling talks roll around every few years, with Congress and the White House constantly having to hammer out a budget deal that usually includes lifting the federal government's debt limits. This year's deal is set to include $1.3 trillion in spending across government agencies and a two-year extension on the government's ability to borrow, The Associated Press reports. If all works out as reported, the government will likely avoid a shutdown that could've happened this coming fall.

This deal means government spending will increase "by tens of billions of dollars in the next two years," The Washington Post reports — the exact opposite of spending cuts a White House budget request spelled out earlier this year. That's quite possibly because Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is heading the talks for the White House instead of debt-reducing hardliner Mulvaney. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is meanwhile negotiating for Democrats, and both sides want to see a deal reached before Congress breaks for recess this week until late August. If a deal isn't orchestrated by September, $126 billion in automatic spending cuts will start in January, likely hitting Mnuchin's own agency. Kathryn Krawczyk

5:38 a.m.

Numerous witnesses at the House impeachment hearings have testified that President Trump was refusing to grant a crucial meeting and unfreeze U.S. military aid to Ukraine until its new president, Volodymyr Zelensky, publicly announced investigations into Joe Biden, his son Hunter, and the gas company Burisma, on whose board Hunter Biden sat. Zelensky almost complied, but Trump released the money two days before the announcement.

On Thursday's Late Show, Stephen Colbert informed guest Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) that what Zelensky wouldn't do, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) will undertake instead. "There is news that just broke," he said, "that Lindsey Graham is launching a probe of the Bidens, Burma, and Ukraine. First question: What the hell?" He noted that Harris is on the Senate Judiciary Committee with Graham. "What do you make of this?" he asked.

"It's the same thing that they've been doing, which is to create a big distraction from the facts and the evidence," Harris said. "The Burisma, the Biden probe — it's a bunch of B.S." Colbert pointed out that even Republican impeachment witnesses like Kurt Volker said there's nothing there and you can't impugn Biden's character with this. Harris said Graham's investigation shows Republicans "know they have to create this big distraction" to keep America from focusing on "the fact that we have a criminal living in the White House."

Graham was, not too long ago, in agreement about Biden's character and rectitude, especially when it comes to his family.

Harris said she's skeptical her GOP colleagues will vote to convict Trump in the Senate, and explained why she wants Vice President Mike Pence to testify. Watch below. Peter Weber

4:34 a.m.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk unveiled his car company's first electric truck at an event in Los Angeles on Thursday, promising three versions of the odd, angular vehicle starting in late 2021. The Cybertruck is made of ultra-hard cold-rolled stainless steel and its windows are made of shatterproof "armored" glass. Musk called the truck "bulletproof" at the launch event, showing its durability by having chief Tesla designer Franz von Holzhausen smash the side with a sledge hammer and throw a metal ball at the windows. Musk seemed surprised when the windows shattered.

The price for the entry-level Cybertruck is $39,900, less expensive than expected, and the three-engine, 500-mile-range model will run $69,900. The Cybertruck will give Tesla entry into the extremely profitable truck market dominated in the U.S. by Ford and GM — both of whom are also preparing to roll out electric trucks in 2021. Ford and Amazon have also invested in an electric-vehicle startup, Rivian, which plans to sell its electric truck by the end of 2020.

Tesla has the world's top-selling electric car, the Model 3, but while it is taking aim at Detroit's rich truck market, "Ford and GM are also gearing up to challenge Tesla more directly with new offerings like the Ford Mustang Mach E electric SUV as well as electric pickups," Reuters notes. Musk has said the Cybertruck's polarizing design was inspired by the Lotus Esprit used by James Bond in The Spy Who Loved Me and also referred to it a "futuristic-like cyberpunk, Blade Runner" design. You can watch more of the Cybertruck's rollout in the video below. Peter Weber

3:19 a.m.

Ivanka Trump, daughter and White House adviser of President Trump, found a quote sure to please her father and cultural conservatives as the House wrapped up five grueling days of public impeachment hearings. So of course she shared it on Twitter: "A decline of public morals in the United States will probably be marked by the abuse of the power of impeachment as a means of crushing political adversaries or ejecting them from office." — Alexis de Tocqueville, 1835

Unfortunately, this is not something Tocqueville, that astute French observer over American democracy, ever wrote.

In fact, the quote comes from a 1889 book, American Constitutional Law, Volume 1, by a judge named John Innes Clark Hare. And he was actually describing the necessity of impeachment, even as he argued it had been abused on President Andrew Johnson.

Hare wrote that since the framers of the Constitution decided that, unlike under English law, the executive would be independent of the legislature, there must be "means of removing or punishing an incapable or corrupt president," so they created a system wherein the president "might be brought to trial, and if need be, deposed." There is an unavoidable risk of partisan abuse, he added, but:

It was necessary to choose between leaving the executive wholly irresponsible during his term of office, and subjecting his conduct to the revision of a tribunal that might not be impartial; and the latter alternative was justly though preferable. It was long since remarked by de Tocqueville that a decline of public morals in the United States would probably be marked by the abuse of power of impeachment as a means of crushing political adversaries or ejecting them from office. [John Innes Clark Hare, American Constitutional Law]

Impeachment, Hare wrote, "is one of many proofs that the framers of our Constitution ... intended that the traditional checks and balance-wheels of the monarchy should not be wanting in the republic." Peter Weber

1:44 a.m.

In five days of public impeachment hearings, "the witnesses have been compelling, they've corroborated what the whistleblower said," and "despite what the old brain trust on cable news claims, this is a very simple story," Stephen Colbert said on Thursday's Late Show. He compared the hearings with other "sagas with a lot of characters," specifically Game of Thrones, and he named (some) names and distilled the hearings to a catchy jingle.

"Today's testimony was also easy for you to understand and hard for Trump to swallow," Colbert said, especially from Dr. Fiona Hill, who "came into the hearing with a reputation for not suffering fools lightly" and showed why. "The first butts she booted this morning were Republicans who insist on floating bizarre conspiracy theories about the 2016 election," he said, and she testified that U.S. Ambassador Gordon Sondland was engaged in a "domestic political errand" for Trump in Ukraine. Hill also "confirmed previous reports that nobody likes Rudy Giuliani," recounting that former National Security Adviser John Bolton called him "a hand grenade," Colbert said, skeptically: "Rudy seems more like a Molotov cocktail: used by Russians and full of alcohol."

Hill "laid absolute waste to both the president and all the bootlickers who made the unfortunate decision to do his bidding today — it was ninja-level witness jujitsu," Jimmy Kimmel said on Kimmel Live. "She went in hard on a number of subjects, so much so, Republicans actually stopped asking her questions." Kimmel also recapped what we've learned in the impeachment hearings and said that given the overwhelming evidence, "the question now, going forward, for those congresspeople who support him, is: Are you a Republican or are you an American?"

"All the cable news networks have been covering these hearings live," Kimmel's said, "but maybe the most lively moment from all of them came from C-SPAN."

"Impeachment's been so crazy, C-SPAN is turning into Howard Stern," Seth Meyers said at Late Night. He lingered on Thursday's testimony from David Holmes, and he recapped the "jaw-dropping" two weeks of hearings. "In many ways we already knew the core facts at the heart of the case, but this week's testimony has made it clear as day: Yes, there was a quid pro quo; yes, it was ordered by the president; yes, everyone else knew about it; and yes, it was designed specifically to help Trump win the 2020 election." Peter Weber

November 21, 2019

Over the course of five months in 2017, the Secret Service spent more than $250,000 at Trump properties and businesses, documents obtained by Property of the People, a nonprofit watchdog group, show.

Property of the People received the documents after filing a Freedom of Information Act request. The credit card transactions, which were made between Jan. 27 and June 9, totaled $254,020.94. Most of the charges were listed under the category "Trump National Golf Club."

There were several charges at Trump hotels, including his properties in Washington, D.C., and Las Vegas, where the agency spent more than $45,000 in March. The documents show there were also multiple charges of $10,000 or less made on the same day, likely at Mar-a-Lago; ProPublica reports that charges under $10,000 would allow the private club to sidestep government contracting rules.

These newly released documents provide more ammunition for people who say Trump, who upon becoming president did not divest from his businesses but instead passed control over to his eldest sons, is illegally profiting from the federal government, in violation of the Constitution's emoluments clause. Catherine Garcia

November 21, 2019

Former President Barack Obama delivered a very blunt message to Democrats on Thursday.

During a Democratic National Committee fundraiser in California's Silicon Valley, Obama said that in a primary, a candidate's "flaws are magnified," and the "field will narrow and there's going to be one person and if that is not your perfect candidate and there are certain aspects of what they say that you don't agree with and you don't find them completely inspiring the way you'd like, I don't care, because the choice is so stark and the stakes are so high that you cannot afford to be ambivalent in this race."

Those who are worried about the candidates need to "chill out," Obama said, and "gin up about the prospect of rallying behind whoever emerges from this process." There will be differences in style and policy, he acknowledged, but those are "relatively minor" relative to the "ultimate goal, which is to defeat a president and a party that has ... taken a sharp turn away from a lot of the core traditions and values and institutional commitments that built this country."

Earlier this month, Obama said the Democratic candidates needed to "pay some attention to where voters actually are" and not be "diluted into thinking that the resistance to certain approaches to things is simply because voters haven't heard a bold enough proposal." Read more about Obama's remarks at CNN. Catherine Garcia

November 21, 2019

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is the federal agency that administers the country's naturalization and immigration system, and two of its newest leaders once worked at an organization that has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

John Zadrozny and Robert Law worked with Ken Cuccinelli while he was still acting director of the agency. Cuccinelli is now the second-highest ranking official at the Department of Homeland Security, and Zadrozny, once his top aide, was promoted to acting USCIS chief of staff. Law, who was Cuccinelli's senior adviser, is now acting chief of policy. Zadrozny has pushed for slashing refugee admissions to zero, Politico reported this summer, while Law has publicly denounced the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, saying those who support it favor "immigration anarchy."

Both Zadrozny and Law worked at the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), founded in 1979 by anti-immigration activist John Tanton, who once declared that a "Latin onslaught" was coming. The group says its mission is to "reduce overall immigration to a more normal level," but the Southern Poverty Law Center says it is actually a hate group, citing its ties to "white supremacist groups and eugenicists" and people who have made racist remarks.

"These groups, which were basically outside of the mainstream, have been embraced by the Trump administration and their ideas are now policy, which is affecting millions and millions of people of color," the Southern Poverty Law Center's Heidi Beirich told CBS News. FAIR's president, Dan Stein, said the organization has "never had any issue with immigration, per se. All we've ever said is that it should be lawful and that the numbers need to be properly regulated." Catherine Garcia

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