August 26, 2019

The leaders of the Group of Seven nations were all smiles during Sunday's photo shoot on the beach in Biarritz, France, "eager to present a show of bonhomie after so many previous meetings ended in discord," Peter Baker reports at The New York Times. "But behind the scenes at the annual gathering of some of the world's leading powers, President Trump still found himself at odds with his counterparts."

This year, on issues from trade to Iran, Russia to climate change, Baker adds, "ever so gingerly, as if determined not to rouse the American's well-known temper, the other Group of Seven leaders sought to nudge him toward their views on the pressing issues of the day, or at least register their differences — while making sure to wrap them in a French crepe of flattery, as they know he prefers."

After Trump said his fellow world leaders "respect the trade war" he is escalating with China and wouldn't tell him otherwise, for example, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson first congratulated Trump "on everything that the American economy is achieving," then appended "the faint, sheeplike note" that Britain is "in favor of trade peace on the whole, and dialing it down if we can," adding, "We don't like tariffs, on the whole."

"Johnson wasn't even the only one to gently contradict Trump," Aaron Blake writes at The Washington Post. For a president used to "throwing his weight around — even if to no other end than making his counterparts squirm and cater to him," Trump "found himself on his heels and fumbling throughout much of the first day of the Group of Seven summit."

At the same time, "Trump seemed even more intent on countering press accounts that he is increasingly isolated on the world stage and that his relations with historic U.S. allies are deeply strained," Politico reports. And for the most part, G-7 leaders "have managed to keep their disagreement behind closed doors and out of the views of television cameras," USA Today says. "Yet despite Trump's claim that all is well, the summit is expected to end Monday without proffering a formal agreement from the G-7 leaders — the first time that has happened in the group's 44-year history." Peter Weber

6:41 a.m.

Two U.S. diplomats will testify Friday in the House impeachment inquiry of President Trump, one publicly and one behind closed doors. House impeachment investigators will depose David Holmes, an aide to acting U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor, about his assertion he overheard Trump ask U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland about the status of proposed Ukrainian "investigations" into former Vice President Joe Biden.

Taylor's predecessor, career diplomat Marie Yovanovitch, will testify in public before the House Intelligence Committee about the shadow campaign, apparently led by Trump lawyer and fixer Rudy Giuliani, that led to her dramatic late-night recall from the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv. Yovanovitch testified in October that Ukrainian officials had warned her to "watch my back" and she felt personally targeted by Trump. Months after her ouster, Trump told Ukraine's president that "the woman" Yovanovitch "was bad news" and "she's going to go through some things," according to the White House partial transcript of that July 25 call.

On Friday, Yovanovitch will face "Trump's fiercest congressional defenders, nearly all men, about a campaign by other male allies of the president to force her from her post," The Washington Post notes. "The symbolism of that conflict underscores the significance of the historic probe, which was initiated by the female speaker of the House — Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) — and made possible by female voters who helped deliver the House to Democrats in the last election."

"Seeing someone like Masha Yovanovitch come forward is going to be an extremely difficult moment for Trump," Nancy McEldowney, a former ambassador to Bulgaria who now teaches at Georgetown University, tells the Post. "What I suspect the world will see when she walks into that hearing room is an individual who is not tall physically but really is a towering figure of integrity, inner strength, and unswerving devotion to public service and telling the truth." Peter Weber

5:01 a.m.

The Indiana Supreme Court suspended three judges this week over an incident in May that involved a night of drinking, an unsuccessful attempt to visit an Indianapolis strip club, and a 3 a.m. altercation outside a White Castle that left two of the judges with gunshot wounds, NPR News reports. The unanimous eight-page opinion from the Supreme Court "lays out the events as soberly as possible, but the details remain spicy," NPR notes, singling out this part of the document:

While in town to attend a statewide educational conference for judicial officers, 10 hours before the program convened, respondents walked the streets of downtown Indianapolis in a heavily intoxicated state. When Judge Bell extended her middle finger to a passing vehicle, neither Judge Adams nor Judge Jacobs discouraged the provocation or removed themselves from the situation. [Indiana Supreme Court]

Judge Sabrina Bell flipped off two men in a truck, Alfredo Vazquez and Brandon Kaiser, after she and three other judges arrived at the White Castle. While the fourth judge was inside the White Castle, Vazquez and Kaiser parked and confronted Bell and Judges Andrew Adams and Bradley Jacobs. The men started fighting, then Kaiser allegedly pulled out a gun and shot Adams in the stomach and Jacobs twice in the chest. Both underwent emergency surgeries.

Jacobs, who was in the hospital for two weeks, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor battery and served two days of his 365-day jail sentence. Kaiser has been charged with 14 crimes in connection with the incident, NPR reports.

Adams, Jacobs, and Bell "engaged in judicial misconduct by appearing in public in an intoxicated state and behaving in an injudicious manner and by becoming involved in a verbal altercation," the high court said, and their actions "gravely undermined public trust in the dignity and decency of Indiana's judiciary." Jacobs and Bell were suspended for 30 days without pay, while Adams was suspended for 60 days without pay. Peter Weber

4:20 a.m.

An average of 13.1 million people tuned in to the six major networks during Wednesday's live coverage of the first public hearings in the House impeachment inquiry, according to preliminary numbers Nielsen released Thursday. If you add PBS, Telemundo, CNN, and HLN to the numbers for Fox News, MSNBC, CNN, NBC, ABC, and CBS, the average viewership rises to 13.8 million from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Wednesday.

To put those numbers in perspective, nearly 13 million people watched former Special Counsel Robert Mueller's testimony in July, while about 20 million people tuned in for former FBI Director James Comey's post-firing hearing in 2017 and 2018's confirmation hearing for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Wednesday night's CMA Awards drew 11.1 million viewers to ABC.

Fox News, somewhat ironically, drew the highest viewership numbers, with an average of 2.89 million people tuning in, followed by MSNBC's 2.7 million. Next came ABC (2 million viewers), CBS (1.97 million), CNN (1.9 million), and NBC (1.7 million). ABC won the coveted 25-54 demographic, with an average of 496,000 viewers, followed by Fox News and NBC. The numbers don't include C-SPAN or most streaming viewers.

These numbers fall "far short of blockbuster level," Vulture notes, but given the obscurity of the two witnesses — U.S. Ambassador William Taylor and State Department official George Kent — and today's "era of audience fragmentation and streaming services," Wednesday's hearings actually "drew a big audience by 2019 standards." Peter Weber

2:53 a.m.

Acting U.S. Ambassador William Taylor tied President Trump directly to the campaign to bribe Ukraine into investigating Joe Biden in Wednesday's public impeachment hearings, and that testimony led to a second "bombshell" Thursday, news of a second witness to Trump's overheard phone call, Stephen Colbert said on Thursday's Late Show. "So Taylor's testimony was historic — unless you ask Kellyanne Conway, who was not entertained," telling Fox News the hearings were a snoozefest starring "a bunch of gossip girls." Colbert was confused: "Well, is it boring or is it Gossip Girl? Because it can't be both! Gossip Girl was a very successful show."

"But it wasn't just Kellyanne," Colbert said. "Even NBC News tweeted the testimony 'lacked the pizzazz necessary to capture public attention.'"

"What do you mean, it lacked pizzazz?" asked Seth Meyers on Late Night. "The only politicians who have ever been entertaining were the ones in Hamilton. What do you want them to do, show up with their own backup dancers?" Ironically, he added, "Trump's defenders in the Republican Party and on Fox News" were the most invested in working "to dismiss the entire thing as a fake scandal invented by Democrats for TV."

"There are a lot of hot takes out there right now — one of the dumbest is that these impeachment hearings aren't interesting enough," Jimmy Kimmel said on Kimmel Live. "These were two career civil servants giving sworn testimony about a potential attempt to undermine our democracy — they're also supposed to have 'pizzazz'?" Amazingly, he said, that actually "seems to be an emerging line of defense for Republicans," who very clearly "don't want to talk about the facts."

"Even though millions of people have been talking about these hearings," Fox News seems determined to get people to tune out, Trevor Noah said at The Daily Show. Their main argument is that "Americans are too dumb to follow these impeachment proceedings," but "sometimes if you watch Fox, it looks like they're straight-up trying to hypnotize their viewers into not caring," he added. If those fail, "Fox has come up with another reason to ignore the impeachment hearings": They're "boring and unsexy."

"These hearings are investigating whether the president of the United States committed high crimes or misdemeanors," Noah said. "They're supposed to be serious, not about excitement. Impeachment is like a family reunion: If it's sexy, something has gone horribly wrong." Peter Weber

2:04 a.m.

It was a milestone decades in the making.

On Friday, a Qantas airplane loaded with 100 metric tons of jet fuel flew 11,060 miles from London to Sydney, nonstop. The journey lasted 19 hours and 19 minutes, and shattered two records, becoming the longest commercial airline passenger flight for both distance and duration, CNN reports.

The new Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner departed from Heathrow Airport at 6 a.m. Thursday morning, and flew over Germany, Russia, Poland, Belarus, Kazakhstan, China, the Philippines, and Indonesia. This was a test flight, and while the plane can hold up to 256 people, there were just 50 on board. All passengers were outfitted with monitors, and researchers from Australia's Charles Perkins Centre will study how sleep patterns, movement, and food consumption on an extremely long flight affect a person's health.

The last time Qantas attempted to fly this route without stopping, it was 1989. The airline used a Boeing 747, ripping out most of the seats and loading the plane with as much fuel as possible, even towing it to the runway in order to conserve gas, CNN reports. "Flying nonstop from the east coast of Australia to London and New York is truly the final frontier in aviation, so we're determined to do all the groundwork to get this right," Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said. Qantas is hopeful it can start offering nonstop flights from London to Sydney and vice versa in 2022. Catherine Garcia

1:16 a.m.

Federal prosecutors are now looking into whether Rudy Giuliani, President Trump's personal lawyer, failed to register as a foreign agent and violated campaign finance laws, three U.S. officials told Bloomberg News.

The U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan reportedly began investigating Giuliani and his dealings in Ukraine after they launched a probe into two of his business associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman. Last month, Parnas and Fruman were arrested and charged with illegally funneling foreign money into U.S. campaigns. Parnas and Fruman worked with Giuliani in Ukraine, attempting to dig up dirt on Democrats.

Several top State Department officials have testified during the House impeachment inquiry that earlier this year, Giuliani was running a shadow campaign when it came to Ukraine. They said he spread rumors to force out then-Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, and was searching for any information that could damage Trump's potential political rivals.

Based on what they know about the matter, one U.S. official told Bloomberg News it is possible prosecutors could charge Giuliani with violating laws against bribing foreign officials or conspiracy. "I would not be surprised if he gets indicted," former federal prosecutor Mimi Rocah told Bloomberg News. "It's clear Giuliani is up to his ears in shady stuff and there's tons of smoke." Catherine Garcia

12:25 a.m.

President Trump's departure for a political rally in Louisiana was delayed by about 45 minutes on Thursday evening because he was having an "animated" conversation with Attorney General William Barr in the Oval Office, according to the White House press corps, which could view but not hear the conversation. Also in the Oval Office were White House Counsel Pat Cippollone and White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham.

When asked about the meeting on Fox News, White House Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley said he "sadly" couldn't say what Trump and Barr discussed, but he told Martha MacCallum "that all the gentlemen had Diet Cokes in the room — that's very serious." When MacCallum asked if they were discussing Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz's imminent report on the origins of the FBI's investigation of Russia and Trump's campaign, Gidley insisted Trump is "trying to stay out of all things that Attorney General Barr is doing as it relates to investigating the investigators."

But the Horowitz report did come up in their conversation, two sources told CNN. Barr got a draft of the report last month, and Lawfare's Susan Hennessey wryly suggested that the nominally independent attorney general discussing the nominally independent DOJ inspector general's nominally apolitical report with Trump may not be totally above-board.

Witnesses have been given two weeks to review the parts of the report they feature in before it is released publicly. They have to sign nondisclosure agreements and can't request revisions in writing, The Washington Post reported Thursday, raising concerns about the report's integrity. But Horowitz's office told the Post late Thursday night that witnesses can submit written feedback "consistent with rules to protect classified information." Peter Weber

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