September 16, 2019

Talks between Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro's government and the country's opposition party are officially done, six weeks after Maduro's representatives stopped attending the discussions.

Opposition leader Juan Guaidó made the announcement on Sunday. The talks, mediated by Norway and held in Barbados, were called as a way to try to end the escalating political crisis engulfing Venezuela. Millions of people have left the country, due to poverty, inflation, and food and medicine shortages. Guaidó, the leader of Venezuela's National Assembly, said Maduro was not fairly elected in 2018, and he is the legitimate president, an assertion backed by the United States and dozens of other countries.

The opposition tried to launch a military uprising in the spring, but it failed, and Maduro has retained power, refusing to step down. In August, his representatives left the talks, citing President Trump's new sanctions against the country. When talks were still taking place, the opposition called for a new, free election, but Maduro's representatives would not even broach the subject, Reuters reports. Catherine Garcia

3:20 p.m.

The opening arguments in President Trump's impeachment trial officially wrapped up Tuesday with a little help from 1990s Democrats.

President Trump's defense team concluded their opening impeachment arguments hours early on Tuesday, with White House counsel Pat Cipollone saying he "had kind of a lengthy presentation prepared, but ... I think we've made our case."

The same way Democrats in their opening arguments utilized old clips of Republicans like Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) to make their case, Trump's team did the same, playing a montage of Democrats during former President Bill Clinton's impeachment trial making similar points as Trump's team.

"There must never be a narrowly voted impeachment, or an impeachment supported by one of our major political parties and opposed by the other," House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) says in one 1990s-era clip. In another clip, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) voices concern that "we've lowered the bar on impeachment" and that "when a Republican wins the White House, Democrats will demand payback."

"You were right," Cipollone quipped after the montage played. "But I'm sorry to say you were also prophetic."

Cipollone concluded by, echoing language previously used by Ken Starr, asking the Senate to "end the era of impeachment for good." With opening arguments concluded, the question period in Trump's impeachment trial will begin Wednesday, while a vote on whether to call witnesses will take place on Friday. Brendan Morrow

3:08 p.m.

It doesn't look like President Trump will be able to keep his 2016 campaign promise of paying off the federal debt within the span of his two-term presidency.

The Congress Budget Office released a report Tuesday predicting U.S. debt will reach 98 percent of the country's GDP by 2030, up from the 81 percent the office foresees the deficit reaching by the end of 2020. The CBO projects the government will spend $1 trillion more than it collects in 2020, a number which would then increase every year for, well, a while.

The prognostication is reportedly mostly a result of tax cuts and the assumption that the government will continue to increase spending, per The Wall Street Journal. If the Trump administration's tax cuts enacted in 2017 are extended beyond their current expiration at the end of 2025, the latest CBO estimates may fall short.

CBO Director Phillip Swagel expects the deficit level to eventually reach some historic highs, especially for a time of low unemployment. He said his office's projections will approach figures not seen "since World War II." Read more at The Wall Street Journal. Tim O'Donnell

2:42 p.m.

A fire burning near the Australian capital city of Canberra is the worst threat to the region since the 2003 bushfires that took four lives and destroyed 470 homes, said Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Chief Minister Andrew Barr, per The Guardian.

The Orroral Valley bushfire, sparked earlier this week in the Namadgi National park, has blanketed the city in hazardous smoke, reports Reuters. The fire was ignited after a military helicopter landing created enough heat to set grass ablaze.

As of early Wednesday morning in Australia, the fire spanned 9,498 hectares, per ACT government. The fire was downgraded overnight from an emergency warning to a watch and act warning, but ACT Emergency Services Agency commissioner Georgeina Whelan said the fires are expected to burn in the park for several weeks.

Dry, hot weather in Australia, exacerbated by climate change, is creating the perfect conditions for the fires to grow, and the fires themselves are contributing to the climate crisis via carbon emissions, notes Gizmodo.

Meanwhile, Australia is preparing for a heatwave, expected to hit later this week and into the weekend. Since September, the bushfires have killed 33 people and claimed the lives of roughly 1 billion animals, Reuters reports. Taylor Watson

2:30 p.m.

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) is taking a stand against one of the Senate's strictest rules.

When in the hallowed halls of the Senate chamber, lawmakers may only sip water or milk, the latter of which has been spotted in the glasses of a few senators throughout the past week of impeachment. But on Tuesday, Romney became the first senator to be seen drinking chocolate milk in the Senate — a bold step that comes as he's considering taking a few more.

A slew of reporters spotted Romney, safely outside the Senate camera's view, drinking the chocolate milk from an approved glass on Tuesday — he'd tried to bring it to the floor in a "contraband bottle" earlier, per The Wall Street Journal. It's not the healthiest choice, but as Romney's wife Ann Romney told Politico in 2011, it's his guilty pleasure food.

Romney's cocoa-dusted decision begs another question: What other unconventional choices might Romney be angling to make? Like the smoke signal that determines a pope's selection, does this indicate Romney has opted to push for witnesses in the Senate trial? Perhaps he's chosen to vote to convict President Trump altogether? Only time — and perhaps another sign in the form of dairy — will tell. Kathryn Krawczyk

2:25 p.m.

After a second Harvey Weinstein accuser took the stand in his rape trial this week, her former roommate just corroborated the account.

Former Project Runway production assistant Mimi Haleyi testified Monday in the trial of the disgraced producer, telling jurors Weinstein forcibly performed oral sex on her in 2006. The rape and sexual assault charges Weinstein is facing stem from Haleyi's allegation, as well as the allegation of Jessica Mann, who says Weinstein raped her in 2013. Weinstein has pleaded not guilty and denied all allegations of nonconsensual sex acts.

On Tuesday, Haleyi's roommate in 2006, Elizabeth Entin, testified that Haleyi told her about the alleged assault at the time.

"I said, 'Miriam, that sounds like rape' and told her to call a lawyer,” Entin said, Variety reports.

Entin reportedly testified she "very clearly" remembers the day Haleyi told her about the alleged assault and that she "was pacing" and "seemed anxious." In the weeks afterward, Haleyi was "much more withdrawn," Entin said.

Actress Annabella Sciorra last week became the first Weinstein accuser to testify in the New York trial, telling jurors he raped her in 1993 or 1994. Her account was backed up by Rosie Perez, who testified that Sciorra told her about it at the time.

Several additional witnesses are expected to testify in the trial, including Mann, who Deadline reports is "scheduled to appear in the coming days." Deadline additionally reports that although the trial was "initially projected to last through March," it has "moved at a steady clip and could conclude by mid-February." Brendan Morrow

2:17 p.m.

President Trump unveiled his administration's Middle East peace plan alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday, just hours after Netanyahu was indicted on corruption charges.

The two leaders touted the two-state plan as a "win-win" for Israel and Palestine. Trump promised $50 billion in international aid to build up the Palestinian state, which would house its capital in East Jerusalem, leaving Israel in control of a unified Jerusalem. The White House included a perplexing-looking map of the proposed solution, complete with a tunnel connecting Gaza and the West Bank.

Many of the early reactions to the proposal were critical — analysts like Nicholas Burns, a Harvard professor and former U.S. diplomat, anticipate a rejection from the Palestinians and even an escalation of tensions between the two sides since it does little to curb Israeli settlements in the West Bank in the long run.

Neighboring Jordan warned against the "annexation of Palestinian lands" in response to the plan, as well. But it does have at least one potential fan. U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson reportedly said that after speaking with Trump earlier in the day, he thinks it could help pave the way forward. Tim O'Donnell

1:04 p.m.

For cursing out a reporter and accusing her of lying, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has earned high praise from President Trump.

Trump on Tuesday celebrated Pompeo after his recent confrontation with NPR's Mary Louise Kelly. Kelly last week said Pompeo angrily berated her after an interview in which she asked about Ukraine, cursing her out and demanding she find Ukraine on a map. Pompeo in a subsequent statement only doubled down, claiming Kelly "lied to me" and that she incorrectly pointed to Bangladesh and not Ukraine, even though Kelly has a master's degree in European studies from Cambridge University. The State Department subsequently removed another NPR reporter from an upcoming Pompeo trip in apparent retaliation.

This earned Trump's seal of approval on Tuesday, as after Pompeo received a round of applause during a White House event, Trump said, "That reporter couldn't have done too good a job on you yesterday, huh? I think you did a good job on her, actually."

Trump then asked if Pompeo is running for Senate but quickly added, "I guess the answer's no after that, huh?" The New York Times' Michael Barbaro wrote Tuesday this is "the latest case of Trump celebrating poor treatment of the media." Brendan Morrow

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