October 16, 2019

A senior State Department official told House impeachment investigators on Tuesday that in May, he was directed during a meeting organized by acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney to "lay low" when it came to Ukraine policy, as it was now being handled by Energy Secretary Rick Perry, U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, and U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine Kurt Volker, Rep. Gerald Connolly (D-Va.) told reporters.

The official, George Kent, is the deputy assistant secretary responsible for Ukraine. Connolly said Kent testified that he was ordered to focus on the other countries in his portfolio because Perry, Sondland, and Volker — who called themselves the "three amigos" — were taking over for career diplomats on Ukraine. Kent said the meeting was held on May 23, just a few days after Marie Yovanovitch was removed from her position as ambassador to Ukraine and two months before President Trump's phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in which Trump asked him to launch an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son.

Last week, Yovanovitch testified before lawmakers that Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, was behind the campaign to get her recalled. Documents the State Department inspector general sent to Congress earlier this month show that Kent first said in March that he believed Yovanovitch was the subject of a "classic disinformation campaign," The Washington Post reports, and he wanted his superiors to stand up for her. Catherine Garcia

10:14 a.m.

As experts tell people to not to panic about the unfamiliar coronavirus, several governments are taking steps to limit its spread.

A second case of the respiratory virus that originated in Wuhan, China, leaving more than 40 people dead and causing quarantines and transit closures throughout China, has been confirmed in the United States. Officials said Friday that a Chicago woman in her 60s has been diagnosed with the virus, and they're monitoring 63 other possible cases across 22 U.S. states. The Chicago patient, who last week returned home from Wuhan, is reportedly isolated in the hospital, and officials say she's doing well and has had limited contact with others.

The U.S. is reportedly planning to evacuate its citizens and diplomats from Wuhan on Sunday via a chartered plane — any additional seats may be offered to non-U.S. citizens. Elsewhere, Hong Kong, where there's five confirmed cases, on Saturday declared the outbreak "an emergency," scrapping Lunar New Year celebrations, restricting links to the mainland, and keeping schools closed. Australia, Malaysia, and France also reported cases Friday.

More than 1,300 have been infected across the globe, mostly in China. Read more at The Wall Street Journal and Reuters. Tim O'Donnell

8:10 a.m.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, whose known for being wary of the press, apparently did not enjoy his latest interview.

Pompeo reportedly berated NPR reporter Mary Louise Kelly on Friday after she interviewed him about the ousting of former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch. During Friday's interview, which aired on NPR's Morning Edition, Pompeo said he has "defended every State Department official on his team," but did not provide Kelly with a specific example of him defending Yovanovitch. Pompeo complained that he was there to talk about Iran, but Kelly assured him she confirmed with his team that she would ask him about Ukraine, as well.

Following the interview, Kelly said she was summoned by a Pompeo aide to a private room where Pompeo "shouted" at her, asking if she thought "Americans care about Ukraine" and challenging her to point to the country on an unmarked map, which the well-traveled, veteran reporter was able to do.

Journalists like CNN's Jake Tapper defended Kelly's line questioning, while Democratic politicians blasted Pompeo's behavior. The State Department didn't have much to say on the matter, though.

At the end of their encounter, Kelly said Pompeo told her "people will hear about this." They sure did - straight from Kelly. Read more at The New York Times. Tim O'Donnell

January 24, 2020

At least 14 people are dead and hundreds more injured after a magnitude 6.7 earthquake hit eastern Turkey on Friday, Turkish officials tell The Associated Press.

The quake hit at 8:55 p.m. in the Elazig province, where Gov. Cetin Oktay Kaldirim told NTV television that three people had died. Gov. Aydin Barus of the the neighboring Malatya province told state TV that five people had been reported dead there. At least 225 people were injured in Elazig and 90 in Malatya, the Daily Sabah reported.

Several aftershocks followed the initial quake, with the harshest ones hitting magnitudes of 5.4 and 5.1. Some buildings collapsed in Elazig and one caught fire in the town of Sivrice, but it was quickly doused. A four- or five-story building had also collapsed in the town of Maden, and Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu told NTV television earlier Friday that rescuers were on the scene.

Some people's homes were too damaged to return to, and others were afraid to go back inside in case of later shocks or collapses, so they were "being moved to student dormitories or sports center amid freezing conditions," AP writes. Kathryn Krawczyk

January 24, 2020

After Annabella Sciorra testified that disgraced producer Harvey Weinstein raped her in the early 1990s, Rosie Perez took the stand Friday to back her up.

Perez testified in the ongoing Weinstein rape trial after Sciorra told jurors Thursday that in 1993 or 1994, Weinstein raped her in her New York apartment. Bolstering Sciorra's claim, Perez said Friday that in 1993, Sciorra told her, "I think I was raped," The New York Times reports.

Although Perez testified that Sciorra initially did not name the alleged perpetrator, she said Sciorra later told her it was Weinstein.

"She swore me never to tell anybody," Perez said. "I told her to go to the police, and she said: 'I can't. He will destroy me. He will destroy my career."

Weinstein, who has been accused of sexual misconduct by more than 80 women, is facing charges of sexual assault and rape. He has pleaded not guilty and denied all allegations of nonconsensual sex acts. Prosecutors allege Weinstein forcibly performed oral sex on a woman in 2006 and raped a woman in 2013, but Sciorra testified as a "prior bad acts" witness as prosecutors attempt to establish a pattern of behavior. If convicted, Weinstein faces possible life in prison. Brendan Morrow

January 24, 2020

Apparently President Trump thought we hadn't had enough Star Trek spinoffs for one year.

After literal years of anticipation, President Trump debuted a logo for the "Space Force" he's been touting his entire presidency. It's none of the adorable logos he asked Trump email subscribers to vote on about a year and a half ago, but instead a near-exact replica of the Starfleet Command logo from Star Trek.

The similarities were immediately apparent ...

... and George Takei quickly verified we weren't just seeing things. Kathryn Krawczyk

January 24, 2020

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) warned Friday that President Trump abused the power of his presidency and will do so again unless removed from office.

During the final day of Democrats' opening arguments in the Senate's impeachment trial, Schiff argued in favor of Trump's removal from office, after the House of Representatives passed two articles of impeachment charging him with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. "Based on the abuse of power for which he was impeached, and his ongoing efforts to solicit foreign interference both directly and through Mr. Giuliani, there can be little doubt that President Trump will continue to invite foreign interference in our elections again and again," Schiff said, saying Trump solicited election interference both from Russia in 2016 and then Ukraine in 2020. "That poses an imminent threat to the integrity of our democracy."

Schiff went on to argue that Trump's "pattern of conduct repeatedly soliciting foreign interference in our elections for his own benefit confirms that he will stop at nothing to retain his power." Trump has denied pressuring Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden in order to benefit his 2020 presidential campaign.

After Democrats wrap up their opening impeachment arguments later on Friday, arguments from Trump's team will begin Saturday morning and last "several hours." Trump's defense doesn't have to use the full 24 hours they've been allotted, but if they do, their arguments will continue until Tuesday. Should a vote to call additional witnesses fail, the impeachment trial could conclude next week. Brendan Morrow

January 24, 2020

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says he has defended everyone in his department. He just won't give examples.

In an interview with NPR's Morning Edition aired Friday, Pompeo was questioned about "people who have resigned from this department under your leadership saying you should stand up for the diplomats working here." Pompeo tried to counter by chalking the allegation up to "unnamed sources," but NPR's Mary Louise Kelly quickly pointed out that former State Department adviser Michael McKinley had made that point during his House impeachment hearing.

To that, Pompeo made a direct claim: "I have defended every State Department official on this team." So Kelly asked for an example of how he'd defended former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch. Pompeo again said he'd "defended every single person on this team," and then ended the conversation.

In his testimony, McKinley said he'd asked Pompeo three times to issue a statement in support of Yovanovitch after she'd been fired, after which he'd resigned. Further information about the Trump administration's opposition to Yovanovitch arose Friday in the form of a 2018 recording where President Trump reportedly appeared to direct two associates to "take her out." Kathryn Krawczyk

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