November 19, 2019

Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas) shared his grievances with House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) during Tuesday's public hearing, saying it upsets him when Schiff accuses Republicans of trying to out the whistleblower whose complaint about President Trump's July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky sparked the impeachment inquiry.

It is "unfair for you to make that accusation," Conaway told Schiff. The whistleblower does not deserve an "absolute right" to anonymity, he added, and Republicans must know this person's identity. "This is about leveling the playing field between our two teams," Conaway said. "Your team knows the whistleblower, they have intimate knowledge of who he or she is."

Conaway also brought up a letter Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) sent to colleagues on Sept. 22, in which she discussed the whistleblower speaking to Congress. Schiff responded by saying he was happy to enter into the record the statute that allows whistleblowers to remain anonymous and Rep. Devin Nunes' (R-Calif.) past remarks about the importance of providing anonymity to whistleblowers. Catherine Garcia

10:07 a.m.

The sanctions keep on coming.

The U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control on Wednesday announced sanctions on Iran's largest shipping company and airline in an attempt to stop the development and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, The Financial Times reports.

The shipping company, the Islamic Republican of Iran Shipping Lines, has been accused of smuggling weapons into Yemen on behalf the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps; OFAC said the U.S. seized weapons on a small boat last month believed to be on their way to Houthi rebels. OFAC also said Mahan Air has aided the IRGC and has also "moved weapons and personnel for Hezbollah" and the Assad regime in Syria.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the U.S. will continue a maximum pressure campaign of sanctions against Iran. Tim O'Donnell

9:50 a.m.

Disney's streaming service, Avengers: Endgame, and the definitions of "boomer" and "quid pro quo" were among 2019's top trending searches, according to Google.

Google has released its list of the year's top trending searches, which are determined by looking at spikes in search activity compared to the year prior. In the United States, the top trending search for all of 2019 was Disney+, the new streaming service that launched domestically in November.

That's far from Disney's only presence here, with its blockbuster Avengers: Endgame being the number seven trending search in the U.S., while Baby Yoda, the breakout star of the Star Wars series The Mandalorian, was the top trending baby search of the year. Yes, Baby Yoda came in above the term "royal baby." On the list of top trending movies of the year in America, half of them are Disney films: Avengers: Endgame, Captain Marvel, Toy Story 4, The Lion King, and Frozen 2.

When it comes to news stories, the top trending search in the U.S. was Hurricane Dorian, followed by the Notre Dame Cathedral fire, the Women's World Cup, and the "Area 51 raid," referring to when millions joined a Facebook event declaring their intention to storm the facility to "see them aliens." Needless to say, that didn't happen.

On the list of searches beginning in "what is...," the top trending question posed to Google was also related to this meme, with users asking, "What is Area 51?" In fourth place on the questions list was "what is a boomer," no doubt due to the rise of the "OK boomer" meme, while "what is quid pro quo" came in at number five due to the impeachment inquiry of President Trump. And, of course, Disney remains inescapable even on this list, with number seven being, "What is Disney+?" and number nine being "What is a Mandalorian?"

Read the full list of top trending searches here. Brendan Morrow

8:20 a.m.

Time has selected 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg as its 2019 person of the year.

Thunberg, who this year led a worldwide movement demanding action on climate change and delivered a scathing United Nations speech scolding world leaders for "failing us," is the youngest Time person of the year ever by almost a decade; the previous youngest was 25-year-old Charles Lindbergh in 1927.

"For sounding the alarm about humanity’s predatory relationship with the only home we have, for bringing to a fragmented world a voice that transcends backgrounds and borders, for showing us all what it might look like when a new generation leads, Greta Thunberg is Time's 2019 Person of the Year," Time editor-in-chief Edward Felsenthal said.

The four other final candidates considered for person of the year were President Trump, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the anonymous whistleblower whose complaint led to the impeachment inquiry, and the Hong Kong protesters. Brendan Morrow

7:45 a.m.

Four more years? If former Vice President Joe Biden is elected, maybe not.

Biden is signaling to aides that he would not run for a second term should he be elected president, Politico reports, with a prominent adviser to the campaign telling the outlet, "he's going to be 82 years old in four years and he won't be running for re-election."

The former vice president's advisers have reportedly been debating whether he should make this pledge publicly, but Politico reports Biden "has for now settled on an alternative strategy: quietly indicate that he will almost certainly not" do so. Citing four people who regularly talk to Biden, Politico writes it's "virtually inconceivable" he would run for re-election.

Another Biden adviser suggested he's somewhat less definitive about it but has the attitude of, "I want to find a running mate I can turn things over to after four years but if that's not possible or doesn't happen then I'll run for re-election." This adviser added he will not make the pledge publicly, while another said he dismissed such a pledge as a "gimmick."

Still, Politico reports, "several advisers now quietly acknowledge that while Biden won't run for re-election he cannot say so publicly."

In April, Biden simply responded "no" when asked if he would only serve one term, but Politico notes that in October, he was less definitive about it.

"I feel good and all I can say is, watch me, you'll see," Biden said, The Associated Press reports. "It doesn't mean I would run a second term. I'm not going to make that judgment at this moment." Brendan Morrow

7:02 a.m.

Wednesday is the final day of campaigning before Britain votes on a new Parliament, and though Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Conservatives have consistently led in the polls, "the size of the margin is seen as narrowing before Thursday's contest," The Associated Press reports. "All of the parties are nervous about the verdict of a volatile electorate weary after years of wrangling over Brexit — and likely to dump traditional party ties." Johnson's main opponent is Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. Neither man is popular.

"Welcome to the 2019 general election, a pre-Christmas present few British voters seem anxious to unwrap," writes BBC North America reporter Anthony Zurcher. "It's as if the 2016 U.S. presidential election, where both major candidates were deemed flawed and untrustworthy, is playing itself out again three years later, on the other side of the Atlantic." Johnson, campaigning for a parliamentary majority to push Brexit through, faces serious questions about his honesty and trustworthiness. Corbyn is inconsistent on Brexit, vows to pull Britain to the left, and faces criticism that he ignored anti-Semitism in his party.

The election was supposed to be about Brexit, but on Monday, the Daily Mirror published a photo of a 4-year-old boy sleeping on the floor of a hospital in Leeds, the photo went viral, and suddenly the Conservatives' decade of cuts to the beloved National Health Service (NHS) was the top campaign issue. Johnson initially refused to look at the photo on an iTV reporter's phone, pocketing the reporter's phone and saying he would "study it later."

Another echo of 2016 is the apparently organized spread of misinformation via social media. Soon after the photo of the Leeds boy went viral, for example, a Facebook post took off claiming — falsely — that the photo was staged. "False stories are getting out there and exploding in social media," Matt Walsh, a researcher at the University of Cardiff, told AP, and they're "being put in the public domain through some very dark networks." Peter Weber

5:27 a.m.

A federal judge in El Paso ruled Tuesday that President Trump can't use $3.6 billion in repurposed military constructions funds to build his Mexico border wall. The nationwide permanent injunction strips Trump of about a third of the $10 billion he has claimed for border barrier construction, specifically the funds Trump planned to use to build 175 miles of steel barriers. U.S. District Court Judge David Briones said Trump does not have the lawful authority to use the National Emergencies Act to sidestep Congress and reprogram money appropriated for different purposes. The Trump administration has signaled that it will appeal the decision by Briones, a Bill Clinton appointee. Peter Weber

4:49 a.m.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and President Trump agreed Tuesday that their final version of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement (USMCA) is better than NAFTA and great for America. Pelosi and Senate Republicans also agreed that House Democrats had wrested significant concessions from Mexico and from the White House over months of tough negotiations. "We stayed on this, and we ate their lunch," Pelosi told fellow Democrats in a closed-door meeting Tuesday morning, according to Politico and The Washington Post.

"The deal didn't come easy — and it was on the brink of death multiple times over the past year," Politico reports. "Getting to yes required negotiations with an ideologically diverse coalition that included congressional Democrats, organized labor and Mexico's private sector, Canadian ministers, and Trump's hard-charging U.S. trade representative, Robert Lighthizer." Lighthizer started negotiating with Pelosi and nine hand-picked House Democrats over the summer, and the Democrats steadily won concessions on prescription drug patents, enforcement mechanisms, environmental protections, and — finally and crucially — labor.

Senate Republicans weren't thrilled when Lighthizer briefed some of them on the USMCA changes Tuesday morning, the Post reports. The negotiations "seemed to be a, you know, just a one-way direction in the direction of the Democrats," Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) told the Post. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said his "concern is that what the administration presented has now been moved demonstrably to Democrats, the direction they wanted. And anything that gets the AFL-CIO's endorsement ...  could be problematic."

The compromises on the revamped NAFTA pact "reflect Trump's eagerness to secure legislative accomplishments he can highlight during his 2020 presidential campaign, as well as the White House's confidence that it risks little backlash from a GOP increasingly molded in Trump's image," the Post reports. One GOP Senate aide told the Post that the Republicans "complaining they are not included are also too scared to vote against [Trump]. So why would he bother negotiating with them?" Peter Weber

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