QUEENS, New York — A seemingly troubled woman at a town hall hosted by Democratic New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in her district stood up to demand the congresswoman support drastic measures to combat climate change, such as “eating babies.”
“We’re not going to be here for much longer, because of the climate crisis,” the woman pleaded. “We only have a few months left. I love that you support the Green Deal, but it’s not gonna get rid of fossil fuel. It’s not going to solve the problem fast enough. A Swedish professor said we can eat dead people, but it’s not fast enough! So, I think your next campaign slogan needs to be this: We’ve got to start eating babies.”
Many of Ocasio-Cortez’s constituents appeared confused by the woman’s declarations.
Removing her jacket to reveal a T-shirt with the phrase “Save the planet Eat the Children,” the woman continued, “We don’t have a enough time. There’s too much Co2.”
“All of you!” she went on, turning to those around her, “You’re a pollutant! Too much Co2. We have to start now. Please — you are so great. I’m so happy that you are supporting a Green New Deal, but it’s not enough. Even if we were to bomb Russia, it’s not enough. There’s too many people, too much pollution. So, we have to get rid of the babies. That’s a big problem. Just stopping having babies just isn’t enough. We need to eat the babies. This is very serious. Please give a response.”
Staffers of the New York congresswoman approached the woman toward the end of her remarks, as attendees in the room became increasingly uncomfortable.
It was a moving moment when Brandt Jean asked the judge if he could hug Amber Guyger, the former Dallas cop who shot and killed his brother. USA TODAY
The heartfelt courtroom hug exchanged by former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger and the brother of the man she killed provided a touching conclusion to a unique case that captured the attention of the Metroplex and parts of the nation.
The moment might also wind up as the first step in Guyger’s eventual return to freedom.
What happens after that depends on a number of factors to be considered by the parole board. One of them is the recommendation by family members of the victim.
Ed Cox, whose Cox Law Firm outside Dallas regularly handles parole cases, said the board gives a fair amount of weight to letters from relatives of both the victim and the offender when pondering an early release.
“If his brother decides to support her release on parole, I think the board would absolutely consider that,’’ Cox said. “And I would expect that lawyers for her if she’s represented before the board would reach out to his family and seek to gain their support.’’
It’s much too early to tell how the Jean family might react in five years, but the message of forgiveness from Botham’s younger brother, Brandt, in delivering his victim impact statement Wednesday was downright moving.
Making it clear he was speaking for himself, not necessarily his relatives, Brandt declined to chastise Guyger and instead offered his forgiveness.
“I wasn’t going to ever say this in front of my family or anyone, but I don’t even want you to go to jail,’’ said Brandt Jean, who, at 18, is 10 years younger than Botham would have been now. “I want the best for you.’’
Then, after asking State District Judge Tammy Kemp for permission, he exchanged a prolonged embrace with Guyger and both whispered to each other as sobs could be heard in the courtroom.
Later, Guyger also received a hug from Kemp, further illustrating the emotional aspect of a case that carried racial overtones – Guyger is white and Botham Jean was black – but ultimately boiled down to a terrible mistake with tragic consequences.
Guyger was facing a sentence of between five and 99 years, although Kemp had allowed the jury to consider a “sudden passion’’ defense, which could have brought down the minimum to two years. Prosecutors had requested at least 28 years.
Besides the family statements, Cox said the amount of time she actually spends behind bars will hinge on Guyger’s behavior in prison and whether she takes advantage of opportunities for self-improvement while she’s there.
“There is an expectation that she conducts herself well, abides by the rules and seeks to better herself so she can successfully reintegrate into society,’’ Cox said, adding that being a former cop with a previously clean record should also work in Guyger’s favor, especially considering board members often have a background in law enforcement.
Last year in Texas, the parole approval rate for her type of crime – which falls under the “violent aggravated, non-sexual category’’ – was 33.6%. A total of 11,692 cases were considered and 3,900 early releases granted. Those denied usually get to apply again after a year.
President Trump’s critics are now complaining that he asked the Australian prime minister to cooperate with the Justice Department’s investigation into the origins of the Mueller probe and that Attorney General William Barr has traveled overseas to ask foreign intelligence officials to cooperate with that investigation.
The New York Times called it another example of “the president using high-level diplomacy to advance his personal political interests.”
No, it’s not. The president’s critics are conflating two different things: the investigation by Trump’s private lawyer, Rudolph Giuliani, into Hunter Biden’s business dealings, and the official inquiry by U.S. Attorney John Durham into the counterintelligence investigation directed at the Trump campaign during the 2016 election.
The former is opposition research activity; the latter is a criminal justice matter.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with asking foreign heads of state or intelligence officials to cooperate with an official Justice Department investigation. As George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley explains: “It is not uncommon for an attorney general, or even a president, to ask foreign leaders to assist with ongoing investigations. Such calls can shortcut bureaucratic red tape, particularly if the evidence is held, as in this case, by national security or justice officials.”
Americans support the Durham probe. For two years, they were told by Trump’s opponents that the president was “working on behalf of the Russians” and had committed “treasonous” acts that were of “a size and scope probably beyond Watergate.”
Those were serious accusations, and Americans took them seriously. They waited for Special Counsel Robert Mueller to tell them whether the president had indeed betrayed the country.
Then Mueller issued his report, and they found out that none of it was true. They understandably wanted answers.
How did it come to pass that our government was paralyzed for two years and spent tens of millions of their tax dollars, chasing a Trump-Russia collusion conspiracy theory?
A Harvard CAPS-Harris Poll following the Mueller report’s public release found that 53 percent of Americans said that “bias against President Trump in the FBI played a role in launching investigations against him,” and 62 percent supported appointing a special counsel to investigate the investigation of Trump.
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Instead of a special counsel, Barr appointed Durham, a career prosecutor, to lead the investigation that Americans demanded. Durham is a man of unimpeachable character who was appointed by Obama administration Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate the CIA’s terrorist interrogation program.
At the conclusion of that probe, which ended without any criminal charges, Holder praised Durham for working “tirelessly to conduct an extraordinarily thorough and complete” investigation.
Now Barr has asked Durham to bring the same tireless professionalism to his investigation into the origins of the Mueller probe. But suddenly, all those who were so eager to find out what happened in 2016 when they thought Mueller would reveal that Trump conspired with the Russians have lost interest.
The same people who were outraged at Trump’s efforts to discredit the Mueller probe are now doing the exact same thing to the Durham probe. Back then, Democrats insisted Trump stop criticizing the investigation and “let Mueller follow the facts wherever they lead.” Now they need to heed their own advice: Stop criticizing the investigation.
Let Durham follow the facts wherever they lead. If there was no wrongdoing, then there is nothing to worry about.
To be sure, Trump bears some responsibility for helping Democrats lump together Durham’s official investigation with Giuliani’s partisan activities by mentioning them both on the call with Ukraine’s president.
There should be a firewall between the two inquiries. Instead, Trump and Giuliani have blurred those lines.
But keep in mind, it was Democrats who told us there is nothing wrong or illegal with a presidential candidate hiring a private lawyer to conduct opposition research in a foreign country on their political opponents. After it emerged that the Clinton campaign and the DNC had paid Christopher Steele to dig up dirt in Russia on Trump, the Democrats’ defense was: That’s just opposition research. Everyone does it.
The biggest problem with the Steele dossier was not that Democrats paid for opposition research, but that the FBI might have used it as the basis for spying on the Trump campaign – which is part of what Durham is investigating.
Durham is no partisan actor. Despite political pressure, he cleared the CIA of wrongdoing during the Obama administration. Like Mueller, he will follow the facts wherever they lead. Maybe that is why so many Democrats are up in arms.
Ukraine’s top prosecutor said Friday that his office is “conducting an audit” of closed cases that had been previously investigated, including the probe into Hunter Biden and the energy giant Burisma.
Ruslan Ryaboshapka, the country’s prosecutor general, said at a news conference that his office was instructed to review cases that have been closed, fragmented or investigated earlier to make sure they were fairly and thoroughly handled. He said no one attempted to influence him to call for the new investigations.
His comment came as the Trump White House fights an impeachment inquiry that involves allegations that President Trump used military funding as part of a “quid pro quo” proposal with Kiev to investigate Biden and his father, former Vice President Joe Biden.
President Trump has denied wrongdoing. Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky, who participated in a scrutinized phone call with Trump in July, said he never felt pressure from Trump.
Trump’s key focus has been how Hunter Biden, who reportedly knew little about the energy business and the country, ended up on Burisma’s board while his father was vice president under Barack Obama.
Ryaboshapka is considered a reformer and “the father of the anti-corruption strategy in Ukraine,” a former associate told the Washington Post. Another peer called him an “honest person” but expressed doubts that he has the ability to weed out corruption in the country.
“Being a good guy is not always enough,’ the source said.
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The two alleged members of the Bang Gang/Terror Dome faction of the Black P Stones gang were co-defendants but were tried before separate juries as they sought to pin the blame on each other for the child’s slaying, reports said.
Prosecutors said that although Morgan did not wield the gun, he had the motive for murder. He allegedly targeted the 9-year-old because his father, Pierre Stokes, belongs to a rival gang — the Killa Ward faction of the Gangster Disciples.
Morgan blamed that gang for an October 2015 shooting that killed his brother and injured his mother. Morgan’s family also arranged the purchase of the gun that killed Lee, prosecutors added.
Three men drove to a park in the South Side of Chicago in November 2015 where Lee regularly went after school to play, according to prosecutors. He lured him into an alleyway and shot him in the head with a .40-caliber handgun, prosecutors said.
Morgan and Kevin Edwards, who prosecutors claimed was the getaway driver, watched from an SUV parked down the block. Edwards pleaded guilty before the trial to first-degree murder in exchange for a 25-year prison sentence, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Morgan’s attorney, Thomas Breen, tried to distance his client from the crime.
“That execution of that 9-year-old boy has to come from one singularly evil person,” Breen told jurors without naming Doty. “Not from a plan. His killer did so of his own volition and for his own reason. Not at the behest or help of Corey Morgan.”
Prosecutors played a tape of Boone-Doty bragging to another jail inmate that he’d killed the boy. Boone-Doty’s lawyer dismissed the tape, saying that Boone-Doty was lying to the other inmate to make himself look tough. “I’m looking at him. We walking. Bop,” Boone-Doty said on the tape, according to The Washington Post. “Hit the ground. Bop-bop-bop-bop-bop. I’m laughing.” He faces up to life in prison.
An atheist group that has counted Ron Reagan Jr. among its members says it was inappropriate for a judge to give a Bible to Amber Guyger, the former Dallas police officer who convicted this week of murdering a neighbor last year.
The Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) – the atheist group for which the 61-year-old son of former President Ronald Reagan has appeared in television ads – filed a formal complaint Thursday with the Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct, FOX 4 of Dallas-Fort Worth reported.
The Wisconsin-based group objected to Judge Tammy Kemp giving one of her Bibles to Guyger after the former officer was sentenced to 10 years in prison Wednesday for the shooting death of Botham Jean, a 26-year-old accountant.
“You just need a tiny mustard seed of faith,” Kemp said to a tearful Guyger, handing the Bible to her before the convicted former officer left the courtroom. “You start with this.”
Kemp also hugged Guyger – as did a brother of the murder victim, in actions that some observers said showed compassion for the newly convicted defendant.
State District Judge Tammy Kemp gives former Dallas Police Officer Amber Guyger a hug before Guyger leaves for jail, Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019, in Dallas. (Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News via AP, Pool)
But in a letter Thursday to the Texas commission, the atheist group objected to what it termed the judge’s “proselytizing actions,” saying they “overstepped judicial authority,” and were “inappropriate” and “unconstitutional.”
“It is perfectly acceptable for private citizens to express their religious beliefs in court,” the letter states later, “but the rules are different for those acting in a governmental role.”
In a separate Twitter message, FFRF attorney Andrew L. Seidel further explained the group’s position.
“We need more compassion in our criminal justice system,” Seidel wrote, “but here, compassion crossed the line into coercion. Judges cannot impose their personal religion on others.”
“We need more compassion in our criminal justice system, but here, compassion crossed the line into coercion. Judges cannot impose their personal religion on others.”
— Andrew L. Seidel, attorney, Freedom from Religion Foundation
Seidel is the author of “The Founding Myth: Why Christian Nationalism is Un-American.”
Neither the group nor Seidel appeared to demand punishment for the judge. Their messages seemed aimed only at drawing attention to a “possible violation” of rules of judicial conduct.
However, another group – the Texas-based First Liberty Institute, which supports religious freedom – came to the judge’s defense.
“We should all be thankful the law allows Judge Kemp’s actions,” said Hiram Sasser, legal counsel for the First Liberty Institute. “We stand with her and will gladly lead the charge in defending her noble and legal actions.”
“We should all be thankful the law allows Judge Kemp’s actions. We stand with her and will gladly lead the charge in defending her noble and legal actions.”
— Hiram Sasser, legal counsel for the First Liberty Institute
Guyger claimed she mistakenly entered Jean’s apartment, one floor above hers, thinking it was her own home, and shot Jean because she believed he was an intruder in her apartment.
But on Tuesday, a jury decided that Guyger, 31, was guilty of murder. Guyger had been a member of the Dallas force for nearly five years.
Also on Thursday, the atheist group posted a Twitter message objecting to Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin’s support of “Bring Your Bible to School Day,” saying the Republican governor’s stand was “narrow-minded and totally inappropriate.”
Disclaimer: This piece contains spoilers for “Joker.”
“Joker” is an ugly film. That isn’t a judgment call: There are plenty of good “ugly” movies. And “Joker” is good in the sense that it is competently shot, beautifully acted, and ticks all the right boxes that a film like this, so heavily influenced by the Scorsese pictures of the 1970s, is supposed to tick.
Ugliness is a deliberate aesthetic choice of the film, an aesthetic aiding its main goal: to create a sense of atmosphere and tone so oppressive that it leaves no room for the story, or the audience, to breathe. It is a shame because as much as it plays up themes of class disparity, the pain of mental illness and the general brutal indifference of society, “Joker” doesn’t actually seem interested in exploring these themes beyond using them as atmosphere builders, as plot devices.
It is particularly relevant when it comes to the presence of Black women in Joker’s world, a presence so glaring yet so subtle it almost goes unnoticed. We see Joker, or Arthur Fleck (played superbly by Joaquin Phoenix) interact with six women over the course of the film. One of the women is a TV producer he speaks with briefly over the phone. Another is his disturbed mother, who he learns has been lying to him all his life. The remaining four women are all Black: a mother on the bus, his social worker, his neighbor/love interest Sophie (Zazie Beetz), and a psychiatrist at the mental hospital.
Individually, these characters don’t give that much pause. But collectively, their presence made me wonder if there is a reason why the majority of the women Arthur interacts with on-screen happen to be Black. All of Arthur’s interactions with women are fraught and charged, each one establishing his view of the world as a cold, apathetic hellscape. When he playfully makes a small child laugh during a bus ride, the kid’s mother turns around and snaps at him, “Will you please stop bothering my kid?” His social worker is cold and standoffish, admonishes him. At one point, he calls her out for never really listening to anything he has to say.
It would be easy to say that the film’s choices when it comes to Black women are willfully stereotypical or negative, playing up all-too familiar tropes of Black women as angry or cold. I don’t think that’s necessarily a fair distinction though. These Black female characters don’t feel forcefully lodged into the plot; they come up organically and naturally in the world that Arthur inhabits, and there are no strange or outlandish machinations that precede these interactions. Indeed, the original “Joker” script states explicitly that he lives in a Black neighborhood, though the film itself never makes this clear.
But the presence and treatment of Black women, particularly Beetz’s character, are still worth considering, especially given the fact that writer-director Todd Phillips has famously cited two Martin Scorsese films, “The King of Comedy” and “Taxi Driver,” as inspirations for this iteration of the Joker’s origin story.
In “Taxi Driver,” Travis Bickle’s racism and misogyny are implicit features of his personality. We see it in the way he sizes up the groups of Black men he encounters on the street and in the unabated glee with which he kills the Black man who robs a liquor store. Harvey Keitel’s pimp character, it should also be noted, was originally supposed to be played by a Black man. In the film’s final massacre, all the criminals Bickle kills were supposed to be Black, an indictment on his own racism, but studio executives called for that detail to be changed, afraid that there would be riots.
With “Joker,” there have been similar murmurings about how the film might incite violence, or fuel the ideologies of incel culture. Of course, “Taxi Driver,” which “Joker” borrows heavily from, didn’t cause riots. But “Taxi Driver” is a smarter movie than “Joker,” which, as writer Sarah Hagi aptly pointed outon Twitter, might as well be called “We live in a society: the movie.” In other words, it simply doesn’t have the range.
Where “Taxi Driver” makes it clear that Bickle’s desire to rid the streets of “scum” is not actually a noble crusade but rather the result of his own selfish neuroses and prejudices, “Joker” never quite delves deep enough beyond its indictment of a nebulous arbitrary “system.”
There’s a fleeting, promising moment in the movie when Arthur’s social worker informs him that funding for the program has been cut, and she will no longer be seeing him. She makes a comment, something along the lines of, “They [the people at the top] don’t care about people like you and me.” But the line just sort of hangs there in the air; it doesn’t seem as if Arthur has actually absorbed (or can actually absorb) the idea that he is not the only cog in this grinding, indifferent machine. Rather than a critique of institutional abuse, the exchange feels more like an indictment on the individual for not understanding him, thereby justifying his hatred and his violence.
Much like “Taxi Driver” and its ambiguous final montage, the thing to remember about “Joker” is that the story is being told intentionally and specifically through the main character’s eyes. In the third act, the audience learns that the budding romance we’ve witnessed between Arthur and Sophie has been all in his mind. He barges into her apartment, unannounced, and a startled Sophie pleads with him to leave.
The film cuts to the next scene, never showing Sophie’s fate. The ambiguity of Sophie’s fate is, in a sense, largely emblematic of the ambiguity with which this film tackles gender and race. It also calls into question everything else we’ve seen up to this point ― the asshole finance bros whom Joker kills early on in the film, his overbearing mother, Thomas Wayne’s cruelty. The trick of “Joker” is presenting us Arthur’s skewed version of the world as true and then, and the last minute, forcing us to question our own empathy for him. At least, that’s the idea.
That’s why his interactions with Black women are interesting, especially his infatuation with Sophie. If Black women play roles of alienating authority in his everyday life, it’s significant that he would project a romantic fantasy onto a Black woman, casting her as the nurturing and supportive female figure that has eluded him up until now.
This is all worth thinking about, especially in a film that seems to be trying (but ultimately fails) to make some sort of commentary on the disparity between the haves and the have-nots. A racial reading of this movie is perhaps the last thing Phillips, who recently lamented how “woke” culture killed his desire to make comedy, wants the viewer to take away from this. But you can’t really have a discussion about class without having a discussion somewhere in there about race. I doubt Phillips was trying to make any sort of intentional commentary with his placement of Black women in positions of antagonizing authority or elusive romantic obsessions, but that’s what makes these characters, arbitrary as they seem, so important.
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WASHINGTON — A top American diplomat in Ukraine repeatedly raised concerns with colleagues about the White House’s decision to withhold $391 million in security aid from Ukraine, describing it as a “crazy” plan to withhold security assistance “for help with a political campaign,” according to texts released Thursday as part of the impeachment inquiry into President Trump.
The texts, which were turned over to Congress by Kurt D. Volker, the State Department’s former special envoy for Ukraine, come from a series of early September exchanges. They appear to show a dispute among American diplomats over whether the president was trying to use security aid or a White House meeting with the country’s new leader as leverage to pressure Ukraine to dig up dirt on a leading political rival — a charge at the heart of the impeachment investigation.
One message, written by William B. Taylor Jr., the top American diplomat in Ukraine, suggested that Mr. Trump was holding back the package of military aid to Ukraine as a bargaining chip to influence the country’s president to do his political bidding.
“As I said on the phone, I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign,” Mr. Taylor wrote on Sept. 9 to Mr. Volker and Gordon D. Sondland, the United States ambassador to the European Union.
Mr. Sondland replied that he believed he had “identified the best path forward” for unfreezing the assistance. But he also took issue that there is any sort of direct agreement, writing in response, “The President has been crystal clear: no quid pro quo’s of any kind.” He then suggested the conversation move to phone rather than text.
That exchange and others emerged as congressional investigators met privately for more than nine hours on Capitol Hill with Mr. Volker, who is the first witness in their growing impeachment inquiry into whether Mr. Trump tried to bend American policy for his own political benefit by pressuring President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine to dig up dirt on former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and other Democrats.
While the president has openly admitted that he wanted Mr. Zelensky to investigate Mr. Biden and his son Hunter Biden, a crucial question has been whether Mr. Trump tried to use the security aid or a meeting at the White House as leverage. The money was delayed until the Trump administration released it last month amid a bipartisan outcry from lawmakers.
In his text, Mr. Sondland added, “The President is trying to evaluate whether Ukraine is truly going to adopt the transparency and reforms that President Zelensky promised during his campaign.”
It was not immediately clear what led Mr. Taylor to conclude that Mr. Trump was withholding aid as leverage over Ukraine. When the texts were sent, news reports about the delay in releasing the aid, and about attempts by Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani to pressure Ukraine into investigating Mr. Biden and other Democrats, had already prompted public speculation that Mr. Trump was engaging in a quid pro quo.
But his concerns persisted. Roughly a week earlier, on Sept. 1, Mr. Taylor had asked Mr. Sondland, “Are we now saying that security assistance and WH meeting are conditioned on investigations?”
Mr. Sondland replied simply, “Call me.”
The next day, Mr. Taylor described a “nightmare” situation in which the Ukrainians announced they would conduct the investigations Mr. Trump wanted and still not receive the security assistance. “The Russians love it,” he wrote of that potential outcome. “(And I quit.)”
Mr. Taylor could not be reached for comment on Thursday. The texts thrust him into the center of the blossoming controversy, and he is now almost certain to be called to testify by lawmakers.
Democrats leading the investigation said the messages “reflect serious concerns raised by a State Department official about the detrimental effects of withholding critical military assistance from Ukraine, and the importance of setting up a meeting between President Trump and the Ukrainian president without further delay.”
Republicans demanded a full transcript of Mr. Volker’s interview be released. “The facts we learned today undercut the salacious narrative that Adam Schiff is using to sell his impeachment ambitions,” wrote Representatives Jim Jordan and Devin Nunes, the top Republicans on the Oversight and Reform and Intelligence committees, referring to the chairman of the intelligence panel.
When the Trump administration forced out Marie L. Yovanovitch, the former ambassador, before her term was up, Mr. Taylor was sent to be the chargé d’affaires, the No. 2 post in an embassy, and acting ambassador. Mr. Taylor was a former ambassador in Ukraine, serving from 2006 to 2009.
The texts among Mr. Volker, Mr. Sondland and Mr. Taylor portray Mr. Taylor as a diplomat deeply skeptical of the Trump administration’s approach to Ukraine, flabbergasted that the military assistance had been cut off — and firmly believing that the White House was asking for Ukraine to begin political investigations in return for the aid being released.
In one text, he worried about how the hold would affect Ukrainians’ view of the United States and if it would have “shaken their faith in us.”
The texts also suggest that Mr. Volker, a former ambassador to NATO, was deeply intertwined in efforts by the president and Mr. Giuliani to press the Ukrainians into action.
Mr. Volker’s name appears several times in an anonymous C.I.A. whistle-blower complaint that set off the impeachment inquiry, and Mr. Giuliani has said publicly he briefed Mr. Volker on his efforts. The complaint centers on a July call Mr. Trump had with Mr. Zelensky, in which he pressed him to investigate Mr. Biden, and asserts that Mr. Volker advised the Ukrainians on how to “navigate” Mr. Trump’s demands.
In his session with investigators, Mr. Volker presented himself as a diplomat caught in the middle “trying to solve a problem” and help Ukraine, but as someone who was not “fully in the loop” on the president’s campaign to pressure Ukraine to investigate his rivals, according to a person briefed on his testimony.
Mr. Volker told investigators that even as he agreed to set up a meeting between Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Zelensky’s top aide, he warned Mr. Giuliani that he believed the conspiracy theories Mr. Giuliani was pursuing were unfounded. While there may have been Ukrainians interested in influencing the United States government, Mr. Volker told investigators that he thought it was implausible that Mr. Biden or the Hillary Clinton campaign did anything wrong.
Mr. Volker told the committee staff that he was never informed that Mr. Trump raised Mr. Biden or the 2016 election during the July 25 phone call, nor was he shown the rough transcript afterward. He was in Ukraine at the time and met the next day with Mr. Zelensky, who he said raised no concerns about the call with him.
In his testimony, Mr. Volker told investigators he believed Mr. Taylor was a diplomat of high integrity. But he also said he did not see the freezing of the assistance as directly linked to Mr. Trump’s interest in beginning a new Ukraine investigation as Mr. Taylor did, according to a person familiar with the testimony.
Mr. Taylor concluded that the assistance was linked to Mr. Trump’s desire for new investigations in Ukraine based on news reports, Mr. Volker testified, according to the person. While Mr. Taylor feared the aid would never come, Mr. Volker told House investigators he was sure that Congress or the Pentagon would force the administration to release the assistance and the issue would be resolved. Mr. Volker believed if he could persuade Mr. Trump that Mr. Zelensky was trustworthy, he could push the relationship to a better place, he said in his testimony.
Mr. Volker told the committee that he did not act at Mr. Pompeo’s behest but briefed the secretary of state who approved of his actions. He also said he kept John R. Bolton, then the national security adviser, informed.
The interview, which Mr. Volker participated in voluntarily, took place out of public view. The text exchange was part of a trove of more than 60 pages of documents, many of them texts, that Mr. Volker provided before he arrived.
Mr. Volker resigned on Friday from his part-time, unpaid State Department post without public explanation. A person familiar with his thinking said the longtime diplomat concluded he could no longer be effective in the post in light of the unfolding scandal. But the resignation also freed him to appear before the House investigators without restrictions, according to people familiar with his account.
Democrats are pushing their impeachment investigation forward with haste, issuing near-daily requests or subpoenas for documentary evidence and witness testimony.
The session with Mr. Volker was the first in what is expected to be a fast-paced series of interviews in the coming weeks, when Democrats aim to bring a parade of witnesses behind closed doors for questioning. Ms. Yovanovitch is expected to appear next week.
A woman wearing a face mask with the characters meaning “conscience” takes part in a protest against a government ban on protesters wearing face masks in Hong Kong on Friday. Nicolas Asfouri/AFP via Getty Imageshide caption
Nicolas Asfouri/AFP via Getty Images
A woman wearing a face mask with the characters meaning “conscience” takes part in a protest against a government ban on protesters wearing face masks in Hong Kong on Friday.
Nicolas Asfouri/AFP via Getty Images
Hong Kong’s embattled chief executive Carrie Lam says she is invoking emergency powers to ban face masks during public assemblies starting at midnight Friday (12 p.m. ET).
The ban on face masks is an attempt to quell increasingly violent anti-government protests that have racked the city for more than 17 weeks.
“One thing is certain. If law breakers are not wearing masks, it is much easier for us to prove the charges and bring them to courts,” said Hong Kong’s security secretary John Lee Ka-chiu at a last-minute press conference held to announce the ban in Hong Kong.
Those who violate the ban face a year in prison or a fine of up to 25,000 Hong Kong dollars, or about $3,200. Face paint will also be prohibited.
The colonial-era Emergency Regulations Ordinance gives Lam broad powers to undertake security measures in times of public danger or emergency, such as censoring communications or raiding homes without a warrant. This is the first time the ordinance has been used in more than half-a-century; the last time was in 1967, during labor disputes and anti-government protests under British rule.
Yet Lam was adamant that Hong Kong was not in a state of emergency and reassured investors that Hong Kong was still a safe place to do business. “We would not use the ordinance to do things that harm Hong Kong’s public interest,” she told reporters.
Several pro-democracy activists have already said they will mount judicial appeals to challenge the use of emergency powers.
Thousands of Hong Kong protesters staged a peaceful march against “global totalitarianism.” But by mid-afternoon, the peaceful march had broken up into pitched street fights between hardcore protesters and Hong Kong police. During the violence, a police officer shot and critically wounded an 18-year-old protester.
Videos of the incident from multiple angles show masked protesters attacking the police officer with umbrellas and metal rods and tackling another to the ground before the shot was fired. Hong Kong police are armed with batons, tear gas and rubber bullets and are only permitted to fire live rounds when facing “assaults to cause or likely to cause death or serious bodily injury.”
Hundreds of protesters wearing surgical and other masks gathered in Hong Kong’s central business district Friday for a demonstration against the mask ban. A mass protest against police violence is planned for the weekend.
In the last few weeks, Lam has tried to deescalate the anti-government protests, which demand among other things that she call an independent police inquiry into violence against protesters, institute universal suffrage and step down.
In September, Lam officially withdrew a proposed extradition bill that would have sent suspected criminals to be tried in mainland China, a proposal that touched off the nearly four months of protests. She also held her first town hall meeting three weeks later with Hong Kong residents to better understand community grievances and to create policy solutions.
Protesters say that the compromises are too little, too late. Lam reiterated today that she would not step down.
Lam has indicated resolving the protesters’ demands may be up to Beijing and not entirely up to her, however. In a leaked recording of a private talk obtained by Reuters, Lam can be heard telling a group of businessmen that, “If I have a choice, the first thing is to quit, having made a deep apology, is to step down.”