The Syria-Turkey cease-fire, quid pro quo talk and death of Elijah Cummings: Catch up on a busy Thursday in politics
WASHINGTON – With the passing of a congressional giant, a cease-fire between Turkey and Syria, and new quid quo pro talk from the White House, the nation’s capital was buzzing with news that will have a lasting impact on American politics.
But the rapid-fire of news that came today, including the latest resignation of a Trump cabinet member, could have proven too much to keep track of.
With that in mind, here’s a round-up of six of the biggest stories from today:
A congressional legend passed away
Rep. Elijah E. Cummings died early Thursday at age 68 from “complications concerning longstanding health challenges.”
He was the son of sharecroppers who went on to become a lawyer, judge, and congressman. He had served on Capitol Hill since 1996 and was a former chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus.
Cummings was outspoken on civil rights and voter access, a passionate promoter of Democratic policies and a fierce critic of the Trump administration. But, Cummings was also noted for his fair and respectful treatment of his Republican counterparts.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement that, “In the House, Elijah was our North Star. He was a leader of towering character and integrity, whose stirring voice and steadfast values pushed the Congress and country to rise always to a higher purpose.”
Cummings was currently serving as the Chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee and played a central figure in the House’s ongoing impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.
Cummings in photos:Maryland congressman Elijah Cummings dies at 68
He and the President had a tiff over the summer after the congressman criticized the administration’s handling of migrant detention centers, and his committee authorized subpoenas for senior White House officials’ electronic communications. The president called Cummings a “brutal bully” and said Baltimore, which Cummings represented, was a “rodent-infested mess.”
White House touts cease-fire between Turkey and Syria
Vice President Mike Pence announced Thursday that Turkey agreed to halt its military assault in Syria for five days in a U.S.-brokered cease-fire that will allow Kurdish forces to withdraw.
“It will be a pause in military operations for 120 hours,” Pence told reporters at a news conference after a four-hour meeting with Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in the country.
U.S. troops continue to withdraw from Syria after Trump’s announcement. Some lawmakers and foreign policy experts say the cease-fire announcement has caused confusion in Syria and seems unlikely to hold.
Turkey’s invasion of Syria began shortly after Trump ordered the withdrawal of U.S. forces from the region, causing havoc within the country and putting the Kurds, a US ally, in danger.
Trump touted the deal via tweet just minutes after Pence’s announcement, suggesting that his imposition of sanctions pushed Erdogan to reverse course.
“This deal could NEVER have been made 3 days ago. There needed to be some ‘tough’ love in order to get it done,” Trump declared online.
Rick Perry resigns amid Ukraine scrutiny
Energy Secretary Rick Perry, who has become a focal point of the House impeachment inquiry because of his dealings with Ukraine, resigned Thursday evening.
Trump said he said he would make the announcement shortly of who the replacement will be.
“We already have his replacement. Rick has done a fantastic job. But it was time,” Trump told reporters, adding that Perry will stay on until the end of the year.
Perry is one of Trump’s longest-serving Cabinet secretaries and was a member of Trump’s original cabinet.
He was subpoenaed last week in the inquiry and is facing a Friday deadline to comply with the congressional subpoenas. House Democrats had demanded he turn over documents related to Trump’s call with Zelensky.
Sondland breaks with Trump in testimony
During testimony before the House impeachment panel investigating President Donald Trump on Thursday, Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, told lawmakers he was disappointed that he had to consult with the president’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, on Ukraine policy.
“It was apparent to all of us that the key to changing the president’s mind on Ukraine was Mr. Giuliani,” Sondland said. “Our view was that the men and women of the State Department, not the president’s personal lawyer, should take responsibility for all aspects of U.S. foreign policy toward Ukraine.”
Pelosi declared a formal impeachment inquiry Sept. 24 after reports about a July phone call where Trump urged Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate one of his political rivals, former Vice President Joe Biden.
Sondland’s deposition under subpoena comes more than a week after the State Department blocked his voluntary appearance before the panels. Trump tweeted that he didn’t want Sondland to go before a “kangaroo court.”
“I did not understand, until much later, that Mr. Giuliani’s agenda might have also included an effort to prompt the Ukrainians to investigate Vice President Biden or his son or to involve Ukrainians, directly or indirectly, in the President’s 2020 reelection campaign,” his remarks state.
Mulvaney alludes to quid pro quo
The acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney acknowledged Thursday that financial aid to Ukraine at the center of the House impeachment inquiry was withheld because of the president’s desire for the country to engage in U.S. politics.
During a rare White House press briefing, Mulvaney told reporters, “Did he also mention to me in passing the corruption related to the DNC server? Absolutely.”
“That’s it,” Mulvaney said. “That’s why we held up the money,” acknowledging that the White House did, in fact, freeze nearly $400 million in US security aid to Ukraine over Trump’s desire to push Ukraine to investigate “corruption” related to a conspiracy theory involving the hacking of the Democratic National Committee’s computer server.
These comments undercut GOP lawmakers and Trump’s assertion that aid was not withheld in exchange for Ukraine’s help in looking into political foes.
“I have news for everybody: get over it. There’s going to be political influence in foreign policy,” Mulvaney stated.
Mulvaney denied that withholding the aid was linked to the Bidens, though Trump explicitly asked Ukrainian President Zelensky to investigate them during the July 25 phone call.
Leaving a closed hearing, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said Mulvaney’s acknowledgment of a quid pro quo “certainly indicates that things have gone from very very bad to much much worse.”
Mulvaney released a statement later Thursday trying to clarify the comments.
2020 G-7 to be held at Trump resort
The White House announced Thursday that Trump will host world leaders at a G-7 economic summit in 2020 at his Doral golf resort in Miami.
Democrats and other critics of Trump denounced the decision as nothing more than self-dealing, involving the nation’s foreign policy.
House Democrats said that they will try to make Doral an issue as part of a congressional debate on government spending. The House Appropriations Committee said two provisions in a spending bill would “prevent the President from spending federal funds at Trump properties.”
Hosting the G-7 summit at Doral violates the Constitutional prohibition of emoluments, critics have said, calling it “perhaps the first publicly known instance in which foreign governments would be required to pay President Trump’s private businesses in order to conduct business with the United States.”
Contributing: William Cummings, David Jackson, John Fritze, Bart Jansen, Deirdre Shesgreen, Courtney Subramanian, Nicholas Wu, and Kim Hjelmgaard.
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