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My Mom Was A Spy For The CIA, And This Is What She Wore To Work

I distinctly remember my mother getting home from work every evening around 4 p.m. She would hustle to her bedroom before properly greeting us — a one-inch kitten heel flying in one direction, a tweed brown blazer in the other. I always found it peculiar that the first thing she wanted to do when she entered our home in Maryland was to find an entirely new outfit to wear for dinner. In retrospect, her nightly routine reflected my mother’s need to shed her post-Cold War espionage persona for the maternal visage she wore at home. Working for the Central Intelligence Agency as a staff operational officer was sufficiently demanding to propel my mother, Suzanne Matthews, to her closet doors every evening. Despite this, she carried the stress of her job home, like a tracking device discreetly placed in her lapels. Over the course of a career that spanned from 1975 to 2007, this is what my mother ― an agent working for the CIA ― wore to work every day.Courtesy of the Matthews familySuzanne Matthews with her husband, Jason, in Athens, Greece, in 1979.Like a generic country song, my mother was born in Cheyenne, Wyoming. And like a very popular country song, she wanted to experience life outside her very small western town. “I spent a summer traveling with my brother in Europe after college,” she told me. “I was motivated to return, but didn’t know exactly how to do that. A friend suggested I consider a career in the CIA, as her mother was a recruiter, so I interviewed and got the job as a secretary.”My mother settled in Washington, D.C., in the ’70s, working in a relatively corporate atmosphere. Her clothing had to reflect that, as well: “Because I was just beginning my career after college, I didn’t have disposable income to spend on many clothes,” she said. “Living in the D.C. area, where federal government employees are known for conservative dress, I did the same. My ‘uniform’ was a jacket and skirt or slacks and comfortable shoes. Nothing terribly memorable, just classic blacks, beiges, whites. That way, I could mix and match regularly on my limited budget.”But even when she started as a secretary, she did operational work, especially overseas when consulates or embassies needed more manpower.By 1982, Suzanne worked her way up to being a Special Operational Officer (SOO), which meant her occupational duties changed drastically. So, too, did her ensembles. Of course, the stereotypical image associated with a spy is a black turtleneck, dark Ray-Bans and an iconic Burberry trench coat. Contrary to popular belief (and every Jason Bourne movie), blending in is a more successful spying technique than standing out. And wearing a trench coat with sunglasses stands out like a sore thumb in the counterintelligence world.Courtesy of the Matthews familyMatthews’ CIA badge in 1980.“Meeting clandestine sources on the ‘street’ can be very daunting,” Suzanne said. “Our primary goal is to protect the sources we are meeting. This means blending in with our environment, not attracting attention. Depending on the locale, we would build a simple disguise or a persona to fit in with the culture. If the city is a popular one for tourists, that might mean dressing in sneakers, shorts and a baseball cap.“There are times, while conducting a surveillance detection route, that we would build in a ‘gap’ where surveillance coverage disappeared for a few seconds and we quickly change personas. This might mean removing or adding clothing, changing shoes or a wig.”My mother was able to camouflage within her surroundings when needed, overtly dressing like a tourist in her efforts to gain insight into her local surroundings while maintaining the ever-encompassing goal of a CIA agent ― to always act and be as nondescript as possible.Courtesy of the Matthews familyMatthews in Athens, Greece, in 1981. Suzanne’s duties within her home changed with her rising status in the CIA. Foreign service workers often struggle to delineate their responsibilities at work with their role at home while living overseas. Female CIA agents often face the greatest challenge, shouldering the dual burdens of parenthood and a demanding espionage career. She juggled it all like most mothers and had to be mindful of her children and her career.“Normally, children are not included in clandestine operations,” Suzanne said. “If there is a need for a casual observation of a target, perhaps a visit to a restaurant or ice cream store with the kids would help us look innocuous. Operating in plain sight is part of what we are trained to do. Generally, I would not recommend taking children along on an operation. There are simply too many things that could go wrong and it is most important to protect our sources when arranging to meet.”My mother often struggled with her wardrobe. She would avoid wearing heels at all costs, an occupational hazard that transcends industry and generation, as evident by younger generations opting for much more casual work uniforms. Similarly, Suzanne was challenged by the need to elevate the corporate “uniform” she donned to match the street fashions of the European capitals she prowled.Courtesy of the Matthews familyMatthews with her husband, Jason (a veteran of the CIA himself), at the annual Marine Ball in Budapest, Hungary, in 1986.“A desk job in Washington, D.C., is a professional position and we would dress accordingly. Working the ‘street’ in a foreign location requires a keen sense or how the locals look and behave and we would dress to blend in,” she said.In a profession where clothing may mark you as a target for or threat to hostile foreign governments, the garments Suzanne chose each morning held more importance than a regular Madewell sweater might usually represent.Courtesy of the Matthews familyMatthews with her family in Hong Kong, China, in 1996.For some, getting dressed for work is purely utilitarian: jeans, T-shirt and a sweater for heavily air-conditioned offices. For others, uniforms are laid out the night before work to jump mindlessly into an early shift. For Suzanne, a retired veteran of the CIA, fashion was a means to blend into foreign environments with very different fashion rules, whether it be the dimly lit streets of an exotic locale or the fluorescent hallways of the Reagan Era CIA headquarters.If she failed to meet the fashion requirements of either setting by standing out dramatically, Suzanne’s career could have floundered. Now retired 30 years later, she can go about her day wearing statement necklaces and bold earrings without fear of losing a precious foreign contact or blowing her cover. She now enters Chico’s with her head held high.

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House Judiciary Republicans Tried To Protect Nixon Too, And Got Crushed For It

WASHINGTON ― If the chairs in the House Judiciary Committee meeting room could talk, the Republicans sitting in them Thursday probably wouldn’t like what they’d hear.
Nearly a half-century ago, their counterparts who protected then-President Richard Nixon suffered a hefty price for it just months later in the 1974 midterm elections: Five of the 10 members who voted against all three articles of impeachment saw their seats flip to Democrats. Four were defeated outright. The fifth retired, and the Republican hoping to succeed him lost.
“They were saying all summer long that there wasn’t enough evidence to say that Nixon knew” about the cover-up, said former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld, who was a lawyer on the Judiciary Committee impeachment staff in 1974 and is now running against President Donald Trump for the 2020 GOP nomination. “As soon as the tapes came out, they looked like idiots.”
In contrast, House Republicans as a whole lost only 25% of their seats that November ― still a staggering loss rate, but only half of that suffered by members of the Judiciary Committee.
But the history lesson of Nixon’s impeachment ― for covering up the break-in at Democratic National Committee headquarters to cheat in his 1972 reelection ― will almost certainly be ignored by today’s Republicans, both in the Judiciary Committee and the House generally.
“Cult members can’t see past the Kool-Aid,” said John Weaver, a former aide to late Arizona Sen. John McCain.
Norman Ornstein, a congressional scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, said Trump’s hold on the Republican Party’s primary voting base has dramatically transformed the GOP. “It was a party, now it’s a cult. And if you are in a cult, the fear of being shunned or ostracized is powerful,” he said. “To challenge him, in fundamental fashion, you’re going to be treated as an apostate.”
Trump supporters, meanwhile, reject the idea that sticking by Trump during impeachment could hurt the party. Shawn Steel, a top Republican National Committee member from California, said average Americans will wind up standing by Trump in 2020. “The Democrats are going to suffer,” he said. “The polls are slipping away from the Democrats.”
Current Judiciary Committee Republicans, in any event, seemed unconcerned about potential consequences for themselves or their party. Rep. Jim Jordan, of Ohio, and others on Wednesday and Thursday repeatedly claimed that Democrats want to cancel the votes of the 63 million who cast ballots for Trump ― ironically echoing arguments made 45 years ago.
“We have weakened the hand of the president and the 220 million people he represents,” Rep. Joseph Maraziti, a New Jersey Republican, said on July 27, 1974, before voting against all three articles of impeachment.
“It’s only Round One,” said Rep. David Dennis, an Indiana Republican, before also voting against all three articles. “There’ll be a good scramble in the House.”
Less than four months later, Maraziti lost reelection by 14 points. Dennis lost his seat by 8 points.
Of course, not all House Judiciary Republicans voted with Nixon in 1974. Of the 17 GOP members, seven voted for at least one of the three articles of impeachment.
Among those, five won reelection, one likely would have won reelection had he not retired to run for governor, and one was defeated.
“It was a different country and a different party back then,” said Ornstein, who was at the time teaching at Catholic University and friendly with the Judiciary Committee’s Democratic chairman, New Jersey’s Peter Rodino. “It was highly partisan, but it was less tribal.”
“They’re completely ahistorical,” GOP political consultant and Trump critic Rick Wilson said of today’s House Republicans, adding that even those who do care about congressional history seem to take away “the worst conceit, and that is that history doesn’t apply to them.”

Any potentially vulnerable House Republican lost in 2018.
Michael Steel, a top aide to former House Speaker John Boehner

The 1974 Judiciary Committee’s votes came just days after the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that Nixon had to release audio tapes he had withheld. Those were made public on Aug. 5 ― days after the three impeachment articles had been approved by the committee but not yet passed by the full House ― and proved Nixon’s involvement in the DNC burglary and wiretapping cover-up. Nixon announced his resignation the night of Aug. 8.
“Things collapsed on him pretty quickly,” said Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian at Rice University.
In Trump’s case, the most striking evidence came from Trump himself. On Sept. 25, he released a rough transcript of a July 25 phone call that showed him asking for the “favor” of investigations after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky mentioned military aid. On Oct. 3, Trump told reporters that Zelensky should “start a major investigation into the Bidens,” and moments later added that China should investigate them, too.
Democrats are moving forward with articles of impeachment accusing Trump of abuse of power for using his office to damage former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democrat he most feared in 2020, as well as obstruction of Congress for refusing to turn over documents or permit executive branch employees from testifying in the impeachment inquiry.
Trump continues to insist he did nothing wrong, and congressional Republicans have been reluctant to cross him publicly. The only non-Democrat likely to vote to impeach Trump is Michigan Rep. Justin Amash, who left the GOP in July because of his unwillingness to support Trump.
The only Republican on today’s Judiciary Committee with a remotely competitive seat is Ohio’s Steve Chabot, whose district voted for Trump by 6 points in 2016, said Dave Wasserman with the Cook Political Report.
This is, in part, because of Democrats’ great success last November, when anti-Trump sentiment helped them pick up 40 seats and control of the chamber. “Any potentially vulnerable House Republican lost in 2018,” said Michael Steel, once a top aide to former House Speaker John Boehner. “The ones that are left have more to fear from a Trump-inspired primary opponent than a general election loss.”
Joe Walsh, a former “tea party” House member who also is challenging Trump for the 2020 nomination, said his onetime colleagues have no interest in the country at large. “They’re more concerned with their base. With gerrymandering and Fox News, as long as their base wants ‘no,’ they’ll vote ‘no,’” he said.

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Georgia Democrats Haven’t Won A Senate Seat In 19 Years. Two Women Say They Can.

You may not have heard much about them, but two viable, progressive candidates are running to unseat Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) in 2020 and both have a shot at making history as the state’s first elected female senator.
Sarah Riggs Amico, an executive at a family-run trucking company, ran for lieutenant governor last year alongside Stacey Abrams’ historic bid for governor. Amico didn’t win, but she came relatively close and ― as she’ll happily point out ― got way more votes than Perdue did when he won his Senate seat in 2014.
Teresa Tomlinson, an attorney, was the twice-elected mayor of Columbus, the state’s second-largest city and a majority-minority community. During her eight years in office, she was named six times to Georgia Trend Magazine’s “100 Most Influential Georgians” list and led Columbus to be rated one of the “25 Best Run Cities in America” by WalletHub, a Washington-based finance website.
Both have shown they can fundraise. Both have picked up key endorsements. Both have a clear policy platform and a strategy for appealing to voters in Democratic and Republican parts of the state. Neither is getting much national attention. Why is that?
It’s partly because the field is wide open in this Senate Democratic primary, which isn’t until May 19. It’s partly because another candidate in the mix, filmmaker Jon Ossoff, already benefits from national name recognition from his high-profile but unsuccessful House bid in 2017. But it’s also because national groups like the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and EMILY’s List are still watching to see if it’s worth investing in a real fight in Georgia, where Democrats have teetered on the edge of winning a statewide election for years but fallen just short every time.
“Georgia has been like the Lucy’s football of American politics,” said Jeffrey Lazarus, a political science professor at Georgia State University. “Time and time and time again, Democrats have been getting 46, 47, 49%, going back to 2000 in Senate races and governor’s race. … Demographically, it does look like any year now it could be the time when a Democrat wins.”
Amico and Tomlinson insist that Georgia is ripe for a Democratic victory next year, saying a mix of factors give the party an edge: the state’s rapidly changing demographics around Atlanta, where the population is diversifying and threatening the GOP’s grip on power; the “Stacey Abrams phenomenon,” as Tomlinson put it, meaning Democratic voters are still fired up after she nearly won last year’s governor’s race; and the fact that both Senate seats are open in 2020 and neither will be held by a longtime Republican anymore.
Perdue has only been in his seat for one term after former Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss held it for 12 years. Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson, who is in his third term, is retiring at the end of this year, leaving his seat open for a special election in 2020. The outcomes in both Senate races could help determine which party controls the chamber.
Democrats remain the underdogs here, of course. The Cook Political Report rates Perdue’s seat “likely Republican.” Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball rates it the slightly more tenuous “leans Republican.” Perdue also has a whopping $6.3 million cash on hand, a formidable hurdle for anyone taking him on.
But neither of those details means Perdue has a lock on his seat. He has closely aligned himself with President Donald Trump, whose approval rating has stayed underwater in multiple Georgia polls. New voters have registered in droves since 2018, and many are racial minorities or under the age of 30 ― both groups more likely to support Democrats than Republicans. And for all the money Perdue has in the bank, he still brought Trump to Atlanta last month to host a big-ticket fundraiser for him, a sign of at least some uneasiness about his path ahead.
Trump also set up a joint fundraising committee with Perdue, making him the first Senate incumbent to directly receive support from a Trump-backed fundraising committee.
In separate interviews with HuffPost, Amico and Tomlinson laid out why they’re running, how they plan to connect with voters in conservative areas and why they see Perdue as vulnerable in a state where a Democrat hasn’t won a Senate election in 19 years.

Jessica McGowan via Getty Images

Sarah Riggs Amico addresses the crowd at a campaign rally at Morehouse College in November 2018, during her bid for Georgia lieutenant governor. She lost by barely more than 3 percentage points.

Sarah Riggs Amico
“How many Democrats do you know who launched with a video about faith featuring gay couples and trans activists and abortion rights?”
That’s Amico, boasting of her Senate campaign launch video in August. In it, she talks about her progressive Christian faith and how it shapes her views on matters ranging from social justice to economic security to running a company. The video also features hugs from Abrams and former President Barack Obama during her 2018 campaign.
A self-described suburban mom and political outsider before last year’s bid for lieutenant governor, Amico said she learned from her intense race for lieutenant governor that most Georgians don’t see themselves as Democrats or Republican as much as they are looking to connect with leaders on everyday issues.
That’s one way that Perdue is vulnerable, she said. He hasn’t held a single town hall since he took office in early 2015. In the meantime, Amico said she’s held more than 150 town halls and is still going, connecting with voters in rural and urban areas on issues like health care, LGBTQ rights, business leadership and faith.
“They don’t want to hear your philosophy on government. They want to know if you can fix the problems they worry about when the kids are asleep and they’re sitting on the couch watching Netflix or the news, and God help them, looking at what’s happening in this country,” she said. “That’s where we fight.”

Bless his heart, it’s not going to fly.
Sarah Riggs Amico on Sen. David Perdue trying to knock her business experience.

Amico and Perdue have both led companies through tough economic times, and both have filed for bankruptcy in the past. She said how they each responded to the situation presents “two visions of capitalism”: Perdue laid off 7,650 people as CEO of Pillowtex, a failed textile company, while Amico gave up her equity as executive chairwoman of Jack Cooper Ventures, the family-run trucking company, to save thousands of jobs and health benefits. The company, one of just two unionized car fleets, cited difficulty competing with its mostly non-unionized competition as the reason for its bankruptcy filing.
“The contrast between our business experience is stark and not in his favor. The contrast is even better if he tries to make the ‘socialism’ argument against me, a former trucking company owner and Harvard MBA,” she said. “Bless his heart, it’s not going to fly.” 
Amico is the only Democratic candidate who has previously run a statewide campaign ― and did she mention that she got more than 1.8 million votes when she ran for lieutenant governor? That’s 400,000 more votes than Perdue got when he won his 2014 Senate race.
“I’m starting from a hell of a base to give him a run for his money,” she said.

Teresa Tomlinson campaign

Teresa Tomlinson brings deep Georgia roots to her bid for a Senate seat.

Teresa Tomlinson
“I actually believe I’m the only candidate who can beat David Perdue.”
An eighth generation Georgian, Tomlinson has come a long way from seven generations of her family living in “rank, rural poverty,” as she put it. She describes her mom growing up so poor that she and her six siblings were farmed out to friends’ and relatives’ houses when their parents couldn’t afford to feed them. If it wasn’t for the government adopting strong economic policies at the time Tomlinson was growing up in Atlanta ― policies that strengthened her mom’s union protections in her job at a meat department in a grocery store ― she says she wouldn’t have been able to go to college and law school.
“I say all the time, ‘Government is the framework in which we live our most prosperous life,’” she said. “And that’s why I’m here today.”
Tomlinson is leaning on her success as mayor and her rural roots to connect with voters in central and south Georgia, a stretch of the state where her family has deep ties but where Democrats don’t usually campaign. She gave a nod to Georgians in rural areas last month by launching her campaign headquarters in Columbus instead of Atlanta, where major statewide candidates generally set up camp. 
But wooing rural voters isn’t her only strategy. Tomlinson is going all-in on courting African American voters.
Racial and economic justice are a central focus of her platform. She said she built inroads with the African American community during her eight years running Columbus. She’s also picked up endorsements from prominent black leaders in Georgia, ranging from lawmakers to former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Andrew Young, baseball legend Hank Aaron and human rights activist Joe Beasley.
And putting her philosophies into practice, her campaign’s entire executive team is African American women.
“They bring a perspective that is wildly underrepresented in campaigns and policy,” she said. “The pragmatic need to respond to the people that you’re asking to make this decision, that’s how it came about. I will say too, they are all also of another generation. So this is the future of Georgia politics right here. This campaign. It reflects it.”
That certainly lends itself to a statewide run: 63% of the electorate in the Democratic primary is African American voters, she said, of which 70% are women.
“When you want justice, you go to some African American voters. They have a 400-year history of being able to understand where justice and injustice lie,” Tomlinson said. “I have been making sure that when I’ve had the opportunity to govern and now lead this campaign, that what I’m doing reflects that relationship with the African American community. I’m very conscious of it.”

When you want justice, you go to some African American voters. They have a 400-year history of being able to understand where justice and injustice lie.
Teresa Tomlinson

Tomlinson is smart to highlight the relationships she forged with leaders in the Black community as mayor, said Howard Franklin, an African American Democratic strategist based in Atlanta. He noted that she was the only Senate Democratic candidate who attended a Congressional Black Caucus gathering in Washington in the fall.
“Having served before is a big leg up,” said Franklin. “Columbus is the second-largest city. Eight years. It means you have to meet with all the legislative leaders, which is different than meeting them as a candidate.”
Tomlinson sees plenty of vulnerabilities in Perdue. He’s stood by Trump amid the president’s prolonged trade war with China, even as Georgia’s farmers have suffered. He didn’t use his influence to expedite long-delayed federal relief for Hurricane Michael, which badly hurt the state. (Perdue blamed Democrats, not Republicans, for holding up that aid.) And, of course, Perdue doesn’t hold town halls, which Tomlinson said fuels his status as “remote” and “amazingly absent.”
That alone, she added, is grounds for replacing him.
“His whole demeanor is antithetical to the fiduciary concept of representing people in a public service position,” Tomlinson said. “He’s been a complete failure as a Georgia representative.”
Perdue spokeswoman Casey Black said the lawmaker is proud of his Senate record and defended his role in securing disaster relief and agreement on a new trade deal with Mexico and Canada.
“Senator Perdue works hard every day to get positive results for the people of Georgia, and he was instrumental in delivering much-needed disaster relief for our farmers, as well as a new trade deal that’s good for all American businesses and workers,” said Black.

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U.S. Hits Iran With New Sanctions, Hopes For Prisoner Dialogue

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration on Wednesday hit Iran with new sanctions that target several transportation firms as it continues its “maximum pressure campaign” against the Islamic Republic over its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
The sanctions target Iran’s state shipping line and a China-based company that has been involved in delivering missile parts to Iran. They also add a layer of new penalties to a previously sanctioned Iranian airline, Mahan Air, which is accused of sending weapons to Iranian proxies in Lebanon and Yemen, and three of its sales agents.
The moves were announced by the Treasury and the State Department and will subject foreign firms and governments that do business with the targeted entities to sanctions themselves, including a freeze on any assets they may have in U.S. jurisdictions.
“Today’s designations put the world on notice that those who engage in illicit transactions with these companies will risk exposure and sanctions themselves,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said.
Alireza Miryousefi, a spokesman for Iran’s U.N. Mission, tweeted later Wednesday: “These sanctions are directly targeting ordinary Iranians’ livelihood, but they will not be cowed by pressures by any foreign power. And another step in the US’ #economicterrorism against Iranians, who are never fooled by the US’s crocodile tears.”
Pompeo announced the sanctions even as he expressed hope that a weekend prisoner swap with Iran could lead to a dialogue between Washington and Tehran over prisoners. He called Saturday’s release of Princeton graduate student Xiyue Wang in exchange for an Iranian jailed in the U.S. a “happier note” that could yield progress.
“I do hope the exchange that took place will lead to a broader discussion on consular affairs. We are working to use this as an opportunity to continue that effort,” he said. “I hope that it portends well. We have had some indication that that may be the case, but I don’t want to be overstate that, I don’t want to give false optimism about that pathway.”
“If we can find an opening and deliver these people back to their families and back to America we will certainly do that,” he said.
U.S. authorities say Iran is holding one American national and five dual U.S.-Iranian nationals. They include Navy veteran Michael White, who is serving a 10-year espionage sentence, as well as environmentalist Morad Tahbaz, an Iranian with U.S. and British citizenship also initially sentenced to 10 years in prison, and Iranian-American father and son Siamak and Baquer Namazi. Former FBI agent Robert Levinson has been missing for 13 years since disappearing in Iran.
Iran says American authorities are holding about 20 Iranian nationals in jail and on Monday said it was ready for more prisoner swaps with the U.S.

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Donald Trump Jr. Went To Mongolia, Got Special Treatment From The Government And Killed An Endangered Sheep

Stay up to date with email updates about WNYC and ProPublica’s investigations into the president’s business practices.

The rocky highlands of Central Asia, in a remote region of Western Mongolia, are home to a plummeting population of the largest sheep in the world, the argali. The endangered species is beloved for its giant curving horns, which can run over 6 feet in length.
On a hunting trip this August, Donald Trump Jr. shot and killed one.
His adventure was supported by government resources from both the U.S. and Mongolia, which each sent security services to accompany the president’s eldest son and grandson on the multiday trip. It also thrust Trump Jr. directly into the controversial world of Mongolian trophy hunting — a polarizing practice in a country that views the big-horned rams as a national treasure. The right to kill an argali is controlled by an opaque permitting system that experts say is mostly based on money, connections and politics.
Trump Jr. received special treatment during his summer trip, according to records obtained by ProPublica as well as interviews with people involved in the hunt. Listen to the episode.

The Mongolian government granted Trump Jr. a coveted and rare permit to slay the animal retroactively on Sept. 2, after he’d left the region following his trip. It’s unusual for permits to be issued after a hunter’s stay. It was one of only three permits to be issued in that hunting region, local records show.
Afterward, Trump Jr. met privately with the country’s president, Khaltmaagiin Battulga, before departing the capital of Ulaanbaatar back to the U.S., according to Khuantai Khafezyn, a local government official in the region where Trump Jr. hunted the argali and a former government official with knowledge of the meeting. It isn’t clear what was discussed. Trump Jr. wouldn’t answer questions about the meeting. Representatives for Battulga haven’t responded to requests for comment.
“What are the chances the Mongolian government would’ve done any of that to someone who wasn’t the son of the United States’ president?” asked Kathleen Clark, a professor specializing in legal ethics at Washington University in St. Louis School of Law. She said that though Trump Jr. is not a government employee, he’s nonetheless politically influential, incentivizing foreign officials such as the Mongolian leader to treat him favorably out of a “desire on the part of a foreign government to curry favor with the president’s family.”
In response to questions from ProPublica about the hunting trip, a spokesman for Trump Jr., an avid outdoorsman, said in a statement it was a purely personal expedition. He purchased the seven-day Mongolian hunting trip at a National Rifle Association charity auction before his father announced his candidacy for president in 2015, the spokesman said, and flew commercial in and out of the country. It’s unclear if the auction item listed an argali or mentioned meetings with Mongolian government officials.

belovodchenko via Getty Images

A portrait of an argali sheep.

Mongolia is a resource-rich, young democracy that considers the U.S. an important ally as it faces pressure from its powerful neighbors, particularly the Chinese. Legislation introduced this year in Congress would give duty-free treatment to Mongolian cashmere and other products in an effort to increase trade between the two countries — and lessen its reliance on China.
The hunt came just weeks after high-level government discussions — including a White House meeting — between officials from the U.S. and Mongolia, a landlocked country sandwiched between Russia and China. Mongolia refers to the U.S. as its “third neighbor,” relying on America for economic and security support. During that meeting, the Mongolian president gave a horse to President Donald Trump’s youngest son, Barron. Trump named it “Victory.” (The horse, a traditional ceremonial gift, resides in Mongolia.)
The hunting trip Trump Jr. won at auction was sponsored by a Mongolian tourism company and arranged by Jandos Kontorbai Ahat, a member of the Mongolian president’s political party. His company, Marmara International LLC, is on the board of the Mongolian hunting association and has been recognized for its work on argali wildlife preservation by the Mongolian Environmental Ministry.
In an interview, Ahat called the trophy hunting permitting system in Mongolia “very political.” He wouldn’t say how he arranged for Trump Jr.’s permit, or acknowledge that the hunt took place, but he praised Trump Jr. “Don Jr. was an upstanding person, he never did anything that was unpleasant,” Ahat said. “He treated people with respect.”
Ahat said the embassy’s defense attache accompanied the hunting party on the trip. Hunting guides and scouts who worked on Trump Jr.’s trip said the president’s son was joined by what they described as five American bodyguards. The U.S. Secret Service doesn’t comment on protection details, according to an agency spokesman. In the statement from Trump Jr.’s spokesman, he said that protection details are determined by the Secret Service, not Trump Jr. Trump Jr.’s spokesman did not comment on who accompanied the president’s son.
The White House, State Department, Defense Department and U.S. Embassy in Mongolia haven’t responded to questions about Trump Jr.’s trip. The NRA declined to comment.
In his statement, Trump Jr.’s spokesman said no government officials from either country organized the trip and said the permits were appropriately obtained via a third-party outfitter, “as is standard in the industry.” It’s not clear what Trump Jr. paid for his hunting excursion, but a review of online promotions shows that Mongolian outfitters typically charge between $24,000 and $50,000 to wealthy Westerners who want to shoot and kill argali. Four members of the Kardebai family, local herders who served as scouts on Trump Jr.’s hunt, confirmed to ProPublica that they were paid for their services but wouldn’t disclose how much or by whom.
While hunting permits are intended to protect the sheep and fund conservation efforts, the population of argalis has plummeted over the last 35 years. The estimated population in the country dropped from 50,000 in 1985 to just 18,000 in 2009, the most recent survey period, said Amgalanbaatar Sukh, a scientist who heads an argali research center in Mongolia. The animals are listed as threatened under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.
Advocates say trophy hunting can help conserve threatened species by managing the population’s size. They say permit fees go toward supporting local communities, who are paid for their services and keep the meat harvested from the kills. But some conservation biologists and animal rights groups contend the hunting programs are ineffective and can lead to disruption of local ecosystems.
In Mongolia, the permit process has been rife with favoritism, experts say. Obtaining permission to trophy hunt in Mongolia is an insider’s game featuring a poorly tracked quota system, said Nathan Conaboy, a researcher who helped author a 2016 Zoological Society of London study of argali in Mongolia.
Sukh said the permits are often arranged by high-level government contacts in ways privy only to those in the know. There are sometimes discrepancies between the number of permits issued and the official quota figures for argali, he said. The government has allotted 86 such permits to be issued this year, with specific numbers assigned to each hunting region across the country, for a season that lasts from July 1 to Sept. 30. The hunters’ fees are supposed to pay herders and scouts as well as fund surveys and other ram management programs. Sukh said he’d never received government funds to conduct such surveys.
Trump Jr. shot his argali at night, using a rifle with a laser sight, the guides said. He stopped the local hunting guides from dismembering it at the kill site, instead instructing them to use an aluminum sheet to carry the carcass so as not to damage the fur and horns, said Khuandyg Akhbas, 50, one of the guides. He also killed a red deer, which similarly required a permit.
“At night, we couldn’t find where the animal fell, and we used our light from our phones to find the animal,” Akhbas said, describing the argali hunt. “In the morning they took the animal by truck to the mountain and shot a video on top of the mountain.”
The local guides, who said they were impressed by both Trump Jr.’s hunting abilities and his willingness to handle the animal’s dead body, were prevented from posing in photographs with Trump Jr. and the argali carcass. Trump Jr. posted nearly two dozen photos of his Mongolian vacation on Instagram in separate posts from August, October and November. One showed him in a yurt, another with a live eagle and a third depicted him riding a Mongolian horse. He did not post any photos of the argali.
Trump Jr. appears to have been joined in his hunting trip by a Republican donor, according to Instagram posts from late August posted by a Turkish hunting guide, Kaan Karakaya. Karakaya also joined Trump Jr. for the argali hunt, said the local guides. Karakaya and his company, Shikar Safaris, are favored by the Mongolian president’s office to facilitate trophy hunting in Mongolia, said Sukh, the argali expert.
Karakaya posted photos and videos on Instagram featuring an American oil and gas company CEO named Kevin Small killing an argali in August, around the time of Trump Jr.’s trip to the country. In one of the photos of Small posing with the carcass of the sheep, Trump Jr. comments: “Amazing sheep and amazing guy.” The link to the post is no longer working.
Campaign finance records show Small increased his political donations to Republicans in the months ahead of the trip. In March, he gave $50,000 to the Take Back the House 2020 joint fundraising committee, an additional $35,500 to the National Republican Congressional Committee, and $10,600 to a super PAC supporting House Republican candidates and the campaign fund for Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the minority leader. The amount far exceeds his contributions in previous years, federal campaign contribution records show.
Trump Jr.’s spokesman didn’t answer questions about Small. Small hasn’t responded to phone messages seeking comment. Karakaya didn’t respond to an email seeking comment.
It’s unclear what happened to the argali trophy after Trump Jr. killed it. To import the fur and horns of the argali he killed, Trump Jr. would have had to apply for and be granted permission by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Trump Jr. didn’t respond to questions about this. A spokeswoman for the service wouldn’t say whether Trump Jr. had applied for such a license. 

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New Zealand Volcano Death Toll Rises To 8 As Names Of Missing Released

Two teenage brothers originally from Chicago have been identified as among those killed in Monday’s volcanic eruption off the coast of New Zealand, as the official death toll from the natural disaster was raised from six to eight.
Matthew Hollander, 13, and Berend Hollander, 16, who had moved from the U.S. to Sydney with their parents, died after being hospitalized for injuries sustained while touring White Island, the Chicago Tribune reported, citing an announcement from their school.
Their mother, Barbara Hollander, 50, who was born in Chicago, and their father, Martin Hollander, 48, who was born in Australia, remained missing as of Thursday morning, local time.
The volcano erupted just after 2 p.m. Monday, covering the area with ash and steam as several tourist groups were visiting. Authorities said there were at least 47 people on the island when the blast occurred.


Plumes of steam rise above White Island off the coast of Whakatane, New Zealand, on Wednesday.

Police announced two additional deaths on Thursday morning, local time, but without identifying them by name. Both of the victims had been treated at a hospital, police said. It’s not clear whether these two deaths were in the Hollander family.
This news came hours after police released a partial list of those confirmed as missing. This list of nine people, all from Australia and New Zealand, is said to be incomplete as authorities have been unable to speak with all of the potential victims’ families.
Those missing are identified as:

Gavin Dallow (Australia)

Jessica Richards (Australia)

Krystal Browitt (Australia)

Richard Elzer  (Australia)

Zoe Hosking (Australia)

Karla Mathews (Australia)

Julie Richards (Australia)

Tipene Maangi (New Zealand)

Hayden Inman (New Zealand)

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk personally confirmed the deaths of Julie and Jessica Richards on Twitter, however, stating that she knows members of their family.
“I know how much Julie and Jessica are loved and how terribly devastating their loss is,” she said. “I offer my profound condolences to everyone going through what this family is going through. I also offer my admiration to rescuers and the Brisbane medical teams comforting the injured.”


A damaged helicopter is seen following the volcanic eruption. Unstable conditions continued to hamper rescue workers from searching for people missing and feared dead.

The mother and daughter from Brisbane were reportedly visiting the island as part of a cruise with the liner Ovation of the Seas at the time of the eruption, Perth Now reported.
A similar, informal list released by the Red Cross includes several dozen names, most of which are identified as Australian born. There are at least nine people identified as born in the U.S., five born in New Zealand, and others from Germany, Britain, China and Malaysia. The youngest on the list is age 5 and the oldest age 74.
Virginia newlyweds Matthew and Lauren Urey have also been reported as among those injured, with Matthew suffering burns over 80 percent of his body and Lauren having burns over 20 percent of hers. Both were last listed as hospitalized, the New Zealand Herald reported.


Emergency services attend to an injured person arriving at the Whakatane Airfield after the volcanic eruption on Monday.

Much to the dismay of the victims’ families, rescue crews have been unable to return to the island to recover bodies due to the extreme conditions.
“Since Monday we have been working tirelessly with our partners at Defence and Fire and Emergency New Zealand to establish a plan for the recovery of the bodies still on the island,” Deputy Commissioner John Tims of New Zealand’s national police said in a statement Wednesday. “We are confident in our ability to deliver the rescue operation once we can be sure we can manage the very real dangers that anyone going onto the island would face.”

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Donald Trump Jr. Slams Time For Naming Greta Thunberg Person of the Year

Thunberg was chosen from Time’s five finalists, which also included the anti-government protesters in Hong Kong, President Donald Trump, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and the anonymous whistleblower whose complaint about Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky sparked the impeachment probe.
Being a finalist does not seem to have been enough for Trump Jr.
The Hong Kong protests, which have been ongoing since March, were sparked by a now-suspended extradition bill that would have allowed people to be sent to mainland China to face trials, according to Reuters. Protesters viewed the measure as a threat to Hong Kong’s autonomy. 
Many conservative organizations joined Trump Jr. in criticizing the choice of Thunberg over the protesters. The Federalist argued that Thunberg wasn’t worthy because she “sticks to challenges with less risk, like speaking to groups of people who entirely agree with her.” Townhall wished Time “would have rethought their decision.” The Daily Wire wrote that “leftists have been celebrating the news, seemingly unbothered by the fact she won over the Hong Kong Protesters.”
The president last month signed legislation backing the protesters, despite China’s objections. 
He also has a history with Thunberg. In September, after video of an impassioned Thunberg speech about the looming climate disaster went viral, Trump mocked her in a sarcastic tweet, saying she seemed “like a very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future.”
Thunberg didn’t directly respond, but changed her Twitter bio to read: “A very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future.” 

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Plastic Pollution Is A Global Problem We Can’t Ignore

It’s nearly impossible to go throughout your day without using plastic. 
Plastic face wash and shampoo bottles, toothbrushes, and makeup containers greet us in the morning. Plastic-lined paper coffee cups fuel our work day and plastic forks, knives, spoons and plates greet us at lunch. Plastic packaging is tossed in the bin as we unwrap dinner ingredients and plastic helps us scrub our dishes clean when we’re done. 
Plastic makes up the tires of our cars, many of the seats we sit on and vital medical devices we rely on.
More than 90% of plastic isn’t recycled and it’s estimated to take anywhere from 500 to 1,000 years for plastic to break down in landfills. If it isn’t recycled or incinerated, this trash often finds its way into streams, rivers and oceans where animals can’t help but eat plastic, often because it smells like food to them.
And it’s not just causing pollution on the ground; the petroleum-based product is also helping to fuel climate change. According to a report published in May, greenhouse gas emissions from plastics production this year will equal the pollution output of nearly 200 coal-fired power plants with a 500-megawatt capacity. 

Plastics are out of control. No matter where you go, nations are overwhelmed by it, as one woman who traveled to every country on earth can testify. From the bottom of the ocean and inside whales to microplastic-laden water and fresh mountain air, here’s where plastic has wound up in 2019.

Smothering Southeast Asia 

Joshua Paul for HuffPost

A man walks through an illegal dumpsite teeming with plastic trash imported from the United States, in Ipoh, Malaysia, Jan. 30, 2019.

After China ― once the world’s largest importer of recyclables ― enforced its ban on accepting imports of several kinds of scrap plastic in January 2018, countries across southeast Asia have been inundated with foreign waste.


A boy paints a boat in a beach filled with plastic waste at Muncar port in Banyuwangi, East Java on March 4, 2019, in Indonesia.

Malaysia has now claimed the title as the world’s biggest importer of plastic waste. Meanwhile a small fishing village in Indonesia can’t escape thick layers, often several feet deep, of plastic lining its beaches. 
At The Bottom Of The Ocean

Stelios Misinas / Reuters

Plastic waste found at the bottom of the sea in Greece.

It’s long been known that much of the world’s plastic ends up in our oceans. But new reports this year shed a new light on the scale of what’s happening. According to the World Wildlife Fund, 570,000 tons of plastic enter the Mediterranean each year (equivalent to 33,800 plastic bottles a minute). 
A Greenpeace report also found that lost and abandoned fishing gear makes up the majority of large plastic pollution in our oceans. 
And in May, an American explorer who dove nearly 7 miles down to the deepest place under the ocean ― the Pacific Ocean’s Mariana Trench ― arrived at the bottom of the seafloor only to find plastic waste, including a plastic bag and candy wrappers.
In Animals

NurPhoto via Getty Images

A goat is foraging for food inside a plastic bag in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Feb. 15, 2019. (Photo by Andrew Gal/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

It seems like there’s been a never-ending stream of headlines this year about plastic being discovered inside animals ― often contributing to their death.

In March, a young whale was found with 88 pounds of plastic in its stomach, causing it to dehydrate and starve to death, and this month a young sperm whale was found in Scotland with 220 pounds of trash in its stomach including plastic rope, cups and gloves. 

Scottish Marine Animal Strandings Scheme

Plastic rope found inside a sperm whale’s stomach in Scotland in December 2019.

In August, an orphaned dugong (related to the manatee) who stole hearts across the internet died due to an infection exacerbated by bits of plastic lining its stomach. And last month a deer was found dead in Thailand with its belly full of “men’s underwear, plastic bags, instant coffee sachets and parts of plastic rope.”   


Larval flying fish (top) and triggerfish (bottom) with tiny pieces of ingested plastics shown to their left. Larger images of the plastics appear in boxes further left. Dime shown for scale.

Baby fish in Hawaii are now outnumbered seven to one by tiny plastic particles which if ingested can hamper their growth, and further north, microplastics were found in the intestines of beluga whales, a staple food source for First Nations communities in Canada.
In Our Food
Researchers in a study this year estimated that the average person could be consuming anywhere from 39,000 to 52,000 microplastic particles every year. If you combine this with how much we might be breathing in ― this spring researchers discovered microplastic pollution falling from the air in a remote mountain region in southern France ― that could bring the total to up to 74,000 tiny bits of plastic entering our bodies each year, according to National Geographic.

RODGER BOSCH/AFP via Getty Images

Commercially-grown bananas are wrapped in plastic to protect them from becoming disfigured. 

Plastic is used throughout the entire food chain, from encasing bananas as they grow to prevent disfiguring marks to clear packaging in our stores.  

Mike Kemp/In Pictures via Getty Images Images

Crop of runner beans being grown in huge numbers under plastic on a farm near Hartlebury, England, United Kingdom. 

It finds its way into food and drink, According to a recent article by The New York Times, plastic waste shipped from the United States is being used as fuel by tofu makers in Indonesia, leading to deadly chemicals contaminating the food. 

Mukhina1 via Getty Images

Plastic tea bags typically come in pyramid shapes (but not always).

Meanwhile, more than 11.6 billion microplastics can be released by a single tea bag when steeped in water brewed at near boiling temperature. And scientists at SUNY Fredonia college found that 90% of bottled water sampled had microplastics floating in it, prompting an investigation by the World Health Organization. More research is needed though, WHO said, to determine the health risks associated with this pollution.
In Remote Deserts


Black kites sit on a tree with plastic bags clinging to it after a storm near the Dudaim dump in Israel’s Negev desert.

Once pristine and remote places such as the northern coastal desert in La Guajira, Colombia, home to predominantly indigenous communities, or Israel’s Negev desert, are now adorned with plastic bags hanging from trees and cacti.

Photo by Juancho Torres/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

People in La Guajira, Colombia, face difficulties due to the high volume of garbage.

Disguised As Rock

Rob Arnold

Pyroplastic may look like small rocks, but unlike real stone, this plastic waste floats.

And a newly discovered type of plastic pollution known pyroplastic may be hiding in plain sight around the world. These bits of plastic, transformed somehow by fire, tend to look like pebbles and have been found on beaches dotting England’s coastline. 
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Trump May Be ‘So Much Worse’ Than Nixon But Republicans Don’t Seem To Care

BEDFORD, N.H. — Richard Nixon used tens of thousands of his campaign dollars to finance a burglary of the Democratic National Committee headquarters in order to cheat in his 1972 presidential reelection.
Forty-seven years later, Donald Trump, according to witness testimony in congressional hearings, used hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to coerce a foreign government in order to cheat in his 2020 reelection.
Yet while Nixon wound up resigning after his fellow Republicans in the Senate told him they would vote to remove him from office, Trump today appears likely to survive a Senate trial, even as the House prepares to debate two articles of impeachment later this week.
“Americans are guided in many ways by their leadership,” said Al Cardenas, a former chairman of the Republican Party of Florida. “There was significant bipartisan agreement that President Nixon had breached the threshold regarding abuse of power and thus was impeachable. Either today’s values have evolved, partisanship has hit a new high or the caliber of our GOP representation has diminished. Take your pick.”
Reflecting — or perhaps driving — that difference across the decades: 31% of Republicans wound up abandoning Nixon and saying he should be removed from office, while only 7% of Republicans today believe that about Trump.
At Trump’s rally in Minneapolis in October, construction contractor Jason Munson said he had no interest in any facts that did not come from Trump personally, and that Trump’s election was divine intervention. “It was the hand of God,” he said.
At the Iowa Republican Party’s annual fundraising dinner in Des Moines last month, oral historian Kristine Bartley said Democrats should defeat Trump in the election next year rather than impeaching him, regardless of what he did with Ukraine. “Unless the president is running around with a gun shooting people, just let it go,” she said.
And at a “Countdown to Victory Reception and Christmas Party” for New Hampshire Republicans at a restaurant in Bedford last week, Plymouth town selectman John Randlett said all politicians try to cheat and that it was pretty much impossible to know what really happened, even with Nixon. “Are you ever going to find out the true facts? No,” he said, adding that he was sticking with Trump. “As he says, it’s a witch hunt.”
Republican pollster Neil Newhouse said there is not much in common between American politics today versus five decades ago. “It has little to do with the perceived seriousness of the crime, though I would argue that the break-in and cover-up was far more egregious than the current charges,” Newhouse said, adding: “1974 was a different, less partisan time. Today’s polarization is unprecedented.”
Both Democrats and Republicans agree that a dramatically changed media landscape is a major cause of the difference. In 1974, all three broadcast television networks carried the impeachment hearings live — meaning that there was literally nothing else on TV during those hours. Today, not only do hardcore Republicans have news outlets that cater to their preferences, but there are hundreds of other cable channels and an internet that provide politics-free content for those who prefer that.
Anthony Scaramucci, Trump’s short-lived White House communications director in 2017 who has now become a Trump critic, has a two-word answer for what’s different: “Fox News.”
According to witness testimony as well as the rough transcript of Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukraine’s president, Trump demanded that Ukraine investigate former Vice President Joe Biden as well as support a conspiracy theory which falsely claims that Russian intelligence agencies did not help Trump win the 2016 election, but rather it was Ukrainian officials who framed Russia by using fake evidence. He made $391 million in military aid contingent on Ukraine publicly announcing the probes but then backed down after the White House learned that the whistleblower’s complaint on the matter was about to reach Congress.

Trump has something Nixon didn’t have: Fox News. Conservative media. That’s the difference.
Joe Walsh, former Republican congressman running against Trump

But pro-Trump media have largely been echoing Trump’s claims that he did nothing wrong in demanding investigations, or that if it was wrong, it was nevertheless not impeachable.
Joe Walsh, the former Republican congressman running against Trump for the 2020 nomination, said he has had trouble getting coverage from pro-Trump news outlets because of his unsparing criticisms of the president. “It is a far worse abuse of power,” he said of Trump’s attempt to coerce Ukraine. “But Trump has something Nixon didn’t have: Fox News. Conservative media. That’s the difference.”
GOP base voters are, indeed, getting a “diet of commentary” that supports Trump’s contention that he did nothing wrong, said Rory Cooper, a Republican consultant and onetime top aide to former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. But he added that equally important is the extinction of moderate Republicans. “Centrist or New England Republicans that turned on Nixon don’t exist in today’s Congress. The longer this remains viewed as a partisan exercise, the longer the numbers will remain stagnant, which is to say it’s unlikely for them to move much more absent a significant development.”
Another key difference between 1974 and now is how the scandals played out. Nixon spent well over a year denying that he had any knowledge of the break-in or cover-up as his approval numbers slowly deteriorated. Then, after the Supreme Court ordered the release of audio tapes that proved Nixon had been lying, his support collapsed to the point that senior Republican senators told him that he would be removed from office following an impeachment trial.
In Trump’s case, within weeks of House Democrats revealing that a whistleblower had filed a complaint about his dealings with Ukraine, Trump himself ordered the release of the July 25 call memo, which showed him asking for “a favor” of investigations in response to the Ukrainian president’s mention of military aid. Days later, Trump told reporters that Volodymyr Zelensky should “start a major investigation into the Bidens,” and moments later added that China should investigate them, too.
The effect of getting such damning evidence out in the open right at the outset may have been to make every subsequent piece of corroborating proof that came out seem small in comparison, and the hearings themselves anti-climactic.
“My gut tells me that the smoking gun tape in this has already come out,” said Steve Duprey, a Republican National Committee member from New Hampshire who was also attending the Bedford Christmas Party. “The average American who’s shoveling snow in New Hampshire is not paying attention to this.”
One former senior RNC member said Trump’s impeachment is not getting as much support as Nixon’s because voters understood they would get someone liable to say and do irresponsible things when they voted for him — similar to the way Americans did not support Republicans’ impeachment of Bill Clinton in 1998.
“People knew that Clinton was a sex fiend, and voted for him anyway,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “From the point of view of Trump voters, they knew when they voted for him that he was pretty outrageous and disruptive. Rude, crude and unattractive.”
Not everyone, of course, downplays Trump’s actions.
“What the president did was so much worse than even what Richard Nixon did,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told CBS last month.
Indeed, Pelosi’s Sept. 24 announcement that the House would move forward with an impeachment inquiry — after months of warning her newly won majority against impeachment — saw dozens of skeptical House Democrats switch to supporting impeachment as well as a shift in public opinion generally. While Americans had previously opposed impeaching Trump by an 11-point margin, that has swung to a 4-point margin in support.
That movement, though, has since stalled, and may have even moved slightly in the opposite direction as Republicans argue that with the election coming up in 11 months, impeachment is not appropriate.
Rep. Adam Schiff, a California Democrat and chairman of the House Intelligence Committee that conducted the initial impeachment hearings, nevertheless said that Democrats have no choice but to impeach Trump, because failing to impeach him would encourage him to continue trying to improperly use his position to help his re-election campaign.
“The argument, ‘Why don’t you just wait,’ amounts to this,” Schiff said. “’Why don’t you just let him cheat in one more election? Why not let him cheat just one more time? Why not let him have foreign help just one more time?’”

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5 Dead, 8 Missing After New Zealand Volcano Eruption

Five people have died and eight others are missing and feared dead after a volcano erupted at a popular tourist site just off the coast of New Zealand, authorities said Tuesday.
The blast occurred just after 2 p.m. Monday at the country’s White Island, about 30 miles east of New Zealand’s mainland. The eruption covered the area with ash and steam as several tourist groups were visiting, some of whom were walking along the rim of the volcano’s crater just before it exploded.
Authorities said 31 people were seriously injured at the time, including 27 who sustained burns on at least 30% of their bodies.
“The scale of this tragedy is devastating,” New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told Parliament on Tuesday. “Our hearts go out to the families of those who are injured, missing or deceased.”
Officials said 47 people were on the island at the time of the eruption, 38 of them who were visiting for the day from the cruise ship Ovation of the Seas. 

Michael Schade via ASSOCIATED PRESS

Tourists film the eruption Monday of the volcano on White Island, New Zealand. Unstable conditions continued to hamper rescue workers from searching for people missing and feared dead.

Many of the travelers were Australians, the country’s prime minister, Scott Morrison, said Tuesday. At least 13 Australians were hospitalized and 11 others were among the dead or missing.
“I fear there is worse news to come over the course of perhaps today or over the next few days,” he said during a news briefing. “This is a terrible tragedy, a time of great innocence and joy interrupted by the horror of that eruption.”
Other visitors were from Britain, Germany, New Zealand, China, the United States and Malaysia.
The volcano on White Island is the most active cone volcano in the country and lies about 70% under the sea. The site is a private scenic reserve that sees about 10,000 visitors each year.
GeoNet, New Zealand’s science agency, said the eruption initially prompted a Level 4 volcanic alert (the highest on the scale, a Level 5, represents a “major eruption”). The agency has continued to issue warnings about the potential for further volcanic activity on the island, saying there’s about a 50% chance of a smaller or similar event in the next 24 hours.

Michael Schade via ASSOCIATED PRESS

The eruption Monday of the volcano on White Island, New Zealand. 

DOM THOMAS/AFP/pool photo via Getty Images

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern hugs a first responder who helped those injured in the White Island volcano eruption the day before, at the Whakatane Fire Station in Whakatane on Tuesday.

Ardern praised ongoing recovery efforts on Tuesday, which have so far been hampered by dangerous conditions on the island. She said there was still “significant ash” around the area.
“As we focus on the tragic events of Whakaari/White Island, I’m reminded of two things: There is no limit to New Zealand’s capacity to mobilize, to respond, to care and embrace those impacted by tragedy. We are a nation full of ordinary people who do extraordinary things.”
New Zealand Police Deputy Commissioner John Tims said authorities would use drones to determine how rescue and recovery officials can safely access the island, but he said significant challenges remained. He said authorities had opened a criminal investigation into the eruption to determine if anyone was at fault for the injuries and deaths.
“We’ll look into if there was anyone criminally responsible for the deaths and injuries. It’s early days yet,” Tims said. “So we’re just going to have to work through the evidence, talk to people and conduct the investigation.”

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