Protests sparked by planned WhatsApp tax sweep Lebanon

Beirut, Lebanon – Nationwide protests paralyzed Lebanon Friday as demonstrators blocked major roads in rallies against the government’s handling of a severe economic crisis and the country’s political class. 

The tension has been building for months as the government searched for new ways to levy taxes to manage the country’s economic crisis and soaring debt. The trigger, in the end, was news Thursday that the government was planning, among other measures, to impose a tax on WhatsApp calls — a decision it later withdrew as people began taking to the streets. 

In some cases the demonstrations evolved into riots, as protesters set fire to buildings and smashed window fronts, taking their anger out on politicians they accuse of corruption and decades of mismanagement. 

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The protests were the largest since 2015, and could further destabilize a country already on the verge of collapse and with one of the highest debt loads in the world. The unrest could plunge Lebanon into a political crisis with unpredictable repercussions for the economy, which has been in steady decline for the past few years. 

Some of the protesters said they would stay in the streets until the government resigns.

Time and again, the protesters shouted “Revolution!” and “The people want to bring down the regime,” echoing a refrain chanted by demonstrators during  that swept the region in 2011. 

LEBANON-INTERNET-BUDGET-DEMO
Lebanese demonstrators burn tires during a protest against dire economic conditions, on October 18, 2019 in the northern port city of Tripoli. AFP via Getty Images

“We are here today to ask for our rights. The country is corrupt, the garbage is all over the streets and we are fed up with all this,” said Loris Obeid, a protester in downtown Beirut.

Schools, banks and businesses shut down as the protests escalated and widened in scope to reach almost every city and province. Hundreds of people burned tires on highways and intersections in suburbs of the capital, Beirut, and in northern and southern cities, sending up clouds of black smoke in scattered protests. The road to Beirut’s international airport was blocked by protesters, stranding passengers who in some cases were seen dragging suitcases on foot to reach the airport.

“We are here for the future of our kids. There’s no future for us, no jobs at all and this is not acceptable any more. We have shut up for a long time and now it is time to talk,” Obeid added.

Some protesters threw stones, shoes and water bottles at security forces and scuffled with police. Security forces said at least 60 of its members were injured in the clashes. 

Two Syrian workers died Thursday when they were trapped in a shop that was set on fire by rioters. Dozens of people were injured. 

Protesters were also injured.    

LEBANON-INTERNET-BUDGET-DEMO
Lebanese demonstrators wave the national flag during a protest against dire economic conditions in downtown Beirut on October 18, 2019.  IBRAHIM AMRO/AFP via Getty Images

The government is discussing the 2020 budget, and new taxes have been proposed, including on tobacco, gasoline and some social media communication software such as WhatsApp. Prime Minister Saad Hariri Hariri was expected to address the nation later in the day.

Interior Minister Raya al-Hassan insisted Hariri would not resign, saying that could spark a national crisis more dangerous than the current economic crisis.

Years of regional turmoil — worsened by an influx of 1.5 million Syrian refugees since 2011 — are catching up with Lebanon. The small Arab country on the Mediterranean has the third-highest debt level in the world, currently standing at about $ 86 billion, or 150% of its gross domestic product.

International donors have been demanding that Lebanon implement economic changes in order to get loans and grants pledged at the CEDRE economic conference in Paris in April 2018. International donors pledged $ 11 billion for Lebanon but they sought to ensure the money is well spent in the corruption-plagued country.

Despite tens of billions of dollars spent since the 15-year civil war ended in 1990, Lebanon still has crumbling infrastructure including daily electricity cuts, trash piles in the streets and often sporadic, limited water supplies from the state-owned water company. 

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Key diplomat set to testify in impeachment inquiry — live updates

Key facts and latest news

  • George Kent, a top official in the State Department, is scheduled to be deposed Tuesday.
  • Lawmakers return Tuesday after a two-week recess, with four depositions scheduled for administration officials before the House committees leading the impeachment probe.
  • The president’s former Russia adviser, Fiona Hill, testified before Congress all day Monday.
  • On a July call between Mr. Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, President Trump urged Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden.

Washington — A key State Department official is slated to testify Tuesday before the House committees leading the impeachment probe as lawmakers return to Capitol Hill after a two-week break.

George Kent, the deputy assistant secretary of state in the European and Eurasian bureau, is scheduled to be deposed before the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight committees. In emails from last spring provided to Congress by the State Department inspector general earlier this month, Kent expressed concerns about the administration’s efforts to oust Marie Yovanovitch, then the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.

Fiona Hill, the former senior director for Russia at the National Security Council, testified Monday behind closed doors in a marathon session lasting more than 10 hours.

Details about her precise testimony were scarce, but she had been expected to tell lawmakers that Rudy Giuliani and Gordon Sondland, the U.S ambassador to the E.U., actively avoided her and the National Security Council process and ran their own Ukraine policy, a source familiar with the matter told CBS News.

Members of Congress are return to Washington on Tuesday as the committees leading the impeachment inquiry — Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight and Reform –prepare to hear testimony from numerous officials about the administration’s dealings with Ukraine.

On Friday, Yovanovitch told lawmakers that she had done nothing wrong and refuted each of the accusations against her leveled by Giuliani and the president’s allies.

According to her prepared remarks, obtained by the Washington Post, Yovanovitch denied allegations that she had directed a Ukrainian official to refrain from investigating corruption, and she defended her record against attacks by Mr. Trump and Giuliani, his personal attorney. She said she had never called on any official in Ukraine not to investigate “actual corruption” and denied she had ever created a “‘do not prosecute'” list.

She also denied she had ever been “disloyal” to Mr. Trump and added that the Obama administration never asked her to help with the Clinton campaign or work against the Trump campaign.

Yovanovitch also said her ouster as ambassador came as a surprise, and said that the deputy secretary of state explained to her that there had been a “concerted campaign against” her, and the State Department had been under pressure to remove her since 2018.


​Former senior adviser to Pompeo to testify Wednesday

Afghanistan
Michael McKinley listens during a meeting to discuss a road map for ending the war with the Taliban in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Monday, January 18, 2016. Rahmat Gul / AP

Monday, 6:40 p.m.: Michael McKinley, a former senior adviser to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, will appear for a transcribed interview before the committees on Wednesday morning, two sources familiar with the matter told CBS News.

Laura Cooper, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia, will also now appear before the committees on Friday, an official working on the impeachment inquiry said.

McKinley, a career diplomat and one of Pompeo’s top aides, resigned his post last week. — Rebecca Kaplan and Nancy Cordes


​This week’s deadlines for subpoenas

Monday, 3:23 p.m.: This week will see a slew of deadlines for subpoenas for documents that Democrats have issued over the past two weeks:


Florida Republican barred from Fiona Hill’s deposition

Monday, 12:08 p.m.: Florida Republican Matt Gaetz, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, went to Fiona Hill’s deposition this morning and was asked to leave by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff because he is not a member of the Intelligence, Oversight or Foreign Affairs Committees.

After seeking a ruling from the parliamentarian, who apparently ruled in Schiff’s favor, Gaetz left. — Rebecca Kaplan


​Justice Department probing possible Giuliani FARA violations

Monday, 10:30 a.m.: The Justice Department is looking into whether Rudy Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s personal attorney, violated foreign lobbying regulations, CBS News has confirmed. Federal law, specifically the Foreign Agents Registration Act or FARA, requires U.S. citizens to disclose any lobbying on behalf of foreign clients to the Justice Department. This investigation is tied to the prosecution of Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, who were arrested last week, but Giuliani is the focus of the foreign lobbying probe.

Parnas and Fruman, who had been helping Giuliani in his efforts to investigate Joe and Hunter Biden, have been accused by prosecutors in the Southern District of New York of attempting to funnel foreign money to candidates for federal and state office. — Paula Reid and Kathryn Watson


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Simone Biles captures all-time medal record at world championships

Simone Biles scores 23rd world medal

Simone Biles became the gymnast with the most medals ever earned at the world championships with her victory in the balance beam competition on Sunday, continuing her record-breaking week at the World Gymnastics Championship in Stuttgart, Germany.

Biles entered the competition Saturday with 22 medals, just one short of matching the record, with four events left. The record was held by Vitaly Scherbo of Belarus, who earned 23 medals in the 1990s. 

Sherbo earned his medals over the course of six years. Biles has done it in just five. Men also have the chance to earn medals in six apparatus finals, whereas women only compete in four. 

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Biles earned gold on vault — her favorite — Saturday morning to bring her medal count to 23. Shortly after, she competed on uneven bars but placed fifth, out of medal contention. She had the highest qualifying scores in both balance beam and floor exercise leading into Sunday.

Biles finally earned her 24th medal on the balance beam Sunday morning, delivering a nearly flawless performance with a score of 15.066.

Last Saturday, Biles landed two new skills that had never been performed in competition. Both are expected to be named after her, bringing her total number of signature moves to four. 

On Tuesday, Biles won a record 21st medal, leading her team to their fifth consecutive world team championship in what is likely Biles’ last world championship. 

On Thursday, Biles gymnast captured her fifth all-around world title. She scored 58.999 points, beating China’s Tang Xijing by a whopping 2.1 points — her largest-ever margin of victory at the world championships.

“Every year it feels better and better just because we’re adding to the legacy,” Biles said. “I feel like I never think of records. I just go out there and do what I came to do, which is compete for the country.”

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Turkish blast lands close to U.S. outpost in Syria

Turkish artillery fire accidentally came close to hitting a U.S. outpost in northern Syria on Friday, CBS News confirms. The Turkish military has been launching artillery and air strikes into Syria but not yet crossed the border in strength.

Three artillery shells landed within a couple of hundred yards from soldiers manning an observation post near the main U.S. base inside Syria, U.S. officials told CBS News. 

No one was hurt, but it was exactly the kind of incident Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Joint Chiefs Chairman Mark Milley had warned the Turks about — even to the point of giving them the exact locations of American troops.

“The Turkish military is fully aware, down to explicit grid coordinate details of the location of U.S. forces and we have been in coordination with them,” Milley said, “to make sure that they know exactly where American forces are and everyone has been told.

Civilians frantically flee Turkish bombings in Syria

The Turkish Defense Ministry said the artillery fire was not aimed at the Americans but at nearby Kurdish fighters.

“Earlier today, Turkish border outposts south of Suruç came under Dochka and mortar fire from the hills located approximately 1,000 meters southwest of a U.S. observation post. In self-defense, reciprocal fire was opened on the terrorist positions of the attack. Turkey did not open fire at the U.S. observation post in any way. All precautions were taken prior to opening fire in order to prevent any harm to the U.S. base,” the ministry said. 

Later on Friday, the director of the Defense Department’s Press Operations issued a statement opposing Turkey’s actions.

“The United States remains opposed to the Turkish military move into Syria and especially objects to Turkish operations outside the Security Mechanism zone and in areas where the Turks know U.S. forces are present,” Navy Captain Brook DeWalt said. “The U.S. demands that Turkey avoid actions that could result in immediate defensive action.”

The longer the fighting goes on, the greater the chances for more accidents. Esper said today he’s seen no sign the Turks are heeding his repeated pleas to call off the invasion.

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Apple pulls Quartz news app from China app store

Violence in Hong Kong ahead of celebration

The news organization Quartz, which has been covering the Hong Kong protests in depth, recently found its app unavailable from Apple’s app store in China.

Quartz received a notice from Apple on September 30 that said the app was being removed “because it includes content that is illegal in China,” according to a Quartz spokeswoman. No specifics were given on what that content was, she said.

The news outlet also said that its entire website is inaccessible in mainland China.

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Quartzt has been covering the protests in Hong Kong for months, including information on how readers can get around government censorship by using VPNs, or virtual private networks.

“We abhor this kind of government censorship of the internet,” Zach Seward, Quartz’s CEO, said in a statement.

Apple did not immediately reply to CBS News’ request for details on what content was deemed illegal.

The company has also pulled an app used in the Hong Kong protests, HKmap.live, from its China app store. The app disappeared on Thursday afternoon after a government-backed Chinese newspaper accused it of facilitating illegal behavior.

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White House says it won’t cooperate with impeachment inquiry

White House says it will not cooperate with House impeachment inquiry

Key facts and latest news

  • The White House said it will not cooperate with the House impeachment inquiry, rejecting demands for documents and testimony.
  • At the direction of the State Department, the U.S. ambassador to the E.U. did not appear for testimony before House lawmakers. President Trump said he would “love” to send Gordon Sondland to testify, but not before what he called a “totally compromised kangaroo court.”
  • On a July call between Mr. Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Mr. Trump urged Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden. Before the call, the president instructed acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney to hold off on releasing military aid to Ukraine that had been appropriated by Congress.
  • Soon after the July call, White House officials moved a record of the call to a highly classified computer system, severely restricting who could access it.

Washington — The White House told House Democrats it will not comply with demands for documents and testimony in Democrats’ impeachment inquiry, setting up a legal showdown between the two branches of government.

“You have designed and implemented your inquiry in a manner that violates fundamental fairness and constitutionally mandated due process,” White House counsel Pat Cipollone wrote in an eight-page letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the chairmen of the committees leading the inquiry.

Cipollone argued the investigation is “invalid” because there has not been a formal vote to open an impeachment inquiry. He said the inquiry clearly seeks “to influence the election of 2020” and has “no legitimate basis.” The letter also condemned Congressman Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and a frequent target of the president.

Also on Tuesday, U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, who was scheduled to be interviewed by House committees as part of the impeachment inquiry, was ordered not to appear for his deposition by the State Department, according to a statement issued by his attorney. Sondland was mentioned in the original whistleblower complaint and is a key witness to the Trump-Ukraine dealings.

Democrats issued a subpoena later Tuesday demanding documents from Sondland and setting a date for his deposition.

Sondland’s lawyer Robert Luskin said in the statement that Sondland “is profoundly disappointed that he will not be able to testify today.” Luskin said the ambassador had traveled from Brussels for the testimony and made arrangements with committee staff to appear. Sondland “believes strongly that he acted at all times in the best interests of the United States” and remains ready to testify “on short notice,” Luskin said.

Schiff told reporters on Tuesday that Sondland was in possession of documents on his “personal device” related to Ukraine, which he said the State Department is withholding from the committee.

“The failure to produce this witness, the failure to produce these documents, we consider yet additional strong evidence of obstruction of the constitutional functions of Congress,” Schiff said.

​Democrats subpoena Sondland for documents and testimony

Trump administration blocks ambassador from testifying

6:12 p.m.: House Democrats issued a subpoena for Sondland, the ambassador to the E.U., demanding documents and testimony about his involvement in the Ukraine matter. Democrats set a deadline of October 14 for Sondland to produce documents to the House Intelligence Committee, and scheduled a deposition for October 16.

“Your failure or refusal to comply with the subpoena, including at the direction or behest of the President, the White House, or the State Department, shall constitute further evidence of obstruction of the House’s impeachment inquiry and may be used as an adverse inference against you and the President,” three committee chairs wrote in a letter to Sondland. — Stefan Becket


​White House says it won’t cooperate with impeachment inquiry

Donald Trump
President Trump speaks before awarding the Medal of Freedom to former Attorney General Edwin Meese during a ceremony in the Oval Office at the White House on October 8, 2019. Getty

5:06 p.m.: White House counsel Pat Cipollone sent a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi and three House committee chairmen saying the White House will not cooperate with the House’s impeachment inquiry because the investigation “violates fundamental fairness and constitutionally mandated due process.”

Cipollone accused the Democrats of cooking up an inquiry to “overturn the results of the 2016 election and deprive the American people of the President they have freely chosen.”

“Your highly partisan and unconstitutional effort threatens grave and lasting damage to our democratic institutions, to our system of free elections, and to the American people,” Cipollone wrote.

Cipollone argued the investigation is “invalid” because there has not been a formal vote to open an impeachment inquiry. He also wrote that the inquiry clearly seeks “to influence the election of 2020” and has “no legitimate basis.”

“We hope that, in light of the many deficiencies we have identified in your proceedings, you will abandon the current invalid efforts to pursue an impeachment inquiry and join the President in focusing on the many important goals that matter to the American people,” Cipollone concluded. — Grace Segers


​Giuliani says he won’t cooperate with House as Graham asks him to testify in the Senate

5:02 p.m.: The president’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, appeared poised to defy a subpoena by the House Intelligence Committee to provide documents by October 15. Giuliani told The Washington Post he “can’t imagine” other administration officials cooperating with the investigation.

“I wouldn’t testify in front of that committee until there is a vote of Congress and he is removed,” Giuliani said, referring to Schiff, the chairman.

Giuliani’s comments come after Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham invited him to testify before the committee regarding his allegations about the Bidens in Ukraine.

“Have heard on numerous occasions disturbing allegations by @RudyGiuliani about corruption in Ukraine and the many improprieties surrounding the firing of former Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin,” Graham wrote on Twitter, referring to unsubstantiated allegations that former Biden pushed for Shokin to be removed because Shokin was investigating a company with ties to Biden’s son, Hunter Biden.

“Given the House of Representatives’ behavior, it is time for the Senate to inquire about corruption and other improprieties involving Ukraine. … Therefore I will offer to Mr. Giuliani the opportunity to come before the Senate Judiciary Committee to inform the committee of his concerns,” Graham said.

In an interview with The Washington Post, Giuliani said he was “very interested in accepting Graham’s offer.” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer also expressed interest in Giuliani’s potential testimony, with the caveat that Giuliani would have to testify under oath. — Grace Segers


​Trey Gowdy under consideration to join Trump’s outside legal team

4:26 p.m.: Former Republican Congressman Trey Gowdy is under consideration to join Mr. Trump’s outside legal team, which is seeking to expand amid the impeachment inquiry.

Gowdy, a state and former federal prosecutor, is seen as a potentially valuable TV and legal spokesperson for the president. Gowdy served as the chair of the House Oversight Committee until the beginning of this year, and did not seek reelection in 2018. — Major Garrett


​House lawyer says impeachment inquiry extends beyond Ukraine

2:48 p.m.: A lawyer for the House told a federal judge that Democrats’ impeachment inquiry extends beyond the Ukraine controversy and includes potential obstruction of justice by the president.

Over the course of two hours in U.S. District Court in Washington, government lawyers on opposing sides of an effort to obtain secret grand jury proceedings illustrated the evolving nature of the House’s impeachment inquiry.

Douglas Letter, the lawyer for the House, urged the judge to grant the House Judiciary Committee access to currently redacted material in the special counsel’s report, specifically the underlying grand jury material collected during the Mueller investigation, and FBI documents. Elizabeth Shapiro, a Justice Department lawyer, opposed releasing the grand jury information, and argued certain FBI documents contain confidential communications between White House advisers and should remain redacted.

Letter argued the House impeachment inquiry extends beyond the circumstances surrounding the president’s call with Ukraine, pointing to the fact that the Judiciary and Intelligence Committees had already opened informal impeachment probes before House Speaker Nancy Pelosi launched an official inquiry.

“[An] impeachment inquiry was already going on,” Letter said in response to questioning by Chief Judge Beryl Howell. — Clare Hymes


​Senate Intelligence Committee releases report on Russian use of social media

1:45 p.m.: The Senate Intelligence Committee released the second volume of its bipartisan report on Russian interference in the 2016 election, detailing Russian use of social media to stoke division among the American public.

Among its findings:

  • The Internet Research Agency, the Russian-backed disinformation group, “sought to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election by harming Hillary Clinton’s chances of success and supporting Donald Trump at the direction of the Kremlin.”
  • “Russia’s targeting of the 2016 U.S. presidential election was part of a broader, sophisticated, and ongoing information warfare campaign designed to sow discord in American politics and society.”
  • “The IRA targeted not only Hillary Clinton, but also Republican candidates during the presidential primaries. For example, Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio were targeted and denigrated, as was Jeb Bush.”
  • “No single group of Americans was targeted by IRA information operatives more than African-Americans. By far, race and related issues were the preferred target of the information warfare campaign designed to divide the country in 2016.”

Read the full report here.


House Democrats say they’ll subpoena Sondland

11:47 a.m.: The three Democratic chairmen leading the impeachment inquiry say they plan to subpoena Sondland, after he declined to appear Tuesday.

Schiff, Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel and Oversight and Reform Chairman Elijah Cummings announced their intention to subpoena Sondland for his testimony and documents on Tuesday. “

“We consider this interference to be obstruction of the impeachment inquiry,” they wrote.


Top House Democrats slam Trump for “obstructing” impeachment inqiury

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Schiff speaks to reporters after U.S. Ambassador to European Union Sondland failed to show on Capitol Hill in Washington
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington on October 8, 2019. Reuters

11:45 a.m.: Three top House Democrats — Schiff, Engel and Cummings — slammed the White House’s efforts to block Sondland from testifying in a closed-door session on his knowledge of Mr. Trump’s Ukraine dealings.

In a joint statement released by the committee chairs, they said the White House’s efforts to block Sondland’s testimony shows their attempts “to impede and obstruct the impeachment inquiry.”

According to a statement by Sondland’s attorney, the direction to not appear came from the State Department, just hours before he was to testify.

“These actions appear to be part of the White House’s effort to obstruct the impeachment inquiry and to cover up President Trump’s misconduct from Congress and the American people. Ambassador Sondland’s testimony and documents are vital, and that is precisely why the Administration is now blocking his testimony and withholding his documents,” the committee chairs said.

Now, Schiff, Engel and Cummings say they will move to issue a subpoena for Sondland’s testimony and any related documents.

“We consider this interference to be obstruction of the impeachment inquiry,” they added.


Schiff says State Department is withholding documents from Congress

9:39 a.m.: Schiff says that Sondland has texts and documents on his “personal device” relating to Ukraine that the State Department is withholding from Congress. He told reporters the committee views the government’s refusal to allow Sondland to testify as evidence of obstruction.

“The failure to produce this witness, the failure to produce these documents, we consider…additional strong evidence of obstruction of the constitutional functions of Congress,” Schiff said. “The American people have a right to know if President Trump is working for their interests or in his own political interests.”

However, Republican committee members defended the State Department’s decision to block Sondland’s testimony, complaining that Democrats had treated former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker unfairly during his testimony before the committee last week. They also called for the full transcript of Volker’s testimony before the committee to be released.


Trump confirms that he was involved in decision not to allow Sondland to testify

9:23 a.m.: In two tweets on Tuesday morning, Mr. Trump confirmed that he was involved in the decision not to allow Sondland to testify before the House Intelligence Committee.

“I would love to send Ambassador Sondland, a really good man and great American, to testify, but unfortunately he would be testifying before a totally compromised kangaroo court, where Republican’s rights have been taken away, and true facts are not allowed out for the public … to see. Importantly, Ambassador Sondland’s tweet, which few report, stated, “I believe you are incorrect about President Trump’s intentions. The President has been crystal clear: no quid pro quo’s of any kind.” That says it ALL!” Mr. Trump wrote.

According to a statement by Sondland’s attorney, the Department of State directed him not to appear for his interview before the House Joint Committee. The order came just hours before his scheduled meeting.

CBS News contributor Jonathan Turley noted that Mr. Trump’s stated opposition to Sondland’s testimony before the committee could undermine claims of executive privilege. The president tweeted that he didn’t want him testifying before a “a totally compromised kangaroo court.”

Saying that he doesn’t trust the committee is different that claiming executive privilege, which is based on protecting confidential communications and diplomatic relations. The former, Turley pointed out, is not a ground for refusal if a subpoena were to be issued.


Gordon Sondland, U.S. ambassador to E.U., will not appear before Congress

8:26 a.m.: Sondland will not be appearing for his scheduled congressional interview today, after the State Department ordered him not to appear.

According to a statement by Sondland’s attorney, the direction came just hours before he was to testify.

“Ambassador Sondland had previously agreed to appear voluntarily today, without the need for a subpoena, in order to answer the Committee’s questions on an expedited basis. As the sitting U.S. Ambassador to the EU and employee of the State Department, Ambassador Sondland is required to follow the Department’s direction,” Sondland attorney, Robert Luskin, said in a statement. He said the ambassador was “profoundly disappointed” that he was not able to testify.

“Sondland believes strongly that he acted at all times in the best interests of the United States, and he stands ready to answer the Committee’s questions fully and truthfully,” Luskin added.

Sondland was mentioned in the original whistleblower complaint and is considered a key witness in the president’s dealings with Ukraine.

Text messages released last week between Sondland and other U.S. diplomats discussed efforts to get the Ukrainians to draft a statement agreeing on investigations into Burisma, the energy company that hired Joe Biden’s son Hunter, and Ukraine’s alleged involvement in the 2016 U.S. election. The Ukrainians hoped to secure a White House meeting with President Trump.

But after Politico reported on August 29 that the president had decided to pause U.S. aid for Ukraine, Bill Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, wrote, “I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.”

Sondland replied that Taylor was “incorrect about President Trump’s intentions,” saying the president had been “crystal clear: no quid pro quo’s of any kind.”


Former senior White House aides: Trump not receiving good advice on Ukraine, Syria

6:57 a.m.: CBS News has spoken to several former senior administration aides over the last few days, including former senior White House advisers who have been largely critical of how the White House has been handling recent situations including the Ukraine call, the release of the call’s summary, the impeachment inquiry and now Syria.

The former senior advisers believe that there is a dearth of advisers in the current White House who have the ability or willingness to dissuade the president from bad political decisions.

“There is no one really left who can say, ‘that’s a bad idea,'” one former senior Trump aide said. –– Fin Gomez, Sara Cook and Weijia Jiang


​Trump calls impeachment inquiry a “scam”

Trump
President Trump speaks after a signing ceremony for a trade agreement with Japan in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Monday, October 7, 2019, in Washington. AP

Monday, 4:54 p.m.: After signing a pair of trade deals with Japan at the White House, the president took questions from reporters and called the impeachment probe a “scam.”

“The impeachment inquiry is a scam. The conversation that I had with the Ukrainian president, Zelensky, was a very good, it was a very cordial conversation,” Mr. Trump said.

He again criticized House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff for paraphrasing his remarks on the call during a congressional hearing last week, calling him a “fraud.” — Stefan Becket


​GOP senator says Trump “should not have raised the Biden issue” on Ukraine call

Rob Portman
Senator Rob Portman speaks to reporters outside Wyoming High School in Wyoming, Ohio, on June 22, 2017. Getty

Monday, 4:21 p.m.: Republican Senator Rob Portman of Ohio said the president raising the prospect of investigating the Bidens on the July 25 call with the president of Ukraine was “not appropriate” but said he doesn’t think it rises to the level of an impeachable offense.

“The president should not have raised the Biden issue on that call, period. It’s not appropriate for a president to engage a foreign government in an investigation of a political opponent,” Portman said in an interview with The Columbus Dispatch published Monday. “I don’t view it as an impeachable offense. I think the House frankly rushed to impeachment assuming certain things.”

The president called Portman “honorable” last week after Portman said he was given a “consistent reason” for the delay in releasing Ukraine aid. — Stefan Becket


Pentagon and Office of Management and Budget subpoenaed

Monday, 12:39 p.m.: The Pentagon and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) have been subpoenaed for documents in House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry.

House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings and Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel wrote to Defense Secretary Mark Esper and OMB Acting Director Russell Vought on Monday informing them of the subpoenas.

“Pursuant to the House of Representatives’ impeachment inquiry, we are hereby transmitting a subpoena that compels you to produce the documents set forth in the accompanying schedule by October 15, 2019,” the chairmen wrote in their letter.

The White House was also subpoenaed for documents late Friday.

At least one week before Mr. Trump spoke by phone with the Ukrainian president in late July, he instructed his acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, to hold off on releasing nearly $ 400 million in military aid for Ukraine that had already been appropriated by Congress. A senior administration official with direct knowledge of the Trump administration’s actions regarding the funds previously confirmed to CBS News the delay in military aid.


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Riding the rails: How the U.S. lags far behind Japan

This morning we’re introducing a special four-part series of reports called “World of Motion.” A team of CBS News correspondents traveled around the world to Japan, Greece, Southern Africa and Scotland to discover how and why people are on the move.


The daily commute can be a chore no matter where you live, but some definitely have it better than others. In a friendly competition of traveling by train, correspondent Ramy Inocencio rode the rails in Japan, while “CBS This Morning” co-host Michelle Miller boarded trains here in the U.S., to see how American ingenuity stacks up to Japanese efficiency.

New York: Rush hour in New York City is a daily challenge for its commuters who, like most Americans, tend to rely on cars as their main source of transportation – this despite the city having the country’s largest subway system, spanning more than 665 miles and carrying over 5.6 million passengers per year.

Tokyo: The city’s population is 14 million, and a third of them take to the rails each day. And here’s something that might be surprising to Americans: people politely line up here for trains that arrive on time, nearly every time.

New York: At Times Square Station, New York’s busiest, people might be surprised to know there’s a schedule at all. As for lining up? Fuggedaboutit!

Tokyo: Here, stations aren’t just places to catch a train; they’re also destinations to get a gourmet meal.

New York: The dining choices underground in NYC aren’t as good, but you are never too far from a slice of pizza (as the infamous Pizza Rat can attest to).

Tokyo: It’s rare to see a rodent here, but it definitely is a rat race. Guinness World Records says Tokyo’s Shinjuku Station is the busiest in the world – and it’s clean!

New York: Sure, these trains and stations could use a bit more attention, but despite all of that and the delays, this subway runs 24 hours a day.

Tokyo: Subway service in Tokyo ends at around midnight, and restarts around 5 a.m. That lets crews tend to station maintenance. 

New York: No matter what time you ride or how far the trip, the fare in New York is the same: $ 2.75.

Tokyo: Prices here vary depending on how far you go. But it’s time, not cost, that matters most to rail passengers in Japan. The bullet train (the Shinkansen) is still the world’s most reliable form of public transportation. Inocencio boarded the train for a trip to Kyoto, 319 miles away.

New York: Miller boarded Amtrak’s high-speed rail, the Acela, from New York to Washington, D.C., which is about 225 miles. (That gives her a nearly 100-mile head start!)

trains-us-amtrak-acela-vs-japanese-shinkansen.jpg
Amtrak’s high-speed Acela, and the Japanese bullet train, the Shinkensen. CBS News

Tokyo: The Shinkansen is the world’s most reliable high-speed train service, and is super-fast, with an average speed of 177 miles per hour on this line.

New York: The Acela only averages about 82 miles per hour. Part of the reason for that is it shares its tracks with both local lines and freight trains. 

Tokyo: Inocencio made it to Kyoto right on time, the trip taking two hours and eighteen minutes.

New York: Miller, meanwhile, will arrive in D.C. about 40 minutes later, if they stay on schedule. (Amtrak doesn’t twenty percent of the time). Amtrak is promising some upgrades that should shave 15 minutes off of the commute by 2021.

To recap, Inocencio rode a train about 100 miles farther and completed that trip roughly 40 minutes sooner.  So, when it comes to traveling by train, Americans are far behind our friends in Japan.

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Trump tweets Romney attacks as Pompeo says “it doesn’t bother me a lick”

House Democrats are taking their impeachment inquiry straight to the White House. CBS News has obtained a copy of their subpoena demanding a long list of documents about President Trump’s dealings with Ukraine. The deadline to respond is October 18.

This comes as The New York Times reports a possible second whistleblower may come forward.

Mr. Trump is under pressure as House Democrats hit the White House with a subpoena and demanded a slew of documents from Vice President Mike Pence.

In a statement, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said “this subpoena changes nothing” and she called the impeachment inquiry a “kangaroo court.” 

Ukraine prosecutor to review company tied to Hunter Biden

“China should start an investigation into the Bidens,” Mr. Trump said Friday.

Mr. Trump claims asking foreign governments to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter is not about politics.

“I don’t care about Biden’s campaign, but I do care about corruption,” Mr. Trump said on Friday.

The impeachment inquiry centers on a whistleblower report of a phone call in which Mr. Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate the Bidens for corruption. Hunter Biden worked for a Ukrainian energy company while his father was vice president, but there is no evidence of any wrongdoing. Biden is firing back at Mr. Trump

“This guy — like all bullies — is a coward. He does not want to run against me,” Biden said Saturday.

The New York Times now reports a second intelligence official may come forward with more first hand knowledge of the president’s dealings with Ukraine.

“You know when this came out it, was quid pro quo. Well there was none,” Mr. Trump said Friday.  

Mr. Trump insists he did not withhold $ 391 million dollars worth of military aid to Ukraine to pressure them to investigate Biden. But text messages provided to Congress this week show his own diplomats thought he did. In one message last month, the top U.S. diplomat to Ukraine, Bill Taylor, wrote, “I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.” 

Traveling in Greece on Saturday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo downplayed all of it.

“Look, nations do this,” Pompeo said. “Nations work together and they say, ‘boy, goodness gracious, if you can help me with X, we’ll help you achieve Y.’ It doesn’t bother me a lick.”

Mr. Trump spent his day golfing, but also went after Senator Mitt Romney on Twitter, calling him a “pompous ass.” On Friday, Romney called the president’s actions on Biden “wrong” and “appalling.”

CBS News has learned the White House is shrinking the size of the National Security Council. This will happen largely through attrition. But there is speculation that the president is doing this in part to cut down on leaks.

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Hong Kong leader bans masks, fuelling protesters’ rage

Hong Kong — Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam banned protesters from wearing masks Friday in a hardening of the government’s stance on the territory’s most disruptive crisis since it reverted to Chinese rule in 1997. Lam announced the ban at an afternoon news conference where she decried a recent escalation of violence after four months of anti-government demonstrations.

The mask ban, imposed under a colonial-era Emergency Ordinance, takes effect Saturday and applies to people at “illegal” gatherings who use violence and exempts those who wear masks for “legitimate need.” Lam said she would go to the legislature later to get legal backing for the rule.

CBS News correspondent Ramy Inocencio said Lam invoked the Emergency Ordinance but insisted it “does not mean Hong Kong is in a state of emergency.” She said the decision was made with an objective “to end violence and return to peace.”

“People are asking can Hong Kong go back to normal? Is Hong Kong still a place where we can have our sweet home?” Lam said as she announced the ban. “We must stop the violence,” she said. “Now, it’s all over Hong Kong.”

She said the ban targets violent protesters and rioters and “will be an effective deterrent to radical behavior.”

The ban makes the wearing of full or partial face coverings, including face paint, at unauthorized gatherings punishable by one year in jail. A six-month jail term could be imposed on people who refuse a police officer’s order to remove a face covering for identification.

But even before she announced the move, it was already fuelling the anger on the streets.

Anti-Government Protests Continue in Hong Kong
Pro-democracy protesters take part in a rally in Hong Kong’s Central district on October 4, 2019. Getty

Thousands of masked protesters chanted slogans calling for greater democracy as they marched in the city’s business district before Lam spoke. They chanted “I want to wear face masks” and “Wearing mask is not a crime” as many cars, stuck in traffic due to the march, honked in support.

“Will they arrest 100,000 people on the street? The government is trying to intimidate us but at this moment, I don’t think the people will be scared,” one protester, who gave his surname as Lui, told an online live broadcast.

There were protests specifically against the mask ban across the semi-autonomous Chinese territory on Friday.

Asked by Inocencio whether her administration had come under pressure from Beijing to enact the mask ban, Lam insisted there was “no such thing” as “approval” by the central Chinese government for her to make such decisions. Many Hong Kongers view Lam, who was appointed by Beijing, as little more than an instrument of the Chinese government’s power — a view she has been at pains to dispel since the protests began.

Lam wouldn’t rule out a further toughening of measures if violence continues. She said she would not resign because “stepping down is not something that will help the situation” when Hong Kong is facing “a very critical state of public danger.”

“We must save Hong Kong, the present Hong Kong and the future Hong Kong,” she said. “We can’t just leave the situation to get worse and worse.”

Chaos continues in Hong Kong as protesters and police clash

Analysts said the use of the Emergency Ordinance for the first time in over half a century set a dangerous precedent. The law, a relic of British rule enacted in 1922 to quell a seamen’s strike and last used to crush riots in 1967, gives broad powers to the city’s chief executive to implement regulations in an emergency.

“Even though the mask ban is just a small move under the Emergency Ordinance, it is a dangerous first step. If the anti-mask legislation proves to be ineffective, it could lead the way to more draconian measures such as a curfew and other infringement of civil liberties,” said Willy Lam, adjunct professor at the Chinese University.

The ban followed widespread violence in the city Tuesday that marred China’s National Day and included a police officer shooting a protester, the first victim of gunfire since the protests started in June over a now-shelved extradition bill. The wounded teenager was charged with attacking police and rioting.

The movement has snowballed into an anti-China campaign amid anger over what many view as Beijing’s interference in Hong Kong’s autonomy. More than 1,750 people have been detained so far.

Activists and many legislators have said the mask ban could be counterproductive, impractical and difficult to enforce in a city bubbling with anger and where tens of thousands have often defied police bans on rallies.

The government last month withdrew the extradition bill, widely slammed as an example of the erosion of Hong Kong’s freedom, but protesters have widened their demands to include direct elections of the city’s leaders, an independent inquiry into alleged police brutality, the unconditional release of protesters and not characterizing the protests as riots.

“Five demands, not one less!” many protesters shouted during Friday’s rallies as they held up five fingers.

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