October 9, 2019

One of the interesting things about watching the impeachment of President Trump play out is that many of the main actors were also in Congress when Republicans impeached (but failed to convict) President Bill Clinton in late 1998 and early 1999.

The White House cited old impeachment comments from House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) in its strange letter Tuesday explaining to House Democrats why President Trump and his administration will refuse to honor any subpoenas or allow any witnesses in the House's impeachment inquiry. And Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a stalwart Trump ally, pretty clearly disagreed with that strategy when he was a House impeachment manager in Clinton's Senate trial.

"Article III of impeachment against Richard Nixon, the article was based on the idea that Richard Nixon, as president, failed to comply with subpoenas of Congress" as it was "going through its oversight function," Graham said back in 1998. "The day Richard Nixon failed to answer that subpoena is the day he was subject to impeachment because he took the power from Congress over the impeachment process away from Congress, and he became the judge and jury."

Graham, during the Senate trial, noted that "you don't even have to be convicted of a crime to lose your job in this constitutional republic if this body determines that your conduct as a public official is clearly out of bounds in your role." He also argued that "impeachment is not about punishment. Impeachment is about cleansing the office. Impeachment is about restoring honor and integrity to the office."

In May, Graham did stand by that statement. "It doesn't have to be a crime," he told McClatchey D.C. "And if you want to impeach him, do it, and you want to use my words — it doesn't have to be a crime, and it's necessary to cleanse the office — be my guest." Peter Weber

11:01 a.m.

President Trump received some good news and some bad news from the Supreme Court on Friday.

First, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg temporarily blocked a congressional subpoena for President Trump's financial records from Deutsche Bank. The decision comes after Trump's emergency request to block a lower court ruling that required him to hand over the records as part of the House Financial Services and Intelligence Committees' investigation into Trump's relationship with the bank.

The stay on the ruling doesn't let Trump off the hook in the long run, however. It will remain in place until Dec. 13 while the Supreme Court deliberates on whether to grant a longer stay and give Trump's legal team time to prepare a formal appeal. But ultimately, it doesn't say much about how the Court will rule.

Meanwhile, in news that left the Trump administration — particularly the Justice Department — more disappointed, the Court rejected the White House's request to go ahead with a plan to carry out the first executions of federal death row inmates since 2003. The justices left a federal judge's hold on four executions scheduled by U.S. Attorney General William Barr in place, though the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District is now considering the case and should be able to make a ruling within two months. Read more at Politico and Reuters. Tim O'Donnell

10:24 a.m.

Financial compensation may soon be on the way to some of California's wildfire victims.

Pacific Gas & Electric agreed Friday to pay $13.5 billion in damages to victims of four wildfires that occurred in the state between 2015 and 2018. Among the fires covered in the claims is the 2018 Camp fire — California's deadliest blaze — which killed 85 people and destroyed 18,800 structures.

If accepted by a bankruptcy judge, the settlement will go to people who lost loved ones, property, or both, as well as government agencies and attorneys who pressed the claims. Some of the blame for the fires has been directed at faulty or aging PG&E equipment.

"There have been many calls for PG&E to change in recent years," said Bill Johnson, the CEO and president of PG&E. "PG&E's leadership team has heard those calls for change, and we realize we need to do even more to be a different company now and in the future. We will continue to make the needed changes to re-earn the trust and respect of our customers, our stakeholders, and the public."

The settlement comes after the company agreed to a $1 billion deal with cities, counties, and other public entities, as well as an $11 billion agreement with insurers and others covering claims for wildfires in 2017 and 2018. Victims seeking compensation will have until the end of the year to file claims. Read more at NBC News and NPR. Tim O'Donnell

8:06 a.m.

After three long years, Xiyue Wang is on his way home.

Wang, a Chinese-American graduate student at Princeton University who had been detained in Iran since 2016, was freed Saturday when Iran and the United States conducted a prisoner exchange in Zurich, Switzerland. The exchange also saw the release of Iranian scientist Massoud Soleimani who had been convicted of violating U.S. trade sanctions against Iran.

Brian Hook, the State Department's special representative for Iran, worked with Swiss intermediaries — who look out for American interests in Tehran since there's no U.S. embassy — to negotiate the exchange. He flew to Zurich with Soleimani and is expected to return with Wang, who will be able to reunite with his wife and young son. President Trump confirmed the swap Saturday, as did Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

Wang, a student of late 19th- and early-20th-century Eurasian history, reportedly went to Iran to learn Farsi and conduct archival research for his dissertation. He reportedly disclosed his research plan to the Iranian interest section at the Pakistani embassy in Washington, D.C., and Princeton said he was not involved in an political activities or social activism. But Tehran believed he had ties to U.S. intelligence agencies, which led to his detainment. Read more at The New York Times and The Associated Press. Tim O'Donnell

December 6, 2019

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) wants you to know she has "no health problems that would keep her from fulfilling the duties of the President of the United States," per a doctor's letter that the 70-year-old senator publicly released Friday.

Her medical record also showed that she has never "smoked, used drugs or had any problem with alcohol use," and "exercises regularly and follows a healthy diet," and only takes medication for "an underactive thyroid gland," CBS News observes.

This comes a day after the Los Angeles Times published a poll revealing a third of voters are worried about the age of several top presidential candidates, possibly due to potential health concerns. The poll found voters are less concerned about Warren's age than that of her fellow White House aspirants, former Vice President Joe Biden, 77, and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), 78, who had a heart attack in October. Meanwhile, President Trump, 73, also faces speculation about an unscheduled doctor's visit last month.

Though the Times survey found only 7 percent expressed concerns regarding Warren's age, 50 percent of Democratic voters told Pew Research Center they would prefer a candidate in their 50s.

Warren is the first Democratic candidate in the top trio to release a medical report, reports Politico, though Biden and Sanders have also pledged to release their medical records before the Iowa caucuses in early February, according to CNN. Warren's early move will likely initiate "a new primary-within-a-primary...to be the hardiest septuagenarian running for president," predicts Boston Globe. Ramisa Rob

December 6, 2019

Earlier this year, Friends star and human mortal Jennifer Aniston turned 50 years old, because that's how time works.

Of course, Aniston is also a famous actress, which means she also has to answer weird questions about how she manages to "embrace" the completely involuntary process of aging. Her answer: "What's the alternative?" Because, frankly, that's the only sensible response to an inquiry that stupid. Read more at People. Scott Meslow

December 6, 2019

Big news from the Garden State: Nicole Polizzi, better known as Snooki, has gym'ed and tanned her last laundry.

On the podcast It's Happening With Snooki & Joey, the Jersey Shore star announced her preemptive retirement from the fourth season of MTV's sequel series Jersey Shore: Family Vacation, reports Deadline.

Of course, Jersey Shore: Family Vacation hasn't even been ordered for a fourth season yet, so this might just be the reality-star equivalent of a "you can't fire me, I quit." Read more at Deadline. Scott Meslow

December 6, 2019

President Trump is taking "no obstruction" very seriously.

Trump is apparently sick of flushing toilets, the world unnecessarily learned on Friday. In some unknown place, some unknown people are cursed with "flushing toilets 10 times, 15 times" before everything goes where it needs to go, Trump said in a White House tirade against environmental protections.

"We have a situation where we're looking very strongly at sinks and showers, and other elements of bathrooms," Trump said, perhaps hinting at toilet paper or even hand towels. "You turn on the faucet, you don't get any water," Trump said of these places where there are "tremendous amounts of water." "They take a shower, the water comes dripping out. People are flushing toilets 10 times, 15 times," Trump said of this mystery population. "So the EPA is looking at this very strongly," Trump reassured the nation's stressed-out flushers.

Earlier in the same rant, Trump complained about the energy efficient lightbulbs that are apparently giving him an "orange look," which he does not want. Kathryn Krawczyk

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