• Three False Claims Muddying the Impeachment Debate

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- Even though public hearings on the impeachment of President Donald Trump have just begun, the subject has already become encrusted with legends and myths on all sides. In a polarized country, each side has its own talking points - and isn’t paying enough attention to the other side to know when those points are based on errors. So far, three stand out.Take White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney’s famous remark that Trump’s critics should “get over it.” This was widely taken to be a brazen statement that it was fine for Trump to use foreign policy to seek to harm his political opponents. But that’s not what Mulvaney was saying. Nor was CNN accurate in reporting, “Mulvaney confirmed the existence of a quid pro quo and offered this retort: ‘Get over it.’”Mulvaney’s press conference was on Oct. 17. He mentioned news accounts about the previous day’s testimony from a former State Department adviser, Michael McKinley. Those reports said that McKinley had quit because he was, as the Associated Press put it, “disturbed by the politicization of foreign policy.” If you check out the transcript, you can see that Mulvaney was saying that of course politics affects foreign policy. He mentions McKinley and says: “Get over it. There’s going to be political influence on foreign policy.” Practically in the next breath, he says, “foreign policy is going to change from the Obama administration to the Trump administration.” He then faults some career government employees for seeking to prevent this.At least one reporter understood this context, because the next question for Mulvaney drew a distinction: Political influence over foreign policy is one thing, the reporter said, but is it OK for the president to try to pressure a foreign government to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden? Mulvaney then stoutly denied that Trump did any such thing, maintaining that the administration’s holding aid to Ukraine “had absolutely nothing to do with Biden.” Like a lot of what Mulvaney said at that press conference, that statement is dubious. But he didn’t admit to using foreign policy for partisan ends and then tell people to get over it.Trump supporters have myths of their own. One is the claim that in September, Representative Adam Schiff, the California Democrat who heads the House Intelligence Committee, tried to pass off a phony version of what the president told Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskiy in their July 25 phone call as the actual words of the conversation. Trump accused Schiff of fraud and mused about charging him with treason: “He was supposedly reading the exact transcribed version of the call, but he completely changed the words to make it sound horrible.” House Republicans tried to censure Schiff for it, and other Trump supporters keep claiming that Schiff lied. What Schiff actually did was provide a paraphrase of Trump’s remarks, and he was completely open about it. He described how Zelenskiy opened the call and then said, “Shorn of its rambling character and in not so many words, this is the essence of what the president communicates.” Then he gave his version of the gist of Trump’s comments. After finishing, he says, “This is in sum and character what the president was trying to communicate with the president of Ukraine.” Anyone who listened to that and thought Schiff was directly quoting Trump should quit trying to follow the impeachment debate.Republicans have gotten agitated over another distorted comment recently. They say that Mark Zaid, the lawyer for the Ukraine “whistle-blower,” called for a “coup” against Trump soon after he took office. The background to this was a tweet of Zaid’s in January 2017, reacting to Trump’s dismissal of the acting attorney general, Sally Yates. Although Zaid has muddied the waters in trying to defend himself, he appears to have been saying that it was Trump who was starting to perpetrate a coup. It was a dumb tweet: Trump was well within his rights to fire Yates, who had refused to defend his travel ban. But it doesn’t support the Republican case that Ukrainegate is an undemocratic plot by Trump’s enemies.All of these mangled and misunderstood remarks are, in a sense, peripheral to the main debate. Whether Trump should be removed from office shouldn’t turn on a three-year-old tweet from one government employee’s lawyer. Each of these exaggerated stories is, however, helping to create an atmosphere in the minds of fans and foes of the president. Each side can not only interpret events in keeping with its favored narrative - Trump’s corruption or deep-state plotting - but also tell itself that the other side secretly knows it’s wrong.People who are following the impeachment hearings and trying to make up their minds should read and listen to both sides, carefully. It’s not just that each side is trying to spin the facts. It’s that each side is spinning itself.To contact the author of this story: Ramesh Ponnuru at rponnuru@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Tobin Harshaw at tharshaw@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Ramesh Ponnuru is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist. He is a senior editor at National Review, visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and contributor to CBS News.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Nicaraguan judge sentences man to 30 years in NY killing

    A Nicaraguan judge sentenced a man to 30 years behind bars in the killing of a young nursing student in upstate New York, a district attorney in the state said Friday. The trial of Orlando Tercero in the 2018 killing of Haley Anderson marked an exceedingly rare legal proceeding in which the defendant was prosecuted under Nicaragua’s legal system for a slaying that happened on American soil. Tercero is a dual citizen of the U.S. and Nicaragua.

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  • Last remains of Ethiopian plane crash victims buried, families say little notice given

    ADDIS ABABA/CHICAGO (Reuters) - The last remains of 157 people killed aboard an Ethiopian Airlines plane in March were interred at the crash site this week, farmers and families told Reuters, but some relatives were upset they had been unable to take part in the ceremony. Nadia Milleron, whose daughter Samya Stumo was killed, said an email was sent to some families -- but not all -- notifying them of the burial just two days before it happened. Ethiopian Airlines did not return calls seeking comment about why some families were not told in advance.

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  • Will.i.am Confronted by Police After Onboard Incident With Qantas ‘#RacistFlightattendant’

    Black Eyed Peas singer Will.i.am was met by five police officers upon disembarking a plane in Sydney, Australia, Friday following an incident with a Qantas flight attendant whom he called “racist.”“I’m currently on a flight from Brisbane to Sydney. I’m sorry to say me and my group have experienced they worse service due to a overly aggressive flight attendant… I don’t want to believe she racist. But she has clearly aimed all her frustrations only at the people of colour,” he wrote in a Friday tweet.According to Will.i.am’s tweets, he couldn’t hear the attendant’s announcements over the PA system because he was wearing noise-canceling headphones.Also Read: Will.i.am Sets Film and TV Production Deal With EntertainmentOne“@Qantas I was making music wearing noise canceling headphones on the plane… I’m sorry i couldn’t hear the P.A…I  complied when she’s tapped me on the shoulder to put my laptop away… It’s sad that your RacistFlightAttendant sent the police…” will.i.am wrote.I’m currently on a flight from Brisbane to Sydney.I’m sorry to say me and my group have experienced they worse service due to a overly aggressive flight attendant…I don’t want to believe she racist. But she has clearly aimed all her frustrations only at the people of colour- will.i.am (@iamwill) November 16, 2019Tagging the airline, he went on to write, “@Qantas Your RacistFlightattendant was beyond rude & took it to the next level by calling the police on me. thank god the other passengers testified that SHE was out of Control the police finally let me go. imagine if the police were as aggressive.”He added, “I was intimidated by 5 police officers when I landed…for what? I put away my laptop when she asked…why would she feel threatened by me to call the police? What did I do wrong? I wasn’t out of hand.. I was polite & did what she asked… now you’re asking me to take abuse?”Also Read: Supreme Court Justices Quiz Byron Allen's Lawyers on Legal Standards for Racial Discrimination CasesIn a subsequent tweet, the musician identified the flight attendant by name, prompting many on Twitter to lash out at her. Will.i.am very quickly called for that to stop.“Please do not send Hate,” he wrote, addressing his fans. “This type of disrespect and name calling is uncalled for…I don’t support abuse & attacks like this…I hope that everyone can be more compassionate & understanding towards one another…because it was the lack of compassion that caused this.”A Qantas spokesperson responded to the incident in a statement to The Independent: “There was a misunderstanding on board, which seems to have been exacerbated by will.i.am wearing noise cancelling headphones and not being able to hear instructions from crew. We completely reject the suggestion this had anything to do with race. We’ll be following up with will.i.am and wish him well for the rest of the tour.”Read original story Will.i.am Confronted by Police After Onboard Incident With Qantas ‘RacistFlightattendant’ At TheWrap