10 things you need to know today: December 5, 2019


The House Judiciary Committee held its first impeachment hearing on Wednesday. Three legal experts told the panel that President Trump's alleged effort to pressure Ukraine to investigate political rivals amounted to a clearly impeachable abuse of power. "If what we're talking about is not impeachable, then nothing is impeachable," said Michael Gerhardt, a professor at the University of North Carolina. "This is precisely the misconduct that the framers created the Constitution, including impeachment, to protect against." A fourth witness who was called by Republicans, George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley, said Democrats were "lowering impeachment standards to fit a paucity of evidence and an abundance of anger," raising the risk that future presidents could be ousted unfairly. [The New York Times]


President Trump abruptly canceled a news conference at the conclusion of a NATO summit in London on Wednesday. The move came after video surfaced apparently showing Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, French President Emmanuel Macron, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and other leaders laughing about Trump's sometimes unexpected comments in news conferences. "I just watched his team's jaws drop to the floor," Trudeau said in the video. Trump was asked about the video and called Trudeau "two-faced." "And honestly, with Trudeau, he's a nice guy," Trump said. "I find him to be a very nice guy. But, you know, the truth is that I called him out on the fact that he's not paying 2 percent (of Canada's GDP on defense spending) and I guess he's not very happy about it." [The Washington Post]


The Trump administration on Wednesday announced plans for a rule tightening work requirements for people who receive food stamps. The move will make it harder for states to keep people in the Supplemental Nutrition Program, known as SNAP, potentially cutting benefits to 688,000 recipients. The Agriculture Department estimated that the change would save about $5.5 billion over five years. Currently, able-bodied, 18- to 49-year-old adults with no dependents can receive three months of SNAP benefits over three years if they don't meet a 20-hour work requirement, although states with high unemployment can waive the limits. The new rule sets more strict criteria for waiving the work requirement, which Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said would move people "from welfare to work." [The Associated Press, Reuters]


A Navy sailor allegedly shot and killed two civilian Defense Department employees before killing himself at the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard in Hawaii on Wednesday. A third employee was wounded and was transported to a hospital in stable condition. U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Robert Chadwick said the gunman was a sailor from the USS Columbia, a submarine in the dry dock for maintenance. "This is certainly a tragedy for everyone here, and our hearts go out to the families and everyone involved," he said. “This is going to be fully investigated." The shipyard was placed on lockdown for more than an hour after the shooting, which occurred three days before the 78th anniversary of the Dec. 7, 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. [Honolulu Star-Advertiser]


The Trump administration is weighing an expansion of the U.S. military presence in the Middle East with 14,000 more troops and dozens of ships, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday, citing U.S. officials. President Trump has long advocated reducing U.S. involvement in foreign conflicts, but the officials said that on the advice of Israel and aides, he wants to counter the threat posed by Iran. The deployment would be designed to respond to any retaliation by Iran to renewed sanctions. Iran already has been blamed for several recent attacks, including one on Saudi oil facilities, although Tehran has denied involvement. The U.S. sent 14,000 troops to the region in May. There are currently 60,000 to 80,000 U.S. troops in the Middle East and Afghanistan. [The Wall Street Journal]


French trade unions launched a major transportation strike on Thursday to protest possible changes to the country's retirement system. The unions planned to shut down much of the Paris Metro subway system, and domestic and international train lines. Air traffic controllers said they would join the protests, so airlines canceled many flights. The last time the French government tried to overhaul the retirement system, as President Emmanuel Macron wants to do now, was in 1995. Protests erupted then, too, bringing normal activity in the country to a halt for three weeks, until then-President Jacques Chirac backed down. [The Washington Post]


George Zimmerman, who in 2013 was acquitted of charges in the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin, is suing Martin's family and others for $100 million. Martin's mother, Sybrina Fulton, is the lead defendant in Zimmerman's lawsuit. Also being sued are the former prosecutors in the previous Zimmerman case, and Harper Collins, which published a book written by Ben Crump, the attorney who represented Martin's family. Prosecutors during the 2013 trial said that Zimmerman was not justified in shooting and killing the unarmed black teenager, while Zimmerman claims he was acting in self-defense. The jury found him not guilty of second-degree murder. Zimmerman's new lawsuit reportedly accuses the Martin family of engineering false testimony, and seeks $100 million in damages. Crump in a statement described the lawsuit as "reckless." [The Miami Herald]


Rep. Denny Heck (D-Wash.) said Wednesday that he would not run for re-election in 2020. Heck has participated in the impeachment inquiry against President Trump, and said the process has taken a toll. "The countless hours I have spent in the investigation of Russian election interference and the impeachment inquiry have rendered my soul weary," Heck wrote in a Medium post. "I will never understand how some of my colleagues, in many ways good people, could ignore or deny the president's unrelenting attack on a free press, his vicious character assassination of anyone who disagreed with him, and his demonstrably very distant relationship with the truth." Heck, 67, also said he wanted to be able to spend more time with his wife of 44 years, Paula. [Politico]


Germany expelled two Russian diplomats on Wednesday after federal prosecutors found "enough indications" to suspect that Moscow or the Moscow-backed Chechen government were behind the assassination of a former commander of Chechen separatists in Berlin. The victim in the case, identified as "Tornike K.," was shot twice in the head in Berlin's Tiergarten park as he walked to a mosque in August. Moscow denied involvement with the murder. The German Foreign Ministry said as it announced the expulsion of the diplomats that "Russian authorities, despite repeated, high-level, and insistent demands, did not participate enough in the investigation." [The New York Times, NBC News]


Former President Jimmy Carter has been discharged from the hospital after undergoing treatment for a urinary tract infection. Carter, who at 95 is the longest-living former president, had returned to the hospital over the weekend just days after being discharged following a surgery to relieve pressure on his brain. Carter has had numerous health issues recently, in October getting stitches after hitting his head in a fall, and fracturing his pelvis in another fall. The Carter Center said Wednesday that he "looks forward to further rest and recovery at home in Plains, Georgia" and that "he and Mrs. Carter wish everyone peace and joy this holiday season." [ABC News, The Associated Press]

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