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National News

    Simone Biles has yet another award for her shelf. >> Read more trending news  According to NBC Sports, the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee announced Tuesday that the world record-breaking gymnast is the female Olympic athlete of the year. The news came at the 2019 Team USA Awards in Los Angeles, the committee's official website said. The 22-year-old Biles, who made history by earning her 24th and 25th world championship medals this year, won one of nine annual awards presented at the ceremony. Other recipients included skiier and para-cyclist Oksana Masters, female paralympic athlete of the year; figure skater Nathan Chen, male Olympic athlete of the year; archer Ben Thompson, male paralympic athlete of the year; archery coach KiSik Lee, Olympic coach of the year; paratriathlon coach Wesley Johnson, paralympic coach of the year; the U.S. women's World Cup soccer team, Olympic team of the year; the U.S. sled hockey team, paralympic team of the year; and U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Hall of Fame swimmer Amy Van Dyken, Jesse Owens Olympic Spirit Award winner. The show will air at 2 p.m. Dec. 22 on NBC, according to the committee's website. Read more here or here.
  • Check your pantry, Mondelez Global LLC has announced a recall of some boxes of Cheese Nips. The affected Cheese Nips were recalled after plastic from a dough scraper mixed into the dough. It was noticed when yellow plastic pieces were seen on the manufacturing equipment, the Food and Drug Administration announced. >> Read more trending news  The only boxes recalled were the 11-ounce variety with UPC 0 44000 03453 5 and have the best by dates of May 18, May 19 or May 20, 2020. There have been no reports of illness or injury.  If you have the recalled box, the FDA says throw it away and not eat the crackers. If you have any questions call 844-366-1171. Phones are open 24 hours a day, but consumer relations specialists are available weekdays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. EST.
  • Former Vice President Al Gore said that even though President Donald Trump wants to back out of the Paris Climate Agreement, the U.S. cannot legally pull out until the day after next year’s presidential election. “If there’s a new president -- pardon me for a minute,” Gore said to laughs and then loud applause, as he stretched out his arms and looked up. “Now don’t you dare interpret that as a partisan gesture. I have freedom of speech and freedom of prayer,” he joked. Gore’s spirited speech Wednesday night kicked off a series of climate presentations that continued around the globe on Thursday. Called “24 Hours of Reality,” it’s an endeavor of The Climate Reality Project, founded by Gore to educate the public and inspire action on climate change. Gore said some of the more than 20,000 climate activists he’s trained will present their own takes on climate change as the event continues through Thursday at more than 1,700 locations, as far flung as Antarctica and Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. More than 1,000 people gave Gore a standing ovation at the opening presentation at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. Gore said he tries to avoid partisan politics at his climate presentations. He made a point of praising Vanderbilt’s College Republicans for calling on the Republican National Committee to change its stance on climate. But he said many current U.S. politicians need to be unseated. “We need to really clean house. Change is not happening fast enough unless we change policy,” he said. Later he added, “To change our policies, we’re going to have to change our policy makers.” Gore took aim at Trump’s characterization of the Central American migrants coming to the U.S. Gore called them “climate refugees” and said many are fleeing drought. “The reason they’re leaving is because they’re hungry,” Gore said to applause. “They’re not rapists and terrorists. They’re hungry and they’re trying to feed their families.” He also took a shot at Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, accusing him of giving “the green light to burn down more of the Amazon.” Gore said the U.S. is suffering from a “democracy crisis” caused by the influence of special interests on politicians. “They put a coal lobbyist in charge of the EPA, for God’s sake. The fact that there is not widespread outrage about that is a symptom of our weakened democracy,” he said. Gore called climate change “the life and death struggle of people alive today,” comparing it to 9/11, Pearl Harbor and such World War II battles as Dunkirk and Midway. Such an existential crisis demands an “aspirational set of goals,” he said, expressing support for the Democrats’ sweeping Green New Deal proposal to combat climate change. The Green New Deal calls for the virtual elimination of greenhouse gas emissions responsible for global warming by 2030, by shifting U.S. from fossil fuels to renewable energy. “I think it’s a very effective and brilliant branding because it conveys the idea that the solutions to the climate crisis have to be on the scale of the New Deal,” he said. Prior to Gore’s presentation, actor and singer Jaden Smith took the stage briefly to talk about the impact that Gore’s documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” had on him. “For me, for my generation, for all the generations that are going to have to go forth, dealing with the climate crisis, I am so glad we have an icon here to look up to,” Smith said.
  • A New York man was arrested on animal cruelty charges after authorities said his German shepherd gnawed off one of her legs while chained outside. >> Read more trending news  New York State Police said Tuesday that the dog's owner, 59-year-old Carl K. Pritchard of Exeter, is facing charges of overdriving, torturing and injuring animals, as well as failing to provide proper sustenance and appropriate shelter. On Nov. 14, a UPS driver spotted the dog and called police, saying its 'leg had been blown off,' The Associated Press reported. 'She was found with no food and water, living outside in a plastic crate with hay inside,' said police, calling the dog Zoe in a Facebook post. >> See the post here The Susquehanna SPCA, which is caring for the approximately 9-year-old dog, rushed her to a clinic, the AP reported. A veterinarian told the news outlet that Zoe's 'leg was probably injured, and she was trying to take care of it herself.' She also 'is anemic, has a heart murmur and very likely has cancer,' the SPCA said. In a Wednesday Facebook post, the group said Zoe was recovering from surgery at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine Animal Hospital. 'The surgeons say they believe they were able to fully remove the mass and successfully amputate her leg,' read the post, adding that the dog 'is doing well.' >> See the update here If you'd like to donate to the Susquehanna SPCA, click here. Read more here or here. – The Associated Press contributed to this report.
  • Dave Crabill and two business partners started small for their first foray into farming hemp, growing two strains of the now-legal cousin of marijuana on an acre along a dirt road outside the industrial city of Flint. The endeavor wasn’t easy. Flooding from record rain stunted some plants. Crabill and others had to carefully walk the field and uproot 1,000 undesirable males, a third of the plants, to protect more valuable females. Some plants were stolen. And it’s still not clear whether they will make money from the effort, which Crabill likened to “planting $20 bills and hoping to harvest $50.” “That’s why we did the 1 acre,” said Crabill, who runs a small marketing company and is among more than 500 people who registered this year as hemp growers in Michigan, many hoping to capitalize on the growing demand for the extract CBD. “Something manageable. We can make mistakes and it won’t kill us. ... We’re all going to be smarter next year.” The legalization of industrial hemp in the U.S. less than a year ago has sparked interest from both traditional farmers and newbies like Crabill. The early stages are proving tricky, but up for grabs is a lucrative market, one that could grow more than five-fold globally by 2025 — driven by demand for CBD. The compound, which doesn’t cause a high like that of marijuana, is hyped as a health product to reduce anxiety, treat pain and promote sleep. The U.S. is the biggest hemp-importing country, and even before the cannabis plant was fully legalized federally, some states ran pilot programs under the 2014 farm bill. Last month, the U.S. government finalized an interim national regulatory framework that is expected to pave the way for the crop’s widespread commercialization starting as early as 2020. In Michigan, farmers who participated in the state’s first growing season since World War II cover the gamut — including cannabis enthusiasts and large-scale operators who want to diversify beyond low-price commodities. For attorney Keith Hagen and his two farmer brothers, branching out past sugar beets, wheat and dry beans was primarily a financial decision. They founded Hempure Farm in Ubly and grew 340 acres (140 hectares) of hemp, the most statewide. “There’s not a lot of money being made in any crop right now. The margins are so small ... and then you start piling on tariffs and those margins even get smaller,” Hagen said. “So when something new like hemp popped up, well they’ve got the agricultural expertise. It then just turned into a matter of learning as much as you can on how to do this.” Producing hemp, especially for CBD extraction, is labor-intensive. Obtaining high-quality seeds can be difficult and expensive. Weed control is an issue; little is known about safely or legally using pesticides. Before a crop is harvested, it’s tested for THC, the chemical in cannabis that causes a high. If the level is “hot,” above 0.3%, the plants must be destroyed. “It’s incredibly complicated,” Hagen said, pointing to “countless minefields” facing farmers, many of whom “will probably lose their shirt, for lack of a better term.” Vote Hemp says more than 30 states issued 17,800 licenses to farmers and researchers in the wake of hemp’s legalization, more than quintuple the 2018 figure. Of the half a million acres (202,350 hectares) covered, though, an estimated 295,000 (119,000 hectares) weren’t planted because of limited access to seedlings and clones, a lack of financing and a “huge number” of inexperienced growers, according to the nonprofit advocacy group. It estimates that about 50% to 60% of the planted acres, or 120,000 (48,560 hectares) to 144,000 (58,280 hectares), will be harvested, once crop failures, non-compliant plants and other factors are factored in. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s newly issued interim rules to facilitate hemp production will provide much-needed guidance on testing, background checks and other issues. The industry also is closely tracking the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Though products containing CBD are already in stores and sold online, the agency says CBD-infused foods, drinks and dietary supplements are illegal. It’s exploring ways that the compound might officially be allowed. “There is a bit of a medicinal market and there is a bit of an almost salon-type market,” said Hagen, who expects to produce about 1.5 million dried pounds (680,000 kilograms) of hemp this year for use in products such as lotions and oils. “The real launching point, though, is when the FDA allows CBD to be put into real consumable products. That’s where we’ll really see what this can do.” Ron Bates, director of the Michigan State University Extension’s Agriculture and Agribusiness Institute, said that would-be growers should have contracts in place in advance. “You just don’t harvest this stuff and take it to the elevator and sell it,” he said. “The market infrastructure’s just not there yet.” For now, many states are playing catch-up. “This is really a learning year for everybody,” said Gina Alessandri, Michigan’s industrial hemp program director. “There still are a lot more questions than answers for many people.” ___ Follow David Eggert on Twitter: https://twitter.com/DavidEggert00 ___ Follow AP’s complete marijuana coverage: https://apnews.com/Marijuana
  • Health care, taxes and corruption are just some of the issues that 10 presidential candidates covered in a debate that was contentious at times Wednesday night at the Tyler Perry Studios in southwest Atlanta. >> Read more trending news  WSB-TV political reporter Richard Elliot was at the debate as the top Democratic candidates made their cases as to why the public should vote for them for president in 2020. It didn’t take long for them to focus on President Donald Trump and the impeachment inquiry. “We have a criminal living in the White House,” said Sen. Kamala Harris. “We have to establish the principle (that) no one is above the law,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren said. “We are absolutely going to confront the president for his wrongdoing,” said South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg. Buttigieg and Sen. Bernie Sanders also added that Democrats have to talk about more than just going after Trump. “We cannot simply be consumed by Donald Trump, because if we are, you know what? We’re going to lose the election,” Sanders said. More than 1,000 people attended the debate, including Stacey Abrams, former Democratic candidate for Georgia governor. She believes Georgia will be in play in 2020. “What we know is that Georgia is on everyone’s mind. We are a battleground state because we, in a decade, have closed the gap in a presidential race from 8 points to 5 points in 2016 and, (in) my race, 1.4 points,” Abrams said Earlier in the day, Elliot spoke with Marc Lotter, the Trump campaign’s strategic communications director. He said it doesn’t matter what the Democrats do, Georgia is a red state. “I think what they’re trying to do is counter what we have seen happening in so many different places where you’re seeing traditional voting blocs that have been traditionally Democratic, they’re now coming out in support of President Trump,” Lotter said. Ahead of Wednesday’s debate, dozens of people gathered outside the main entrance to Tyler Perry Studios to support their candidates and even protest. WSB-TV’s Dave Huddleston spoke to several of the people in that crowd. Among them were Trump supporters, immigration advocates and a group that supports reparations for years of slavery. 'We need to be seen by the people we vote for. We vote Democratic, like, 90% for the last 60 years, so we want them to know we are here, and we want you to hear our agenda,' said Shameeka Andrews, with American Descendants of Slavery. Protestors were also demanding that the candidates end deportation of immigrants. “We're nonpartisan but we want them to hear our demands to end deportations and stop separating families and we want to decriminalize migration and of course to abolish ICE,' said Kevin Joachin with the Georgia Latino Alliance of Human Rights.  Huddleston also spotted a man circling the block in a truck to show his support for Trump.  The vice chairman of the Democratic committee, Michael Blake, told Huddleston that all this shows that Georgia is a key state in the 2020 presidential election and it's time for change. “Before being Republicans or Democrats, we're Americans. We cannot continue down this road,” Blake said. “This also sends a message to the country. People don't want to just hear that Trump is bad, but what are you saying, as a Democrat, that you're good?” The last time Atlanta hosted a presidential debate was in 1992.
  • A worker at Dayton Children’s Hospital in Ohio walked in a patient’s room last week and saw a father in bed with his daughter, both in a state of partial undress, authorities said. >> Read more trending news  Now, the Dayton Police Department is investigating possible child abuse involving the 12-year-old girl with developmental disabilities. A social worker at the hospital reported the incident to police. “I’m calling to make a report because I’m not familiar with Ohio law and what constitutes sexual abuse,” the caller told dispatchers. “Dad had his shirt off and he had the girl’s shirt and pants off and was laying along in bed together.” The social worker told the dispatcher she asked the man to leave the hospital, and said his reaction was surprising. “I told dad that I was going to call the cops and he said, ‘yeah, that’s fine,’” she said. Police are investigating whether a crime has occurred, and no charges have been filed.
  • Ten candidates took the stage Wednesday night in Atlanta for the November Democratic presidential primary debate, including former Vice President Joe Biden; Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey; South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg; Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii; Sen. Kamala Harris of California; Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota; Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont; billionaire entrepreneur Tom Steyer; Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts; and tech entrepreneur Andrew Yang. >> Read more trending news  Here are five memorable moments from the event: >> Read the latest from our Washington Insider, Jamie Dupree 1. Gabbard and Harris clash over Democratic Party criticism. While answering a question about her past criticism of 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, Gabbard elaborated on what she has previously described as 'the rot that has sickened the Democratic Party.' 'Our Democratic Party, unfortunately, is not the party that is of, by and for the people,' she said. 'It is a party that has been and continues to be influenced by the foreign policy establishment in Washington, represented by Hillary Clinton and others' foreign policy, by the military industrial complex and other greedy corporate interests.' Gabbard added that she wants 'to be the Democratic nominee that rebuilds our Democratic Party, takes it out of their hands, and truly puts it in the hands of the people of this country.' When asked to respond, Harris didn't hold back. 'I think that it's unfortunate that we have someone on this stage who is attempting to be the Democratic nominee for president of the United States, who, during the Obama administration, spent four years full time on Fox News criticizing President Obama,' Harris began. 'That's ridiculous, Sen. Harris,' Gabbard interjected. 'That's ridiculous.' Harris continued: '... who has spent full time criticizing people on this stage as affiliated with the Democratic Party, when Donald Trump was elected – not even sworn in – buddied up to Steve Bannon to get a meeting with Donald Trump in the Trump Tower, fails to call a war criminal by what he is as a war criminal, and then spends full time during the course of this campaign, again, criticizing the Democratic Party.' Gabbard fired back, claiming Harris was 'continuing to traffic in lies and smears in innuendos' and would likely 'continue the Bush-Clinton-Trump foreign policy of regime change wars.' >> Watch the exchange here 2. Gabbard and Buttigieg spar over foreign policy. Gabbard also criticized Buttigieg during Wednesday's debate, arguing that the mayor from Indiana lacked foreign policy experience. 'I think the most recent example of your inexperience in national security and foreign policy came from your recent careless statement about how you as president would be willing to send our troops to Mexico to fight the cartels,' Gabbard said. Buttigieg shot back, saying Gabbard had taken his comments 'out of context.' 'I was talking about U.S.-Mexico cooperation,' he said. 'We've been doing security cooperation with Mexico for years, with law enforcement cooperation and a military relationship that could continue to be developed with training relationships, for example. Do you seriously think anybody on this stage is proposing invading Mexico?' 'That's not what I said,' Gabbard interjected. Buttigieg then questioned Gabbard's judgment, particularly over her meeting with Syrian President Bashar Assad.  'I have, in my experience – such as it is, whether you think it counts or not since it wasn't accumulated in Washington – enough judgment that I would not have sat down with a murderous dictator like that,' he said. >> See the moment here 3. Booker blasts Biden's position on marijuana laws. While discussing the issues that impact black voters, Booker took aim at Biden, who, according to CNN, said last weekend that he wouldn't back legalizing marijuana nationwide until he sees more evidence that pot isn't a 'gateway drug.' 'I have a lot of respect for the vice president. He has sworn me into my office as a hero,' Booker said. 'This week, I hear him literally say that I don't think we should legalize marijuana. I thought you might have been high when you said it.' Following the remark, which drew laughs from audience members, Booker continued on a more serious note. 'Marijuana in our country is already legal for privileged people,' he said. 'The war on drugs has been a war on black and brown people.' Biden later clarified that although he still has questions about legalizing marijuana, he does support decriminalizing the drug and expunging offenders' records. >> Watch the clip here 4. Biden's comment about African American support sparks confusion. As Biden and Booker continued to discuss race, one remark from the former vice president left some fellow candidates and viewers scratching their heads. 'I'm part of that Obama coalition,' Biden began. 'I come out of a black community, in terms of my support. If you notice, I have more people supporting me in the black community that have announced for me because they know me; they know who I am.' Some of those supporters, he said, include 'three former chairs of the black caucus' and 'the only African American woman that'd ever been elected to the United States Senate,' former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun of Illinois. Booker and Harris, a black, female senator, immediately took issue with Biden's comments, interjecting, 'That's not true.' 'The other one is here,' Harris pointed out, laughing and shrugging. Biden continued: 'No, I said the first. I said the first African American woman.' >> Watch the moment here 5. Klobuchar says women are held to a 'higher standard.' When asked to clarify a previous comment about whether a woman with Buttigieg's experience would be on the debate stage, Klobuchar elaborated on the challenges facing women in politics. 'I've made very clear I think that Pete is qualified to be up on this stage, and I am honored to be standing next to him, but what I said was true,' she began. 'Women are held to a higher standard. Otherwise, we could play a game called 'Name Your Favorite Woman President,' which we can't do, because it has all been men.' She added: 'We have to work harder, and that's a fact.' >> Click here to watch
  • China on Thursday demanded President Donald Trump veto legislation aimed at supporting human rights in Hong Kong and renewed a threat to take “strong countermeasures” if the bills become law. Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act undermined both China’s interests and those of the U.S. in the semi-autonomous Chinese city. “We urge the U.S. to grasp the situation, stop its wrongdoing before it's too late, prevent this act from becoming law (and) immediately stop interfering in Hong Kong affairs and China's internal affairs,” Geng said at a daily news briefing. “If the U.S. continues to make the wrong moves, China will be taking strong countermeasures for sure,” Geng said. Foreign Minister Wang Yi joined in the criticism, telling visiting former U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen that the legislation constituted an act of interference in China’s internal affairs and ignored violent acts committed by protesters. “This bill sends the wrong signal to those violent criminals and its substance seeks to throw Hong Kong into chaos or even to destroy Hong Kong outright,” Wang said. The human rights act mandates sanctions on Chinese and Hong Kong officials who carry out human rights abuses and requires an annual review of the favorable trade status that Washington grants Hong Kong. Another bill prohibits export to Hong Kong police of certain nonlethal munitions, including tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets, water cannons, stun guns and tasers. The House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved the bills Wednesday, a day after the Senate passed them on voice votes. The bills now go to the White House for Trump’s signature, and the White House signaled that he would sign the measure. Hong Kong held on to its advantageous trading status with the U.S. upon its handover from British to Chinese rule in 1997, in recognition of Beijing’s pledge to allow it to retain its own laws, independent judiciary and civil and economic freedoms. That independent status has come into question amid moves by Beijing to gradually strengthen its political control over the territory, helping spark months of increasingly violent protests. This week, China’s legislature argued it had the sole right to interpret the validity of Hong Kong’s laws after the territory’s court struck down an order banning the wearing of masks at protests. Legal scholars described that as a power grab violating the governing framework known as “one country, two systems.” With Hong Kong’s Beijing-backed government refusing to enter into dialogue or make concessions, the territory’s police force has been given broad powers to quell the protests. That has brought numerous complaints of excessive use of force and the abuse of detainees, along with a near-complete lack of accountability for officers. In a September report, Amnesty International documented numerous cases where protesters had to be hospitalized for treatment of injuries inflicted while being arrested. “Time and again, police officers meted out violence prior to and during arrests, even when the individual had been restrained or detained. The use of force was therefore clearly excessive, violating international human rights law,” said Nicholas Bequelin, the group’s regional direct for East and South East Asia. Police spokesmen deny using excessive force, even in cases where officers are videotaped kicking and beating protesters who have already been immobilized.
  • A Utah woman charged with a crime after her stepchildren saw her topless in her own home is fighting the case that could force her to register as a sex offender, citing a court ruling that overturned a topless ban in Colorado. Attorneys for Tilli Buchanan argue that the law is unfair because it treats men and women differently for baring their chests. They are asking a judge to overturn her misdemeanor lewdness charges and declare that part of the law unconstitutional. Prosecutors counter that nudity is commonly understood to include women’s breasts in American society and that courts have upheld laws based on morality. Judge Kara Pettit heard the case Tuesday but said it was “too important of an issue” to decide immediately. She plans to rule in the coming months. Buchanan said she and her husband had taken off their shirts to keep their clothes from getting dusty while they worked in their garage in late 2017 or early 2018. When the children, ages 9 through 13, walked in, she “explained she considers herself a feminist and wanted to make a point that everybody should be fine with walking around their house or elsewhere with skin showing,” her lawyers said in court documents. Buchanan was charged with three counts of misdemeanor lewdness involving a child in February. It came after child welfare officials began an investigation involving the kids that wasn’t tied to Buchanan and the children’s mother reported the incident to authorities because she was “alarmed.” Buchanan’s husband was not charged. “It was in the privacy of my own home. My husband was right next to me in the same exact manner that I was, and he’s not being prosecuted,” she said after the court hearing. If convicted, Buchanan could be required to register as a sex offender for 10 years. A global movement advocating for the rights of women to go topless, called the Free the Nipple campaign, has seen mixed success fighting similar ordinances in other parts of the country. Supporters celebrated in February when the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a ruling blocking a Fort Collins, Colorado, law against women going topless in public. The justices sided with activists who argued that the ban treated women and men differently under law. The court has jurisdiction over federal cases from several states, including Utah, but authorities have said the ruling doesn’t immediately invalidate other local laws. That same month, the highest court in New Hampshire upheld the conviction of three members of the Free the Nipple campaign who were arrested for going topless on a beach in 2016. A public indecency law in Missouri also was upheld in 2017, and a court allowed a San Francisco public nudity ban to stay on the books in 2013.
  • A three day, nine witness impeachment hearing blitz comes to a conclusion on Thursday, as lawmakers will hear from a former Russia expert on the National Security Council, and a Foreign Service Officer who currently works at the U.S. embassy in Ukraine, as Republicans and Democrats continue to consume these proceedings like people living on different planets. After Wednesday's testimony with Ambassador Gordon Sondland, this session will feature Fiona Hill, who worked on the National Security Council until this July, and David Holmes, who overheard Sondland's phone conversation with President Trump, in which Mr. Trump reportedly asked about Ukraine announcing investigations sought by the President. Here's the latest on the impeachment hearings: - 7:45 am.  If you missed the end of the Gordon Sondland hearing on Wednesday, members of the public audience gave him a standing ovation, and extended applause as he left the hearing room.  There was a similar reaction last Friday for ex-Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch. 7:30 am.  The news from the evening hearing evidently did not sit well with Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), as more than an hour after the hearing ended, Jordan tweeted out his skepticism about Cooper's testimony, and the discovery of her staff. 7:25 am.  The day after the July 25 phone call, a group of top U.S. officials gathered in Washington to meet about military aid to Ukraine.  The number three official in the State Department testified last night that a White House budget official made clear aid to Ukraine was on hold - under orders from the President. 7:15 am. The biggest piece of news to come out of last night's impeachment hearing was about when Ukraine officials found out that U.S. aid was being delayed.  Pentagon official Laura Cooper said her staff had uncovered emails which showed Ukraine embassy officials in Washington asking what was going on with U.S. aid money.  Those emails were sent on - July 25.  Why is that important? That's the same day President Trump had his phone call with the leader of Ukraine. 7:00 am. If you missed the Sondland hearing on Wednesday, you missed one of the more unique hearings in some time on Capitol Hill.  Sondland sharpened his previous testimony, accusing Rudy Giuliani of a quid pro quo in which he pressed Ukraine to announce investigations backed by President Trump, in exchange for a White House meeting with the President.  When the hearing began, the top Republican said Sondland would be smeared - presumably by Democrats.  But it was GOP lawmakers who scrapped with the Ambassador over his testimony, where he all but said that President Trump had ordered a hold on aid to Ukraine, in order to get the government to announce investigations of Hunter Biden, and the conspiracy theory that Ukraine - and not Russia - had interfered in the 2016 U.S. elections. Here is a link to Sondland's testimony.
  • The iPhone already has a pretty advanced camera, but 'add-ons' can make it even better. The Conde Nast Traveler found 6 gadgets they say will turn your iPhone into the ultimate travel camera. One company called Moment has an iPhone case with an advanced camera lens that attaches to your iPhone for better pics. The Lume Cube lighting kit isjust what it sounds like, giving you a greater variety of flash options. A mini tripod, a Canon mini photo printer, a Hitcase brand waterproof case, and an Anker portable charger take care of just about any other travel camera need. You can find out more about the gadgets here.
  • Governor Kevin Stitt announced Wednesday he appointed Dustin Rowe to the Supreme Court of Oklahoma.  Rowe’s appointment fills the vacancy created by former Justice Patrick Wyrick’s appointment to the United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma.  Rowe was one of three applicants provided by the Judicial Nominating Commission for the governor’s selection. Dustin Rowe owned a law firm in Tishomingo since 2001. He also served on the Chickasaw Nation District Court. “His proven record in both his private practice and as a tribal court judge speaks to his qualifications to join the highest court in Oklahoma.” said Gov. Stitt. This is Stitt’s second appointment to the court.
  • Ambassador Gordon Sondland drew stern rebukes from Republican lawmakers on Wednesday as he told impeachment hearings that President Donald Trump's personal lawyer had made clear that in order for the new leader of Ukraine to get a White House meeting with the President, then Ukraine would have to announce investigations sought by Mr. Trump. 'Mr. Giuliani's requests were a quid pro quo,' Sondland said, as U.S. Ambassador to the European Union said it became clear to him that the President ultimately had been holding up military aid to Ukraine to leverage those same investigations as well. 'We did not want to work with Mr. Giuliani,' Sondland added. While Sondland repeatedly acknowledged that no one - including President Trump - had told him the aid for Ukraine was tied to any investigations wanted by Mr. Trump, the Ambassador said he ultimatley felt that was the bottom line. 'That was my presumption,' Sondland said. Seemingly caught off guard by Sondland's testimony - which more sharply alleged that there was a clear effort to condition aid to Ukraine for a series of investigations than his previous deposition testimony - Republicans ultimately took the gloves off, and took after the President's own ambassador. 'You really have no testimony today that ties President Trump to a scheme to withhold aid from Ukraine in exchange for these investigations,' said Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH). 'Other than my own presumption,' Sondland interjected, further aggravating Turner, his voice growing more strident by the minute. 'Do you know what hearsay evidence is ambassador?' Turner asked. 'Do you know what made up testimony is?' GOP lawmakers mocked Sondland's earlier statement that he presumed the aid-for-investigations effort was true, when he said he realized 'two plus two equals four.' 'Two presumptions plus two presumptions does not equal even one fact,' said Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-OH). Earlier, GOP counsel Stephen Castor sought to undercut Sondland's testimony, rattling off a series of items which Sondland did not have to back up his presumption. 'You don't have records, you don't have notes, because you didn't take notes, you don't have a lot of recollections,' Castor said.  'I mean, this is like the trifecta of unreliability, isn't that true?' Castor asked, who did not gain the agreement of Sondland.  'What I'm trying to do today is use the information I have to be as forthcoming as possible,' said Sondland. Republicans also complained openly to Sondland about why he did not use a quote from the President - which Sondland had used in a text message - denying any kind of quid pro quo. 'Do you know what a quid pro quo is?' asked Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), who said Sondland should have made that one of the first items in his lengthy opening statement. Ironically, at the start of the hearing, the top Republican on the Intelligence Committee, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), warned the Oregon hotel developer that he faced a difficult day. 'Ambassador Sondland, you are going to be smeared,' Nunes declared. But the roughest treatment for Sondland actually came from the GOP, and not from Democrats. Here is the link to my live updates on today's hearing.
  • Novel drugs may offer fresh ways to reduce heart risks beyond the usual medicines to lower cholesterol and blood pressure. One new study found that heart attack survivors benefited from a medicine long used to treat gout. Several experimental drugs also showed early promise for interfering with heart-harmful genes without modifying the genes themselves — in one case, with treatment just twice a year. The research was featured at an American Heart Association conference ending Monday in Philadelphia. “There’s a lot of excitement” about the new gene-targeting medicines, especially because they seem to last so long, said Dr. Karol Watson, of the University of California, Los Angeles. Scientists have been exploring gene therapy — altering DNA — to attack the root cause of many diseases. The new drugs essentially accomplish the same thing without tampering with genes, said the University of Pennsylvania’s Dr. Daniel Rader, who has consulted for some makers of these drugs. The medicines work by silencing or blocking messages that genes give to cells to make proteins that can do harm, such as allowing cholesterol to accumulate. The first few of these “RNA-interference” drugs recently were approved for other conditions, and research is also targeting heart disease.

Washington Insider

  • A three day, nine witness impeachment hearing blitz comes to a conclusion on Thursday, as lawmakers will hear from a former Russia expert on the National Security Council, and a Foreign Service Officer who currently works at the U.S. embassy in Ukraine, as Republicans and Democrats continue to consume these proceedings like people living on different planets. After Wednesday's testimony with Ambassador Gordon Sondland, this session will feature Fiona Hill, who worked on the National Security Council until this July, and David Holmes, who overheard Sondland's phone conversation with President Trump, in which Mr. Trump reportedly asked about Ukraine announcing investigations sought by the President. Here's the latest on the impeachment hearings: - 7:45 am.  If you missed the end of the Gordon Sondland hearing on Wednesday, members of the public audience gave him a standing ovation, and extended applause as he left the hearing room.  There was a similar reaction last Friday for ex-Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch. 7:30 am.  The news from the evening hearing evidently did not sit well with Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), as more than an hour after the hearing ended, Jordan tweeted out his skepticism about Cooper's testimony, and the discovery of her staff. 7:25 am.  The day after the July 25 phone call, a group of top U.S. officials gathered in Washington to meet about military aid to Ukraine.  The number three official in the State Department testified last night that a White House budget official made clear aid to Ukraine was on hold - under orders from the President. 7:15 am. The biggest piece of news to come out of last night's impeachment hearing was about when Ukraine officials found out that U.S. aid was being delayed.  Pentagon official Laura Cooper said her staff had uncovered emails which showed Ukraine embassy officials in Washington asking what was going on with U.S. aid money.  Those emails were sent on - July 25.  Why is that important? That's the same day President Trump had his phone call with the leader of Ukraine. 7:00 am. If you missed the Sondland hearing on Wednesday, you missed one of the more unique hearings in some time on Capitol Hill.  Sondland sharpened his previous testimony, accusing Rudy Giuliani of a quid pro quo in which he pressed Ukraine to announce investigations backed by President Trump, in exchange for a White House meeting with the President.  When the hearing began, the top Republican said Sondland would be smeared - presumably by Democrats.  But it was GOP lawmakers who scrapped with the Ambassador over his testimony, where he all but said that President Trump had ordered a hold on aid to Ukraine, in order to get the government to announce investigations of Hunter Biden, and the conspiracy theory that Ukraine - and not Russia - had interfered in the 2016 U.S. elections. Here is a link to Sondland's testimony.
  • Ambassador Gordon Sondland drew stern rebukes from Republican lawmakers on Wednesday as he told impeachment hearings that President Donald Trump's personal lawyer had made clear that in order for the new leader of Ukraine to get a White House meeting with the President, then Ukraine would have to announce investigations sought by Mr. Trump. 'Mr. Giuliani's requests were a quid pro quo,' Sondland said, as U.S. Ambassador to the European Union said it became clear to him that the President ultimately had been holding up military aid to Ukraine to leverage those same investigations as well. 'We did not want to work with Mr. Giuliani,' Sondland added. While Sondland repeatedly acknowledged that no one - including President Trump - had told him the aid for Ukraine was tied to any investigations wanted by Mr. Trump, the Ambassador said he ultimatley felt that was the bottom line. 'That was my presumption,' Sondland said. Seemingly caught off guard by Sondland's testimony - which more sharply alleged that there was a clear effort to condition aid to Ukraine for a series of investigations than his previous deposition testimony - Republicans ultimately took the gloves off, and took after the President's own ambassador. 'You really have no testimony today that ties President Trump to a scheme to withhold aid from Ukraine in exchange for these investigations,' said Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH). 'Other than my own presumption,' Sondland interjected, further aggravating Turner, his voice growing more strident by the minute. 'Do you know what hearsay evidence is ambassador?' Turner asked. 'Do you know what made up testimony is?' GOP lawmakers mocked Sondland's earlier statement that he presumed the aid-for-investigations effort was true, when he said he realized 'two plus two equals four.' 'Two presumptions plus two presumptions does not equal even one fact,' said Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-OH). Earlier, GOP counsel Stephen Castor sought to undercut Sondland's testimony, rattling off a series of items which Sondland did not have to back up his presumption. 'You don't have records, you don't have notes, because you didn't take notes, you don't have a lot of recollections,' Castor said.  'I mean, this is like the trifecta of unreliability, isn't that true?' Castor asked, who did not gain the agreement of Sondland.  'What I'm trying to do today is use the information I have to be as forthcoming as possible,' said Sondland. Republicans also complained openly to Sondland about why he did not use a quote from the President - which Sondland had used in a text message - denying any kind of quid pro quo. 'Do you know what a quid pro quo is?' asked Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), who said Sondland should have made that one of the first items in his lengthy opening statement. Ironically, at the start of the hearing, the top Republican on the Intelligence Committee, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), warned the Oregon hotel developer that he faced a difficult day. 'Ambassador Sondland, you are going to be smeared,' Nunes declared. But the roughest treatment for Sondland actually came from the GOP, and not from Democrats. Here is the link to my live updates on today's hearing.
  • After hearing Tuesday from three people who listened in on President Trump's July 25 phone call with the leader of Ukraine, lawmakers will take testimony from U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, who helped to coordinate efforts in Ukraine with President Donald Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani. Sondland will certainly have to address a phone call he supposedly made from a restaurant in Ukraine - on an unsecured cell phone - where he spoke to President Trump, who made clear he wanted to know if Ukraine was going to announce it had started investigations into the Bidens, and a 2016 conspiracy theory that Ukraine - and not Russia - had hacked Democrats during the elections. “Ambassador Sondland is a big personality,” said former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker, who testified a day earlier. Follow along with developments here: - 8:00 pm.  While the hearing is over, there is now an extra session in which Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee are voting down a variety of requests from Republicans for subpoenas of Hunter Biden, the whistleblower, and others. 7:25 pm. Here's the headlines from tonight's hearing so far: + New emails show Ukraine embassy asked on July 25 what was going on with military aid + State Dept official says at a July 26 meeting OMB said the President had directed a delay on that aid. Trump-Zelensky call was July 25. 7:00 pm.  Here is the video of Hale's testimony with respect to the July 26 meeting where an OMB official said the President had authorized a hold on the military aid for Ukraine. 6:55 pm.  One of the GOP arguments is that Ukraine did not know the military aid was on hold. But it's clear that the July 25 Trump-Zelensky phone call had the Kyiv government concerned. 6:45 pm.  While this is a fairly dry hearing which reminds me of covering a regular Congressional oversight hearing, there have been some kernels of news.  Along with Cooper's statement, Hale says at an interagency meeting on July 26, officials were told that military aid was on hold “because the President had so directed through the Acting Chief of Staff.' 6:10 pm. Cooper says her Pentagon staff found a series of emails in which there were concerns relayed by Ukraine officials about why military aid was on hold. Two of the emails were sent to State Dept on July 25. That was the same day President Trump spoke with the Ukraine leader. 5:40 pm.  After almost a two hour break, the second hearing is underway.  Pentagon official Laura Cooper and State Department official David Hale are testifying. 3:45 pm.  The hearing has ended.  There was prolonged applause for Sondland as he left the room. 3:15 pm.  Sondland says it would have been better for a Trump-Zelensky meeting to take place without conditions, saying he thought their chemistry would have been very good, describing the Ukraine leader as smart, funny, and charming. 3:10 pm.  The GOP frustration grows with Sondland at this hearing.  Rep. Jim Jordan R-OH to Sondland: 'You said there were three quid pro quos but there weren't.' 2:20 pm.  It's now open season on Sondland from the Republican side.  Rep. Mike Turner R-OH blasted Sondland, calling his testimony 'confusing' and 'somewhat circular.'  Turner was followed by Rep. Brad Wenstrup R-OH, who rebuked Sondland as well.  House Republicans moved quickly to get the Turner Q&A out on social media. 2:00 pm.  Rep. Jim Jordan R-OH echoes earlier GOP complaints to Sondland about why he didn't use a quote from the President in today's opening statement where Mr. Trump denied any quid pro quo. 1:50 pm.  Giuliani tweeted something about Sondland at 12:29 pm, and then deleted it.  Now, about an hour later, he has re-posted the same tweet.  Not clear what changed, or what was wrong with the original missive. 1:40 pm.  Sondland is back.  The White House has just issued a statement on his testimony, pushing back on his 'quid pro quo' assertions. 1:09 pm.  The committee is taking a break for lunch.  Republicans had so little to offer between Nunes and Castor that they did not use their full 30 minutes. 1:05 pm.   Giuliani has already deleted his 12:29 pm tweet about Sondland's testimony. 12:50 pm.  Rep. Devin Nunes R-CA has again been making the GOP point today that President Trump clearly had a reason to be mad at Ukraine over what happened in 2016. One of the things which happened was the downfall of his campaign manager, Paul Manafort. 12:35 pm.   Democrats clearly feel today's testimony has played in their favor.  12:30 pm.  Giuliani joins the President in downplaying the role of Sondland. 12:15 pm.  The GOP effort to counter Sondland is to say that he has no evidence to back up his assertions. 12:00 pm.  Here are the comments by President Trump about Sondland as he left the White House today. 11:45 am. The GOP response in the hearing (and outside) is that President Trump never directly told Sondland to do anything. Q: The President never told you about pre-conditions for a White House meeting. Sondland: 'Personally, no.' 11:30 am.  President Trump is now 45 minutes behind schedule for his departure from the White House.  He is headed today to Texas. 11:25 am.  Nunes starts the GOP time by focusing not on anything Sondland said in his testimony so far today, focusing on Republican allegations that Ukraine was 'out to get him' during the 2016 elections. First question from Nunes on this line. Sondland: 'I am not aware of it.' Nunes keeps going with more. Sondland: 'I am not aware of it.' 11:20 am.  During the break, Democrats went to the TV cameras stationed outside.   11:15 am.  Again in this impeachment hearing process, viewers on Fox News are getting some different messages. 11:00 am.  A light moment in the hearing, as Sondland says he and President Trump tend to communicate with words that probably aren't for kids. 10:47 am.  On the Drudge Report.  It's not the greatest of headlines for the President on what's usually a favorable website. 10:45 am. Sondland said the President and Giuliani wanted Ukraine to publicly announce the Burisma / Bidens / Crowdstrike-2016 investigations. But Sondland says that doesn't mean Ukraine actually had to undertake the investigations. 10:35 am.  Critics of the President in Congress say the testimony today from Sondland is a big, big deal. 10:20 am. Sondland says Secretary of State Pompeo was up to date with the Giuliani/Trump efforts all along. Sondland says he raised the delay in aid with Vice President Pence on September 1.  10:15 am.  Sondland has finished with his opening statement.  There is a lot of explosive testimony there, especially Sondland saying that 'everyone was in the loop' about the President seeking investigations from Ukraine. 10:05 am.  Was there a quid pro quo involving Ukraine?  Sondland says, in one sense, the answer is yes. 10:00 am.  Sondland says he was surprised to see the rough transcript of the July 25 call the President had with the leader of Ukraine, because he had not been told about the fact that President Trump mentioned investigations related to Biden/Burisma/Crowdstrike in the call. 9:50 am.  Sondland repeatedly says that State Department officials wanted no part of Giuliani being involved in diplomatic work.  But the President did.  So, they had to play the hand they were dealt (Sondland's description). 9:40 am.  Democrats immediately seize on the 'quid pro quo' description by Sondland.   9:27 am.  Sondland uses the term “quid pro quo” to describe what was going on at three different points in his prepared testimony. 9:25 am.  Sondland will also show that Vice President Pence was in that loop as well. 9:20 am.  Sondland says multiple times - “Everyone was in the loop.” 9:15 am.  Sondland says it has been difficult to come up with answers because the White House and State Department have not helped him get documents and phone records. 9:10 am.  The hearing is underway.  Sondland's statement is going to provide some interesting moments in questioning from both parties.  Here is the Ambassador's recount of the July 26 unsecured cell call to President Trump from a restaurant in Kyiv. 9:00 am - The opening statement of Sondland is now available at the following link. 8:40 am.  Someone asked me on Facebook what the advantage is of actually being in the hearing room.  In one way, it is being a witness to history.  But not seeing the TV feed could put you at a disadvantage, as many others watch every facial twitch, frown, and smile on the faces of the witnesses and lawmakers.   When I got here into the room this morning, I found the still photographers had taken my power plug spot, and a TV crew has taken my audio feed. So, I had to deal with that, and switch things around. If I were back in my booth in either the House or Senate side of the Capitol, everything would be just fine. I could stand, go to the bathroom, have lunch,  etc.  Here is my “view” of the dais. 8:10 am.  The folks at Fox and Friends do not buy the testimony that President Trump talks loud and could be overheard on his cell phone. 8:00 am.  A reminder of the testimony so far, is that Sondland called up President Trump from a restaurant in Ukraine, and spoke to him on an unsecured cell phone.  In that call, US embassy staffer David Holmes testified that he could easily hear the President's voice, and hear what was being discussed with Sondland - investigations - which Mr. Trump wanted from the Ukraine government. The Holmes testimony can be found at this link. 7:50 am.  The Sondland phone call with President Trump is going to get a lot of attention today - and rightfully so. 7:45 am.  Most readers probably know Sondland's name from the impeachment / Ukraine controversy, but don't really know all of the details.  There's some interesting stuff which has GOP lawmakers a bit uneasy, because the script today may not be that obvious at first. 7:35 am.  It's not just Gordon Sondland testifying today, starting at 9 am.  And there is another hearing on Thursday.  Like Tuesday, it would be no surprise for me if the hearings are still going at 8 pm - which is when the Democratic debate in Atlanta is set to begin.  That would a split screen political Super Bowl.
  • At the same time one of President Donald Trump's National Security Council staffers testified before Congress on Tuesday, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman found himself taking social media flak from the official White House Twitter account, and from aides to the who also work with Vindman at the White House complex. 'I don't know what the President was thinking,' was one of a series of quotes from Vindman tweeted out by the White House, part of a GOP effort to argue against impeachment hearings led by Democrats in the House. Vindman's testimony represented the first time witnesses had publicly discussed what they heard in a July 25 phone call between President Trump and the leader of Ukraine, where President Trump pressed Ukraine to open up a pair of investigations which could help Mr. Trump politically. 'Frankly, I couldn't believe what I was hearing,' said Vindman, who answered most of the questions, and was challenged the most by Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee. 'It is improper for the President of the United States to demand a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen, and a political opponent,' Vindman said. The other witness, Jennifer Williams, a State Department foreign policy expert who is currently detailed as an adviser for the staff of Vice President Mike Pence, also expressed her concerns. 'I found the July 25th phone call unusual,' Williams said in her testimony. 'It was the first time I had heard internally the president reference particular investigations that previously I had only heard about through Mr. Giuliani's press interviews,' Williams added. While Vindman found himself a Twitter target today, Williams had experienced that on Sunday, when the President loudly objected to her characterization of the Ukraine phone call, accusing her of being a 'Never Trumper.' 'It certainly surprised me,' Williams said. 'I was not expecting to be called out by name.' Maybe the most contentious part of the morning hearing came as Republicans sought to find out who Vindman told of the July 25 phone call, as GOP lawmakers moved to undercut Vindman's work on the National Security Council, which dovetailed with the message of the White House. Republicans said Vindman had puffed up his responsibilities, and jumped on his admission that he had never met with President Trump. 'You've never met the President of the United States, right?' asked Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH). 'That is correct,' Vindman said. 'So, you have never advised the President of the United States on Ukraine,' Turner added, part of a GOP push to downplay Vindman's role on Ukraine policy. Those type of responses netted a series of posts from the White House on Twitter during the hearing. The hearing also featured some exchanges of note regarding the Ukraine whistleblower, as it was clear Republicans believe Vindman notified someone in the Intelligence Community about the July 25 call who may have relayed that information to the whistleblower. 'I do not know who the whistleblower is,' Vindman said at one point, but he refused to name the official he briefed soon after the July 25 call, saying the person was in a 'need to know' situation. Republicans were not pleased. 'You're here to answer questions, and you're hear under subpoena,' said Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA). But heeding a ruling from Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Vindman refused to say whom he briefed on the call. GOP lawmakers also came close to accusing Vindman of being a leaker as well. 'Colonel, you never leaked information?' asked Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH). 'I never did, never would, that is preposterous that I would do that,' Vindman replied. You can find a more detailed review of this morning's hearing at this link.
  • With nine witnesses scheduled in the next three days, the U.S. House Impeachment hearings against President Donald Trump will delve further into questions of how the President pressed the leader of Ukraine to start politically charged investigations, as lawmakers will hear Tuesday morning from two people who raised concerns about the May 25 call between the two leaders. Tuesday's four witnesses - two in the morning - two more in the afternoon - will serve as the setup for what could be an explosive day on Wednesday morning, as U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland is set to testify, after days of reports brimming with new details about his conversations with President Trump regarding U.S. aid to Ukraine, and the President's desire for Ukraine to start investigations sought by Mr. Trump. Check back on this live blog through the day for the latest from the House Intelligence Committee. - 8:30 pm. And after over 11 hours, the hearings are adjourned. We will be back in the morning for Gordon Sondland. His name was mentioned so many times today. 7:30 pm.  Rep. Swalwell D-CA presses Morrison over the President asking for investigations of the Bidens.  Swalwell uses a line that Republicans have used on witnesses - that they don't make foreign policy, but President Trump does. Morrison says he heard the President ask Ukraine to investigate the Bidens; Morrison says he never asked Ukraine to do the same. Swalwell basically says you aren't supposed to be making foreign policy. 7:20 pm.  Volker has had to acknowledge several times that he just didn't understand exactly what Giuliani was getting at - which was investigating the Bidens and the debunked conspiracy theory of Ukraine interfering in the 2016 elections. 7:00 pm.  Volker says he tried to get Rudy Giuliani to tone down the demand for the Ukraine government to specifically promise certain investigations sought by President Trump, Giuliani did not embrace the idea, saying Ukraine had to mention Burisma/Hunter Biden and the 2016 election.  Volker said a written statement was dropped, and may have been replaced by the idea of an interview by the leader of Ukraine on CNN instead, though that never happened.  “The messages conveyed by Giuliani were a problem,” Volker said. 6:40 pm.  Rep. Devin Nunes R-CA has several times today called these proceedings a 'drug deal.'  The irony is that the phrase 'drug deal' in the Ukraine investigation came from former Trump National Security Adviser John Bolton, who told subordinates to stay away from the actions of Rudy Giuliani in Ukraine, with regard to issues of investigations sought by President Trump. 6:30 pm. Schiff pressing Morrison over why he went to NSC lawyers after the July 25 call. Morrison said he was worried about the call leaking - but didn't think there was anything wrong with the call.  Democrats say that's hard to square. 6:15 pm. Morrison testifies that he kept a close eye on Gordon Sondland's work re: Ukraine, and did not embrace push on investigations requested by President Trump from Ukraine.  It's clear right now that Sondland's testimony on Wednesday morning could be very interesting. 5:55 pm.  During the break, Rep. Mark Meadows R-NC was talking with reporters, a normal kind of thing.  C-SPAN has lots of cameras here, so they popped into the scrum as well.   That was going out live - when Meadows says he wants to go off the record.  That doesn't work when there is a live broadcast. 5:45 pm.  The committee is taking one more break.  Next up are questions from lawmakers on the panel.  This isn't scientific, but most of the talk right now around the hearing room is about testimony tomorrow of Gordon Sondland.  Volker and Morrison have not been as interesting as Vindman and Williams this morning. 5:25 pm.  Volker was supposedly going to be a GOP witness.  But his testimony on the 'investigations' isn't exactly what the White House might want to hear.  Volker says he saw nothing credible about the various conspiracy theories (Crowdstrike, etc) that Ukraine interfered in the US elections in 2016 - those have been embraced by President Trump. 5:15 pm. The last half hour has reinforced what Democrats have often been arguing, that Rudy Giuliani's work in Ukraine to stir up various conspiracy theories, which resulted in President Trump asking for investigations by the Ukraine government, had stalled US-Ukraine relations.  “We had gotten nowhere,” Volker said. 4:45 pm.  Morrison continues to give the Democratic counsel answers which Democrats will be pleased to talk about. For example, Morrison says he went to NSC lawyers after phone calls with Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland in September, which made clear (to Morrison) that the aid to Ukraine was being held back while waiting on the investigations asked for by the President in July. 4:30 pm.  Morrison has been talked about a lot by GOP lawmakers today, especially as a way to push back against Vindman from this morning.  But watching and listening to Morrison here in the hearing room, he seems a bit uncomfortable in this setting.   Volker does not. 4:15 pm.  As he talks repeatedly about the issues surrounding Ukraine and President Trump, Volker keeps referring to 'conspiracy theories' pressed by Giuliani which filtered down to President Trump.  Volker quoted the President as saying he was hearing bad things about Ukraine's government from Giuliani. 4:00 pm.  Volker is certainly not going to see his testimony tweeted out by the White House. 3:55 pm.  Kurt Volker testifies that he struggled to get President Trump to set a meeting with the leader of Ukraine, blaming it on a deeply negative view of Ukraine, which was fueled by information coming from the President's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani. 3:35 pm.  Tim Morrison testifies first.   He has a very short statement, and is testifying in a voice that is hard to hear.  He's going to get a lot of attention today from GOP lawmakers, who have used his deposition to try to undercut Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman. 3:25 pm.  The gavel has sounded, as the hearings are getting underway again.  The witnesses today are former National Security Council official Tim Morrison, and Kurt Volker, an ex-US special envoy to Ukraine. 2:30 pm.  The afternoon hearing was originally set to start by now, but because of the House floor schedule, the afternoon part of the impeachment hearings may not begin until around 3:15 pm.  And depending on what happens on the floor, it could slip further.  In the meantime, many photographers have left their cameras by the witness table, staking out their spots. 2:00 pm.  Judging from the tweets by the White House, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman might need to find a new place of employment, rather than the National Security Council.  And that might go for his brother, too. 1:40 pm.  Part one of today's hearing is over.  The next two witnesses, Kurt Volker and Tim Morrison are scheduled to start testifying at 2:30 pm. 1:25 pm.  Vindman works at the White House.  The official White House Twitter account has already had one post about him today - and now another.  1:22 pm.  Asked again about the July 25 Trump-Ukraine call, Vindman said, 'Frankly, I couldn't believe what I was hearing.' He said he immediately reported it to the NSC lawyer because it 'was my duty.'   Some applause after that line of questioning finished. 1:10 pm.  One interesting note about that line of questions from the GOP.  Vindman says the NSC lawyer told him not to talk to anyone about the call - not immediately - but later, after Vindman raised red flags.  That's why Vindman says he did not tell his direct boss, Morrison.  1:05 pm.  Republicans at today's hearing have repeatedly criticized Vindman for going to the top lawyer for the National Security Council immediately after the July 25 call, instead of his direct boss, Tim Morrison - who will testify later today.  Here's how GOP lawmakers are making that case on Twitter today. 12:50 pm.  A needed light moment as Rep Joaquin Castro D-TX talks about being a fellow identical twin, like Vindman and his brother. Castro jokes about being asked to grow a beard - which he did so people wouldn't think he was his brother, the Presidential candidate, Julian Castro. 12:40 pm.  Here is some video from President Trump. 12:20 pm.  From earlier - when Rep. Jordan intimated that superiors thought Vindman was leaking information about Ukraine. 12:10 pm.  News is being made at the White House on several fronts by President Trump. 12:00 pm.  Rep. Jim Jordan R-OH all but accused Vindman of being a leaker, raising questions about what his superiors thought of his job performance.  Vindman denied he had ever leaked anything, and quickly read from his last performance review by former White House aide Fiona Hill, who testifies on Thursday.  Jordan moved on. 11:55 am.  Democrats ask Jennifer Williams about a tweet from President Trump on Sunday, in which he assailed Williams, and called her a “Never Trumper.” 'It certainly surprised me. I was not expecting to be called out by name,” Williams told lawmakers. Here is the tweet. 11:50 am.  The White House quickly turns around that exchange, and posts it on the official White House Twitter account. 11:20 am.  Last questions for Vindman just before a short break in the hearing. Did you ever talk to Giuliani? No. Did you ever discuss Ukraine with President Trump?  Vindman: 'I have never had any contact with the President of the United States.' 11:10 am.  Asked by the GOP counsel, Vindman says Ukraine officials actually offered him the job of Defense minister of Ukraine at one point. Vindman says he immediately reported it to his superiors and intelligence officials. 'The whole notion is rather comical.' 11:05 am.  The GOP counsel walked Williams through a number of questions for why Vice President Pence scrapped a planned trip to Ukraine for the inauguration of the new leader, President Zelensky.  Instead, Pence went to Canada for an event on the US free trade deal with Mexico and Canada.  10:50 am.  Rep. Nunes: 'Mr. Vindman, you testified at your deposition that you did not know the whistleblower.' Vindman: 'Ranking member, it's Lt. Col. Vindman, please.' 10:45 am. We have just had our first real witness skirmish over the identify of the Ukraine whistleblower. Nunes asked Vindman who he told of the July 25 call. Vindman said there were two people outside the White House; he refused to ID the person in the intelligence community. 10:40 am. Nunes acknowledges that Williams and Vindman are the first 'firsthand' witnesses to testify about the Trump-Zelensky phone call. Nunes asking both witnesses if they spoke with any reporters or knew of leaks. Both answer in the negative. 10:35 am. Republicans are now starting their 45 minutes of questioning. Rep. Nunes immediately goes into questions surrounding Burisma and Hunter Biden. 10:20 am. The Democratic counsel is walking both witnesses through the July 25 call in detail, getting them to repeat their concerns about the call.  These are the first witnesses to testify who heard the actual phone call.  GOP lawmakers outside the hearing room are not impressed. 9:55 am.  We have had our first witness refuse to answer a question in these hearings.  The lawyer for Williams won't let her answer a question about a phone call between Vice President Pence and the leader of Ukraine. 9:45 am. Vindman on the May 25 Trump-Zelensky call: 'It is improper for the President of the United States to demand a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen, and a political opponent.' 9:40 am. Williams repeats her deposition testimony that she found the May 25 Trump-Zelensky call unusual, 'because in contrast to other Presidential calls I had observed, it involved discussion of what appeared to be a domestic political matter.' 9:35 am. Both witnesses have been sworn in. Williams starts first. Schiff pointedly noted she worked for the 2004 Bush campaign. 9:30 am.  Nunes wraps up his opening statement.  He did not mention either of the two witnesses sitting before the panel. 9:20 am.  Rep. Devin Nunes R-CA begins his statement by criticizing the press for impeachment coverage. 'This is the same preposterous reporting the media offered for three years on the Russia hoax.'  Nunes says the news media is nothing but “puppets of the Democratic Party.” 9:17 am.  Vindman spoke about his family during his opening statement. 9:15 am.  Sitting behind the witness table is Vindman's brother.  Ironically, film maker Ken Burns interviewed them as young boys about how their family made it to the United States. 9:10 am.  Schiff starts by warning the audience against audible outbursts.  It's probably a reaction to the cheers at the end of Friday's hearing with former Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch.  9:05 am. It is very quiet in the hearing room as Vindman and Williams sit down at the witness table. No one talking.  And I mean, no one is talking. All you here is the clicking of shutters from the still photographers.  It's an odd feel. 9:00 am.  The public is filing in.  The press section is filled.  We are waiting for the witnesses to arrive.  Here is a shot of the news media tables.  Standing up on the far side in the middle is veteran AP reporter Al Fram, who like me, has seen a lot on Capitol Hill. 8:55 am.  If you want to read through the past testimony of today's witnesses, the deposition of Jennifer Williams is here - she is a State Department employee detailed to the staff of Vice President Pence.  The deposition link of Alexander Vindman is here. 8:45 am.  One of the witnesses today is National Security Council staffer, Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who raised concerns up his chain of command about the President's July 25 phone call with the leader of Ukraine.  It has resulted in questions about Vindman's personal security, as well as that of his family.  The Wall Street Journal reports that Vindman may be moved to a military facility, just in case. 8:30 am.  I'm seated over in my same spot, alongside the technical people for the C-SPAN TV coverage, and the still photographers from a variety of news organizations, who run a unique cooperative effort to take and distribute photos quickly from the hearing.  Every person in this business is different in how they prepare for their job.  Washington Post staff photographer Melina Mara was working just in front of me for a few minutes - and I snapped a picture of her laptop, which has a series of items attached with Velcro to the computer to help do her job. 8:20 am. The angling for position is underway around the witness table, as still photographers and videographers stake out their positions to get the initial shot of the witnesses arriving at the table for this hearing.  If you are watching as the hearing begins, you will see a big mass of people all around the table, and then the gavel will fall, and photographers will be shooed away.  It will be much more crowded by 9 am ET. 8:05 am. One thing to watch for today is whether President Trump decides to make an 'appearance' in this hearing via Twitter. On Friday, his tweets about former Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch totally changed the hearing - and frankly, it also undermined whatever media strategy Republicans had developed for that hearing. One of the witnesses today, Jennifer Williams, who is a State Department employee detailed as a foreign policy adviser to Vice President Mike Pence, has already been targeted by the President on Twitter. Will he repeat it as she is testifying? 8:00 am. There are four witnesses today. Three are scheduled for Wednesday. Two more witnesses on Thursday. Tuesday and Wednesday feature separate morning and afternoon sessions. Frankly, I don't know how today (Tuesday's) two hearings can finish before around 8 pm, even if the proceedings begin at 9 am. There will be breaks for votes on the floor of the House at least two different times today, as lawmakers vote on a stop gap funding plan to keep the government from running out of money, extending that spending until December 20 - to avoid a government shutdown at the end of this week. 7:45 am. Once again, I will have a seat in the historic Ways and Means Committee hearing room, where the impeachment hearings are being held - but like my youth spent at Tiger Stadium in Detroit, I will have an obstructed view of the proceedings. I have a great view of the witness table from the side of the room - but unfortunately, the lawyer for one of the witnesses usually blocks my view. And then, there is a giant television screen which has been brought in for visuals - that sits right between me and the dais. Since I'm in radio, I am used to looking down and listening, and that's what I will get to do again today.