Wednesday morning news: September 18, 2019

House panel begins impeachment hearing » Democrats on a House committee held what they described as the panel’s first impeachment hearing on Tuesday.

AUDIO: [Gavel strike] The Committee on the Judiciary will come to order.

Democrats were digging for evidence of alleged obstruction of justice by President Trump. But Committee Chairman Jarrold Nadler said two witness chairs sat empty at the hearing because the the White House blocked two former aides from testifying. The panel subpoenaed Rob Porter and Rick Dearborn, but the White House said they have “absolute immunity.” But Nadler countered…

NADLER: I think we should call this what it is, an absolute coverup by the White House. 

The panel also subpoenaed former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, who did testify Tuesday. But Democrats weren’t happy with his answers. 

Lewandowski followed White House guidelines and confined most of his answers to information already made public in the Russia report. 

NADLER: Did you meet alone with the president on that date?
LEWANDOWSKI: Congressman, I’d like you to refresh my memory by providing a copy of the report so I can follow along?
NADLER: You don’t have a copy with you?
LEWANDOWSKI: I don’t have a copy of the report, congressman. 

Lewandowski veered slightly off script when Democrats pressed him about an episode described in the Russia report. The report said President Trump asked Lewandowski to pass a message to then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions to urge him to limit the scope of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. 

LEWANDOWSKI: The president didn’t ask me to do anything illegal and he never asked me to keep anything a secret. 

He never delivered that message, and when he was asked why in another exchange, Lewandowski said he went on a family vacation.

Democrats repeatedly hammered Lewandowski and the White House over a lack of cooperation with their probe. Republicans in turn said the entire thing was nothing more than political theater. 

Rep. Pressley files impeachment resolution against Justice Kavanaugh » Meantime, Massachusetts Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley filed an impeachment resolution Tuesday against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. 

The New York Times is facing criticism for running with a story describing a claim against Kavanaugh from his college days. But the woman said to be involved in the incident declined to be interviewed and reportedly told friends she has no memory of it. The Times left that fact out of its original report. 

Still, Pressley said accusations alone are reason enough to remove Kavanaugh. 

PRESSLEY: Again, it’s deeply disturbing that someone who serves on the highest court in the land could have this many allegations, and this is why I have filed the resolution to initiate an impeachment inquiry. 

But her impeachment push is not likely to get very far. In an interview this week, Jarrold Nadler said—quote—“We have our hands full with impeaching the president right now.”

And Republicans control the Senate, but even some Democrats there aren’t sold. Politico reports that Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin responded to the notion of impeaching Kavanaugh by saying “get real.” He added Democrats have to get beyond thinking impeachment is the answer to every problem. 

Chinese delegation en route to U.S. for trade talks » A Chinese envoy is heading to Washington today to prepare for more trade talks. 

China’s state news agency announced Tuesday that a deputy finance minister will lead a delegation to Washington to “pave the way” for the 13th round of negotiations.

That announcement follows conciliatory gestures by both sides. Beijing announced Friday it will lift punitive tariffs on American soybeans. That’s China’s biggest import from the United States. That followed President Trump’s decision to postpone a tariff hike on Chinese imports.

U.S. Army identifies soldier killed in action in Afghanistan » The U.S. Army has identified the Green Beret killed in action in Afghanistan this week. Forty-one-year-old Sgt. 1st Class Jeremy W. Griffin died from small arms fire during a combat operation. Griffin is from Greenbrier, Tennessee. He enlisted in 2004. 

The Army has posthumously awarded him the Bronze Star and Purple Heart.

Nearly 50 killed in Taliban attacks » Meantime, two more Taliban attacks on Tuesday killed at least 48 people—one targeting President Ashraf Ghani’s election rally. WORLD Radio’s Kristen Flavin has that story. 

KRISTEN FLAVIN, REPORTER: A suicide bomber rode a motorcycle loaded with explosives into the election rally just north of Kabul and blew himself up. The blast killed at least 26 people and wounded more than 40 others. Ghani was at the event but he was not hurt. 

Just hours later, a second suicide bomber struck near the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. The Taliban said they were targeting an Afghan army base. At least 22 died in that attack. 

Afghanistan is preparing for a presidential election on Sept. 28th—a vote the Taliban strongly oppose. The terror group has warned Afghans not to vote and said their fighters will target election campaigns and polling stations.

Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Kristen Flavin. 

Israel election too close to call » The results of Tuesday’s do-over election in Israel are too close to call. 

Election officials are still counting votes, but exit polls showed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party neck and neck with rival Benny Gantz’s Blue and White Party. 

Netanyahu is running for a record fifth term in office. He called for this week’s election when his governing coalition fell apart after an April vote. 

Cokie Roberts dies at 75 » Longtime journalist and political commentator Cokie Roberts died Tuesday in Washington of complications from breast cancer. She was 75.

Roberts worked in local news and at CBS News before joining NPR to cover Congress in 1978. She joined ABC a decade later but didn’t leave NPR. 

She’s heard here three years ago, commenting on the 2016 election for ABC’s This Week. 

ROBERTS: And when you’re in the Senate you have to cast votes, and you do cast votes, often on one side and the other of something. 

She co-anchored that talk show with Sam Donaldson from 1996 to 2002.

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., left, listens to a spirited objection by Rep. Doug Collins, R-Georgia, right, the ranking member, as the panel moved to approve guidelines for impeachment investigation hearings on President Donald Trump, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 12, 2019. 

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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