Thursday morning news: November 21, 2019

Candidates converge for 5th presidential debate » AUDIO: [Sound of debate broadcast]

Ten White House contenders faced off once again last night, this time in Atlanta… 

AUDIO: The MSNBC, Washington Post Democratic candidates debate…

Candidates tackled a wide range of questions—from the ongoing impeachment inquiry to healthcare to foreign policy. 

Former Vice President Joe Biden criticized President Trump’s foreign policy positions—including his handling of North Korea and continued ties with Saudi Arabia. And he said the U.S. should speak out more forcefully about human rights abuses in China. 

BIDEN: And what they’re doing with the million Uighurs  in concentration camps in the west. We should be vocally, vocally speaking out about the violation of the commitment they made to Hong Kong.

And regarding human rights, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren later declared…

WARREN: I believe that abortion rights are human rights. I believe that they are also economic rights. 

The candidates dodged a question from a moderator, who asked whether pro-life Democrats, like the recently reelected Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards, still belong in the party. 

Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar also strongly backed the party’s pro-abortion stance. 

But she also broached a topic that’s received very little attention in this campaign—deficit spending and the national debt. 

KLOBUCHAR: I’d love to staple free diplomas under people’s chairs. I just am not going to go for things just because they sound good on a bumper sticker and then throw in a free car. 

She suggested her party needs a dose of fiscal sanity, but also blasted President Trump over a trillion dollar deficit. 

Both sides seize on Sondland testimony in House impeachment inquiry » Meantime, on Capitol Hill Thursday…

AUDIO: The committee will come to order. [gavel]

Lawmakers heard from more witnesses in the House impeachment inquiry—including Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland. He testified that everyone involved with Ukraine policy knew about President Trump’s push for Ukraine to launch investigations that could involve Democrats. 

SONDLAND: Everyone was in the loop. It was no secret. 

And Sondland said the president’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani drove a quid pro quo to arrange a White House visit for Ukraine’s president if he played ball on launching the probes. He also said he believed the White House was using military aid as leverage. 

But he conceded that he was connecting the dots, presuming a quid pro quo. He also testified that, frustrated with a lack of clarity on what the president hoped to achieve, he spoke to him directly. 

SONDLAND: So I made the call, and I asked, as I said, the open ended question: What do you want from Ukraine? And that’s when I got the answer.
ATTORNEY: He was unequivocal.
SONDLAND: Nothing. 

Members from both parties seized on his testimony—pitching arguments before the TV cameras as if to members of a jury. Republican Congressman Jim Jordan…

JORDAN:  The best direct evidence we have is actually what the president told you. I want nothing. There is no quid pro quo. I want Zelensky to do exactly what he campaigned on. And when that became clear to us, guess what, they got the money. 

But Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff countered…

SCHIFF: My colleagues seem to be under the impression that unless the president spoke the words “ambassador Sondland, I am bribing the Ukrainian president” that there’s no evidence of bribery. 

Schiff called Sondland’s testimony “deeply significant and troubling.”

Two U.S. service members killed in Afghanistan » Two U.S. service members were killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan Wednesday. WORLD Radio’s Kristen Flavin has more. 

KRISTEN FLAVIN, REPORTER: The Pentagon said military officials are investigating the cause of the crash—preliminary reports do not indicate that enemy fire brought down the chopper. 

But the Taliban promptly claimed credit. A Taliban spokesman said in a statement that the insurgents shot down a U.S. Chinook helicopter during fighting with the—quote—“invaders and their hirelings.”

The U.S. military dismissed the claim as false.

Wednesday’s crash brought the number of U.S. deaths in Afghanistan this year to 19. Officials did not immediately release the names of the soldiers killed.

Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Kristen Flavin. 

Israel strikes Iranian targets in Syria » Israel struck dozens of Iranian targets in Syria on Wednesday. That in response to Iran-backed rocket fire on the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights the day before.

Israeli ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon said “no sovereign nation would allow [such] attacks to go unpunished.” 

DANON: That’s exactly what we did. We punished those who launched the rockets into our territory. We struck numerous Iranian military sites in Syria.

Iran has forces based in Syria. And Israeli fighter jets took out numerous targets—including Iranian weapons warehouses and surface-to-air missiles.

A Britain-based war monitoring group said the strikes killed at least 23 people, including 15 non-Syrians, some of them Iranians. Syrian state media only reported that two civilians were killed.

Last week, Israel killed a senior commander of the Iran-backed Palestinian group Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip, setting off two days of heavy fighting.

(AP Photo/Mike Stewart) In this Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019 photo, people gather around the stage for the Democratic presidential primary before Wednesday’s debate in Atlanta. 

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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