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    The number of Democrats running for president is growing as the first votes of the primary approach. And voters have a clear message: Stop. Former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick roiled the race last week by launching a surprise bid. New York billionaire Michael Bloomberg is likely to do the same in the coming days. The late entries, less than 80 days before Iowa’s kickoff caucuses, have exposed a fresh gulf in a party already plagued by divisions. On one side: anxious establishment leaders and donors, who are increasingly concerned about the direction of the race and welcome new candidates. On the other: many rank-and-file voters and local officials across early voting Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, who are drowning in candidates and say they’re more than satisfied with their current options. “They need to sit down. We’ve got enough Democrats running,” said Debra Tyus, a 63-year-old Democrat from Walterboro, South Carolina. In New Hampshire, 75-year-old undecided Democrat Thea Lahti said it’s “awfully late” in the process and fears that adding more candidates is “further splintering the field.” And in Iowa, state Rep. Jennifer Konfrst said she hasn’t spoken to a single Democrat who felt the current field wasn’t good enough. “The more common refrain revolves around having too many great candidates already,” said Konfrst, a first-term lawmaker who’s backing Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey. “I struggle to see what more candidates bring to the conversation that isn’t already here.” Before Patrick’s announcement, at least 16 high-profile Democrats were running for president. The field spans multiple generations, racial backgrounds, political ideologies and levels of experience. There are still so many candidates, in fact, that they can’t all debate together. The Democratic National Committee implemented a system of rising donor and polling thresholds to make the numbers manageable, although last month’s debate featured 12 candidates, and a group of 10 will share the stage this week. Despite the extraordinary options, establishment-minded Democrats have become increasingly concerned about the direction of the race, seizing on what they see as former Vice President Joe Biden’s lackluster candidacy and fears that leading progressives Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders are too liberal. Underlying their concerns is an almost desperate urgency shared by much of the Democratic Party to find a surefire nominee to deny Trump a second term. After almost a year of campaigning, virtually all the candidates face lingering questions about their political liabilities. Former President Barack Obama sought to calm establishment anxiety at a weekend donor conference when he reminded attendees of his own turbulent primary battle against Hillary Clinton in 2008. Yet he also seemed to reinforce concerns about the more liberal candidates in the race, warning that “the average American doesn’t think we have to completely tear down the system and remake it.” Obama and Patrick have long been friends. They spoke privately in the days before the former Massachusetts governor launched, just as Obama did with several other candidates earlier in the year. Far from dissuading Patrick from running, the former president shared “great insights about his own experiences and about his experience with some of the other candidates and what he thought the strengths and weaknesses of the campaign, of my campaign, might be,” Patrick said late last week. Patrick campaign manager Abe Rakov insisted that deep uncertainty across the electorate and the absence of clear front-runners creates an opening for new candidates. “When we’re at this point in the process and voters still haven’t made up their minds, there’s an opportunity for someone with a different story and a different background to come in and make their case,” said Rakov, who most recently worked for Beto O’Rourke’s failed presidential campaign. “If it was obvious this was a two-person race, it probably would be too late for someone to get in. But it’s not. This is a wide-open race.” Having launched his campaign in New Hampshire late last week, Patrick is scheduled to make his inaugural Iowa appearance on Monday, followed by a Tuesday appearance in South Carolina. A Bloomberg announcement is expected this week as well. Should he run, the former New York mayor is planning to bypass the early states altogether and focus instead on the group of so-called Super Tuesday states holding primary contests on the first Tuesday in March. While Patrick may struggle to raise the resources to launch a robust multistate effort in the short term, Bloomberg has a net worth of more than $50 billion, and he’s expressed a willingness to spend whatever’s necessary to win. Bloomberg senior adviser Howard Wolfson said he’s aware that many voters and early state officials are pushing back against new candidates. “I hear it, I respect it, but we do not believe that the current field is particularly well-positioned to take on Donald Trump in November, and we do believe that Mike would be the best candidate to do that,” Wolfson said. “There will be a burden on us to convince people of that. And that is not a burden that we will likely be successful in overcoming on Day 1, but certainly it’s one in which we hope to be successful in overcoming as the possible campaign commences.” As Wolfson notes, persuading voters to welcome new faces to a race already bursting with high-profile Democrats will not be easy. In July, the Pew Research Center found that roughly two-thirds of Democratic and Democratic-leaning registered voters had an excellent or good impression of the Democratic presidential candidates as a group. That’s dramatically higher than ahead of the 2016 presidential primary between Clinton and Bernie Sanders, when only about half of Democrats had a positive impression of the field. Voters’ level of satisfaction actually increased earlier in the month, according to a Monmouth University poll, which found that 74% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning voters were satisfied with the field; just 16% said they would like someone else to run. Still, establishment-minded donors have become increasingly worried about their party’s top-tier candidates. Robert Zimmerman, a New York-based donor and member of the Democratic National Committee, said that cocktail parties have essentially turned into therapy sessions for nervous Democrats in recent weeks. He noted, however, that most voters on the ground where it matters most are pleased with the current field. “We need more Democrats in the field like Tom Brady needs more Super Bowl rings,” said Zimmerman, a fan of the lowly New York Jets. Former Democratic National Committee Chairman Don Fowler, who is based in South Carolina, worries that the sheer number of candidates still in the race will allow a less-than-desirable nominee to emerge, much in the same way Trump captured the GOP nomination in 2016 because the more experienced candidates sliced up the establishment vote. “We’ve got too many candidates,” he said. “No more.” That’s not to say that all primary voters are completely closed off. While polls show that most are satisfied with the current field, they also suggest that most voters haven’t yet settled on one candidate. In New Hampshire, 65-year-old independent Carol Maraldo said that the 2020 primary is already confusing because it’s so crowded. 'Adding more people adds to the confusion,” she said, even as she entertained the possibility of a new candidate. If it's 'somebody that would be that perfect person, I'd be all for it.' ____ Associated Press writer Hunter Woodall in Manchester, New Hampshire, contributed to this report.
  • Oscar-winning actor Jon Voight, singer and musician Alison Krauss and mystery writer James Patterson are among the artists and philanthropists being honored by President Donald Trump for their contributions to the arts or the humanities, the first recipients of prestigious national medals since Trump took office. The White House announced four recipients of the National Medal of Arts and four of the National Humanities Medal in a statement Sunday night. Voight is one of Trump’s few vocal Hollywood backers, and has hailed him as “the greatest president of this century.' Trump is also honoring the musicians of the U.S. military, who frequently entertain at White House events. Trump will award the medals during a ceremony at the White House on Thursday. While the honors had been an annual affair during past administrations, they have not been awarded since Trump’s inauguration in January 2017. The most recent arts or humanities medals were bestowed by President Barack Obama in September 2016. The recipients of the National Medal of Arts are: —Alison Krauss, the bluegrass-country singer and musician, “for making extraordinary contributions to American music.” The White House misspelled her name in its release. —Sharon Percy Rockefeller “for being a renowned champion of the arts, generous supporter of charity, and a pioneer of new ideas and approaches in the field of public policy.” —The Musicians of the United States Military “for personifying excellence in music and service to country.” —Jon Voight “for his exceptional capacity as an actor to portray deeply complex characters.” Voight starred in “Midnight Cowboy,” the 1969 film that won an Academy Award for best picture, and he won the best actor Oscar for 1978’s “Coming Home.” He appears in the Showtime series “Ray Donovan.” The recipients of the National Humanities Medal are: —The Claremont Institute “for championing the Nation’s founding principles and enriching American minds.” —Teresa Lozano Long “for supporting the arts and improving educational opportunities” through scholarships and philanthropy. —Patrick O'Connell, the chef at The Inn at Little Washington, “for being one of the greatest chefs of our time.” —James Patterson “for being one of the most successful American authors of our time.” Patterson wrote a book about Jeffrey Epstein, the disgraced financier who killed himself while awaiting trial on charges of sexually abusing teenage girls. The book includes several references to Trump, including an account of the men’s falling out. The National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities solicit candidates for the medals and compile proposed winners. The White House, which sometimes adds its own nominees, traditionally approves and announces them ahead of a presidential ceremony. Trump has had an uneasy if not hostile relationship with many in the arts and the humanities who oppose his policies and have denounced his presidency. He has been largely shunned by Hollywood and has skipped events like the annual Kennedy Center gala that is one of Washington’s premier social gatherings after some honorees said they would not attend if Trump was part of the ceremony.
  • Iowa and New Hampshire get to weigh in first on the Democratic presidential contest next year, but the states are not ethnically diverse enough to offer any insight into how a candidate will fare across the country, former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Sunday. “I don’t think it matters what happens in Iowa or New Hampshire because those states are not representative of the country anymore,” the longtime Nevada senator said. Nevada is the third state to weigh in but the first that looks like the rest of the country, with a sizeable Latino population and significant groups of Asian American and black voters, Reid said. Reid, who helped his home state land its influential role in the presidential nominating process, spoke to reporters in Las Vegas on Sunday before 14 White House hopefuls spoke at a fundraiser for the Nevada Democratic party. In the clearest demonstration of Reid’s influence, the candidates at one point joined him on stage and lined up to shake his hand one-by-one as he received a tribute from the party. As the candidates took the stage at a glitzy Las Vegas Strip casino, they pitched their health care plans and pledged to beat Donald Trump in 2020 as their supporters cheered and waved signs. Former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, who jumped into the race on Thursday, was added as a last-minute speaker at the event at the Bellagio casino-resort on the Las Vegas Strip. Reid said Patrick is “a very fine man who had a great record in Massachusetts” and someone who “has a lot to sell.” Patrick, who was scheduled to speak last to the Democratic officials and activists, told reporters that despite his late entry to the race, his late entry isn’t a “fool’s errand.” “I looked hard at whether there was a path. I’m confident there is a path. Every place I’ve been so far, I’ve been assured by others on the ground that there is a path,” he said. Patrick said he's going to try to qualify for the debates but isn't sure it's the best format to get his message out. One of the most standout factors in Patrick’s candidacy is his close friendship with Barack Obama, described by Patrick as “a terrific president.” Obama has not endorsed a candidate in the crowded Democratic primary. Patrick said he thinks “the moment demands something different from whomever our next president is and will get from me.” Reid, who says he won’t endorse until after Nevada’s Feb. 22 caucuses, said it’s too early to start counting candidates out of the race and he’s impressed with the packed field. Reid said he thinks that former Vice President Joe Biden has appeared strong in Nevada because he “is one that appeals to diversity,” but he added that most of the other Democrats running can also appeal to diverse groups. Former Obama housing secretary Julian Castro, who recently made comments similar to Reid’s and suggested Iowa and New Hampshire shouldn’t go first, said he’d like to see other states rotate into to the early role. He noted that when he’s in Iowa, he gets asked more questions about ethanol than transit, even though millions of people in the country rely on mass transit. Castro said he thinks Iowa and New Hampshire can still play an important role “but I also believe it’s time to give other states a chance to go first.”
  • The nation’s partisan divide is evident when Americans are asked about what should be done to help the nation’s struggling local news industry. While two-thirds of Democrats say news organizations in need should be able to receive government or private funding in order to survive, only 17 percent of Republicans feel the same way, according to a study released Sunday by Gallup and the Knight Foundation. For independents, 37 percent back such funding. Republicans are also more likely to take a sink-or-swim attitude toward the press. While 72 percent of Democrats say local newspapers are vital and should be preserved even if they’re failing financially, 76 percent of Republicans say they’re just like any other business and if they can’t hack it, tough luck. “It’s not surprising to me to see the level of polarization in general shading most people’s views toward anything to do with the media,” said Sam Gill, vice president for communities and impact and special adviser to the president at the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Republicans are more likely to view the media as hostile and biased, along with having a deep-seated suspicion toward government involvement in the public discourse, he said. Local news has suffered over the past two decades as readers and advertisers found alternatives online. More than 2,000 local newspapers in the United States have closed since 2004, according to the University of North Carolina. One barrier toward halting that trend is a lack of public awareness: The Knight/Gallup study found that 56 percent of Americans wrongly believe that local news organizations are doing well financially. There are positive signs. The survey found that nearly six in 10 Americans consider newspapers an important symbol of civic pride. Eighty-six percent of those polled said everyone should have access to local news. But the number of people supporting news has dwindled. The survey said 30 percent of adults say they pay a monthly or annual fee to a news source. Roughly half of the people who said they have subscribed to a news source in their lifetime no longer do so, and 44 percent said they had stopped paying for at least one type of subscription over the past five years. The organizations took two surveys over the summer that included 1,701 people chosen by random sampling to be on a Gallup panel. The margin of error is plus or minus 3 percentage points. Gill said journalists have been adjusting the way they produce news to accommodate the changing ways in which Americans access it. “I think we should be asking the same questions about the business,” he said.
  • For all the talk about Ukraine in the House impeachment inquiry, there’s a character standing just off-stage with a dominant role in this tale of international intrigue: Russia. As has so often been the case since President Donald Trump took office, Moscow provides the mood music for the unfolding political drama. “With you, Mr. President, all roads lead to Putin,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declared last week, and not for the first time. The impeachment investigation is centered on allegations that Trump tried to pressure Ukraine’s new leader over the summer to dig up dirt on Trump political rival Joe Biden, holding up U.S. military aid to the Eastern European nation as leverage. In her testimony before the House impeachment panel last week, diplomat Marie Yovanovitch suggested that the president’s actions played into the hands of Vladimir Putin, whose government has backed separatists in a five-year-old war in eastern Ukraine. Yovanovitch, a 33-year veteran of the State Department known for fighting corruption in Ukraine and elsewhere, was ousted from her position as ambassador to Ukraine after Trump and his allies began attacking her and claimed she was bad-mouthing the president. Her ouster, she and several Democratic lawmakers argued, ultimately benefitted Putin. “How is it that foreign corrupt interests can manipulate our government?” Yovanovitch asked House investigators. “Which country’s interests are served when the very corrupt behavior we’ve been criticizing is allowed to prevail? Such conduct undermines the U.S., exposes our friends and widens the playing field for autocrats like President Putin.” After two days of public testimony and the release of thousands of pages of transcripts from witnesses who’ve met with investigators behind closed doors, Democratic and Republican lawmakers seem further entrenched in their partisan corners about whether the president abused his powers. Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to do him a “a favor” and investigate Biden and his son Hunter’s business dealings in Ukraine. At the same time, Ukraine was awaiting nearly $400 million in U.S. military aid. While Democrats say the request to investigate the Bidens represented a quid pro quo, Trump insists he was within his rights to ask the country to look into corruption. Democrats, trying to make their accusations more understandable, have now settled on framing the president’s actions as a matter of bribery, which, as Pelosi noted, is mentioned in the Constitution. Hunter Biden served on the board of a Ukrainian gas company at the same time his father was leading the Obama administration’s diplomatic dealings with Kyiv. Though the timing raised concerns among anti-corruption advocates, there has been no evidence of wrongdoing by either the former vice president or his son. Trump has dismissed the impeachment proceedings as a “joke” that deny him and Republican lawmakers due process. A key ally on Capitol Hill, Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., casts the impeachment inquiry as a continuation of the Democrats’ “spectacular implosion of their Russia hoax.” “In the blink of an eye, we're asked to simply forget about Democrats on this committee falsely claiming they had more than circumstantial evidence of collusion between President Trump and Russians,” Nunes said. Democrats, for their part, are trying to brighten the spotlight on their theory that Trump is doing the bidding of Putin. Russia, a historic adversary of the United States, has too often emerged as a benefactor of Trump’s actions, says Rep. Ted Lieu, a California Democrat. In his July call with Zelenskiy, Trump pushed discredited information that hackers in Ukraine — rather than Russia — interfered in the 2016 elections. Last month, Trump abruptly moved U.S. Special Forces from northern Syria at Turkey’s urging and as result created a security vacuum for Russia to fill. Trump has also repeatedly disparaged and even suggested withdrawing from NATO, the military alliance that has served as a deterrent to Soviet and Russia aggression since it was formed after World War II. “It’s clear that the Trump administration foreign policy is chaotic and incoherent with one exception: Many of his actions benefit Russia,” Lieu said. Both in open hearings and closed-door testimony, Democrats have sought to highlight concerns that Trump’s foreign policy frequently benefits Russia. The concerns about Moscow linger even after special counsel Robert Mueller’s nearly two-year investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election dogged Trump for much of his first term and led to the conviction of five campaign advisers or close associates of the president. Mueller, a former FBI director, did not clear Trump of wrongdoing when he ended the probe nor did he allege the president committed misconduct. “If Putin doesn’t have something on him, he’s doing all this for some bizarre reason,” said Rep. Mike Quigley, an Illinois Democrat who sits on the House Intelligence Committee. In her testimony before impeachment investigators last month, Fiona Hill, until July the Russia analyst on the National Security Council, delivered an impassioned warning that the United States’ faltering resistance to conspiracy theories and corruption represents a self-inflicted crisis and renders the country vulnerable to its enemies. “The Russians, you know, can’t basically exploit cleavages if there are not cleavages,” she said. “The Russians can’t exploit corruption if there’s not corruption. They can’t exploit alternative narratives if those alternative narratives are not out there and getting credence. What the Russians do is they exploit things that already exist.” Other witnesses, including Deputy Secretary of State George Kent and Ambassador William Taylor, the acting chief Ukraine envoy, also testified that Russia was the chief beneficiary of Trump’s decision to hold up military aid to Ukraine. “Our holding up of security systems that would go to a country that is fighting aggression from Russia for no good policy reason, no good substantive reason, no good national security reason is wrong,” said Taylor. U.S. diplomats also worried that the hold on the security assistance would undercut Zelenskiy, whom they viewed as a reformer in a nation that has repeatedly endured tumult spurred by endemic corruption. “I think the signal that there is controversy and question about the U.S. support of Ukraine sends the signal to Vladimir Putin that he can leverage that as he seeks to negotiate with not only Ukraine but other countries,” Kent said.
  • Twitter’s new ban on political ads will cover appeals for votes, solicitations for campaign contributions and any political content. But the company quickly acknowledged Friday that it expects to make mistakes as individuals and groups look for loopholes. Twitter is defining political content to include any ad that references a candidate, political party, government official, ballot measure, or legislative or judicial outcome. The ban also applies to all ads — even non-political ones — from candidates, political parties and elected or appointed government officials. However, Twitter is allowing ads related to social causes such as climate change, gun control and abortion. People and groups running such ads won’t be able to target those ads down to a user’s ZIP code or use political categories such as “conservative” or “liberal.” Rather, targeting must be kept broad, based on a user’s state or province, for instance. News organizations will be exempt so they can promote stories that cover political issues. While Twitter has issued guidelines for what counts as a news organization — single-issue advocacy outlets don’t qualify, for instance — it’s unclear if this will be enough prevent partisan websites from promoting political content. Twitter announced its worldwide ban on political ads Oct. 30, but didn’t release details until Friday. The policy, which goes into effect next Friday, is in stark contrast to Facebook’s approach of allowing political ads, even if they contain false information. Facebook has said it wants to provide politicians with a 'level playing field' for communication and not intervene when they speak, regardless of what they're saying. Response to Twitter’s ban has been strong and mixed, with critics questioning the company’s ability to enforce the new policy given its poor history banning hate speech and abuse from its service. The company acknowledges it will make mistakes but says it’s better to start addressing the issue now rather than wait until all the kinks are worked out. Aside from ongoing concerns about foreign elections interference, the political advertising issue rose to the forefront in recent months as Twitter, along with Facebook and Google, refused to remove a misleading video ad from President Donald Trump’s campaign that targeted Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. In response, Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren, another presidential hopeful, ran her own ad on Facebook taking aim at Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. The ad claimed — admittedly falsely to make its point — that Zuckerberg endorsed Trump for re-election. Over the past several weeks, Facebook has been pressed to change its policy. But it was Twitter instead that jumped in with its bombshell ban. Drew Margolin, a Cornell University communications professor who studies social networks, said Twitter’s broad ban is a reflection that “vetting is not realistic and is potentially unfair.” He said a TV network might be in a position to vet all political ads, but Twitter and Facebook cannot easily do so. While their reliance on automated systems makes online ads easier and cheaper to run, Margolin said it also makes them an “attractive target” for spreading misinformation. Political advertising makes up a small sliver of Twitter's overall revenue. The company does not break out specific figures each quarter, but said political ad spending for the 2018 midterm election was less than $3 million. It reported $824 million in third-quarter revenue. Because of this, the ban is unlikely to have a big effect on overall political advertising, where television still accounts for the majority of the money spent. In digital ads, Google and Facebook dominate. Unlike Facebook, which has weathered most of the criticism, Google has been relatively quiet on its political ads policy. It has taken a similar stance to Facebook and does not review whether political ads tell the truth. Twitter, Facebook and Google already take steps to prevent political manipulation by verifying the identities of some political advertisers — measures prompted by the furor over Moscow's interference. But the verifying systems, which rely on both humans and automated systems, have not been perfect.
  • President Donald Trump will try to convince U.S. allies that they should increase defense spending when he attends a meeting of NATO leaders next month in London, the White House said Friday. Trump, who met this week at the White House with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, has long pushed allies to reduce their reliance on the United States for security assistance. ``We are making real progress,” Stoltenberg told The Associated Press in an interview on Thursday. “Before allies were cutting defense budgets. Now, they are adding billions to their budgets and by the end of next year, NATO allies in Europe and Canada will have added $100 billion or actually more than $100 billion to their defense spending” since 2016. Trump’s press secretary, Stephanie Grisham, said Trump will attend the NATO meeting from Dec. 2 to Dec. 4, and will also stress NATO’s readiness to respond to terrorist threats and cyberattacks that target infrastructure and telecommunications networks. She said the president and first lady Melania Trump will also go to a reception hosted by Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace.
  • An estimated 13.8 million people watched live coverage of diplomats William Taylor and George Kent on the first day of the House’s public impeachment hearings on President Donald Trump. The Nielsen company said 10 different networks aired live or taped coverage of the hearing, which stretched nearly six hours on Wednesday. A second hearing is scheduled for Friday. That compares to the 20.4 million people who watched Brett Kavanaugh’s hearing for his Supreme Court nomination following sexual misconduct allegations in September 2018. Congressional testimony by James Comey (19.5 million) and Michael Cohen (13.8 million) also had more viewers. Former special counsel Robert Mueller had 12.9 million viewers in July. Fox News Channel was the most popular network for hearing coverage, even though its prime-time opinion hosts have consistently derided the impeachment inquiry. Nielsen said an estimated 2.9 million people watched Fox’s coverage, making it the network’s third most-watched day of the year. MSNBC was second with 2.69 million, ABC had 2.01 million, CBS had 1.97 million, CNN had 1.84 million and NBC had 1.68 million, Nielsen said.
  • Defense Secretary Mark Esper says he is open to altering American military activities in South Korea if it would help advance a diplomatic deal with North Korea. Esper said Wednesday while traveling to Seoul that any change in military exercises or training would not hurt combat preparedness and would be done in consultation with the South Korean government. He wouldn’t say what specific adjustments might be contemplated. The U.S. and South Korea have already scaled back military exercises in the hope that it would help move North Korea toward agreement to give up its nuclear weapons. So far that has not worked. Esper said he takes seriously North Korea’s statement that the end of this year is a deadline for the U.S. to change its approach to the nuclear negotiations.
  • Millions of Americans likely saw the House’s first day of open impeachment hearings on President Donald Trump on Wednesday. The open question is how many actually heard it. For six hours, career diplomats George Kent and Bill Taylor sat before Congress and answered questions. But from the immediate media response, it was hard to shake the sense that the proceedings didn’t pierce partisan gridlock or pre-set opinions. “There was not even the slightest hint that any Republican is taking the evidence that they were given ... and reconsidering,” Fox News Channel’s Chris Wallace said at the hearing’s conclusion. ABC’s George Stephanopoulos admitted, “part of me is wondering, what do facts matter anymore in these debates?” All three networks — ABC, CBS, NBC — bumped regularly scheduled programming for the hearing. CNN and MSNBC aired the hearings. PBS and Fox broadcasting streamed coverage and left it up to local affiliates to decide whether to carry it. MSNBC brought a surprise hire into its coverage: George Conway, husband of White House counselor Kellyanne Conway and a prominent social media critic of his wife’s boss. “I don’t think the Republicans made much headway,” George Conway said. “You saw some non-partisan professionals tell us the facts, and the facts were quite damning.” The network played it coy about Conway’s appearance, however. He was identified onscreen as a “conservative attorney” and anchor Brian Williams said it was, “yes, that George Conway.” But MSNBC never explicitly said who Conway’s wife worked for. Former Trump chief of staff Reince Priebus was part of CBS’ coverage, leading to one blunt exchange with anchor Norah O’Donnell. “Presidents don’t get impeached because they acted inappropriately,” Priebus said. “Presidents get impeached because they conducted themselves in such a way that they committed a high crime or misdemeanor as outlined under the Constitution.” Retorted O’Donnell: “I think Bill Clinton was impeached for acting inappropriately.” On Fox, Kenneth Starr, the special prosecutor who made the case for Clinton’s impeachment, appeared as an analyst. He said before the testimony that a bribery charge against Trump will “seem like a stretch” to the public. During one break, he noted that Trump eventually released the withheld aid to the Ukraine that is a central point of the Democrats’ case. That led Wallace to point out that the aid was released two days after a whistleblower revealed it was being held up. Wallace said that Taylor “was a very impressive witness and was very damaging to the president.” And Taylor may have a career in broadcasting: Wallace said he sounded like CBS News legend Edward R. Murrow, while Stephanopoulos said, “I hear the echoes of Walter Cronkite.” Viewers who kept the sound turned down had different experiences depending on where they tuned in. While CBS, for example, did little more than identify the participants through its onscreen chyrons, ABC and CNN actively used the screen to sum up testimony. For instance, a CNN chyron quoted Taylor: “I Told Pompeo I Would Have to Resign if US Policy of Support for Ukraine were to Change.” Fox, meanwhile, did not use chyrons to offer highlights of the testimony but did run a long message string about former Vice President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, and his involvement in the Ukraine. Fox also identified Taylor onscreen by saying: “President Trump dismissed Taylor as a never-Trumper.” A few hours later, California Rep. Eric Swalwell asked Taylor in the hearing, “Are you a never-Trumper?” “No, sir,” he replied. Prominent news websites summed up their view of the day. The lead headline on the New York Times’ site at one point was, “Impeachment Testimony: ‘Trump Cares More About the Investigation of Biden.’” The Washington Post bannered: “New Testimony ties Trump more directly to Ukraine pressure.” The headline on Fox’s website was “Bombshell or Hearsay? Impeachment Hearing sees Claim Trump Asked of ‘Investigations,’ GOP decries ‘low-rent’ Russian Sequel.” Partisan sites had their own takes. The conservative site Redstate’s main headline was “Ambassador Bill Taylor Pushes a Farcical Tale of an Overheard Phone Call and the Media Proclaims it as a ‘Bombshell.’” On the liberal Talking Points Memo, it was “In Impeachment Surprise, Taylor Unveils New Evidence Directly Implicating Trump.” Partisans also pushed out favorite moments online. Republicans emphasized clips of attacking GOP lawmakers Jim Jordan and Devin Nunes. For Democrats, a favorite came when Taylor, in response to a question by the GOP counsel, said the back-channel of diplomacy was “not as outlandish as it could be.” One of former President Barack Obama’s speechwriters, Jon Favreau, tweeted that it could make for a potential campaign slogan: “Trump 2020: Not as Outlandish as it Could be.” ___ This story has been corrected to show Kellyanne Conway’s title is White House counselor.

The Latest News Headlines

  • A man was found dead in a home in the Whitehouse area of Jacksonville’s westside.  Jacksonville Police say the victim was shot inside of a home on W. Beaver Street near Chaffee Road.  JSO is working to speak with people who were at the house and in the area at the time of this morning’s shooting. 
  • Coming off a chilly and mainly dreary weekend, some nice weather is ahead this week.  Action News Jax Chief Meteorologist Mike Buresh says we’ll start a warming trend with afternoon temperatures today in the mid and upper 60’s.   By Tuesday we’ll see more sunshine and warmer temps in the upper 60’s and low 70’s.  Our next cold front approaches and passes by the end of the weekend bringing our next best shot at some rain.  
  • A search is underway for an escaped work release inmate who was able to somehow remove his GPS ankle monitor.   The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office says 36-year-old Victor Nash failed to return from work release on Sunday. He was last seen in the area of Hogans Creek near North Catherine Street.  Jail records show Nash was arrested in August for three counts of burglary and was due to be released in June.   JSO says Nash was wearing a gray hooded sweatshirt, blue jeans and black sneakers at the time he fled. Anyone who has seen or knows the whereabouts of Victor Nash is asked to contact the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office at 904-630-0500.  To remain anonymous and receive a possible reward up to $3,000, contact Crime Stoppers at 1-866-845-TIPS.
  • Four people are dead and six hurt after gunfire erupted Sunday night at a backyard football watch party in Fresno, California, authorities said. >> Read more trending news  Here are the latest updates: Update 3:23 a.m. EST Nov. 18: According to the Fresno Bee, the shooting occurred shortly before 8 p.m. outside a home on East Lamona Avenue.  'Everyone was watching football this evening when unknown suspects approached the residence, snuck into the backyard and opened fire,' Fresno police Lt. Bill Dooley said late Sunday. The slain victims were all men in their mid-20s to mid-30s, the Bee reported. Five others who were shot are being treated at Community Regional Medical Center, while a sixth victim who suffered 'a graze wound' was taken to a different hospital, CNN reported. Police have not released any information about possible suspects or a getaway vehicle, the outlets reported. Original report:  A family gathering was disrupted by gunfire when a shooter opened fire, striking at least nine people during a backyard football watch party in California, police say.  An unknown suspect snuck into the backyard and started firing indiscriminately while multiple people were watching a football game around 7 p.m., KMPH reported.  Several people were taken to the hospital. This is a developing story. Check back for updates. 
  • A missing Florida teen with autism has been found, Orlando police said. >> Read more trending news  Here are the latest updates: Update 12:37 a.m. EST Nov. 18: The Orlando Police Department said John Baker was located, WFTV is reporting. Original report: Authorities in Orlando, Florida, are searching for a missing 15-year-old boy.The Orlando Police Department said John Baker was last seen in the area of Colonial Plaza Mall in the 2400 block of East Colonial Drive. Officers said he was last seen wearing an Ohio State Buckeyes T-shirt. They said he is autistic and has the mental capacity of a 6-year-old. Baker stands 5 feet, 11 inches tall and is 150 pounds.  Anyone with information regarding Baker's location is urged to call law enforcement.

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