US briefing: Ukraine aid, Buttigieg donations and drones in Libya

Tim Walker
Photograph: Michael Reynolds/EPA

Good morning, I’m Tim Walker with today’s essential stories.

Trump invited to judiciary committee impeachment hearing

A lawyer in the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) resigned over concerns about the administration’s freeze on aid to Ukraine, another longtime OMB official has testified at a closed-door impeachment hearing. Mark Sandy said a second individual had also quit their OMB role, at least in part due to similar “frustrations” over the block on almost $400m in military aid, which Donald Trump is accused of using to bribe Ukraine to launch investigations into his political rival Joe Biden.

  • New phase. The House judiciary committee has invited Trump to participate in its first public impeachment hearings next week, marking a new phase of the inquiry asking whether the president’s actions amount to “high crimes and misdemeanors”.

  • Homecoming king. Trump on Tuesday attacked the “bullshit” impeachment investigation at a so-called “homecoming” rally in Florida, where he is now officially a full-time resident.

Buttigieg returns donations from Kavanaugh lawyers

Buttigieg eats lunch with voters in Iowa, where he is now the frontrunner in the state’s Democratic primary. Photograph: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Pete Buttigieg’s 2020 presidential campaign is returning thousands of dollars from two Washington DC lawyers who represented Brett Kavanaugh during his controversial confirmation to the supreme court, following questions from the Guardian about the donations. The campaign, which had received four-figure donations from Alexandra Walsh and her law partner Beth Wilkinson, said it would no longer “accept donations from those who played a role” in Kavanaugh’s appointment.

  • Iowa favourite. Buttigieg has jumped into second place behind Biden in two national polls on the Democratic candidates this week, following a slump in support for Elizabeth Warren. He also remains the clear frontrunner in Iowa, the first primary state.

Trump orders taskforce on violence against indigenous women

Trump signed an executive order creating the Task Force on Missing and Murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives. Photograph: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The president on Tuesday signed an executive order establishing a White House taskforce on missing and murdered indigenous women, describing the epidemic of violence against Native American women as “sobering and heartbreaking”. The group will develop protocols to apply to new or unsolved cases and launch a multi-jurisdictional team to review cold cases. But its creation comes just as Senate Republicans have introduced a measure making it harder for tribes to prosecute non-Native abusers.

  • Epidemic of violence. On some Native American reservations, women are killed at a rate of more than 10 times the national average. The National Institute of Justice estimates 1.5 million Native American women have experienced violence.

Libya on the frontline of drone proliferation

The Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, signs a drone. Turkey is now one of the leading makers of lethal drones. Photograph: Murat Cetinmuhurdar/AP

The US military once dominated the lethal drone market, but now it has competition from cheaper Chinese- and Turkish-made aircraft, which are being used in multiple conflicts, leading to more and more civilian casualties. And nowhere is their deadly presence being felt more dramatically than in Libya, where the ongoing civil conflict is also on the frontline of global drone proliferation, as Dan Sabbagh, Jason Burke and Bethan McKernan report.

  • UK technology. Turkey is now the world’s second biggest user of armed drones, thanks largely to a missile component developed in the UK, which allowed Ankara to circumvent a US export ban on killer drones.

Cheat sheet

Must-reads

The collective backing young black artists in Cleveland

Today the Guardian’s City Champions project – about inspiring people transforming lives in cities across the US – continues from Cleveland, where Lauren Aratani meets the founder of Shooting Without Bullets, a not-for-profit collective giving black and brown teens the artistic tools they need to express themselves.

Melanie C: ‘You’re always a Spice Girl; it never stops’

Melanie Chisholm, AKA Sporty Spice, released her first solo LP 20 years ago. But it’s only now, in the year of another Spice Girls reunion, that she feels she has finally found herself, she tells Laura Snapes. “I’ve had this incredible career: it’s time to really accept every little bit of me, even the shit bits.”

How hate incidents cast a shadow over an idyllic campus

Syracuse University in upstate New York touts itself as the “quintessential college experience”, but in recent weeks that experience has included more than a dozen hate incidents, instilling a climate of fear among students and faculty, as Lauren Aratani reports.

Mindy and Kamala’s Indian cooking love-in

Mindy Kaling and Kamala Harris both have parents from the same neighbourhood in Chennai, India. This week they met to make masala dosas, with Harris hoping to reignite her presidential campaign. Cringeworthy? Maybe – but the encounter successfully melted Ankita Rao’s heart.

Opinion

Last week, as Elizabeth Warren gave a speech about issues of concern to black women, she was interrupted by noisy pro-charter school protesters. The individuals involved may have been passionate in their views, says Hamilton Nolan, but their existence was orchestrated by groups with billionaire backing.

If you thought that misleading stories on Facebook were bad, imagine a horde of angry activists, staging classic protests around the country, whose existence is entirely facilitated by the richest and most powerful people on Earth.

Sport

Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham surged back from two goals down against Olympiakos to secure their place in the last 16 of the Champions League on Tuesday night, while Manchester City stayed top of their own group – despite gifting a draw to Shaktar Donetsk.

The International Olympic Committee has demanded the “toughest sanctions” for whoever deleted positive drug tests from data handed to the World Anti-Doping Agency by a Moscow lab – but the IOC nonetheless left the door open for Russian athletes who are proven clean to compete in next year’s Tokyo Olympics.

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