US ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland testified on Wednesday about the existence of a quid pro quo with Ukraine and said: “We followed the president’s orders.” Photo: YouTube screengrab
Prince Andrew steps back; US Korean troop cuts; Putin decries shale; LMVH wants Tiffany; word of the year; and a quick guide to the weekend. Thursday’s breakfast briefing.
Sondland testimony “devastating”
US ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland was the centre of attention at the impeachment inquiry on Wednesday. The Guardian says Sondland delivered a devastating blow to president Donald Trump by testifying that, in his opinion, there was a quid pro quo for aid to Ukraine and for Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy to get an Oval Office meeting, in exchange for investigations of Joe Biden. The Washington Post says Sondland “emerged as a provocative but bewildering witness for the Democrats”. But Fox News focuses on questioning from Republican representative Mike Turner, who dismissed Sondland’s presumption that Ukraine aid was tied to the Biden investigation as “nothing” and called his testimony “made up.” CNBC reports that President Trump later told journalists that Sondland’s testimony exonerated him. Trump read his recollection of a phone call with the ambassador from a handwritten notepad, which said: “I want nothing. I want nothing. I want no quid pro quo.” CNN has 5 takeaways from what it calls Sondland’s “bombshell testimony”, and the BBC analyses the key five moments.
Google limits political ad targeting
Reuters reports that Google will impose limits on all its platforms, including YouTube, to political advertising ahead of elections. It will no longer allow parties to target election ads using public voter records or general political affiliations, but will limit them to age, gender and general location at a postal code level. The new regulations will be in place one week ahead of the UK parliamentary election on 12 December. Vox says the decision may transform how elections unfold in the digital arena and will put pressure on Facebook, especially after Twitter recently announced a complete ban on political ads.
Prince Andrew steps back amid growing pressure
The Guardian reports that Prince Andrew will be allowed to “step back from public duties for the foreseeable future” following his controversial interview on the BBC about his relationship with Jeffrey Epstein. Meanwhile, the BBC says a lawyer representing some of Jeffrey Epstein's victims has called on the prince to contact US authorities “without conditions and without delay” and give evidence in their investigation into Epstein.
US considers cutting troops in South Korea
South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo has reported that the US is considering withdrawing one brigade--about 3,000-4,000 troops--from the roughly 28,500 soldiers currently stationed in South Korea. Reuters says the move follows demands from the US that Seoul increase by five times its annual contribution to housing the troops to $5 billion.
Putin decries shale technology
CNBC reports on remarks made by Russian president Vladimir Putin at a press conference in which he said that today’s technology of shale oil production and shale gas “are without any doubt … barbaric” and that they destroy the environment. Shale production has allowed the US to become the world’s leading oil producer.
LVMH in for Tiffany
In an exclusive, Reuters reports that French luxury group LVMH has raised its bid for US jeweller Tiffany to close to $16 billion and is now conducting confidential due diligence after being granted permission to look at the iconic jewellery maker’s books.
Oxford University Press has chosen “climate emergency” as its word of the year for 2019, RTE and The Guardian report. By September the phrase was over 100 times as common as it had been the previous year.
Today’s breakfast briefing was written by Duncan Roberts