- Speaker of the House Pelosi announced a formal impeachment inquiry on Pres. Trump over these “whistleblower” accusations that Trump pressured the Ukrainian president to investigate former VP Biden’s son by withholding aid funds.
- Trump says he withheld aid to push EU countries into sending their fair share to the Ukraine, and promised to release a full transcript of the call in question: “You will see it was a very friendly and totally appropriate call. No pressure and, unlike Joe Biden and his son, NO quid pro quo!”
- House Democrats think these charges will stick better than the blurry allegations related to Russian election interference, but it’s unlikely Trump will be removed from office: even if a majority of Representatives vote for impeachment, the subsequent Senate vote would need a two-thirds majority to remove him from office—and then VP Pence would take over, which is a scary thought to some of the Dems most aggressive about impeachment.
- The UK Supreme Court unanimously ruled against PM Johnson’s suspension of Parliament, sending lawmakers back to work on Brexit negotiations. Analysts say the ruling was a decisive slap in the face to Johnson, whose rivals are now stepping up calls for him to quit.
- Saudi officials have repeatedly pointed to evidence that Iran’s attacks on its oil assets haven’t led to any lost revenues or capital flight, confirming predictions that Saudi could make up for lost production from stockpiles.
- However, anonymous officials said the attacks probably will lead Saudi to abandon plans to IPO Saudi Aramco this year.
- Meanwhile in Iraq, two rockets landed in Baghdad’s Green Zone, less than half a mile from the U.S. Embassy, and it seems likely that Iran-backed militias are to blame.
- Pres. Trump addressed the 74th UNGA, declaring that the “future does not belong to globalists; the future belongs to patriots”—which analysts read as support for nationalism.
- He also had some harsh words for Iran and Venezuela, and his most forceful statement yet on Hong Kong: “The world fully expects that the Chinese government will honor its binding treaty made with the British and registered with the United Nations in which China commits to protect Hong Kong’s freedom, legal system, and democratic ways of life.”
- The Venezuelan diplomat representing Pres. Maduro at UNGA read a book during Pres. Trump’s speech.
- USAID Administrator Mark Green announced a tripling of U.S. aid to Venezuela—including, for the first time, funds to directly support Pres. Guaido. The money was repurposed from aid cuts to Honduras and Guatemala earlier this year.
- A former Venezuelan intelligence official who defected to the U.S. says he told Pres. Maduro about Colombian guerillas hiding out in Venezuela and carrying out crimes against the Colombian government—but that Maduro did nothing to stop them. That’s consistent with reports that Maduro is at least tacitly supporting Colombian guerillas.
- Two Venezuelan nationals were arrested after being caught smuggling $5 million worth of gold bars in the nose of a private plane that landed at Broward airport last week (CBP noticed loose rivets on the plane). The men said an “organization” in Venezuela paid them to deliver the gold to buyers in the U.S. Since Maduro’s government controls gold production in Venezuela, it would likely have been the primary beneficiary.
- Meanwhile, Maduro is traveling to Moscow to meet with his “most important” backers.
- The Africa Report had a good—and mostly positive—analysis on Pres. Tshisekedi, concluding that he’s been coming into his own as president. Pasted below.
- Bloomberg says over 100 Wagner Group mercenaries arrived in Libya in early September to support Khalifa Haftar’s side in the fight for Tripoli.
- Egypt and Qatar—who support rival sides in Libya—both accused the other of spreading chaos in Libya during address at the UN.
- The Ocean Viking ship—carrying 182 migrants from Libya—docked in Sicily. Italy says the passengers will be spread to other EU countries, but only France, Germany, Italy, Malta, and Finland have been talking about sharing the burden so far.
- Jailed Azeri journalist Afgan Mukhtarli and his lawyer went on a hunger strike to protest his treatment since being imprisoned on questionable charges in 2017.
- Former Pres. Karzai is still calling for this weekend’s Afghan elections to be scrapped: he told AP that holding a vote now “is like asking a heart patient to run a marathon.” Pres. Ghani is unlikely to listen.
- It’s certainly going to be a strange election (assuming it doesn’t get postponed again), since the majority of candidates are afraid to campaign.
DRC: The metamorphosis of Félix Tshisekedi (The Africa Report)
When he stepped onto the tarmac of Brussels airport on 16 September, welcomed by the Belgian deputy prime minister at the start of his first official visit to Europe, Félix Tshisekedi probably remembered the day in 1983 when he landed there with his mother and siblings.
He was only 19. For several years he was to live the life of a refugee, dependent on welfare and roaming the streets of Matonge, the Belgian capital’s African quarter. His father, Étienne, had stayed in Zaire where, for a decade, he fought almost single-handedly against President Mobutu Sese Seke, the man he had once served before courageously breaking with him. During these years he was repeatedly imprisoned by the dictator.
Thirty-six years later, the man who is now treading the red carpet, inspecting guards of honour and having tea with the Belgian monarch is at the heart of one of the most incredible political cohabitations in Africa.
A kind of peaceful (and transitional) co-management of state affairs has been established between the outgoing president, Joseph Kabila – to whom credit should be given for not trying to impose his dauphin – and his successor. Little by little, Félix Tshisekedi is making a name for himself after surfing to power on his illustrious father’s surname.
Few observers dared to believe in this president eight months ago. The victor in what many considered a flawed election, he was seen as impressionable and lacking in experience, leaning heavily on his omnipresent chief of staff, the veteran politician Vital Kamerhe. If this was true, full marks to the student for learning so quickly.
Félix Tshisekedi has gradually filled the serious legitimacy gap he faced after his election.
Through his frequent gestures of political appeasement and on basic freedoms, by patiently negotiating with Kabila, inch by inch, to form of a coalition government, by announcing that his flagship project (costing $37m a month!) will be free primary education, Tshisekedi has gradually filled the serious legitimacy gap he faced immediately after the presidential election. As a result, instead of crumbling once the honeymoon period was over, his popularity has increased. (Granted, there was no honeymoon period.)
The international stance that Tshisekedi is adopting is a major factor. The bland and hesitant president seen at March’s One Planet Summit in Nairobi has, in just over six months, become a calm and fluent orator enjoying his status.
The Congolese people appreciate this metamorphosis – all they want to regain their pride in living in a great country with whom people want to do business.
Just as you have to walk to move forward, he has acquired confidence by governing. Today, all those who publicly doubted the validity of his election – from Washington to Kigali, via Paris, Brussels, Luanda or Lusaka – treat him as a guest star. The Congolese appreciate this metamorphosis, for all they want is to regain their pride in living in a great country with whom people want to do business. Since independence they have dreamed of what they could be if the riches of their soil and subsoil finally went from potential to reality.
The danger, as always, is hubris. As the Congolese by nature are attracted to nationalist sentiment and inclined to live life in exhilarating expectation of the future, all heads of state, from Mobutu to Joseph Kabila, have played the prodigal son with a “Congo is back” mantra – before, inevitably, disappointing. “A patient, humble and listening force” is how Félix Tshisekedi described himself in a recent interview with Le Soir. Long may he remain so.