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White House Could Release Second Ukraine Memo

Details on another phone call between Trump and Zelensky would come as the public phase of the impeachment inquiry begins.

By Audrey Wilson, an associate editor at Foreign Policy.
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky looks on during a meeting in New York on Sept. 25.
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky looks on during a meeting in New York on Sept. 25. SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: Ahead of public impeachment hearings, the White House could release details on another Trump-Zelensky call, police brace for more protests in Bolivia as Morales flees, and Hong Kong grapples with rising violence after months of unrest.

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What Else Did Trump Say to Zelensky?

Today the White House is expected to release a memo detailing a second call between U.S. President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, after Trump indicated over the weekend he would “probably” provide it on Tuesday. “We have another transcript coming out that is very important. They ask for it, and I gladly give it,” Trump said.

The first call between Trump and Zelensky, on July 25, sparked the impeachment inquiry that has threatened to engulf the White House after a whistleblower raised concerns over it in September. Not much is known about the second call between the leaders, but it comes as U.S. Democrats prepare for the public phase of the inquiry to begin on Wednesday.

A rift in the White House? Two of Trump’s top advisors are at odds over how to respond to the impeachment inquiry, the Washington Post reports. Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney has blamed White House counsel Pat Cipollone for not blocking more administration officials from testifying before Congress, while Cipollone alleges that Mulvaney worsened the situation when he acknowledged a quid pro quo with Ukraine in a press conference last month.

New transcripts of closed-door testimony released by Democrats on Monday described concern from within the administration over Ukraine policy, as well as the decision to withhold $400 million in military aid to Ukraine.

The testimony ahead. The first public hearings of the impeachment inquiry begin on Wednesday, with diplomats who have already spoken behind closed doors. Acting ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor is testifying Wednesday, followed by the deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, George Kent. On Friday, former ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch will testify.

What We’re Following Today

What’s next for Bolivia? Thousands of supporters of the former Bolivian President Evo Morales marched toward the capital—and a crowd of opposition protesters—on Monday night, with police bracing for a potential showdown. Under pressure, Morales resigned on Sunday in what he called a “coup”—an allegation echoed by his leftist allies in the region. It’s not yet clear what comes next, particularly before Bolivia can hold a new election. The legislative assembly meets later today to discuss the resignation. Meanwhile, Mexico has officially granted asylum to Morales, who reportedly left the country Wednesday night.

[While Morales has labeled the event a “coup,” it isn’t by definition, FP’s Keith Johnson explains: Popular protests persisted because he ran for an unconstitutional fourth term in an election with alleged irregularities.]

Hong Kong paralyzed for a second day. Universities and schools remained shuttered and some public transit stations were closed in Hong Kong after one of the worst outbreaks of violence in the city since pro-democracy protests began nearly five months ago. Police have escalated their tactics: On Monday, a protester was hit by a live round in the chest. The violence is likely to get worse, FP’s James Palmer writes: “Young Hong Kongers, in particular, see the police as the enemy, and police officers caught off guard are often attacked by protesters,” he writes. “Hong Kong nationalism is becoming a potent force.”

Foreign ISIS fighters coming home. On Monday, Turkey began repatriating “foreign terrorist fighters” captured in Syria, including a U.S. citizen (reportedly already deported), 11 French citizens, and others from Germany, Denmark, and Ireland. The Turkish government said last week that it would begin sending fighters back home, despite some resistance from Western countries. Germany said Monday it didn’t yet know the identity of the seven citizens Turkey plans to deport on Thursday.

Keep an Eye On

Chile’s Constitution. The embattled government of Chilean President Sebastián Piñera now supports drafting a new Constitution—after three weeks of widespread protests. (The country’s current Constitution dates to the Pinochet dictatorship.) But the plan has been criticized by opposition activists, who insist that it should involve a more representative assembly.

Britain’s election. Nigel Farage, the leader of the Brexit Party, has agreed to stand aside in the 317 constituencies won by the Conservatives in the 2017 election. After threatening to run Brexit Party candidates in every race in the country, he pledged on Monday not to run candidates in those districts in order to prevent Tory losses to Labour and the Liberal Democrats, which could lead to a hung Parliament and the possibility of a second Brexit referendum. Farage is now facing calls from pro-Brexit politicians to also stand down in Labour-held seats that voted to leave the European Union in 2016.

A potential genocide case against Myanmar. Gambia has submitted a case to the International Court of Justice alleging that Myanmar has carried out genocide against Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state. Gambia’s claim is supported by other Muslim countries, and if accepted it would be the first time the U.N. court investigated genocide claims itself without relying on previous legal precedents from other tribunals.

Modi’s campaign promises. Since his re-election in May, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has already fulfilled two key campaign pledges. In August, his government stripped Muslim-majority Kashmir of its special status. And on Saturday, the Supreme Court gave Hindu groups control of a disputed religious site in Ayodhya—a move likely to energize his Hindu nationalist base.

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Odds and Ends

Venezuela’s baseball league got off to a slow start last week, with many players missing from the rosters. That’s because U.S. Major League Baseball—awaiting a government decision—suspended a partnership with Venezuela, preventing players from heading south to play during the U.S. off-season. On Monday, the Treasury Department upheld the suspension, Reuters reports.

That’s it for today.

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Audrey Wilson is an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @audreybwilson