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The Policies

U.N. WARNS MAJOR CLIMATE ACTION IS NEEDED NOW: Venice is flooding, California and Australia are on fire, Qatar is on its way to becoming unlivable without outdoor air conditioning … some might say the planet “clearly and unequivocally faces a climate emergency.” ​

The United Nations's annual “emissions gap” report out today is sure to deepen those concerns: “Global temperatures are on pace to rise as much as 3.9 degrees Celsius (7 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of the century,” our colleague Brady Dennis reports

And the United States, once a global leader on climate change, is not helping matters — we've seen our energy-related carbon dioxide emissions spike in 2018 under President Trump, after a previous gradual decline.

The report, which examines where we're heading versus the goals of the 2015 Paris climate accord, is an indication of just how far off-track the world remains. International leaders agreed nations need to keep the Earth's average temperature increases “well below" 2 degrees Celsius by the end of the century to avoid widespread and catastrophic climate events. 

The report finds that closing the gap will require action on a grand scale at a politically turbulent moment:

  • “Global greenhouse gas emissions must begin falling by 7.6 percent each year beginning 2020 — a rate currently nowhere in sight — to meet the most ambitious aims of the Paris climate accord, the report issued early Tuesday found,” per Brady. “Its authors acknowledged that the findings are 'bleak.' After all, the world has never demonstrated the ability to cut greenhouse gas emissions on such a scale.”
  • “Our collective failure to act early and hard on climate change means we now must deliver deep cuts to emissions,” Inger Andersen, executive director of the U.N. Environment Program, said in a statement. “We need to catch up on the years in which we procrastinated.”

More ambitious: In fact, the report says nations need to take more dramatic measures than outlined in the Paris accord, which Trump said early in his tenure the United States wouldn't honor.

“To hit the more ambitious target of no more than 1.5 degrees of warming, they found, nations would need to ramp up their pledges fivefold,” Brady reports. 

“Every year of delay beyond 2020 brings a need for faster cuts, which become increasingly expensive, unlikely and impractical,” the report states. “Delays will also quickly put the 1.5C goal out of reach.”

Our current reality: Twenty percent of the planet has *already warmed* by 1.5 degrees celsius, per an analysis by our colleagues  tracking dangerous hot zones across the world. 

And things aren't getting better: Since the Trump officially ceded the United States position on Paris and rolled back other key environmental regulations, the rest of the world has followed suit. 

  • “Investment in renewable energy in the developing world also dropped significantly in 2018, according to an analysis released Monday by BloombergNEF, which tracks worldwide energy trends,” Brady writes.
  • “Chinese investment in clean energy is plummeting — down from $76bn during the first half of 2017, to $29bn during the first half of this year,” according to the Financial Times's Leslie Hook. “Fraying multilateralism has further eviscerated the climate accord, which lacks any enforcement mechanism.”
  • Key quote: “Now that the U.S. has withdrawn from the Paris agreement, the entire global response to climate change is shifting,” Chinese policymaker Li Junfeng told Hook. “We have to be realistic … There’s no point in being in a rush.”

Slivers of hope: At the U.N. climate conference in Spain next month, global leaders will face pressure to do something. And it's not all doom and gloom — some countries are crafting more aggressive climate policy. 

  • “Already, 70 countries have told U.N. officials they plan to craft more ambitious national climate pledges in 2020 — even as some of the world’s largest emitters have yet to follow suit,” Brady reports. “Scores of private companies have set their own targets, vowing to investors to sharply cut their carbon footprints. A growing list of states and cities have pushed ahead with policies aimed at meeting the goals of the Paris accord, even as the U.S. government remains on the sidelines.”
  • Glass half full: “A number of encouraging developments have taken place,” the report reads, “and the political focus on the climate crisis is growing in several countries, with voters and protesters, particularly youth, making it clear that it is their number one issue.”

From the Courts

'BASELESS': That's what U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson of Washington said of the White House claim that former White House counsel Donald McGahn is “absolutely immune from compelled congressional testimony,” ruling that he must comply with a House subpoena. 

Jackson found that “no one is above the law,” our colleagues Spencer Hsu and Ann E. Marimow report, and that Trump's top lieutenants cannot ignore congressional demands for information. “The ruling raises the possibility that McGahn could be forced to testify as part of the impeachment inquiry,” per our colleagues.

The Justice Department’s claim to “unreviewable absolute testimonial immunity,” Jackson wrote in a 118-page opinion, “is baseless, and as such, cannot be sustained.”

“However busy or essential a presidential aide might be, and whatever their proximity to sensitive domestic and national-security projects, the President does not have the power to excuse him or her from taking an action that the law requires … Fifty years of say so within the executive branch does not change that fundamental truth,” per Jackson's opinion. 

But: McGahn's lawyer William Burck responds: “Donald McGahn will comply with Judge Jackson’s decision unless it is stayed pending appeal. DOJ is handling this case, so you will need to ask them whether they intend to seek a stay.” The DOJ has said it will appeal, but there's no guarantee it will be granted a stay (meaning McGahn would have to testify sooner rather than later).

And: The ruling could have additional implications for headline-grabbing witnesses who have also defied congressional subpoenas, like former national security adviser John Bolton and Trump's acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney. 

Next steps … the Supreme Court?: “Even if McGahn were to appear before the committee, but decline to answer in full or on some matters, his case sets up a potentially landmark Supreme Court test of the Constitution’s checks and balances, pitting Congress’s impeachment and oversight authority against the powers of the presidency,” our colleagues write. 

  • Either way, House Intelligence Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) said the evidence against Trump is “already overwhelming and uncontested,” and indicated that Democrats won't wait for the courts to move ahead in the impeachment inquiry.
  • In a “Dear Colleague” letter on Monday, Schiff said that “House investigators will transmit a report on President Trump’s conduct in the Ukraine controversy to the Judiciary Committee shortly after Congress returns from Thanksgiving recess next week,” our colleagues John Wagner, Felicia Sonmez and Brittany Shammas report. Schiff also “underscored that stonewalling by the White House could form the basis for a separate article of impeachment.”

In other news, a (temporary) win for Trump: The Supreme Court “temporarily blocked an appeals court ruling that required President Trump’s accounting firm to turn over financial records to a House committee,” the New York Times's Adam Liptak reports.

“The court’s stay was in one sense routine, maintaining the status quo while the court decides whether to hear Mr. Trump’s appeal in the case. But it also suggested, given that it takes five votes to grant a stay, that the court viewed the legal questions presented by the case as substantial enough to warrant further consideration.”

Next steps: “The court set a speedy briefing schedule, requiring Mr. Trump to file his petition seeking review by Dec. 5. The court could announce whether it will hear the case in the coming weeks and, if it does, issue a decision by June.”

At the Pentagon

THE LATEST ON THE NAVY SEAL DEBACLE: Former Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer laid the blame for the fiasco involving a Navy SEAL accused of war crimes at Trump's feet. Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper defended his decision to oust Spencer saying he was “flabbergasted” to learn the secretary was working out a secret deal with the White House, our colleagues Dan Lamothe and Josh Dawsey report.

  • Esper said Spencer breached the chain of command and contradicted the agreed upon position: “Esper said that without his knowledge, Spencer promised the White House that the SEAL could retire as a member of the elite force if President Trump stayed out of the case,” our colleagues write. “That outcome aligned with Trump’s wishes, but Esper said that he and Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, felt ‘blindsided’ by Spencer’s back-channel conversations.”
  • The Defense secretary also said Trump gave him an order: The president “ordered him to stop a disciplinary review of a Navy SEAL accused of battlefield misconduct, an intervention that raised questions about America’s commitment to international standards for battlefield ethics,” the Associated Press’s Robert Burns reports.

Spencer responds: “In his first comments since being removed, he said that Trump’s intervention on behalf of Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher sends a message to U.S. troops that they can ‘get away’ with bad behavior,” our colleagues write.

  • Key quote: “We have to have good order and discipline,” Spencer said. “It’s the backbone of what we do.”
  • He also accepted blame for not keeping Esper in the loop: “Spencer said that he would take responsibility for making the offer to the White House without the defense chief’s knowledge but that Esper’s chief of staff, Eric Chewning, was informed,” our colleagues write. A spokeswoman for Esper denied that anyone on his team knew of Spencer’s efforts.

Roadshow?: “If Donald Trump gets his wish, he’ll soon take the three convicted or accused war criminals he spared from consequence on the road as special guests in his reelection campaign, according to two sources who have heard Trump discuss their potential roles for the 2020 effort,” the Daily Beast’s Spencer Ackerman and Asawin Suebsaeng report.

  • Meanwhile, more officials could resign: “Even before [Spencer’s] forced ouster this weekend, a handful of the Pentagon's highest-ranking officials have been debating just when they would feel compelled to resign over what they see as Trump's disregard for the chain of command, two current senior officials told Politico in recent days,” Politico’s Bryan Bender and Wesley Morgan report

The Investigations

SCRUTINY HEIGHTENS ON RUDY AND HIS ASSOCIATES: “The federal investigation into two associates of Rudolph W. Giuliani is exploring a wide range of potential crimes — including wire fraud and failure to register as a foreign agent — as prosecutors dig into the pair’s interactions with the president’s personal lawyer and the main pro-Trump super PAC, according to people familiar with the investigation,” our colleagues Devlin Barrett, Tom Hamburger, Rosalind S. Helderman and Josh Dawsey report.

  • More details: “Giuliani’s dealings with the two men, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, are being investigated by federal prosecutors at the U.S. attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York,” our colleagues write. “That office has already filed campaign finance charges against Parnas and Fruman and accused them of conspiracy and making false statements to the Federal Election Commission.”

Rudy in the hot seat: “A concern of the investigation is whether [Giuliani] violated federal lobbying laws by serving as an unregistered agent of a foreign government or hid his work for foreign nationals, said one person familiar with the investigation. [Giuliani] has denied ever serving as a lobbyist of agent of a foreign government,” the Wall Street Journal’s Rebecca Davis O’Brien, Rebecca Ballhaus and Shelby Holliday report. “The subpoenas offer the clearest indication yet that federal prosecutors are examining [Giuliani’s] consulting work.” The former mayor denied any wrongdoing.

  • Two pro-Trump super PACS are also being probed: “The subpoenas also sought materials related to America First Action and America First Policies, two pro-Trump groups,” WSJ reports. “Kelly Sadler, a spokeswoman for the groups, said the organizations contacted the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office last month and offered to cooperate.”

In the Media