Newsletter: Army officer slammed in impeachment inquiry

Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman
Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman leaves after testifying before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 19, 2019. Julio Cortez / AP Photo
Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman
Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman leaves after testifying before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 19, 2019. Julio Cortez / AP Photo

Newsletter: Army officer slammed in impeachment inquiry

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Good afternoon! It’s Tuesday, and one of the witnesses testifying in today’s impeachment inquiry is 7-foot-1! Here’s what you need to know today. (PS: You can have this delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.)

1. Army officer says Trump’s call was “improper,” the White House attacks him on Twitter

The White House’s top Ukraine expert told Congress on Tuesday that President Donald Trump’s infamous call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky was “inappropriate” and “improper.”

Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman also testified that not a single national security expert supported holding up aid to Ukraine, which President Trump did in an effort to get help investigating his political rivals.

Republicans used the televised inquiry as an opportunity to question the loyalty of Vindman, an American citizen and Army combat veteran who was born in Ukraine. Meanwhile, the White House took to Twitter to attack Vindman’s character.

Later, Kurt D. Volker testified that he was out of the loop when Trump’s personal attorneys and others sought to pressure Ukraine. His testimony refutes those who have described him as one of the “three amigos” key to the scandal. [New York Times]

Here is a handy breakdown of who is testifying. [NPR]

WBEZ will air live coverage of tomorrow’s public hearings beginning at 8 a.m. CST.

2. Kim Foxx says she didn’t handle the Jussie Smollett case well

In a campaign ad released Tuesday, the Cook County state’s attorney criticized President Donald Trump, the NRA and herself.

Foxx gained national attention when her office dropped charges against Empire actor Jussie Smollett, who had been accused of staging a hate crime.

“Truth is, I didn’t handle it well. I own that. I’m making changes in my office to make sure we do better. That’s what reform is about,” Foxx says in the ad.

Foxx, who is up for reelection in 2020, has also garnered praise and criticism for bringing charges against embattled R&B singer R. Kelly and her role in bail reform. [Chicago Tribune]

3. Jail guards charged with conspiracy in Jeffrey Epstein’s suicide

Two officers assigned to guard Jeffrey Epstein the night he was found dead in his cell of an apparent suicide have been charged with making false records and conspiracy, federal prosecutors in New York announced Tuesday.

Prosecutors said Metropolitan Correctional Center guards Michael Thomas and Tova Noel failed to check on Epstein every half hour, as required. Instead, they “sat at their desks, browsed the Internet, and moved around the common area.”

Prosecutors claim Thomas and Noel then falsified prison logs to make it appear as if they were keeping an eye on Epstein, a high-profile wealthy financier who faced sex-trafficking charges. [NPR]

The Manhattan jail had been short-staffed, and both staff members were working overtime, according to the New York Times. The staffing problems are emblematic of a larger shortage of correctional officers in federal jails and prisons across the country. [New York Times]

4. Illinois schools are locking up children for breaking minor rules

Schools are only supposed to put children in isolated rooms if they pose a threat to themselves or others, but a Chicago Tribune/ProPublica Illinois investigation found kids are illegally being locked alone in rooms across the state.

Nineteen states prohibit locking children alone in a room, but Illinois continues to rely on the practice; the state ranked number one in the nation for seclusion totals, according to the most recent numbers by the U.S. Department of Education.

Schools must document when they put a child in an isolated timeout, but parents are often given little information. [ProPublica Illinois]

5. Is one eye good enough for Illinois prisoners?

Multiple Illinois prisoners told WBEZ they were denied eye surgery because of a “one good eye” policy.

And court documents from a 2014 lawsuit include affidavits from doctors that say they denied a prisoner’s eye surgery because one functioning eye is sufficient for the daily activities of a prisoner.

Those same court filings include a copy of a policy that says cataract surgery, for example, can be denied as long as the prisoner has sufficient vision in their dominant eye. [WBEZ]

Here’s what else is happening

Sweden has dropped its rape investigation into WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. [The Guardian]

Thousands of Indiana teachers are rallying for pay hikes. [WBEZ]

The Taliban has released American and Australian hostages in exchange for three militants. [NPR]

It’s Tuesday, and that means there’s a new episode of Nerdette Recaps His Dark Materials With Peter Sagal. [Apple]

Oh, and one more thing …

As a kid, I always assumed I’d grow up and make cartoons. Unfortunately, I never learned to draw (kind of an important job requirement.) But maybe it’s not too late to become the next Harvey Pekar. And cartoonist Lynda Barry, creator of Ernie Pook’s Comeek, has just the book.

Barry recently sat down with WBEZ’s Reset to talk about “Making Comics,” a curriculum and exercise guide to comic storytelling.

“Not everybody can draw like Michelangelo … but pretty much everyone can make comics,” she says. [WBEZ]

Tell me something good …

Thanksgiving is coming up, and I’d like to know what plans you’ve got cooking.

Julie writes:

“Every year 25 of us converge on my sister-in-law’s in Wisc. We have a variety show in which every attendee shares a ‘variety.’ Acts have ranged from doing the worm to properly folding a fitted sheet. And there’s the variety show’s opening song.”

What are your plans for Thanksgiving? Feel free to email at or tweet to @whuntah.

Have a nice night! I’ll see you tomorrow. And if you like what you just read, you can subscribe to the newsletter here and have it delivered to your inbox.