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A Dangerous Escalation in the Hong Kong Protests

Office workers run away from tear gas as they attend a flash mob anti-government protest at the financial Central district in Hong Kong, China, November 11, 2019. (Tyrone Siu/Reuters)

Making the click-through worthwhile: Protests in Hong Kong have turned violent as police shot a pro-democracy demonstrator over the weekend; Nikki Haley details efforts inside the Trump administration to thwart the president’s policy aims; and New York congressman Peter King becomes latest of about 20 House Republicans to announce he won’t run for reelection.

Hong Kong Protests Turn Violent

In Hong Kong over the weekend, violent incidents resulted in one of the bloodiest days so far in the city’s ongoing pro-democracy protests. Several people were injured, including one protestor shot by police and a man who was reportedly set on fire for confronting the protestors.

Here’s some detail from the Wall Street Journal report:

In footage circulating on social media, a police officer was seen Monday morning firing three shots toward protesters—hitting at least one at close range—at an intersection in eastern Hong Kong island. A 21-year-old man underwent an operation at a nearby hospital, according to the Hospital Authority, which said he was in a critical condition. . . .

Around midday, crowds of office workers were seen fleeing clouds of tear gas filling the streets. Some rushed into the lobbies of buildings to seek shelter and poured water over their eyes to relieve the pain. Police made a number of arrests as people chanted abuse at them.

Other graphic scenes circulated online during the day. In one unverified video, a man in a green T-shirt was seen being doused in flammable liquid and set on fire after he confronted protesters who had been vandalizing a subway station. A separate photo showed him shirtless with burns to his torso. The man was in critical condition in a hospital, according to city health officials.

In another incident, the Hong Kong Police Force said Monday afternoon it had suspended an officer from front-line duties and put him on leave after he was seen in a video posted on social media driving his motorcycle repeatedly into a group of protesters.

Hong Kong’s chief executive Carrie Lam suggested in response that if the protestors were hoping to obtain their political demands by escalating violence, that would be “wishful thinking.” “I am making the statement clear and loud here, that will not happen,” she said at a news conference. She also reported that about 60 people had been injured.

The protests in Hong Kong have been unfolding for several months, sparked by a bill that would allow individuals to be extradited to mainland China. Those protesting the bill say that it would endanger critics of the Chinese government and make them vulnerable to a legal system known for human-rights abuses. The violence this morning marks the third time that a protestor has been confirmed injured by police gunshots.

After protests intensified this summer, the bill was put on hold, and on early September, Lam announced that she would formally withdraw it in October. But protestors insisted this move was “too little, too late,” and demonstrations have since continued — including marches by protestors to U.S. consulate in support of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which would require a number of executive departments to determine whether the U.S. should continue to treat Hong Kong as a trading entity separate from mainland China, in light of the extradition bill and the government’s treatment of pro-democracy efforts.

Nikki Haley’s New Book Sheds Light on Administration Turmoil

Former United Nations secretary Nikki Haley has just released a new memoir, With All Due Respect: Defending America With Grit and Grace, in which she claims that she refused to assist top Trump staffers in undermining the president’s policies.

The New York Times has more from the book and from a CBS interview Haley did as part of her rollout:

Ms. Haley writes in her new memoir that John F. Kelly, then the White House chief of staff, and Rex W. Tillerson, then the secretary of state, tried to recruit her to join them in circumventing policy decisions by the president that they viewed as dangerous and reckless, an outreach she said she rebuffed.

“Instead of saying that to me, they should have been saying that to the president, not asking me to join them on their sidebar plan,” Ms. Haley told Norah O’Donnell of CBS News. “It should have been, go tell the president what your differences are and quit if you don’t like what he’s doing. But to undermine a president is really a very dangerous thing, and it goes against the Constitution and it goes against what the American people want. And it was offensive.” . . .

In the interview with CBS and another with The Washington Post, Ms. Haley spoke out against impeaching Mr. Trump for using the power of his office to pressure Ukraine to provide damaging information about former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and other Democrats at the same time he was withholding $391 million in security aid to resist Russian aggression.

In his analysis this morning at the Washington Post, Aaron Blake writes on the subject that “the big takeaway here is that two of the most important Cabinet officials in the Trump administration were apparently alarmed enough by the president’s actions that they were willing to go to this length.”

That’s certainly a big takeaway from Haley’s claim, but it isn’t the only one. As concerning as some of Trump’s decisions might be, whether to progressives who criticize everything he does or to conservatives worried about some of Trump’s policies or his fitness for office, it isn’t a good idea to excuse or become used to administrative officials secretly undermining or thwarting the president’s will.

While the outcome might’ve been better for the U.S. in some cases as a result of interference from Kelly and Tillerson, Haley is right that it takes the country down a dangerous path. It isn’t difficult to imagine scenarios in which that kind of abuse would result in worse outcomes for the country — and as a matter of principle, it’s a problem either way.

The Continuing Trickle of House Republicans Leaving Office

New York representative Peter King announced this morning that he won’t seek reelection, becoming one of about two dozen Republican lawmakers to resign from the House before their 2020 reelection bids.

“The prime reason for my decision was that after 28 years of spending 4 days a week in Washington, D.C., it is time to end the weekly commute and be home in Seaford,” King said in a Facebook statement announcing his decision. “I intend to still be a presence, still be a voice in New York and on Long Island, and again, I’m looking forward to it. Life has been very good to me, I never expected I’d be in Congress in the first place.”

Had he run again next election cycle, it would’ve been his 15th term in the House. As it is, it seems likely that there was more at play in King’s decision than simply a desire to be home; Democrats had already floated King’s district as a possible seat to flip in next year’s election. But King insists that he wasn’t worried about his prospects, citing GOP success in local elections in his district last week.

“If we had had real defeats on last Tuesday, it would have been tough walking out and leaving the party in bad shape. Right now, despite what is happening in suburbs around the country, the Republican Party did exceptionally well on Long Island, certainly in my part of Long Island that’s in my district, so I think Republicans should be the favorites in next year’s election on Long Island,” King said.

The congressman might be right about that, but there’s no question that his decision to step down is part of a concerning trend for the GOP in the House. According to Washington Post analysis, since Trump’s inauguration in January 2017, almost 40 percent of Republicans in office at the time have left office or are planning to do so, whether as a result of losing elections, retiring, or resigning.

ADDENDUM: Glad to be filling in for Jim again today, and happy Veterans Day to all those who have served us at home and abroad. Thank you for your service.

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