GOP Debate IV: Endgame

Happy Thursday! We could talk about how Time magazine’s Person of the Year added an estimated $4.3 billion to the U.S. GDP this past year, or boosted the local economies of American cities across the nation, or potentially rescued the struggling movie theater industry—but we’re sure by now you know Taylor Swift’s accomplishments all too well.

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • A gunman working for the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) on Wednesday reportedly assassinated Illia Kyva, a pro-Russia former member of the Ukrainian Parliament who decamped to Russia before the war began. Kyva was a regular fixture on Russian state TV and repeatedly called for Ukraine to surrender to Russia. He was regarded by the Ukrainian government as a traitor, expelled from the legislature, and sentenced to 14 years in prison on charges of treason earlier this year. Kyva was shot and killed in a park in Odintsovo, a suburb of Moscow. “We can confirm that Kyva is done,” said Andriy Yusov, a spokesperson for Ukraine’s military intelligence unit. “Such a fate will befall other traitors of Ukraine, as well as the henchmen of the Putin regime.”
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday met with the leaders of the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia in his first trip to the region since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. “We have stable and very good relations in terms of political interaction, economics, and in the humanitarian sector,” Putin said in remarks at his meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, in which the pair discussed oil production and the Israel-Hamas war. Today, Putin will host Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi in Moscow, where the two are expected to discuss their continued economic and military cooperation.
  • The Justice Department on Wednesday unsealed war crimes charges against four “Russia-affiliated military personnel” over their alleged detention and torture of an American citizen in Ukraine. The indictment alleges that two commanding officers in the Russian army and two “lower-ranking” personnel abducted a U.S. national living in Kherson, Ukraine, and then subsequently beat and tortured the individual. Attorney General Merrick Garland said the charges were the first ever brought under the War Crimes Act of 1996. “I can’t get into too many details,” Garland said at a press conference yesterday. “But this is our first, and you should expect more.”
  • Former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy announced Wednesday in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that he will not seek reelection and will leave Congress at the end of the year. “It often seems that the more Washington does, the worse America gets,” McCarthy wrote. “I started my career as a small-business owner, and I look forward to helping entrepreneurs and risk-takers reach their full potential. The challenges we face are more likely to be solved by innovation than legislation.” The announcement came about two months after the California Republican was ousted as speaker of the House, and his exit will shrink the House GOP majority to just three votes—that number could fall to two in February if Democrats win the special election to fill George Santos’ now vacant seat.
  • The 10 Republican fake electors who tried to overturn Wisconsin’s 2020 election results in former President Donald Trump’s favor agreed to a settlement on Wednesday that acknowledged President Joe Biden won the election. The settlement came in a civil lawsuit filed last year by Democratic electors in the state. The Republican electors also agreed to not serve as electors in 2024 or in any election in which Trump is a candidate, and officially revoked their 2020 fillings that falsely claimed Trump won Wisconsin. “We oppose any attempt to undermine the public’s faith in the ultimate results of the 2020 presidential election,” they said in a statement. “We hereby withdraw the documents we executed on December 14, 2020, and request that they be disregarded by the public and all entities to which they were submitted.”
  • Authorities arrested and charged a suspect in a string of shootings in two separate Texas cities on Tuesday that killed six people and wounded three, including two police officers. Over the course of roughly eight hours on Tuesday, the suspect is believed to have killed his parents in a home near San Antonio before committing the shootings at four different locations in Austin—including a high school. Investigators are still determining the motive for the killings.

An Exercise in Futility 

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, and Vivek Ramaswamy participate in the NewsNation Republican Presidential Primary Debate at the University of Alabama Moody Music Hall on December 6, 2023 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, and Vivek Ramaswamy participate in the NewsNation Republican Presidential Primary Debate at the University of Alabama Moody Music Hall on December 6, 2023 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

As the authors of this newsletter, we are constantly thinking carefully about what is “worth your time” and what isn’t. At the fourth Republican presidential debate last night—held on the campus of the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa (the event’s introduction subjected viewers to unsolicited footage of the Crimson Tide’s football team)—former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley seemed to have been doing some careful thinking of her own. 

After biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy hoisted his prop notepad in the air revealing the words, “NIKKI = CORRUPT” in black Sharpie—to cheers and even louder boos—the moderators offered Haley a chance at a rejoinder. “It’s not worth my time to respond to him,” she said with a shrug.

This debate—like the three others before it—quickly descended into chaos as the four not-Trump candidates on the stage vied for what is increasingly looking like a second-place trophy. Much of the fire was trained on Haley, who has risen in the polls—and in big-dollar donors’ estimations—over the last several weeks. Moderators tried to force candidates to discuss former President Donald Trump’s increasingly authoritarian rhetoric and serious legal troubles, but didn’t have much success. The attempt was, as ever, a welcome opportunity for former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, awkward for the other three candidates on stage, and a boon for the former president in absentia as the Iowa caucuses close in.

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