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Impeachment hearings bring little response from Muscatine residents

In downtown Muscatine on Wednesday afternoon few people wished to comment on the impeachment proceedings of President Donald Trump, with many claiming they have not been keeping up with the proceedings and did not feel they could give an informed answer.

In the Riverside Diner, server Hana Meyer glanced up at the TV on the wall every now and again as she waited tables. The people having lunch in the cafeteria were preoccupied with other business and few even paid attention to the television as the House Intelligence Committee opened impeachment hearings to investigate whether president Donald Trump abused his authority. Trump is accused of trying to strong-arm Ukraine into opening an inquiry on political rival and presidential candidate Joe Biden.

“Hopefully they figure it out,” Meyer commented. “It’s hard to know who to really believe.”

Meyer also said there were times during the day people asked the hearings be turned off. Throughout the day in the diner, she had not heard anyone speak on the issue.

At Muscatine Community College, a few people had opinions on the proceedings. In the student union, the two large televisions were not on and there were no students waiting to watch the proceedings, which were airing all day.

Lisa Wiegel, assistant to the president of the college, also admitted she had not been watching the proceedings as much as she believes she should have been. She said she has been watching standard news reports on the proceedings and has been following discussion on social media.

“If there is something that is impeachable, then it’s good they are going through this process,” she said. “I don’t know if there is anything there and too much time might be being spent on this when they should be thinking about other things.”

Student Olivia Deen disagrees, saying she fully supports the impeachment process. Her only concern is Vice President Mike Pence may become President if Trump is removed from office.

“I think something needs to be done,” she said. “I don’t agree with much of what Trump has to say, so if he was impeached and Mike Pence became president I would feel even worse about it.”

Deen admitted she wanted Trump removed from office “both” because she didn’t agree with his policies and because she feels he committed a crime worthy of impeachment. She called the Ukraine phone call “questionable” and “suspicious.”

While not part of a class, Deen said she has been following news of the coming impeachment hearings closely. She does not know how the hearings will play out, but said it is time for something to happen.

Eric Torres is not a student at Muscatine Community College, but likes to visit the library to study for his nursing boards. He said between studying and work he has not had time to keep up with the impeachment hearings. He also said he doesn’t follow politics much.

“I know some people feel more strongly than others about it,” he said. “They have the right to do so. It kind of depends on which side you fall on whether or not you are for the president.”

In the student lounge Carmi Vrooks commented the impeachment is a good thing because it is following the processes that have been put into place for such a situation. She said even if Trump is removed from office there would be a bigger problem with Pence.

Muscatine High School seniors help charities through Mr. Muscatine pageant

MUSCATINE — On Tuesday, Nov. 12, Muscatine High School had its annual Mr. Muscatine pageant. Mr. Muscatine is a senior-male students only pageant for charity that has been at MHS for years now.

The event is also part of the MHS Hunger Drive, which consists of several different events throughout November and December that raise money and canned goods for the Muscatine Center for Social Action.

“This year we have six contestants that are vying for the title, one more than last year,” said Sarah Walsh, one of the teachers that helped organize the event, “It’s similar to a real pageant, except this one is a lot more laid back and not as serious.”

This year at Mr. Muscatine, the rounds consisted of formal wear with a personal PowerPoint presentation; talent; a Tik Tok round where the contestants impersonate a famous Tik Tok-er and do a dance from the popular app; a Jeopardy-style trivia round; a round where the contestants act out a scene from a movie or TV show; and finally a personal questionnaire. The contestants also rehearse and perform a group dance to open and close the pageant. The scores of each contestant combined with the money they raised during the competition, along with audience votes, all help determine which senior is awarded Mr. Muscatine.

“It’s just a fun and funny, laid back performance,” Walsh said, “They’re all really good guys and they’ve done a great job preparing for it. They’re really good sports about the whole event.”

Seniors Takpor Tiah, Cedric Castio, Joaquin Bobae (who also won Homecoming King this year), Gage Minder, Dawson Sweat and Brooks Mathis all competed in the pageant. When asked what they thought of the event, all of them agreed they were having a good time.

“I enjoy hanging out with these guys and having fun while also being able to raise money for charity,” said Bobae.

Contestants Sweat and Minder both agreed learning the opening and closing dance was their favorite part of the experience. “It was fun trying to figure it out,” shared Minder, “It was chaotic, but we did it.”

As for Sweat, he said that he was inspired by his fellow contestants to join. “Knowing that they all signed up, I was just like ‘Okay, I have to do it now’.” His other favorite part of the pageant was the Tik Tok portion.

Bobae and Castio on the other hand agreed the talent portion of the competition was their favorite. “I get to show off a skill I’m usually not able to, which is basketball, ‘cause usually I’m a wrestler,” explained Castio. He also added that he was inspired by his family to enter the pageant. “My uncle won it last year, so I just wanted to keep it in the family.”

“I think that just being the nature of senior year,” answered Mathis when asked why he entered the pageant, “I figured I’d lend my hand in a couple new things.”

He also said that his favorite part of the pageant was the movie and TV show performance, because he enjoyed being able to act out a scene from one of his favorite movies, "Stepbrothers."

In contrast, Tiah said he enjoyed the personal slideshow portion the most, though added that he felt the show was a bit too censored. Tiah did a comedy act for his talent, and while he did need to be reminded to watch his language by the pageant hosts, his routine earned big laughs from the audience. The judges however gave him 3’s, saying that his story while funny just took too long.

Still, Tiah redeemed himself in the Movie and TV round with a spot on impersonation of Spongebob Squarepants that earned him all 5’s. In the end, once all the scores, votes and earnings were tallied, Takpor Tiah was crowned Mr. Muscatine. While the title itself is arbitrary, Tiah did win a free tux rental along with free prom tickets. While surprised by his win, Tiah said that it felt good. “It’s my last year so it means a lot. Thank you.”

His fellow contestants also earned free prom tickets and were awarded minor titles such as Mr. MVP (Gage Minder), Mr. Reality TV (Brooks Mathis), Mr. Talent (Joaquin Bobae), Mr. Congeniality (Dawson Sweat) and Mr. Clout (Cedric Castio). Considering the event managed to raise $600 for MCSA, it’s very easy to call all six of these MHS seniors winners.

Diplomats accuse Trump as impeachment hits Americans’ TVs

WASHINGTON — On Day One of extraordinary public impeachment hearings, the top American diplomat in Ukraine revealed new evidence that President Donald Trump was overheard asking about political “investigations” that he later demanded from Ukraine in exchange for military aid.

The revelation came as House Democrats pressed their case for Trump’s impeachment before the American people after weeks of closed-door interviews.

Wednesday’s account from a pair of career diplomats was a striking though complicated one that Democrats say reveals a president abusing his office, and the power of American foreign policy, for personal political gain.

"The matter is as simple and as terrible as that," said Rep. Adam Schiff, the Democratic chairman of the Intelligence Committee, as he opened the daylong hearing. "Our answer to these questions will affect not only the future of this presidency but the future of the presidency itself."

Career diplomat William Taylor, the charge d’affaires in Kyiv, offered new testimony that Trump was overheard asking on the phone about "the investigations" of Democrats that he wanted Ukraine to pursue that are central to the impeachment inquiry.

Trump said he was too busy to watch on Wednesday and denied having the phone call. "First I’ve heard of it," he said when asked.

All day, the diplomats testified about how an ambassador was fired, the new Ukraine government was confused and they discovered an "irregular channel" — a shadow U.S. foreign policy orchestrated by the president’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, that raised alarms in diplomatic and national security circles.

The hearing, playing out on live television and in the partisan silos of social media, provided the nation and the world a close-up look at the investigation.

At its core, the inquiry stems from Trump’s July 25 phone call when he asked Ukraine's newly elected president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, for "a favor."

Trump wanted the Ukraine government to investigate Democrats’ activities in the 2016 election and his potential 2020 rival, Joe Biden — all while the administration was withholding military aid for the Eastern European ally that is confronting an aggressive neighbor, Russia.

Both sides tried to distill it into soundbites.

Democrats said Trump was engaged in "bribery" and "extortion." Republicans said nothing really happened — the military aid was ultimately released after Congress complained.

Trump restated his aggressive defense with rapid-fire tweets, a video from the Rose Garden and a dismissive retort from the Oval Office as he met with another foreign leader.

"It's a witch hunt. It's a hoax," he said as he appeared with visiting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan by his side.

Across the country, millions of Americans were tuning in — or, in some cases, deliberately tuning out.

Viewers on the right and left thought the day underscored their feelings. Anthony Harris, cutting hair in Savannah, Georgia, had the hearing on in his shop, but he said, “It’s gotten to the point now where people are even tired of listening.”

The hours of partisan back-and-forth did not appear to leave a singular moment etched in the public consciousness the way the Watergate proceedings or Bill Clinton’s impeachment did generations ago.

"No real surprises, no bombshells," said committee member Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah.

Still, the session unspooled at least partly the way Democrats wanted with the somber tones of career foreign service officers telling what they knew. They sounded credible.

The witnesses, the graying Taylor and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent in his bow tie, defied White House instructions not to appear. Both received subpoenas.

They are among a dozen current and former officials who already testified behind closed doors. Wednesday was the start of days of public hearings that will stretch into next week.

Taylor, who was asked by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to return to Ukraine as Trump was firing Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, introduced new information Wednesday.

He testified that a staff member recently told him of overhearing Trump when they were meeting with another diplomat, Ambassador Gordon Sondland, at a restaurant the day after Trump’s July 25 phone call to the Ukraine president that sparked the impeachment investigation.

The staff member explained that Sondland had called the president and they could hear Trump on the phone asking about "the investigations." The ambassador told the president the Ukrainians were ready to move forward, Taylor testified.

In the face of Trump’s denial, Schiff expects the person to appear before investigators for a closed-door deposition. He is David Holmes, the political counselor at the embassy in Kyiv, according to an official unauthorized to discuss the matter and granted anonymity.

Republicans argued that even with the diplomats at the witness table the Democrats have only second- or third-hand knowledge of Trump’s alleged transgressions.

A Trump ally on the panel, Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, mockingly called Taylor the Democrats’ "star witness" and said he’d "seen church prayer chains that are easier to understand than this."