September 11, 2019

The U.S. is marking the 18th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on Wednesday as it has in past years, with solemn ceremonies, mourning, volunteering, and reflection.

President Trump is expected to attend a commemoration event at the Pentagon, and former President George W. Bush will lay a wreath there on Wednesday afternoon. Vice President Mike Pence will speak at the site in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where a fourth hijacked plane was brought down before attacking Washington, D.C. And family members of the nearly 3,000 people killed in the attacks on New York City's World Trade Center towers will gather in lower Manhattan where the names of the dead will be read and bells tolled.

For the first time this year, the World Trade Center site will have a memorial dedicated to the first responders and others "whose actions in our time of need led to their injury, sickness, and death." The 9/11 Memorial Glade, dedicated this spring, includes stacks of granite inlaid with steel salvaged from the twin towers. It does not list any individual names. Peter Weber

8:01 a.m.

The House overwhelmingly approved two measures Wednesday aimed at supporting anti-government protesters in Hong Kong, sending them to President Trump's desk. The Senate had unanimously passed both bills, the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act and another bill to ban the sale of non-lethal munitions to Hong Kong police forces, on Tuesday.

The White House has signaled that Trump will sign the bills, even though they come at an awkward time in ongoing U.S.-China trade talks. But the House passed the human rights bill 417-1 and the munitions ban 417-0, so even if Trump vetoed the bills, there would appear to be ample votes to override his veto.

China again warned the U.S. not to enact the measures, especially the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which threatens Hong Kong's special trade status authorizes sanctions on Chinese and Hong Kong authors who carry out human rights abuses. "We urge the U.S. to grasp the situation, stop its wrongdoing before it's too late," and "immediately stop interfering in Hong Kong affairs and China's internal affairs," foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Thursday. "If the U.S. continues to make the wrong moves, China will be taking strong countermeasures for sure." Peter Weber

7:01 a.m.

When reporters asked President Trump on Wednesday afternoon about U.S. Ambassador Gordon Sondland's House impeachment testimony earlier that day, he responded: "Well, I think it was fantastic. I think they have to end it now. He said there was no quid pro quo." That is not, in fact, what Sondland said, as a cursory glance at the front pages of major U.S. newspapers would show.

Trump is an avid, longtime, habitual consumer of media coverage of himself, though he may not see the print editions of The New York Times and The Washington Post, as he made a show of canceling the White House subscriptions to both newspapers. But the Times and the Post are hardly alone in their top headlines.

Not every news organization is on the same page, though. Peter Weber

6:04 a.m.

Ten Democrats gathered at Tyler Perry's studio in Atlanta on Wednesday for the fifth presidential debate, and Stephen Colbert took The Late Show live so he could cover it. Sen. "Amy Klobuchar had the first laugh of the night," recalling that in her first Senate race she "raised $17,000 from ex-boyfriends," he said. "Now I'm sure you didn't mean it this way, senator, but technically, if they're giving you cash, they've not called boyfriends."

But Joe Biden had the toughest night, Colbert said. For example, he appeared to agree with Kim Jong Un that he's "a rabid dog who needs to be beaten with a stick," then he "emphasized the importance of ending violence against women, but with a really, really poor choice of words." Sen Cory Booker (D-N.J.) "had a little fun when he lit up Joe Biden," he added, "then Biden tried to brag about his appeal to African Americans," awkwardly. Colbert sighed: "You know somewhere out there Donald Trump is going: 'Oh my god, I can't believe I risked impeachment over Joe. Someone please tell me there's a Hunter Buttigieg!'"

"The major change from the last debate is the rise of Pete Buttigieg," Trevor Noah said at The Daily Show. "Between Buttigieg, Biden, [Sen. Elizabeth] Warren, and Bernie [Sanders], this has become a four-way race — and if you include Cory Booker, it's still a four-way race." A lot of the debate covered familiar ground, he said, "but one new thing we did see tonight was some brand new beefs, like Elizabeth Warren versus Cory Booker on the wealth tax," and "Kamala Harris versus Tulsi Gabbard."

"There were weird, odd bedfellows, like Tom Steyer and Joe Biden going after each other; Tulsi Gabbard was like Yosemite Sam in a white pantsuit," political analyst Alex Wagner told Colbert, but she saw little of the typical Democratic "outright cannibalization." John Heilemann said he thought Buttigieg had a good night, Harris and Booker had some cable-friendly moments, and Booker and Harris both openly mocking Biden made it a bad night for Biden.

The Daily Show's Roy Wood Jr. actually spoke with a panel of black voters in Atlanta, and nobody dug Biden. Watch below. Peter Weber

4:16 a.m.

"This was a huge day in the Ukraine scandal," thanks mostly to Gordon Sondland's "explosive testimony," Stephen Colbert said on Wednesday's Late Show. The U.S. ambassador to the European Union's "biggest bombshell" was his admission that yes, there was a "quid pro quo" with Ukraine, President Trump was calling the shots, and a who's who of senior officials "were in the loop," too. Sondland also explained why he called Trump from that restaurant in Kyiv. "Yeah, A$AP Rocky was the primary purpose of the call," Colbert deadpanned, "as in, 'Zelensky better launch the Biden investigation ASAP, or his life's about to get pretty rocky. Put a beat behind that.'"

Colbert's wish was The Late Show's command.

"We have moved past Watergate into floodgate," Jimmy Kimmel said on Kimmel Live. Since the beginning, "Trump's been saying Ambassador Sondland will say there was no quid pro quo," but then Sondland testified, "and just like that, Donald Trump's defense disappears faster than he downs a bucket of KFC."

"Staffers in the White House were said to be shocked and blindsided by the testimony this morning, as it appears our president has been caught orange-handed," Kimmel said. "Sondland screwed the president so thoroughly today, Trump reflexively paid him $130,000 to be quiet," and "the vice president, secretary of state, chief of staff, Rick Perry, John Bolton ... they all went under the bus," too. Comedian Jeff Ross stepped in to play Sondland, colorfully.

"Sondland's testimony was explosive, shocking, and jaw-dropping" — just watch Rep. Devin Nunes' (R-Calif.) slack-jawed reaction, Seth Meyers said at Late Night. He provided "some context for why today was the most shocking day of testimony so far" and explained why it's bad news not just for Trump, but for "virtually everybody at the highest levels of the administration."

"I think we can all take our impeachment balls and go home now, because that is the whole ball game," said Full Frontal's Samantha Bee. "The Democrats have been going about this all wrong." Their previous passel of "cautious, sober" witnesses "laid out a damning case, but they didn't exactly give good soundbites," she said. It's now obvious that "in order to catch a selfish, idiotic hotel business guy you have to send a selfish, idiotic hotel business guy," and "if you're not Devin Nunes, it was honestly really fun to watch Gordon Sondland." Watch her NSFW case below. Peter Weber

1:51 a.m.

Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) traveled to Europe with three aides from Nov. 30 to Dec. 3, 2018, on a $63,000 taxpayer-funded investigative trip, and Lev Parnas, an associate of Rudy Giuliani arrested last month on federal campaign finance and conspiracy charges, helped arrange meetings and calls for his trip, The Daily Beast reports, citing Parnas lawyer Ed MacMahaon and congressional records. Nunes aide Derek Harvey was involved in the Parnas meeting, and he accompanied Nunes to Europe along with fellow aides Scott Glabe and George Pappas.

At the time of the trip, Nunes was outgoing chairman of the House Intelligence Committee — he is now the committee's top Republican and lead voice in the public impeachment hearings. Nunes was visiting Europe as part of his investigation into the origins of former Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of Russia and President Trump's campaign. During the period Nunes was in Europe, Giuliani was in the middle of his ultimately successful campaign to oust U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Maria Yovanovitch, a plot Parnas and partner Igor Fruman were also involved in, according to the federal indictment.

Parnas "believed that what he was doing was furtherance of the president's and thus our national interests," said Joseph Bondy, a member of Parnas' legal team. "President Trump's recent and regrettable disavowal of Mr. Parnas has caused him to rethink his involvement and the true reasons for his having been recruited to participate in the President's activities. Mr. Parnas is prepared to testify completely and accurately about his involvement in the President and Rudy Giuliani's quid pro quo demands of Ukraine." Read more at The Daily Beast. Peter Weber

1:33 a.m.

When Diana Chong and her family found themselves stranded nearly 200 miles from home, they never expected their friendly local bagel shop manager would be the person to come to their rescue.

Last Saturday, Chong ran into Bagels 101 in Middle Island, New York, to grab a few bagels for her husband and kids, who waited in the car. Chong accidentally left her key fob on the counter, but because the car was left running, they were able to drive off. The problem was, they didn't just drive around and go home — the Chongs traveled 189 miles to Honesdale, Pennsylvania, for a family celebration.

Chong tried to get local locksmiths and dealerships to help her, but it was Bagels 101 manager Vinny Proscia who saved the day. He told Chong he would deliver the key fob to her in Pennsylvania, then hit the road, finally arriving in Honesdale after a six-hour trip. "This act of kindness is just unheard of," Chong told CBS New York.

She welcomed Proscia with food, coffee, and gift cards to thank him, but soon, he had to turn around and drive back, in order to get Bagels 101 open at 5:30 a.m. On the way home, Proscia said he was pulled over for speeding, but when the officer heard why he was in a hurry to get back, he let him go with a warning. Catherine Garcia

12:45 a.m.

Trust Exercise by Susan Choi has won the 2019 National Book Award for fiction, while Sarah M. Broom's memoir The Yellow House received the prize for nonfiction.

Trust Exercise is Choi's fifth book, and touches on sexual consent. The judges called the story "timely, mesmerizing, and in the end, unsettling." During Choi's acceptance speech, she said she finds it "an astonishing privilege that this is what I get to do for a living." Her novel American Woman was a 2004 Pulitzer Prize finalist.

The Yellow House centers around Broom's home in New Orleans, and how Hurricane Katrina forced her large family to split up. In her acceptance speech, Broom said her mother "was always wolfing down words, insatiable. Which is how I learned the way words were a kind of sustenance."

Established in 1950, the National Book Award is one of the country's most prestigious literary prizes. This year's ceremony was hosted by actor and longtime Reading Rainbow host LeVar Burton. Catherine Garcia

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