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Diane A. Wade

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Diane is a perfectionist. She enjoys searching the internet for the hottest events from around the world and writing an article about it. The details matter to her, so she makes sure the information is easy to read and understand. She likes traveling and history, especially ancient history. Being a very sociable person she has a blast having barbeque with family and friends.

The first day of the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump has begun with battle over its format.

 This is the third such trial in US history.

So far the senators have debated the rules under which the trial should be conducted. No witnesses have yet been authorized to testify.

Despite efforts by Democrats to force the White House to provide documents, the vote failed after splitting along party lines.

Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell, who sets the rules for the chamber, said he is hoping the trial will last just 10 days.

He made some last-minute changes to his proposal for how the Senate will conduct President Trump’s impeachment trial. The House managers and the president’s defense team now have three days each, instead of two, to present their opening arguments (although each side’s total time is still capped at 24 hours).

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President Donald Trump Impeached by House of Representatives

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Mitch McConnell has also changed the rules of evidence somewhat, allowing the House managers to introduce material gathered during their hearings unless a majority of the Senate objects.

He has said he had the Republican votes he needed to pass his rules package, but perhaps he felt some pressure from within his own ranks to more closely align his proposal to the way President Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial was run in 1998.

However, Democrats will still be calling for more. They want a guarantee of witnesses, something that doesn’t seem likely to happen.

Democrat Charles Schumer said a trial without witnesses or evidence would be “a cover-up”.

President Trump is accused of seeking help from Ukraine to get himself re-elected, and of obstructing Congress.

He has called the investigation a “hoax” and a “witch-hunt”.

Donald Trump is only the third president to face an impeachment trial.

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Special prosecutors from President Bill Clinton’s impeachment will be included in President Donald Trump’s defense team in his Senate trial.

President Trump will be represented by Ken Starr and Robert Ray, who investigated President Clinton, and Alan Dershowitz, whose past clients include OJ Simpson.

White House counsel Pat Cipollone and Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Jay Sekulow will lead the team.

Opening statements in the Trump impeachment trial will begin on January 21.

Ken Starr was the DoJ independent counsel who investigated the Whitewater affair, a scandal-plagued mid-1980s land venture in Arkansas involving Bill and Hillary Clinton.

The inquiry ultimately uncovered unrelated evidence that President Clinton had been having an affair with a White House intern, Monica Lewinsky.

The investigation culminated in the Democratic president’s impeachment by the House of Representatives in 1998. Bill Clinton was acquitted by the Senate.

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Robert Ray succeeded Ken Starr as the independent counsel.

Monica Lewinsky tweeted on January 17 shortly after President Trump’s team was announced: “This is definitely an ‘are you kidding me?’ kinda day.”

In 2016, Ken Starr was forced out of his position as president of Baylor University after an inquiry found the school had mishandled rape accusations against its football players.

He later also resigned from his roles as chancellor and law professor at the university.

Alan Dershowitz is a retired Harvard University law professor and constitutional law expert whose past celebrity clients have also included boxer Mike Tyson.

He said in a statement that he had also opposed Bill Clinton’s impeachment, and voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election.

Donald Trump sought Alan Dershowitz’s advice, too, during the 2017-2019 special counsel investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the presidential election.

Alan Dershowitz and Ken Starr both represented disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein during his 2008 abuse trial.

On January 17, President Trump shared Alan Dershowitz’s comments criticizing a Government Accountability Office ruling that the White House had broken the law by withholding aid to Ukraine.

Former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi has also been asked to join the team.

Pam Bondi, a longtime Trump ally, joined the White House communications team last November to focus on “proactive impeachment messaging”.

Donald Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, a central figure in the Ukraine investigation, had also hoped to join the defense, but he did not make the cut.

Rudy Giuliani told CBS he might be called as a witness in the impeachment trial and “understood this may happen if I uncovered the 2016 Ukrainian corruption”.

The former NYC mayor was apparently referring to a discredited theory that Ukraine intervened in the last White House election.

One of Rudy Giuliani’s associates, Ukrainian-American businessman Lev Parnas, has said he went to Ukraine to pressure local officials on behalf of Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani.

President Trump’s allies have rubbished Lev Parnas’ claims, pointing out that he is facing unrelated campaign finance charges.

Last month, Donald Trump was impeached by the House on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

Democrats have accused the president of withholding military aid to Ukraine to pressure the country into investigating his political rival, former VP Joe Biden. President Trump denies the claims, and calls the impeachment proceedings a partisan “hoax”.

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Russian PM Dmitry Mevedev has announced that his government is resigning, hours after President Vladimir Putin proposed sweeping constitutional changes that could prolong his stay in power.

If approved by the public, the proposals would transfer power from the presidency to parliament.

President Putin is due to step down in 2024 when his fourth term of office comes to an end.

However, there is speculation he could seek a new role or hold on to power behind the scenes.

President Putin put forward his plans in his annual state of the nation address to lawmakers. Later, in an unexpected move, PM Dmitry Medvedev announced that the government was resigning to help facilitate the changes.

Vladimir Putin said during a speech to both chambers of parliament that there would be a nationwide vote on changes that would shift power from the presidency to parliament.

Constitutional reforms included giving the lower house of parliament, the State Duma, “greater responsibility” for the appointment of the prime minister and the cabinet.

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Currently, the president appoints the prime minister and government ministers, and the Duma approves the decision.

Presidnet Putin also suggested an increased role for an advisory body called the State Council. The council, which is currently chaired by Vladimir Putin, comprises the heads of Russia’s federal regions. President Putin said it had proved to be “highly effective”.

Other measures include:

  • Limiting the supremacy of international law
  • Amending the rules that limit presidents to two consecutive terms
  • Strengthening laws that prohibit presidential candidates who have held foreign citizenship or foreign residency permits

PM Dmitry Medvedev made his announcement on state TV with President Putin sitting next to him.

He said: “These changes, when they are adopted… will introduce substantial changes not only to an entire range of articles of the constitution, but also to the entire balance of power, the power of the executive, the power of the legislature, the power of judiciary.

“In this context… the government in its current form has resigned.”

Vladimir Putin thanked Dmitry Medvedev for his work but said “not everything” had been accomplished.

He asked the prime minister to become deputy head of the National Security Council, which is chaired by the president.

Vladimir Putin later nominated tax service chief Mikhail Mishustin to replace Dmitry Medvedev as prime minister.

Dmitry Medvedev has been prime minister for several years. He previously served as president from 2008-2012, switching roles with Vladimir Putin – a close ally – after the latter served his first two terms as president. Russia’s constitution only allows presidents to serve two consecutive terms.

Even when he was prime minister, Vladimir Putin was widely seen as the power behind then President Medvedev.

Opposition leader and leading Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny said he believed that any referendum on the constitutional changes would be “fraudulent crap”. He said Vladimir Putin’s goal was to be “sole leader for life”.

The last time Russia held a referendum was in 1993 when it adopted the constitution under President Boris Yeltsin, Vladimir Putin’s predecessor.

Vladimir Putin became acting president following Boris Yeltsin’s resignation in 1999 and was formally inaugurated a year later. He has held the reins of power – as president or prime minister – ever since.

Image source Wikipedia

Democrats have announced the House will vote on January 15 on sending articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump to the Senate.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told fellow Democrats she would also name the House managers who will prosecute the case against President Trump in the Senate trial.

Nancy Pelosi has been withholding the articles of impeachment in a row with Republicans over allowing witnesses.

Donald Trump was impeached by the Democratic-led House last month.

The president is accused of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

He denies trying to pressure Ukraine to open an investigation into his would-be Democratic White House challenger Joe Biden.

President Trump has been touting unsubstantiated corruption claims about Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, who accepted a lucrative board position with a Ukrainian energy company while his father handled American-Ukraine relations as US vice-president.

The impeachment trial by the Senate will be only the third ever of a US president.

Donald Trump’s fellow Republicans control the chamber 53-47, and are all but certain to acquit him.

Once the resolution is approved, the House managers will walk to the Senate and formally present the articles of impeachment in the well of the chamber, escorted by the sergeant-at-arms. The articles of impeachment will be read out.

On January 14, Senate leader Mitch McConnell met Republican senators behind closed doors to map out the ground rules.

He said the trial was likely to begin in earnest on January 21.

The first couple of days will involve housekeeping duties, possibly later this week.

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Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts will be sworn in to preside, and he will administer an oath to all 100 senators to deliver “impartial justice” as jurors.

Lawmakers may hear opening arguments next week. The House managers will lay out their case against President Trump, and his legal team will respond.

The trial is expected to last up to five weeks, with the Senate taking only Sundays off.

President Trump suggested over the weekend that he might prefer simply dismissing the charges rather than giving legitimacy to the “hoax” case against him.

Moderate Republican senators Susan Collins of Maine and Mitt Romney of Utah have made clear they would oppose any such motion.

On January 14, the White House said the president is “not afraid of a fight” in his trial.

Deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley said President Trump was in fact eager for witnesses to testify that “this man did nothing wrong”.

One of the biggest sticking points between House Democrats and Senate Republicans has been whether testimony will be allowed during the trial.

Republican senators Lindsey Graham and Mike Rounds said on January 14 the Senate’s trial plan will guarantee votes on whether to call witnesses and hear new evidence.

It takes just 51 votes to approve rules or call witnesses, meaning four Republican senators would have to side with Democrats to insist on testimony.

The White House is understood to have identified several possible defectors in the Republican ranks, including Susan Collins and Mitt Romney.

The others are Senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Cory Gardner of Colorado and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, who is retiring this year.

Republicans say that if witnesses are allowed, they may try to subpoena Joe Biden and his son, and the unidentified government whistleblower whose complaint about President Trump sparked the whole impeachment inquiry.

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Photo AP

At least 6 people have been killed and other 16 injured after an enormous sinkhole swallowed a bus and a number of pedestrians in central China.

The incident occurred on January 13, in the evening, outside a hospital in Xining, the capital of Qinghai province.

CCTV footage showed an explosion inside the sinkhole shortly after the bus and bystanders fell inside.

In recent years, several deadly sinkholes have been reported in China.

The footage from the latest incident shows the moment people waiting at a bus stop are forced to flee as the ground underneath the bus starts to cave in.

A number of people gather to try to rescue the bus passengers, but are engulfed by the sinkhole as it suddenly widens.

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According to state media, the sinkhole stretched nearly 32 feet in diameter.

It is unclear how many people were inside the bus at the time of the incident.

Sinkholes in China are often blamed on construction works and the rapid pace of development in the country.

In 2018, 4 people were killed after a sinkhole opened up on a busy pavement in the city of Dazhou, south-west China.

Five years before, a similar incident killed five people at an industrial estate in the southern city of Shenzhen.

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Image source: Wikipedia

The Philippines’ Taal volcano has begun spewing lava, as authorities warn that a “hazardous eruption” is possible “within hours or days”.

In the early hours of January 13 weak lava began flowing out of the volcano – located some 45 miles south of the capital Manila.

It comes after Taal emitted a huge plume of ash, triggering the mass evacuation of 8,000 people from the area.

Taal is the Philippines’ second most active volcano.

Situated on an island in the middle of a lake, Taal is one of the world’s smallest volcanoes and has recorded at least 34 eruptions in the past 450 years.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) said in a statement: “Taal volcano entered a period of intense unrest… that progressed into magmatic eruption at 02:49 to 04:28… this is characterized by weak lava fountaining accompanied by thunder and flashes of lightning.”

However, Phivolcs director Renato Solidum said that signs of a hazardous eruption, including “flows of ashes, rocks, gas at speeds of more than 60 kph horizontally” had not yet occurred, according to CNN Philippines.

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Phivolcs has now raised the alert level from 3 to 4, out of a maximum of 5.

Authorities have also warned of a possible “volcanic tsunami”, which can be trigged by falling debris after an eruption, pushing the water and generating waves.

On January 12, the volcano emitted a giant plume of ash, with rumbling sounds and tremors also reported.

According to Phivolcs, a total of 75 earthquakes have occurred in the Taal region, with 32 of these earthquakes ranking 2 and higher on the earthquake intensity scale.

The Official United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said more than 450,000 people are estimated to live within the 10 miles danger zone of the Taal volcano.

The Civil Aviation Authority announced on January 13 that it had resumed “partial operations” as of 10:00 local time for flights departing the airport and 12:00 for flights arriving.

The Philippine stock exchange also announced it would halt all trading on January 13.

President Rodrigo Duterte’s office has also ordered the suspension of government work in Manila and of all schools across all levels in the capital.

Image source: Wikipedia

Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said of Oman has died aged 79.

He was the Arab world’s longest-serving ruler.

Qaboos deposed his father in a bloodless coup with British support in 1970 and set Oman on a path to development, using its oil wealth.

Widely regarded as popular, Sultan Qaboos was also an absolute monarch and any dissenting voices were silenced.

No cause of death has been confirmed.

Sultan Qaboos’ cousin, Haitham bin Tariq Al Said, has been sworn in as his successor.

A family council had three days to choose a successor as the sultan had no heir or publicly designated successor. Instead they opted for opening the sealed envelope in which Sultan Qaboos had secretly left his own choice.

The sultan is the paramount decision-maker in Oman. He also holds the positions of prime minister, supreme commander of the armed forces, minister of defense, minister of finance and minister of foreign affairs.

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Last month, Sultan Qaboos spent a week in Belgium for medical treatment, and there were reports he was suffering from cancer. Images showed a crowd of men gathered outside the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque in the capital, Muscat, where the coffin had been placed before he was buried in a family cemetery.

In a TV speech after being sworn in, Sultan Haitham – a former culture and heritage minister who studied at Oxford – pledged to continue his predecessor’s policies of friendly relations with all nations while further developing Oman.

For almost five decades, Sultan Qaboos completely dominated the political life of Oman, which is home to 4.6 million people, of whom about 43% are expatriates.

At the age of 29 Qaboos overthrew his father, Said bin Taimur, a reclusive and ultra-conservative ruler who banned a range of things, including listening to the radio or wearing sunglasses, and decided who could get married, be educated or leave the country.

He immediately declared that he intended to establish a modern government and use oil money to develop a country where, at the time, there were only 6 miles of paved roads and three schools.

In the first few years of his rule, with the help of British Special Forces, Qaboos suppressed an insurgency in the southern province of Dhofar by tribesmen backed by the Marxist People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen.

Described as charismatic and visionary, Qaboos pursued a neutral path in foreign affairs and was able to facilitate secret talks between the US and Iran in 2013 that led to a landmark nuclear deal in 2015.

A degree of discontent surfaced in 2011 during the so-called Arab Spring. There was no major upheaval in Oman, but thousands of people took to the streets across the country to demand better wages, more jobs and an end to corruption.

Security forces initially tolerated the protests, but later used tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition to disperse them. Two people were killed and dozens of people were injured. Hundreds were prosecuted under laws criminalizing “illegal gatherings” and “insulting the sultan”.

The protests failed to produce anything in the way of major change. However, Sultan Qaboos did remove several long-serving ministers perceived as corrupt, widened the powers of the Consultative Council, and promised to create more public sector jobs.

On January 11, hundreds gathered to mourn the death of Sultan Qaboos.

Image source: Wikipedia

More than 170 people died after a Ukrainian Boeing-737 crashed in Iran on January 8.

Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752 to Kyiv, carrying 176 on board, went down after taking off from Imam Khomeini airport in Tehran at 06:12 local time.

According to officials, there is no chance of finding survivors.

The majority of passengers were from Iran and Canada.

The embassy of Ukraine in Tehran initially blamed engine failure but later removed the statement.

It said any comment regarding the cause of the accident prior to a commission’s inquiry was not official.

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Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky warned against “speculation or unchecked theories regarding the catastrophe” until official reports were ready.

Iranian media blamed technical problems and quoted an aviation official who said no emergency had been declared.

In a sign of the potential difficulties facing crash investigators, Ali Abedzadeh, the head of Iran’s civil aviation organization was quoted as saying the Ukrainian plane’s black box would not be handed over, either to Boeing or the Americans.

Ali Abedzadeh said “terrorism” had played no role in the crash, Iran’s conservative Mehr news agency reported.

Debris and engine parts from the Boeing 737-800 NG plane were found some 6 miles from the airport and rescue workers with face masks searched the wreckage for victims.

Throughout the morning, Red Crescent workers laid out a long line of body bags.

Hours before the plane came down Iran carried out a ballistic missile attack on two air bases housing US forces in Iraq. However, there is no evidence that the two incidents were linked.

A series of airlines announced on January 8 that they were avoiding both Iranian and Iraqi airspace.

KLM and Air France said they would use alternative routes while Lufthansa said it was also canceling its daily flight to Tehran. Air India, Qantas, Singapore Airlines, Japan Airlines, and Malaysia Airlines were among other airlines taking action.

According to Ukrainian Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko, among the victims were 82 Iranians, 63 Canadians, 11 Ukrainians including all nine crew, 10 Swedes, four Afghans, three Britons and three Germans,

Ukrainian officials said that 169 people had bought tickets for the flight but two had not boarded the plane.

Photo: EPA

In a chaotic scene, Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaidó has forced his way into the National Assembly (the country’s parliament) building after being stopped by troops. The incident occurred as his rival for the position of parliamentary speaker held a session inside.

Juan Guaido, who was re-elected on January 5 to a second one-year term as head of the opposition-held congress, had pledged to preside over January 7 opening session after security forces blocked him from the building over the weekend to allow allies of President Nicolas Maduro to swear in their own speaker, Luis Parra.

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On January 5, security forces blocked him to enter the parliament. He tried again to break through a cordon on January 7. He and his supporters managed to push through the riot police. Their arrival prompted pro-government lawmakers to leave.

Juan Guaidó went on sit down in the Speaker’s chair. He and his supporters sang the national anthem before he was sworn in as Speaker during a power cut which forced people to use phone lights.

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Image source: Wikimedia Commons

A series of measures have been announced by NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio to tackle a “crisis” of anti-Semitic attacks, following a mass stabbing on December 28.

A man brandishing a machete attacked a Hanukkah celebration at the rabbi’s property in Monsey, north of NYC – an area with a large population of ultra-Orthodox Jews. The incident happened at about 22:00 on December 28.

The mayor said security would be stepped up in Jewish areas and schools would teach students to tackle hate.

At least five people were injured in the knife attack at a rabbi’s house in Monsey.

President Donald Trump called for unity to fight “the evil scourge” of anti-Semitism following the attack.

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Witnesses said the attacker burst into the house, which was hosting a Hanukkah celebration, pulled out a large knife and began stabbing people.

The suspected knifeman, named by police as 37-year-old Grafton Thomas from Greenwood Lake, NY, has been charged with attempted murder. The attacker pleaded not guilty, and is being held in jail with his bail set at $5 million.

Grafton Thomas’ lawyer, Michael Sussman, issued a statement on behalf of his family which said the suspect “has a long history of mental illness and hospitalizations”.

The statement said: “He has no history of like violent acts and no convictions for any crime.

“He has no known history of anti-Semitism and was raised in a home which embraced and respected all religions and races. He is not a member of any hate groups.”

Just a day before the attack, Mayor de Blasio had announced extra police patrols in three areas of Brooklyn with large Jewish populations following a spate of anti-Semitic incidents.

He told reporters on December 29: “The spirit we bring today is one of resolve and relentlessness. We will keep adding as many measures as it takes to end this crisis.”

Bill de Blasio said additional officers would now be deployed to the districts of Williamsburg, Crown Heights and Borough Park.

He said: “People in the community will see our officers present in front of houses of worship and out on the streets. We have to give people a sense of security, and we have to show that this horrible trend we’ve seen over the last weeks will be stopped dead in its tracks.”

The mayor said changes would be made to the curriculum at schools in Brooklyn starting from next month. He said they would focus on “stopping hate… on building mutual respect, to help young people understand what hate crimes really mean and the dangers they pose to all of us”.

Image source AP

Democratic and Republican leaders in the Senate have clashed over the rules of President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial.

Democrats want assurances witnesses and documents will be allowed, to enable what they term a fair trial.

Chuck Schumer says the recent release of an “explosive” email about aid to Ukraine is a reminder of why openness is necessary.

Republican leader Mitch McConnell says he has not ruled out witnesses.

However, he stopped short of agreeing ahead of time to take testimony during the trial.

President Trump was formally impeached by the House last week for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

Donald Trump is the third president in US history to be impeached. However, he is unlikely to be removed from office, as his Republican party has a majority in the Senate, where the trial will be held as stipulated in the US Constitution.

He is accused of pressuring Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky to start an investigation into his political rival, Democratic presidential front runner, Joe Biden.

President Trump is accused of doing this by withholding military aid and making a White House visit contingent on co-operation.

The trial is expected to begin next month, after the holiday break.

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However, Democrats have so far refused to hand over the articles of impeachment voted through in the House – the charges – to the Senate.

They want assurances from Mitch McConnell that their chosen witnesses – at least four current and former White House aides with knowledge of the Ukraine affair – will be allowed to testify.

He suggested holding a trial similar to former President Bill Clinton’s in 1999, in which senators decided which witnesses to call after opening arguments and a written question period.

Mitch McConnell accused Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi of holding “an absurd position” for delaying handing over the impeachment articles and said she is “apparently trying to tell us how to run the trial”.

Democrats renewed their demand for witnesses over the weekend after an email emerged suggesting the White House sought to freeze aid to Ukraine just 91 minutes after President Trump spoke to President Volodymyr Zelensky by phone in July. That call is at the center of the allegations against President Trump – charges he denies.

Chuck Schumer said he and his Republican counterpart remain at an impasse after holding a “cordial” meeting on December 19 to discuss trial rules.

During a news conference in New York on December 22, Chuck Schumer said Republicans “have come up with no good reason why there shouldn’t be witnesses, why there shouldn’t be documents”.

He added: “We don’t know what the witnesses will say. We don’t know how the documents will read. They might exonerate President Trump or they might further incriminate him. But the truth should come out on something as important as an impeachment.”

Democrats argue that Republicans will not act as impartial jurors during the impeachment trial, after Mitch McConnell pledged last week to work in “total co-ordination” with the White House. Meanwhile, House of Representatives officials raised the possibility of a second impeachment if new evidence of obstruction by President Trump came to light. The suggestion came in court papers filed by Democrats as they seek the testimony of White House counsel Don McGahn.

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Image source Wikipedia

A newly-released government email has revealed that the White House sought to freeze aid to Ukraine just 91 minutes after President Donald Trump spoke to President Volodymyr Zelensky by phone in July.

The email, telling the Pentagon to “hold off”, was sent by a senior White House official.

In the phone call, President Trump asked the Ukrainian leader to investigate his political rival, Democrat Joe Biden.

On December 18, President Trump has been impeached for abuse of power over the issue.

Democrats say the phone call shows Donald Trump used the office for personal political gain.

A US whistleblower who heard about the conversation raised concerns, which ultimately triggered the impeachment inquiry.

The president was formally impeached by the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives, but is unlikely to be removed from office as the case will go to trial in the Senate, where his Republican party has a majority.

The newly-released email was obtained by the Center for Public Integrity following a court order in a freedom of information case.

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The email shows that Mike Duffey, a senior White House official, contacted senior defense officials about withholding Ukraine’s aid just over an hour-and-a-half after President Trump ended a call with President Zelensky on July 25.

The White House declassified the Ukraine call transcript following a whistleblower complaint it was being covered-up.

The transcript shows President Trump asked Volodymyr Zelensky to “do us a favor” and investigate Joe Biden, currently a frontrunner to be the Democratic candidate in the 2020 White House race, and his son Hunter Biden, who had previously worked for a Ukrainian energy company.

In the email Mike Duffey asks that the Department of Defense “hold off” on providing aid following the administration’s plan to review.

The email reads: “Given the sensitive nature of the request, I appreciate your keeping that information closely held to those who need to know to execute direction.”

In a statement released to media on December 22, Rachel Semmel, a spokeswoman for the Office of Management and Budget, dismissed the characterization of the email.

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Image source Wikimedia

Manuel Marrero Cruz has been appointed by Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel as the country’s first prime minister in more than 40 years.

The post of prime minister was scrapped in 1976 by the then revolutionary leader Fidel Castro.

It was reinstated under the rules of a new constitution for the communist-run island passed earlier this year.

Manuel Marrero Cruz, 56, a former tourism minister, will take on some of the responsibilities that currently fall to the president.

“The head of government will be the administrative right hand of the president of the republic,” state-run online news outlet Cubadebate said.

However, critics say any such changes are purely cosmetic as the Cuban Communist Party and the military remain the only two real decision-making institutions on the country.

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Manuel Marrero Cruz’s appointment was ratified unanimously by deputies in the National Assembly on December 21.

The state newspaper Granma described Manuel Marrero Cruz as a politician who had emerged “from the base” of the tourism industry, one of Cuba’s main sources of foreign exchange.

In 2000, Manuel Marrero Cruz was made president of the military-run Gaviota tourism group, whose hotels are subject to US sanctions under the Trump administration.

He was named tourism minister in 2004 by Fidel Castro and has since overseen a major boost in tourism to the island.

It is unclear if he Manuel Marrero Cruz will now remain head of the tourism ministry.

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Image by Christian Dorn from Pixabay

Russia and Germany have reacted angrily to sanctions approved by President Donald Trump on the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline between the two countries.

The sanctions target companies building the undersea pipeline that will allow Russia to increase gas exports to Germany.

The US considers it a security risk.

However, Germany accused Washington of interfering in its internal affairs, while Russia and EU officials also criticized the sanctions.

Congress voted through the measures as part of a defense bill last week and the legislation, which described the pipeline as a “tool of coercion”, was signed off by President Trump on December 20.

The almost $11 billion Nord Stream 2 project has infuriated the US, with both Republican and Democratic lawmakers opposing it.

The Trump administration fears the pipeline will tighten Russia’s grip over Europe’s energy supply and reduce its own share of the lucrative European market for American liquefied natural gas.

President Trump has said the 1,225km (760-mile) pipeline, owned by Russia’s state-owned gas company, Gazprom, could turn Germany into a “hostage of Russia”.

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Speaking on German TV, Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said the sanctions were an infringement of sovereignty.

He said: “It is up to the companies involved in the construction of the pipeline to take the next decisions.”

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has said the sanctions amount to “interference in autonomous decisions taken in Europe”.

The US sanctions have also angered Russia and the EU, which says it should be able to decide its own energy policies.

An EU spokesman told AFP on December 21: “As a matter of principle, the EU opposes the imposition of sanctions against EU companies conducting legitimate business.”

Russia’s foreign ministry also strongly opposed the move, with ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova accusing Washington of promoting an “ideology” that hinders global competition.

The consortium behind Nord Stream 2 confirmed that it would build the pipeline as soon as possible, despite the sanctions.

It said: “Completing the project is essential for European supply security. We, together with the companies supporting the project, will work on finishing the pipeline as soon as possible.”

However, Allseas, a Swiss-Dutch company involved in the project, said it had suspended its pipe-laying activities in anticipation of the sanctions.

Russia currently supplies about 40% of the EU’s gas supplies – just ahead of Norway, which is not in the EU but takes part in its single market. Nord Stream 2 will increase the amount of gas going under the Baltic to 55 billion cubic meters per year.

Image source Wikipedia

The House voted to impeach President Donald Trump, setting up a trial in the Senate that will decide whether he remains in office.

The House voted on two charges – that President Trump abused his power and that he had obstructed Congress.

Nearly all Democrats voted for the charges and every Republican against.

Donald Trump has become the third US president in history to be impeached.

However, Republicans control the Senate so it is highly unlikely he will be removed from power.

As voting took place in the House, President Trump was addressing a campaign rally in Battle Creek, Michigan.

The president told a cheering crowd: “While we’re creating jobs and fighting for Michigan, the radical left in Congress is consumed with envy and hatred and rage, you see what’s going on.”

Meanwhile, the White House released a statement saying that the president was “confident that he will be fully exonerated” in a Senate trial.

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House Judiciary Committee Unveils Articles of Impeachment Against President Trump

After 10 hours of partisan debate on the merits of the two impeachment charges against President Trump, the House called for votes at about 20:30 local time.

The first charge is abuse of power, stemming from President Trump’s alleged attempt to pressure Ukraine to announce investigations into his Democratic political rival, Joe Biden.

It passed by 230 votes to 197, almost completely on party lines. Only two Democrats opposed – New Jersey’s Jeff Van Drew, who is set to leave the party, and Minnesota’s Collin Peterson.

The second charge is obstruction of Congress, because President Trump allegedly refused to co-operate with the impeachment inquiry, withholding documentary evidence and barring his key aides from giving evidence.

It passed by 229-198. Democrat Jared Golden of Maine voted for the first charge but opposed this.

No Republicans supported impeachment, although ex-party member Justin Amash, from Michigan, did.

Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard voted “present” on both charges – effectively an abstention. Two members were absent for personal reasons.

Being impeached places President Donald Trump alongside only two other presidents in the nation’s history – Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton.

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House Judiciary Committee has approved two impeachment articles against President Donald Trump, moving the process towards a full House vote.

The articles are expected to be voted on by the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives next week.

President Trump is the fourth US president in history to face impeachment.

Speaking to reporters at the White House, Donald Trump again dismissed the process as a “sham” and a “hoax”.

Today’s hearing lasted just over ten minutes before the two articles of impeachment – abuse of power and obstructing Congress – were passed by 23 votes to 17.

The vote was delayed after more than 14 hours of rancorous debate. Republicans criticized that decision by Democratic Party Chairman Jerry Nadler, accusing him of pushing back the vote to ensure more TV coverage.

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In the abuse of power article, President Trump is accused of soliciting a foreign country to help him politically by trying to force Ukraine to launch a corruption investigation into his political rival Joe Biden, a leading Democratic presidential contender.

The president is also accused of obstructing Congress by failing to co-operate with the House investigation.

Leading Democrats agreed the articles of impeachment described over nine pages. They say that President Trump “betrayed the nation” by acting “corruptly”.

Jerry Nadler made a brief statement to reporters after the vote, calling it a “solemn and sad day” and pledged that the House of Representatives would “act expeditiously”.

However, Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz said: “For Democrats, impeachment is their drug.”

Speaking from the White House Oval Office alongside the president of Paraguay, President Trump called the impeachment process “a witch hunt”, “a sham” and “a hoax”.

Donald Trump said Democrats were “trivializing impeachment” adding that they are “making absolute fools out of themselves”.

Image by TeroVesalainen from Pixabay

UK voters are going to the polls for the third general election in less than five years.

Polling stations in 650 constituencies across England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland opened at 07:00 GMT.

After the polls close at 22:00 GMT, counting will begin straight away. Most results are due to be announced in the early hours of December 13.

A total of 650 lawmakers will be chosen under the first-past-the-post system used for general elections, in which the candidate who secures the most votes in each individual constituency is elected.

In 2017, Newcastle Central was the first constituency to declare, announcing its result about an hour after polls closed.

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Elections in the UK traditionally take place every four or five years. However, in October, lawmakers voted for the second snap poll in as many years. It is the first winter election since 1974 and the first to take place in December since 1923.

Anyone aged 18 or over is eligible to vote, as long as they are a British citizen or qualifying citizen of the Commonwealth or Republic of Ireland and have registered to vote. Registration closed on November 26.

People do not need a polling card to be able to vote but will need to give their name and address at their local polling station. People can only vote for one candidate or their ballot paper will not be counted.

PM Boris Johnson has cast his vote – he visited a polling station in central London, taking his dog, Dilyn, along with him, and Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn voted in north London.

Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage has used a postal vote.

Many people have already put a cross next to the name of their favored candidate by voting by post – more than seven million people used a postal vote two years ago.

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House Judiciary Committee has unveiled charges against President Donald Trump, a key move in impeaching him.

The first article revealed by committee chief Jerry Nadler accuses President Trump of abuse of power and the second accuses him of obstructing Congress.

The Republican president is said to have withheld aid to Ukraine for domestic political reasons.

Donald Trump has urged the Senate to try him “sooner than later”.

He insists he has done “nothing wrong” and has dismissed the impeachment process as “madness”.

If the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives Judiciary Committee votes to approve the articles later this week, they will then be submitted to the lower chamber for a full vote.

If, in turn, the articles are approved by the House, an impeachment trial in the Republican-held Senate will take place, possibly early in January.

The impeachment process was launched after an anonymous whistleblower complained to Congress in September about a July phone call by Donald Trump to the president of Ukraine.

President Trump is alleged to have committed “high crimes and misdemeanors” (a phrase from the US Constitution) on two counts outlined by Jerry Nadler:

  • The first allegation is that he exercised the powers of his public office to “obtain an improper personal benefit while ignoring or injuring the national interest”, by allegedly putting pressure on Ukraine to interfere in the 2020 presidential election;
  • The second allegation is that “when he was caught, when the House investigated and opened an impeachment inquiry, President Trump engaged in unprecedented categorical and indiscriminate defiance of the impeachment inquiry”, thereby obstructing Congress.

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President Trump “sees himself as above the law”, Jerry Nadler said.

“We must be clear, no-one, not even the president, is above the law.”

In the July phone call to Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky, President Trump appeared to tie US military assistance for Ukraine to its launching of investigations that could help him politically.

In return for those investigations, Democrats say President Trump offered two bargaining chips – $400 million of military aid that had already been allocated by Congress, and a White House meeting for President.

Democrats say this pressure on a vulnerable US ally constitutes an abuse of power.

The first investigation President Trump wanted from Ukraine was into former VP Joe Biden, his main Democratic challenger, and his son Hunter. Hunter Biden joined the board of a Ukrainian energy company when his father was President Barack Obama’s deputy.

The second Trump demand was that Ukraine should try to corroborate a conspiracy theory that Ukraine, not Russia, had interfered in the last US presidential election. This theory has been widely debunked, and US intelligence agencies are unanimous in saying Moscow was behind the hacking of Democratic Party emails in 2016.

President Trump railed at the announcement of the charges, declaring again on Twitter that it was a “witch hunt”.

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President Donald Trump has decided to delay his plans to legally designate Mexican drug cartels as terrorist groups.

He had vowed to label the gangs as terrorists after the killing last month of nine American citizens from a Mormon community in Mexico.

However, the president has put the plans on hold on the request of his Mexican counterpart, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

The Mexican president said: “I celebrate that he has taken our opinion into account.”

“We thank President Trump for respecting our decisions and for choosing to maintain a policy of good neighborliness, a policy of cooperation with us,” Andrés Manuel López Obrador added.

Jenni Rivera was involved with Mexican drug cartels before she died in plane crash

President Trump’s original announcement came after three women and six children of dual US-Mexican nationality were killed in an ambush in a remote area of northern Mexico.

Following the attack the victims’ community, the LeBarons, petitioned the White House to list the cartels as terror groups, saying: “They are terrorists and it’s time to acknowledge it.”

The move would have widened the scope for US legal and financial action against cartels but Mexico saw it as a violation of its sovereignty.

President Trump has now put the plans on hold.

He tweeted: “All necessary work has been completed to declare Mexican Cartels terrorist organizations.

“Statutorily we are ready to do so.”

However, he said his Mexican counterpart is “a man who I like and respect, and has worked so well with us,” adding that he was temporarily holding off on the designation and stepping up “joint efforts to deal decisively with these vicious and ever-growing organizations!”

President Trump did not comment on how long the delay would last.

Mexico’s brutal drug war claims tens of thousands of lives every year, as powerful trafficking groups battle for territory and influence.

In 2017 more than 30,000 people were killed in Mexico, with the murder rate having more than tripled since 2006.

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President Donald Trump and his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, have set out opposing views ahead of a NATO summit in London.

In an occasionally tense press conference, Donald Trump and Emmanuel Macron sparred over NATO’s role, Turkey, and ISIS.

President Trump had described Emmanuel Macron’s comments about NATO as “nasty”, but the French president said he stood by his words.

World leaders gathered in London to mark the Western military alliance’s 70th anniversary.

The NATO summit has already been marked by strained relations between Turkey and other member states.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said he will oppose NATO’s plan for the defense of the Baltic region if it does not back Turkey over its fight against Kurdish groups it considers terrorists.

On December 3, Emmanuel Macron and Recep Tayyip Erdogan met in Downing Street in a four-way meeting that also included German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the host, UK PM Boris Johnson.

Ties between President Trump and Emmanuel Macron were already strained amid a trade dispute, and after the French president described NATO as “brain dead” last month because, he said, the US commitment to the alliance was fading.

On December 3, President Trump hit back by saying Emmanuel Macron had been “very disrespectful”, adding that France had “a very high unemployment rate” and “nobody needs NATO more than France”.

At a joint press conference with Emmanuel Macron later, President Trump was less combative, stressing that the two countries had “done a lot of good things together”. Emmanuel Macron, meanwhile, said he stood by his comments.

The two sides then clashed over foreign ISIS fighters who were captured in Syria.

President Trump jokingly offered them to France, saying: “Would you like some nice [ISIS] fighters? You can take everyone you want.”

Sounding stern, Emmanuel Macron said “Let’s be serious” and that ISIS fighters from Europe were “a tiny minority”, and that the “number one priority” was to get rid of the terrorist group.

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President Trump then retorted: “This is why he is a great politician because that was one of the greater non-answers I have ever heard, and that’s OK.”

He also criticized NATO countries who were paying less than the NATO guidelines of at least 2% of GDP towards the alliance.

President Trump said he did not want countries to be “delinquent” and pay less than their share, adding: “Maybe I’ll deal with them from a trade standpoint.”

Emmanuel Macron said France – which currently spends 1.84% of its GDP on defense – would reach the minimum, and acknowledged that the US had “overinvested” in NATO for several decades.

However, he added that there were other pressing issues to discuss.

The two leaders also discussed Turkey’s decision to buy a Russian S-400 missile system.

President Trump said they were “looking at” whether to impose sanctions, while Emmanuel Macron asked: “How is it possible to be a member of the alliance… and buy things from Russia?”

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have been key allies of the US-led coalition against ISIS in Syria. However, Turkey views a section of the group – the YPG – as terrorists.

Ahead of his departure for London, Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey would not approve a plan to defend Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia in the event of a Russian attack unless NATO recognized the Kurdish YPG militia as terrorists.

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Independent journalists and bloggers in Russia could be labeled as “foreign agents” after a controversial law has been amended on December 2.

The “foreign agent” label already applies to certain media organizations and NGOs which engage in politics and receive funding from abroad.

The EU, Amnesty International and the OSCE international security body condemned the amended law.

“Foreign agent” was a Soviet-era term of abuse for political dissidents.

President Vladimir Putin signed the amended “foreign agent” media law.

Russia says the original media bill, introduced in 2017, was its response to a US requirement for Kremlin-backed broadcaster RT to register as a foreign agent in the US.

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The first “foreign agent” law, introduced in 2012, targeted non-governmental organizations (NGOs), including charities and civil society groups, which get foreign funding and engage in political activity in Russia.

In 2015 Russia’s justice ministry listed Memorial – a distinguished chronicler of human rights abuses – as a “foreign agent”.

The anti-corruption organization of anti-Putin campaigner Alexei Navalny has also been declared a “foreign agent”.

Groups, and now individuals, labeled as “foreign agents” have to put that label on their publications and submit detailed paperwork to the authorities, or face fines for not doing so.

The media law was steered through parliament’s lower house – the Duma – by lawmakers Leonid Levin and Pyotr Tolstoy.

Leonid Levin explained that for an individual to be labeled a “foreign agent” two criteria must be valid: they must be producing or spreading material from a “foreign agent” media source, and they must be getting foreign funding.

He said that re-tweeting “foreign agent” news would only make an individual a “foreign agent” too if he or she was also receiving foreign funding.

There has been a chorus of disapproval from human rights groups for the new law.

OSCE media freedom representative Harlem Désir said the law “represents a disproportionate interference in the freedom of expression and media freedom”.

Maja Kocijancic, spokesperson for the EU’s External Action Service (EEAS), said the legislation “imposes an additional administrative and financial burden, as well as stigmatizes the media or NGO concerned, thus restricting the exercise of fundamental freedoms”.

She said: “Taking into account the already limited space for free media in the country, a further extension of the scope of the legislation is yet another worrying step against free and independent media and access to information, as well as a further attempt to silence independent voices in Russia.”

According to Amnesty International the new law “will have a detrimental impact on the already restrictive environment for independent journalism in Russia, and must be dropped”.

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Maltese prosecutors have charged businessman Yorgen Fenech with complicity in the murder of investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia in 2017.

Yorgen Fenech, one of Malta’s wealthiest men, pleaded not guilty to that charge and four others including membership of a criminal gang.

Relatives of Daphne Caruana Galizia were present in the court in Valletta.

The investigation into the blogger’s death has rocked the Maltese government. PM Joseph Muscat is under pressure to resign.

The prime minister’s chief aide, Keith Schembri, resigned this week amid reports he was being questioned by police, while Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi also quit and Economy Minister Chris Cardona took the decision to suspend himself.

Three people are awaiting trial for the journalist’s murder in a car bombing but the police investigation is now focusing on who ordered the killing and why.

Yorgen Fenech has been repeatedly questioned over the killing since trying to leave the island on his yacht on November 20, and sought a pardon in return for providing information but his request was rejected.

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According to Maltese media, Yorgen Fenech was familiar with Melvin Theuma, a taxi driver with links to criminal enterprises who has been described in local media as a potential “middleman” in the murder.

The businessman is a well-known figure in Malta who has served as head of the Tumas business group and a director of energy company Electrogas but recently resigned from both positions.

Yorgen Fenech was identified last year as being the owner of a mysterious Dubai-registered company, 17 Black.

17 Black was listed in the Panama Papers – confidential documents leaked from a Panamanian law firm in 2016 which revealed how the wealthy and powerful use tax havens to get around the law.

Daphne Caruana Galizia had written about 17 Black eight months before her death, alleging it had links to both Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi.

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US Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland has been accused by three women of sexual misconduct.

The accusations, co-published by Portland Monthly magazine and ProPublica, date back to before he became an ambassador.

At the time of the alleged incidents Gordon Sondland was developing hotels in Portland and Seattle in the Pacific Northwest.

Gordon Sondland denies all of the allegations, and accuses the women of targeting him for his role in President Donald Trump’s impeachment hearings.

He said in a statement: “These untrue claims of unwanted touching and kissing are concocted and, I believe, co-ordinated for political purposes.

“They have no basis in fact, and I categorically deny them.”

All three women said Gordon Sondland retaliated against them professionally after they rejected his advances – by verbally abusing them at their workplace, reneging on a promised investment, and withdrawing offers of professional introductions.

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One of the women, Nicole Vogel, said she met Gordon Sondland for dinner in 2003 in order to secure investment for her new magazine.

Nicole Vogel is the owner of Portland Monthly. The magazine said she was not involved editorially in the story, and it had teamed up with ProPublica, a respected non-profit news group, to report the claims independently.

She said that after dinner Gordon Sondland took her to one of his hotels and invited her to see a room. He then requested a hug, she added, but instead “grabs my face and goes to kiss me”.

Nicole Vogel said she deflected him and left the hotel, and later received an email from Gordon Sondland changing the terms of his investment.

A second acuser, Jana Solis, said she met Gordon Sondland in 2008 when she was seeking work as a hotel safety expert.

When Sondland offered her the job, she said, he called her “my new hotel chick” and slapped her rear. She then said that on another occasion he invited her to his home in Portland to evaluate his art collection, before exposing himself.

On a third occasion, Sondland asked her to inspect his penthouse apartment and then forcibly kissed her, she said.

The third woman, Natalie Sept, was working in local politics in Portland for a candidate Gordon Sondland had donated money to.

After they were introduced through her boss, she claims Gordon Sondland invited her to dinner to discuss work opportunities. She said he asked for a hug at the end of the night, but then pushed himself towards her and tried to forcibly kiss her.

In response, Gordon Sondland described the article as “underhanded journalism” that was “fundamentally false”.

He said he intended to take legal action against the two publications.

Gordon Sondland provided key testimony at President Trump’s impeachment hearing last week, where he said he followed the president’s orders to pressure Ukraine to investigate his Democratic rival, Joe Biden.

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President Donald Trump has signed The Human Rights and Democracy Act into law as a support for pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.

The bill mandates an annual review, to check if Hong Kong has enough autonomy to justify its special status with the US.

President Trump said he signed the law “out of respect for President Xi [Jinping], China, and the people of Hong Kong”.

He is currently seeking a deal with China, in order to end a trade war between the two countries.

Meanwhile, China’s foreign ministry threatened “counter measures” if the US continued “going down the wrong path”.

The Chinese foreign ministry statement said: “The US has been disregarding facts and distorting truth.

“It openly backed violent criminals who rampantly smashed facilities, set fire, assaulted innocent civilians, trampled on the rule of law, and jeopardized social order.”

The foreign ministry summoned the US ambassador to demand that Washington stops interfering in Chinese internal affairs.

Hong Kong’s government also reacted, saying the American bill would send the wrong signal and would not help to ease the situation.

However, a key activist in the Hong Kong protest movement, Joshua Wong, said the US law was a “remarkable achievement” for “all Hongkongers”.

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President Trump had previously been non-committal about whether he would sign the bill, saying he was “with” Hong Kong but also that President Xi was “an incredible guy”.

However, the bill had widespread congressional support, which meant that even if he vetoed it, lawmakers could potentially have voted to overturn his decision.

President Trump also signed a second bill, which bans the export of crowd-control munitions to the police in Hong Kong – including tear gas, rubber bullets and stun guns.

He said: “[The bills] are being enacted in the hope that leaders and representatives of China and Hong Kong will be able to amicably settle their differences, leading to long-term peace and prosperity for all.”

The bill was introduced in June in the early stages of the protests in Hong Kong, and was overwhelmingly approved by the House of Representatives last month.

It says: “Hong Kong is part of China but has a largely separate legal and economic system.

“The [annual review] shall assess whether China has eroded Hong Kong’s civil liberties and rule of law as protected by Hong Kong’s Basic Law.”

Among other things, Hong Kong’s special trading status means it is not affected by US sanctions or tariffs placed on the mainland.

The bill also says the US should allow Hong Kong residents to obtain US visas, even if they have been arrested for being part of non-violent protests.

Hong Kong’s protests started in June against a proposed law to allow extradition to mainland China but it has since transformed into a larger pro-democracy movement.

The protests have also seen increasingly violent clashes, with police being attacked, and officers firing live bullets.

The last week elections saw a landslide victory for the pro-democracy movement, with 17 of the 18 councils now controlled by pro-democracy councilors.

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President Donald Trump has been invited to the Congress’ first impeachment hearing on December 4.

Democratic chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Jerrold Nadler said President Trump could either attend or “stop complaining about the process”.

If the president does attend, he would be able to question witnesses.

The hearing would mark the next stage in the impeachment inquiry, which centers on a July phone call between PresidentTrump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

In that call, President Trump asked Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden, currently the front-runner to be the Democratic candidate in next year’s presidential election, and his son Hunter Biden, who had previously worked for Ukrainian energy company Burisma.

The probe is looking into whether President Trump used the threat of withholding US military aid to pressure Ukraine into investigating the Bidens. Donald Trump has denied any wrongdoing and has called the inquiry a “witch hunt”.

Last week, the House Intelligence Committee wrapped up two weeks of public hearings, which followed several weeks of closed-door witness interviews.

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Democratic chairman of the Intelligence Committee Adam Schiff said the committees leading the probe – Intelligence, Oversight and Foreign Affairs – are now working on their report, which will be issued on December 3.

On November 26, the latest transcript of inquiry evidence was released, detailing testimony by senior budget official Mark Sandy.

Mark Sandy told the House investigators that two White House budget officials had resigned following the withholding of military aid to Ukraine. He said that one, a lawyer, had expressed concern that the action could be a violation of a 1974 budget law.

Jerrold Nadler said in a statement that he had written to President Trump inviting him to the hearing next month.

He said: “At base, the president has a choice to make.

“He can take this opportunity to be represented in the impeachment hearings, or he can stop complaining about the process.

“I hope that he chooses to participate in the inquiry, directly or through counsel, as other presidents have done before him.”

In his letter to the president, Jerrold Nadler said the hearing would be an opportunity to discuss the historical and constitutional basis for impeachment.

He has given President Trump until 18:00 EST on December 1 to confirm whether or not he will be at the hearing, and if so, to let the committee know who his counsel will be.

The Judiciary Committee is expected to begin drafting articles of impeachment – which are the charges of wrongdoing against the president – in early December.

After a vote in the Democratic-controlled House, a trial would be held in the Republican-run Senate.

If Donald Trump was convicted by a two-thirds majority – an outcome deemed highly unlikely – he would become the first US president to be removed from office through impeachment.