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Dramatic deposition rocks Trump’s impeachment defense

Democrats may have just unearthed their smoking gun and the quid pro quo in one fell swoop after the most consequential and dramatic turn yet in their impeachment investigation into President Donald Trump.

On yet another mind-bending day in a presidency that is carving one of the most turbulent passages in US political history, Trump’s plight and that of his GOP defenders markedly darkened.
The top US diplomat in Ukraine notified House investigators that he was told that the release of military aid to Kiev would depend on a pledge to probe the 2016 election and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, who, according to a new CNN poll conducted by SSRS, leads Trump by 10 points in a hypothetical 2020 general election matchup.
The deposition by Bill Taylor on Tuesday appears to directly refute the President’s claim that there was no quid pro quo in his dealings with the former Soviet state.
Taylor’s testimony bolsters a whistleblower report and a transcript of Trump’s notorious July 25 call with Ukraine’s President that shows he asked for a “favor” in return for badly needed aid as Ukraine fights Russia.
It makes it far more difficult for the GOP to defend the President on the facts of the case, as they have emerged from days of testimony inside the closed impeachment inquiry.
And the new testimony may increasingly force the President’s supporters into a fallback argument: that what he did was inappropriate but falls short of the standard of high crimes and misdemeanors needed for impeachment.
Democrats argued that Taylor’s testimony was the most shocking revelation yet from their monthlong impeachment investigation — which is likely to get more complicated as a result.
“This testimony is a sea change. I think it could accelerate matters,” said Democratic Rep. Stephen Lynch of Massachusetts.
Democratic Rep. Gregory Meeks of New York said there was clear evidence of a quid pro quo manifested in Trump’s pressure on Ukraine.
“It’s out there, so read the text of the statement,” he told CNN’s Anderson Cooper.
Carrie Cordero, a CNN legal analyst and former senior Justice Department and intelligence community official, described Taylor’s testimony as “an incredibly big deal.”
“Bill Taylor clearly articulated in the way that we have most clearly understood at this point the exchange that was on the table,” Cordero said on “Erin Burnett OutFront.”

White House slams ‘radical bureaucrats’

Trump has denied any wrongdoing and says the Democrats are attempting to impeach him because they can’t win the 2020 election. His legal team accuses Democrats of running an illegitimate process that is unfair to the President.
But another day of devastating disclosures on Capitol Hill helps explain Trump’s increasingly explosive behavior, which saw him compare his own sense of victimization to African Americans who were lynched in the darkest moments of the nation’s past.
The White House did not challenge Taylor’s testimony directly, instead choosing to attack the constitutionally sound Democratic process and to conjure up a new conspiracy theory.
“President Trump has done nothing wrong — this is a coordinated smear campaign from far-left lawmakers and radical unelected bureaucrats waging war on the Constitution,” said White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham in a statement.
More on the impeachment inquiry from CN
Taylor, one of the “radical, unelected bureaucrats” in the President’s sights, is a highly regarded career official who was directly appointed by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and is a veteran of the Republican George W. Bush administration.
As Trump fumed in the White House, Republicans wrestled with how to cope with the latest avalanche of disclosures.
His most loyal defenders insisted that Taylor’s testimony changed nothing. “I’ve been in there 10 hours, I can assure you there’s no quid pro quo,” said Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina.
Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina defended Trump’s use of the term “lynching.”
“This is a sham. This is a joke,” he said.
“So yeah this is a lynching, in every sense. This is un-American,” he added.
But other, more moderate Republicans publicly expressed disquiet over the new testimony, which provided new texture on Trump’s back-channel Ukraine policy shop involving his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and several personal appointees.
“The question that we’re going to be answering here is: Does this reach a level of impeachment or is it a disagreement on policy?” said Republican Rep. Will Hurd of Texas.
Hurd was asked on CNN’s “The Situation Room” whether withholding nearly $400 million in aid to coerce Ukraine into investigating Trump’s political opponents was impeachable conduct.
“I think that would reach a level that we should be considering,” Hurd said.
Republican Rep. Francis Rooney of Florida said he was concerned by the Taylor deposition. “Does it rise to the level of an impeachable offense? I don’t know.”

Boris Johnson can’t celebrate his Brexit win for long

Boris Johnson has taken the first step up his Brexit mountain. If he’s careless, he could be buried under an avalanche.

As he travels back to London from Brussels, the British Prime Minister has good reason to feel upbeat. He was told he’d never get a new Brexit deal and that his plans to replace the Irish border backstop were a non-starter. Yet, as his swaggering senior advisers were keen to point out to journalists here in Brussels, he’s proved everyone wrong.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that he might have kicked off a chain of events that could bring his time as Prime Minister to a premature end. He now faces what will be two of the most painful days of his career back in London.
On Friday, Johnson will have to convince lawmakers across the political divide that they should back his new Brexit deal.
It’s a tough ask. The main opposition Labour Party hates the deal, and wants to negotiate its own one and then put that deal to a public referendum. Other opposition parties want to scrap Brexit altogether. His supposed allies in the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party have rubbished his plan and said they won’t support it. And even some hardline Brexiteer members of his own Conservative party are looking shaky.
It’s easy to see why. Johnson’s new deal looks a hell of a lot like Theresa May’s hated deal. In reality, pretty much all that Johnson has done is remove one part of the Withdrawal Agreement — the Irish backstop — and replace it with something much more complicated. And Johnson, it mustn’t be forgotten, voted against May’s deal — twice. His resignation from May’s cabinet over her Brexit plans began the backlash that ultimately ended her premiership.
His reasons for voting against May were numerous and extended well beyond the backstop. And now he, Boris Johnson, must look the Brexiteers he led in the eye and say that his deal is worth £39 billion (about $50 million) where May’s was worth nothing.
That’s Friday. On Saturday, the rubber meets the road, when Johnson will bring his deal before Parliament for a special weekend sitting. He will have to spend the day sat in Parliament listening to his deal be criticized from all corners of the House of Commons. As Johnson’s time at his first, and possibly last, summit as leader of an EU member state came to an end, he told media that he hoped when his “colleagues in parliament study this agreement, they will want to vote for it on Saturday.”
Right now, the numbers are not there for Johnson. Generous predictions currently give him a narrow loss. But if everything falls apart for him in the next 48 hours, it could be a crushing defeat.
If that happens, he will be legally obliged to request an extension to Article 50 and delay Brexit — the one thing he promised he’d never do. At that point, it’s very likely that the gradual slide towards the inevitable general election speeds up. Once the extension has been granted, both Johnson and his opponents will be chomping at the bit to get on the campaign trail. Johnson will point at his enemies and say that they stole Brexit. They will shout back that he is a failure.

All set for first all-female spacewalk: NASA

American space program NASA plans to carry out the first all-female spacewalk this week, it said Tuesday.

Astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir will venture outside the International Space Station either Thursday or Friday to replace a power controller unit that failed over the weekend.

‘‘There are a lot of people that derive motivation from inspiring stories of people that look like them,’‘ Koch said when asked about the significance of women making strides in the space program

‘‘What we are doing now shows all the work that went in for the decades prior, all the women that worked to get us where we are today. It’s really nice to see how far we have come,’‘ Meir said.

Breaking sexism barriers

The first such mission was supposed to take place in March but had to be cancelled because the space agency had only one medium-sized suit at the time, with a male-female combination performing the required task at a later date.

Traditionally male-dominated NASA’s failure to be adequately prepared was denounced in some quarters as evidence of implicit sexism.

What’s the mission?

The new date was announced by administrator Jim Bridenstine in a tweet, while a blog post detailed the job at hand: swapping out a faulty Battery Charge/Discharge Unit (BCDU) with a new one.

The station is out of direct sunlight for much of its orbit and therefore needs batteries, and the BCDUs regulate the amount of charge that goes into them.

The ISS currently has six crew members: Americans Koch, Meir, and Andrew Morgan; Russians Alexander Skvotsov and Oleg Skripochka, and Italian Luca Parmitano.

Spacewalks last several hours and are frequently needed to perform maintenance on the complex, the first part of which was launched into space by Russia in 1998.

White House scrambles to slow impeachment

The White House is launching a new effort to slow the speeding Democratic impeachment push, but its noncooperation strategy is being constantly thwarted by a daily stream of explosive secrets being spilled behind closed doors on Capitol Hill.

Current and former officials are painting an ever more damning picture of a wider than originally perceived scheme by President Donald Trump and his crew to pressure Ukraine that they warned could amount to a trampling of US law.
Vice President Mike Pence launched a new effort Tuesday to bolster White House hopes of stalling the House inquiry long enough for Trump to turn public opinion against it. He refused to turn over documents related to Trump’s now notorious call with the President of Ukraine on July 25.
But White House officials are becoming increasingly frustrated at revelations from the closed-door hearings. Given that there is no presidential counsel in the room, they struggle to frame a defense, learning about almost daily bombshells only from news reports, CNN reported on Tuesday.
And the possibility that former national security adviser John Bolton — who may have little incentive to shield the President who recently ousted him — could soon be called to testify will do little to ease the impression among White House officials that they are flying blind.
Fresh testimony in recent days has elevated the crisis for Trump. It has appeared to expose an off-the-books effort to perform an end run around US foreign policy officials with political appointees that predated his notorious phone call with the President of Ukraine in which he sought dirt on his possible 2020 foe Joe Biden.
On Monday, former senior White House Russia aide Fiona Hill testified that she had tried to raise the alarm about possibly illegal activity — and had been encouraged to do so by Bolton.
A senior State Department official, George Kent, testified Tuesday that he’d been told by a supervisor to lie low after complaining about Rudy Giuliani’s meddling in Ukraine, according to Democratic Rep. Gerry Connolly of Virginia, who sits on the House Oversight Committee.
More peril looms for the White House on Thursday, when Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the European Union, is expected to tell lawmakers that a text he sent to a colleague insisting there was no quid pro quo offered to Ukraine was dictated by the President himself.
The most worrying development so far this week for the Trump team is that Hill’s stunning mention of Bolton raises the possibility that a possibly disgruntled former national security adviser, who was forced out under a cloud, may have an incentive to offer testimony that could damage his former boss.
Trump’s rather worn defense of his actions exemplifies the depth of his problem. The Ukraine story has outpaced the President’s attacks on a whistleblower who first exposed the story and his defense of his “perfect” call with Ukraine’s President. Trump’s allies are bemoaning what they say is a lack of due process in the Democratic impeachment investigation — but they often seem unable to effectively parry the damaging tidbits leaking out of depositions.

Trump’s defense is beginning to look insufficient

The President stuck to generalities on Tuesday.
“We just hit the greatest economy we’ve ever had. ‘Let’s impeach the President’ — isn’t that a good idea?” Trump said during an event with the Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues.
“I wouldn’t worry about it, fellas. I wouldn’t worry about it,” the President told several senators in the audience, referring to impeachment — raising questions as to whether he understands the seriousness of his plight.
Democrats are expressing deep satisfaction with the pace of their three-week-old investigation so far.
And in a sign that GOP attacks on their process are not yet biting, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Tuesday that she had no plans yet to bow to demands for a vote formally authorizing the impeachment proceedings.
House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff laid claim to “dramatic progress” Tuesday in digging out the truth about Trump’s call with President Volodymyr Zelensky on July 25.
And Democratic presidential candidates — in a grave moment at the start of their latest debate in Ohio — reflected polls showing growing public support for investigating the President.
Former Vice President Joe Biden blasted Trump as “the most corrupt” President “in modern history and all of our history.”

Impeachment could lead to a first in the 2020 election

President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly shattered political tradition, may find himself in another unprecedented circumstance in 2020: He could become the first president ever to be impeached by the House and then seek another term in the next election.

That unique prospect could scramble the electoral calculations next year for both parties.
  • For Trump, an impeachment confrontation that highlights the aspects of his presidency that most concern swing voters — from his volatility to his willingness to skirt if not smash legal constraints — could force him further toward a 2020 strategy centered on maximizing turnout among his core supporters.
  • For Democrats, a bitter impeachment fight that divides Congress and the country almost entirely among party lines could upset one of the key underlying assumptions driving the competition for the party’s presidential nomination: While most Democratic primary voters appear focused primarily on finding the nominee they believe will most effectively take the fight to Trump, a searing impeachment struggle could create more public demand for a candidate who pledges to bring the country together, some operatives in both parties believe.
As impeachment proceeds, the division in the country “is going to go into the stratosphere,” predicts Charles Coughlin, a veteran Republican political strategist based in Phoenix. “Which I think creates an opportunity for a candidate … to fill that narrative: We have to start talking about what brings us together and not what pushes us apart. I think there will be giant pieces of room in the electorate, both Republican and Democratic, to articulate that notion.”

US troops express anger at Trump’s Syria policy: ‘We betrayed’ the Kurds

A wide range of American military personnel and defense officials are expressing a deep sense of frustration and anger at the Trump administration’s refusal to support Syrian Kurds facing a Turkish military assault, over half a dozen US military and defense officials have told CNN.

Several US military and defense officials, including personnel deployed to Syria, expressed dismay at how the Trump administration has handled the situation.
One US official said it is well known that some senior US military officials are livid at how the Kurds have been treated given their role in helping the US fight ISIS.
Another senior American defense official told CNN that Trump’s failure to more forcefully oppose the invasion or do anything to stop the attacks on the Kurds meant Trump had given Turkey a green light, despite the administration’s public stance that it had consistently opposed the operation.
The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces “are fighting a force that intends to eliminate their people because we green lighted their operation,” a senior US defense official told CNN referring to the Turkish operation.
Another US military official involved in operations in Syria said he was “ashamed” of his country’s actions with regards to the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, saying the US had failed to defend its one-time ally in the fight against ISIS.

A New week of impeachment crisis in Washington

Republican lawmakers will face fraught questions most have tried to dodge over President Donald Trump’s fight against impeachment as they return to Washington for a week pulsating with political drama.

First up on Monday, Trump’s former top National Security Council Russia specialist Fiona Hill is expected to give a deposition to House committees — and could shed some light on the behind-the-scenes maneuvering between Trump, administration officials and outsiders acting on his behalf in Ukraine, including Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani.
Then, the end of a two-week congressional recess on Tuesday will heighten tensions over the most consequential duel over the fate of a presidency in at least 20 years, with new testimony expected from key figures in the scandal.
But Democrats also face extra scrutiny over their strategy as they race to prove that Trump abused his power by seeking election dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden from the President of Ukraine.
Trump is demanding a full House vote on impeachment procedures as he seeks to raise the electoral price for the Democratic offensive and claims that he is being denied due process.

Teenage cancer patients raise £250k to improve servicesTeenage cancer patients raise £250k to improve services

Two teenage cancer patients who staged a ball to improve services for other young people in hospital have raised more than £250,000. Molly Cuddihy, 17, and Sara Millar, 16, met in a teenage common room at the Royal Hospital for Children in Glasgow.

After witnessing a younger boy being asked to leave they vowed to help set up a pre-teen facility in the Schiehallion Unit. They also used the event to thank NHS staff who looked after them

Molly, from Gourock, Inverclyde, said: “I am honestly speechless and overwhelmed at the kindness, support and generosity of our guests as well as the many, many individuals and organizations who were unable to join us but nonetheless have supported our efforts. This will make a difference for all of the kids, now and in the future.”

Sara, from Milngavie, East Dunbartonshire, said: “We were particularly grateful to have had the opportunity to welcome so many of the wonderful NHS Staff who have cared and still care for us. Our Every Thank You Counts ball has afforded us the opportunity to thank and pay tribute to these wonderful people and the incredible work that they do for us, not only in the Schiehallion and Paediatric Intensive Care Units, but across the wider NHS.”

The pair were both undergoing life-saving treatment when they were introduced in a common room supported by the Teenage Cancer Trust.

The facility – furnished with comfy chairs and includes a pool table, TVs, games consoles, dining table and a fridge stocked with treats – offers an escape from a gruelling programme of treatment.

After cheering up a younger patient by setting up the PlayStation they were dismayed when he had to leave because the unit was restricted to teenagers.

A new facility catering for children too old for the playroom but too young for the teenager’s common room has now been given the green light by NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde.

Donors who pledged money to their campaign included X Factor judge Simon Cowell, who met the girls earlier this year.

Paediatric haematologist Prof Brenda Gibson was among the NHS staff who attended the gala event in Glasgow on Saturday.

She said: “I am astounded but very pleased by the amount of money raised at the ball and by the support expressed and given to the Schiehallion Unit on the evening.

“‎Sara and Molly are astonishing.

“We promise to use this money as wisely as possible to help the children in our unit.”

Joe Biden calls for Trump’s impeachment

Former Vice President Joe Biden called for President Trump’s impeachment today for the first time at a rally in Rochester, New Hampshire.

“With his words, and his actions, President Trump has indicted himself by obstructing justice, refusing to comply with the congressional inquiry. He’s already convicted himself in full view of the world and the American people,” Biden said.

“Donald Trump has violated his oath of office betrayed this nation, and committed impeachable acts. You know, to preserve our Constitution, our democracy. Our basic integrity. He should be impeached,” he added.

Biden went on to say that Trump thinks “he can and will get away with anything he does.”

“He shooting holes in the Constitution. And we cannot let him get away with it,” the former vice president said.

has been at the center of the Ukraine controversy. Trump has repeated an unproven accusation that claims that Biden was improperly trying to help Hunter, who served on the board of a Ukrainian natural gas company, when the then-vice president pressured the Ukrainian government to fire the country’s prosecutor general.

 
Respond of Donald J. Trump
So pathetic to see Sleepy Joe Biden, who with his son, Hunter, and to the detriment of the American Taxpayer, has ripped off at least two countries for millions of dollars, calling for my impeachment – and I did nothing wrong. Joe’s Failing Campaign gave him no other choice!

Trump defies Democrats with all-out political warfare on impeachment

Donald Trump drove Democrats to the first crucial pivot point of their impeachment confrontation on Tuesday with a defiant declaration that his administration would not cooperate with the investigation.

In a fierce counter-attack after days of failing to control a torrent of damaging disclosures, the Trump White House branded the inquiry an illegal bid to overthrow the 2016 election and blocked testimony from a top diplomat.
“Never before in our history has the House of Representatives — under the control of either political party — taken the American people down the dangerous path you seem determined to pursue,” White House counsel Pat Cipollone wrote in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her key committee chairs.
The letter in effect gave notice of all out political warfare as part of the administration’s strategy to deprive investigators of all the testimony and evidence that they have demanded, in a clear effort to throttle the capacity of the probe into whether Trump abused his power by pressuring Ukraine to investigate a political opponent — Joe Biden.
Pelosi says there is no constitutional requirement supporting Trump’s demand for a full House vote to initiate impeachment proceedings — one justification given for the President’s refusal to cooperate.
But Trump’s move left her with grave strategic decisions on what to do next in a confrontation that puts to the test the integrity of America’s bedrock separation of powers and will determine whether she truly gamed out this duel several steps ahead.
Challenging Trump’s position in court could bog down the impeachment drive in months of legal challenges. Folding the President’s obstruction into articles of impeachment in short order could play into his claims that she’s running a “kangaroo court” and rushing the most consequential function of Congress.
The American people will now be effectively asked whether a President who accepts few limits on his power can be held in check by a separate branch of government or whether he can avoid such an examination, a decision that will echo through history.
Democrats are already arguing that Trump’s position is a de facto admission of guilt based on a legal and political house of sand.
“I guess they haven’t read the Constitution,” said Rep. Tom Malinowski of New Jersey, a Democrat who serves on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
“If they don’t defend themselves, against the copious evidence that we already have, then I think it disadvantages them,” Malinowski told CNN’s Erin Burnett.
“This is not the kind of investigation where we are starting with nothing — we are starting with everything.”
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