Trump Impeachment Trial Nears End as Senate Debates New Witness Testimony

The U.S. Senate is set to vote Friday on whether to allow new testimony and documents in President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial as reports of new revelations surface from Trump’s former national security adviser, John Bolton.The Republican-majority Senate is widely anticipated to acquit Trump after rejecting Democratic calls for new evidence.  The precise timetable for final action was unclear as the Senate began four hours of debate between House managers and Trump’s lawyers over whether to call witnesses, including Bolton.
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 New Bolton revelation  The New York Times reported Friday that a manuscript of Bolton’s unpublished book says that Trump directed him to participate in the Republican president’s pressure campaign to get Ukrainian officials to obtain harmful information on Democrats, including former Vice President Joe Biden and Biden’s son, Hunter. Bolton’s manuscript reportedly says Trump issued the directive during an Oval Office discussion that included acting White House chief-of-staff Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and White House counsel Pat Cipollone — who is participating in the impeachment trial.Bolton wrote that the White House conversation occurred in early May, more than two months before Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to publicly announce an investigation of Biden, a political rival Trump could potentially face in the 2020 presidential election.FILE PHOTO: National Security Advisor John Bolton.Trump’s alleged directive to Bolton was previously undisclosed and would be the earliest known example of Trump trying to use the presidency for political and personal gain.Democrats are calling for new documents and witnesses, including Bolton, who has agreed to testify if he is subpoenaed.“Yet another reason why we ought to hear from witnesses just as we predicted,” said Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff, the lead House prosecutor. “And it didn’t require any great act of clairvoyance. The facts will come out. They will continue to come out. And the question before you today is whether they will come out in time for you to make a complete and informed judgment as to the guilt or innocence of the president.”What will Republicans decide? 
Prospects for Democrats to enlist the support of at least four Republicans to call witnesses before a final vote on removal or acquittal of Trump dimmed considerably over the past 24 hours. Republican Senator Lamar Alexander said Thursday there is no need to call witnesses to testify in the impeachment trial because Democrats have already proven Trump’s actions are “inappropriate” but not impeachable. U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander speaks to reporters as he exits the Trump impeachment trial in Washington, U.S., January 30, 2020.Alexander said in a statement late Thursday, “There is no need for more evidence to prove something that has already been proven and that does not meet the United States Constitution’s high bar for an impeachable offense . . .The Constitution does not give the Senate the power to remove the president from office and ban him from this year’s ballot simply for actions that are inappropriate.”Another Republican who was thought likely to vote for witnesses announced before the start of Friday’s crucial session that she also saw no need to call witnesses.”I don’t believe the continuation of this process will change anything,” Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski said in a statement, adding, “It is sad for me to admit that, as an institution, the Congress has failed.”Accusations against Trump
Trump is accused of pressuring Zelenskiy during a July 25 call to open a corruption investigation into Biden and his son, as well as unfounded allegations that Ukraine had meddled in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign to try to help Democrat Hillary Clinton defeat Trump.  The president allegedly withheld $391 million in military aid to Ukraine unless Zelenskiy publicly announced a probe. No evidence against the Bidens has ever surfaced. The U.S. assistance for Ukraine was formally frozen on July 25 under a legal provision known as an apportionment.Democrats said reaching out to a foreign power to interfere in an election is an impeachable offense. Numerous Republicans disagree.The House of Representatives impeached Trump in December, accusing him of abusing the office of the presidency and obstructing congressional efforts to investigate his actions related to Ukraine. Trump has denied any wrongdoing and has charged Democrats with leveraging the impeachment process to overturn his 2016 electoral vote victory.Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, walks with reporters as in the basement of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Jan. 30, 2020.Votes needed to approve witnesses
Four Republican senators would need to join 47 Democrats and independents in the 100-member Senate to allow witness testimony and additional documents in Trump’s impeachment trial.  Only two Republicans – Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Mitt Romney of Utah – are currently believed to favor calling any witnesses. After the vote on whether to allow new evidence, the Senate will then deliberate before voting on whether to move forward to the final vote. The trial could continue into next week due to scheduling issues stemming from the Iowa caucuses on Monday and the president’s State of the Union address on Tuesday.Trump is only the third U.S. president to be impeached and tried before the Senate. Andrew Johnson was impeached in 1868 because of a post-Civil War dispute over states that seceded from the union. Bill Clinton was impeached in 1998 for lying to a grand jury over a sex scandal. Both Johnson and Clinton were acquitted and remained in office until the end of their terms.
 

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Climate Activists From African Nations Make Urgent Appeal

Ugandan climate activist Vanessa Nakate and peers from other African nations on Friday made an urgent appeal for the world to pay more attention to the continent that stands to suffer the most from global warming despite contributing to it the least.The Fridays For Future movement and activist Greta Thunberg held a news conference with the activists to spotlight the marginalization of African voices a week after The Associated Press cropped Nakate out of a photo at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.Nakate, Makenna Muigai of Kenya, Ayakha Melithafa of South Africa and climate scientist Ndoni Mcunu of South Africa pointed out the various challenges both in combating climate change on the booming continent of some 1.2 billion people and in inspiring the world’s response.“African activists are doing so much,” Nakate said. “It gets so frustrating when no one really cares about them.”The AP has apologized and acknowledged mistakes in sending out the cropped photo on Jan. 24 and in how the news organization initially reacted. The AP has said that it will expand diversity training worldwide as a result.Nakate said Friday she was very sad the photo incident occurred but added that “I’m actually very optimistic about this” as it has drawn global attention to climate activists in Africa and the various crises there.Muigai pointed to a recent locust outbreak that parts of East Africa have seen in 70 years, which threatens food security for millions of people in countries including Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia and is moving toward South Sudan and Uganda.Challenges include everything from deforestation to bad energy policies, Muigai said. They also include changes in storm intensity that brought two devastating cyclones to Mozambique a year ago, Mcunu said. And they include the recent drought crisis in South Africa’s Cape Town region, Melithafa said.“The narrative we have is Africans can adapt to this. That is actually not true,” Mcunu said.The warnings have been stark for Africa. No continent will be struck more severely by climate change, the U.N. Environment Program has said.Africa has 15% of the world’s population, yet is likely to “shoulder nearly 50% of the estimated global climate change adaptation costs,” the African Development Bank has said, noting that seven of the 10 countries considered most vulnerable to climate change are in Africa: Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Chad, Central African Republic, South Sudan, Ethiopia and Eritrea.And yet “to date, energy-related CO₂ emissions in Africa represented around 2% of cumulative global emissions,” the International Energy Agency said last year.In some cases it is difficult to persuade people to care more about climate change because there are so many other pressing everyday issues such as poverty, unemployment and gender-based violence, Melithafa said. “That’s hard for the global north to understand.”Instead people should work to hold more developed countries accountable for producing the bulk of emissions that contribute to global warming, the activists said.“Every individual is needed in the fight against the climate crisis,” Nakate said. “Because climate change is not specific about the kinds of people it affects.”For her part, Thunberg firmly returned the spotlight to the activists from African countries.“I’m not the reason why we’re here,” she said, later adding: “We are fighting for the exact same cause.” And she noted that while whatever she says gets turned into a headline, that is not the case for many others.“The African perspective is always so under-reported,” Thunberg said.Nakate urged the audience to make 2020 the year of action on climate change after young activists in 2019 put the issue squarely at the center of global discussions.It won’t be easy, she noted: “It is the uncomfortable things that will help to save our planet.”

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Delaney, Longest-Running Democratic Candidate, Ends 2020 Bid

John Delaney, the longest-running Democratic candidate in the 2020 presidential race, is ending his campaign after pouring millions of his own money into an effort that failed to resonate with voters.
    
The announcement, made Friday morning, further winnowed down a primary field that had once stood at more than two dozen.
    
“At this moment in time, this is not the purpose God has for me,” Delaney said, in an interview with CNN. “We’ve clearly shaped the debate in a very positive way.”
    
The former Maryland congressman has been running for president since July 2017, though Delaney’s early start did little to give him an advantage in the race or raise his name recognition with Democratic primary voters.
    
In a field dominated by well-known candidates from the liberal wing of the party, Delaney, 56, called for a moderate approach with “real solutions, not impossible promises” and dubbed the progressive goal of”`Medicare for All” to be “political suicide.”
    
Delaney last appeared on the Democratic debate stage in July 2019 but continued to campaign even as his presidential effort largely failed to gain traction. Delaney joins other candidates like Montana Gov. Steve Bullock and former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper who unsuccessfully tried to woo moderate voters before ending their respective campaigns.
    
Campaign finance reports showed Delaney’s campaign was more than $10 million in debt largely because of loans Delaney made to his campaign. At the end of September, months after he had last been on a debate stage, the former lawmaker had just over $548,000 in cash on hand.
    
Before billionaires Tom Steyer and Michael Bloomberg entered the presidential race and used their substantial wealth to gain attention, Delaney tried a similar approach. Back in March, he promised to donate $2 to charity for every new donor who donated on his website. Then in October, Delaney dangled “two club-leve” World Series tickets, with hotel and airfare included, as a prize for those that donated to his campaign.
    
Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts were frequent targets of Delaney as he warned during the July debate that the “free everything” policy approach would alienate independents and ensure President Donald Trump’s reelection. He compared the two senators to failed Democratic standard-bearers of the past, including George McGovern, Walter Mondale and Michael Dukakis.
    
Delaney renewed that criticism on his way out of the race, saying the true hope for the party lay in moderates like former Vice President Joe Biden and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar.
    
“People like Bernie Sanders who are running on throwing the whole U.S. economy out the window and starting from scratch.I just think that makes our job so much harder, in terms of beating Trump,” Delaney said Friday morning. “I also think that’s not real governing. That’s not responsible leadership because those things aren’t going to happen.”
    
Despite the criticisms, Delaney pledged to “campaign incredibly hard”  for whoever won the Democratic nomination.

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Pakistan Stops Flights To, From China Amid Coronavirus Concerns

Pakistan Friday temporarily halted all flights to and from China, effective immediately, a day after it decided to delay the opening of a key border crossing with the neighboring country following the coronavirus outbreak there.A spokesman for the Pakistan  Civil Aviation Authority said all flights “to and from China will remain suspended until February 2.” Abdul Sattar Khokar cited no reasons, saying the decision would effect 22 weekly flights.Chinese health officials reported Friday the respiratory virus that originated in the city of Wuhan has killed about 200 people, and the number of cases topped 9,000. The virus has spread to  18 countries outside China, including  South Korea, Japan, Australia, Canada  and the U.S.Pakistani officials say screening of travelers landing at national airports has already been tightened and emergency quarantine measures are in place but so far no confirmed coronavirus case has been reported from any part of the country.  Health officials in Islamabad, however, have confirmed four of the estimated 500 Pakistani students in Wuhan have been diagnosed with the disease and are undergoing treatment there. There are nearly 30,000 Pakistanis in China, mostly students.China has recently invested billions of dollars in infrastructure development projects in Pakistan under Beijing’s global Belt and Road Initiative. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a flagship element of the initiative, includes projects that have been completed or are under construction, including highways, power plants, a key Arabian Sea port and special economic zones in Pakistan, leading to  a spike in the number of travelers between the two countries, including thousands of Chinese workers and engineers.  Khunjerab border postThe coronavirus outbreak in China has also prompted Islamabad to delay the annual opening of the only border crossing between the two countries, the Khunjerab Pass in northern Gilgit-Baltistan region.”As for Khunjerab border the government of Gilgit Baltistan has rescheduled its opening. Now it will be opened in April” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Aisha Farooqui said on Thursday.Under a longstanding bilateral understanding, Khunjerab – at more than 15,000 feet, the highest paved International border crossing in the world – is closed in November due to heavy snowfall and reopens around end of April.  However, this year Pakistani authorities had asked counterparts in China to open the border starting February 2 to allow the entry of scores of commercial containers that have been stranded on the Chinese side by the November closing.   

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China Reports Nearly 10,000 Coronavirus Cases

China says it has nearly 10,000 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus. The virus has caused 213 deaths in China where it emerged late last year.The World Health Organization says the  worldwide spread of the virus is  a global health emergency, as well as an “extraordinary event” requiring a coordinated international response.The Trump administration is warning Americans not to travel to China.The State Department issued what it calls a Britain reported its first confirmed cases Friday.  “We can confirm that two patients in England, who are members of the same family, have tested positive for coronavirus,” said Chris Whitty, chief medical officer for England.   He said the two are receiving “specialist” care from the country’s National Health Service.   India and Philippines have also confirmed their first cases, joining a growing list that includes Australia, Canada, Finland, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Nepal, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, The United Arab Emirates and Vietnam.According to a BBC report, the infection is difficult to spot and stop because only an estimated one in five cases will result in “severe symptoms” which means people can spread the infection without having any symptoms or without knowing they have the infection.Dr. Nancy Messonnier of the Centers for Disease Control said they symptoms of a cold or the flu and the coronavirus are the same, but the risk factors are having visited China’s Hubei province or having close contact with those who have been there.The virus emerged in Wuhan in Hubei province.  Wuhan is the epicenter of the outbreak and it has been shuttered.  People have been instructed to stay home and public transportation has been shut down.Mi Feng, China’s National Health commission spokesperson said Friday, “The Chinese government has attached great importance to the epidemic control and we have already adopted the most stringent control measures . . . We hope to cooperate with other countries to safeguard regional and global health and public safety.”

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Pompeo Pledges Ongoing Support for Ukraine During Kyiv Visit

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo vowed Friday that the Trump administration would not waver in its support for Ukraine and denied charges at the heart of President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial.
Pompeo met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Friday and denied allegations that vital military aid and a White House visit were conditioned on a probe into former Vice President Joe Biden’s family.
“It’s just simply not the case. We will find the right time, we will find the appropriate opportunity (for the visit),” Pompeo said at a press conference after a meeting with Zelenskiy.
Pompeo is the highest-ranking American official to visit Ukraine since the impeachment process began last year. That process started with revelations about a July 25 phone call between Zelenskiy and Trump.
Zelenskiy said the impeachment had not had a negative effect on U.S.-Ukraine relations and thanked the Trump administration for its financial and military support that impeachment prosecutors say the president withheld in order to extract a personal favor from Ukraine.
Pompeo’s meetings in Kyiv come as t he GOP-majority Senate prepared to vote  on whether to hear witnesses who could shed further light on Trump’s actions toward Ukraine. The vote appeared likely to fail, however, as a key Republican said he would vote against allowing new testimony, boosting odds the Senate will vote to acquit in a matter of days.
A senior U.S. official in the meeting said Pompeo and Zelenskiy mainly discussed investment and infrastructure and that there was no talk of impeachment or corruption investigations. The official was not authorized to publicly discuss the private conversation and spoke on condition of anonymity.
At a press conference after the meeting, Pompeo assured Zelenskiy of Washington’s unwavering support.
“The United States understands that Ukraine is an important country. It’s not just the geographic heart of Europe, it’s a bulwark between freedom and authoritarianism in eastern Europe. It’s fields feed the European continent and its pipelines keep Europe warm in the winter,” he said.
Zelenskiy, in turn, expressed hope that the U.S. would more actively participate in resolving a separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine that has killed more than 14,000 people in the past five years. Zelenskiy also said he still wanted to meet Trump in DC as long it would be productive. “I am ready to go tomorrow,” he said.
In addition to Zelenskiy, Pompeo is meeting Ukraine’s prime, foreign and defense ministers as well as civic leaders, and touring several Ukrainian Orthodox churches.
Trump is accused of obstructing Congress and abuse of office for withholding a White House meeting with Zelenskiy and critical military aid to the country in exchange for an investigation into Biden, a political rival, and his son, Hunter.
Ukraine has been an unwilling star in the impeachment proceedings, eager for good relations with Trump as it depends heavily on U.S. support to defend itself from Russian-backed separatists. Trump, who has still not granted Zelenskiy the White House meeting he craves, has offered that support to some degree. Although the military assistance was put on hold, it was eventually released after a whistleblower complaint brought the July 25 call to light. The Trump administration has also supplied Ukraine with lethal defense equipment, including Javelin anti-tank weapons.
Pompeo has stressed the importance of the U.S.-Ukraine relationship, a sentiment long shared by Republicans and Democrats who see the former Soviet republic as a bulwark against Russian ambitions. But it’s a view that now has partisan overtones, with Democrats arguing that withholding aid from such a critical ally for political purposes is an impeachable offense.
The Senate is to vote on hearing impeachment witnesses later Friday. Democrats want to hear from former national security adviser John Bolton, whose forthcoming book reportedly says that Trump withheld the aid in exchange for a public pledge of a probe into the Bidens. That would back witnesses who testified before the House impeachment inquiry.
Ukraine has been a delicate subject for Pompeo, who last weekend  lashed out at a National Public Radio reporter for asking why he has not publicly defended the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch. She was removed from her post after unsubstantiated allegations were made against her by Trump’s personal attorney, Rudolph Giuliani.
Pompeo has been criticized for not publicly supporting Yovanovitch, her now-departed successor as chief of the Kyiv embassy, William Taylor, and other diplomats who testified before House impeachment investigators. Yovanovitch and Taylor have been attacked by Trump supporters and, in some cases, have been accused of disloyalty.
In the NPR interview, Pompeo took umbrage when asked if he owed Yovanovitch an apology, and maintained that he had defended all of his employees. In an angry encounter after the interview, he also questioned if Americans actually cared about Ukraine, according to NPR.
That comment prompted Taylor and Pompeo’s former special envoy for Ukraine, Kurt Volker, who also testified to the impeachment panel, to write opinion pieces discussing the importance of the country to U.S. national security and why Pompeo should be explaining its role to Americans as their top diplomat.
Pompeo brushed aside his reported comment, telling reporters aboard his plane that “of course, the American people care about the people of Ukraine” and said his message to American diplomats in Ukraine would be the same he gives to those at other embassies.
“The message is very similar to every embassy that I get a chance to talk to when I travel,” he said. “I almost always meet with the team and tell them how much we love them, appreciate them, appreciate their family members and their sacrifice.”
He said he would “talk about the important work that the United States and Ukraine will continue to do together to fight corruption inside of that country and to ensure that America provides the support that the Ukrainian people need to ensure that they have a free and independent nation.”
Pompeo twice postponed earlier planned trips to Ukraine, most recently in early January when developments with Iran forced him to cancel. Pompeo said he plans to discuss the issue of corruption but demurred when asked if he would specifically raise the Bidens or the energy company Burisma, for which Hunter Biden worked.
“I don’t want to talk about particular individuals. It’s not worth it,” he told reporters. “It’s a long list in Ukraine of corrupt individuals and a long history there. And President Zelenskiy has told us he’s committed to it. The actions he’s taken so far demonstrate that, and I look forward to having a conversation about that with him as well.”
Pompeo traveled to Kyiv  from London, which was the first stop on a trip to Europe and Central Asia that will also take him to Belarus, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. 

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