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House Democrats call for ambassador to E.U. Sondland to resign

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WASHINGTON — A dozen House Democrats are calling for President Donald Trump’s ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, to resign in the wake of revelations about his key role in the unfolding Ukraine scandal.

The calls for his ouster come as Sondland prepares to be deposed Tuesday by House committees as part of their impeachment inquiry into the president. The list includes one presidential candidate — Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio.

Sondland, a Trump political appointee, has emerged as a central player in Trump’s bid to persuade Ukraine’s new government to commit publicly to investigate corruption and the president’s political opponents. Text messages given to Congress show Sondland and another diplomat explicitly tying Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s willingness to announce an investigation to whether he would be granted a coveted White House visit.

“These text messages are deeply troubling. Mr. Sondland has lost credibility and must resign,” Rep. Gerry Connolly of Virginia said. Rep. Bennie Johnson of Mississippi agreed and said Sondland had “worked behind the scenes to carry out Trump’s wishes.”

Rep. Lloyd Doggett of Texas said not only must Sondland step aside, but also everyone involved in encouraging a foreign government to interfere in U.S. politics “should be held accountable in accord with their level of complicity.”

“Yes, everyone involved or aware of Trump’s misconduct and the coverup and who failed to act should resign,” Doggett said.

Emails to Sondland and the Department of State seeking comment were not returned. The White House also did not respond to a request for comment about whether Trump intends to keep Sondland in his role.

NBC News surveyed all 235 lawmakers who make up the House Democratic Caucus about whether they believe Sondland must resign. Many of the lawmakers said they were withholding judgment until Sondland testifies Tuesday and urged him to fully cooperate with the committees, warning that failure to do so would amount to obstruction.

Several others, including Reps. Jan Schakowsky of Illinois and Yvette Clarke of New York, were leaning toward calling for his resignation — if the allegations that have emerged about Sondland are borne out.

“If these allegations are true, anyone complicit in the president’s alleged attempts to pressure a foreign leader into interfering with our election should be removed from office immediately,” Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., said.

Other House Democrats who told NBC News that Sondland should resign include Reps. Denny Heck of Washington, Filemon Vela of Texas, David Price of North Carolina, Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey, Anthony Brown of Maryland, Dwight Evans of Pennsylvania, Julia Brownley of California and Gwen Moore of Wisconsin.

Sondland was named by Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, as one of two senior U.S. diplomats Giuliani coordinated with on his efforts in Ukraine. The other diplomat, former Ukraine envoy Kurt Volker, resigned amid the chaos last month. On Monday, Volker also resigned from his position as executive director of the McCain Institute, a Washington think tank, as the fallout from his role in the Ukraine story continues to mount.

Sondland’s name appears in the whistleblower report, which says that the day after Trump’s July call with Zelenskiy, Sondland and Volker met with Zelenskiy in the Ukrainian capital. The whistleblower describes Sondland as working to help the Ukrainians navigate Trump’s request for an investigation and trying to mitigate damage Giuliani was inflicting on U.S. national security.

But in text messages that Volker ultimately turned over to Congress, Sondland appears to not only be actively facilitating Trump’s goal but also shutting down a top diplomat who raised concerns.

On Sept. 9, according to the messages, acting Ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor tells Sondland that “as I said on the phone, I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.” Sondland pushes back, telling Taylor that he’s “incorrect” about Trump’s intentions and that the president has made clear “no quid pro quos of any kind.” He then advises Taylor to stop discussing the issue via text.

Sondland had no formal diplomatic experience before Trump picked him for one of the top ambassadorships. Before starting the role in 2018, Sondland was an Oregon businessman who founded a boutique hotel company, Provenance Hotels, that operates in the Pacific Northwest. He was confirmed by the Senate in June 2018 by a voice vote.

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Hillary Clinton attacks 'authoritarian leader' Boris before saying she ‘fears' for Brits

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HILLARY CLINTON blasted Boris Johnson as an “authoritarian leader” in a shocking attack as she claimed she “fears” for the UK.

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‘Of course’ Trump was wrong to ask China to probe Bidens

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Sen. Ted Cruz said Sunday that it was wrong for President Donald Trump to call on China to probe former Vice President Joe Biden and his son in the Texas Republican’s most direct rebuke of the president yet.

Asked on CBS’s “Face the Nation” whether Trump’s comments were “appropriate,” Cruz said “of course not.”

“Elections in the U.S. should be decided by Americans and it’s not the business of foreign countries, any foreign countries, to be interfering in our elections,” he said.

“Face the Nation” host Margaret Brennan then asked if it was improper for Trump to ask Ukraine to probe the Bidens, as he did in a July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy — a call that is now at the center of an impeachment inquiry.

“Listen, foreign countries should stay out of American elections,” Cruz said. “That’s true for Russia. That’s true for Ukraine. That’s true for China. That’s true for all of them. It should be the American people deciding elections. I don’t know what [Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani has] been saying. I do know though that we should decide our elections. It should be the American people making those decisions.”

But Cruz added that it would make “sense” for Giuliani, who is at the center of the president’s campaign to have Ukraine investigate the Bidens, testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., has already invited Giuliani to do so.

“I’d like to see Rudy testify,” Cruz said. “Yes.”

Cruz’s comments come as Republicans have struggled to align on their responses to Trump’s requests to have Chinese and Ukrainian officials investigate the former vice president and his son. Some Republicans defended Trump’s China remarks by saying the president wasn’t “serious” despite Trump never having indicated he was joking.

Asked Thursday about whether he was serious about calling on China to investigate the Bidens, Trump said, “China has to do whatever they want.”

“If they want to look into something, they can look into it,” the president continued. “If they don’t want to look into it, they don’t have to. Frankly, are far as I’m concerned, if China wants to look into something, I think that’s great. And if they don’t want to, I think that’s great too. That’s up to China.”

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he “can’t comment” on whether Trump was serious in his ask to have China investigate the Biden family.

“I can’t comment on whether he was serious or not,” Mnuchin said, adding that the topic had not been brought up in trade negotiations between the two countries. “And in the Oval Office, when the president was asked about this in front of the Vice Premier, the president made very clear, they can do what they want. So, again, people who are trying to imply that the president is asking for things or quid pro quos, I think this is ridiculous.”

The president began ramping up his push to have China probe Hunter’s business dealings this month in the face of House Democrats’ rapidly escalating impeachment probe.

“China should start an investigation into the Bidens because what happened in China is just about as bad as what happened with Ukraine,” Trump told reporters outside the White House earlier this month.

The president has repeatedly accused the former vice president’s son of using a 2013 trip on Air Force Two with his father to procure $1.5 billion from China for a private equity fund he had started. There has been no evidence of corruption on behalf of either Biden. The Washington Post found Trump’s claims false. And a spokesman for Hunter Biden said he did not acquire an equity interest in the fund until 2017, after his father had left office. Meanwhile, Hunter’s total capitalization from the fund at the time amounted to about $4.2 million, not the $1.5 billion Trump alleged.

On Sunday, Hunter announced through his attorney that he would step down from the Chinese-backed firm by the end of the month. Hunter’s attorney, George Mesires, wrote that the former vice president’s son “never anticipated the barrage of false charges against both him and his father by the president of the United States.”



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Brexit countdown: EU gives Boris 48 HOURS to strike deal – 'Significant work to be done'

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BORIS JOHNSON has been given a tight deadline of only 48 hours to secure an agreement with the EU as the scheduled October 31 withdrawal deadline creeps closer.

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