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First public impeachment hearing ‘corroborated evidence of bribery’

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WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Thursday that the testimony presented by two career U.S. diplomats at the first House impeachment hearing a day earlier had presented evidence of bribery committed by President Donald Trump.

“The devastating testimony corroborated evidence of bribery uncovered in the inquiry and that the president abused power and violated his oath by threatening to withhold military aid and a White House meeting in exchange for an investigation into a political rival,” Pelosi told reporters at her weekly press conference.

Asked to further elaborate on her statement regarding bribery, Pelosi said, “Well, you know we’re talking Latin around here — e pluribus unum, from anyone, quid pro quo, bribery, and that is in the Constitution, attached to the impeachment proceeding. …”

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“The bribe is to grant or withhold military assistance in return for a public statement of a fake investigation into the elections — that’s bribery,” she said.

Pelosi continued to assert that Democrats still have not made a decision about whether to pursue articles of impeachment against the president.

The speaker also said that what Trump had done in the Ukraine case “make[s] what Nixon did look almost small,” referring to the Watergate-related charges that led to the 37th president’s impeachment.

Under section 4, Article II of the Constitution, “The President, Vice President and all civil officers of the United States, shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”

Pelosi’s comments come amid a Democratic shift in the language used to describe Trump’s actions with regard to Ukraine that lie at the heart of the current impeachment inquiry. Lawmakers had called the president’s moves a “quid pro quo,” but have recently shifted to a more uniform use of more widely used terms that Democrats believe may resonate more deeply with voters.

In his testimony Wednesday, acting Ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor testified that a White House meeting between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and the release of U.S. aid to Ukraine were conditioned on Ukraine announcing investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, as well as the 2016 presidential election.

George Kent, a senior State Department official, also testified about those investigations and the efforts by Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, to smear former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, and pressure Ukraine to launch those probes.

Pelosi was also asked Thursday about the whistleblower, whom Hill Republicans and Trump have called on to offer formal testimony. “Nobody should have the right to endanger whistleblowers, and that is a right that I will defend,” she said. “Any retribution or harm coming to the whistleblower undermines our ability to have truth about power.”

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EU digs its heels in: Brussels blames Britain for no progress – ‘Not our fault!’

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BRUSSELS has continued its assault on the UK for the lack of progress made in the current Brexit talks between the two sides.

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Senate Republicans cool to 2nd round of stimulus checks, direct deposits

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WASHINGTON — Democrats want another round of direct stimulus payments to Americans up to $1,200 as coronavirus cases rise in dozens of states. President Donald Trump isn’t ruling it out. But Senate Republicans are on the fence or opposed, complicating its prospects.

“I wasn’t supportive of the first round. I don’t think I’d be supportive of the second,” said Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis. “This is not a classic recession that requires financial stimulus.”

House Democrats have passed a $3 trillion bill that includes another round of direct deposits and checks. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has endorsed that bill nudged Senate Republicans on Thursday to “get off their hands and finally work with Democrats to quickly provide additional federal fiscal relief.”

Senate Majority Whip Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., said Republicans are divided on whether to send more money to Americans when asked about Trump’s interest in a second round of payments.

“About direct payments or some of the checks — that’s something he’s talked about, and some of our members are interested in that as well. There are some of our members who aren’t interested in that, so we’ll see where that goes,” the South Dakota Republican said.

Thune said Republicans would still need to agree “on a number” and other components of it.

The Senate left on Thursday for a two-week recess.

Coronavirus cases have risen in states like Florida, Texas, Arizona and California — numerous states have paused or rolled back their reopening. The state of the economy over those two weeks is likely to impact the Senate Republican calculus.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., outlined three broad priorities for the next coronavirus relief bill: “Kids, jobs and health care.” He said he wants it to pass before August, which leaves just two weeks to act once the Senate returns from break on July 20.

Asked by Fox Business Network if he favors another round of direct payments, Trump said, “I do. I support it. But it has to be done properly.” He then segued to discussing unemployment insurance.

Asked again if he wants more direct payments, Trump responded, “I want the money getting to people to be larger so they can spend it,” before saying he doesn’t want it to be “an incentive not to go to work,” an apparent reference to the $600 weekly jobless benefit in the CARES Act that Republicans don’t want to extend.

Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., said the “direct stimulus checks are going to depend on how the economy is doing” and noted the “great unemployment numbers” of June, when the rate fell to 11.1 percent.

“So if it turns out the economy is recovering, that’s a good thing and direct stimulus checks may not be necessary,” he added.

Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., said the Senate will “talk seriously and in earnest when we get back” about what might be in the next relief bill, mentioning the rising debt as a concern for the GOP.

“If there is another bill, it will be targeted,” Kennedy said. “Hopefully, we’ll learn from our first three bills in terms of what works and what doesn’t. The subtext, or the undercurrent, here at least on my side of the aisle is the fact that we owe $25 trillion and climbing.”

The first round of stimulus payments cost $293 billion, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

Surveys show they’re popular among voters as the Nov. 3 general election nears. A CNBC/Change Research poll conducted in early May found 74 percent approval for sustained direct payments in the 2020 battleground states of Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

A FT-Peterson US Economic Monitor poll showed that 76 percent of Americans say an additional payment is “very” or “somewhat” important to them, while 24 percent said it was not. The results were nearly identical when limited to battleground states.

Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, who faces a competitive re-election battle this fall, was noncommittal when asked about another round of stimulus checks and direct deposits.

“We need to look at it, the jobs numbers. I want to see Iowa and how we’re doing at getting folks back to work. And we’ll take it from there,” she told NBC News.

Leigh Ann Caldwell contributed.



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Verhofstadt told to 'keep his nose out' after attack on UK plan to end freedom of movement

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GUY Verhofstadt has stirred up more rage among Brexiteers on social media after taking another swipe at Home Secretary Priti Patel over the Government’s plans to end freedom of movement.

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