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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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Brexit LIVE: Michael Gove to be given major promotion by Boris with key Brexit role

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MICHAEL GOVE is tipped to become Boris Johnson’s new negotiator for post-Brexit trade deals with the EU and with the US as the Prime Minister’s Cabinet prepares to undergo a major transformation following Thursday’s election victory.

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What a second term Trump presidency would mean for the future of a China trade deal

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Following the news that a phase one China trade deal had been forged, President Donald Trump tweeted that phase two negotiations would begin “immediately,” rather than after the 2020 election, as he had suggested in recent days.

Trade and market experts cautioned, though, that although the phase one deal included key market concerns such as some tariff reductions and a cancellation of sanctions on consumer goods that had been set to kick in on Sunday, it would take time to tackle more entrenched challenges such as forced technology transfers and Chinese state subsidies of key industries.

“Structural issues like subsidies and the role of state-owned enterprises must wait for additional phases of negotiations,” said Doug Barry, spokesman for the U.S.-China Business Council, adding, “The hope is that both sides will leverage the goodwill generated by this initial phase and build on it with additional agreements that level the playing field for U.S. companies.”

Many expressed skepticism that negotiators would reach a resolution before next November, though. “Trump and his advisers might still talk about trying for a phase two deal aimed at tackling China’s subsidies, but even they must realize now that it’s not going to happen,” said Mark Williams, chief Asia economist at Capital Economics. “China has no interest in changing course on any of this,” he said.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s major economic plans such as “The Belt and Road Initiative” and “Made in China 2025” depend on practices American negotiators — and executives — see as trade deal breakers.

“If you include in phase two a lot of the really contentious issues, trade in advanced technology, investment — I just don’t see any way that can be resolved in the short run and possibly not even after the election,” said Peter Petri, a professor of international finance at the Brandeis International Business School. “They’re really fundamental to the differing strategies of the two countries.”

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The White House decision to pull out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership cost the U.S. the kind of leverage it needed to effectively pressure Beijing. “Usually, in dealing with China, their hand is best forced when they’re approached by a large contingent of other countries, but so far, we’ve approached them alone,” said Jeff Mills, chief investment officer of Bryn Mawr Trust. “I think that makes it more difficult for us to make progress on some of those larger issues.”

Some experts say that regardless of the outcome of the 2020 election, these issues are likely to remain entrenched — and that a second-term Trump presidency could add unpredictability and market risk.

“The China issue isn’t going away, and it’s not going to go away if we have another Trump presidency or if we have a Democrat,” said Monica de Bolle, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. “These are all issues that are going to be with us for the long haul.”

One particular hurdle to forging a sweeping trade pact would be Beijing’s unwillingness to commit publicly to a deal with a president who has a habit of making pronouncements or commitments only to reverse them later, and who has threatened tariffs against economic and diplomatic allies over non-trade-related disputes.

“People won’t trust his delivery,” Petri said. “Trump is very keen both on the unpredictability of it and on using tariffs to gain negotiating leverage.”

To the extent that Trump views re-election as a mandate from the American people to get tough on China, experts warn that he could pursue a protectionist agenda without fearing repercussions from any economic fallout.

“If President Trump is re-elected, I expect the trade war with China will reintensify next year,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics. “The president will view his reelection as a green light to take another crack at China’s trade practices. This will remain a cloud over the American economy,” he said.

“I think he would definitely be emboldened and he will continue to be ‘tariff man’ because he thinks they’re effective,” de Bolle said. “The fact that he wants to appear as if he’s playing nice with China now has absolutely no bearing on what he’ll do if he gets re-elected.”

This has implications not only for policymakers, but for corporate America, which has by and large been holding off on big investments until more clarity on trade emerges — clarity that could remain elusive in a second-term Trump presidency. “A big uncertainty facing [the] business community is that a re-elected Trump could go either way,” said David Dollar, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

“To the extent he remains in office and runs trade policy as he seems to be doing… there will be this on-and-off-again character that drives businesses mad,” Petri said. “It’s very difficult to plan and invest in this kind of environment.”

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Trump says he sees political benefit in dragging out impeachment trial

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WASHINGTON — Shortly after the House Judiciary Committee voted to impeach President Donald Trump, the president accused Democrats of “trivializing impeachment” — and said that he would like to see the impeachment process dragged out longer

“It’s a very sad thing for our country, but it seems to be very good for me politically,” Trump told reporters at the White House before a meeting with the president of Paraguay. He claimed “the polls have gone through the roof for Trump … especially with independent voters, and especially in swing states. I could show you numbers that nobody has ever seen numbers like this before.”

It was unclear what polls Trump is referring to, but in Monmouth University poll released Wednesday, 45 percent of Americans said Trump should be impeached and removed from office while 50 percent disagreed — little changed since news of the Ukraine controversy broke. In the key swing state of Wisconsin, 40 percent of voters said Trump should be impeached and removed from office, versus 52 percent who disagree, according to a Marquette Law poll released Thursday.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has been pushing for a shorter trial with limited witnesses, and many Republican members questioning the wisdom of having President Donald Trump call witnesses and are instead discussing a speedy resolution. But Trump said he might prefer a longer process where he calls the whistleblower to testify.

“I’ll do long or short. I’ve heard Mitch, I’ve heard Lindsey [Graham], I think they are very much in agreement on some concept,” Trump said. “I’ll do whatever they want to do. It doesn’t matter. I wouldn’t mind the long process, because I’d like to see the whistleblower, who’s a fraud, having the whistleblower called to testify in the Senate trial.”

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But the weight of impeachment appeared to still be weighing on him. He said he watched “quite a bit” of the proceedings yesterday, calling the members of the media reporting on the Ukraine controversy “bad people, sick people.” He said Democrats are “making fools of themselves,” and warned of payback.

“It’s a scam, it’s something that shouldn’t be allowed, and it’s a very bad thing for our country, and you’re trivializing impeachment,” Trump said. “And I’ll tell you what. Someday, there’ll be a Democrat president, and there’ll be a Republican House, and I suspect they’re gonna remember it.”

Trump has been increasingly taking his rebuttal to Twitter. After sending out a record number of tweets on Thursday, his tweetstorm continued on Friday morning with praise for the Republican “warriors” who defended him in the House Judiciary Committee meetings, and criticism of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

“The Republicans House members were fantastic yesterday. It always helps to have a much better case, in fact the Dems have no case at all, but the unity & sheer brilliance of these Republican warriors, all of them, was a beautiful sight to see. Dems had no answers and wanted out!” Trump tweeted.

The tweet was the first of seven posts (as of 8:30 a.m.) he had so far written since 6:00 a.m. Friday morning.

Just a day earlier, Trump tweeted or retweeted more than 115 times — most of them centered on impeachment. The president has been even more prolific than usual on Twitter in recent days: On Sunday, he tweeted and retweeted 105 times.

The president went on to tweet Friday a boast about his poll numbers, called the impeachment case against him a “total hoax” and claimed that Pelosi had “admitted yesterday that she began this scam 2 1/2 years ago!”

At the White House later, he said the impeachment effort had “started a long time ago, probably before I came down the escalator with the future First Lady” to announce his presidential run in 2015.

The claims were based on a mischaracterization of comments Pelosi made about impeachment earlier this week.

At an event Tuesday afternoon at Politico’s “Women Rule” summit, Pelosi was asked to react to the criticism that Democrats are racing through their impeachment inquiry of the president. “It’s been going on for 22 months, two-and-a-half years actually,” Pelosi said initially. She then made clear she was referring to the Mueller investigation.

Trump also tweeted criticism Friday of CNN and MSNBC, and praise for Fox News Channel.

Mitch Felan contributed.



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