Democrats set Thursday vote on US House path in Trump impeachment probe

U.S. President Donald Trump. (REUTERS)
Updated 29 October 2019

Democrats set Thursday vote on US House path in Trump impeachment probe

WASHINGTON: Democrats in Congress, answering Republican complaints that their impeachment investigation of US President Donald Trump is being conducted in secret, plan a vote on Thursday on a format for going public with their inquiry, marking a significant new stage in the probe.
Trump and his fellow Republicans have for weeks branded as illegitimate the work of committees probing Trump’s overtures to Ukraine, arguing the full Democratic-led House of Representatives had failed to authorize their investigations in a public vote.
Meeting behind closed doors, the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight committees have been looking into the possibility that Trump violated federal law by seeking foreign help for his November 2020 re-election efforts.
Meanwhile, House Rules Committee Chairman James McGovern said on Monday: “I will be introducing a resolution to ensure transparency and provide a clear path forward.”
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said in a statement that the legislation would establish “a format for open hearings.”
The US Constitution gives the House broad authority to set ground rules for an impeachment inquiry and Democrats say they are following House rules on investigations.
Several administration officials, including a former deputy national security adviser on Monday, have failed to testify to House committees engaged in the probe.
In a letter to her fellow House Democrats, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House will vote this week — on Thursday, according to a senior Democratic aide — on a resolution that spells out how future public hearings will be held.
Pelosi promised to provide legal protections for Trump.
A source familiar with the probe said the public hearings will be held by the Intelligence Committee and that the transcripts from closed depositions with witnesses will be made public. A senior House Democratic aide said the hearings could begin within the next month.
The measure will set the stage for House investigating committees to forward evidence they have collected to the House Judiciary Committee, which then would decide whether to advance articles of impeachment against Trump.
Even if the House impeaches Trump, he would face a trial in the Republican-controlled Senate, which for the moment seems unlikely to convict the president and force his ouster.
Impeachment requires a simple majority in the 435-member House but conviction demands the support of a two-thirds majority in the 100-member Senate.

WITNESS STAYS AWAY
Earlier on Monday, Charles Kupperman, a former deputy to ousted national security adviser John Bolton, failed to appear before the three House panels conducting the Ukraine phase of the Democratic-led impeachment inquiry, lawmakers said.
Other panels are probing separate issues, including Trump’s finances and abuses of White House security clearances.
Kupperman put off testifying while asking a court to rule on whether he should comply with a congressional subpoena or honor the Trump administration’s order not to testify, his lawyers said last week.
Democrats in turn said they would not let further legal maneuverings delay their work.
At least nine others have testified despite being instructed by the White House not to do so, Schiff said.
Kupperman was expected to provide testimony about Trump’s dealings with Ukraine brought to Congress’ attention by a report from a whistleblower about a July 25 telephone call between the US president and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
Trump’s request to Zelenskiy that he investigate former US Vice President Joe Biden, a leading candidate for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, and his son Hunter Biden, who had served on the board of a Ukrainian gas company, is the focus of the inquiry being conducted by the three panels.
Trump made his request after withholding $391 million in security aid approved by the US Congress to help fight Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.
Trump again dismissed the inquiry in comments to reporters.
“I had a great conversation with the Ukrainian president. I had another with him also, I think before that, which was the same thing, it was nothing. They tried to take that conversation and make it into a big scandal,” Trump said on Monday.
Schiff noted that a federal judge has validated the legality of the Democratic-led impeachment inquiry in a decision about releasing information regarding a separate investigation, into Russian election interference in 2016, to Congress and that all witnesses need to come forward when called.
The Trump administration appealed that ruling on Monday.
 


US presidential debate: Biden warns Iran will ‘pay price’ for election interference

Updated 23 October 2020

US presidential debate: Biden warns Iran will ‘pay price’ for election interference

  • Trump and Biden go toe-to-toe on foreign policy, COVID-19 and race
  • Final debate paints two stark pictures of America’s future

NEW YORK: Joe Biden warned Iran would “pay a price” for interfering in the US election if he is elected president.

During a more orderly second debate with President Donald Trump Thursday, the former vice president looked to take the initiative on foreign attempts to influence voters.

Moderator Kirsten Welker asked Biden about revelations from intelligence officials that Russia and Iran had attempted to meddle in the election and obtained voter registration information.

“We know that Russia has been involved, China has been involved to some degree, and now we learn that Iran has been involved,” Biden said, “They will pay a price if I’m elected.”

(AFP)

John Ratcliffe, the director of national intelligence, said this week that Iran used the information to send threatening emails to voters in Florida.  On Thursday, the US Treasury Department responded with new sanctions against five Iranian entities accused of spreading disinformation and division ahead of the election.

Biden’s warning to Iran would have rankled with Trump and his foreign policy team. The president has imposed a maximum pressure policy on Tehran by withdrawing from a 2015 nuclear deal and imposing tough sanctions.

Trump accuses the previous administration, in which Joe Biden deputized to Barack Obama, of allowing Iran to further its missile program and expand its militias across the Middle East.

On Russia, Biden said Moscow did not want him to get elected, because they know he would be tough on them.

“They know that I know them. And they know me,” Biden said.

Trump said: “There has been nobody tougher on Russia than Donald Trump.”

He accused Biden of receiving money from foreign companies.

“I have not taken a penny from any foreign source ever in my life,” Biden said, arguing that he had released all of his tax returns, unlike the president.

(AFP)

“Release your tax returns or stop talking about corruption,” Biden said. 

While the second and final debate ahead of the Nov. 3 election was a calmer affair than the first one, it was laden with attacks. 

The rules were different this time: microphones were muted for two-minute stretches to allow the other an uninterrupted answer. 

Welker kept the contentious rivals under control, and made sure things were clear and organized at the venue in Belmont University in Nashville. She got the best reviews of the night. 

A viewer tweeted: “Kristen Welker is putting on a master class in how to moderate a presidential debate.”

The two candidates squared off on foreign policy, the economy, race, healthcare, and climate change. 

(AFP)

The debate kicked off with exchanges over the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 220,000 in the US, where most states are seeing a dramatic resurgence of the virus. 

Trump defended the way his administration handled COVID-19. “We closed up the greatest economy in the world in order to fight this horrible disease that came from China,” he said.

The president argued that the mortality rate has decreased and a vaccine would probably be ready before the end of the year. 

“We’re rounding the turn. We’re learning to live with it,” said Trump. 

“We’re learning to die with it,” replied Biden, who criticized the president for not having a plan to address the crisis.

“Anyone who’s responsible for that many deaths should not remain as president of the United States of America,” Biden said. 

(AFP)

Pivoting to a report that the current administration could not locate the parents of more than 500 children detained at the border with Mexico and separated from their families, Trump said children are brought across the border by “coyotes and drug cartels.” 

Defending his immigration policies, Trump said the border is now more secure than ever. 

He said he is “trying very hard” to reunite children with their parents. 

Biden called the Trump administration’s inability to locate the parents “criminal.” He said Trump’s family separation policy made America a laughingstock: “It violates every notion of who we are as a nation.”

The president then pressed Biden to answer “who built the cages” that were shown in media reports. Biden dodged the answer. 

The cages were built in 2014 by the Obama administration. 

Biden then promised, if elected, to put in motion reforms that would provide a pathway to citizenship, protected from deportation, for undocumented immigrants known as “Dreamers”.  “We owe them,” Biden said.

Discussion heated up when Welker breached the race topic, as the country continues to contend with civil unrest over racial injustice and police brutality.  

Biden said the US has “never, ever lived up” to the promise of liberty and equality for all, a principle upon which it was founded.

Trump said that, other than Abraham Lincoln, “nobody has done more for the Black community than Donald Trump.”

He attacked Biden’s support for the 1994 crime law, which critics say has led to mass incarceration.

But Biden turned to the camera and addressed voters directly:  “You know who I am. You know who he is.” 

Biden called the president a “racist” who “pours fuel on every single racist fire.”

(AFP)

“I think I have great relationships with all people. I am the least racist person in this room,” Trump responded.

Twelve days before the election, American voters were able to watch unfold two visions for the future of their country. It is hard to tell whether the candidates were able to broaden their appeal beyond their own bases and attract the undecided voters, whose numbers are shrinking by the day. 

Millions of them are already standing in long lines outside polling stations, braving night and chilly temperatures, to cast their early, final votes.