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Public hearings start in Trump’s impeachment process

William Taylor, the top diplomat dealing with Ukraine, and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, George Kent, testified defying Trump’s edict against administration officials testifying.

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Donald Trump MSNBC

New York, Nov 13 : The hearings for US President Donald Trump’s impeachment moved from an underground secret chamber to national television on Wednesday with two diplomats testifying before a Congressional committee investigating allegations against Trump.

Adam Schiff, the Chair of the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, started the hearings by charging Trump with affecting US national security interests by undermining Ukraine, a US ally, in its confrontation with Russia by withholding military aid and asking for a favour in return for the aid.

The ranking member of the Republican Party on the Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes, denounced the impeachment process asserting that there were no grounds for it.

Only three impeachment proceedings have taken place against a US President — Andrew Johnson in 1868, Richard Nixon in 1974 and Bill Clinton in 1998.

Following Schiff’s line, the two diplomats put the focus on Ukraine’s conflict with Russia and how it was important for the US to unequivocally back Kyiv.

William Taylor, the top diplomat dealing with Ukraine, and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, George Kent, testified defying Trump’s edict against administration officials testifying.

After holding secret hearings examining officials and other witnesses, the Democrats, who control the House, agreed to hold the hearings in public after demands from the Republicans.

The transcripts of the hearings were later released after selective leaks during the hearings.

But a Politico/Morning Consult Poll found that 62 per cent of the voters said that they have made up their minds and the impeachment hearings won’t change them.

Fifty per cent of voters support the impeachment inquiry while 41 per cent oppose it.

It also found that 51 per cent of the voters believe that the House will vote to impeach Trump, but the Senate will not convict him.

Even if the impeachment hearings in the year leading to the 2020 presidential election are unlikely to lead to Trump’s removal from office, the Democrats hope it will undermine him in the elections.

The impeachment is the first step in the constitutional process to remove a President and it is basically the filing of a chargesheet against him for the Senate to hold a trial with the presiding Supreme Court Chief Justice.

The Democrats control the House and the chargresheet known as the Articles of Impeachment is expected to be passed. But the Republicans control the Senate, where a two-third majority is required to convict and remove Trump, and it is very unlikely that there would be enough votes to convict him.

Trump tweeted, “The most powerful tool the legislative branch has, Impeachment, & they’ve turned it into a political cudgel, which is not at all what the Founders intended.”

Laying out the charges against Trump, Schiff said that he is guilty of “high crimes” and “bribery” because he asked Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenski to investigate Vice President Joe Biden and his son over business dealings there.

That amounts to getting a foreign country involved in US elections because Biden is a front-runner to challenge Trump in next year’s election and that he had tried to withhold military aid as a condition for holding an inquiry into the Bidens, Schiff said.

Biden’s son Hunter had landed a $50,000 a month directorship of a Ukrainian gas company with no prior experience in the energy field and as Vice President, Biden had pressed Ukraine to fire a prosecutor who may have been investigating the company.

The Democrats have turned attention away from it by putting Trump on the defensive by making it a case of Trump misusing his office against a political rival.

The Republicans want to question Biden’s son Hunter during the investigation, but Adam Schiff, the chair of the Democrat-controlled Intelligence Committee, has resisted the demand saying that the hearings are not about him.

The Republicans also want to question a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officer who started the whole impeachment process by complaining that he had heard from other sources at the White House that Trump had made an improper request to Zelensky in a July phone call to him.

The Democrats don’t want him to testify because they say it could endanger him. Officials and the mainstream media have kept his identity secret.

Nunes crticised how the secret inquiry had been conducted “as an audition” for the public one.

He also alleged that Schiff had sought nude pictures of Trump from Russian broadcasters.

The Republican defence has been at two levels. Nikki Haley, a former Trump cabinet member and UN ambassador, has said that although it may not be proper to ask for favours from a foreign official, it is not impeachable. She added that impeachment is like a “death sentence” for a public official.

The other defence by Republicans is that since the aid was released, there was no Ukrainian inquiry.

(Arul Louis can be contacted at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @arulouis)

Politics

Happy that Shiv Sena didn’t vote for Citizenship Amendment Bill: P Chidambaram

Speaking to media outside Parliament, Chidambaram said, “We got 105 votes and it is wonderful, 105 is a good number.”

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sanjay raut

New Delhi, Dec 11 : Former Finance Minister and senior Congress leader P. Chidambaram on Wednesday appreciated the party’s alliance partner in Maharashtra, Shiv Sena, for not participating in the voting on the controversial Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2019 in the Rajya Sabha.

Speaking to media outside Parliament, Chidambaram said, “We got 105 votes and it is wonderful, 105 is a good number.”

The contentious CAB was passed by the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday, two days after it got the nod from the Lok Sabha. As many as 125 members voted in favour of the Bill and 105 voted against it.

Earlier in the day, Home Minister Amit Shah had tabled the Bill in the House. The Bill seeks to give citizenship to refugees from Hindu, Christian, Sikh, Buddhist and Parsi communities fleeing religious persecution from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.

When asked about the party’s alliance partner in Maharashtra, which is a part of the ‘Maha Vikas Aghadi,’ the Congress leader said, “We are certainly happy that Shiv Sena did not vote for the Bill.” Pressed further, he said, “They did not vote as they walked out.”

The Shiv Sena forged an alliance with the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) in Maharashtra to form a government in the state, where the President’s rule was imposed on November 12.

On the other hand, senior NCP leader Praful Patel when questioned about party’s two MPs — Majeed Memon and Vandana Chavan — remaining absent from the House on the crucial day, he said, “One of them is in poor health and the other has a marriage in her family. So they could not turn up.”

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Politics

Modi Govt busy with divisive policies: Congress

“The Congress is fighting against the anti-people policies of the government over the issues of economic slowdown, high unemployment rate and farm distress.”

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Karnataka, K.C. Venugopal

New Delhi, Dec 11 : Accusing the government of being “busy with divisive policies”, the Congress here on Wednesday accused the central government of not being interested in solving the problems of citizens.

The Congress said its December 14 ‘Bharat Bachao’ rally at Ramleela Maidan, here, would demonstrate the people’s anger over issues like “economic slowdown and farmers’ distress”.

Speaking to reporters about preparations for the December 14 rally, Congress General Secretary (Organisation) K.C. Venugopal said, “The Congress is fighting against the anti-people policies of the government over the issues of economic slowdown, high unemployment rate and farm distress.”

The ‘Bharat Bachao Rally’ would highlight the real issues of the people and pointed to the spike in crime against women, inflation, rising onion and petrol prices.

Venugopal also released the logo of the rally. AICC General Secretary Mukul Wasnik and chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala were also present on the occassion.

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India

Citizenship Amendment Bill passage marks victory of bigoted forces: Sonia Gandhi

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Sonia Gandhi in Cong meeting

New Delhi, Dec 11 : Soon after the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 was passed in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesdday, Congress interim Chief Sonia Gandhi described it as a “dark day” in the constitutional history of the country and said passage of the Bill marks the victory of “narrow minded and bigoted forces” over India’s pluralism.

In a statement, Sonia Gandhi said, “Today marks a dark day in the constitutional history of India. The passage of the CAB marks the victory of narrow-minded and bigoted forces over India’s pluralism.”

Her remarks came soon after the Rajya Sabha passed the CAB that seeks to give Indian nationality to non-Muslim refugees from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan though it was vehemently opposed by major opposition parties who described it “against Muslim community”, which the government rejected saying it does not affect the community residing in the country.

The Bill was tabled for discussion in the Upper House by Union Home Minister Amit Shah. The CAB was passed in the Lok Sabha on Monday.

Hitting out at the government, the Congreess leader said that the Bill fundamentally challenges the idea of India that the forefathers fought for and, in its place, creates a “disturbed, distorted and divided India” where religion will become a determinant of nationhood.

She said the CAB is not just an affront to the eternal principles of equality and religious non-discrimination that have been enshrined in our Constitution, but represents a rejection of an India that would be a free nation for all her people, irrespective of religion, region, caste, creed, language or ethnicity.

Sonia Gandhi further said that in its design, its grave implications, this flawed legislation is antithetical to the “spirit of the freedom movement and violative of the soul of our nation”.

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