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Three Big Things

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  • Trump’s trial begins at the start of an election year

    WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. Senate opened the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump with quiet ceremony Thursday — senators standing at their desks to swear an oath of “impartial justice” as jurors, House prosecutors formally reciting the charges and Chief Justice John Roberts presiding.

    The trial, only the third such undertaking in American history, is unfolding at the start of the election year, a time of deep political division in the nation. Four of the senators sitting in judgment on Trump are running for the Democratic Party’s nomination to challenge him in the fall.

    “Hear ye, hear ye, hear ye!” intoned the Senate’s sergeant at arms, calling the proceedings to order just past noon.

    Senators filled the chamber, an unusual sight in itself, sitting silently under strict rules that prohibit talking or cellphones, for a trial that will test not only Trump’s presidency but also the nation’s three branches of power and its system of checks and balances.

    The Constitution mandates the chief justice serve as the presiding officer, and Roberts made the short trip across the street from the Supreme Court to the Capitol. He has long insisted judges are not politicians and is expected to serve as a referee for the proceedings. Senators rose quickly when he appeared in his plain black robe.

    “Will all senators now stand, and remain standing, and raise their right hand,” Roberts said.

    “Do you solemnly swear that in all things appertaining to the trial of the impeachment of Donald John Trump, president of the United States, now pending, you will do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws, so help you God?”

    The senators responded they would, and then they lined up to sign an oath book.

    Trump faces two charges after the House voted to impeach him last month. One, that he abused his presidential power by pressuring Ukraine to investigate Democratic rival Joe Biden, using military aid to the country as leverage. Trump is also charged with obstructing Congress’ ensuing probe.

    The president insists he did nothing wrong, and he dismissed the trial anew on Thursday at the White House: “It’s totally partisan. It’s a hoax.”

    Eventual acquittal is expected in the Republican-controlled Senate. However, new revelations are mounting about Trump’s actions toward Ukraine.

    The Government Accountability Office said Thursday that the White House violated federal law in withholding the security assistance to Ukraine, which shares a border with hostile Russia.

    At the same time, an indicted associate of Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, Lev Parnas, has turned over to prosecutors new documents linking the president to the shadow foreign policy being run by Giuliani.

    The developments applied fresh pressure to senators to call more witnesses for the trial, a main source of contention that is still to be resolved. The White House has instructed officials not to comply with subpoenas from Congress requesting witnesses or other information.

    https://apnews.com/e2ca12d7bcee4a01ec1d10291b0aa789

  • Secretary of Defense coming to NAS Pensacola to discuss security changes

    PENSACOLA, Fla. (WKRG) — After the terrorist attack at Naval Air Station Pensacola, the Pentagon has announced security changes are coming to military bases across the United States.

    It was announced Thursday that Secretary of Defense Mark Esper will visit NAS Pensacola next week. Sec. Esper will thank the personnel who responded to the mass shooting on December 6th. He will also give an update to base leaders on the new vetting and security procedures to make bases more secure.

    It’s only been confirmed that will include physical security procedures at base entrances and an enhanced vetting process for those from other countries who are here training on U.S. bases.

    NAS Pensacola, including the museum, is still closed to the general public.

    More information on the new security and screening policies will be announced soon but the government has not provided a date.

    https://www.wkrg.com/local-news/secretary-of-defense-coming-to-nas-pensacola-to-discuss-security-changes/

  • Top Iran leader: Trump is a ‘clown’ who will betray Iranians

    TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran’s supreme leader said President Donald Trump is a “clown” who only pretends to support the Iranian people but will “push a poisonous dagger” into their backs, as he struck a defiant tone in his first Friday sermon in Tehran in eight years.

    Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the mass funerals for Iran’s top general, who was killed in a U.S. airstrike earlier this month, show that the Iranian people support the Islamic Republic despite its recent trials. He said the “cowardly” killing of Soleimani had taken out the most effective commander in the battle against the Islamic State group.

    In response, Iran launched a barrage of ballistic missiles targeting U.S. troops in Iraq, without causing serious injuries. Khamenei said the strike had dealt a “blow to America’s image” as a superpower. In part of the sermon delivered in Arabic, he said the “real punishment” would be in forcing the U.S. to withdraw from the Middle East.

    As Iran’s Revolutionary Guard braced for an American counterattack that never came, it mistakenly shot down a Ukrainian jetliner shortly after it took off from Tehran’s international airport, killing all 176 passengers on board, mostly Iranians.

    Authorities concealed their role in the tragedy for three days, initially blaming the crash on a technical problem. Their admission of responsibility triggered days of street protests, which security forces dispersed with live ammunition and tear gas.

    Khamenei called the shootdown of the plane a “bitter accident” that saddened Iran as much as it made its enemies happy. He said Iran’s enemies had seized on the crash to question the Islamic Republic, the Revolutionary Guard and the armed forces.

    He also lashed out at Western countries, saying they are too weak to “bring Iranians to their knees.” He said Britain, France and Germany, which this week triggered a dispute mechanism to try and bring Iran back into compliance with the unraveling 2015 nuclear agreement, were “contemptible” governments and “servants” of the United States.

    He said Iran was willing to negotiate, but not with the United States.

    Khamenei has held the country’s top office since 1989 and has the final say on all major decisions. The 80-year-old leader openly wept at the funeral of Soleimani and vowed “harsh retaliation” against the United States.

    Thousands of people attended the Friday prayers, occasionally interrupting his speech by chanting “God is greatest!” and “Death to America!”

    https://apnews.com/b26a49ed212548d61e8bb6062a875c7e

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