Category Archives: World

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Mueller, in US Court Filing, Says Multiple Probes Continue

The U.S. Special Counsel’s Office on Friday asked a court to delay sentencing for U.S. President Donald Trump’s former deputy campaign chairman, Rick Gates, amid “ongoing investigations” stemming from the Russia investigation.

In a filing with the U.S. District Court in Washington, U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller cited Gates’ continued cooperation with multiple probes and asked permission to update the judge on the case again by May 14.

“Gates continues to cooperate with respect to several ongoing investigations, and accordingly the parties do not believe it is appropriate to commence the sentencing process at this time,” Mueller’s team said in the court filing.

Gates is one of several Trump advisers who have been charged or pleaded guilty to crimes stemming from the federal investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and possible collusion with Trump’s campaign.

Gates was the longtime business partner of Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who faces more than seven years in prison for financial and conspiracy crimes after sentencing this week in a separate case in federal court in Washington.

Unlike Manafort, who stood trial and was found guilty in one case in Virginia before pleading guilty in another case in Washington, Gates agreed early on to cooperate with Mueller’s team and took the stand to testify against his former business partner.

Gates pleaded guilty in February 2018 to conspiracy against the United States and lying to investigators.

Russia has denied meddling in the 2016 U.S. election. Trump has said there was no collusion between his campaign and Moscow, and has characterized the Mueller probe as a “witch hunt.”

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Kamala Harris Calls for Federal Moratorium on Executions

Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris said Thursday that there should be a federal moratorium on executions.

The senator from California discussed the matter on National Public Radio, a day after Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom of California granted reprieves to 737 death row inmates and signed an executive order placing a moratorium on executions.

Harris was asked if there should be “a federal equivalent” to Newsom’s order.

She said, “Yes, I think that there should be.”

Asked if no one would be executed if Harris was president of the United States, she responded, “Correct, correct.”

As California’s attorney general, Harris defended the state’s use of the death penalty. But in a statement Wednesday, she said it is “immoral, discriminatory, ineffective, and a gross misuse of taxpayer dollars.”

She noted that black and Latino defendants were more likely to be executed than white defendants, as were poor defendants with poor legal representation versus wealthier defendants with good legal representation.  

“The symbol of our justice system is a woman with a blindfold,” she said. “It is supposed to treat all equally, but the application of the death penalty — a final and irreversible punishment — has been proven to be unequally applied.”  

As Harris launched her presidential bid, she said she was running as a “progressive prosecutor.” But she has drawn scrutiny from some liberals for “tough on crime” positions she held as a California prosecutor, with her stance on the death penalty among those issues.

As a district attorney in 2004, she drew national headlines with her decision not to seek the death penalty for the killer of a San Francisco police officer. That decision, announced days after the officer’s death, enraged local law enforcement officials.  

However, a decade later, she appealed a judge’s decision declaring California’s death penalty law unconstitutional. While Harris has personally opposed the death penalty, she has said that she defended the law as a matter of professional obligation to the state.

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US Senate Rejects Trump’s National Emergency Declaration

The U.S. Congress on Thursday formally rejected President Donald Trump’s national emergency declaration to fund border wall construction, as the Senate voted 59 to 41 to disapprove the executive action, weeks after the House of Representatives did the same.

Twelve Senate Republicans joined a unified Democratic caucus to pass the disapproval measure in the Republican-led chamber, defying the White House and ignoring a presidential veto threat.

“This is not a normal vote — this is not a normal day,” said Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, noting Congress’ first-ever official rejection of a national emergency declaration.

Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins said she backed Trump’s goal of beefing up security along the U.S.-Mexico border, but not his bid to bypass Congress.

“The president’s action comes into direct conflict with Congress’ authority to determine the appropriation of funds, a power vested in Congress by the framers of our Constitution,” Collins said. “This issue is not about strengthening our border security, a goal that I support.”

At the White House, Trump promised to respond.

“I look forward to VETOING the just passed Democrat inspired Resolution which would OPEN BORDERS while increasing Crime, Drugs, and Trafficking in our Country,” the president tweeted.

That message was echoed by Republicans who voted against the disapproval measure.

“There’s a clear border security and humanitarian crisis on the southern border of the United States,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said. “The president is operating within existing law, and the crisis on our border is all too real.”

Arkansas Republican Sen. Tom Cotton said: “When hundreds of thousands of foreigners arrive at the southern border and demand entry, that’s not migration. That’s an emergency and a threat to our sovereignty.”

No super majority

Although simple majorities coalesced to pass the disapproval measure in both houses of Congress, neither has the two-thirds super majority that would be required to override an expected presidential veto.

Congress has not funded Trump’s border wall requests, including under unified Republican control of the legislature, as existed for the first two years of his term.

Earlier this year, a politically-divided Congress provided limited funds to erect new fencing along small sections of the U.S.-Mexico border, an outlay Trump deemed inadequate. A national emergency declaration empowers a president to redirect federal funds in response to a sudden and grave crisis. In this case, Trump seeks to siphon billions of dollars from mostly military accounts for wall construction.

Democrats noted that America’s border deficiencies have been debated for decades and that, in making the declaration, Trump himself said he “didn’t have to do it.”

“He [Trump] declared an emergency because he lost [the battle for wall funding] in Congress and wants to get around it,” Schumer said. “He’s obsessed with showing strength, and he couldn’t just abandon his pursuit of the border wall. So he had to trample on the Constitution.”

Fear of setting precedent

Some Republicans, meanwhile, feared the president’s emergency declaration could set a precedent that a future Democratic president might use to evade the will of Congress.

“Imagine in the future a socialist-inclined president who wants to fund the Green New Deal [global warming resolution] or declare an emergency against the Second Amendment [constitutional right to bear arms],” Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul said. “Congress needs to fund border security — no question. But no president should go around Congress.”

Building a border wall was one of Trump’s bedrock promises to voters in his 2016 presidential campaign. Trump repeatedly stated that Mexico, not the United States, would pay for it.

The White House argued Mexico is paying for the wall indirectly as a result of the expected economic benefits from a new free trade agreement negotiated between the United States, Canada and Mexico.

Aside from congressional action, the national emergency declaration is being challenged in the federal court system, which may have the final word in whether it survives.

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In 420-0 Vote, US House Bill Calls for Mueller Report to Be Made Public

The House voted unanimously Thursday for a resolution calling for any final report in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation to be made public, a symbolic action designed to pressure Attorney General William Barr into releasing as much information as possible when the probe is concluded.

The Democratic-backed resolution, which passed 420-0, comes as Mueller is nearing an end to his investigation. Lawmakers in both parties have maintained there will have to be some sort of public resolution when the report is done — and privately hope that a report shows conclusions that are favorable to their own side.

Four Republicans voted present: Michigan Rep. Justin Amash, Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar and Kentucky Rep. Thomas Massie.

The nonbinding resolution calls for the public release of any report Mueller provides to Barr, with an exception for classified material. The resolution also calls for the full report to be released to Congress.

“This resolution is critical because of the many questions and criticisms of the investigation raised by the president and his administration,” said House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler. “It is important that Congress stand up for the principle of full transparency.”

It’s unclear exactly what documentation will be produced at the end of the probe into possible coordination between Trump associates and Russia, and how much of that the Justice Department will allow people to see. Mueller is required to submit a report to Barr, and then Barr can decide how much of that is released publicly.

Barr said at his confirmation hearing in January that he takes seriously the department regulations that say Mueller’s report should be confidential. Those regulations require only that the report explain the decisions to pursue or to decline prosecutions, which could be as simple as a bullet point list or as fulsome as a report running hundreds of pages.

“I don’t know what, at the end of the day, what will be releasable. I don’t know what Bob Mueller is writing,” Barr said at the hearing.

The top Republican on the Judiciary panel, Georgia Rep. Doug Collins, said the vote on the resolution was unnecessary but that he would support it anyway. He said he has no reason to believe Barr won’t follow the regulations.

But Democrats have said they are unsatisfied with Barr’s answers and want a stronger commitment to releasing the full report, along with interview transcripts and other underlying evidence.

In introducing the resolution, Nadler and five other Democratic committee chairs said “the public is clearly served by transparency with respect to any investigation that could implicate or exonerate the president and his campaign.”

Texas Rep. Will Hurd, a GOP member of the House intelligence committee, said before the vote that he believes the resolution should have been even broader to include the release of underlying evidence.

“I want the American people to know as much as they can and see as much as they can,” said Hurd, a former CIA officer. He added that “full transparency is the only way to prevent future innuendo.”

If a full report isn’t released, House Democrats have made it clear they will do whatever they can to get hold of it. Nadler has said he would subpoena the final report and invite — or even subpoena — Mueller to talk about it.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has been less eager to push Barr on the release of the report, despite some in his caucus who have said they want to ensure transparency.

Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa introduced legislation with Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut that would require Mueller to submit a detailed report to lawmakers and the public at the end of the investigation. But both McConnell and the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, have declined to say whether they would support the legislation.

Graham said he agrees “with the concept of transparency,” but stopped short of supporting Grassley’s bill, saying he disagrees with taking discretion away from the attorney general.

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China, Saudi Arabia Condemned in Human Rights Report

The human rights situation in China has seen no improvement in recent years, according to a new report presented on Wednesday. The U.S. Department of State also condemns Saudi Arabia in its annual report on human rights abuses around the world. The U.S. ally is cited for last year’s killing of U.S.-based Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul. VOA’s Zlatica Hoke reports Venezuela is also noted for its abysmal human rights record.

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China, Saudi Arabia Condemned in Human Rights Report

The human rights situation in China has seen no improvement in recent years, according to a new report presented on Wednesday. The U.S. Department of State also condemns Saudi Arabia in its annual report on human rights abuses around the world. The U.S. ally is cited for last year’s killing of U.S.-based Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul. VOA’s Zlatica Hoke reports Venezuela is also noted for its abysmal human rights record.

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Senate Demands Trump End US Support for War in Yemen

The U.S. Senate defied President Donald Trump Wednesday and voted to cut off support for the Saudi-led coalition fighting rebels in Yemen.

Seven of Trump’s fellow Republicans sided with Democrats in passing the measure 54-46.

It now goes to the House, which approved its own similar measure this year, only to have the process stall over a procedural issue. Trump has threatened to veto the bill if it reaches his desk, saying it would undermine the counterterrorism fight.

The measure demands Trump “remove United States Armed Forces from hostilities in or affecting the Republic of Yemen within 30 days.”

A first for the War Powers Resolution

If it passes in the House, it would be the first time in history Congress has invoked the 1973 War Powers Resolution, which says Congress determines when the U.S. goes to war, not the president.

“Today, we begin the process of reclaiming our constitutional power by ending U.S. involvement in a war that has not been authorized by Congress and is clearly unconstitutional,” said independent Senator Bernie Sanders, sponsor of the measure.

Opponents argued that the War Powers Resolution does not apply because the U.S. is not directly involved in combat in Yemen.

​Civilians killed, millions face famine

Saudi Arabia is leading a coalition helping Yemen fight Iranian-backed Houthi rebels. The Trump administration has been providing Yemen with intelligence and other support.

Saudi airstrikes aimed at the rebels have also struck civilian areas, killing thousands of people, and devastating entire neighborhoods and hospitals.

The war has also worsened the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, where millions face famine.

Saudi Arabia “is not an ally that deserves our support of our military intervention,” Republican Senator Mike Lee said, adding that the Saudis “are likely using our own weapons … to commit these atrocities of war. That’s not OK.”

​Khashoggi killing

Lawmakers from both parties are not only opposed to the bloodshed in Yemen, but also upset over what they see as Trump’s tepid response to the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October.

His body has not been found.

Trump has called Saudi Arabia — an arch foe of Iran — an essential Mideast ally whose weapons purchases from the U.S. create thousands of American jobs.

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Senate Demands Trump End US Support for War in Yemen

The U.S. Senate defied President Donald Trump Wednesday and voted to cut off support for the Saudi-led coalition fighting rebels in Yemen.

Seven of Trump’s fellow Republicans sided with Democrats in passing the measure 54-46.

It now goes to the House, which approved its own similar measure this year, only to have the process stall over a procedural issue. Trump has threatened to veto the bill if it reaches his desk, saying it would undermine the counterterrorism fight.

The measure demands Trump “remove United States Armed Forces from hostilities in or affecting the Republic of Yemen within 30 days.”

A first for the War Powers Resolution

If it passes in the House, it would be the first time in history Congress has invoked the 1973 War Powers Resolution, which says Congress determines when the U.S. goes to war, not the president.

“Today, we begin the process of reclaiming our constitutional power by ending U.S. involvement in a war that has not been authorized by Congress and is clearly unconstitutional,” said independent Senator Bernie Sanders, sponsor of the measure.

Opponents argued that the War Powers Resolution does not apply because the U.S. is not directly involved in combat in Yemen.

​Civilians killed, millions face famine

Saudi Arabia is leading a coalition helping Yemen fight Iranian-backed Houthi rebels. The Trump administration has been providing Yemen with intelligence and other support.

Saudi airstrikes aimed at the rebels have also struck civilian areas, killing thousands of people, and devastating entire neighborhoods and hospitals.

The war has also worsened the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, where millions face famine.

Saudi Arabia “is not an ally that deserves our support of our military intervention,” Republican Senator Mike Lee said, adding that the Saudis “are likely using our own weapons … to commit these atrocities of war. That’s not OK.”

​Khashoggi killing

Lawmakers from both parties are not only opposed to the bloodshed in Yemen, but also upset over what they see as Trump’s tepid response to the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October.

His body has not been found.

Trump has called Saudi Arabia — an arch foe of Iran — an essential Mideast ally whose weapons purchases from the U.S. create thousands of American jobs.

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Report: O’Rourke to Seek Democratic Presidential Nomination

Beto O’Rourke, the youthful Texan who gained a national following with his long-shot election battle against U.S. Senator Ted Cruz last year, told a Texas TV station Wednesday he would seek the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

“I’m really proud of what El Paso did and what El Paso represents,” O’Rourke said in a text to TV station KTSM. “It’s a big part of why I’m running. This city is the best example of this country at its best.”

A formal announcement will be made Thursday morning by O’Rourke, a 46-year-old former three-term U.S. congressman from West Texas, the television station said.

With his presidential effort, O’Rourke is hoping to leverage the fame he gained with his Senate race. He was a heavy underdog when he challenged Cruz, a Republican, in mostly conservative Texas, but he quickly demonstrated an ability to draw capacity crowds and raise money from voters nationwide.

His Senate bid generated a torrent of media attention and excited voters in a party desperate for fresh political faces.

He lost the race by less than 3 percentage points, the tightest Senate contest in the state in four decades.

Early opinion polls on the 2020 race have consistently ranked O’Rourke in the top tier of contenders, behind former Vice President Joe Biden, who has not yet said whether he is running, and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

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Report: O’Rourke to Seek Democratic Presidential Nomination

Beto O’Rourke, the youthful Texan who gained a national following with his long-shot election battle against U.S. Senator Ted Cruz last year, told a Texas TV station Wednesday he would seek the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

“I’m really proud of what El Paso did and what El Paso represents,” O’Rourke said in a text to TV station KTSM. “It’s a big part of why I’m running. This city is the best example of this country at its best.”

A formal announcement will be made Thursday morning by O’Rourke, a 46-year-old former three-term U.S. congressman from West Texas, the television station said.

With his presidential effort, O’Rourke is hoping to leverage the fame he gained with his Senate race. He was a heavy underdog when he challenged Cruz, a Republican, in mostly conservative Texas, but he quickly demonstrated an ability to draw capacity crowds and raise money from voters nationwide.

His Senate bid generated a torrent of media attention and excited voters in a party desperate for fresh political faces.

He lost the race by less than 3 percentage points, the tightest Senate contest in the state in four decades.

Early opinion polls on the 2020 race have consistently ranked O’Rourke in the top tier of contenders, behind former Vice President Joe Biden, who has not yet said whether he is running, and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

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