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Witnesses From Third Day Of Impeachment Hearings Offer Information Defending And Implicating Trump

Day three of the public impeachment hearings offered few positives for President Trump as the House Intelligence Committee heard from four more witnesses on Tuesday. The first part of the hearing featured vivid testimonies from two key witnesses, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a National Security Council official who heard President Trump’s call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, and Jennifer Williams, a foreign policy adviser to Vice President Mike Pence. The later part of the day was devoted to two witnesses called forth by Republicans, former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Kurt Volker and former Trump foreign policy adviser Tim Morrison.

Unlike previous witnesses in the impeachment investigation, three of the four individuals who testified on Tuesday actually listened in on the July 25th phone call with Trump and Zelensky. All of them expressed serious concerns with President Trump’s phone call and spoke at length about the implications of his conversation with Zelensky. They say Trump used foreign policy to benefit his reelection campaign by using military aid in an effort to force Ukraine to investigate his political rival, Joe Biden. 

One of the most pivotal moments on Tuesday was the testimony from Lt. Col. Vindman who said that the phone call was “improper” and was concerned.

 The Iraq War veteran called out Trump saying that he acted out of duty and told a senior lawyer at the National Security Council about his concerns.

 “Without hesitation, I knew that I had to report this to the White House counsel,” Vindman said. “I had concerns and it was my duty to report my concerns to the proper people in the chain of command.”

 Vindman told committee members that he found many of the things that Trump discussed in the phone as troublesome. He implied that Trump could do further damage to both Ukraine’s efforts to establish itself as an independent nation as well as the national security of the United States.

“It was improper for the president to request to demand an investigation into a political opponent,” Vindman said. “This would have significant implications if it became public knowledge…It would undermine our Ukraine policy. It would undermine our national security.”

Republicans countered by questioning Vindman and his political standing throughout his testimony. Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), the head Republican on the Intelligence Committee, repeatedly jabbed at Vindman asking him if he could identify the anonymous whistleblower whose complaint helped trigger the impeachment proceedings. 

There was even some shots taken at Vindman from the White House’s social media page that tried to discredit his testimony. Vindman affirmed his loyalty to the U.S. and dismissed the idea that he was a “never-trumper”.  

“I’m an American,” Vindman said. “I came here when I was a toddler and I immediately dismissed these offers. Did not entertain them…the whole notion is rather comical.”

Jennifer Williams, an adviser to Vice President Mike Pence, who also listened to the July 25 phone call, said it was “unusual and inappropriate.”

Credit: @KyleGriffin1 / Twitter

Williams said she found the president’s call unusual because it included discussion of a “domestic political matter.” She said that she wasn’t sure why aid was being withheld from Ukraine. Williams couldn’t recall any national security official in the U.S government who supported the decision to withhold the security aid for Ukraine. 

“I found the July 25 phone call unusual because, in contrast to other presidential calls I had observed, it involved discussion of what appeared to be a domestic political matter,” Williams testified. 

President Trump took to Twitter to attack Williams and her testimony. “Tell Jennifer Williams, whoever that is, to read BOTH transcripts of the presidential calls, & see the just-released statement from Ukraine. Then she should meet with the other Never Trumpers, who I don’t know & mostly never even heard of, & work out a better presidential attack!”

Throughout the day Republicans attempted to discredit witnesses and testimonies. 

Committee Republicans quickly took to criticizing testimonies throughout the day claiming that Vindman and Williams were simply giving his personal opinion about the phone call. President Trump also chimed in on the hearings throughout the day portraying Vindman as a liar and a Democratic pawn. 

This seems to be continuing theme during the first few days of these hearings and show no sign of stopping anytime soon.  If these are the best defenses Trump and fellow committee republicans can come up, there is trouble on the way when it comes to a vote against impeachment.

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Trump Plans To Label Mexican Drug Cartels As Terror Organizations, Here’s Why That’s Such A Big Deal

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Trump Plans To Label Mexican Drug Cartels As Terror Organizations, Here’s Why That’s Such A Big Deal

El Universal

According to the dictionary, a terrorist is “a person who uses unlawful violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims.” The FBI separates terrorism in two catagories: international terrorism which they define as”violent, criminal acts committed by individuals and/or groups who are inspired by, or associated with, designated foreign terrorist organizations or nations.”

Then there’s domestic terrorism, which the FBI notes is “violent, criminal acts committed by individuals and/or groups to further ideological goals stemming from domestic influences, such as those of a political, religious, social, racial, or environmental nature.” We like to clearly define what the word means, especially to the government, because there’s a new type of affiliation that will be incorporated into those categories. 

Donald Trump, President of the United States, says that the Mexican cartel will be designated as terrorists. 

During an interview last night with former Fox News anchor Bill O’Reilly, Trump said he would be designating the Mexican cartel as terrorists,  which would give the U.S. more authority in Mexico and also in how they prosecute cartel criminals in the U.S. 

O’Reilly asked him, “you will be hitting them with drones?” and Trump responded by saying, “I won’t say what I’m going to be doing but…I’ve already offered [Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador] to let us go in and clean it out and he so far has rejected the offer but at some point something has to be done.”

He added, “They will be designated… I have been working on that for the last 90 days. You know designation is not that easy, you have to go through a process, and we are well into that process.”

Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard responded to Trump’s words by saying they cooperate with the U.S., but as of now, the Mexican government will be dealing with the cartels in their country. 

“Mutual respect is the basis for cooperation,” Ebrard said, according to the BBC. López Obrador said a similar statement during his daily press conference. He said, “Our problems will be solved by Mexicans. We don’t want any interference from any foreign country.”

The move by Trump comes less than a month after nine family members were gunned down in Mexico. While those that were killed lived in Mexico, they were U.S. citizens. 

Trump vowed back then that he would take action. He tweeted, “If Mexico needs or requests help in cleaning out these monsters, the United States stands ready, willing & able to get involved and do the job quickly and effectively. The great new President of Mexico has made this a big issue, but the cartels have become so large and powerful that you sometimes need an army to defeat an army!”

López Obrador declined Trump’s offer in assistance, saying, “This is a matter of our sovereignty,” according to the Washington Post. 

According to the BBC, if the Mexican cartel is indeed designated as terrorists, the implication could affect people in the U.S. that are found to have ties to them. 

“When a group is designated as a terrorist organization in the U.S., it becomes illegal for people in the U.S. to knowingly offer support,” the BBC reports. “Its members are also banned from entering the U.S. If they are already in the U.S., they face being deported.”

We have already seen repercussions of that already in many ways. For example, one of the most famous drug lords of all-time was tried and found guilty in the U.S. Yes, we’re talking about El Chapo. Earlier this year, his trial, which was held in Brooklyn. The U.S. was able to have El Chapo extradited to the U.S. on charges that he and his operation exported drugs to the U.S. from Mexico. 

“[El Chapo]’s destructive and murderous rise as an international narcotics trafficker is akin to a small cancerous tumor that metastasized and grew into a full-blown scourge that for decades littered the streets of Mexico with the casualties of violent drug wars over turf,” Robert Capers, Brooklyn’s U.S. Attorney said in 2017 to NBC News

While Trump may have ambitious ideas about who will be proclaimed a terrorist, as he said himself, it will be a process. 

Trump, who is known to have many ideas, is typically rejected due to illegal logistics or uninformed knowledge. If Mexico’s president doesn’t comply with Trump’s request and the U.S. sends military or attacks Mexico in any way over issues of drugs, well, that could lead to an enormous consequence. It’s interesting to note that Trump would seek to declare the Mexican cartel terrorists but yet he refrains from calling white mass shooters domestic terrorists, even though officials do refer to them as such.  

READ: Mexican Authorities Think The Mormon Family Was Murdered Because A Drug Lord Thought They Were A Rival Gang

Fifth Day Of Impeachment Hearings Show Republicans Desperate To Change The Narrative

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Fifth Day Of Impeachment Hearings Show Republicans Desperate To Change The Narrative

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Thursday marked the end of five days of public testimony by dozens of witnesses and evidence put forward in the impeachment inquiry of President Trump. While there is still so much to consider, it looks apparent that there have been no Republicans that have been swayed to support impeachment as of now.

If there is going to be any testimony that is going to change that, it had to have come on Thursday as Fiona Hill, who served as the senior director for Europe and Russia on the White House’s National Security Council before resigning last summer, took charge at Republicans. 

Hill, along with David Holmes, a political counselor at the U.S. embassy in Ukraine, criticized Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee for putting forth such theories that Ukraine, and not Russia, interfered in the 2016 presidential election.

“I refuse to be part of an effort to legitimize an alternate narrative that the Ukrainian government is a U.S. adversary, and that Ukraine — not Russia — attacked us in 2016. These fictions are harmful even if they are deployed for purely domestic political purposes.” Hill said in her opening statements.

Hill gave an eye-opening testimony that criticized Republicans for taking part in advancing unproven claims that Ukraine not Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential elections. 

Hill emphasized the importance of her testifying in front of the House Intelligence Committee, especially what’s at stake in these hearings. She spoke about her background growing up in the U.K. and her family’s respect for America is why she became a U.S. citizen.

 Hill, who has served under three different Republican and Democratic presidents, also spoke at length about the dangers of having debunked conspiracies that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election. The theory, which was promoted by President Trump, was based on the presumption that Ukraine favored Hillary Clinton and harmed Trump. 

“Some of you on this committee appear to believe that Russia and its security services did not conduct a campaign against our country — and that perhaps, somehow, for some reason, Ukraine did. This is a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves,” she said. “In the course of this investigation, I would ask that you please not promote politically driven falsehoods that so clearly advance Russian interests.

Hill also spoke about her conflict with Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, and his efforts in Ukraine.  

Hill said she questioned Gordon Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union, about his relationship with President Trump and his testimony on Wednesday that he was working on Ukraine policy at Trump’s direction. At first, Hill suspected Sondland was overreaching in his authority to push Ukraine to launch investigations into the Biden family. Later, he realized that he was acting on instructions given by Trump sent through his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani. 

“He was being involved in a domestic political errand. We were being involved in national security, foreign policy,” Hill said. “And those two things have just diverged.”

She made it clear that Giuliani played an influential role in pursuing these investigations with Ukraine. He “was clearly pushing forward issues and ideas that would, you know, probably come back to haunt us and in fact,” Hill said. “I think that’s where we are today.”

What does all of this mean moving forward when it comes to President Trump getting impeached? It’s hard to say. 

As of today, Rep. Will Hurd of Texas is the lone Republican on the House Intelligence Committee that has found any of the president’s actions troublesome. While Hurd wasn’t pleased to hear how Trump has conducted foreign policy, it’s not enough to push forward impeachment.

“I disagree with this sort of bungling foreign policy,” Hurd said. “I have not heard evidence proving the president committed bribery or extortion.”

If Democrats are going to have any chance of proceeding with this impeachment inquiry they will need more Republicans to be swayed. These are important issues to consider as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats will have to decide how they’ll move ahead in this battle of impeachment.

One thing did become clear after five days of hearings: evidence is pointing clearly to the notion President Trump directed a foreign policy campaign to get Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, to investigate Democrats in exchange for an Oval Office meeting.

 Whether that’s enough to move forward with impeachment is hard to say. If House Democrats do indeed move forward with articles of impeachment, a Senate trial in which Republicans can use their majority and easily protect Trump. 

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