Things That Matter

Ambassador Gordon Sondland Gives Democrats New Information In Impeachment Hearings

The fourth day of public testimony in the impeachment inquiry of President Trump proved to be one of the most eye-opening days so far. Gordon Sondland, U.S. ambassador to the European Union, told House Intelligence Committee members that President Trump was the person behind the push to get Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden in exchange for a White House visit. 

Sondland said President Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani asked Ukrainian officials to make a public statement that Biden would be investigated. This would be done in return for inviting President Volodymyr Zelensky to the White House. This prompted one of the biggest moments in the impeachment hearings so far as Sondland said in the clearest terms that there was a quid pro quo with Ukraine. 

“I know that members of this committee frequently frame these complicated issues in the form of a simple question: Was there a quid pro quo?” Sondland said. “As I testified previously, with regard to the requested White House call and the White House meeting, the answer is yes.

U.S. ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland’s testimony provided House Democrats with the strongest evidence yet in their inquiry into Trump’s efforts to get Ukraine’s

To this point in the impeachment inquiry, Sondland is the most significant witness yet and his testimony reflected that. Having Sondland testify was a challenge itself as he had previously been blocked by the Trump administration from testifying in the hearing but ultimately came forward to discuss his dealings. 

“I agreed to testify because I respect the gravity of the moment and I believe I have an obligation to recount fully my role in the events,” Sondland said. “I did so despite the directives from the White House and the State Department.”

From the ambassador’s accounts, he, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, and U.S. special envoy to Ukraine  Kurt Volker, who testified on Tuesday, were told by Trump to work with Giuliani on Ukrainian matters back in May. This didn’t sit well with Sondland and other State Department officials. 

“We weren’t happy with the president’s directive to talk with Rudy. We did not want to involve Mr. Giuliani. I believed then, as I do now, that the men and women of the State Department, not the president’s personal lawyer, should take responsibility for Ukrainian matters,” Sondland said. “We did not want to work with Mr. Giuliani. Simply put, we were playing the hand we were dealt.”

Another key moment on Wednesday from Sondland was that other senior officials that included Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and current White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, knew about the quid pro quo for the potential White House meeting with Zelensky.

“We can see why Secretary Pompeo and President Trump have made such a concerted and across the board effort to obstruct this investigation and this impeachment inquiry,” House Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said during his opening statement. “They do so at their own peril.”

Republicans put Sondland’s testimony under scrutiny questioning his first-hand accounts of everything that went down between Trump and his dealings in Ukraine. 

Constant scrutiny from Republican members of the committee has been a common theme throughout the first week of these hearings. Even as the most damning claims against Trump have been heavily questioned in their legitimacy. Wednesday proved no different as Sondland shut down Republican arguments that the president had any intention of building a relationship and battling corruption in Ukraine. 

Republican members also questioned the validity of the hearings in part because Ukraine got its $400 million in U.S. aid despite Zelensky never announcing an investigation of the Biden family. 

Things weren’t much different from President Trump as reporters asked him what his thoughts were on the testimonies on Wednesday. 

Carrying some notes that he jotted down, Trump responded to Sondland’s earlier claims that he did indeed ask for a favor in return regarding Ukraine. “I want nothing! I want nothing!” Trump told reporters.  “I want no quid pro quo. This is the final word from the president of the United States. I want nothing.”

Trump also told reporters that he didn’t know Sondland saying, “This is not a man I know well. He seems like a nice guy though.” The statement is the latest walk-back from the president about his relationship with Sondland, who donated $1 million to Trump’s inaugural committee. It also follows the president’s usual reaction to negative press by denying a relationship with any of the people involved.

Many Democrats see Wednesday as the first cracks in the impeachment inquiry hearings that lead to a possible criminal investigation. Looking at the way Trump has reacted to these hearings, things aren’t looking that great for him. 

READ: Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg Apologizes For Years Of Stop-And-Frisk Policy Ahead Of Possible 2020 Run

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Peru’s President Survives Impeachment Over Handling Of Coronavirus But What Happens Next?

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Peru’s President Survives Impeachment Over Handling Of Coronavirus But What Happens Next?

Chris Bouroncle / Getty Images

Earlier this month, Peru’s Congress moved to initiate impeachment proceedings against the country’s president over his alleged involvement with a singer involved in a fraud case. However, Peru’s struggle to contain the Coroanvirus outbreak also became a focal point of the impeachment proceedings.

Although, President Martín Vizcarra survived the impeachment vote this week, his country is still spiraling out of control in terms of the Covid-19 pandemic. Peru now has one of the world’s highest mortality rates, made worse by political strife and Peruvians are wondering where the country goes next amid all the turmoil.

Peru’s President survived his impeachment trial but he still faces serious hurdles in the road ahead.

What started out as an alleged fraud and corruption case, devolved into a sort of referendum on Vizcarra’s handling of the country’s failed Coronavirus response. The Coronavirus tragedy has fueled political insurrection. On Sept. 18, an opportunistic legislature tried to oust the president, who has been dogged by accusations of misusing public funds and then covering up the scandal.

However, the revolt fell flat. Just 32 lawmakers voted to remove Vizcarra, glaringly short of the 87-vote impeachment threshold, which is a good thing. Regime change on top of a public health hecatomb might have pushed the afflicted nation that much closer to collapse.

The decision came after long hours of debate in which legislators blasted Vizcarra but also questioned whether a rushed impeachment process would only create more turmoil in the middle of a health and economic crisis.

“It’s not the moment to proceed with an impeachment which would add even more problems to the tragedy we are living,” lawmaker Francisco Sagasti said.

The original impeachment case stemmed from his alleged involvement with a singer who faced serious charges of fraud.

President Vizcarra faced the challenge to his leadership after the Congress approved a motion to start impeachment proceedings against him over leaked audio tapes and alleged ties to a singer involved in a fraud case.

Lawmakers in Peru’s Congress, a mosaic of parties from the left and right with no overall majority, heard recordings of two private conversations between Vizcarra and government officials about meetings with Richard Cisneros, a little-known singer.

Vizcarra told reporters that the new challenge represented “a plot to destabilise the government.” “I am not going to resign,” he said. “I have a commitment to Peru and I will fulfill it until the last day of my mandate.”

Presidential elections are due to be held next year and Vizcarra has already said he will not run again.

But given Peru’s failed Covid-19 response, the president also faces serious doubts in his abilities to bring the country back from the brink.

Latin America has been devastated by the pandemic and it’s only been exacerbated by the total obliteration of growing wealth across the region – as millions are left out of work. The pandemic has largely undone decades of hard work that helped pull millions of Latin Americans out of poverty.

And Peru once the showpiece of Latin American economies — growing at a pacesetting 6.1% a year between 2002 and 2013 and lifting 6.4 million out of poverty — the country saw gross domestic product fall 30% in the second quarter, and is likely to finish the year aound 17% poorer before rebounding next year, according to Bloomberg Economics. Despite generous aid to the poor and strict social distancing rules that drew international praise, the Andean country has been burdened by the pandemic with one of the world’s highest mortality rates.

The possibility of a president being impeached amid the pandemic, had many in the U.S. wondering if we could do the same.

In the U.S., Donald Trump has left much of the country to fend for itself as the pandemic ravages state after state. There has been little in the way of a national plan for how to overcome the outbreak. In fact, many lies about the virus, treatment, and contagion have come directly from the president himself.

He’s even instructed the CDC to stop sharing pandemic-related information with the public, and instead to send all data directly to the White House.

Donald Trump and his administration have sowed division and false information that has resulted in the deaths of more than 200,000 Americans and months of on and off again quarantine orders that seem to have no end in sight. With policies like this, it’s no surprise that some are seriously considering a second impeachment trial.

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Nearly 9,000 Unaccompanied Child Migrants Have Been Expelled From the U.S. Under Trump’s COVID-19 Restrictions

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Nearly 9,000 Unaccompanied Child Migrants Have Been Expelled From the U.S. Under Trump’s COVID-19 Restrictions

On Friday, previously undisclosed court documents revealed that almost 9,000 unaccompanied migrant children seeking refuge were denied access to the U.S. and subsequently expelled from U.S. soil. None of these children were given a chance in court.

According to reporting done by CBS News, U.S. Department of Homeland Security officials have “suspended humanitarian protections” for most migrants crossing the border, on the grounds that “public health law overrides asylum, immigration and anti-trafficking safeguards” in the era of COVID-19.

CBS news made the shocking discovery when investigating the problematic and increased practice of holding and detaining minors in unregulated, privately contracted hotel rooms.

The government is arguing that the practice is keeping the American public safe from possibly COVID-19 exposure from unauthorized migrants.

“What we’re trying to do…is remove all individuals, regardless of whether they’re children — minors — or they’re adults,” Customs and Border Patrol official Mark Morgan said in an August media briefing.

He continued: “We’re trying to remove [the migrants] as fast as we can, to not put them in our congregate settings, to not put them into our system, to not have them remain in the United States for a long period of time, therefore increasing the exposure risk of everybody they come in contact with.”

via Getty Images

But critics are claiming that the Trump Administration is using COVID-19 as an excuse to unlawfully expel as many migrants as possible–regardless of their age.

On Friday, federal Judge Dolly M. Gee ordered the administration to put an end to the practice of detaining children in hotel rooms, saying that hotels do not “adequately account for the vulnerability of unaccompanied minors in detention”. She asked the government to put an end to the practice by September 15th.

It is in the court documents regarding the above case that 8,800 expelled migrant children number was revealed.

“The numbers are stunning,” said executive director of the Immigrant Defenders Law Center, Lindsay Toczylowski, to CBS News. “…To find out that our government has literally taken children who are seeking protection and sent them back to the very places they fled in such high numbers really took my breath away.”

via Getty Images

US Border Patrol Deputy Chief Raul Ortiz has defended the unsafe hotel detainment and speedy expulsion of migrant children, saying that stopping the practice would increase risk of exposure to health and customs officials alike.

But even if the practice comes to an end, the staggering number of unaccompanied migrant and refugee children left to their own devices is sitting heavy on the soul of advocates and activists.

“It’s just completely contrary, not only to all child protection norms and standards, but also just completely contrary to our values as a nation around protecting the most vulnerable,” said vice president for international programs at Kids in Need of Defense Lisa Frydman to CNN. “Because we are just wholesale shipping them out without making sure that it’s safe for them to go.”

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