US House Speaker Pelosi rebukes reporter: 'Don't mess with me'
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., responds
forcefully to a question from a reporter who asked if she hated President
Trump, after announcing earlier that the House is moving forward to draft
articles of impeachment against Trump, at the Capitol in Washington,
Thursday, Dec. 5, 2019. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
WASHINGTON (AP) — Finger pointing
and voice hoarse, US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday delivered a
broadside to a reporter that might well apply to all of impeachment-era
Washington: "Don't mess with me."
It was a warning scarcely needed
among the official set, least of all by President Donald Trump as he fights
Pelosi and the Democrats in their drive to impeach him. Only a few hours
earlier, Pelosi had instructed the Judiciary Committee to write articles of
impeachment — formal charges — against Trump for pressuring Ukraine to
investigate Democrat Joe Biden and resisting Congress' probe.
The House speaker insisted she
brought impeachment proceedings because Trump's conduct and the
Constitution left the House no choice.
"The president's actions have
seriously violated the Constitution," Pelosi said from the speaker's office
at the Capitol. "He is trying to corrupt, once again, the election for his
own benefit. The president has engaged in abuse of power, undermining our
national security and jeopardizing the integrity of our elections."
But as the California Democrat began
exiting a news conference two hours later, James Rosen, a reporter for
Sinclair Broadcast Group, asked, "Do you hate the president, Madam Speaker?"
What followed was a remarkable
display from the famously poised Pelosi.
She stopped near the edge of the
podium, jabbed a finger and said tersely: "I don't hate anybody."
Pelosi went on to call Trump a
"coward" on gun policy, "cruel" on immigration and "in denial" on climate
"This is about the Constitution of
the United States and the facts that lead to the president's violation of
the oath of office. And as a Catholic I resent your using the word hate in a
sentence that addresses me.''
Trump tweeted that Pelosi "just had
a nervous fit."
"She says she 'prays for the
President.' I don't believe her, not even close," he added.
Pelosi, a native of Baltimore, often
speaks of her faith as a guide to matters ranging from legislation to life
in general. Catholic catechism states that "deliberate hatred is contrary to
charity" and urges believers to pray for those who hold animosity toward
them, a teaching that Pelosi has invoked by saying that she prays for Trump.
It's not the first time she's
confronted the challenging interplay between politics and her faith. In
2009, during her previous stint as House speaker, Pelosi, who supports
abortion rights, met with Pope Francis' predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, for
a conversation that the Vatican later said touched on "protecting human life
at all stages of its development."
On Thursday, she returned to the
podium after the reporter's question about "hate," and finished by pointing
a thumb toward herself.
"Don't mess with me when it comes to
words like that."
Moments later, Trump and House
Republicans lashed out in heated personal tones.
House Republican leader Kevin
McCarthy tweeted, "Pelosi and the Democrats are clearly are blinded by their
hate for the President."
Pelosi has generally dominated
confrontations with Trump all year in her second turn as House speaker,
second in line to the presidency.
In January, she forced Trump to
re-open the government without the border wall he was demanding. She allowed
him into the House chamber to deliver the traditional State of the Union
speech, but stole that show by clapping sideways and smirking at Trump from
her seat above and behind him.
Trump knows her finger-pointing
well. Most recently, during a White House meeting, she stood, pointed at him
and said, "all roads lead to Putin," Russia's president — and walked out.
OPEC talks end without announcement of expected cuts
General view of a meeting of
oil ministers of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries,
OPEC, at their headquarters in Vienna, Austria, Austria, Thursday, Dec. 5,
2019. (AP Photo/Ronald Zak)
METZLER and DAVID McHUGH
VIENNA (AP) — The countries that
make up the OPEC oil-producing cartel ended talks late Thursday without an
announcement on possible deep cuts to production that would support the
price of fuel around the world.
An OPEC spokesman told waiting
journalists at 10 p.m. (2100 GMT) that an expected news conference would not
take place and that a written statement might come later. Saudi Arabia's
energy minister, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, and other officials then left
the meeting without announcing any deal.
OPEC's members have been expected to
prolong production cuts that they agreed on for the past three years, while
Russia's energy minister said that even deeper cuts were under discussion.
The price of crude has been held down in recent years by a resurgence in
supplies from countries outside OPEC, particularly the United States.
As it stands, OPEC nations have
agreed to cut production by 1.2 million barrels per day through March.
Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak, whose country is not part of OPEC
but joins part of the meeting to coordinate production, said Thursday that
the group was discussing a further cut of 500,000 barrels a day "in order to
safely go through the seasonal demand trough in the first quarter 2020."
OPEC officials were to broaden
discussions to include non-OPEC members on Friday.
Saudi Arabia is bearing the burden
of the largest share of OPEC's production cuts. But some member countries
such as Iraq have been breaching the agreement and producing more than their
Analysts note that if countries are
already not complying with the current agreement, voting for more cuts could
"I think the Saudi position is
they're willing to cut more if needed, but they want better compliance,"
said Bhushan Bahree, executive director of global oil at research group IHS
Brent crude oil hovered near $63 per
barrel Thursday. Prices have fluctuated throughout the year, reaching nearly
$75 in April after U.S. sanctions on Iran and Venezuela limited world
supply, but lingering trade tensions between the U.S. and China dampened
economic expectations pushed prices back down.
West Texas Intermediate, the U.S.
benchmark crude, was trading above $58.
Russia has indicated it wants its
oil production re-calculated to exclude gas condensate, a liquid byproduct
of natural gas production. Condensate is counted against production totals
for non-OPEC members but not for members.
Even if members of the cartel cut
production, there is more oil coming to market from non-OPEC nations,
including the U.S., Canada, Brazil, Norway and Guyana, which will more than
make up for any drop in production, according to IHS Markit.
Putin offers US an immediate extension to key nuclear pact
Russian President Vladimir
Putin speaks during the International Volunteer Forum at the Olympic Park in
Sochi, Russia, Dec. 5, 2019. (Shamil Zhumatov/Pool Photo via AP)
By VLADIMIR ISACHENKOV
MOSCOW (AP) — Russian
President Vladimir Putin offered Thursday to immediately extend the only
remaining nuclear arms reduction pact with the United States, but a senior
U.S. official said Washington wants a broader deal involving China.
Speaking at a meeting with military
officials, Putin said that Russia has repeatedly offered the U.S. to extend
the New START treaty that expires in 2021 but that it hasn't heard back.
"Russia is ready to extend the New
START treaty immediately, before the year's end and without any
preconditions," he said.
The pact, which was signed in 2010
by U.S. President Barack Obama and then Russian President Dmitry Medvedev,
limits each country to no more than 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads and 700
deployed missiles and bombers. The treaty, which can be extended by another
five years, envisages a comprehensive verification mechanism to check
compliance, including on-site inspections of each side's nuclear bases.
Its expiration would remove any
limits on Russian and U.S. nuclear arsenals for the first time in decades.
Arms control advocates have argued
that the failure to extend the pact would be highly destabilizing at a time
when Russia-U.S. relations have sunk to the lowest levels since the Cold
Putin and other Russian officials
have repeatedly voiced concern about Washington's reluctance to discuss the
"Our proposals have been on the
table, but we have got no response from our partners," Putin said.
In Washington, a senior Pentagon
official suggested the Trump administration is not interested in an
immediate extension and sees no rush anyway as New Start doesn't expire
until Feb. 2021.
John Rood, the undersecretary of
defense for policy, told a Senate committee that the administration's main
priority is getting Russia and China to agree to begin negotiations on a
broader arms treaty to supplant New START.
"If the United States were to agree
to extend the treaty now, I think it would make it less likely that we would
have the ability to persuade Russia and China to enter negotiations on a
broader agreement," Rood said.
In an apparent bid to encourage the
U.S. to extend the treaty, the Russian military last month showed its latest
hypersonic weapon to U.S. inspectors. The Defense Ministry underlined that
it demonstrated the Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle as part of
transparency measures under the New START.
Putin unveiled the Avangard in 2018
along with other prospective weapons, noting that its ability to make sharp
maneuvers on its way to a target will render missile defense useless.
New START is the only remaining
U.S.-Russian nuclear arms control treaty after both Moscow and Washington
withdrew from the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty
earlier this year.
The U.S. said it pulled out because
of Russian violations, a claim the Kremlin has denied.
Putin reaffirmed Russia's pledge not
to deploy missiles banned by the INF treaty until the U.S. and its allies do
"Russia isn't interested in
unleashing a new arms race," he said.
Democrats say Trump impeachment charges must come swiftly
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., makes a
statement at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 5, 2019. Pelosi
announced that the House is moving forward to draft articles of impeachment
against President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
MASCARO and MARY CLARE JALONICK
WASHINGTON (AP) — House
Democrats moved aggressively to draw up formal articles of impeachment
against President Donald Trump on Thursday, with Speaker Nancy Pelosi saying
he "leaves us no choice" but to act swiftly because he's likely to corrupt
the system again unless removed before next year's election.
A strictly partisan effort at this
point, derided immediately by Trump and other leading Republicans as a sham
and a hoax, it is a politically risky undertaking. Democrats say it is their
duty, in the aftermath of the Ukraine probe, while Republicans say it will
drive Pelosi's majority from office.
Congress must act, Pelosi said. "The
democracy is what is at stake."
"The president's actions have
seriously violated the Constitution," she said in a somber address at the
Capitol. "He is trying to corrupt, once again, the election for his own
benefit. The president has engaged in abuse of power, undermining our
national security and jeopardizing the integrity of our elections."
Trump has insisted he did nothing
wrong. He tweeted that the Democrats "have gone crazy."
At the core of the impeachment probe
is a July phone call with the president of Ukraine, in which Trump pressed
the leader to announce investigations of Democrats, including political
rival Joe Biden, at the same time the White House was withholding military
aid from an ally bordering an aggressive Russia.
Drafting articles of impeachment is
a milestone moment, only the fourth time in U.S. history Congress has tried
to remove a president, and it intensifies the rigid and polarizing
partisanship of the Trump era that is consuming Washington and dividing the
The speaker delivered her historic
announcement in solemn tones at the Capitol, drawing on the Constitution and
the Founding Fathers in forcefully claiming Congress' oversight of the
president in the nation's system of checks and balances. Democrats are
already beginning to prepare the formal charges, pushing toward House votes,
possibly before Christmas.
"Sadly, but with confidence and
humility, with allegiance to our founders and a heart full of love for
America, today I am asking our chairmen to proceed with articles of
impeachment," Pelosi said.
Seemingly eager to fight, Trump
tweeted that if Democrats "are going to impeach me, do it now, fast." Though
he has fought the House investigation, trying to bar current and former
officials from testifying, he said he now wants to move on to a "fair trial"
in the Senate.
Approval of articles of impeachment
is considered likely in the Democratic-majority House. Conviction in a
following trial in the Republican-dominated Senate seems very unlikely.
Once reluctant to pursue
impeachment, warning it was too divisive for the country and needed to be
bipartisan, Pelosi is now leading Congress into politically uncertain
terrain for all sides just ahead of the election year.
Republican are standing lockstep
with Trump, unswayed by arguments that his actions amount to wrongdoing, let
alone impeachable offenses. That is leaving Democrats to go it alone in a
campaign to consider removing the 45th president from office.
Pelosi emphasized the Russia
connection, from special counsel Robert Mueller's probe into 2016 election
interference to the president's phone call this summer with Ukrainian
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy that set off alarms in Washington.
Russia and President Vladimir Putin
benefited most from Trump's actions toward Ukraine, she said.
"All roads lead to Putin. Understand
that," she declared at a news conference. "That was the a-ha moment."
She spoke solemnly and calmly, but
that changed when she was asked as she was leaving if she hates Trump.
Pelosi stiffened, returned to the
podium and responded sharply that the president's views and politics are for
the voters to judge at elections but impeachment "is about the
Constitution." She said that as a Catholic, she does not hate the president
but rather is praying for him daily.
Trump quickly tweeted back that he
didn't believe her.
Trump's allies argue that voters,
not lawmakers, should decide the president's future. But Democrats say the
nation cannot wait for the 2020 election, alleging Trump's past efforts to
have foreign countries intervene in the presidential campaign are forcing
them to act to prevent him from doing it again. Pelosi said the
still-anonymous whistleblower's complaint about Trump's Ukraine call changed
the dynamic, creating the urgency to act.
The number of articles and the
allegations they will include will be both a legal and political exercise
for the House committee chairmen, who will be meeting privately. They must
balance electoral dynamics while striving to hit the Constitution's bar of
"treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors."
Pulling from the House's 300-page
investigation of the Ukraine matter, Democrats are focusing on at least
three areas — abuse of power, bribery and obstruction — that could result in
two to five articles, they say.
They argue that Trump abused the
power of his office by putting personal political gain over national
security interests; engaging in bribery by holding out $400 million in
military aid that Congress had approved for Ukraine; and then obstructing
Congress by stonewalling the investigation.
Some liberal Democrats want to reach
further into Trump's actions, particularly regarding the findings from
special counsel Mueller's report on Russian interference in the 2016
election. That could produce an additional article of obstruction not only
of Congress, but also of justice.
But more centrist and moderate
Democrats, those lawmakers who are most at risk of political fallout from
the impeachment proceedings, prefer to stick with the Ukraine matter as a
simpler narrative that Americans can more easily understand.
The GOP Leader of the House, Kevin
McCarthy, said Pelosi is more concerned about tearing the president down
than building the country up. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.,
criticized Democrats for focusing on impeachment over other issues, though
many House-passed bills are waiting for action in his chamber. "It's all
impeachment, all the time," he said.
At the White House, press secretary
Stephanie Grisham tweeted that Pelosi and the Democrats "should be ashamed."
House members are preparing to vote
on the articles of impeachment in the Judiciary Committee, possibly as soon
as next week. The committee set a Monday hearing to receive the Intelligence
Committee's report outlining the findings against the president.
The House is expecting a full vote
by Christmas. The would send the issue to the Senate for a trial in the new
Trump calls Trudeau '2-faced' after palace gossip goes viral
In this grab taken from video on Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2019,
France's President Emmanuel Macro, centre right, gestures as he speaks
during a NATO reception. (Host Broadcaster via AP)
WATFORD, England (AP) — NATO
leaders professed unity on Wednesday at a summit near London — but a spat
over off-the-cuff chit chat at a royal reception rattled their show of
U.S. President Donald Trump branded
the leader of America's northern neighbor "two-faced" after Canadian Prime
Minister Justin Trudeau appeared to gossip about Trump in comments caught on
camera and microphone.
Trudeau was seen standing in a
huddle with French President Emmanuel Macron, British Prime Minister Boris
Johnson, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Britain's Princess Anne,
daughter of Queen Elizabeth II at Tuesday evening's Buckingham Palace
reception for NATO leaders.
After Johnson asked Macron, "is that
why you were late?" Trudeau could be heard saying "he was late because he
takes a 40-minute press conference off the top." Trudeau confirmed that was
a reference to Trump's long and unscheduled question-and-answer session with
journalists earlier Tuesday.
Trudeau also said: "You just watched
his team's jaws drop to the floor." He explained Wednesday that was in
reference to Trump's decision to hold the next Group of Seven meeting at
Camp David, the presidential retreat.
Footage of the palace reception was
recorded by a pool camera. The clip was posted online by Canadian
broadcaster CBC and has been viewed more than 5 million times.
Speaking Wednesday at the summit
venue in Watford, outside London, Trump said Trudeau was likely upset that
the U.S. president had broached the fact that Canada falls short of the NATO
target of spending 2% of its gross domestic product on defense.
"Well he's two-faced," Trump told
reporters. "And honestly, with Trudeau he's a nice guy, I find him to be a
very nice guy but you know the truth is that I called him out on the fact
that he's not paying 2% and I guess he's not very happy about it."
Trudeau had a quiet word and a
handshake with Trump as he arrived at the summit Wednesday, and later tried
to shrug off the episode.
"As you all know, we have a very
good and constructive relationship between me and the president," Trudeau
told reporters at a news conference.
Asked if the incident had given him
pause for thought, Trudeau said that ensuring the focus of attention
remained on matters of substance "is something that we're all going to try
to do a little harder."
Johnson, meanwhile, professed
ignorance when asked by reporters about the conversation.
"That's complete nonsense," he said,
adding: "I really don't know what is being referred to there."
Leaders of the 29 NATO states met to
mark the 70th anniversary of the military alliance — and trying to patch up
differences over defense spending, the alliance's strategic direction and
member nation Turkey's military action in northern Syria.
The two-day gathering ended with a
show of unity, as the leaders declared their commitment to the alliance's
principle of collective defense, saying in their final declaration that "an
attack against one Ally shall be considered an attack against us all."
French trains stop as mass strike begins over pensions
In this May 14, 2018 file photo, a striking rail worker
walks on the tracks of the Saint-Charles train station, in Marseille,
southern France. (AP Photo/Claude Paris, File)
CHARLTON and ALEX TURNBULL
PARIS (AP) — French trains rolled to
a halt Wednesday evening, kicking off massive nationwide strikes and
protests against President Emmanuel Macron's plans to overhaul the
retirement system, seen as an untouchable symbol of the French way of life.
Tourists canceled travel plans and
Paris deployed thousands of police to cope with what was expected to be a
challenging day Thursday.
The walkout was expected to hit
transportation the hardest, as flights, trains and buses canceled service
and most of the Paris subway system came to a halt. Workers at the national
railway SNCF stopped work Wednesday evening, while other services planned to
shut down Thursday morning for an indefinite period.
In Paris, where workers' unions were
planning a big march Thursday, police warned of possible violence and
damages and ordered all businesses, cafes and restaurants along the protest
route to close. Authorities also issued a ban on protests on the Champs-Elysees
avenue, around the presidential palace, parliament and Notre Dame Cathedral.
Paris police chief Didier Lallement
said that 6,000 police officers would fan out around the city, notably amid
fears that protest groups and extremist troublemakers could join the action.
The Eiffel Tower warned tourists to
delay a visit to the iconic monument because the strike would disrupt access
The Louvre Museum said its opening
Thursday could be delayed, and some viewing rooms may be closed.
Hotels across Paris reported
receiving numerous cancellations ahead of the strike, as wary tourists eyed
closing transportation routes and decided to skip their Paris vacations.
The SNCF railway expected nine out
of 10 high-speed trains to be canceled. International train lines were
expected to be affected, too. No tickets were available on Eurostar trains
across the English Channel until Tuesday.
Air France said about 30% of its
domestic flights would be canceled.
The government said 55% of teachers
would be on strike Thursday, and hospitals also would be affected.
Workers are angry at Macron's plan
to streamline the country's 42 state pension systems, fearing they will have
to work longer and earn less upon retirement.
For Amina Hamade, 17, who lives in
the Paris suburb of Poissy and takes the train to her high school in the
nearby town of Les Mureaux, the strike provides a good excuse to skip school
Thursday and Friday.
Tarik Slimani, a butcher in Les
Mureaux, sees the strike as a political stunt that will hurt the economy.
Everyone who relies on public transportation to get to work will pay the
price, he said.
At Montparnasse train station,
Samira Quasan, a 28-year-old tourist from Chicago, described moving around
her travel plans to and from Bordeaux because of the strike. Parisian Marie
Boudal had to do the same for her grandchild's baptism in Lyon.
Some travelers complained about the
disruptions, while some showed support for the striking workers.
"They really are attacking something
that was one of the few remaining things that we had" — the pension system,
said Sylviane Charles, a 57-year-old school principal whose school was
slated to close Thursday. "And so you end up with widespread despair."
Kim again rides horse up sacred peak as N. Korea raps Trump
This undated photo provided on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019,
by the North Korean government shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, center,
with his wife Ri Sol Ju, right, riding on white horse during his visit to
Mount Paektu, North Korea. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) —
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un rode a white horse up a sacred mountain in
his second symbolic visit in less than two months, state media reported
Wednesday, as his military chief lashed out at U.S. President Donald Trump
for talking about a possible military option against the North.
Mount Paektu and white horses are
symbols associated with the Kim family's dynastic rule. Kim has made
previous visits there before making major decisions.
The comments by his military chief
are the latest sign that prospects for a resumption of nuclear talks between
North Korea and the U.S. are unclear. North Korea has threatened more
provocation if the United States fails to meet a year-end deadline set by
Kim for it to make a proposal to salvage the negotiations.
On Wednesday night, Pak Jong Chon,
chief of the General Staff of the (North) Korean People's Army, issued a
statement berating Trump for suggesting that the U.S. could use military
force against North Korea if diplomacy fails and warned that any attack
would cause a "horrible" consequence for the Americans.
"One thing I would like to make
clear is that the use of armed forces is not the privilege of the U.S.
only," Park said.
He said Kim was also "displeased to
hear" about Trump's comments.
Speaking in London where he was
attending a NATO summit, Trump on Tuesday said his relationship with Kim was
"really good" but also called for him to follow up on a commitment to
denuclearize. Trump added, "We have the most powerful military we ever had,
and we are by far the most powerful country in the world and hopefully we
don't have to use it. But if we do, we will use it."
Trump has previously threatened to
bring down "fire and fury" on North Korea and derided Kim as "little rocket
man" when he carried out a series of weapons tests in 2017 aimed at building
nuclear-armed missiles capable of reaching the mainland U.S. But his comment
Tuesday on the possible use of military force enraged North Korea because he
hasn't recently used such threats and instead has bestowed Kim with praise.
In September last year, Trump called Kim "very open" and "terrific" and said
he and Kim "fell in love."
In London, Trump also said Kim
"likes sending rockets up, doesn't he?" He added that "That's why I call him
North Korea didn't immediately
respond to Trump's "rocket man" comment. Kim previously called Trump a
"mentally deranged U.S. dotard."
Earlier Wednesday, the North's state
media released many photos showing Kim riding a horse to snow-covered Mount
Paektu along with his wife and other top lieutenants, all on white horses.
Kim last climbed the mountain, the highest peak on the Korean Peninsula, on
horseback in mid-October.
"The imperialists and class enemies
make a more frantic attempt to undermine the ideological, revolutionary and
class positions of our party," Kim said in an apparent reference to the U.S.
and South Korea. "We should always live and work in the offensive spirit of
The nuclear negotiations have
remained stalled for months, with North Korea trying to win major sanctions
relief and outside security assurances in return for partial
denuclearization. Kim and Trump have met three times.
The North's Foreign Ministry warned
Tuesday it's entirely up to the United States to choose what "Christmas
gift" it gets from the North. North Korean officials have previously said
whether North Korea lifts its moratorium on long-range missile and nuclear
tests depends on what actions the U.S. takes.
Last week, North Korea test-fired
projectiles from what it called a "super-large" multiple rocket launcher
that South Korea's military said landed in the waters off the Norths' east
The North's official Korean Central
News Agency said Wednesday the ruling Workers' Party will hold a central
committee meeting in late December to discuss unspecified "crucial issues"
in line with "the changed situation at home and abroad." The specific agenda
On Monday, Kim visited Samjiyon
county at the foot of Mount Paektu to attend a ceremony marking the
completion of work that has transformed the town to "an epitome of modern
civilization," KCNA said. It said the town has a museum on the Kim family, a
ski slope, cultural centers, a school, a hospital and factories.
Samjiyon was one of the main
construction projects that Kim launched in an effort to improve his people's
livelihoods and strengthen his rule at home. The construction spree has also
been seen as a demonstration of his power in the face of international
sanctions designed to squeeze his economy and get him to give up his nuclear
Albania PM optimistic of world support on quake recovery
In this Thursday, Nov. 28, 2019 photo, a wall clock that
was stoped working during the time of the deadly earthquake that struck in
Albania early Tuesday, is seen inside a damaged building in the city of
Durres.(AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)
(AP) — Albania's prime minister said Wednesday he was pleased with the
international support he secured at a NATO summit on dealing with the
aftermath of a 6.4-magnitude earthquake that killed 51 people and injured
more than 3,000 others.
Edi Rama said before leaving the
NATO summit in London that he had positive meeting with U.S. President
Donald Trump and other leaders from Europe and Canada and that he received a
positive reaction to his aspiration to hold an international donors'
The European Union and the United
Nations are coordinating international efforts, including those from the
United States, to assist Albania after the earthquake that affected more
than half of the country's 2.8 million population.
Ursula von der Leyen, the new
president of the European Commission, said in a tweet that the EU's
executive branch has pledged 15 million euros to Albania and that it will
help organize a donors' conference.
The Nov. 26 quake damaged more than
11,000 buildings and left an estimated 12,000 people homeless who are now
sheltering in hotels, public buildings, tents, with relatives and in
The worst-hit areas were Durres, a
popular beach vacation spot for Albanians, 30 kilometers (20 miles) west of
Tirana, and the nearby northern town of Thumane. Many schools still remain
Tesla CEO Musk facing defamation trial for 'pedo guy' tweet
Elon Musk speaks before unveiling the Model Y at Tesla's design studio in
Hawthorne, Calif. March 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)
cave expert Vernon Unsworth talks with guests at an event titled the "United
as One" in Bangkok, Thailand Sept. 6, 2018. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit, File)
By BRIAN MELLEY
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Elon Musk is going on trial Tuesday
for his troublesome tweets in a defamation case pitting the billionaire
against a British diver he allegedly branded a pedophile.
The Tesla CEO will be called to testify early in the
case in Los Angeles federal court to explain what he meant when he called
Vernon Unsworth, who helped rescue youth soccer players trapped underwater
in a Thailand cave, "pedo guy" in a Twitter spat more than year ago.
Musk later apologized for lashing out at Unsworth on
Twitter after the diver belittled Musk's efforts to build a tiny submarine
to save the trapped boys as a "PR stunt." The tweet, widely interpreted as a
reference to a pedophile, was removed by Musk, who disputed that's what he
"'Pedo guy' was a common insult used in South Africa
when I was growing up," Musk said in a court declaration. "It is synonymous
with 'creepy old man' and is used to insult a person's appearance and
Unsworth's lawyers have laughed off that explanation
and said his claim was undercut by a subsequent tweet when he said, "Bet ya
a signed dollar it's true" in response to a question about whether he had
accused Unsworth of being a pedophile.
The lawyers also said he hired private investigators to
dig up evidence Unsworth was a child molester, which they never found,
according to Unsworth's lawyers.
The lawsuit is not the first time Musk's tweets have
landed him in hot water.
Musk and Tesla reached a $40 million settlement with
the Securities and Exchange Commission last year on allegations he misled
investors with a tweet declaring he had secured financing to buy out the
electric car maker. He agreed in the settlement to have future tweets about
the company screened.
He was forced back into court on accusations he
violated that agreement by tweeting a misleading figure about how many cars
Tesla would manufacture this year. The SEC sought to hold him in contempt of
court, which led to a new agreement imposing tighter controls on Musk's
tweets about the company.
The cave drama played out for more than two weeks in
the summer of 2018 when the 12 boys — ages 11-16 — and their soccer coach
were trapped in a flooded cave in northern Thailand.
Musk and engineers from his SpaceX rocket company
custom built a mini-submarine to help with the rescue. The device was
heavily publicized but never used.
Unsworth, a diver and caving expert whose advice was
considered crucial in the rescue operation, said the sub would never have
fit in the cave's tight spaces. He told CNN that Musk could "stick his
submarine where it hurts."
Musk responded two days later with his series of
Musk claims he wasn't making a factual statement and no
one reading his tweet would take it seriously and interpret it as
Despite removing the tweets, he later suggested in
emails to the news website BuzzFeed that Unsworth was a "child rapist" and
had moved to northern Thailand to take "a child bride who was about 12 years
old at the time." He provided no evidence.
Unsworth is seeking unspecified damages for pain,
suffering and emotional distress. The defense has resisted efforts to turn
over financial records to show Musk's wealth but has stipulated his net
worth exceeds $20 billion.
Powerful typhoon leaves at least 4 dead in Philippines
pass by toppled electrical poles as Typhoon Kammuri slammed Legazpi city,
Albay province, southeast of Manila, Philippines on Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2019.
inspect a truck that was damaged as Typhoon Kammuri slammed Legazpi city,
Albay province, southeast of Manila, Philippines, Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2019. (AP
By JIM GOMEZ
MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Typhoon Kammuri barreled
across the Philippines with fierce winds and rain Tuesday, leaving at least
four people dead, forcing hundreds of thousands of villagers to abandon
high-risk communities and prompting officials to shut Manila's international
Kammuri toppled trees and electrical posts, ripped off
tin roofs and battered a provincial airport as it blew across island
provinces in the southern fringes of the main northern Luzon island before
blowing into the South China Sea. It weakened but remained dangerous with
maximum sustained winds of 130 kilometers (81 miles) per hour and gusts of
up to 200 kph (124 mph) as it exited, forecasters said.
At least four people died and several others were
reported injured, with officials attributing the low casualty figure to the
early evacuation of hundreds of thousands of villagers from villages prone
to high waves, flash floods and landslides.
A villager was electrocuted while fixing the battered
roof of his house in Libmanan town in Camarines Sur province in the hard-hit
Bicol region, regional disaster response officer Claudio Yucot said. In
Oriental Mindoro, one of the last provinces to be lashed by the typhoon, a
man died after being pinned by a fallen tree and another perished after
being hit by a tin roof, Gov. Humerlito Dolor said.
A construction worker on his way home on a motorcycle
was hit by a falling tree and died in the port city of Ormoc in Leyte
province, police said.
"There could have been more if we did not do
pre-emptive evacuations," Dolor told reporters.
The Philippines is battered by about 20 typhoons and
tropical storms each year and has frequent earthquakes and volcanic
eruptions, making the archipelago of more than 100 million people one of the
world's most disaster-prone nations.
Evacuating entire villages and communities and
providing supplies to huge numbers of residents camped in schools and
government buildings used as emergency shelters is common during typhoons,
volcanic eruptions and earthquakes, largely because many mostly poor
communities are in disaster-prone areas.
Kammuri's pounding rain and wind damaged the airport in
Legazpi city in Albay province, collapsing a portion of its ceiling,
scattering chairs in the arrival and departure areas and shattering glass
panes. A truck turned on its side after being buffeted by strong winds in
the city, near Mount Mayon, one of the country's most active volcanos.
Albay is one of several provinces in the Bicol region
which lost post power due to toppled posts and downed transmission lines.
Nearly 2 million people were affected by the power outages, officials said.
In Manila, officials shut the international airport for
seven hours starting before noon Tuesday as the typhoon roared through
provinces south of the capital. More than 400 domestic and international
flights were canceled due to the airport closure, airport manager Ed Monreal
Authorities moved thousands of Boy Scouts attending a
jamboree in the mountainous town of Botolan in the northwestern province of
The Philippines postponed several competitions in the
Southeast Asian Games, which it is hosting, because of the stormy weather,
including wind surfing, polo and tennis matches in Manila and outlying
provinces. Organizers said other events would be delayed if needed for
safety but there was no plan to extend the 11-day games which opened
The coast guard suspended sea travel in the northeast,
stranding more than 7,000 travelers along with thousands of cargo ships and
smaller watercraft in the archipelago nation.
UK politicians hold breath as Trump arrives mid-campaign
Secretary Priti Patel, center left, Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson,
center, and MP Will Quince pose holding a sign before a rally event as part
of the General Election campaign, in Colchester, England, Monday, Dec. 2,
2019. (Hannah McKay/Pool Photo via AP)
leader Jeremy Corbyn speaks outside Birkbeck/SOAS University of London, as
he announces his party's plan for the extension of workers' rights, whilst
on the General Election campaign trail, in London, Tuesday, Dec.3, 2019.
Britain goes to the polls on Dec. 12. (David Mirzoeff/PA via AP)
By JILL LAWLESS
LONDON (AP) — U.S. President Donald Trump says
he doesn't want to interfere in Britain's election campaign. But his
presence in London nine days before the Dec. 12 vote is a complication for
Prime Minister Boris Johnson — and ammunition for Johnson's opponents.
Trump, who is attending a meeting of NATO leaders, said
Tuesday he'd "stay out of the election."
"I don't want to complicate it," he said.
Too late. Britain's opposition parties are relishing
the visit by Trump, who is widely unpopular in the U.K., and whose
statements of support for Johnson and Britain's departure from the European
Union are seen as more harmful than helpful.
Trump repeated his support for Brexit and for Johnson
"I think Boris is very capable and I think he'll do a
good job," he said.
The main opposition Labour Party seized on Trump's
two-day visit to renew allegations that a post-Brexit U.S.-U.K. trade deal
could damage the U.K.'s state-funded National Health Service.
Labour is campaigning heavily on the claim that the
overstretched but treasured NHS is not safe in Conservative hands.
Johnson has called that allegation "nonsense."
"This is pure Loch Ness Monster, Bermuda Triangle
stuff," he said Tuesday.
But Labour says the U.S. could try to demand during
trade talks that Britain pay American pharma firms more for drugs. It could
also push for extended patents that would prevent Britons buying cheaper
generic versions of U.S.-patented drugs — something that happened in talks
on a U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade deal.
Documents from preliminary talks between U.S. and U.K.
negotiators over two years from July 2017 — obtained and released by Labour
last week — mention that "patent issues" around "NHS access to generic drugs
will be a key consideration" in talks.
Trump said Tuesday that the United States had no
interest in the NHS.
"We have absolutely nothing to do with it and we
wouldn't want to. If you handed it to us on a silver platter, we want
nothing to do with it," he told reporters as he met with NATO
Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.
Trump has sent mixed messages on the issue, however. In
June, he said "everything" — including the NHS — would be "on the table" in
future trade negotiations.
All 650 seats in the House of Commons are up for grabs
in next week's election. Johnson wants to secure a majority in the election
so he can push through the Brexit divorce deal he negotiated with the EU.
Under the terms of that deal, the U.K. would leave the
EU on Jan. 31 but remain part of the EU's single market, and bound by the
bloc's rules, until the end of 2020.
Polls suggest Johnson's Tories have a lead over the
Labour opposition, and Corbyn is trying to close the gap by focusing on
domestic issues such as education and health care, which have been stretched
by years of public spending cuts by the Conservative government.
Johnson says Corbyn, a socialist who has often
criticized NATO and Western military intervention, would endanger Britain's
national security if he became prime minister. He told The Sun newspaper
that Britain's allies "are very anxious" about the prospect of a Corbyn
Asked Tuesday about Corbyn, Trump said: "I know nothing
about the gentleman."
"I can work with anybody, I'm a very easy person to
work with," he added.
The Conservatives have sought to avoid any slip-ups
that could cost the party its poll lead. Opponents have accused Johnson of
running scared of scrutiny after he declined to take part in a televised
debate on climate change with other party leaders last week and refused to
commit to a one-on-one TV interview.
The Conservatives complained to Britain's broadcasting
regulator after Channel 4 put an Earth-shaped ice sculpture on a podium in
Johnson's place during the climate debate.
Regulator Ofcom rejected the complaint Tuesday, saying
Conservative views had been adequately represented.
"This program, including the use of the ice sculpture,
did not raise issues warranting further investigation under our due
impartiality and elections rules," it said.
Greta Thunberg says voyage 'energized' her climate fight
activist Greta Thunberg waves as she arrives in Lisbon aboard the sailboat
La Vagabonde Tuesday, Dec 3, 2019. (AP Photo/Pedro Rocha)
By BARRY HATTON and FRANK JORDANS
LISBON, Portugal (AP) — Climate activist Greta
Thunberg arrived in Portugal on Tuesday after a three-week voyage across the
Atlantic Ocean, telling cheering supporters that the journey had "energized"
her for the fight against climate change.
The Swedish teen, whose one-woman protests outside the
Swedish parliament helped inspired a global youth movement, sailed into the
port of Lisbon after making a last-minute dash back from the United States
to attend this year's U.N. climate conference.
Thunberg has been steadfast in her refusal to fly
because of the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by planes, a stance that
put her planned appearance at the meeting in doubt when the venue was moved
from Chile to Spain a month ago.
"We've all been on quite an adventure," Thunberg told
reporters shortly after stepping off the catamaran La Vagabonde, on which
she'd hitched a ride back home to Europe. "It feels good to be back."
Thunberg's appearances at past climate meetings have
won her plaudits from some leaders — and criticism from others who've taken
offense at the angry tone of her speeches.
"I think people are underestimating the force of angry
kids," Thunberg said. "If they want us to stop being angry, then maybe they
should stop making us angry."
The 16-year-old said she planned to spend several days
in the Portuguese capital before heading to Madrid, where delegates from
nearly 200 countries are discussing how to tackle global warming.
"We will continue the fight there to make sure that
within those walls the voices of the people are being heard," she said.
The white 48-foot (15-meter) yacht carrying Thunberg,
her father Svante, an Australian family and professional sailor Nikki
Henderson sailed into Lisbon amid blue skies, with a small flotilla of boats
escorting it to harbor.
Her trip contrasted with the many air miles flown by
most of the U.N. meeting's 25,000 attendees.
Thunberg wanted a low-carbon form of transport to get
to the climate meeting, which was switched at short notice to Spain from
Chile due to unrest there.
The yacht leaves little or no carbon footprint when its
sails are up, using solar panels and hydro-generators for electricity.
"I am not traveling like this because I want everyone
to do so," said Thunberg. "I'm doing this to sort of send the message that
it is impossible to live sustainable today, and that needs to change. It
needs to become much easier."
Chile's Environment Minister Carolina Schmidt, saluted
Thunberg's role speaking out about the threat of climate change.
"She has been a leader that has been able to move and
open hearts for many young people and many people all over the world,"
Schmidt told The Associated Press at the summit in Madrid.
"We need that tremendous force in order to increase
climate action," she said.
Near to the conference, some 20 activists cut off
traffic in central Madrid and staged a brief theatrical performance to
protest climate change.
Members of the international group called Extinction
Rebellion held up a banner in Russian that read: "Climate Crisis. To speak
the truth. To take action immediately."
Some activists jumped into a nearby fountain while
others threw them life jackets. They chanted: "What Do We Want? Climate
Others dressed in red robes with their faces whitened
to symbolize the human species' peril danced briefly before police moved in
to end the protest.
Meanwhile, the U.N. weather agency released a new
report showing that the current decade is likely to set a new 10-year
temperature record, providing mounting evidence that the world is getting
Preliminary temperature measurements show the years
from 2015 to 2019 and from 2010 to 2019 "are, respectively, almost certain
to be the warmest five-year period and decade on record," the World
Meteorological Organization said.
"Since the 1980s, each successive decade has been
warmer than the last," the agency said.
While full-year figures aren't released until next
March, 2019 is also expected to be the second or third warmest year since
measurements began, with 2016 still holding the all-time temperature record,
This year was hotter than average in most parts of the
world, including the Arctic. "In contrast a large area of North America has
been colder than the recent average," the U.N. said.
The World Meteorological Organization's annual report,
which brings together data from numerous national weather agencies and
research organizations, also highlighted the impacts of climate change
including declining sea ice and rising sea levels, which reached their
highest level this year since high-precision measurements began in 1993.
Russian scientists present ancient puppy found in permafrost
This is a handout photo taken
on Monday, Sept. 24, 2018, showing a 18,000 years old Puppy found in
permafrost in the Russia's Far East, on display at the Yakutsk's Mammoth
Museum, Russia. (Sergei Fyodorov, Yakutsk Mammoth Museum via AP)
This is a handout photo taken on Monday, Sept. 24, 2018,
showing a 18,000 years old Puppy found in permafrost in the Russia's Far
East, on display at the Yakutsk's Mammoth Museum, Russia. (Sergei Fyodorov,
Yakutsk Mammoth Museum via AP)
By DARIA LITVINOVA and ROMAN KUTUKOV
YAKUTSK, Russia (AP) — Russian
scientists on Monday showed off a prehistoric puppy, believed to be 18,000
years old, found in permafrost in the country's Far East.
Discovered last year in a lump of
frozen mud near the city of Yakutsk, the puppy is unusually well-preserved,
with its hair, teeth, whiskers and eyelashes still intact.
"This puppy has all its limbs,
pelage – fur, even whiskers. The nose is visible. There are teeth. We can
determine due to some data that it is a male," Nikolai Androsov, director of
the Northern World private museum where the remains are stored, said at the
presentation at the Yakutsk's Mammoth Museum which specializes in ancient
In recent years, Russia's Far East
has provided many riches for scientists studying the remains of ancient
animals. As the permafrost melts, affected by climate change, more and more
parts of woolly mammoths, canines and other prehistoric animals are being
discovered. Often it is mammoth tusk hunters who discover them.
"Why has Yakutia come through a real
spate of such unique findings over the last decade? First, it's global
warming. It really exists, we feel it, and local people feel it strongly.
Winter comes later, spring comes earlier," Sergei Fyodorov, scientist with
the North Eastern Federal University, told The Associated Press.
"And the second very serious, deep
reason, of why there a lot of finds is the very high price of mammoth tusk
in the Chinese market."
When the puppy was discovered,
scientists from the Stockholm-based Center for Palaeogenetics took a piece
of bone to study its DNA.
"The first step was of course to
send the sample to radio carbon dating to see how old it was and when we got
the results back it turned out that it was roughly 18,000 years old," Love
DalÚn, professor of evolutionary genetics at the center, said in an online
Further tests, however, left the
scientists with more questions than answers — they couldn't definitively
tell whether it was a dog or a wolf.
"We have now generated a nearly
complete genome sequence from it and normally when you have a two-fold
coverage genome, which is what we have, you should be able to relatively
easily say whether it's a dog or a wolf, but we still can't say and that
makes it even more interesting," DalÚn said.
He added that the scientists are
about to do a third round of genome sequencing, which might solve the
Prosecutors say Russia let MH17 suspect leave the country
In this July 17, 2014. file
photo, people walk amongst the debris at the crash site of MH17 passenger
plane near the village of Grabovo, Ukraine, that left 298 people killed. (AP
Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky, File)
By MIKE CORDER
THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — Russia
deliberately allowed a suspect in the 2014 downing of Malaysia Airlines
Flight 17 to leave the country, Dutch prosecutors said Monday, calling it a
breach of a European extradition treaty.
Prosecutors announced that Volodymyr
Tsemakh is considered a suspect in the shooting down of the passenger plane
and deaths of all 298 passengers and crew. He has not been charged with any
The Boeing 777 flying from Amsterdam
to Kuala Lumpur was shot down by a Buk missile on July 17, 2014, over
territory in eastern Ukraine that was controlled at the time by pro-Moscow
An international team of
investigators has concluded that the missile and its launcher came from the
Russian army's 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile brigade, based in the Russian city
The international investigation is
being led by prosecutors in the Netherlands because nearly 200 of the
passengers killed were Dutch citizens.
Russia has always denied
responsibility for shooting down the flight and claimed that the Buk missile
came from Ukrainian army arsenals.
Tsemakh, a Ukrainian who was
questioned by investigators probing the downing of the flight known as MH17
while in custody in Ukraine in connection with other allegations, was handed
to Russia as part of a prisoner swap in September.
Dutch prosecutors said in a
statement that they asked Russia to arrest Tsemakh after the swap so he
could be extradited.
While Russia does not extradite its
own citizens, it could have handed over Tsemakh since he is Ukrainian, the
Dutch prosecutors said, adding that they had contacted Moscow several times
to warn authorities there that Tsemakh might attempt to flee.
Prosecutors said that Dutch Prime
Minister Mark Rutte and Foreign Minister Stef Blok also both urged Moscow to
Despite those efforts, Russia now
says that Tsemakh's whereabouts are no longer known and media reports
suggest he has returned to eastern Ukraine, prosecutors said.
"The Public Prosecution Service has
concluded that Russia willingly allowed Mr. Tsemakh to leave the Russian
Federation and refused to execute the Dutch request. While under the
European Convention on Extradition, it was obliged to do so," the
prosecution statement said.
The Kremlin did not immediately
respond to a request for comment.
Three Russians and a Ukrainian have
been charged with murder over their alleged roles in bringing down flight
MH17. None of them have been extradited. Their trial is scheduled to start
March 9 at a courtroom near Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport.
The trial will go ahead without the
suspects if they are not turned over to Dutch authorities.
Philippine capital warned as strong typhoon approaches
Residents ride a pedicab as
they evacuate to higher grounds in preparation for the coming of Typhoon
Kammuri in Legazpi, Albay province, southeast of Manila, Philippines on
Monday Dec. 2, 2109. (AP Photo)
MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The Philippines' main
island, including the national capital, Manila, is under a tropical cyclone
warning for a typhoon forecast to hit Monday night into Tuesday.
Local governments told thousands of
people to evacuate vulnerable areas such as coastal communities. The worst
conditions are forecast for southeastern provinces on Luzon, the most
populous island in the archipelago.
Officials said Manila's Ninoy Aquino
International Airport would close from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Tuesday.
Philippine forecasters say Typhoon
Kammuri (also called Tisoy) had3 maximum sustained winds of 150 kph (93 mph)
near the center and gusts up to 185 kph (115 mph) at midafternoon Monday.
The Philippine Atmospheric,
Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration warned of potentially
severe flooding for Albay province, Samar and Leyte islands. For the
metropolitan Manila region in western Luzon, intense rainfall was possible
Some events during the Southeast
Asian Games being hosted in the Philippines have been rescheduled and
postponed for safety reasons.
EU leads international help to Albania quake recovery
In this Wednesday, Nov. 27,
2019 photo, a plastic flower among rubbles of a collapsed building damage
building in Thumane, western Albania following a deadly earthquake.(AP
By LLAZAR SEMINI
TIRANA, Albania (AP) — Dozens of
structural engineers from Europe and elsewhere are heading to Albania to
help rebuild the country after a devastating earthquake last month killed 51
people and destroyed thousands of buildings, officials said Monday.
The European Union and the United
Nations are coordinating international efforts to assist Albania after a
6.4-magnitude earthquake struck Nov. 26, affecting more than half of the
An EU team is leading the damage
assessment and distribution of aid. Six EU member states have sent 50
structural engineers, with more to come, to assess the damage together with
the local counterparts.
"In the midst of sorrow, grief and
fear, this week has shown the unfailing links between Albanians and their
friends in the EU," said Luigi Soreca, the EU ambassador to Albania.
The U.S. Agency for International
Development also has deployed structural engineers from the Fairfax County
and Los Angeles County fire departments to assist with damage assessments.
Albanian Defense Minister Olta
Xhacka praised the international response so far, saying the 780 rescuers
who rushed to the country right after the quake helped to prevent more
The quake that hit Albania's
Adriatic coast also injured more than 3,000 people. Authorities give
preliminary figures of 7,900 damaged buildings countrywide and more than
6,000 homeless sheltered in hotels, public buildings, tents and with
relatives, while neighboring Kosovo has provided shelter to others.
The quake has affected about 1.9
million people out of the country's 2.8 million population, according to the
EU office in the capital of Tirana.
The worst-hit areas were the port
town of Durres, a popular beach vacation spot for Albanians 33 kilometers
(20 miles) west of Tirana and the nearby northern town of Thumane.
U.S. singer-songwriter Bebe Rexha
visited Bubq village, 30 kilometers (18 miles) west of the capital Tirana,
to hand over aid.
Rexha, who is of ethnic Albanian
origin, said she raised money through her fans to build two homes and is
hoping to raise more.
"It's really sad what's happening
here. That's why I came here," she said.
Prosecutors have started an
investigation into possible illegal construction and violations of
Poor construction, building code
violations and corruption are considered among the main reasons for the
Albania's government has called on
the international community for financial aid and expert assistance, saying
it is incapable of doing it alone.
"The hardest part of this situation
starts now because the material damage is really great," said Xhacka before
leaving for the NATO summit in London where Albania will also look for help.
Soreca said Monday that Brussels
will look into how it will help Albania rebuild itself with a mid- to
On Thursday, the new European
Commissioner for Crisis Management, Janez Lenarcic, who started his post
Monday, visits Tirana to talk about the reconstruction planning.
July 25 forecast: Sunny, with cloud of impeachment for Trump
Capitol at sunset in Washington Jan. 24, 2019. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite,
In this Sept. 25, 2019, file photo, a White
House-released memorandum of President Donald Trump's July 25, 2019,
telephone conversation with Ukraine's newly elected president Volodymyr
Zelenskiy is photographed in Washington. If there was one day that
crystallized all the forces that led to the impeachment investigation of
President Donald Trump, it was July 25. That was the day of his phone call
with Ukraine’s new leader, pressing him for a political favor. (AP
Photo/Wayne Partlow, File)
By NANCY BENAC
WASHINGTON (AP) — The forecast for
July 25 was typical for Washington: sunny, mid-80s. President Donald Trump
had good reason to be feeling bright and sunny himself.
It was the morning after Robert
Mueller's congressional testimony at the conclusion of the Russia
investigation, and Trump and his allies were expressing relief, thinking the
rumblings about impeachment would at last fade, even if the special counsel
hadn't offered the president the total exoneration Trump claimed.
By 7:06 a.m., Trump was tweeting
positive reviews from his favorite TV show, "Fox & Friends," where co-host
Ainsley Earhardt declared, ``Yesterday changed everything, it really did
clear the president."
An hour later, Trump moved on to a
tweet talking up his approval ratings, the stock market, unemployment and
more. ``Country doing great!" he wrote.
But a reconstruction of what started
as an unremarkable summer Thursday reveals that even before daybreak,
anxiety was coursing through the White House about a coming phone call that
didn't appear on the president's public schedule.
By nightfall, Trump had set in
motion events that would trigger only the fourth impeachment inquiry in
history, imperiling his presidency and further calcifying divisions in a
At the time, it seemed no one had a
complete picture of what was afoot. But through weeks of congressional
investigation and hearings, a timeline of the day's events has emerged,
offering a portrait of one of the most consequential days of Trump's
Trump was scheduled to talk with
Ukraine's new president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy at 9 a.m. Zelenskiy, a former
comedian fond of showing off his bulging biceps, was angling to lock in a
visit to the White House, a valuable currency that he hoped would
demonstrate to Russia that he had Trump's backing.
Trump and Zelenskiy had gotten along
just fine during their first chat in April, basically an exchange of
pleasantries. National security officials were worried that this time would
There were "some concerns that, you
know, there could be some stray voltage," Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the
National Security Council's top Ukraine expert, testified later.
He was referring to growing
indications that Trump was fixated on baseless conspiracy theories that
Ukraine had tried to take down candidate Trump in the 2016 elections. There
was talk that Zelenskiy would only get a White House visit if he agreed to
investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, one of Trump's top Democratic
rivals, and the 2016 U.S. elections.
None of that was in the National
Security Council's "call package," with its suggested talking points for
Trump's conversation. Nor was any of that in the prewritten "readout" of the
call, laying out what was expected to happen.
Both of those turned out to be
Shortly before the call, Gordon
Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, got on the phone with
Trump to offer his own advice.
Sondland, working with Trump lawyer
Rudy Giuliani, had put together a plan under which Ukraine would get its
White House meeting only in exchange for agreeing to investigations of Joe
Biden and his son Hunter, who served on the board of a gas company in
Ukraine, and the 2016 election, when Trump defeated Democrat Hillary
At 8:36 a.m., Kurt Volker, then
Trump's special envoy to Ukraine, texted a Zelenskiy aide after talking to
Sondland: "Heard from White House — Assuming President Z convinces trump he
will investigate / "get to the bottom of what happened" in 2016, we will
nail down date for visit to Washington. Good luck!"
DOUR v. OBSEQUIOUS
The half-hour call started with
pleasantries but quickly took a sharp detour.
Trump, his voice lower than normal,
was "dour," according to Vindman, who was among a dozen or more people
listening in from the U.S. side.
Zelenskiy, overly eager to please,
was "obsequious," according to Tim Morrison, Vindman's boss and one of the
other sets of ears on the call.
Zelenskiy's attempts at humor fell
flat. They "just didn't seem to carry with the president," Vindman recalled.
Soon, Trump was stressing how much
the U.S. had done for Ukraine and grousing about Europe's failure to do
And then came 10 words from Trump
that triggered the impeachment investigation: "I would like you to do us a
Trump asked Zelenskiy to look into
Crowdstrike, part of a debunked theory that Ukraine interfered in the 2016
election to benefit Clinton. From there, Trump segued to pressing for
investigation of another discredited notion — that Biden had ousted a
Ukrainian prosecutor who was looking into Hunter Biden's dealings with
Burisma, the energy company where he was on the board.
Zelenskiy, speaking a mix of
Ukrainian and choppy English, had one mission: find as many ways as possible
to say yes, yes and yes again. Four times he said "yes." Twice, he assured
Trump he was "absolutely right," and "not just 100% but actually 1,000%."
"I agree with you 100%," he added
More important to Trump, though,
Zelenskiy promised that "all the investigations will be done openly and
Yet Zelenskiy wasn't committing
precisely to the investigations of Democrats that Trump wanted. He was
speaking generally of his commitment to clean up corruption in his country.
He was short one very important
"IT WAS WRONG"
Trump would later insist the call
was "perfect," but some of those who listened were gravely alarmed. Even
while Trump was still speaking, there were some worried glances among those
taking notes in the Situation Room.
The call ended at 9:33 a.m., and
within an hour, Vindman was in the office of NSC lawyer John Eisenberg.
The idea of an American president
pressuring a foreign leader to investigate his political foes was "troubling
and disturbing," Vindman told congressional investigators. "I thought it was
Acting separately, Morrison, a Trump
political appointee, also made his way to Eisenberg's office that day.
Morrison was worried that details of the call would leak and damage
Ukraine's bipartisan support in Congress.
Jennifer Williams, an adviser to
Vice President Mike Pence who was also on the call, told legislators she
found the call's detour into domestic politics "unusual and inappropriate."
By that night, NSC staff had
finished editing a rough transcript of the conversation. and Eisenberg made
sure that access to it was more closely restricted than usual to keep
details from leaking.
A readout is a description of a
private conversation or meeting, prepared for public consumption. It's often
written before the event because such phone calls, and scripts, are
typically choreographed in advance.
The NSC's prewritten readout of the
phone call, though, was worthless. It turned out there had been little
discussion of the anticipated topics, and Trump had said a lot of things
that weren't expected.
"Basically we struck almost all the
materials from that statement because we hadn't covered any of the terrain
that we thought we were going to," Vindman told legislators.
The bland three-sentence statement
issued by the White House at 12:51 p.m. gave no hint of what had really
A six-sentence statement issued by
the Ukrainians at almost the same time wasn't much more illuminating — and
seemed to be yet another highly aspirational take on the matter.
"Donald Trump is convinced that the
new Ukrainian government will be able to quickly improve image of Ukraine,
complete investigation of corruption cases, which inhibited the interaction
between Ukraine and the USA," it read.
'WHAT WAS GOING ON?'
The inbox for Laura Cooper's staff
at the Defense Department filled in more pieces of the puzzle that
A pair of emails from the State
Department — one at 2:31 p.m., the second at 4:25 p.m. — made it clear that
the Ukrainians were already worried about whether they would get hundreds of
millions of dollars in U.S. military assistance that had been approved by
Congress. It wasn't just about a White House visit.
The Trump White House wanted to hold
up the aid until Zelenskiy made a public pledge to conduct investigations.
Republicans have argued there was no "quid pro quo" — a pledge of
investigations in exchange for military aid — because the Ukrainians weren't
aware the aid was on hold when Zelenskiy spoke to Trump. But these emails
indicate the Ukrainians knew or suspected the aid was frozen when the call
Cooper, a deputy assistant defense
secretary, also testified that her staff got a question that day from a
contact at the Ukrainian Embassy asking "what was going on" with the
Talk about delaying the military aid
had been percolating for weeks by then.
But that night, at 6:44 p.m., a
staffer in the White House's Office of Management and Budget signed a
document that officially put the money on hold. All it took was a footnote
stating that the money was "not available for obligation" while its use was
The document was signed by Mark
Sandy, OMB's deputy associate director for national security, who told
lawmakers that he had been handling aid apportionments for years and had
never before been told to put one on hold. He had asked his bosses
repeatedly why it was being done. He didn't get an answer.
SUNGLASSES AND UMBRELLAS
While fallout from the call
ricocheted within the White House, much of Washington went about its
business unaware of the looming threat to Trump. So did Zelenskiy.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who
months later would give a green light to an impeachment investigation, was
meeting with House Democrats when the call took place. Then she strode down
the steps at the Capitol for an outdoor news conference. Whipping off her
sunglasses, she pledged to make August "too hot to handle" for Republican
senators who were blocking Democratic legislation.
On a rainy day in Ukraine,
Zelenskiy's social media team posted a photo of the president holding his
own umbrella — and contrasted it with a photo of his predecessor relying on
someone else to hold one.
Trump had plenty more to say that
day. He spoke at a sunlit Pentagon ceremony for new Defense Secretary Mark
Esper. He also made a State Dining Room appearance to help his daughter
Ivanka promote the administration's job training initiatives.
DOWN THE DRAIN
Trump ended his day as he began it,
in his comfort zone with Fox News.
On Sean Hannity's show, the
president said he'd been "through hell" during the Mueller investigation.
Hannity declared that with that investigation over, impeachment fantasies
had been "totally completely flushed down the drain."
Eighteen days later, a whistleblower
sent a nine-page complaint to Congress about the president's July 25 call.
On Sept. 27, Pelosi announced the
The EU ushers in its new heads of commission and council
From left, European Central Bank President
Christine Lagarde, European Parliament President Sassoli, European
Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, and European Council President
Charles Michel pose for photographers as they mark the 10th anniversary of
the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty at the House of European History
in Brussels, Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Olivier Matthys)
BRUSSELS (AP) — New leaders took over Sunday at the top of the
European Union's executive and council, taking their positions at a
turbulent time for the bloc with the looming British departure and other
Germany's Ursula von der Leyen officially replaced
Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, two days after a handover
ceremony, becoming the first woman in the job. Belgium's Charles Michel
succeeded Donald Tusk as EU Council president and chair the summits of EU
Von der Leyen and Michel marked the day in Brussels
with events for the 10th anniversary of the Lisbon Treaty in the House of
European Parliament President David Sassoli hosted the
ceremony, welcoming the new leaders — all the while calling on them to
deliver on promises made to its 508 million citizens, saying "it is now time
"We need to turn the promises of the past few months
into results that improve people's lives," Sassoli said. "From the fight
against climate change to tackling the rise in the cost of living, Europeans
want to see real action."
Momentum is building to face the challenge of climate
change and von der Leyen has said it will be a top priority for her.
The future of how the British Brexit decision will play
out should become more clear after a new election on Dec. 12.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson wants to secure a majority
in the election so he can push through the Brexit divorce deal he negotiated
in October with the EU. Under the terms of that deal, the U.K. would leave
the EU on Jan. 31 but remains part of the EU's single market, and bound by
the bloc's rules, until the end of 2020.
After wind scare, balloons fly in Macy's Thanksgiving parade
Participates make their way down New York's Central Park West during the
Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, Thursday, Nov. 28, 2019, in New York. (AP
Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez)
Snoopy balloon makes its way down New York's Central Park West during the
Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, Thursday, Nov. 28, 2019, in New York. (AP
Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez)
balloon floats down Sixth Avenue during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade,
Thursday, Nov. 28, 2019, in New York. (AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez)
A woman in
a flower costume marches in front of the Wiggle Worm balloon during the
Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, Thursday, Nov. 28, 2019, in New York. (AP
with balloons fights with winds as it make its way down Columbus Circle
during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, Thursday, Nov. 28, 2019, in New
York. (AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez)
By SABRINA CASERTA
NEW YORK (AP) — The beloved balloons flew, but lower
than usual, in a windy Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade after an anxious
Wind had threatened to ground the giant inflated
characters. But officials announced less than an hour before Thursday's
start time that the balloons could fly, if in a down-to-Earth way.
As the parade continued — even while city emergency
officials sent out a public alert about wind gusts — handlers struggled with
some giant balloons and pulled them close to the ground. Meanwhile, winds
did keep giant balloons out of Philadelphia's Thanksgiving Day parade.
The Macy's parade balloons might have been lowered, but
Susan Koteen's spirits weren't. She has traveled from Florida, three years
in a row, to see the parade.
"We love it. Because it's exciting, it's patriotic, and
it just — it warms your heart," she said.
Spectators lined up a half-dozen deep along the route
on a gusty fall day, with leaves and confetti swirling in the wind.
A "Green Eggs and Ham" balloon joined the lineup,
Smokey Bear returned for the first time since 1993, and spectators got to
see new versions of favorites Snoopy and SpongeBob SquarePants.
A smaller new balloon, Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama's
"Love Flies Up to the Sky," and two star-shaped balloons ultimately didn't
make the lineup because of tears and stress from inflation before the
parade, Macy's said. A giant Ronald McDonald balloon also tore before the
parade and was pulled out midway through, the company said. The McDonald's
character had a visibly deflated leg.
Macy's spokesman Orlando Veras called the parade "a
fantastic event despite these minor challenges."
During the middle of the parade, the wind was 13 mph
(21 kph) with gusts up to 32 mph (51 kph), according to the National Weather
City rules require balloons to be grounded if sustained
winds exceed 23 mph (37 kph) and gusts exceed 34 mph (55 kph). The balloons
have been grounded only once for weather-related reasons, in 1971.
On Thursday, in a windy spot near the start of the
2.5-mile (4-kilometer) route, a Nutcracker balloon knocked into a handler,
who fell down but then continued along. A Grinch balloon touched some trees
as it passed a corner, drawing an "ooh!" from the crowd.
To parade-goer Kate O'Connor, the wind was "scary,
especially around the corners — they're like wind tunnels."
It was still cool to see the balloons up close, "but
they're really meant to be seen from underneath," said the resident of
Newtown, Connecticut, who comes to the parade every other year with her
daughter, Megan, 8.
Joanna Mammen and her family came from Bradford County
in northern Pennsylvania to revisit the parade she attended every year while
growing up in the Bronx.
"My favorite float, as a kid, was Santa Claus," said
Mammen, 69. "Most of the other floats from that time, the kids these days
wouldn't even recognize. But it's a beautiful tradition, to come out and
experience the crowd."
It was a first-time experience for her husband, Bill.
And for him, it was all about sharing the fun with the couple's son, Jason,
and 2-year-old grandson, Lincoln.
"Thanksgiving is not just about the people I love. It
is the people I love," he said.
Willie Brown traveled from Dallas to see the parade,
particularly entertainers Ciara and Kelly Rowland.
"This was really a bucket list item for me, Macy's Day
Parade in New York City," the 23-year-old said. "You grow up seeing glimpses
on TV, but it's something I knew I needed to experience."
The parade, one of the city's most popular events,
features about 8,000 marchers, two dozen floats, entertainers and marching
bands, ending with an appearance from Santa Claus.
The character balloons can go as high as 55 feet (16
meters) off the ground and as low as 10 feet (3 meters).
The rules requiring them to be grounded in high winds
came after a "Cat in the Hat" balloon blew into a lamppost near Central Park
in 1997, critically injuring a woman.
In 2005, an M&M's balloon smacked into a lamppost in
Times Square, causing cuts and bruises to a woman in a wheelchair and her
In 2017, a gust on an otherwise calm day sent a smaller
balloon into a tree branch. That one popped and fell harmlessly onto the
Hundreds rally in Myanmar to show support for Suu Kyi
People attend a rally Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019, in
Yangon, Myanmar. About 700 people rallied Sunday to show support for
Myanmar’s leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, as she prepares to defend the country
against charges of genocide at the U.N.’s highest court. (AP Photo/Thein Zaw)
YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — About 700 people rallied
Sunday to show support for Myanmar's leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, as she
prepares to defend the country against charges of genocide at the U.N.'s
Members of Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy
party swelled the ranks in front of the colonial-era City Hall in
Yangon, Myanmar's largest city, as the crowd waved national flags and
listened to music and poetry. A popular local singer told them that
"Mother Suu is the bravest human being in the world – her weapon is
Many carried banners saying, "We stand with you,
The case before the International Court of Justice
in The Hague relates to a harsh counterinsurgency campaign waged by
Myanmar's military against members of the country's Muslim Rohingya
community in August 2017 in response to an insurgent attack.
More than 700,000 Rohingya fled to neighboring
Bangladesh to escape what has been called an ethnic cleansing campaign
involving mass rapes, killings and the torching of homes.
The head of a U.N. fact-finding mission on Myanmar
warned recently that "there is a serious risk of genocide recurring."
Gambia filed the case at the ICJ, also known as the
world court, on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.
The case alleges that Myanmar's actions against the
Rohingya are "genocidal in character because they are intended to
destroy the Rohingya group in whole or in part."
Myanmar has strongly denied the charges but says it
stands ready to take action against wrong-doers if there is sufficient
A statement on the website of the Ministry of the
Interior said recently that the renewed international pressure on the
country was due to a lack of understanding of "the complexities of the
issue and the narratives of the people of Myanmar."
Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, will lead
the delegation to The Hague in her capacity as foreign minister.
Hearings are due to start on Dec. 10. The case is
expected to last several years..