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FRANCE 24 English – LIVE – International Breaking News & Top stories - 24/7 stream
US Diplomat: Trump Took Direct Interest in Whether Ukraine Would Open Biden Probe
By Ken Bredemeier
November 13, 2019 11:27 AM
Top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine William Taylor, left, and Career Foreign Service officer George Kent are sworn in prior to testifying before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Nov. 13, 2019.
Updated at 6:25 pm on Nov. 13
The envoy, William Taylor, recounted a previously undisclosed conversation a staff aide overheard on July 26, a day after Trump had asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate Biden, his son Hunter Biden's work for the Ukrainian natural gas company Burisma, and a debunked theory that Ukraine, not Russia, had meddled in Trump's 2016 campaign for the White House.
Taylor said the aide overheard a conversation between Trump and Gordon Sondland, a million-dollar Trump political donor that the president appointed ambassador to the European Union.
"The member of my staff could hear President Trump on the phone, asking Ambassador Sondland about 'the investigations,'" Taylor testified. "Ambassador Sondland told President Trump that the Ukrainians were ready to move forward."
Taylor said the overheard conversation showed that at the time, Trump cared "more about investigations than Ukraine" military assistance. Taylor said Sondland had told him "everything" — the military aid and Zelenskiy's desired visit with Trump at the White House — depended on whether Ukraine opened the investigations.
Taylor said that in a long diplomatic career, he had never before witnessed a U.S. president asking a foreign government for a political investigation to benefit himself. Both he and George Kent, a State Department official overseeing U.S. relations with Ukraine, testified that they'd had no contact with Trump during the several months the Ukraine controversy played out.
Their dramatic, lengthy testimony came on the first day of nationally televised impeachment hearings before the House Intelligence Committee — only the fourth time in U.S. history impeachment hearings have been launched against a U.S. president.
U.S. campaign finance law forbids asking a foreign government for help in a U.S. election. But ultimately, U.S. lawmakers will have to decide whether Trump's actions amounted to "high crimes and misdemeanors," the standard in the U.S. Constitution for impeaching a president.
The two diplomats told the impeachment investigation that Trump created an "irregular channel" to deal with Ukraine, headed by his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, in hopes of getting Kyiv to open the investigations to help Trump politically.
The State Department officials said that over time, they realized that Giuliani, a former New York mayor, was acting at Trump's behest outside normal State Department confines, sidelining normal relations between Washington and Kyiv.
The investigations Trump wanted Ukraine to open came at a time he was blocking the release of $391 million in military aid Kyiv wanted for its fight against pro-Russian separatists it was fighting in the eastern part of the country.
Taylor told the House Intelligence Committee, "More Ukrainians would undoubtedly die without the U.S. assistance."
Central to the House impeachment inquiry is Trump's half-hour phone conversation on July 25 with the newly elected Zelenskiy, in which Trump asked Zelenskiy for "a favor" — open an investigation of the Bidens.
The impeachment investigation was launched by the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives after an anonymous government whistleblower troubled by Trump's request to Zelenskiy for the Biden investigation filed a complaint with the intelligence community inspector general.
Republican supporters of Trump have pressed for the unnamed official to testify before the impeachment panel, but Democrats voted Wednesday to reject his appearance, partly to protect the whistleblower's identity and safety, but also because much of his statement has been corroborated by other witnesses. Trump has said he should be able to confront his initial accuser.
Under questioning from a staunch Trump supporter, Republican Congressman Jim Jordan, Taylor acknowledged that while he met with Zelenskiy three times over the summer months, linkage of military aid to investigations of the Bidens was never mentioned.
Trump, under pressure from U.S. lawmakers to release the assistance, eventually dispatched the aid on Sept. 11, even though Ukraine had not opened the investigations.
Republicans defending Trump say the fact that the aid was eventually released is key evidence to support the president's claim there was no quid pro quo — military aid in exchange for investigating the Bidens.
But Taylor said that Zelenskiy's staff was preparing for the Ukrainian leader to "make some kind of statement" on CNN about the investigations when he was in New York in late September for the annual United Nations General Assembly, an announcement that was abandoned when Trump released the money.
As the hearing unfolded, the White House pushed back against the testimony and the proceedings that threaten Trump's three-year presidency.
"This sham hearing is not only boring, it is a colossal waste of taxpayer time & money," Trump spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said. "Congress should be working on passing (a new trade treaty with Canada and Mexico), funding our govt & military, working on reduced drug pricing & much more. @realDonaldTrump is working right now-the dems should follow his lead!"
In the Oval Office, Trump told reporters, "I'm too busy to watch it. It's a witch hunt. It's a hoax."
Congressman Adam Schiff, leader of the Democratic effort to impeach Trump, accused the president in his opening statement of pressuring Ukraine for the politically tinged investigations while withholding the military aid.
"The matter is as simple and as terrible as that," said Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence panel. "If this is not impeachable conduct, what is?"
Republican Congressman Devin Nunes, a staunch Trump defender, called the hearing a "televised theatrical performance" and an "impeachment process in search of a crime." He belittled secret hearings over the last several weeks and called the release of transcripts of officials who have testified against Trump a "carefully orchestrated media smear campaign."
Taylor and Kent were testifying publicly after weeks of closed-door hearings.
More than a dozen current and former diplomatic and national security officials, including Taylor and Kent, laid out the case in private testimony that Trump temporarily withheld the military aid to Ukraine to fight the pro-Russian separatists unless Zelenskiy publicly promised to open the Biden investigations.
In the hours ahead of the testimony, Trump railed against the impeachment effort, quoting one supporter who noted that Trump eventually released the U.S. assistance to Kyiv in September without the investigations of the Bidens being opened.
Trump said the witnesses expected to testify about his actions involving Ukraine are "NEVER TRUMPERS!"
Almost uniformly, the witnesses are career diplomats and national security officials who have worked for both Republican and Democratic administrations. In the case of Sondland, a key witness who will testify next week, Trump appointed him ambassador to Brussels.
Both Taylor and Kent denied they are "Never Trumpers." Kent said he has served under three Republican presidents and two Democratic chief executives.
Trump has described his late July call with Zelenskiy as "perfect" and urged Americans to "READ THE TRANSCRIPT!"
Trump's supporters say he never specifically mentioned a quid pro quo in the call.
Schiff said Taylor, Kent and a third witness — Marie Yovanovitch, a former U.S. ambassador to Kyiv set to testify on Friday — "bring decades of dedicated and exemplary service to our nation."
According to memos circulating Tuesday to party members, Republicans insisted that Trump had a "deep-seated, genuine and reasonable skepticism" about corruption in Ukraine and that his withholding aid was "entirely reasonable."
The House Intelligence Committee will also hold three days of hearings next week. In addition to Sondland, Ambassador Kurt Volker, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman and former National Security Council senior director Fiona Hill are scheduled to testify.
6 Minute English
Beating a sedentary lifestyle
EPISODE 180906 / 06 SEP 2018
impact on their health. In the UK, 20 million people don't do any exercise at all. Finland used to have one of the highest mortality rates from heart disease but it's managed to reverse this trend. Dan and Catherine talk about Finland's experience and teach you new vocabulary.
This week's question:
According to a recent survey, how long does the average person in the UK spend sitting down every day? Is it:
a) between 6 and 7 hours
b) between 7 and 8 hours
c) between 8 and 9 hours
Listen to the programme to find out the answer.
This is not a word for word transcript
a) between 6 and 7 hours,
So, Dan, what do you think?
Hong Kong police shoot at pro-democracy protesters
Nov 11. 2019
By The Washington Post
HONG KONG — At least one pro-democracy protester was shot by Hong Kong police Monday morning as the city braced for a general strike to mark the death of another protester killed during a police operation the previous weekend.
The incident occurred in Sai Wan Ho as activists attempting to block a busy street were confronted by a traffic police officer, according to a live news feed. After the officer began grappling with one protester, he fired a live round into the abdomen of another protester approaching him. Two more rounds were subsequently fired at another protester.
A police representative confirmed that live rounds were fired and that two protesters were injured outside the Sai Wan Ho MTR station and taken to Eastern Hospital. A 21-year-old man was in critical condition, hospital officials said.
Seven universities across Hong Kong suspended classes as of Monday morning, citing “serious traffic disruptions” across the city.
The city has been gripped by five months of political unrest that began when Chief Executive Carrie Lam tried to push through an unpopular extradition bill that would have allowed criminal suspects in Hong Kong to face trial in mainland China.
A protester who fell from a parking garage during a police dispersal operation a week earlier died of his injuries on Friday, escalating tensions between police and the public that have been increasingly strained over the months of worsening violence.
On Oct. 1, China’s National Day, the first live round to hit a protester was fired by riot police pursued by protesters in the distant suburb of Tsuen Wan.
Public anger has grown as Hong Kong authorities, backed by Chinese officials, have deployed increasingly forceful tactics to try to quell the anti-government unrest. Lam has refused to authorize an independent inquiry of police actions, a key demand of protesters.
At the University of Hong Kong, police fired tear gas early Monday to disperse crowds. Several subway exits leading to the campus were vandalized and riot police shut down a main entrance to the campus.
Protesters built barricades around the campus using picnic tables and desks and poured liquid detergent on the floor.
Without an independent investigation of police actions, “the protests aren’t going to stop,” said Jackie, 22, a research scientist who was photographing her friends ahead of their planned graduation ceremony on Monday. She gave only one name out of fear of retribution.
In recent days, a panel of experts brought in by the Hong Kong government found that the city’s police watchdog was unfit to carry out an independent investigation of the police force.
Chinese officials, meanwhile, have backed Lam and called for tough measures to end the protests and safeguard national security.
Protesters are calling for full democracy in Hong Kong amid concerns that Beijing is tightening its grip and reneging on a promise to allow the financial hub a high degree of autonomy until 2047, half a century after its handover from British colonial rule.
(Shibani Mahtani in Washington and Casey Quackenbush in Hong Kong contributed to this report.)
Hong Kong protests: Two people in critical condition after the day of chaos
Media caption This Hong Kong protester's shooting was live-streamed on Facebook
Two people are in critical condition after another day of violent demonstrations in Hong Kong.
A protester was injured on Monday morning when he was shot at close range by a police officer.
He was the third person shot by police since the protests began 24 weeks ago.
Later on Monday a pro-Beijing supporter was doused in flammable liquid and set alight after arguing with protesters, who are demanding greater democracy and police accountability in Hong Kong.
The territory's Chief Executive Carrie Lam, speaking at a news conference on Monday evening, called the demonstrators enemies of the people.
"If there's still any wishful thinking that by escalating violence, the Hong Kong government will yield to pressure, to satisfy the so-called political demands, I'm making this statement clear and loud here: that will not happen," she said.
There were clashes across Hong Kong on Monday between protesters and police, who fired rubber bullets and tear gas. At one point, tear gas was fired in the central business district - a rare occurrence during working hours on a weekday.Image copyrightREUTERSImage captionProtesters built barricades in Causeway Bay
The violence also prompted a warning from a senior Chinese newspaper editor at a tabloid published by the state-owned People's Daily.
Addressing Hong Kong police, Hu Xijin wrote: "You have the backing of not only the Hong Kong and Chinese people, but also Chinese soldiers and the People's Liberation Army in Hong Kong," Reuters news agency reported. "They can go into Hong Kong to provide support at any time."
Monday's violence followed a weekend of vigils and protests after a 22-year-old student protester died on Friday. Alex Chow had been in hospital since he fell from the ledge of a car park during a police operation a week ago.
The protests started in June against a now-withdrawn plan to allow extradition to mainland China, but have since morphed into wider demonstrations.
What happened to the injured protester?
The shooting occurred as protesters tried to block a junction at Sai Wan Ho on the north-east of Hong Kong Island. Police confirmed that one officer "discharged his service revolver" and that a man was shot.
Footage posted on Facebook showed the officer drawing his gun before grappling with a man at a roadblock. When another man approached wearing a face mask, the officer fired at him, hitting him in the torso. The officer fired twice more, but there were no injuries.
After the shooting, footage showed the 21-year old protester lying with his eyes wide open and with blood around him.
He has undergone surgery and remains in a critical condition, a Hospital Authority spokesman told the BBC.
The police said officers also drew firearms from their holsters in two other places.Image copyrightEPAImage captionPolice in Sai Wan Ho, after the shooting happened
But they denied what they called "totally false and malicious" reports that officers were ordered to "recklessly use their firearms" in Monday's operations.
It was the third time a police officer had shot someone with live rounds. The first incident was during protests on 1 October when China was celebrating 70 years of communist rule. The second case was a teenage boy shot in the leg on 4 October.
Blood and graffiti
Stephen McDonell, BBC China correspondent, at the scene
The pedestrian crossing in Sai Wan Ho, where the young protester was shot, has become a site of considerable tension.
Activists have built barricades across the junction - and when riot police come they face a torrent of abuse from bystanders of all ages.
Blood can still be seen on the street - and next to it graffiti reading "we shall never surrender".
Each time the riot police leave, the demonstrators return to erect their barricades again.
Hong Kong's political crisis - now in its fifth month - continues to become more violent.
What happened to the pro-Beijing supporter?
The unnamed man was doused in a flammable liquid after getting into a dispute with protesters in Ma On Shan, about 20km (12 miles) north of the business district. It is unclear what started the argument, news agency AFP reported.
Video being shared online shows the man, who is wearing green, tell the protesters "none of you are Chinese". The protesters respond by telling him to "go back to the Greater Bay Area", which is a part of the Chinese mainland across the border from Hong Kong.Image copyrightREUTERSImage captionTear gas was fired in the central business district - a rare occurrence on a weekday
The man was then set alight in what Chief Supt John Tse said was the "most shocking incident".
"The man is now admitted to hospital in critical condition and the case is under investigation by the regional crime unit of New Territories South," he told reporters.
What else happened on Monday?
Most protests have taken place at weekends, but pro-democracy activists have called out all workers for a general strike on Monday.
Other incidents have included:
Police described the activists as "radical protesters", conducting "extensive illegal acts" and urged them to stop any actions that threatened safety and obstructed the police.
Several universities have cancelled their classes for the day.
Why are there protests in Hong Kong?
Hong Kong is part of China but as a former British colony it has some autonomy and people have more rights.
The protests started in June against plans to allow extradition to the mainland - which many feared would undermine the city's freedoms.
The bill was withdrawn in September but demonstrations continued and now call for full democracy and an inquiry into police behaviour.
Clashes between police and activists have become increasingly violent and in October the city banned all face masks.
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November 14, 2019