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U.S. Democrats denounce withdrawal from Open Skies Treaty, saying it illegal

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U.S. Democrats on Friday denounced the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from the Open Skies Treaty, saying it’s illegal and demanding an explanation.

In a letter to U.S. State Secretary Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Mark Esper, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel and Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith said that the withdrawal from the treaty without consultation with Congress violates Section 1234 of the Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act.

“This provision of law stipulates that you must notify Congress not later than 120 days before the intent to withdraw from the treaty is presented to either treaty depository … To date, this requirement has not been fulfilled,” the two Democrats said in the letter, demanding an explanation for this “intended illegal action.”

Engel and Smith also said that they strongly oppose the withdrawal decision, which they believe would “specifically negatively impact U.S. leadership in NATO and the transatlantic relationship with its allies and partners.”

“It appears that short-sighted interests and partisan politics prevailed over reason and good foreign policy. This is a regrettable decision that will have lasting consequences,” they added.

Pompeo announced on Thursday that the United States would submit the notice of its decision to withdraw from the Open Skies Treaty to all other state parties on Friday, citing Russian noncompliance as a motivating factor for its decision.

The withdrawal would formally take place in six months, based on the treaty’s withdrawal terms. Pompeo said Washington might reconsider its decision if Moscow returns to “full compliance with the Treaty.”

The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement Friday that Russia is open to dialogue with the United States on the Open Skies Treaty, but only if it is based on equal rights and aimed at mutual consideration of interests and concerns.

The United States and Russia have blamed each other for noncompliance with the treaty. Washington and Moscow have each put a few limits on flights over their territories — Hawaii and some other U.S. bases have been off-limits, as has Kaliningrad, among others, according to media reports.

The treaty, which became effective in 2002, allows its states-parties to conduct short-notice, unarmed reconnaissance flights over the others’ entire territories to collect data on military forces and activities.

Currently, 35 nations, including Russia, the United States, and most members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, have signed it. Kyrgyzstan has signed but not ratified it yet.

The treaty is aimed at building confidence and familiarity among states-parties through their participation in the overflights. Over 1,500 Open Skies flights have been conducted since the deal entered into force in 2002, according to media reports.

Analysts noted that the U.S. pullout, rumored for months, would cause concern among European allies.

“A unilateral U.S. exit from Open Skies would undermine our security and that of our European allies, all of whom strongly support the treaty,” said Thomas Countryman, former U.S. acting undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, and now chair of the board of the Arms Control Association.

“It has the effect – and perhaps this is the intention – of signaling a diminished U.S. commitment to its NATO allies,” he added.

Ten European nations on Friday issued a joint statement regretting the United States’ withdrawal.

“We regret the announcement by the government of the United States of its intention to withdraw from the Open Skies Treaty, although we share its concerns regarding the implementation of treaty provisions by Russia,” said the foreign ministers of France, Germany, Belgium, Spain, Finland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Czech Republic, and Sweden in the statement.

“We will continue to implement the Open Skies Treaty which has obvious added value for our conventional arms control architecture and our common security,” said the statement.

It was the latest in a string of moves by the Trump administration to withdraw from major international treaties. Washington abandoned the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Moscow last year.

The pullout of the Open Skies Treaty further raised doubts over whether the Trump administration would extend the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), the last remaining nuclear arms control treaty in force between Washington and Moscow.

The New START, which expires next February, can be extended for at most five years with the consent of the two countries. Russia has expressed willingness to extend the treaty, while the Trump administration has yet to officially reply.

(XINHUA)

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Democrats pass new rules to allow virtual convention

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Democrats in the U.S. Congress on Tuesday voted on a plan to allow presidential nominating convention organizers to host an event that won’t require delegates to attend in person this August amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The new rules would give organizers “the tools necessary to adapt and plan” for a gathering and “ensure that every delegate is able to accomplish their official business without putting their own health at risk,” said Tom Perez, chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC).

The resolution, approved by the DNC’s Rules & Bylaws Committee, would also enable the committee to determine the convention’s final dates, as well as its “format, voting mechanisms, structure and other logistical aspects.”

The plan is expected to obtain the final approval of the full DNC membership via a mail ballot.

Also on Tuesday, the Democratic Party approved waivers for states, including Delaware, Kentucky, New Jersey, New York and Louisiana, that have delayed presidential primaries beyond the deadline of June 9 amid the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

More than 1.3 million people in the United States have been infected with the novel coronavirus, with over 82,000 deaths, according to a count by Johns Hopkins University.

(XINHUA)

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Leading Democrats defend Biden after sexual assault allegation 

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A sexual assault allegation by a former aide is casting a shadow on Joe Biden’s presidential campaign, leaving some Democrats defending the party’s presumptive nominee and prompting Republican attacks.

Tara Reade, Biden’s former Senate staffer, has accused the former vice president of sexually assaulting her on Capitol Hill in 1993, a claim that gained fresh attention this week after an associate of Reade’s came forward to say Reade had told her about the alleged assault at the time.

Biden’s campaign has denied the allegation, though the 77-year-old political veteran has not addressed the issue himself.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday said she was “satisfied” with how Biden had responded, while acknowledging that “it’s a matter that he has to deal with.”

Pelosi told broadcaster CNN that she had “great sympathy for any women who bring forth an allegation,” but noted that people working with Biden in the 1990s had never heard of such a claim.

Other Democrats who have come to his defence include Stacey Abrams, a potential running mate for Biden.

“I think he’s telling the truth and this did not happen,” Abrams told CNN, pointing to a New York Times investigation she said exonerated him.

Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senate majority leader, has claimed a double standard in the way Democrats and the media have confronted Reade’s allegation compared to accusations against conservatives.

McConnell told Fox News on Thursday that Biden will “have to participate in releasing all of the information related to the allegations,” though he not made the same request of President Donald Trump, who has faced more than a dozen sexual assault allegations.

President Trump was asked to weigh in on the accusation on Thursday and remained uncharacteristically reserved toward his chief political rival.

“It could be false accusations, I know all about false accusations,” said Trump, who has been accused of sexual misconduct by at least 17 women and was heard on tape bragging about grabbing women’s genitalia.

Edited By: Emmanuel Yashim (NAN)

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Top Democrats call for probe of U.S. attorney general’s comments on firing of intelligence official

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Two top House Democrats said on Monday that they are calling for a review of comments by Attorney General William Barr regarding U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to fire Michael Atkinson, the inspector general of the intelligence community.

In a letter to the watchdog of the Department of Justice (DOJ), Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff of California and Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler of New York said that they want an investigation into whether recent public statements by Barr regarding Atkinson violated applicable DOJ policies and rules of professional conduct.

Schiff and Nadler wrote that, Barr, in an interview with Fox News earlier this month, “blatantly mischaracterized” Atkinson’s conduct and the DOJ’s own actions relating to the complaint filed last summer by an intelligence community whistleblower and misrepresented the DOJ’s legal opinion concerning the whistleblower complaint.

“Public confidence in our system of justice depends on the integrity, fairness, and impartiality of DOJ’s leadership. It is, therefore, imperative that the Attorney General be held to the same high standard expected of all Department personnel, particularly in matters involving the President’s own interests,” they added.

Trump fired Atkinson earlier this month, citing Atkinson’s decision last year to inform Congress of the existence of the whistleblower complaint alleging that he sought to pressure the Ukrainian government to launch investigations that could politically benefit him.

The White House and the DOJ blocked Atkinson from sharing the complaint with Congress but public pressure surrounding the episode prompted the administration to share the details with lawmakers in September. A Democratic-led impeachment inquiry into Trump began shortly after that.

Barr, in the Fox News interview, said that Atkinson “was obliged to follow the interpretation of the Department of Justice and he ignored it,” claiming that “the president was correct in firing him.”

In Monday’s letter, Schiff and Nadler said Barr’s recent remarks “are part of a disturbing pattern of misrepresenting facts and falsely alleging misconduct by other government officials in order to defend the President’s own misconduct.”

Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz defended Atkinson’s actions surrounding the whistleblower complaint after Trump’s decision to remove him.

“Inspector General Atkinson is known throughout the Inspector General community for his integrity, professionalism, and commitment to the rule of law and independent oversight,” Horowitz said at the time. “That includes his actions in handling the Ukraine whistleblower complaint, which the then Acting Director of National Intelligence stated in congressional testimony was done ‘by the book’ and consistent with the law.”

Trump called Atkinson a “disgrace” and argued that he “did a terrible job.”
(XINHUA)

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U.S. coronavirus cases top 200,000 as Democrats push fourth stimulus 

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U.S. coronavirus cases topped 200,000 on Wednesday, doubling in less than a week, and deaths passed 4,000 as the nation’s top public health officials predicted grim weeks ahead in the battle against the outbreak.

Meanwhile Democrats in Washington are starting to push for a fourth economic stimulus package aimed at massive infrastructure projects.

Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, said on Wednesday that she wants lawmakers to pursue the stimulus package once Congress is back in session on April 20.

However, Republicans have demurred on the subject.

The country is gearing up to battle the pandemic with President Donald Trump predicting a “very, very painful” two weeks ahead.

The White House has said the toll could reach 240,000 U.S. deaths.

In a sign that some holdouts are taking the virus more seriously, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on Wednesday announced a state-wide stay at home order, to take effect on Thursday evening.

DeSantis was facing mounting criticism that he was not taking enough measures to curb the outbreak and on Wednesday he said that Trump had influenced his decision.

In New York, the epicentre of the current outbreak, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that some 16,000 people could die there, citing projections.

Cuomo warned other regions: “Look at us today, see yourself tomorrow.”

New York’s death toll has reached 1,941, accounting for nearly half of fatalities nationwide, Cuomo said.

There are at least 83,712 confirmed coronavirus cases in the state.

“That number will continue to go up,” he said, predicting that the local outbreak would hit its apex “roughly at the end of April.”

He said at the peak that New York would need 110,000 hospital beds and 37,000 ventilators, but that the federal government had only sent 4,000 units of the breathing equipment.

Cuomo also announced New York City playgrounds will be shut down as social distancing guidelines are still not being followed closely enough, especially by young people.

“Who else has to die for you to understand you have a responsibility?” Cuomo said.

On a personal note, Cuomo said he was “frightened” for his brother, CNN anchor Chris Cuomo, who tested positive for the coronavirus.

“I couldn’t protect my own brother,” an emotional governor said, adding that “anyone can get this disease.”

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Republicans oppose Democrats’ coronavirus bill

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The top Republican in the House of Representatives, Kevin McCarthy, on Thursday, said the Democrats’ multi-billion-dollar aid package to respond to the economic effects of the coronavirus outbreak “comes up short”.

McCarthy said a deal could still be reached within two days.

The Democrats’ proposal is expected to move to the House floor on Thursday, but the Republicans control the Senate.

President Donald Trump and his Republican party are coordinating on this issue.

“It’s more important that we get it right.

“This is a time and a place that you do not want to rush something,’’ McCarthy said.

The Democrats have been aiming to help workers, including through paid sick leave.

Edited By: Yahaya Isah/Abdulfatah Babatunde
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U.S. Senate rejects Democrats’ demand for documents in Trump impeachment trial

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The Republican-controlled U.S. Senate on Tuesday rejected three sepreate motions proposed by the Democrats to acquire documents and evidence in the impeachment trial against President Donald Trump.

The motions, brought up by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, are amendments to the Republican-proposed resolution guiding the trial process.

The first one, rejected in a 53-47 party-line vote, called for subpoenaing any “documents, communications and other records” kept by the White House that were stonewalled from Congress during the House-led impeachment inquiry.

An earlier four-page resolution proposed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell does not require additional witnesses to be subpoenaed and does not allow House prosecutors to admit evidence into the Senate trial record until the opening arguments from the two opposing sides are heard.

Schumer then introduced a second amendment seeking to subpoena the State Department for certain documents and records.

But the second one was rejected by the same voting result as the first one.

The Democratic senator from New York later offered a third amendment to subpoena relevant documents from the Office of Management and Budget.

The third amendment was unsurprisingly nullified along party lines.

The trial then went into a 30-minute recess for dinner.

McConnell in a floor speech earlier in the day vowed to block any early votes on witnesses.

“If a senator moves to amend the resolution in order to subpoena specific witnesses or documents, I will move to table such motions because the Senate will decide those questions later in the trial,” said the Kentucky Republican.

Tuesday marked the formal start of the impeachment trial against Trump, who was accused by the Democratic-controlled House of abusing power and obstructing Congress.

The task for Tuesday was to debate and vote on rules governing the trial.

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Edited by: Emmanuel Yashim

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U.S. Democrats demand info on Soleimani killing as impeachment looms

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Democratic leaders are demanding more information on President Donald Trump’s decision to assassinate top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani last week as Congress convened for its first full week of the New Year on Monday.

Trump’s surprise decision to kill Soleimani – one of the most important figures in the Middle East – sent shockwaves throughout the world and has pushed foreign policy into the debate surrounding the president’s looming impeachment trial.

In a letter to Trump on Monday, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Robert Menendez said Trump has “no legitimate justification” for classifying the administration’s reasoning for the killing.

“It is critical that national security matters of such import be shared with the American people in a timely manner,” the senators said in a letter to Trump on Monday.

Nancy Pelosi, the leader of the Democrats in the House, said late Sunday that the lower chamber would introduce legislation this week to limit the president’s ability to conduct military actions against Iran without congressional approval.

Pelosi called the attack a “provocative and disproportionate military airstrike” that “endangered our service members, diplomats and others by risking a serious escalation of tensions with Iran”.

In a series of tweets on Monday, Trump blasted the Democrats for focusing on impeaching him in a trial in the Senate while “we have so many important matters pending”.

Republicans have used the strike on Soleimani to defend Trump as taking action against enemies while Democrats try to remove him from office.

Iraq’s parliament called for U.S. and other foreign troops to leave as the backlash against the U.S. killing on Friday of a top Iranian general grew, and Trump doubled down on threats to target Iranian cultural sites if Iran retaliates.

Trump also threatened sanctions against Iraq and said that if U.S. troops were required to leave, Iraq’s government would have to pay Washington for the cost of a “very extraordinarily expensive” airbase there.

Similarly, Trump is confident he could still renegotiate a new nuclear deal with Tehran, White House adviser Kellyanne Conway said on Monday.

This was a day after Iran announced it would retreat further from the 2015 nuclear pact.

Asked if Trump believes he can still get Iran to renegotiate a new nuclear agreement, Conway said at the White House: “He said he’s open.

“If Iran wants to start behaving like a normal country … sure, absolutely.”

Edited by: Fatima Sule/Emmanuel Yashim

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Trump: Senate Republicans predict congressional Democrats will fail  to force summon of witnesses 

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Failure

President Trump’simpeachment trial.

House of Representatives to approve two articles of impeachment against the president last week.

Following Wednesday’s vote, only the third time in history that the House has impeached a president, Speaker Senate for trial.

White House, they were not satisfied the proceedings would be conducted fairly and impartially.

Pelosi said she wanted clarity about what rules the Senate.

She (D-Senate.

“We’re confident this position is untenable, and she’s going to move it along,” Short, the chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence and a former White House legislative director, told “Fox News Sunday.”

“She will yield – there’s no way she can hold this position,” he said, referring to Pelosi.

The Senate Republicans opposed that idea and appeared to have convinced Trump to drop it.

“I think what she’s just trying to do is make sure the best possible case for a fair trial happens,” said Senator NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Addressing Trump directly, Booker said: “If you’re innocent, have acting Chief of Staff [Senate, swear to an oath _ settle this whole thing.”

Senator United States Senate.”

Since an impeachment inquiry began nearly three months ago, Trump has refused any cooperation by the executive branch.

The blanket rejection of subpoenas for documents and squelching of appearances by key figures such as Mulvaney and Secretary of State Congress.

The other accuses Trump of abuse of power.

More than a dozen diplomats and current or former administration officials defied Trump’s instructions and testified in the House proceedings.

Those witnesses helped Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

Trump, who has never consistently accepted Hillary Clinton, Trump’s opponent.

Although new evidence continues to emerge, Democratssay it is impossible to establish key details of what transpired if Trump blocks testimony by senior aides.

In the latest disclosure, documents obtained Friday by the nonprofit July 25 phone conversation with Zelensky.

Senate.

Sen. ABC’s “This Week” that it was not “unreasonable” for the speaker to wait to determine “what kind of playing field” House managers would face.

“She’s not going to hold these [articles] forever,” said Jones, who faces an uphill fight for reelection next year in a state where Trump remains popular. “I don’t think it’s unfair to ask, ‘What are the rules that we’re playing by when we go and we get this over there?’”

But Senator Constitution.

The Senate Judiciary Committee, said on Fox News’ “Sunday Futures” that the speaker had overstepped her bounds.

“She’s actually trying to tell Senate,” he said. “Can you imagine if the roles were reversed?”

Trump has responded to his impeachment with fury, and on the Sunday news-talk shows, he was rebuked and defended for his attacks on critics of his temperament and behavior.

The editor of an evangelical magazine, Christianity Today, said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that he had not wavered from his judgment, in an editorial published Thursday, that Trump was “morally unfit” to be president.

Trump denounced the magazine after the editorial came out, calling it a radical leftist publication.

Short, on “Meet the Press,” said many evangelicals _ a crucial constituency _ “take great gratitude that he’s our president.”

Short also defended Trump over mocking comments last week about Rep. John D. Dingell, formerly the senior Democrat in the House, who died in February at age 92.

Speaking at a rally in Debbie Dingell, suggested that the congressman had gone to hell.

Debbie Dingell said on “Fox News Sunday” that the president’s comments “sort of kicked me in the stomach.”

Short, on NBC, said he was “sorry she’s hurting” but noted that the late congressman, soon before he died, had referred to Trump as an “imbecile.”

In advance of the Illinois, urged fellow senators from both parties to keep an open mind and stop talking about whether they would vote to convict and remove the president.

“I’m going to take an oath … when it comes to this impeachment,” Durbin said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “I promise ‘impartial justice, so help me God,’ and I want to stick by that.”

YEE

Edited by: Emmanuel Yashim
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All the 2020 Democrats threatening to skip next debate in LA

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All the 2020 candidates who qualified for the next Democratic presidential debate have vowed to bow out of the event because they don’t want to cross a picket line to get there.

Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg, Andrew Yang, Amy Klobuchar, and Tom Steyer announced on Friday that they would pull out of the Thursday Democratic debate in Los Angeles if a local labor union dispute can’t get resolved.

The Democratic National Committee decided last month that it would move the debate from the University of California, Los Angeles to Loyola Marymount University following a conflict between UCLA and AFSCME Local 3299.

Now, however, the DNC finds itself in the crosshairs of another dispute. UNITE HERE Local 11, which represents 150 workers who prepare and serve meals for Loyola Marymount students, said it would boycott the next presidential debate after negotiations broke down with Sodexo, the university’s food services subcontractor.

“We had hoped that workers would have a contract with wages and affordable health insurance before the debate next week. Instead, workers will be picketing when the candidates come to campus,” said a statement from Susan Minato, co-president of UNITE HERE Local 11.

Shortly after the announcement, Warren, Sanders and Yang took to Twitter and committed to not crossing the picket lines.

“The DNC should find a solution that lives up to our party’s commitment to fight for working people.

“I will not cross the union’s picket line even if it means missing the debate,” Warren wrote.

Yang said “there is nothing more core to the Democratic Party than the fight for working people,” while Sanders said he stood with the university workers “fighting Sodexo for a better contract.”

Biden, Buttigieg, and Steyer also offered their support for the Loyola Marymount workers, with Biden calling for them to receive “affordable healthcare and fair wages,” Buttigieg saying he would not “undermine” workers’ rights and Steyer urging the Democratic National Committee to “find a solution ahead of the debate.”

Klobuchar said at an event with labor leaders in Miami that she, too, would not cross the picket lines.

The debate is the first (and likely the last) to be held in California before the state’s March 3 primary election.

The Democratic National Committee announced that its next four debates will be held in January and February in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina, leaving room for two more planned debates between March and June.

The Democratic National Committee said it’s working with the labor union and others involved and expects the debate to go on as planned.

“We are working with all stakeholders to find an acceptable resolution that meets their needs and is consistent with our values and will enable us to proceed as scheduled with next week’s debate,” said Xochitl Hinojosa, the committee’s communications director.

YEE

Edited by: Emmanuel Yashim

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