Justice, News, Politics

Trump fires Gordon Sondland as EU ambassador

Trump fires key impeachment witness Gordon Sondland as EU ambassador

U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland speaks with President Trump at Melsbroek Air Base in July 2018 in Brussels. Sondland is speaking to House committees on Thursday.
But the President Trump said he does not know the ambassador, so the photo may be fake 🙂

Gordon Sondland, the US’s ambassador to the EU, became the second impeachment witness to be fired on Friday. Sondland was ousted not long after Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, another crucial witness to President Donald Trump’s Ukraine dealings, was abruptly fired and escorted from the White House.

Trump fires key impeachment witness Gordon Sondland as EU ambassador

Gordon Sondland, the US’s ambassador to the EU, became the second impeachment witness to be fired on Friday. Sondland was ousted not long after Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, another crucial witness to President Donald Trump’s Ukraine dealings, was abruptly fired and escorted from the White House.

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Justice, News, Politics

How Middle East Reacting to Donald Trump’s Israeli-Palestinian Peace Plan

Middle Eastern nations offered mixed reactions to President Donald Trump’s long-awaited Israeli-Palestinian peace plan, a framework negotiated without the participation of Palestinians, who have been engaged in a land dispute with the world’s only majority-Jewish nation since its creation in 1948.

Trump released his “Vision for Peace, Prosperity and a Brighter Future” alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday at a White House gathering boycotted by Palestinian officials that have severed ties to the administration over its decision to recognize the contested city of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital. Trump billed his initiative as the most detailed yet after successive U.S. administrations have tried and failed for years to settle the conflict.

The president’s plan grants Israel control over internationally-unrecognized Jewish settlements and occupied areas bordering Jordan in exchange for a Palestinian path to potential statehood and some desert territories along the Egyptian border should the Palestinians renounce violence and recognize Israel as a Jewish state. The strategy would also see up to $50 billion invested in Palestinian-administered territories.

Both Netanyahu and his upcoming elections rival Benny Gantz endorsed the proposal, but it was received less warmly in the Middle East.

Palestinian National Authority

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas roundly rejected the Trump administration’s strategy even before it was released. Following Trump’s reveal on Tuesday, Abbas held a press conference at which he responded to the plan “with a thousand no’s,” especially to the U.S. proposal for an “undivided” Israeli capital in Jerusalem and a separate Palestinian capital somewhere on the eastern outskirts of the holy city.

“Jerusalem is not for sale. Our rights are not for sale. Your conspiracy deal will not pass,” Abbas stated, warning that the Palestinian people will dump his plan “into the dustbin of history.”

Previously on Tuesday, Abbas spoke via telephone with Ismail Haniyeh, the chief of Palestinian Sunni Islamist movement Hamas. The two stressed unity in the face of the U.S. strategy.

“The comprehensive and united resistance is capable of thwarting all the projects to liquidate the Palestinian cause, foremost of which is the ‘deal of the century,'” Hamas spokesperson Hazem Qasem said Tuesday in a press statement, stressing “that the occupation will not obtain security through the deal of the century or any other promises as long as it occupies our land and our sanctities.”

Palestinians angrily reject Trump Mideast peace plan

Palestinian protesters clashed with Israeli forces on the outskirts of Ramallah, near the Jewish settlement of Beit El.

Jordan

Jordan is one of only two Arab countries that has a peace agreement with Israel, the other being Egypt. Still, Israel’s planned landgrab across the border is likely to be controversial among the kingdom’s Palestinian-origin majority.

Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi called in a statement Tuesday for a “just and lasting peace that meets all the legitimate rights of the brotherly Palestinian people” but stated that a two-state solution would need to respect Palestinian claims to territories occupied by Israel since the Six-Day War of 1967, including an East Jerusalem capital.

“Jordan must condemn unilateral Israeli measures in violation of international law and provocative actions that push the region toward more tension and escalation,” he said.

“Jordan will continue to work with Arab countries and the international community for realizing peace,” Safadi added, offering support for “every real effort aimed at achieving a just and comprehensive peace accepted by the peoples.”

Saudi Arabia

The Saudi Foreign Ministry said it had reviewed the U.S. plan and would support any path toward realizing “a just and comprehensive solution to the Palestinian issue.”

“The kingdom appreciates the efforts made by the Trump administration to develop a comprehensive peace plan between the Palestinian and Israeli sides, and encourages the initiation and direct negotiations of peace between the Palestinian and Israeli sides under the auspices of the United States of America and to address any differences on any aspects of the plan through negotiations,” the ministry said.

Saudi King Salman also called Abbas directly, telling him that “your issue is ours, and the issue of Arabs and Muslims, and we are with you,” according to the Palestine News Agency, the official outlet of the Palestinian National Authority.

President Donald Trump and Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu

Iran

Iran has portrayed itself as the premier supporter of the Palestinian cause and actively backs armed Palestinian groups such as Hamas, along with the power Shiite Muslim Hezbollah movement in Lebanon and other friendly forces in Syria and Iraq, where Israel has stepped up a semi-covert campaign against them. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Abbas Mousavi termed Trump’s plan “the betrayal of the century.”

“The Zionist regime is a usurper and occupation regime, and the only solution to the Palestinian crisis will be to hold a referendum among the main inhabitants of the land of Palestine, and such vicious plans are doomed to failure,” Mousavi said.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif called Trump’s proposal “simply the dream project of a bankruptcy-ridden real estate developer.”

“But it is a nightmare for the region and the world,” Zarif added. “And, hopefully, a wake-up call for all the Muslims who have been barking up the wrong tree #LetsUniteforPalestine.

Turkey

Turkey has often criticized what it saw as harsh and unfair Israeli policies towards Palestinians but was more recently feuding with Israel over disputed maritime territory in the oil-and-gas-rich Mediterranean Sea. In a statement issued Tuesday, the Turkish Foreign Ministry called the U.S. plan “stillborn.”

“This is an annexation plan aiming to destroy the two-state solution and seize the Palestinian territories. The people and the land of Palestine cannot be bought off,” the statement said. “Jerusalem is our red line. We will not allow any step seeking to legitimize Israel’s occupation and atrocities. We will always stand by the brotherly Palestinian people and will continue to work for an independent Palestine on Palestinian land.”

“We will not support any plan that does not have the support of Palestine,” it added. “There will not be any peace in the Middle East without ending Israel’s occupation policies.”

Egypt

Egypt was once the primary military backer of Palestinian commandos battling Israel but the countries’ 1979 peace treaty, facilitated by President Jimmy Carter, helped pave the way for plans for Palestinian autonomy. The Egyptian Foreign Ministry said Tuesday the country “appreciates the continued efforts made by the American administration to reach a comprehensive and just peace for the Palestinian cause, thus contributing to supporting stability and security in the Middle East, and ending the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.”

Cairo called on both sides “to carefully study the American vision for achieving peace, find out all its dimensions, and open channels of dialogue to resume negotiations under American auspices, to put forward the vision of the Palestinian and Israeli parties towards it, in order to reach an agreement that meets the aspirations and hopes of the two peoples in achieving a comprehensive and just peace between them.”

A solution, the statement said, should grant Palestinians their “full legitimate rights through the establishment of their independent sovereign state over the occupied Palestinian territories, in accordance with international legitimacy.”

United Arab Emirates

The ambassadors of the UAE, Bahrain and Oman to the U.S. all attended Trump’s talk Tuesday in an apparent sign of support for his Israeli-Palestinian initiative. Emirati envoy Yousef al-Otaiba said Abu Dhabi “appreciates continued US efforts to reach a Palestine-Israel peace agreement. This plan is a serious initiative that addresses many issues raised over the years.”

“The only way to guarantee a lasting solution is to reach an agreement between all concerned parties,” he added. “The UAE believes that Palestinians and Israelis can achieve lasting peace and genuine coexistence with the support of the international community.

The plan announced today offers an important starting point for a return to negotiations within a US-led international framework.”

Influential movements opposed to Israel also expressed their criticism of Trump’s plan. Lebanon’s Hezbollah “expressed its condemnation and strong rejection of the shameful deal launched by the savage Trump administration at the expense of the Palestinian people, their land, sanctities and their legitimate natural rights,” according to the group’s affiliated Al Manar outlet.

“The deal is a very dangerous step that will have very bad repercussions on the future of the region and its people,” the group added.

Yemen

Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, spokesperson for the Zaidi Shiite Muslim movement known as Ansar Allah, or the Houthi movement, said the “deal of the century will remain an illusion, and will not change the reality of Arab and Islamic awareness of the centrality of the Palestinian cause,” using language that mirrored the group’s stance toward Kushner’s economic proposal first revealed last June.

A day before Trump’s announcement, Islamic State militant group (ISIS) spokesperson Abu Hamza al-Qurayshi also blasted the anticipated plan during a 37-minute audio message. He called on “Muslims in Palestine and all countries” to “be a spearhead in the war against the Jews and in thwarting their plans and their deal of the century,” also criticizing Iran and Hamas.

Justice, News, Politics

Impeachment: Donald Trump and Lev Parnas

President Donald Trump and aides sought Thursday to distance him from a Soviet-born businessman who said Trump knew all about efforts to pressure Ukraine into investigating U.S. political rival Joe Biden – a pivotal point in the Senate impeachment trial of the president.

“I don’t believe I’ve ever spoken to him,” Trump told reporters about Lev Parnas, taking questions after an event announcing new federal guidance he has said will “safeguard” the rights of students to pray in school.

Parnas, who once worked with Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, has provided House investigators with documents to buttress his claims that Trump sought political dirt from a foreign country on Biden and on his son Hunter Biden, who once worked for a Ukrainian gas company called Burisma.

“It was all about Joe Biden, Hunter Biden,” Parnas told MSNBC host Rachel Maddow, adding that “it was never about corruption. It was strictly about Burisma, which included Hunter Biden and Joe Biden.”

Parnas said Trump knows him well and there are pictures of the two of them at various events.

In an interview with CNN, Parnas said that every time Trump denies knowing him, “I’ll show him another picture. He’s lying.”

Trump spoke about his latest accuser as the Senate formally began preparing for trial on impeachment charges that he abused power and obstructed a congressional investigation into his actions regarding Ukraine.

Downplaying Parnas’ claims, a series of Trump administration officials stressed that Parnas is under indictment, and claimed that he is trying to get a lighter sentence by accusing others.

“These allegations are being made by a man who is currently out on bail for federal crimes and is desperate to reduce his exposure to prison,” said White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham.

Parnas also said Vice President Mike Pence knew about the effort to lean on Ukraine to investigate Biden. He said Pence decided not to attend the inauguration of President  Volodymyr Zelensky because Ukraine had not announced an investigation of the Bidens.

Marc Short, Pence’s chief of staff, said that witnesses during the House impeachment investigation “have testified under oath in direct contradiction to Lev Parnas statements.”

It’s “very simple,” Short added: “Lev Parnas is under a multi-count indictment and will say anything to anybody who will listen in hopes of staying out of prison.”

In the wake of Parnas’ claims, Ukraine’s Interior Ministry announced Thursday it would investigate evidence that Parnas knew about surveillance of Marie Yovanovitch, who was then U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.

Parnas’ submission to House investigators included text messages between Parnas and a Trump supporter named Robert Hyde discussing what appeared to be efforts to track Yovanovitch’s movements in Kyiv.

On another front, the U.S. Government Accountability Office issued a legal opinion saying that Trump’s Office of Management and Budget “violated the law” in withholding $214 million in security assistance to Ukraine.

During the impeachment investigation, Democrats said Trump used the withheld aid in an attempt to extort Ukraine into announcing an investigation of Biden.

U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., who requested the GAO investigation, said the GAO report proves that “the Trump Administration illegally withheld assistance from Ukraine and the public evidence shows that the president himself ordered this illegal act.”

OMB spokesperson Rachel Semmel said the administration disagreed with GAO’s opinion.

“OMB uses its apportionment authority to ensure taxpayer dollars are properly spent consistent with the President’s priorities and with the law,” she said.

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Featured, News, Politics

Donald Trump Mocks Greta Thunberg again on Twitter: ‘Currently Chilling’

Donald Trump is no stranger to criticizing teenage climate activist and TIME’s Person of the Year Greta Thunberg. And Greta is very familiar with clapping back at him, in her way.

On Wednesday, the president, 73, a noted denier of climate change, tweeted angrily about Greta’s TIME honor.

“So ridiculous,” he wrote. “Greta must work on her Anger Management problem, then go to a good old fashioned movie with a friend! Chill Greta, Chill!”

*Editor’s note– I think what’s ridiculous here is the president’s replies on Twitter. It’s assumed that a president should be an example to everyone, especially if the president is the US president, because we learned and we got used to believing that the USA and her president is an inspiration for all countries.It’s true that we have free expression, but when such messages come from the US president, it’s no longer free speech. The president cannot respond to messages like an ordinary man.

Greta Thunberg’s Subtle Clap-Back After Donald Trump Mocked Her Again on Twitter: ‘Currently Chilling’

Donald Trump is no stranger to criticizing teenage climate activist and TIME’s Person of the Year Greta Thunberg. And Greta is very familiar with clapping back at him, in her way. On Wednesday, the president, 73, a noted denier of climate change, tweeted angrily about Greta’s TIME honor. “So ridiculous,” he wrote.

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Justice, News, Politics

Impeachment hearing: Live updates from the Judiciary Committee

Impeachment hearing: Live updates from the Judiciary Committee

In a packed hearing room on Wednesday, Rep. Jerry Nadler will lead the House Judiciary Committee in the next phase of the impeachment process against President Donald Trump. But Nadler, D-N.Y., has been through the process once before, in a very different capacity. On Dec.

The House Judiciary Committee kicked off its first hearing of the impeachment inquiry at 10 a.m. Wednesday with an exploration of the constitutional grounds for impeachment, including what constitutes bribery, high crimes and misdemeanors and whether President Donald Trump’s actions meet those definitions.

The witnesses include Harvard law professor Noah Feldman; Stanford law professor Pamela Karlan; University of North Carolina law professor Michael Gerhardt; and George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley. The first three witnesses were asked to testify by the committee’s Democrats, and Turley was called by the panel’s Republican members.

https://www.nbcnews.com – Updated Dec. 4, 2019, 11:46 PM CET

Justice, News, Politics

Garry Kasparov: I lived in the post-truth Soviet world and I hear its echoes in Trump’s America

Garry Kasparov: I lived in the post-truth Soviet world and I hear its echoes in Trump’s America

There cannot be a red state reality and a blue state reality any more than there should be one world map inside of Russia and a different one outside, writes Garry Kasparov.

I have lived through several world-changing upheavals. I’m a post-Soviet citizen; the country of my birth ceased to exist in 1991. We enjoyed less than a decade of tenuous freedom in Russia before Vladimir Putin launched its post-democratic phase. My ongoing attempts to fight that tragedy led to my exile in the United States. Now my new home finds itself locked in its own perilous battle — a battle to avoid becoming the latest member of the post-truth world.

*Garry Kasparov is the chairman of the Renew Democracy Initiative and a former world chess champion. The opinions expressed are solely those of the author. View more opinion articles on CNN.

News

‘I don’t know him’: Say Donald Trump’s about Ambassador Gordon Sondland

The many times Donald Trump’s acquaintances suddenly became strangers.But the way Ambassador Gordon Sondland tells it – under oath, no less – he and President Donald Trump are on such friendly terms that they communicate using colorful language and lots of naughty, four-letter words.

But Sondland hadn’t even finished his bombshell testimony during Wednesday’s impeachment hearing when Trump issued what has become his standard rebuttal.
“I don’t know him very well,” Trump said of the Oregon hotel owner who donated $1 million to his inauguration and was rewarded with the U.S. ambassadorship to the European Union.

Trump often argues he’s not familiar with certain people who run afoul of the law or whose words or actions cast him in a negative light.

Anthony Scaramucci, who lasted barely more than a week as White House communications director? “I barely knew him until his 11 days of gross incompetence,” Trump said.

Stormy Daniels? “I had nothing to do with her,” Trump said of the adult film star whom he paid $130,000 in hush money after she claimed the two had a sexual encounter.

Here are some of the people that Trump has claimed he never knows or has never met – despite the contrary evidence.

The E.U ambassador, Trump’s go-to guy on Ukraine and a star witness in the House impeachment inquiry, testified that Trump directed him and others to work with his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, to pressure Ukraine to publicly announce supposed anti-corruption investigations that Trump was seeking.

Under oath, Sondland confirmed the existence of a “quid pro quo” in which Ukraine was urged to announce an investigation into Joe Biden, one of Trump’s political rivals. In exchange, Ukraine would get the U.S. military aid it desperately wanted, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky would get a White House meeting.

Asked if he used a vulgarity when telling Trump about Zelensky’s desire to cooperate with the United States, Sondland said that sounded like something he would say.

“That’s how President Trump and I communicate – a lot of four-letter words,” he said.
Trump’s retort: “I have not spoken to him much,” he told reporters on the White House South Lawn. “This is not a man I know well.”

Will Ferrell plays Gordon Sondland in SNL’s cold open skewering Trump

Will Ferrell returned to Saturday Night Live and portrayed Gordon Sondland as he spills the beans about scandal-plagued President Trump, played as always by Alec Baldwin. ‘I can’t hear you because there is a chopper behind me,’ Trump says on the White House’s South Lawn as he brandishes notes with the large lettering in black marker.

Will Ferrell returned to Saturday Night Live and portrayed Gordon Sondland as he spilt the beans about scandal-plagued President Trump, played as always, by Alec Baldwin.

Anthony Scaramucci – aka, “the Mooch” – was a financier and one of Trump’s most vocal supporters when Trump named him White House communications director on July 21, 2017.

Trump fired Scaramucci less than two weeks later when the New Yorker called a reporter and trash-talked what he perceived to be the president’s enemies, including some members of Trump’s administration. Trump’s take: “Anthony Scaramucci is a highly unstable ‘nut job’…,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “I barely knew him.”

George Papadopoulos, a young aide, was tapped by Trump to serve on his foreign policy team during the 2016 presidential campaign. Trump lauded Papadopoulos as “an excellent guy” during a meeting with The Washington Post’s editorial board on March 21, 2016. Later that month, Trump tweeted a photo of him seated at a table with Papadopoulos during a national security meeting.

But Trump’s lofty praise cooled quickly when Papadopoulos was sentenced to two weeks in prison for lying to the FBI about his interactions with Russian contacts.
“Few people knew the young, low level volunteer named George, who has already proven to be a liar,” Trump wrote on Twitter. And that photo of him seated next to Papadopoulos? “I never even talked to the guy,” Trump told Fox News. “I didn’t know who he was.”

Paul Manafort, who served as Trump’s campaign chairman for five months, quickly fell out of his favor after he was convicted and sentenced to nearly four years in prison over financial fraud crimes related to former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
“I didn’t know Manafort well,” Trump told Fox News

Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman Trump denied knowing the two Ukrainian-born business partners, who were associates of Giuliani, after they were indicted in connection with alleged schemes to funnel foreign money to U.S. political campaigns.

The problem? Several photos show the men with Trump or members of his family. Parnas posted one photo on Facebook showing himself with Trump at the White House on May 1, describing an “incredible dinner and even better conversation.”
Trump’s explanation: “It’s possible I have a picture with them because I have a picture with everybody,” he told reporters on the White House South Lawn. But, “I don’t know them. I don’t know about them. I don’t know what they do.”

Jeffrey Epstein Trump called Epstein a “terrific guy” in a New York Magazine interview in 2002 and said he’d known the multi-millionaire for 15 years.
“He’s a lot of fun to be with,” Trump said. “It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side.”

But Trump distanced himself from the “terrific guy” in July after Epstein was arrested on charges of sex-trafficking girls as young as 14. Prosecutors said Epstein “sexually exploited and abused dozens of minor girls at his homes” in New York City and Palm Beach, Florida.
The “terrific guy” was suddenly not so terrific anymore.

“I knew him like everybody in Palm Beach knew him,” Trump told reporters at the White House. “…He was a fixture in Palm Beach. I had a falling out with him a long time ago. I don’t think I have spoken with him for 15 years. I was not a fan.” Epstein died in his New York jail cell in August. The New York medical examiner ruled his death as suicide by hanging.

Stephanie Clifford – an adult film star who performs under the name Stormy Daniels, says she had a sexual encounter with Trump in 2006.
Not true, Trump said. “I had nothing to do with her,” he told The Associated Press on Oct. 16, 2018. “So she can lie and she can do whatever she wants to do.”

Trump initially denied knowing about the hush-money paid to Daniels but later acknowledged repaying his former lawyer Michael Cohen for a $130,000 payment to her that was made as part of a hush agreement.

After a federal judge in California threw out Daniels’ defamation lawsuit against Trump last year, he celebrated on Twitter – “Horseface,” Trump mocked Daniels, adding: “She knows nothing about me.”

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Justice, News, Politics

Donald Trump says torture ‘absolutely works’

TORTURE According to the United Nations Convention against Torture, the term “torture” is defined as follows:
“Any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions. ” According to Amnesty International, 156 countries have signed the UN Convention against Torture.

(CNN) US President Donald Trump ignited a row over the use of waterboarding Wednesday after claiming intelligence professionals told him it “absolutely works.”In an interview with ABC News, he said the US must “fight fire with fire” when dealing with terrorists in comments which reverberated around the world.And while he did concede he would follow the lead of his Secretary of Defense James Mattis and his CIA director Mike Pompeo, Trump’s remarks started a worldwide debate over the use of Torture.

The Senate voted overwhelming to ban torture across the US government in 2015, codifying a ban President Barack Obama issued by executive order shortly after he was sworn in in 2009. Obama then signed the updated defense authorization bill into law — but Trump has suggested he’s not against reversing such a position.He says that the US is “not allowed to do anything” while ISIS posts video online of executions carried out by beheading.

“I’ve spoken as recently as twenty-four hours ago, with people at the highest level of intelligence, and I asked them the question,” Trump said.”Does it work? Does torture work? And the answer was yes. Absolutely.Trump also stated if Pompeo and Mattis did not want to go down the route of Torture then “that’s fine.”He added: “If they do want to do it, I will work toward that end. I want to do everything within the bounds of what you’re allowed to do legally. But do I feel it works? Absolutely I feel it works.”

In 2014, the US Senate Select Committee published a report on the CIA’s detention and interrogation program, offering a scathing analysis.The report said that the “use of the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques was not an effective means of obtaining accurate information or gaining detainee cooperation.”

The 525-report, a brief summary of the 6,700 page document, was the result of a five-year investigation into detention and “enhanced interrogation techniques” used by the CIA against suspected terrorists in secret sites around the world.It condemned the tactics as “deeply flawed” and often resulting to “fabricated information.””Anyone who understands interrogation knows that more than 99% of interrogations are very successful even without using enhanced techniques,” former US army counterintelligence special agent CJ Grisham, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, told CNN.

“The argument is that we’re talking about these hardcore terrorists who are killing people. Hardcore terrorists aren’t the ones on which torture works on, they’d rather die anyway.”The only time these torture techniques work is when you catch a low level guy is mentally feeble and it works because he doesn’t think it’s worth it.”Professor Shane O’Mara, author of “Why Torture Doesn’t Work: The Neuroscience of Interrogation,” said Trump’s remarks had left him pondering the source of the President’s advice.

“With Trump it’s very difficult to know who he has been talking to,” O’Mara told CNN.”It’s clear by looking at the 2004 Office of the Inspector General of the CIA report or the CIA emails in the Senate Torture Report that torture really was an institutional disaster for the CIA and hard to believe anyone there would want to go back to it.”

The September 11 attacks forced the US security services to radically alter their methods. Six days after the attacks, President George W. Bush signed a secret memo enabling the CIA to detain suspected terrorists. Then in February 2002, he issued an executive order which declared “members of al Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated forces [as] unlawful enemy combatants who are not entitled to the protections that the Third Geneva Convention provides to prisoners of war.”

Thus the stage was set for the adoption of what euphemistically became known as “enhanced interrogation” at secret CIA prisons around the world, known as “black sites”.In 2004, details emerged of the abuses committed at Abu Ghraib, and subsequently the waterboarding of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.

But it was not until 2014 with the publication of the Senate report that a full picture emerged of the program of systematic torture undertaken by the US between after 9/11.According to the Senate report, 119 detainees were held at CIA states between 2002 and 2008 — 39 of those were subjected to so-called enhanced interrogation techniques, ranging from sleep deprivation, to waterboarding, prolonged standing, and exposure to cold.

READ: Top takeaways from the CIA torture report

At least three men were waterboarded and other psychological tactics involved keeping detainees in pitch-black rooms “with loud noise or music and only a bucket to use for human waste.”At least five detainees were subjected to rectal rehydration — the technique of force-feeding pureed food by a tube inserted in the rectum.

One detainee, “who had been held partially nude and chained to a concrete floor” died in November 2002 from suspected hypothermia.The waterboardings of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed became, according to the report, “a series of near-drownings.” He was waterboarded at least 183 times.

Trump’s CIA director has said that he would not restart the CIA’s use of enhanced interrogation tactics the that fall outside of army field manual, even if requested by the President.When asked about such a scenario at his confirmation hearing, Pompeo said: “Absolutely not. Moreover, I can’t imagine I would be asked that by the President-elect.”John McCain, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, who was tortured as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, noted that torture is now illegal in the US.

“The President can sign whatever executive orders he likes,” McCain said in a statement. “But the law is the law. We are not bringing back torture in the United States of America.”

Torture has been illegal since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 while 156 countries have signed the UN Convention against Torture.But according to Amnesty International’s 2015/16 annual report , more than 122 states tortured or otherwise ill-treated people.It has found instances of torture ranging from South America to Africa, Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

By James Masters, CNN

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Justice, News, Politics

President Donald Trump has made his views on Ukraine

Behind closed doors, President Donald Trump has made his views on Ukraine clear: “They tried to take me down.”

The president, according to people familiar with testimony in the House impeachment investigation, sees the Eastern European ally( not Russia), as responsible for the interference in the 2016 election that was investigated by special counsel Robert Mueller.

It’s a view denied by the intelligence community, at odds with U.S. foreign policy and dismissed by many of Trump’s fellow Republicans, but part of a broader skepticism of Ukraine being shared with Trump by Russian President Vladimir Putin and his key regional ally Viktor Orban of Hungary.

Trump’s embrace of an alternative view of Ukraine suggests the extent to which his approach to Kyiv — including his request, now central to the impeachment inquiry, that the Ukraine president do him a “favor” and investigate Democrats — was colored by a long-running, unproven conspiracy theory that has circulated online and in some corners of conservative media.

On Monday, Trump derided the impeachment probe anew as a “witch hunt,” insisting that he did nothing wrong in his phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

But those testifying in the impeachment inquiry, now entering its fifth week, are recalling that Trump’s views on Ukraine were seen as a problem by some in the administration.
Some of those testifying recalled a May meeting at the White House when U.S. officials, just back from attending Zelenskiy’s inauguration in Kyiv, briefed Trump.

Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, special envoy Kurt Volker and other witnesses have described Trump as suspicious of Ukraine despite well-established American support for the fledgling democracy there. That’s according to publicly released transcripts, as well as people familiar with the private testimony to impeachment investigators. They spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss it. Several witnesses have testified that Trump believed Ukraine wanted to destroy his presidency.

One career State Department official, George Kent, told lawmakers that Putin and Orban had soured Trump’s attitude toward Ukraine. Russia and Ukraine have been foes since Putin’s invasion of Crimea in 2014, as Kyiv tries to align with the West, while Putin and Orban grow closer.

“President Trump was skeptical,” Sondland testified, according to his written remarks. Sondland said that only later did he understand that Trump, by connecting the Ukrainians with his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, was interested in probing the 2016 election as well as the family of his potential 2020 rival, Joe Biden.
“It was apparent to all of us that the key to changing President Trump’s mind on Ukraine was Mr. Giuliani.”

House Democrats launched the impeachment inquiry after a whistleblower filed a complaint that included Trump’s July call with Zelenskiy. The call was placed the day after Mueller testified to Congress and brought an end to the two-year Trump-Russia probe.

“Our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it,” Trump told Zelenskiy, according to a rough transcript of the call released by the White House.
“I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine, they say CrowdStrike,” Trump said. “The server, they say Ukraine has it.”

Trump was airing the conspiracy-theory view, shared by Giuliani, that the security firm CrowdStrike, which was hired by the Democratic National Committee to investigate the 2016 hack of its email, may have had ties to Ukraine. CrowdStrike determined in June 2016 that Russian agents had broken into the committee’s network and stolen emails that were subsequently published by WikiLeaks. The firm’s findings were confirmed by FBI investigators and helped lead to Mueller’s indictments of 12 individuals from Russia’s military intelligence agency.

But the loose conspiracy theory contends that the DNC email hack was a setup, bolstered by fake computer records, designed to cast blame on Russia. Even the president’s Republican allies have tried to dissuade Trump from it.

“I’ve never been a CrowdStrike fan; I mean this whole thing of a server,” said Republican Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina last week. Meadows, a confidant of Trump, said he’s sure Ukraine had some role in the U.S. election. But he views the search for the email server as farfetched. “I would not, on my dime, send a private attorney looking for some server in a foreign country,” Meadows told reporters.

Perhaps contributing to the conspiracy theories surrounding CrowdStrike and the DNC is the fact that the FBI never took possession of the actual computer server that would have held the hacked emails. Instead, the FBI relied on the forensics provided by CrowdStrike. The FBI had “repeatedly stressed” to the DNC its desire to have access to servers, former FBI Director James Comey testified at a March 2017 hearing before a House panel. But he acknowledged it is not unusual for the FBI to use such forensics in place of the actual hard drive during cyber investigations.

Other Republicans have also tried to convince Trump it was not Ukraine that was involved.
Trump’s former homeland security adviser, Tom Bossert, said Giuliani had done Trump a disservice by pushing the false story. “I am deeply frustrated with what he and the legal team is doing and repeating that debunked theory to the president,” Bossert said in September on ABC. “It sticks in his mind when he hears it over and over again,” said Bossert, who also was an adviser to President George W. Bush. “That conspiracy theory has got to go. They have to stop with that. It cannot continue to be repeated.”

On the call, Trump went on to ask Zelenskiy to also look into Burisma, the Ukraine gas company with links to Biden’s family. Biden’s son Hunter served on the board when the former vice president was the Obama administration’s main emissary to Ukraine.

Mulvaney said the request was not improper because Trump wanted help with the 2016 investigation rather than looking ahead to 2020. It is against the law to seek or receive help of value from a foreign entity in U.S. elections. Mulvaney later clarified his comments, saying, “The president never told me to withhold any money until the Ukrainians did anything related to the server.”

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