Finland Picks Youngest-Ever Prime Minister

Credit: @MarinSanna/Twitter

 

 

Finland’s Social Democrats elected a 34-year-old former transport minister to the post of Prime minister on Sunday, making her the youngest head of government in the country’s history.

Sanna Marin narrowly won Sunday’s vote to replace outgoing leader Antti Rinne, who resigned on Tuesday after losing the confidence of the coalition partner Centre Party over his handling of a postal strike.

“We have a lot of work to do to rebuild trust,” Marin told reporters on Sunday night while deflecting questions about her age.

“I have never thought about my age or gender, I think of the reasons I got into politics and those things for which we have won the trust of the electorate.”

At 34, Marin also becomes one of the world’s youngest state leaders, ahead of Ukraine’s prime minister Oleksiy Honcharuk, who is currently 35.

Former PM Antti Rinne had headed Finland’s centre-left five-party coalition since June, and Marin’s appointment is unlikely to lead to significant policy changes by the Social Democrat-led administration.

“We have a shared government programme which we have committed to,” Marin said.

The SDP won April’s legislative elections on promises to end years of economic belt-tightening introduced by the Centre Party to lift Finland out of a recession.

Rinne stepped down after several weeks of political crisis over a plan to cut wages for 700 postal workers.

Finland’s postal service withdrew the reform plans in November after widespread strikes, but questions emerged over whether or not Rinne had previously endorsed the cutbacks, leading to the Centre Party declaring it had lost its trust in the prime minister last Monday.

Parliament is expected to formally swear in the new prime minister on Tuesday.

Trump Warns N-Korea Has ‘Everything’ To lose Through Hostile Acts

US President Donald Trump addresses the Israeli American Council National Summit 2019 at the Diplomat Beach Resort in Hollywood, Florida on December 7, 2019. Mandel NGAN / AFP

 

 

President Donald Trump warned Sunday that North Korea’s Kim Jong Un had “everything” to lose through hostility towards the United States after Pyongyang said it had carried out a major new weapons test.

“Kim Jong Un is too smart and has far too much to lose, everything actually, if he acts in a hostile way,” Trump tweeted in response to the unspecified test at the Sohae space launch center.

The announcement of Saturday’s test came just hours after Trump said he would be “surprised” by any hostile action from the North, emphasizing his “very good relationship” with Kim.

Trump and Kim engaged in months of mutual insults and threats of devastation in 2017, sending tensions soaring before a diplomatic rapprochement the following year.

The pair have met three times since June 2018 but with little progress towards denuclearization. Pyongyang has set Washington a December 31 deadline to make new concessions to kickstart stalled talks.

“North Korea, under the leadership of Kim Jong Un, has tremendous economic potential, but it must denuclearize as promised,” Trump tweeted. “NATO, China, Russia, Japan, and the entire world is unified on this issue!”

Writing that Kim had “signed a strong Denuclearization Agreement” at their June 2018 summit in Singapore,” Trump warned: “He does not want to void his special relationship with the President of the United States or interfere with the U.S. Presidential Election in November.”

A spokesman for North Korea’s Academy of the National Defense Science said Saturday’s “very important test” would have an “important effect” on changing the “strategic position” of North Korea, in a statement carried by the official KCNA news agency.

The statement did not provide further details on the test.

A senior US administration official earlier said Washington had seen reports of a test and was “coordinating closely with allies and partners.”

Trump indicated that military action was still possible when he was asked about Pyongyang on the sidelines of a NATO summit in Britain this week.

North Korea fired back that if the United States used military force it would take “prompt corresponding actions at any level.”

UN diplomats fear that North Korea will resume long-range nuclear or ballistic tests if no progress is made soon in talks with the United States.

Sohae, on North Korea’s northwest coast, is ostensibly a facility designed for putting satellites into orbit.

But Pyongyang has carried out several rocket launches there that were condemned by the US and others as disguised long-range ballistic missile tests.

Following the Singapore summit, Trump said Kim had agreed to destroy “a major missile engine testing site” without naming the facility.

Kim then agreed to shutter the Sohae site during a summit last year with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in Pyongyang as part of trust-building measures.

US First Lady Wades Into Impeachment Fight To Defend Teen Son

US President Donald Trump and his wife Melania waves as he arrives on board Airforce 1. LOIC VENANCE / AFP

 

 

US First Lady Melania Trump on Wednesday publicly rebuked a scholar who used her 13-year-old son’s name to make a point during a hearing as part of the impeachment inquiry into the president.

Constitutional law professor Pamela Karlan invoked Barron Trump, the son of Donald and Melania Trump, to demonstrate how the Constitution imposes distinctions between a monarch’s power and that of a president.

“The constitution says there can be no titles of nobility,” Karlan told lawmakers during the House Judiciary Committee’s first hearing on impeachment, which featured four constitutional scholars.

“So while the president can name his son ‘Barron,’ he can’t make him a baron.”

The pun led to chuckles in the congressional hearing room, but Melania Trump made clear it was no laughing matter.

“A minor child deserves privacy and should be kept out of politics,” the first lady tweeted shortly afterwards.

“Pamela Karlan, you should be ashamed of your very angry and obviously biased public pandering, and using a child to do it.”

President Trump retweeted his wife’s message to his 67 million followers.

As the row snowballed, Karlan quickly tried to stem the damage by expressing her regret.

“I want to apologize for what I said earlier about the president’s son,” she told the panel.

“It was wrong of me to do that,” she said, before adding that she also wished “the president would apologize, obviously, for the things that he’s done that’s wrong.”

For years, members of both political parties have agreed that the minor children of US politicians, particularly presidents, are off-limits.

During the hearing, Republican congressman Matt Gaetz snapped at Karlan, telling her that invoking Trump’s son “does not lend credibility to your argument. It makes you look mean.”

‘Unhinged, petty kook’

The incident quickly brought an onslaught of criticism from corners far beyond the hearing room, as Republicans and members of Trump’s re-election campaign voiced grave disapproval.

“Democrats have disgraced themselves by giving a platform to this unhinged, petty kook,” the campaign wrote on Twitter, while its deputy director of communications, Matt Wolking, called Karlan an “unhinged liberal professor” over the comments.

Lawmakers and Trump administration officials followed suit, echoing scathing assessments of Karlan’s words.

“Democrats are so desperate that one of their biased witnesses is now attacking the President’s 13-year-old son. Absolutely disgraceful,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy wrote on Twitter.

Republican Congressman Markwayne Mullin, meanwhile, called the episode “reprehensible” while Trump Senior Counselor Kellyanne Conway questioned why “Hunter Biden is off-limits but Barron Trump is not?”

The Trump impeachment investigation is looking into pressure Trump placed on Ukraine’s president to investigate 2020 election rival Democrat Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, who served on the board of a Ukrainian gas company.

During a speech Wednesday, Vice President Mike Pence told an audience that “one of the Democrats’ witnesses actually used the president and first lady’s 13-year-old son to justify their partisan impeachment. Democrats should be ashamed.”

Melania Trump has taken up the cause of youth wellness in America, and last year launched a public awareness campaign to counter youth cyberbullying and drug use.

Netanyahu Can Stay On As PM Despite Indictment, Says Attorney General

 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can stay on in his post although he has been indicted on corruption charges, Israel’s attorney general said Monday.

Avichai Mandelblit, in a statement, said: “there are no legal obligations for the prime minister to resign”.

Under Israeli law, while ministers cannot keep their posts after an indictment, a prime minister is not legally required to step down unless convicted and with all appeals exhausted.

But the embattled premier has faced calls to resign from several politicians since Mandelblit last Thursday charged him with bribery, fraud, and breach of trust.

READ ALSO: Defiant Netanyahu Rejects Graft Indictment, Vows To Stay

The indictment comes as Israel edges closer to its third general election in a year, after two inconclusive polls in April and September, with Netanyahu and centrist rival Benny Gantz unable to form a government.

Gantz’s Blue and White party won one more seat than Netanyahu’s rightwing Likud in the September polls.

Parliament now has less than three weeks to find a candidate who can gain the support of more than half of the Knesset’s 120 lawmakers, or a deeply unpopular third election will be called.

Netanyahu remains the country’s interim premier.

Ousted Navy Secretary Made Secret Deal With Trump – Pentagon Chief

(FILES) In this file photo taken on June 21, 2019 Navy Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher walks into military court in San Diego, California. SANDY HUFFAKER / AFP

 

The US defense secretary Monday defended the decision to sack his navy secretary, saying he went behind his back to make a deal with the White House over a convicted Navy SEAL’s future.

Mark Esper told reporters Richard Spencer, the Navy’s top civilian, admitted he had gone around Esper and Joint Chiefs Chairman Mark Milley.

Esper and Milley were holding their own discussions with President Donald Trump last week about the SEAL’s case, which caused a rare public split between the Pentagon leadership and the US commander in chief over military justice.

“We were completely caught off guard by this information, and realized that it undermined everything we have been discussing with the president,” Esper said of Spencer’s secret talks.

“We have a chain of command that should be followed and that chain of command must be kept informed,” he said.

“Secretary Spencer broke these rules and thus lost my trust and confidence.”

Spencer was fired on Sunday amid a dispute over whether Edward Gallagher, a Navy SEAL accused of war crimes in a high-profile case but convicted of a lesser offense, should be demoted and expelled from the elite commando force.

Gallagher, a SEAL sniper, and medic, was originally accused of premeditated murder after allegedly stabbing to death a captured, wounded Islamic State fighter in Iraq in May 2017.

After Gallagher went on trial at the beginning of 2019, his case became a cause celebre in conservative media, championed especially by Fox News, and Trump voiced support for him.

In March the president intervened to have him taken out of a Navy jail and placed in a Navy hospital, where he had more freedom.

‘Distracting’

In July, he was acquitted of murder by a military jury, but convicted of having posed for a picture next to the body of a dead Islamic State fighter.

He was demoted and the navy moved to remove his official Trident pin, an insignia that signified he remained a member in good standing of the elite group.

Trump intervened again, to order the trident pin and rank restored, saying he would not be expelled from the force.

“Eddie will retire peacefully with all of the honors that he has earned,” Trump tweeted.

Esper conformed that Spencer had threatened to resign over the case, which military experts said risked undermining confidence in the Pentagon’s system of justice.

But Esper said that while he and Milley sought a resolution with Trump, Spencer, a subordinate to both, had tried to cut his own deal with the White House.

Spencer “was completely forthright in admitting what had been going on,” Esper told reporters Monday.

In a letter to Trump on Sunday, Spencer explained his resistance to the president’s interference in the case.

He wrote that he could not “in good conscience obey an order that I believe violates the sacred oath I took… to support and defend the Constitution.”

He added that his responsibility was “to maintain good order and discipline” throughout the navy’s ranks. “I regard this as deadly seriously business,” he said.

Esper said Monday that the case had dragged on too long and had become “distracting.”

“Eddie Gallagher will retain his Trident as the commander in chief directed, and will retire at the end of this month,” he said.

US Navy Defies Trump, Proceeds In Effort To Expel SEAL

(FILES) In this file photo taken on June 21, 2019 Navy Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher walks into military court in San Diego, California. SANDY HUFFAKER / AFP.

 

The US Navy will proceed in its effort to oust a member of its elite SEAL commando unit, an official said Saturday, defying the wishes of President Donald Trump.

Edward Gallagher had been accused of war crimes in a high-profile case but was found guilty only of a lesser offense. On November 15, Trump reversed the demotion handed down to the 40-year-old under his conviction.

The Navy this week launched a procedure under which a peer review board could strip him and three other members of his unit of their Trident pins — effectively booting them from the SEALs.

READ ALSO: US Vice President Visits Troops In Iraq

A rankled Trump declared on Twitter on Thursday that “The Navy will NOT be taking away Warfighter and Navy Seal Eddie Gallagher’s Trident Pin.”

On Saturday, however, a senior Pentagon official who requested anonymity in order to speak freely said the “peer review board is proceeding.”

Whether Gallagher can remain in the unit or not will be determined by a panel of Navy SEAL officers that is set to convene in December.

The move came as multiple US news outlets reported that Navy Secretary Richard Spencer had threatened to resign over the affair, a claim he sharply denied.

“Contrary to popular belief, I am still here. I did not threaten to resign,” Spencer said, speaking at a forum in Halifax, Canada.

The US Navy chief said he did not consider Trump’s tweet to be a formal order.

“I need a formal order to act,” Spencer told reporters on the sidelines of the forum.

According to the US Constitution, the president is the commander-in-chief of the country’s armed forces.

Gallagher, a 15-year Navy SEAL, had been accused in the stabbing death of a wounded Islamic State prisoner in Iraq in 2017, attempted murder of other civilians and obstruction of justice.

In July, he was acquitted of charges related to those accusations, but was convicted of a lesser charge — posing with the slain fighter’s body in a group picture with other SEALs.

As a result, he was demoted one rank, from chief petty officer to petty officer first class.

Gallagher’s case had been championed by Fox News, which the president follows closely.

Defiant Netanyahu Rejects Graft Indictment, Vows To Stay

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu greets supporters at his Likud Party headquarters in the Israeli coastal city of Tel Aviv on election night early on April 10, 2019. Thomas COEX / AFP

 

A defiant Benjamin Netanyahu rejected all allegations of graft Thursday, vowing to stay on as the leader in Israel despite being indicted on a series of corruption charges.

Netanyahu denounced what he called the “false” and “politically motivated” allegations, hours after being charged by the attorney general with bribery, fraud, and breach of trust.

“What is going on here is an attempt to stage a coup against the prime minister,” Netanyahu said.

READ ALSO: Netanyahu Indicted For Bribery, Fraud And Breach Of Trust

“The object of the investigations was to oust the right-wing from government.”

In a 15-minute speech, Netanyahu railed against his political rivals and state institutions, accusing the police and judiciary of bias.

The veteran politician argued that it was time for an “investigation of the investigators”.

He vowed to continue as prime minister despite potential court dates and intense political pressure.

“I will continue to lead this country, according to the letter of the law,” he said.

“I will not allow lies to win.”

Five Key Moments In Trump Impeachment Hearing, Day 1

US President Donald Trump talks to the media on the South Lawn upon his return to the White House by Marine One, in Washington, DC, November 3, 2019, after returning from a trip to New York. Olivier Douliery / AFP

 

During hours of detailed and at times dramatic public testimony Wednesday, two star witnesses shed light on US President Donald Trump’s pressure on Ukraine at the heart of the impeachment inquiry against him.

American viewers finally heard firsthand from key figures in the Ukraine scandal, beginning with Washington’s top envoy to Kiev William Taylor, and deputy assistant secretary of state George Kent.

Here are five key moments in the nationally televised impeachment hearing:

New revelations

A crucial surprise came when Taylor revealed a phone call between Trump and another diplomat occurred one day after the president’s controversial July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Taylor said his staffer was with Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland and overheard Trump on the call “asking Ambassador Sondland about the investigations” of Democratic rival Joe Biden.

The staffer asked Sondland what Trump thought about Ukraine. “Ambassador Sondland responded that President Trump cared more about the investigations of Biden, which (Trump lawyer Rudy) Giuliani was pressing for,” than about Ukraine itself, Taylor added.

The revelation is important because it highlights Trump’s knowledge about the effort to get Kiev to probe the Bidens and deflates a Trump defense that he “hardly” knows Sondland, as he said last week.

Republican attacks

Republicans accused the witnesses of being out-of-touch bureaucrats too removed from Trump’s inner circle to speak authoritatively about what happened, or to know the president’s intentions.

Trump loyalist Jim Jordan, aggressively questioning Taylor, sought to paint a muddled picture of Ukrainian-related discussions, including Taylor’s communications with Sondland.

“We’ve got six people having four conversations in one sentence,” Jordan told Taylor, referring to closed-door testimony by Sondland, “and you told me this is where you got your clear understanding?”

The intelligence panel’s top Republican Devin Nunes meanwhile attempted to discredit the Democratic effort as “nothing more than an impeachment process in search of a crime.”

Biden wrongdoing? ‘None’

In his call with Zelensky, Trump urged his counterpart to “look into” possible wrongdoing by Biden, whose son Hunter was on the board of Ukrainian energy company Burisma when his father was vice president.

Republicans have used that talking point to suggest the Bidens were involved in corruption. No such evidence has emerged.

When the Democratic counsel asked Kent whether there were any facts to support those allegations, Kent replied, “None whatsoever,” adding that Biden acted in accordance with official US policy.

Kent did say he raised concerns with Biden’s staff that his son’s status with Burisma “could create the perception of a conflict of interest.”

‘Irregular’ channel

Taylor spoke of an irregular channel, set up by Giuliani, that “undercut” official US policy with Ukraine while seeking to help the president politically.

Washington officially supported Ukraine receiving military aid, in particular to counter Russian aggression, but the witnesses warned that Giuliani was seeking to condition such aid with Kiev launching politically motivated investigations.

“I began to sense that the two decision-making channels — the regular and irregular — were at odds,” Taylor said.

He also said he told the administration that “withholding security assistance in exchange for help with a domestic political campaign… would be crazy.”

Ukraine’s challenges

Often overlooked in the impeachment drama is the security situation in Ukraine, which is facing off against Russia’s military. Kiev also accuses the Kremlin of supporting pro-Moscow rebels.

Taylor reminded lawmakers and viewers that “even as we sit here today,” Ukraine is under daily attack from Russia-backed forces.

Just last week, he added, he visited the front lines on a day that a Ukrainian soldier was killed.

Had the military aid been frozen, it would have severely weakened Zelensky in negotiations with Russia and on the battlefield, Taylor said.

We’ll Give Priority To Human Rights Issues – Gbajabiamila

 

The Speaker of the House of Representatives Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila has said that the 9th House would give priority to issues related to human rights.

As such, the Speaker said, the House would work closely with the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to ensure that the rights of Nigerians are protected.

Gbajabiamila, who spoke when he hosted the management of NHRC during a courtesy call in his office in Abuja on Wednesday, said the House would support the commission in any way possible to enhance its work.

“We commend you for what you’ve been doing as a commission. Your work is unquantifiable. It’s important that we have a watchdog on human rights. In the House, we take the issue of human rights very seriously.

READ ALSO: Senate Wants Fuel Supply Back At Nigeria’s Border Towns

On the request by the Executive Secretary of the commission, Mr Tony Ojukwu, that the House should consider issues of human rights in all the bills before it, the Speaker said the House needed more explanation on that.

Similarly, the Speaker tasked the commission to work closely with the House Committee on Human Rights and forward a copy of the Kampala Convention on Human Rights to the House for possible domestication.

Responding to the issue of the possible creation of quota for more women in politics, the Speaker agreed with the Executive Secretary that unless the constitution is amended to address the issue of non-discrimination against anybody, such could not be achieved.

The Speaker said the House is interested in the issue of the rights of the elderly as raised by the Executive Secretary, saying the House would need a full brief on that.

Earlier, Mr Ojukwu, who congratulated the Speaker on his emergence, said the commission was concerned that the Kampala Convention on Human Rights has not been domesticated in Nigeria.

He said if the House domesticates it,that would go a long way in addressing some of the challenges Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and other vulnerable Nigerians face.

“We are also bothered by the low level of women participation in elective offices. We’ve observed a decrease in the number of women coming to the National Assembly. We wonder why this happens,” he said.

Chaos In Hong Kong As Pro-Democracy Protests ‘Blossom Everywhere’

 

Pro-democracy protesters stepped up Wednesday a “blossom everywhere” campaign of road blocks and vandalism across Hong Kong that has crippled the international financial hub this week and ignited some of the worst violence in five months of unrest.

The new phase in the crisis, which has forced schools and shopping malls to close as well as the shutdown of large chunks of the vital train network, prompted police to warn on Tuesday the city was “on the brink of total collapse”.

China, facing the biggest challenge to its rule of the territory since it was handed back by the British in 1997, has insisted it will not buckle to the pressure and warned of tougher security measures.

On Wednesday, commuters across many parts of the city woke to the increasingly familiar scenario of roads choked with bricks, bicycles, couches and other materials that had been laid out by the protesters overnight to block traffic.

Various lines on the subway, used by more than half of the city’s 7.5 million people daily, were also suspended due to vandalism, forcing many workers to stay at home.

Meanwhile, masked protesters dressed in their signature black were locked in a series of tense standoffs at university campuses following battles on Tuesday that continued through the night with police firing tear gas and rubber bullets.

Maximum disruption

The chaos was part of the largely anonymous protest movement’s new strategy of “blossom everywhere”, in which small groups of people target as many parts of the city as possible to cause maximum disruption and stretch police resources.

Protesters had until this week largely confined their actions to evenings and the weekends.

The campaign began with an effort to shut down the train network and enforce a city-wide strike on Monday.

The already tense atmosphere escalated on Monday when a police officer shot an unarmed 21-year-old protester, leaving him in a critical condition.

It was only the third confirmed time a police officer had shot someone with live bullets since the unrest began in June.

A masked person on Monday then doused a 57-year-old man, who had been arguing with protesters, with a flammable liquid and set him on fire. He was also hospitalised in a critical condition.

The protest movement has been fuelled by fears that China is choking the liberties and freedoms Hong Kong is meant to have under the terms of the handover deal with the British.

Protesters are demanding the right to freely elect their leaders.

Tougher response

But instead of offering concessions, China has responded with ominous warnings that it is prepared to further curb freedoms, and that it wants tougher security measures in Hong Kong.

On Tuesday the People’s Daily, the mouthpiece of China’s ruling Communist Party, warned that local district elections due to be held on November 24 may be cancelled if the protesters do not back down.

“Only by supporting the police force to decisively put down the riots can (Hong Kong) return to peace and hold fair elections, to help Hong Kong start again,” the commentary said.

Other powerful arms of the Chinese state media have also again raised the prospect this week of the Chinese military being deployed in Hong Kong to end the crisis.

Still, China is not yet prepared to take such drastic action as military intervention as it plays a longer game of weakening and intimidating the protest movement, according to Ben Bland, Sydney-based director of the Southeast Asia Project at the Lowy Institute, a policy think-tank.

“It still seems, as far as we can tell, that the most likely response is going to continue to be led by the Hong Kong authorities and the Hong Kong police,” Bland told AFP on Wednesday.

But the events this week have deepened concerns that Hong Kong’s police cannot solve the crisis, and that a political solution must be found.

The police force’s spokesman, Kong Wing-cheung, appeared to echo those fears on Tuesday.

“Hong Kong’s rule of law has been pushed to the brink of total collapse,” Kong said.

Impeachment: The Allegations Against US President Donald Trump

US President Donald Trump talks to the media on the South Lawn upon his return to the White House by Marine One, in Washington, DC, November 3, 2019, after returning from a trip to New York. Olivier Douliery / AFP

 

The impeachment investigation of President Donald Trump in the US House of Representatives moves to public hearings on Wednesday.

Trump is threatened with removal from office over allegations that he abused his powers and broke the law by pressuring Ukraine to supply damaging information on rival Democrats and possible 2020 presidential election challenger Joe Biden.

The evidence covers a series of events from April 2019 when Zelensky was elected, and both sides sought to reboot Washington-Kiev relations. Zelensky sought aid and a meeting with the US leader; Trump sought “investigations.”

Giuliani machinations

Trump gave the Ukraine leader a congratulatory phone call on April 19. Days later, Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani said online and in public that the US wanted Ukraine to investigate Burisma, the energy company on whose board Biden’s son Hunter served for five years until April 2019.

Giuliani also called for an investigation into a debunked conspiracy theory that Ukraine helped the Democrats against Trump in the 2016 election.

“Explain to me why Biden shouldn’t be investigated if his son got millions from a Russian loving crooked Ukrainian oligarch while He was VP and point man for Ukraine,” Giuliani tweeted on May 10.

Giuliani’s immediate impact was in getting Trump to remove US ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, who had resisted Giuliani’s involvement in Ukraine policy.

Another result: Trump told Vice President Mike Pence not to attend Zelensky’s May 14 inauguration, sending Energy Secretary Rick Perry instead. According to a whistleblower complaint in August, that downgrade was meant to signal to the new government that Trump wanted the investigations.

July 10 meeting

In a July 10 meeting in the office of White House National Security Advisor John Bolton, Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the European Union, told Ukrainian officials that a high profile meeting they sought between Zelensky and Trump was contingent on “investigations in the energy sector” and later referenced “Burisma”.

Sondland told the Ukrainians the alleged quid pro quo was authorized by Trump’s right-hand man, acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney.

“We have an agreement with the chief of staff for a meeting if these investigations in the energy sector start,” Sondland told the Ukrainians, according to witnesses.

Bolton, who objected to the linkage, immediately cut the meeting short, but Sondland continued to make the point in a subsequent meeting, witnesses said.

Aid suspension

On July 19 Mulvaney, who also heads the White House budget office, froze a military aid package for Ukraine worth $391 million dollars. He told budget officials it was at the order of Trump, but did not explain the reason. But in October Mulvaney told reporters it was linked to investigations, and said there was nothing wrong with the quid pro quo.

July 25 phone call

On July 25 Trump spoke again by phone with Zelensky. According to a rough summary of the call released by the White House, he made clear he wanted Ukraine to open the investigations, and hinted at the linkage with assistance and a face-to-face meeting.

“I would like you to do us a favor though because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it,” Trump said.

Trump made direct reference to the story that Ukraine interferred in the 2016 election helping rival Democrats.

“I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation,” Trump said. “It’s very important that you do it if that’s possible.”

Trump added that “There’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son… A lot of people want to find out about that,” he said, proposing Kiev cooperate with US Attorney General Bill Barr.

“The United States has been very, very good to Ukraine. I wouldn’t say that it’s reciprocal necessarily because things are happening that are not good but the United States has been very, very good to Ukraine.”

Text messages

After the July 25 call, Sondland pressed on Kiev the need for investigations. Text messages between Sondland and other US diplomats show he was focused on Trump’s insistence on “the deliverable” — the investigations as a quid pro quo for the military aid.

“I think potus (Trump) really wants the deliverable,” he wrote on August 9.

In August he helped arrange a prepared statement for Zelensky to deliver that would satisfy Trump.

The statement, according to a August 13 text, was to read: “We intend to initiate and complete a transparent and unbiased investigation of all available facts and episodes, including those involving Burisma and the 2016 US elections, which in turn will prevent the recurrence of this problem in the future.”

Seeing that, Sondland wrote: “Perfect.”

That statement was never delivered. On September 1 Sondland told Zelensky advisor Andriy Yermak that military aid would not be released until Kiev signalled the investigations into Biden and 2016.

Bolivia’s Election Turmoil: A Timeline

 

Bolivian President Evo Morales has resigned after three weeks of turmoil stemming from a disputed October 20 election in which he was declared the winner, giving him a fourth straight term.

Here is a recap of the tensions leading to his dramatic move.

Morales seeks fourth term

On October 20, Bolivians go to the polls with Morales, Latin America’s longest serving leader, seeking a fourth straight term.

His only serious challenger is centrist Carlos Mesa, president between 2003 and 2005.

Second round?

Partial results released hours after polls close put Morales on 45 percent of the votes and Mesa 38 percent, with 84 percent of ballots counted.

A margin of 10 percentage points between candidates is required to avoid a second round runoff.

Morales has won all his previous elections in the first round.

Vote count stalls

The release of official results is inexplicably stalled overnight with 84 percent of votes counted.

On October 21, international observers ask for clarification and Mesa accuses Morales of cheating to avoid a runoff.

Opposition supporters protest outside key vote counting centers in the capital, La Paz, and in other cities.

Count change

Late October 21, the election authority releases more results showing Morales edging towards an outright victory with 95 percent of the votes counted.

Organization of American States (OAS) monitors express “deep concern and surprise at the drastic and hard-to-explain change.” Mesa alleges fraud.

Violence breaks out at protests in several cities. Mobs torch electoral offices in the cities of Sucre and Potosi, while rival supporters clash in La Paz.

Opposition strike

On October 22, opposition groups call for a nationwide general strike from midnight “until democracy and the will of the citizens are respected.”

The vice president of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal resigns, criticizing what he calls mismanagement of the election count.

There are new clashes between protesters and security forces in La Paz.

‘Coup’

On October 23, Morales likens the general strike to a right-wing coup.

Mesa urges his supporters to step up protests and insists a “second round must take place.”

He says he will not recognize the results tallied by the tribunal, which he accuses of manipulating the count to help Morales win.

Clashes break out between rival demonstrators in the opposition bastion of Santa Cruz, where offices housing the electoral authority are set on fire.

Security forces and demonstrators also clash elsewhere.

Morales declares victory

On October 24, Morales claims he has won outright.

In the evening, the election authority issues final results, giving Morales has 47.08 percent of votes and Mesa 36.52 percent.

The opposition, the EU, the US, OAS, Argentina, Brazil and Colombia urge a second round.

Fresh clashes take place between rival groups, along with road blocks and demonstrations.

On October 27, Morales says that there will be no “political negotiation” and accuses his rivals of preparing a “coup”.

Call for ‘de-escalation’

On October 28, protests deepen with around 30 wounded in clashes with security forces and between supporters of Morales and Mesa at La Paz, Cochabamba and Santa Cruz.

On the 29, the government invites Mesa to take part in an audit of the election results by the OAS, a body that works to promote cooperation in the Americas.

The United Nations calls for an urgent “de-escalation” of tensions.

Outside audit

As outrage grows, the OAS begins to audit the election results.

On November 3, an opposition leader vows to oust Morales and appeals to the military for its support.

The death toll in the protests rises to three on November 6 with the death of a student.

On the 8th, police officers in at least three Bolivian cities join the opposition, in some cases marching in the street with them.

On November 10, the OAS announces that it found many irregularities in its analysis of the election.

Morales calls a new election, but it is too late. Two ministers and the speaker of congress resign after their homes are attacked by opposition supporters.

The commanders of the armed forces and the police add their voices to the calls for Morales to step down.

On the evening of November 10, from his native coca growing region in central Bolivia, Morales announces his resignation after nearly 14 years in power.