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Trump trashes ‘sinister’ impeachment effort during Atlanta event

President Donald Trump on Friday called the impeachment inquiry a “deranged, hyper-partisan impeachment witch hunt, a sinister effort to nullify the ballots of 63 million patriotic Americans.”

He made the remarks in Atlanta at an event to announce the African American outreach effort by his re-election campaign. 

“Not happening, by the way,” he said of the impeachment effort. “It’s failing, it’s failing fast, it’s all a hoax.”

On Wednesday, Democrats hold the first in a series of public hearings in their impeachment inquiry; several witnesses plan to testify next week. 

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a “Black Voices for Trump” campaign event in Atlanta on Nov. 8, 2019.Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

‘Absent yourself’: What Schiff told Gaetz when he crashed a secure hearing

The House committees leading the impeachment inquiry released transcripts on Friday detailing the moment Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., was spotted in a secure room when a deposition was taking place.

Gaetz was in the room, called a SCIF, during testimony by Fiona Hill, a former top adviser to President Donald Trump on Russia and Europe. In the transcript, Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., is quoted as saying: “Mr. Gaetz, you’re not permitted to be in the room. Please leave.” At another point, Schiff tell Gaetz to “absent yourself” from the SCIF.

Read more about the tense exchange.

Former Trump adviser who testified to Ukraine pressure campaign said she was victim of harassment

Fiona Hill, President Donald Trump’s former top adviser on Russia and Europe, told House investigators that her time in the Trump administration was marked by death threats, “hateful calls” and “conspiracy theories,” a harassment campaign she said was revived after it was learned she would cooperate with the impeachment inquiry, according to a transcript of her deposition released Friday.

“I received, I just have to tell you, death threats, calls at my home. My neighbors reported somebody coming and hammering on my door,” she told investigators in closed-door testimony of her time in the White House. “Now, I’m not easily intimidated, but that made me mad.”

The transcript confirmed NBC News’ reporting that Hill told Congress that Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney, and Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, sidestepped the National Security Council and typical White House process to advocate for a shadow policy on Ukraine. Hill also revealed new details about how Giuliani’s work undercut and derailed the diplomats charged with overseeing Ukrainian-U.S. relations.

Read the full story

Trump says of his EU ambassador, ‘I hardly know the gentleman’

Gordon Sondland is President Trump’s ambassador to the European Union and donated $1 million to his inaugural committee, but Trump told reporters at the White House on Friday that “I hardly know the gentleman.”

Sondland has become a key witness in the House impeachment inquiry. He told investigators that Trump told him there was “no quid pro quo” calling for Ukraine to say it was investigating Joe and Hunter Biden in order to get military aid, and that he wasn’t sure why the money was frozen. He updated his testimony this week to acknowledge that he’d told a top aide to Ukraine’s president that the country wouldn’t get the aid until it committed to investigating the 2016 elections and the Bidens.

Sondland and other witnesses have testified about conversations he’d had with Trump. One witness, former White House adviser Fiona Hill, told investigators that Trump had put Sondland “in charge of Ukraine” earlier this year. 

Trump distanced himself from his diplomat on the White House lawn on Friday.  

“Let me just tell you, I hardly know the gentleman, but this is the man who said there was no quid pro quo, and he still says that,” Trump told reporters. “And he said that I said that, and he hasn’t changed that testimony. So this is a man that said — as far as the president is concerned — there was no quid pro quo. Everybody that’s testified — even the ones that are Trump-haters, they’ve all been fine. They don’t have anything.” 

The president had warmer words for Sondland before he testified, however, tweeting that he’s “a really good man and great American.”

Whistleblower’s lawyer sends cease-and-desist letter over Trump’s ‘reckless’ attacks

A lawyer for the whistleblower whose complaint prompted the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump has sent a cease-and-desist letter to the White House urging the president to stop attacking his client.

“I am writing out of deep concern that your client, the president of the United States, is engaging in rhetoric and activity that places my client, the intelligence community whistleblower, and their family in physical danger,” the lawyer, Andrew Bakaj, wrote in a letter to White House counsel Pat Cipollone on Thursday.

“I am writing to respectfully request that you counsel your client on the legal and ethical peril in which he is placing himself should anyone be physically harmed as a result of his, or his surrogates’, behavior,” he wrote.

Bakaj alleged Trump’s attacks constituted witness tampering and had succeeded in intimidating his client, saying “as a direct consequence of the President’s irresponsible rhetoric and behavior, my client’s physical safety became a significant concern,” prompting them to opt out of giving lawmakers a closed-door deposition in favor of written answers to questions.

Read the full story.

Trump says he has ‘no problem’ releasing earlier phone call with Ukraine

President Donald Trump said Friday that he is willing to provide a transcript of his first call with the president of Ukraine, which occurred in April.

“I have the second call, which nobody knew about,” Trump said, speaking to reporters as he left the White House on Friday morning, referring to that spring conversation. “I guess they want that to be produced also. … I had a call before this [July] one with the president of Ukraine. I understand they’d like it, and I have no problem giving it to them.”

About two weeks after Trump made that earlier call, in which he offered congratulations on the night of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s April 21 election, the Ukrainian leader and a small group of advisers discussed how to navigate the insistence from Trump and Rudy Giuliani for a probe of the Bidens and how to avoid becoming entangled in the American elections, The Associated Press reported.

Read the full story here.

Hill’s and Vindman’s testimony expected to be released Friday

The House committees leading the impeachment probe are expected to release the transcript of former White House official Fiona Hill’s deposition Friday at about midday, sources with knowledge of the timing told NBC News. 

The transcript of testimony from Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, is also expected to be released Friday, one of the sources said.

Hill reportedly told Congress last month that then-national security adviser John Bolton wanted no part of the effort to get the Ukrainians to investigate President Donald Trump’s political opponents and told her to report the situation to the top lawyer at the National Security Council, NBC News previously reported. Hill told lawmakers she considered what was happening to be a clear counterintelligence risk to the United States.

Vindman, a firsthand witness to Trump’s July 25 call with Ukraine’s president, told House impeachment investigators last week that a White House meeting between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy — as well as the delivery of nearly $400 million in security and military aid — was “contingent” on Ukrainian officials carrying out investigations into the Bidens and the 2016 election, NBC News previously reported.



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Labour magic money tree: How much will all Labour’s promises cost the taxpayer?

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LABOUR leader Jeremy Corbyn and Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson were taken aback on Tuesday when asked where the “magic money tree” each plans to use for the increased expenditure planned for the next Parliament.

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What does Giuliani’s longtime go-between know about Rudy’s work in Ukraine?

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WASHINGTON — In July, Rudy Giuliani was desperate for more information about Hunter Biden’s work in Ukraine.

So he turned to his longtime fixer for Ukrainian deals, a 44-year-old New York-based businessman named Vitaly Pruss.

According to Pruss, Giuliani asked him to call Pruss’ close friend, the owner of Burisma, the Ukrainian natural gas company that formerly had Hunter Biden on its board. Giuliani wanted to know if the owner, Mykola Zlochevsky, would meet with him to talk about Biden.

But Zlochevsky made it clear “he wanted nothing to do with it,” Pruss told NBC News in an interview at a restaurant in midtown Manhattan.

Among the unresolved mysteries in the impeachment saga is how Giuliani, the president’s lawyer and a man with little known background in foreign policy, became the White House’s point man on Ukraine. The answer in part lies with his relationship with Pruss, who has acted as the former New York mayor’s political and business matchmaker in the former Soviet Union for years.

Few people have crossed paths with as many central characters in the Ukraine impeachment saga as Pruss.

He met Energy Secretary Rick Perry on a trip to Israel in 2010. On flights back and forth to Kyiv, he struck up an acquaintance with America’s top diplomat in Ukraine, Bill Taylor. At investment conferences, he has met the former U.S. ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, who was ousted from her post in Kyiv in May, partly through Giuliani’s efforts. And Pruss knows most of the Ukrainian political players.

The website for Pruss’ company, TriGlobal Strategic Ventures, is a veritable slideshow of Giuliani’s connections in Ukraine in recent years, with pictures of him smiling with local officials. And almost all of the relationships laid out in the website’s photos are links that House Democrats now want to know more about.

The Democratic lawmakers are demanding to see all of Giuliani’s communications, contracts and documents related to Pruss, as part of their impeachment inquiry. Giuliani has refused to cooperate with the congressional investigation.

His lawyer said Giuliani believes the congressional subpoena is “overbroad, unduly burdensome, and seeks documents beyond the scope of legitimate inquiry.”

Shortly after Democrats subpoenaed Giuliani, Pruss’ company took down its website without explanation. Pruss said the timing was a coincidence and was merely for website “maintenance.” It’s now back up.

Pruss played down his Forrest Gump-like role in the impeachment drama and said he is befuddled that his name cropped up in impeachment subpoenas. He said that despite his relationship with Giuliani, he had nothing to do with the events that form the basis of the impeachment inquiry into whether President Donald Trump withheld military aid to Ukraine for his own personal political gain.

“I have no idea why in the world I’m in there.”

Giuliani is now under investigation by federal prosecutors in New York, and Pruss could have crucial insights about how the former mayor carries out his lobbying for foreign clients.

Vitaly Pruss, Rudy Giuliani’s fixer in the former Soviet Union, in an undated picture.via Facebook

A relationship dating back to 2003

Born in Belarus, Pruss registered his business to a Passaic, New Jersey, address in 2005, according to public records. He first focused on the “introduction business” where he matched high-level Western officials with companies willing to pay them for appearing at public and private events. He’s a U.S. citizen and New York resident but travels constantly. In the last 30 days alone, he’s been in Israel, Vienna, Kyiv and Kazakhstan.

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He said the bulk of his work today is in drumming up investments in American nursing homes from Ukraine, Russia and Kazakhstan.

Pruss’ bio claims he has “successfully created and developed strategies” for companies like the Russian state oil and gas pipeline monopoly, TransNeft, which was sanctioned by the U.S. government in 2014 after the Russian invasion of Crimea. When asked about his dealings with TransNeft, he said he only presented the company with a proposal and it was long before sanctions were imposed.

Pruss said his relationship with Giuliani started back in 2003 when he was looking for a big Western name to address the board of Magnitogorsk Iron and Steel Works, one of the largest steel companies in Russia.

At the time Giuliani, who became internationally famous after the 9/11 attack on New York, was commanding $100,000 per speech through the Washington Speaker’s Bureau. His speeches earned him an estimated $8 million a year, according to his divorce filings at the time.

Pruss said he made a request through the speaker’s bureau and negotiated a payment for the appearance. Then he said he went with Giuliani on the trip, flying with him first to Moscow and then on to the Ural Mountains for the meeting.

He said at that point he and the former mayor hit it off, and through the years he has found Giuliani to be widely “loved and respected.”

On his website, there are photos in May 2008 and April 2015 showing Giuliani with Vitaly Klitschko, the ex-boxer who is now mayor of Kyiv, on his visits to New York City. Pruss said he made that connection. House lawmakers leading the impeachment inquiry have raised questions about “offers or anything of value” that Giuliani provided to Klitschko.

Representatives of Giuliani’s security company visited the State Emergency Service of Ukraine in 2017, according to the agency’s website. A year later, there’s a picture of Giuliani on Pruss’ website in a New York conference room with an official from Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city. Pruss said he made it all happen.

And when Giuliani met with Ukraine’s then-President Petro Poroshenko in late 2017, there’s Pruss sitting at the end of the table, in a picture first published by Poroshenko’s office.

But he said reports that he arranged for Giuliani to speak at an annual Kremlin-backed security conference in Armenia in October that also featured Russian President Vladimir Putin are inaccurate and concerns about it overblown.

Giuliani spoke at the event in 2018 but this year he pulled out at the last minute once a White House whistleblower came forward accusing Giuliani of carrying out a shadow foreign policy in Ukraine to help Trump’s re-election.

Pruss said yes, he attended the conference and was planning to meet Giuliani there, but he did not arrange the appearance.

“There was nothing wrong about the Armenian conference. They do it all the time. It is about security cooperation and investments. Nothing about Russia or U.S. or Ukraine,” he said in a text exchange.

In June, Pruss said he met Giuliani in a hotel lobby in Paris. Giuliani was with two Florida businessmen: Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, two Giuliani associates who have since been charged with campaign finance violations linked to an alleged effort to inject foreign money into a U.S. election. The two have also been linked to a smear campaign against the then-U.S. ambassador, Yovanovitch.

Rudy Giuliani at a meeting with former Ukraine President Poroshenko, and Vitaly Pruss sitting at the end of the table to Giuliani’s far right, on Nov. 22, 2017.Archived picture from Ukranian Presidential page

Pruss said before that meeting he had not heard of the two men. “I haven’t run into them during my work at all,” he said. And he said he doesn’t know who was funding them: “No idea. Tell me if you find out. I’m interested to know.”

But he said he is sure it wasn’t Russia. “Kremlin doesn’t work with people like them. It is too low for Kremlin.”

Pruss said he finds the impeachment drama “disgusting,” and does not believe Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy was coerced. He said in addition to Zelenskiy’s public statements that he was not pressured to investigate Hunter Biden, he has heard from those in Zelenskiy’s inner circle who add to the chorus of “no pressure.” But he said Trump’s offer to Zelenskiy to have Attorney General William Barr help the Ukrainian government look into Hunter Biden was “beneath him.”

Instead, Trump “should have had someone else do it,” he said.

‘The case is closed’

As the Gump of the Trump-Ukraine saga, Pruss has also crossed paths with Team Trump’s main target — Hunter Biden.

Pruss’ LinkedIn page has an entry from eight years ago showing a joint venture with Rosemont Realty, which was partially managed by Devon Archer, Hunter Biden’s close friend. Pruss said that’s when he encountered the younger Biden, but he said he did not introduce Biden to Burisma.

Unlike Giuliani, Pruss said he is reluctant to call for any investigation into Burisma, his friend Zlochevsky’s natural gas company.

“They have been investigated. The case is closed. I don’t know details. Important thing, they are largest independent gas company in Ukraine. Very essential for conflict with Russia. They have to be supported not attacked,” he said.

As for Hunter Biden, he said there’s no crime to investigate. “Whatever he did in Ukraine was highly unethical,” he said, “There was no crime but very bad judgment.”

Despite probing by Trump associates, there is no evidence that Hunter Biden or his father, the former vice president and current presidential candidate, acted improperly or violated any laws.

Meanwhile, in politically charged congressional hearings in Washington, Giuliani’s activities in Ukraine have come under intense scrutiny, with Democrats accusing Trump’s personal lawyer of pressuring Ukraine to dig up dirt on the Bidens.

But Pruss, who watched part of the hearings on television, said he doesn’t have anything to do with what transpired between Trump, Giuliani and Zelenskiy.

“I’m totally irrelevant to this story.”

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How will they pay for it?Labour’s spending dissected in election chart -'LOTS of taxation'

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THE LABOUR PARTY has unveiled its “radical” manifesto today as they set out how they would pay for their vast spending promises.

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