Daily News Roundup

September 25, 2019

Wednesday, September 25

The Democrats have announced an official impeachment inquiry into US President Donald Trump over alleged abuses of power.

Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House of Representatives, said the President had “breached his constitutional responsibilities” over allegations he sought the help of a foreign country to harm a political rival.

“Today, I’m announcing the House of Representatives is moving forward with an official impeachment inquiry,” she said. “I’m directing our six committees to proceed with their investigations under that umbrella … The president must be held accountable.”

An impeachment inquiry is the investigation that precedes a vote on the floor of the House to remove a sitting president.

In this case, it will serve to give Democrats more tools to try to extract information from an unwilling Trump administration, following allegations Mr Trump pressured Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate the son of his political rival Joe Biden.

If they receive enough sufficient evidence, the Democrats can then move to craft articles of impeachment — criminal charges — and send them to the full House where the voting process will commence.

Responding to the announcement, Mr Trump accused the Democrats of “presidential harassment”, describing Ms Pelosi’s announcement as “breaking news Witch Hunt garbage”.

The President has also called for more donations via his website to fight the inquiry.

“Nancy Pelosi just called for IMPEACHMENT!” a statement on his donation page reads. “To fight back, President Trump is launching the Official Impeachment Defense Task Force. This task force will be made up of only President Trump’s most LOYAL supporters.” He sent out a text message to his supporters with a link to his page.

During her speech, Ms Pelosi accused the President of compromising America’s national security.

“I can say with authority the Trump administration’s actions undermine both our national security and our intelligence and our protections of whistleblowers,” she said.

“The actions taken to date by the president have seriously violated the constitution, especially when the president says, ‘Article Two says I can do whatever I want’.

“The actions of the Trump presidency revealed dishonourable fact of the president’s betrayal of his oath of office, betrayal of our national security, and betrayal of the integrity of our elections.

“The President must be held accountable. No one is above the law.”

Ms Pelosi did not take questions after her statement.

The House Speaker has previously shown little appetite for impeachment during the first three years of Mr Trump’s tumultuous presidency, despite a push among Democrats in the US Congress to impeach Mr Trump having gained momentum in that time.

The matter became the subject of a whistleblower’s complaint which alleged Mr Trump pressured Ukraine to investigate Mr Biden and his son despite a lack of known evidence that either did anything wrong.

Mr Trump on Tuesday declared that he would release an unredacted transcript of his phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

“I am currently at the United Nations representing our Country, but have authorised the release tomorrow of the complete, fully declassified and unredacted transcript of my phone conversation with President Zelensky of Ukraine,” he wrote on Twitter at 2:12pm.

”You will see it was a very friendly and totally appropriate call. No pressure and, unlike Joe Biden and his son, NO quid pro quo! This is nothing more than a continuation of the Greatest and most Destructive Witch Hunt of all time!” the president continued.

More than 150 of the 235 Democratic members of the 435-seat House support impeachment or the opening of an inquiry into removing the president.

No House Republicans have come out in favour of impeachment and Republicans currently control the Senate, making conviction unlikely.

A US president has never been ousted from office by impeachment, but the threat alone can bring one down — Richard Nixon resigned in 1974 to avoid certain removal in the Watergate scandal.

Two presidents beat the process: the House formally impeached Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998, but in both cases they were acquitted in the Senate.

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Britain’s Supreme Court has ruled Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s five-week suspension of Parliament was unlawful, prompting calls for his resignation as MPs prepared to go back to Westminster on Wednesday.

Mr Johnson says he disagrees with the court ruling and will not resign adding the Government would respect the decision — but indicating he could try to suspend Parliament again.

“I strongly disagree with what the justices have found,” he said.

“I don’t think that it’s right but we will go ahead and of course Parliament will come back.”

Eleven judges of the Supreme Court considered the matter over the past week, after the Court of Session in Scotland ruled the suspension was illegal, but the High Court in London ruled it was not a matter for the court.

On Tuesday (AEST), Lady Hale of the Supreme Court announced the judges unanimously had ruled Mr Johnson’s suspension of Parliament was illegal.

She added it “was not a normal prorogation” and it was unlawful “because it had the effect of frustrating or preventing the ability of Parliament of carrying out its function”.

The resumption of Parliament is “for Parliament, and in particular the Speaker and the Lord Speaker to decide what to do next”, Lady Hale said in handing down the ruling.

Shortly after, Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow announced he had instructed the Lower House to sit on Wednesday (local time).

“I welcome the Supreme Court’s judgment that the prorogation of Parliament was unlawful,” Mr Bercow said.

“In reaching their conclusion, they have vindicated the right and duty of Parliament to meet at this crucial time to scrutinise the executive and hold ministers to account.

“However, for the avoidance of doubt, there will be full scope for urgent questions, for ministerial statements and for applications for emergency debates,” he added.

He added: “I do think there’s a good case for getting on with a Queen’s speech anyway and we will do that.”

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said the court’s decision showed the Prime Minister had acted incorrectly, before calling on Mr Johnson to consider his position and call a new election.

To cheers and chants of “Johnson out!”, Mr Corbyn said the Prime Minister should become the shortest-ever serving leader and that Labour was ready to form a government.

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A petition to preserve a formerly submerged stone monument dubbed the “Spanish Stonehenge”, built an estimated 7000 years ago, has attracted more than 43,000 signatures after the ancient rock formation was exposed by the European drought.

The stones were submerged for more than 50 years after a reservoir was built in the 1960s

Locals say now is the time to preserve the monument before water levels rise again

Some are calling for the stones to be relocated to a drier position

The Dolmen of Guadalperal comprises more than 100 upright rocks, arranged in a circle formation.

This formation is surrounded by a ring of stones piled on top of each other with an entrance that faces the direction of what used to be the banks of the Tagus River.

The monument had been submerged under water for more than 50 years after the Valdecanas Reservoir was built in 1963 to secure a water supply for western Spain.

However, following drought and two intense heatwaves in June and July, reservoir water levels fell, revealing the ancient stone formation.

Images published by NASA in a September Earth Observatory blog post illustrates the extent of the drought.

The image above was captured in July, while the image below was taken in July 2013.

“Since the 1960s, tips of the tallest megaliths have peaked out of the lake as water levels fluctuated,” the NASA blog post read.

“However, the dry, hot conditions in 2019 dropped lake levels to a point where the entire structure [was visible] for the first time since the reservoir was filled.”

Now that the Dolmen of Guadalperal has been revealed, locals are campaigning to keep the monument dry.