WEDNESDAY, Oct 22
The impeachment of US President Donald Trump took a giant step forward overnight when a top US diplomat dobbed him in big-time during closed-door hearings.
William Taylor, the senior American envoy to Ukraine, told three Democratic-led House of Representatives committees that Trump made the release of security aid to Ukraine contingent on Kiev declaring it would pursue politically motivated probes he sought, according to a copy of his statement to lawmakers.
Taylor, gave closed-door testimony to the committees which are leading an impeachment inquiry against Trump.
The Washington Post on Tuesday posted a copy of Taylor’s opening statement online.
Adding to Trump’s discomfort, just before Taylor testified the President lashed out again likening the impeachment investigation to a “lynching”, in a tweet that drew condemnation for his inflammatory reference to decades of killings of thousands of black Americans.
“All Republicans must remember what they are witnessing here — a lynching. But we will WIN!” Mr Trump wrote on Twitter.
Taylor testified he was told by Gordon Sondland, the US envoy to the European Union, that Trump had made the release of the withheld aid contingent on Kiev making public declarations that it would investigate domestic political rival Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden as well as an issue relating to the 2016 election.
Joe Biden, the former vice president, is a leading contender for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination to face Trump.
Hunter Biden had served on the board of Ukrainian energy company Burisma.
Trump made his request – described by Democrats as an improper invitation for foreign interference in an American election – after withholding $US391 million in security aid approved by the US Congress to help combat Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.
Zelenskiy agreed to the request. The aid was later released.
Referring to Taylor, Democratic Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz said, “I really felt like he drew the most direct line that I’ve heard from President Trump to the withholding of foreign aid to a vital diplomatic partner that needs those resources to keep Russia at bay ……..”.
Taylor’s appearance marked another crucial development in the political drama unfolding in Washington that threatens Trump’s presidency even as he pursues re-election in 2020.
It was a case of two steps forward and one step back for Boris Johnson when the UK Parliament passed a vote allowing the Prime Minister’s Withdrawal Agreement Bill to proceed to the next stage but then refused to approve a rapid timetable to push it through in three days.
The vote to stall proceedings followed the House of Commons passing a vote to approve a Brexit deal for the first time, allowing Mr Johnson’s Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB) to proceed to the next stage, which could lead to further amendments.
The first vote passed with 329 supporting the bill and 299 against it.
But crucially, Mr Johnson lost a subsequent vote to approve a rapid timetable to push the bill through Parliament in just three days.
The margin was closer for the second vote, with 322 against and 308 in favour.
Earlier, Mr Johnson had threatened to withdraw the agreement bill and push for a general election if MPs voted against the timetable, but he backtracked after the vote and said the bill would instead be paused.
Mr Johnson said it was now up to the EU to “make up their minds over how to answer Parliament’s request for a delay”.
EU Council President Donald Tusk said he would recommend the other 27 EU members accept Britain’s request for a Brexit extension, which is likely to be until January 2020.
“Following PM Boris Johnson’s decision to pause the process of ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement, and in order to avoid a no-deal Brexit, I will recommend the EU27 accept the UK request for an extension,” he tweeted.
A South Australian man, 50, has died and a woman seriously injured when they fell 10-metres from a zipline in a Far North Queensland rainforest.
The zipline is run by Jungle Surfing Canopy Tours on Camelot Close at Cape Tribulation.
The woman, 48, also from SA, was flown by rescue helicopter about 5:30pm to Cairns Hospital in a serious but stable condition.
She has suspected pelvic injuries and injuries to her shoulder and arm.
The couple were harnessed together and fell more than 10 metres from the zipline, but what led to the fall is subject to investigation.
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