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Ex-Ukraine ambassador testifies Trump pressured State Department to oust her : NBC News


Marie Yovanovitch, the ousted U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, told House impeachment investigators Friday that President Donald Trump personally pressured the State Department to remove her from her position, even though a top department official assured her that she had “done nothing wrong.”

Yovanovitch said that after she was abruptly recalled from her post in the spring, the deputy secretary of state told her “the president had lost confidence in me,” according to her prepared remarks obtained by NBC News.

“He added that there had been a concerted campaign against me, and that the department had been under pressure from the president to remove me since the summer of 2018,” Yovanovitch told lawmakers, according to her opening statement.

The career diplomat, who said she was informed of her ouster in April, said in her statement that she was “incredulous that the U.S. government chose to remove an ambassador based, as best as I can tell, on unfounded and false claims by people with clearly questionable motives.”

Yovanovitch appeared for her expected closed-door deposition before the House Intelligence, Oversight and Foreign Affairs Committees as part of those bodies’ ongoing investigations into Trump’s efforts to persuade Ukraine’s new government to commit publicly to investigate corruption and the president’s political opponents.

It had been unclear right up until Yovanovitch arrived whether she would appear because she still works for the State Department. The White House had vowed administration officials would not cooperate in the impeachment probe.

 

Source: Ex-Ukraine ambassador testifies Trump pressured State Department to oust her :NBC News

Netanyahu-Gantz stalemate: No clear winner in tight Israeli election – Israel Elections – Jerusalem Post


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s efforts to carry on his dynasty with a historic victory in Tuesday’s Israeli election and to be tasked with forming a government for the sixth time remained up in the air late Tuesday, after exit polls predicted a stalemate.

The final unofficial results were only expected on Wednesday afternoon, but according to an exit poll on Channel 13, whose pollster Camil Fuchs had the most accurate exit poll in the April election, Netanyahu’s Likud Party won 31 seats, and his Center-Right bloc a total of 54 seats. The Center-Left bloc of Blue and White leader Benny Gantz won 58 and his party won 33.

 

Source: Netanyahu-Gantz stalemate: No clear winner in tight Israeli election – Israel Elections – Jerusalem Post

Trump seeks ban on flavored e-cigarettes | TheHill


The Trump administration is seeking to ban all nontobacco flavors of e-cigarettes in the wake of a massive spike in teen vaping and the spread of a mysterious illness that has sickened hundreds of people across the country.

President Trump told reporters in the Oval Office that vaping is a problem “especially vaping as it pertains to innocent children.”

Youth vaping has skyrocketed in the past year, driven largely by teenagers becoming drawn to sweet and fruit-flavored e-cigarette pods easily accessible in stores. The FDA has struggled to keep up with regulation.

Federal statistics have shown a 78 percent increase in e-cigarette use among high school students in just one year.

“We can’t have our youth be so affected,” Trump said. “People are dying with vaping, so we’re looking at it very closely.”

The Food and Drug Administration is working on releasing final guidance to implement the ban, but Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said it will take several weeks to develop.

Azar said after a 30-day effective date, all flavored e-cigarettes would be removed from the market, pending FDA approval. Manufacturers of tobacco-flavors would have to file for approval by May 2020, Azar said.

“Kids are getting access to these products despite our best efforts at enforcement … they’ve been going at it so we simply have to remove these attractive flavored products from the marketplace until they’ve secured FDA approval if they can,” Azar said.

Most e-cigarette brands sold in the U.S. are legal, but none of them have been subject to FDA review, leaving a regulatory gray area as more and more products flood the market.

The agency gained the authority to regulate tobacco products in 2009, but it wasn’t extended to vaping products until 2016. When the Trump administration took over in 2017, the FDA decided to delay enforcing the laws until 2022, much to the frustration of public health groups. In response to a federal lawsuit, the agency moved that timeline up again, to next spring.

Earlier Wednesday, Azar met with Trump and acting Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner Ned Sharpless at the White House to finalize details of the announcement.

The move to ban flavors also comes as at least 450 cases of a mysterious respiratory condition have been reported across 33 states. The severity of the cases vary, but six people have died.

 

Source: Trump seeks ban on flavored e-cigarettes | TheHill

Speaker John Bercow announces he will QUIT by October 31 | Daily Mail Online


  • Speaker John Bercow has dramatically announced that he is standing down the the Commons next month
  • Mr Bercow was facing the Tories running a candidate against him at the election amid fury at Brexit handling
  • He had caused fury by bending House of Commons procedures so Remainer rebel law could be passed 

Speaker John Bercow today dramatically announced he is quitting by October 31 amid a huge Tory backlash at his handling of Brexit.

Mr Bercow dropped the bombshell in a statement to the House of Commons this afternoon, watched by wife Sally.

He said he would resign tonight in the unlikely event that MPs vote to hold an early election tonight.

To cheers and laughter from Labour MPs, he said otherwise the least disruptive would be for him to quit on October 31 – the current deadline for Brexit.

The move amounts to Mr Bercow jumping before he is pushed, as the Conservatives have declared they will break convention by running a candidate against him in Buckingham at the next election.

In a series of stinging shots at Boris Johnson, a tearful Mr Bercow said he made ‘no apology’ for being the ‘backbenchers’ backstop’ while in the chair – warning against ‘degrading’ Parliament.

‘At the 2017 election, I promised my wife and children that it would be my last,’ he told the House.

‘This is a pledge that I intend to keep. If the House votes tonight for an early general election, my tenure as Speaker and MP will end when this Parliament ends.

‘If the House does not so vote, I have concluded that the least disruptive and most democratic course of action would be for me to stand down at the close of business on Thursday, October 31.’

Mr Bercow said that meant that he could be in the chair for Queen’s Speech votes expected on October 21 and 22.

He added wryly: ‘The week or so after that may be quite lively and it would be best to have an experienced figure in the chair for that short period.’

Opposition MPs gave Mr Bercow a standing ovation after his announcement – but almost all Tories pointedly stayed in their seats.

 

Source: Speaker John Bercow announces he will QUIT by October 31 | Daily Mail Online

McConnell indicates he won’t call Senate back early for gun debate | TheHill


Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) indicated Thursday that he will not bring the Senate back early from its five-week August recess to debate gun legislation, despite pressure from Democrats.
“We’re going to have these bipartisan discussions and when we get back hopefully be able to come together and actually pass something. I want to make a law,” McConnell said during an interview with Kentucky radio station WHAS.
Pressed if he was saying he would not call the Senate back before their currently scheduled Sept. 9 return date, McConnell added: “If we did that, we would just have people scoring points and nothing would happen. There has to be a bipartisan discussion here of what we can agree on.”
The interview marks the first time McConnell has publicly weighed in on the growing calls from Democrats and activists for him to bring the Senate back into session after they left last week for the August break.
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) have homed in on McConnell this week as they try to pressure him and Republicans to bring the chamber back into session as soon as this week to vote on House legislation.
“Today, as Speaker of the House, I am writing in good faith to request that you call the United States Senate back into session immediately under your powers in Article II Section 3 of the Constitution to consider House-passed bipartisan gun violence prevention legislation,” Pelosi wrote in a letter to President Trump on Thursday.
The House passed universal background check legislation earlier this year with the support of eight Republicans. The Senate’s companion bill has 42 sponsors, none of whom are Republicans.

 

Source: McConnell indicates he won’t call Senate back early for gun debate | TheHill

House Oversight votes to hold Barr, Ross in contempt | TheHill


The House Oversight and Reform Committee voted largely along party lines on Wednesday to hold Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in contempt for failing to comply with congressional subpoenas.

Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) broke with his party to vote with the Democrats on the panel.

The high-stakes vote took place just hours after the Justice and Commerce Departments announced that President Trump had asserted executive privilege over the subpoenaed documents, which were tied to the Trump administration’s addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 census.

Wednesday’s vote, which comes just one day after the House voted to empower committee chairs with more legal authority to enforce their subpoenas, is a further escalation of the battle between the Trump administration and House Democrats investigating the president.

The citizenship question has been hotly contested since Ross announced in March 2018 that it would be included on the 2020 census, stating that the Justice Department had requested the question in order to help enforce the Voting Rights Act.

 

Source: House Oversight votes to hold Barr, Ross in contempt | TheHill

Trump asserts executive privilege over census citizenship question info as Dems prepare contempt vote : NBC News


 

Source: Trump asserts executive privilege over census citizenship question info as Dems prepare contempt vote : NBC News

Canada hails landmark victory as Canada bans whale, dolphin and porpoise captivity – Humane Society International


OTTAWA – Canada has passed legislation that bans keeping whales, dolphins and porpoises in captivity for entertainment, as well as the trade, possession, capture and breeding of cetaceans. Today, the House of Commons voted overwhelmingly in favour of Bill S-203, the Ending the Captivity of Whales and Dolphins Act.

Bill S-203 was introduced by Senator Wilfred Moore in 2015, and then sponsored by Senator Murray Sinclair. Upon passage through the Senate, it was championed by Green Party Leader Elizabeth May in the House of Commons.

Rebecca Aldworth, Executive Director of HSI/Canada stated: “The passage of Bill S-203 is a watershed moment in the protection of marine animals and a victory for all Canadians. Whales and dolphins don’t belong in tanks, and the inherent suffering these highly social and intelligent animals endure in intensive confinement can no longer be tolerated. We congratulate the sponsors of this bill and the Canadian government for showing strong leadership in responding to public will and sound science on this critical issue.”

Green Party Leader and Saanich – Gulf Islands MP Elizabeth May stated, “Canadians have been clear, they want the cruel practice of keeping whales and dolphins in captivity to end. With the passage of Bill S-203, we have ensured that this will happen.”

Bill sponsor Senator Wilfred Moore said, “We have a moral obligation to phase out the capture and retention of animals for profit and entertainment. Canadians are calling upon us to do better – and we have listened.”

 

Source: Canada hails landmark victory as Canada bans whale, dolphin and porpoise captivity – Humane Society International

Breaking: Leadsom resigns from Cabinet | The SKWAWKBOX


Tory chaos goes up a gear with what may be first of series of resignations to pressure PM May

Andrea Leadsom has resigned from her Cabinet position as Leader of the House of Commons.

In a letter to Theresa May, Leadsom blamed failure to deliver Brexit and a breakdown in government processes for her decision and urged May to step down:

 

Source: Breaking: Leadsom resigns from Cabinet | The SKWAWKBOX

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