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Trump impeachment: President’s allies were ‘looking to hurt’ former ambassador | US News



The former US ambassador to Ukraine was warned that allies of Donald Trump were “looking to hurt” her after she was pushed out of her job, the impeachment inquiry into the president has heard.

Marie Yovanovitch told congressional investigators that a senior Ukrainian official urged her to “watch my back” amid efforts to discredit her, having been recalled from Kiev as Mr Trump and his lawyer Rudy Giuliani pressed Kiev to look into baseless corruption allegations against former vice president Joe Biden.

According to a newly-released transcript from nine hours of verbal evidence she gave to the inquiry, Ms Yovanovitch detailed various attempts by the White House to bad mouth her in Ukraine and the US.

How impeachment works for a US president in two minutes.

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She spoke of her fear that Mr Giuliani and other Trump allies were planning to “do things, including to me” as they ramped up their campaign to have Mr Biden investigated, which peaked when the US president asked his Ukrainian counterpart for help during a controversial phone call.

That call on 25 July led to the launch of the impeachment inquiry after a whistleblower raised the alarm, with the president subsequently accused of abusing his power by asking a foreign leader to investigate the man expected to be nominated by Democrats to be his rival in the 2020 presidential election.

Ms Yovanovitch told the inquiry she was “surprised and dismayed” by what she understood of the transcript of the call between Mr Trump and Volodymyr Zelenskiy, during which the US president described her as “bad news”.

She added that she felt threatened and perplexed by his remark that she was “going to go through some things”.

Ms Yovanovitch had been forced from her job at the time of the call, the transcript of which has been corroborated by people with first-hand knowledge of the events who have appeared on Capitol Hill.

The impeachment inquiry has been labelled a “witch-hunt” by Mr Trump, who has consistently denied that he or his lawyer have done anything wrong.

Rudy Giuliani

Giuliani: ‘Trump didn’t do a darn thing wrong’

As well as speaking about perceived threats against her, Ms Yovanovitch offered new information that suggested the president was directly involved in a phone call with Mr Giuliani and the Ukrainians back in January 2018.

She said she was aware of an interest by Mr Giuliani and his associates in investigating Mr Biden and Burisma, a gas company that the Democrat’s son Hunter was involved with.

Mr Giuliani was said to be in touch with Ukrainian officials “with a view to finding things that could be possibly damaging to a presidential run”, as well as investigating the 2016 election and theories of Ukrainian interference.

She drew a clearer link between Mr Giuliani and the businessmen Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, who last month were arrested over claims they broke election campaign finance laws.

She understood they were looking to expand their business interests in Ukraine “and that they needed a better ambassador to sort of facilitate their business efforts here”.

Lev Parnas pictured with Mr Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani

Lev Parnas pictured with Mr Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani

The transcript of her evidence was released the day after Republicans were offered the chance to submit written questions to the whistleblower who sparked the impeachment inquiry.

Lawyer Mark Zaid said on Twitter that his client was willing to answer any written questions directly from Republican members of the House of Representatives – other than those querying his identity.

The unexpected move has been viewed as an olive branch to suppress demands by Mr Trump and others for the whistleblower to be unmasked, with the president tweeting that they “must come forward”.

His requests have fallen on deaf ears as the whistleblower is covered by US laws that protect the identity and careers of people who bring forward accusations of wrongdoing by government officials.

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Israel and Islamic Jihad reach ceasefire after dozens killed | World News



Israel and the militant group Islamic Jihad have begun a ceasefire after at least 34 Palestinians were killed in the heaviest fighting in months.

Almost half of the dead were civilians, including eight children and three women, medical officials in Gaza said.

Eight members of one Gaza family were killed by an Israeli missile strike shortly before the truce came into effect, officials and residents said.

They claimed none of the victims were militants.

Palestinians gather at the scene of an Israeli air strike in the central Gaza Strip

Palestinians gather at the scene of an Israeli airstrike in the central Gaza Strip

However, Israeli military spokesman Major Avichay Adraee said the head of the family, Rasmi Abu Malhous, who was among the dead, was the commander of Islamic Jihad rocket crews in the central Gaza Strip, although the group has not claimed him as a member.

Some of the family’s bodies were completely buried in sandy earth, neighbours helping rescue workers to pull them out.

In two days of fighting, southern Israel was paralysed as militants fired hundreds of rockets across the border, injuring dozens of people.

Hamas, the dominant faction in Gaza, appeared to stay out of this round of fighting.

The clashes began early on Tuesday after Israel killed one of Islamic Jihad’s senior commanders, Bahaa Abu el-Atta, who it had deemed to be an imminent threat.

He was claimed to be behind a string of rocket attacks, and was believed to be planning cross-border infiltration, Israel said.

Rockets are fired from Gaza towards Israel

Rockets are fired from Gaza towards Israel

The Egyptian-brokered ceasefire began at 5.30am (03.30 GMT), about 48 hours after the fighting began, Islamic Jihad spokesman Musab al-Berim said.

“The ceasefire began under Egyptian sponsorship after the Occupation (Israel) submitted to the conditions set by Islamic Jihad on behalf of Palestinian resistance factions,” he said.

An Israeli military spokesman announced that its Gaza operation was over on Twitter.

“Quiet will be answered with quiet,” Israel’s foreign minister, Israel Katz, told its Army Radio.

Islamic Jihad, like Hamas, refuses to accept permanent coexistence with Israel.

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Evo Morales: Bolivia’s president quits over electoral fraud claims



Bolivian President Evo Morales has resigned amid deepening unrest over allegations of electoral fraud.

The announcement came after the country’s military chief went on TV on Sunday to call for him to step down.

Mr Morales has endured weeks of anti-government protests since his election victory last month was called into question, with the Organization of American States later discovering “clear manipulation” at the polls.

Concerns were initially raised about a day-long gap in reporting results from the poll, just before a spike in votes for Mr Morales.

Mr Morales, who came to power in 2006, had promised a fresh election.

In his TV appeal, General Williams Kaliman said: “After analysing the situation of internal conflict, we ask the president to resign, allowing peace to be restored and stability to be maintained for the good of our Bolivia.”

He also urged Bolivians not to resort to violence.

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India’s top court awards disputed holy site in Ayodhya to Hindus | World News



India’s top court has awarded a disputed religious site to Hindus – rejecting a rival Muslim claim.

The verdict threatens to heighten tensions between the two communities, which have been embroiled in a bitter dispute over the land – with deadly riots ensuing.

The unanimous ruling paves the way for the building of a Hindu temple on the site in the northern town of Ayodhya, a move long supported by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Hindu-nationalist party.

Security has been tightened in Ayodhya

Ahead of the ruling, security was tightened in Ayodhya and across India

It will be seen as a political victory for Mr Modi, who won a second term in a landslide general election win this year.

The row over ownership has been one of the country’s most contentious issues.

Hindus believe the three-acre plot of land – which is about the size of a football pitch – was the birthplace of Lord Ram, a physical incarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu.

They argue the site was holy for Hindus long before the Muslim Mughals, India’s most prominent Islamic rulers, built what was known as the Babri mosque there in 1528.

The mosque was destroyed by a Hindu mob in 1992, triggering religious riots in which about 2,000 people, most of them Muslim, were killed across the country.

It also led to a series of court battles with various groups staking claim to the site.

India’s supreme court directed that an alternate parcel of land be provided to a Muslim group that had staked a claim to the disputed site.

The land has been heavily protected since the 1992 religious clashes.

Ahead of the ruling, security was tightened in Ayodhya and across India, especially in cities that have been the scene of communal violence previously.

In some regions, restrictions were placed on gatherings and police were monitoring social media to curb rumours that could inflame community tensions.

In some towns, internet services were also suspended, while schools and colleges have been closed until Monday.

In a series of tweets last night, Mr Modi said: “Whatever decision of the supreme court will come on Ayodhya, it will not be a victory or defeat for anyone.

“My appeal to the countrymen is that it should be the priority of all of us that this decision should further strengthen the great tradition of peace, unity and goodwill of India.”

Hindu supporters and activists celebrated the ruling on the court lawns, blowing bugles and chanting “Jai Shree Ram”, or hailing the god Ram.

A lawyer representing the Muslims deplored the ruling.

“We are not satisfied with the verdict and it’s not up to our expectation,” said Zafaryab Jilani, who is representing the Muslim community group.

He hinted at filing a review petition in the supreme court challenging Saturday’s verdict. At the same time, he appealed to members of all communities to maintain peace.

Vishnu Shankar Jain, an attorney who represented the Hindu community, said it had been a struggle.

“It was a huge legal battle and we are happy that we convinced the supreme court. It’s a historic moment for Hindus,” he said.

Raj Nath Singh, India’s defence minister, appealed to people to “accept the court verdict and maintain peace”.

In Islamabad, Pakistan’s foreign minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, criticised the verdict, saying it was indicative of the “hate-based mindset” of Mr Modi’s government.

“This is nothing but Modi’s government continued policies of cultivating seeds of hatred and promoting differences between the communities and religious segments of the population to achieve its designs,” he said.

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