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‘Everyone was in the loop’: Three takeaways from Sondland impeachment testimony

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. diplomat who is a pivotal witness in the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he worked with Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani on Ukraine issues on “the president’s orders,” confirming the president’s active participation in a controversy that threatens his presidency. Here are three takeaways from the…

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‘Everyone was in the loop’: Three takeaways from Sondland impeachment testimony

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. diplomat who is a pivotal witness in the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he worked with Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani on Ukraine issues on “the president’s orders,” confirming the president’s active participation in a controversy that threatens his presidency. Here are three takeaways from the testimony of Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union: ACTING ON TRUMP’S ORDERS Unlike other witnesses who have testified in the televised impeachment hearings, Sondland communicated directly with Trump as he pressured Ukraine to undertake investigations that could boost the president’s re-election prospects next year. Sondland said Trump did not tell him specifically what he wanted Kiev to investigate but directed him to work with Giuliani, who did not have an official role with the U.S. government. Giuliani’s instructions “reflected President Trump’s desires and requirements,” he said. That undercuts a central argument of Trump’s Republican defenders: that many of the witnesses at the inquiry were relaying second- or third-hand information and did not have direct knowledge of Trump’s intentions. Sondland said Giuliani pressed Ukraine to investigate Burisma, a natural gas company on which Hunter Biden, the son of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, has served as a director. Giuliani also wanted Ukraine to investigate a discredited conspiracy theory that Kiev, not Moscow, interfered in the 2016 presidential election. Sondland said he did not realize until later that Giuliani’s request to investigate Burisma was meant to dig up damaging information on Joe Biden. QUID PRO QUO Sondland said that Trump’s administration refused to arrange a telephone call and set up a coveted Oval Office meeting between the president and Ukraine’s new president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, unless the Ukrainian leader publicly promised to undertake investigations that could help Trump politically. That contradicts Trump’s main defense – that there was no explicit exchange of favors between the two countries. “Was there a quid pro quo? As I testified previously, with regard to the requested White House call and White House meeting, the answer is yes,” Sondland said. In using that phrase, Sondland went further than his early testimony in which he was more circumspect on whether the meeting and phone call were conditioned on Ukraine carrying out the investigations that Trump sought. Sondland says he gradually came to realize that the White House was also withholding $391 million in security aid in order to pressure Kiev. He says he told a Zelenskiy aide in early September that Ukraine likely would probably not get the money until it took “some kind of action on the public statement that we had been discussing for many weeks.” NOT A ROGUE OPERATION Other witnesses have said Sondland was part of a rogue operation designed to circumvent regular diplomatic channels. But Sondland said he told senior administration officials at the National Security Council and the State Department what he was doing. “Everyone was in the loop. It was no secret,” he said. Among those named by Sondland include: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo; acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney; Mulvaney’s senior adviser, Rob Blair; Pompeo’s counselor, Ulrich Brechbuehl; Lisa Kenna, the State Department executive secretary; John Bolton, Trump’s national security adviser at the time; Bolton’s deputy, Fiona Hill; and Timothy Morrison, who replaced Hill. In addition, Sondland said he told Vice President Mike Pence in September that the Ukraine aid appeared to be stalled because of the demand for investigations. “The vice president nodded, he heard what I said, and that was pretty much it,” he said. Sondland’s testimony could be particularly damaging for Pompeo, a Trump loyalist who is reported to be considering a run for the U.S. Senate in his home state of Kansas. Sondland provided messages showing that the two communicated about his effort to get Ukraine to undertake the investigations sought by Trump. Pompeo appeared to approve of his efforts. “You’re doing great work; keep banging away,” Pompeo told Sondland in early September, according to email correspondence cited in Sondland’s testimony. U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland testifies before a House Intelligence Committee hearing as part of the impeachment inquiry into U.S. President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., November 20, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan ErnstSondland’s testimony could help Pompeo’s potential political rivals in Kansas make the case that the secretary of state was more concerned with catering to Trump’s whims than ensuring the integrity of U.S. foreign policy. Pompeo has been widely criticized for failing to defend U.S. diplomats who were targeted by Trump and his allies. However, Kansas is a heavily Republican state, and there are few indications that the impeachment has eroded Trump’s support among conservative-leaning voters. (This story refiles to fix typo in paragraph 1) Reporting by Andy Sullivan; Editing by Ross Colvin and Howard Goller
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A rare blue moon will light up the sky on Halloween

The night sky on Halloween will be illuminated by a blue moon, the second full moon in a month. The relatively rare occurrence happens once every two and a half years on average, according to NASA’s National Space Science Data Center.Every month has a full moon, but because the lunar cycle and the calendar year…

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A rare blue moon will light up the sky on Halloween
The night sky on Halloween will be illuminated by a blue moon, the second full moon in a month. The relatively rare occurrence happens once every two and a half years on average, according to NASA’s National Space Science Data Center.

Every month has a full moon, but because the lunar cycle and the calendar year aren’t perfectly synched, about every three years we wind up with two in the same calendar month.

The National Weather Service spotted a massive bat colony on its weather radar
October’s first full moon, also known as the harvest moon, will appear on the first day of the month. The second full moon, or blue moon, will be visible on October 31. It’s the first instance of a blue moon in the Americas since March 2018.
It’s also the first time a Halloween full moon has appeared for all time zones since 1944, according to Farmers’ Almanac. The last time a Halloween full moon appeared was for the Central and Pacific time zones in 2001.

The “once in a blue moon” phenomenon does not necessarily mean the moon will look blue on Halloween. While the dark blue tone of an evening sky can affect the coloring we see, Earth’s satellite will most likely not appear blue at all.

Typically, when a moon does take on a bluish hue, it is because of smoke or dust particles in the atmosphere, such as during a major volcanic eruption.

When the phrase “once in a blue moon” was coined, it meant something so rare you’d be lucky (or unlucky) to see in your lifetime, according to NASA.

So if anything unusual happens to you on Halloween, there might just be a good reason why.

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Analysis: Why it could be a Biden blowout in November

(CNN)Poll of the week: A new ABC News/Washington Post poll from Minnesota finds Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden with a 57% to 41% lead over President Donald Trump among likely voters. Two other Minnesota polls released over the last few weeks by CBS News/YouGov and New York Times/Siena College have Biden up by nine points.…

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Analysis: Why it could be a Biden blowout in November

(CNN)Poll of the week: A new ABC News/Washington Post poll from Minnesota finds Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden with a 57% to 41% lead over President Donald Trump among likely voters. Two other Minnesota polls released over the last few weeks by CBS News/YouGov and New York Times/Siena College have Biden up by nine points. What’s the point: The Trump campaign has made a significant investment into turning Minnesota red, after Trump lost it by 1.5 points in 2016. The polling shows his efforts are not working.They are part of a larger sign suggesting that Trump still has a ways to go to win not just in Minnesota but over the electoral map at-large. If his campaign was truly competitive at this point, he’d likely be closer in Minnesota. One day Trump may get there, and he definitely has a shot of winning with still over a month to go in the campaign. Yet, it should also be pointed out that despite folks like me usually focusing on how Trump can close the gap with Biden and put new states into play, there’s another side to this equation. There is also the distinct possibility that Biden blows Trump out. It’s something I’ve noted before, and the Washington Post’s David Byler pointed out a few weeks ago. If you were to look at the polling right now, there’s a pretty clear picture. Biden has leads of somewhere between five and eight points in a number of states Trump won four years ago: Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Those plus the states Hillary Clinton won get Biden to about 290 electoral votes. If you add on the other states where Biden has at least a nominal edge in the averages (Florida and North Carolina), Biden is above 330 electoral votes. That’s not quite at blowout levels, but look at the polling in places like Georgia, Iowa, Ohio and Texas. We’re not really talking about those places right now, even though one or both campaigns have fairly major advertising investments planned down the stretch in all four. The polling there has been fairly limited, but it’s been pretty consistent. Biden is quite competitive. If you were to do an aggregation of the polls that are available in those states, Biden’s down maybe a point or two at most. In other words, Biden’s much closer to leading in Georgia, Iowa, Ohio and Texas than Trump is in Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, let alone Minnesota. Indeed, it’s quite possible he’s actually up in either Georgia, Iowa, Ohio or Texas, and we just don’t know it because there isn’t enough fresh data. For example, Clinton only lost in Georgia by five points in 2016, and Biden’s doing about five points better in the national polls than she did in the final vote. It would make sense, therefore, that Biden’s quite close to Trump there at this point. Wins in any of those states by Biden could push his Electoral College tally up to about 340 electoral votes or higher, depending on which states Biden wins. Victories in all four would push him well over 400 electoral votes.Models such as those produced by FiveThirtyEight show just how possible it is for Biden to blow Trump out of the water. The model actually anticipates a better chance of Trump closing his deficit than Biden expanding it. Even so, Biden has a better chance (about 45%) of winning 340 electoral votes than Trump has of winning the election (about 25%). Biden’s chance of taking 400 electoral votes is pretty much the same of Trump winning. Of course, the ramifications of a Biden blowout versus a small Biden win aren’t anywhere close to being the same as a small Biden win versus a small Trump win. It’s easy to understand why the focus of a potential error is on Trump benefiting from it. In 2012, however, we saw the leading candidate (Barack Obama) win pretty much all of the close states.In fact, there’s no reason to think that any polling error at the end of the campaign won’t benefit the candidate who is already ahead. That’s happened plenty of times. Whether it be Obama in 2012 or most infamously Ronald Reagan in 1980. The thing to keep in mind is that it is possible one candidate runs the board because polling errors are correlated across states. That’s exactly what happened in 2016, when Trump won most of the close states. This year we just don’t know how it’s going to play out. Just keep in mind that the potential change in this race could go to Biden’s benefit as well as Trump’s. Before we bid adieu: The theme song of the week is the closing credits to Murphy Brown.
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At least 40 rounds were fired during shooting that left two dead at a party in New York

(CNN)At least 40 rounds were fired during a shooting that left two people dead and over a dozen others injured at a house party in upstate New York, authorities said.The party in Rochester started early Saturday as an invite-only event before it eventually grew in size after two nearby parties “infiltrated” the house. Three or…

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At least 40 rounds were fired during shooting that left two dead at a party in New York

(CNN)At least 40 rounds were fired during a shooting that left two people dead and over a dozen others injured at a house party in upstate New York, authorities said.The party in Rochester started early Saturday as an invite-only event before it eventually grew in size after two nearby parties “infiltrated” the house. Three or four people had handguns, Capt. Frank Umbrino said. The two people killed and 14 wounded were in their late teens to early 20s. Police responded to calls of gunshots around 12:25 a.m. and were met with 100 to 200 people attempting to flee on foot and in vehicles, he said. Those killed did not live at the home and they were not the intended targets, Umbrino said. No suspects were in custody, and no motive was immediately known.”A number of our young people — babies — that came to just hang out a little while … left running for their lives. And that’s just something that we cannot have happen,” Mayor Lovely Warren said during a visit to the neighborhood Saturday. The party’s host told her she “invited a couple friends over, who invited a couple friends over who invited a couple friends over.””And it just got out of control. She’s just traumatized,” Warren said.Warren appealed for calm and healing in a city recently roiled by protests in a different high-profile case — the death of Daniel Prude after an encounter with police earlier this year.The party took place despite several restrictions on gatherings. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the city has told residents to limit social gatherings to household members and not to gather in groups.Additionally, since July, the city has banned gatherings of more than five people from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. to curb what the city said was a rise in violence.Police were not aware of the party beforehand, and had not received any calls for disturbance, Acting Police Chief Mark Simmons said.The shooting comes as the city and police department deal with the case of Prude, who died in March after Rochester police pinned him to the ground. The release of body camera footage this month led to protests and accusations that local leaders hid details about Prude’s death from the public.This week, Simmons succeeded the previous chief, who was fired over the fallout. A New York City law firm is leading an independent investigation into the city’s handling of the case. Also, New York ‘s attorney general has said she would empanel a grand jury to investigate Prude’s death.CNN’s Jason Hanna, Christina Maxouris, Alec Snyder and Alta Spells contributed to this report.
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