Mueller to Give ‘Substantial Evidence’ for Impeaching Trump, Top Democrat Says

A leading House Democrat says special counsel Robert Mueller will give “very substantial evidence” that will make the case for impeaching U.S. President Donald Trump.

“This is a president who has violated the law six ways from Sunday,” House Judiciary Committee chairman Jerrold Nadler told Fox television.

Mueller is set to testify before two House committees Wednesday on his investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to meddle in the 2016 presidential election and if Trump obstructed justice in trying to derail the probe.

“We have to present, or let Mueller present, those facts to the American people…because the administration must be held accountable and no president can be above the law,” Nadler said.

The Mueller report concluded there was not enough evidence to determine that Trump or his campaign colluded with Russia. But Mueller wrote he could not exonerate Trump of allegations of obstruction of justice, turning the matter over to Attorney General William Barr. Barr said he could find no evidence of obstruction.

Trump was highly critical of the Mueller investigation, but does say the report clears him of any alleged criminal activity.

Mueller has said he chose the words in his report very carefully and would not provide any other information in any public testimony.

But Nadler said Sunday he does not expect Mueller’s appearance to be what he called a “dud.”

FILE – Robert Mueller, then-special counsel probing Russian interference in the 2016 election, departs Capitol Hill following a meeting with lawmakers, in Washington, June 21, 2017.

“The president and the attorney general have lied to the American people about what was in the Mueller report…the president saying they found no collusion. That was not true, that it found no obstruction, that is not true.”

Nadler says lawmakers will ask Mueller some very specific questions about parts of the report.

“Look at page 344, paragraph two…does that describe obstruction of justice…did you find that the president did that, for example.”

Republicans are upset at what they see as Democratic efforts to keep what they regard as a one-sided but over and done investigation of the president on the front pages.

Congressman Doug Collins, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, was also on Fox television Sunday. He accused Democrats “going after things that we’ve already known.”

“It’s like going back and finding a book on the shelf that looks new and then all of a sudden you begin to read and you find ‘wait, I’ve already read this before’,” Collins said.

He said Republicans will also have a few questions for Mueller.

“Let me tell you, Republicans have not forgotten how and where the investigation started and there’s going to be a lot of questions for what he did say, what he didn’t say, and how this thing started.”

 

 

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Why China and Vietnam Can’t Stop Clashing With Each Other

China and Vietnam are continuing to clash over a maritime sovereignty dispute despite diplomacy and calm being displayed by other claimants to the same sea.

The Communist neighbors talk regularly about their differences party-to-party as well as through diplomatic channels. Around the rest of the contested South China Sea, claimed by six governments total, other countries have largely avoided openhanded spats over the past three years.

Yet a new dispute erupts between China and Vietnam about once a year. They’re locked in another one now over energy exploration in an area in the sea that both countries call their own.

The two countries continue to spar because of decades, if not centuries, of distrust coupled with material ambitions in the 3.5 million-square-kilometer sea, experts say.

“I think the big picture on China-Vietnam relations is that they would go for diplomacy and they would go for hardball games,” said Eduardo Araral, associate professor at the National University of Singapore’s public policy school. “It’s a very long love-hate relationship between China and Vietnam.”

FILE – A Chinese Coast Guard ship is seen in the South China Sea, March 29, 2014.

Boat standoff

In the most recent clash between the two countries, a Chinese coast guard vessel has been patrolling since June 16 around a seabed tract about 352 kilometers off the coast of southeastern Vietnam, according to the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative under the Center for Strategic & International Studies think tank.

Those patrols are “centered on” oil and gas Block 06-01 northwest of Vanguard Bank on the Vietnamese continental shelf, the initiative says. It also falls within China’s nine-dash line. China uses the line to demarcate its claims to about 90% of the sea, which is rich in fossil fuel reserves as well as fisheries and marine shipping lanes.

Chinese maritime militia ships and multiple merchant marine vessels joined the coast guard vessel, geopolitical research organization Stratfor Worldview says in a July 16 report. Their presence led to a “standoff”, Stratfor adds. Vietnam eventually asked the Chinese exploration vessel and coast guard ships to leave.

Old memories

Vietnamese are “nationalistic” overall and remember colonization by China, Araral said. China colonized what are now parts of northern Vietnam more than a millennium ago. Vietnam repelled modern China in a border war in the 1970s.

Vietnamese now believe the South China Sea’s Paracel Islands should also be theirs. China has controlled that archipelago since 1974.

FILE – A man rides a motorcycle past a poster promoting Vietnam’ sovereignty in the East Sea of the South China Sea, on Phu Quoc island, Sept. 11, 2014.

Leaders in Hanoi are trying to balance their foreign policy to avoid dependence on China, despite their Communist linkage, said Carl Thayer, Southeast Asia-specialized emeritus professor with the University of New South Wales in Australia.

After China and among the South China Sea claimant nations, Vietnam is the second most active seeker of oil, gas and the small expansion of its holdings on small islets.

Vanguard Bank disputes

Vanguard Bank has “frequently been at the heart of Vietnam and China’s long-standing maritime tensions, with Beijing trying to limit or block Hanoi from exploring in what it considers disputed territory,” Stratfor Worldview says. That tension flared up a lot in the 1990s, Thayer said.

Last year, Spanish driller Repsol suddenly quit a Vietnamese-approved energy exploration project at Vanguard Bank, apparently under pressure from China, foreign media reports and political experts said at the time. Vietnam still maintains outposts there.

The two countries never resolved their 2018 dispute, Thayer said. “Vietnam stood down and they didn’t buy Chinese acquiescence then to solve this matter,” he said.

FILE – Soldiers of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy patrol at Woody Island, in the Paracel Archipelago, Jan. 29, 2016.

Wider sovereignty dispute

A string of other incidents has shaken the two countries over the past five years. In 2014, a Chinese oil rig touched off a boat-ramming incident in the South China Sea and deadly anti-China riots in Vietnam.

In March this year, search-and-rescue officials in Hanoi said a Chinese vessel had rammed a Vietnamese boat near Discovery Reef east of Vietnam.

Vietnam’s Communist Party normally sends a special envoy to China for talks over these flaps, Thayer said.

“I think they need to find areas with mutual interest to cool off the face-off,” said Andrew Yang, secretary-general of the Chinese Council of Advanced Policy Studies think tank in Taiwan. “I think they will do this, because they’ve got enough trouble already and they don’t want to create another one.”

China, the strongest player in the six-way sovereignty dispute, is already using trade and investment incentives – backed by the world’s second biggest economy – to ease its sovereignty disputes with Brunei, Malaysia and the Philippines. Vietnam has seen an influx of Chinese tourists.

But “diplomacy will probably fail” to solve maritime sovereignty issues, Araral said.

 

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Trump Renews Attacks on 4 Congresswomen of Color

President Donald Trump has renewed his attacks aimed at four Democratic congresswomen of color, alleging Sunday they are not “capable of loving our Country.”   This follows days of similar statements by the president. Critics have deemed his recent comments about Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ayana Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan as ‘racist.’

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American Crocodiles Thriving Outside Nuclear Plant 

MIAMI — American crocodiles, once headed toward extinction, are thriving at an unusual spot — the canals surrounding a South Florida nuclear plant. 

Last week, 73 crocodile hatchlings were rescued by a team of specialists at Florida Power & Light’s Turkey Point nuclear plant and dozens more are expected to emerge soon. 

Turkey Point’s 168-mile (270-kilometer) man-made canals serve as the home to several hundred crocodiles, where a team of specialists working for FPL monitors and protects them from hunting and climate change. 

From January to April, Michael Lloret, an FPL wildlife biologist and crocodile specialist, helps create nests for the creatures. Once the hatchlings are reared and left by the mother, the team captures them. They are measured and tagged with microchips to observe their development. Lloret then relocates them to increase survival rates. 

“We entice crocodiles to come in to the habitats FPL created,” Lloret said. “We clear greenery on the berms so that the crocodiles can nest. Because of rising sea levels wasting nests along the coasts, Turkey Point is important for crocodiles to continue.” 

Wildlife biologist/crocodile specialist Michael Lloret points out a crocodile nest on one of the berms along the cooling canals next to the Turkey Point Nuclear Generating Station, July 19, 2019, in Homestead, Fla.

Now ‘threatened,’ not ‘endangered’

The canals are one of three major U.S. habitats for crocodiles, where 25% of the 2,000 American crocodiles live. The FPL team has been credited for moving the classification of crocodiles on the Endangered Species Act to “threatened” from “endangered” in 2007. The team has tagged 7,000 babies since it was established in 1978. 

Temperature determines the crocodiles’ sex: the hotter it is, the more likely males are hatched. Lloret said this year’s hatchlings are male-heavy because of last month’s weather — it was the hottest June on record globally. 

Because hatchlings released are at the bottom of the food chain, only a small fraction of them survive to be adults. Lloret said they at least have a fighting chance at Turkey Point, away from humans who hunted them to near-extinction out of greed and fear, even though attacks are rare. Only one crocodile attack has ever been recorded in the U.S. — a couple were both bitten while swimming in a South Florida canal in 2014, but both survived. 

“American crocodiles have a bad reputation, when they are just trying to survive,” Lloret said. “They are shy and want nothing to do with us. Humans are too big to be on their menu.” 

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Japan Votes in Upper House Election 

TOKYO — Japanese voters cast ballots Sunday in an upper house election, with Shinzo Abe’s ruling bloc looking to protect its majority and keep on track plans to amend the country’s pacifist constitution. 
 
Abe, 64, who is on course to become Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, is also hoping to shore up his mandate ahead of a crucial consumption tax hike later this year, along with trade negotiations with Washington. 
 
Opinion polls suggest his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and its coalition partner Komeito are likely to win a majority, mostly because of a lackluster opposition. 
 
Sunday’s vote is for half the seats in the House of Councilors — the less powerful house of parliament — and polling stations across the country open at 7 a.m. (2200 GMT Saturday). 
 
The vote outcome is expected to become clear shortly after the polls close at 8 p.m., with pollsters suggesting turnout could be lower than 50 percent,  significantly less than usual. 

‘Disarray’ in opposition camp
 
Abe’s ruling coalition is forecast to win a solid majority of the 124 seats contested in the election, according to pre-election surveys. 
 
The two parties control 70 seats in the half of the chamber that is not being contested, meaning the projections put them on track to maintain their overall majority in the body. 
 
“Abe’s strength is largely based on passive support resulting from disarray in the opposition camp and a lack of rivals,” Shinichi Nishikawa, professor of political science at Meiji University in Tokyo, told AFP. 
 

FILE – Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks during a press conference at Abe’s official residence in Tokyo, June 26, 2019.

A win means Abe should be able to stay in power until November, when he will break the service record of Taro Katsura, a revered politician who served three times as premier between 1901 and 1913. 
 
During campaigns, Abe’s ruling coalition has sought to win voter support for a rise in the nation’s consumption tax to 10 percent later this year as part of efforts to ease swelling social security costs in the “ultra-aged” country. 
 
Abe is also hoping that his coalition and a loose group of conservatives from smaller opposition parties can grab a two-thirds majority in the upper house, giving him the support to move ahead with plans to amend the constitution’s provisions on the military. 
 
“This is an election to decide whether to pick parties who take responsibility for firm discussions on the constitution,” Abe told voters in a campaign speech earlier this month. 

Self-defense provisions
 
Abe vowed to “clearly stipulate the role of the Self-Defense Forces in the constitution,” which prohibits Japan from waging war and maintaining a military. 
 
The provisions, imposed by the U.S. forces after World War II, are popular in the public at large, but reviled by nationalists like Abe, who see them as outdated and punitive. 
 
Local media predict that forces in favor of revising the constitution, led by Abe’s LDP, are likely to win close to 85 of the seats being contested, giving them a “supermajority” in the chamber. 
 
“Since the ruling coalition is widely expected to win the election, attention is now focused on whether the pro-revision forces can win a two-thirds majority,” Nishikawa said. 
 
But even if Abe secures it, any constitutional revision also requires approval in a national referendum, a result that is far from guaranteed. 

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Nigerian President Condemns Latest Killings in Sokoto State 

ABUJA — Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari condemns the killing of 37 people by bandits in the northwestern state of Sokoto, his spokesman said Saturday in a statement. 

Armed gangs have killed hundreds of people in northwest Nigeria this year and forced at least 20,000 to flee to neighboring Niger, adding to security problems in a country also struggling with an Islamist insurgency in the northeast and clashes between farmers and herders in central states. 

“President Muhammadu Buhari strongly condemns the killing of 37 innocent people by bandits in the Goronyo Local Government Area of Sokoto State,” the presidency said in the statement. 

Local media said the attacks took place late Friday. 

Troops have been deployed to the areas hit in the latest flashpoint, the presidency statement said. Military and police have been dispatched to tackle criminal gangs blamed for a spate of killings and kidnappings over the last year. 

Buhari, a former military ruler, began his second four-year term in May after winning a presidential election in February. 

During his campaign he vowed to improve security but — against the backdrop of the northwest’s wave of banditry, high-profile kidnappings nationwide and attacks by Islamist insurgents — he has reiterated that it remains a priority. 

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‘Queen of Saratoga’ Marylou Whitney Dies at 93

Marylou Whitney, a successful thoroughbred breeder and owner whose family helped keep Saratoga Race Course open in the 1970s, has died. She was 93. 

The New York Racing Association said she died Friday at her estate in Saratoga Springs after a long illness. No further details were provided. 

Whitney became the first woman in 80 years to own and breed a Kentucky Oaks winner in 2003 with Bird Town, a filly trained by Hall of Famer Nick Zito. In 2004, Whitney and Zito teamed with Birdstone to win the Belmont Stakes, spoiling Smarty Jones’ Triple Crown bid. Birdstone won the Travers, Saratoga’s signature race, later that summer. 

Her stable had over 190 winners starting in 2000 and into the current year.

Opens her own stable in 1992

Before opening her own stable in 1992, Whitney teamed with her husband, Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney, to race horses. They won the Travers in 1960 with Tompion and again in 1968 with Chompion. C.V. Whitney co-founded the National Museum of Racing and Pan American Airlines in 1958.

In the 1970s, the couple helped convince NYRA to keep Saratoga open at a time when wagering and attendance sagged. Their efforts and long-term vision paid off, with Saratoga’s summer meet attracting more than 1 million fans annually.

Whitney was nicknamed “Queen of Saratoga” for her philanthropic initiatives in Saratoga Springs.

The Whitneys founded the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, which opened in 1966 and continues to host world-class musical and dance performances.

C.V. Whitney died at age 93 in 1992. 

Eclipse Award of Merit 

In 1997, Whitney married John Hendrickson, who was 40 years her junior and an aide to Alaska’s then-governor, Wally Hickel. The couple continued her philanthropic endeavors, helping establish a program to help Saratoga stable workers.

“Marylou’s passion for racing was only matched by her love for the city of Saratoga Springs and her support for the backstretch community,” NYRA CEO and President Dave O’Rouke said. “Her generosity was unparalleled and the list of her contributions is endless. Saratoga would not be the destination it is today without the esteemed leadership, dedication and support of Marylou.”

Whitney received an Eclipse Award of Merit in 2010 for her contributions to racing and was elected to The Jockey Club in 2011. 

“Whether it was her extraordinary philanthropic endeavors, her festive galas or her racing stable of stakes winners, Marylou devoted all of her energies to our sport and its traditions, most prominently, her beloved Saratoga,” the Breeders’ Cup said in a statement. “Marylou has left an indelible mark of distinction, class and style upon thoroughbred racing.” 

‘Irreplaceable icon’

Last year, she was in attendance as the Racing Hall of Fame inducted three generations of Whitneys as Pillars of the Turf, including C.V. Whitney, his father, Harry Payne Whitney, and his grandfather, Williams Collins Whitney, who purchased Saratoga in 1900 and also helped create Belmont Park.

“Mrs. Whitney was a beloved and irreplaceable icon whose extraordinary legacy will have a lasting effect on future generations,” the Racing Hall of Fame and Museum said in a statement. 

Born Marie Louise Schroeder on Dec. 24, 1925, she grew up in Kansas City, Missouri. 

After graduating from Southwest High School, she attended the University of Iowa for a time before working as an actress, appearing in movies and television shows and in radio. 

Besides Hendrickson, she is survived by her five children, Louise, Frank, Henry, Heather and Cornelia. 

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US to Send Asylum Seekers Back to Dangerous Part of Mexico

The U.S. government on Friday expanded its policy requiring asylum seekers to wait outside the country to one of Mexico’s most dangerous cities, where thousands of people are already camped, some for several months.

The Department of Homeland Security said it would implement its Migrant Protection Protocols in Brownsville, Texas, across the border from Matamoros, Mexico. DHS said it expected the first asylum seekers to be sent back to Mexico starting Friday.

Under the “Remain in Mexico” policy, asylum seekers are briefly processed and given a date to return for an immigration court hearing before being sent back across the southern border. Since January, the policy has been implemented at several border cities including San Diego and El Paso, Texas. At least 18,000 migrants have been sent back to Mexico under the policy, according to Mexico’s National Migration Institute.

The U.S. is trying to curtail the large flow of Central American migrants passing through Mexico to seek asylum under American law. The busiest corridor for unauthorized border crossings is South Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, where Brownsville is located. Other cities in the Rio Grande Valley were not immediately included in the expansion.

DHS said it had coordinated with the Mexican government on the policy. The Mexican government did not immediately respond to requests for comment. But the Trump administration has pressured Mexico to crack down on migrants, threatening earlier this year to impose crippling tariffs until both sides agreed on new measures targeting migration. 

FILE – In this April 30, 2019, file photo, migrants seeking asylum in the United States line up for a meal provided by volunteers near the international bridge in Matamoros, Mexico.

Matamoros is at the eastern edge of the U.S.-Mexico border in Tamaulipas state, where organized crime gangs are dominant and the U.S. government warns citizens not to visit because of violence and kidnappings.

The city is also near where a Salvadoran father and his 23-month-old daughter were found drowned in the Rio Grande, in photos that were shared around the world.

Many people have slept for the last several months in a makeshift camp near one of the international bridges, including families with young children. Thousands more stay in hotels, shelters or boarding houses. Only a few migrants daily have been allowed to seek asylum under another Trump administration policy limiting asylum processing known as “metering.” 

A list run by Mexican officials has more than 1,000 people on it, said Elisa Filippone, a U.S.-based volunteer who visits Matamoros several times a week to deliver food and donated clothes. But many others not on the list wait in shelters. There are frequent rumors that migrants are shaken down for bribes to join the list, Filippone said.

She described a desperate situation that could be made worse if people are forced to wait longer in Mexico for their asylum claims to be processed.

“I’m afraid that Matamoros is about to catch on fire,” she said.

Filippone said Friday that she saw the camp closest to one of the bridges being cleared away, though it was not immediately clear why or where the people detained would go. 

DHS recently implemented the “Remain” policy for migrants in Nuevo Laredo, across from Laredo, Texas. About 1,800 asylum seekers and migrants are currently waiting in Nuevo Laredo, where some have reported being kidnapped and extorted by gangs.

“I don’t want to go out on the street. I’m afraid the same men … will do something to me or my boys,” said one woman, insisting on speaking anonymously out of fear for their safety.

People in Nuevo Laredo were told to return in September for U.S. court dates. At other points along the border, wait times have stretched to several months. 

Unlike in criminal court, the U.S. government does not have to provide lawyers to people in the immigration court system. Attorneys in South Texas have long questioned where they could meet with potential clients in Tamaulipas.

Many migrants who get to the U.S. have exhausted all their resources by the time they arrive, said Lisa Brodyaga, an attorney who has represented asylum seekers for decades. 

“It would be extremely difficult for them to find attorneys who would have the time and the ability and the willingness to expose themselves to what’s going in Matamoros,” she said. “I’m not sure how it’s going to work.”

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