A decorated Iraq War veteran rocked the White House Tuesday with devastating testimony on Donald Trump's alleged extortion of Ukraine as Democrats laid out plans for the public phase of the impeachment inquiry threatening his presidency.

New impeachment witness rocks White House

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by Paul HANDLEY

A decorated Iraq War veteran rocked the White House Tuesday with devastating testimony on Donald Trump’s alleged extortion of Ukraine as Democrats laid out plans for the public phase of the impeachment inquiry threatening his presidency.

The Democratic-led House is investigating Trump over his bid to pressure Ukraine into digging up dirt on election rival Joe Biden — and accusations he conditioned nearly $400 million in military aid on the political favor.

National Security Council Ukraine expert Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman said in written testimony for his closed-door deposition he witnessed Trump and a senior diplomat pressuring Ukraine for that help.

In explosive prepared testimony, Vindman recounted listening to Trump pressure Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky on the now infamous July 25 phone call that sparked the impeachment probe.

His opening statement, released late Monday, offers some of the strongest evidence yet for accusations that Trump abused his office and broke election law to gain Kiev’s support for his re-election.

– Decorated war veteran –
Vindman arrived on Capitol Hill Tuesday in full military dress uniform, as Trump blasted him on Twitter as a “Never Trumper” — his label for Republicans who fundamentally oppose the president.

“How many more Never Trumpers will be allowed to testify about a perfectly appropriate phone call,” he asked.

“Was he on the same call that I was? Can’t be possible!”

Republicans mobilized to undercut Vindman’s credibility, questioning his loyalty by noting he moved to the US from the Soviet Union at the age of three and suggesting he is part of an effort by the US national security bureaucracy to undermine Trump.

“Donald Trump is innocent. The deep state is guilty,” said Republican lawmaker Matt Gaetz, one of the president’s most strident defenders in Congress.

– First White House witness –
The first White House official to testify and a Purple Heart recipient after being wounded in Iraq, Vindman has proved a much more difficult witness for Republicans to dismiss, however, than previous civilian government figures.

The veteran, who ignored White House orders to defy a congressional subpoena to testify, said alarm bells rang during a July 10 meeting with Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland and a Kiev official.

Vindland said Sondland pressured the official to open corruption investigations into a debunked conspiracy theory that Ukraine helped Democrats against Trump in the 2016 election.

He also pushed for a probe into Biden over links between the Democrat’s son and a Ukraine energy company, Burisma.

“Following this meeting, there was a scheduled debriefing during which Amb. Sondland emphasized the importance that Ukraine deliver the investigations into the 2016 election, the Bidens and Burisma,” Vindman said.

“I stated to Amb. Sondland that his statements were inappropriate, that the request to investigate Biden and his son had nothing to do with national security,” he added.

Vindland confirmed the public record of the Trump-Zelensky call, in which Trump responded to Zelensky’s request for military aid by asking for “a favor though” before pressing for the investigations of the 2016 story and the Bidens.

“I did not think it was proper to demand that a foreign government investigate a US citizen, and I was worried about the implications for the US government’s support of Ukraine,” Vindman said.

“I realized that if Ukraine pursued an investigation into the Bidens and Burisma, it would likely be interpreted as a partisan play.”

– Next steps for impeachment inquiry –
After interviewing 10 witnesses behind closed doors over the past five weeks, Democrats have drawn up rules for the next stage of the impeachment inquiry that will include public hearings.

“The evidence we have already collected paints the picture of a president who abused his power by using multiple levers of government to press a foreign country to interfere in the 2020 election,” senior House Democrats said in a statement.

For the second stage, the House Intelligence Committee will take testimony in open session, with Republicans having a chance to counter with their own witnesses.

In the third stage, the compiled evidence will be sent to the House Judiciary Committee for review, where the White House will have the opportunity to challenge it and present its own evidence.

Then, if the evidence is strong enough, the committee will draw up articles impeachment to be voted on by the whole House, where Democrats have a strong majority.

The White House dismissed the process Tuesday as a “sham,” claiming that the Democrats were refusing its basic due process rights. The House vote could take place before or shortly after the New Year.

If impeachment passes, Trump will go on trial for removal in the Senate. The House is expected to vote on the rules on Thursday.

Agence France-Presse

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Risa seeks inquiry on PNP, PDEA’s ‘dramatic, traumatic misencounter’

Senator Risa Hontiveros is set to file a resolution seeking a Senate investigation, in aid of legislation, on Wednesday’s “misencounter” between the Philippine National Police and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency.

“We need to look into this further. It is very alarming that this is not the first time that such a ‘misencounter’ has happened,” the senator said.

“The National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) did admit that this has happened numerous times. These ‘misencounters’ should be rare, not common,” Hontiveros said.

The shooting incident occurred along Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City, killing two policemen.

According to the Quezon City Police District Station 6, the QCPD’s District Special Operations Unit conducted a buy-bust operation near Ever Gotesco Mall. However, the DSOU officers were not aware that they were transacting with PDEA’s Special Enforcement Service (SES) agents.

“How could this have happened, at all, in the first place?” Hontiveros said.

“Why did the shootout take place for as long as an hour? Hindi ba pwedeng magkalinawan, even within the first few minutes, that a misencounter breaks out?” the senator added.

“There was a dramatic lack of coordination between the PNP and PDEA. Someone somewhere must have been grossly negligent. Ang laki ng intelligence funds nila pareho pero ganyan ang nangyari,” Hontiveros said.

She noted that in 2021, the PNP was given an intelligence fund of P856 million while PDEA was given P500 million.

Hontiveros said she hopes that the Board of Inquiry formed by the PNP will get to the bottom of what happened.

Lapid wants to punish sons, daughters who abandon elderly, sickly parents

Senator Lito Lapid has filed a bill that proposes to criminalize the act of “deprivation of support” to incapacitated parents.

Senate Bill 2061 “reinforces the duty of children to take care of their elderly, sickly or otherwise, incapacitated parents.”

The bill states that children shall, within their means and capacity, maintain support for their father or mother, who by virtue of being over sixty (60) years of age or suffering from a disease or disablity, are rendered incapable of supporting themselves.”

The bill also cites Article 195 of the Family Code which says parents and their children are obliged to give support to each other.

“This means that the obligation to support cuts both ways— parents must support their children, especially during the years of their minority and dependency; on the other hand, children who are already capable must take care of their elderly, disease or disability-stricken parents who are in need,” Lapid said.

Unfortunately, abuse against an elderly, disabled, or otherwise incapacitated parent, which includes physical, sexual, psychological, emotional and financial abuse, abandonment, neglect and serious loss of dignity and respect, has become an “invisible issue” in the Philippines, according to Commission on Human Rights.

“Nakakalungkot isipin na ang mga magulang na nagpakapagod noong panahong malakas pa sila para masuportahan ang kanilang mga anak, ay kaya na lamang tiisin at abandunahin sa panahong matanda na sila,” Lapid said.

Any person, who despite having the capacity, but neglects to maintain support to his or her parent shall be liable for deprivation of support to parent and shall be punishable by imprisonment of arresto menor as the minimum and arresto mayor as the maximum.

There are also respective fines of not less than P200,000 but not more than P500,000, at the discretion of the court.

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