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Trump news: President says he 'never understood wind' as China attacks Space Force as threat to peace

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Clark Mindock
New York
,Andy Gregory
Monday 23 December 2019 18:17 GMT
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Donald Trump renews attack on wind power: 'I never understood wind'

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Donald Trump’s conduct in the Ukraine scandal has been called further into question as newly released, heavily redacted internal emails reveal the fears of defence officials and diplomats that his order to withhold military aid could breach spending laws.

Released under court order to the Centre for Public Integrity, the explosive correspondence also showed the White House asked the Pentagon to quietly suspend Congress-approved military aid to the country just 90 minutes after Mr Trump’s call with Volodymyr Zelensky.

As Democrats renewed calls for witnesses in the looming impeachment trial, the president revisited his aversion to wind turbines, claiming they create “bird graveyards” and criticising their production for “spewing” fumes and gases into the atmosphere.

Meanwhile, former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced that she is considering a run for the governor's mansion in Arkansas.

Mr Trump is in Florida for the holidays.

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Hello, and welcome to The Independent's live coverage of the day's events in Washington.

Andy Gregory23 December 2019 11:11
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Trump’s former national security adviser criticises his handling of North Korea

John Bolton has said that he does not think the White House “really means it” when Mr Trump promises to prevent North Korea from developing nuclear weapons, or else “it would be pursuing a different course”.

The idea that the US is exerting maximum pressure on the country over its nuclear ambitions “is just unfortunately not true”, Mr Bolton told Avios.

“We're now nearly three years into the administration with no visible progress toward getting North Korea to make the strategic decision to stop pursuing deliverable nuclear weapons.”

Mr Trump has previously sought to play down missile testing, calling the country’s brutal dictator Kim Jong-Un a “friend”. 

While the pair enjoyed a historic meeting in the DMZ earlier this year, communications have soured of late, with the country warning on Saturday the US could “pay dearly” if it spoke out on human rights abuses in the dictatorship.

Andy Gregory23 December 2019 11:30
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Trump launches into latest bizarre rant against windmills: ‘I never understood wind’

Donald Trump renewed his long-running attack on wind power during a rambling speech to conservative students over the weekend, Conrad Duncan reports.

Mr Trump, who was speaking at a Turning Point USA event in Florida, told the cheering crowd he has “never understood wind” as part of a section of his speech mocking environmental policies supported by Democrats, such as the Green New Deal.

“I never understood wind. I know windmills very much, I have studied it better than anybody,” he said.

Andy Gregory23 December 2019 11:32
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Newly released emails reveal official fears of lawbreaking amid Ukraine scandal

Heavily redacted yet explosive correspondence released under court order to the Centre for Public Scrutiny shows the White House asked officials to quietly suspend military aid to the country just 90 minutes after Mr Trump's call with Volodymyr Zelensky.

They also revealed that defence officials and diplomats feared the White House's actions could breach a 45-year-old spending law - the Impoundment Control Act - which states the president must use funds as decided by Congress.

Lawmakers in the top chamber had already approved the funds to Ukraine, and had Mr Trump wished to use the funds in a different way than they had decided, the law states he needs to put the matter to another vote.

Last week, Mr Trump became the third president in history to be impeached, with the House voting in favour of two articles of impeachment - abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

Andy Gregory23 December 2019 11:43
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Democrats renew demand for witnesses at trial in response to new emails

Top Democrats on Sunday renewed their demands for witnesses to testify at Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, citing the newly released emails showing that the White House asked officials to keep quiet over the suspension of military aid to Ukraine just 90 minutes after Mr Trump leaned on that country’s president to investigate former vice president Joe Biden.

With the Senate’s Democratic and Republican leaders at odds over the looming impeachment trial’s format, Democrats seized on the emails in an effort to put pressure on senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the senate majority leader. Mr McConnell, who wants a bare-bones proceeding, has rejected a proposal by his Democratic counterpart, senator Chuck Schumer of New York, to have four top White House officials testify.

One of those officials is Michael Duffey, a senior budget official who told the Pentagon to keep quiet about the aid freeze because of the “sensitive nature of the request,” according to an email sent on 25 July. 

Read more detail here: 

Andy Gregory23 December 2019 11:54
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Democrat requests advice on whether Trump broke spending laws in Ukraine scandal

Chris Van Hollen has written a letter to the Government Accountability Office asking for an opinion on whether Donald Trump broke the law in withholding military aid to Ukraine, the Hill reports.

It comes as newly released government emails reveal defence officials and diplomats feared the White House could be in breach of spending laws as it ordered officials to quietly suspend military aid to Ukraine shortly after Mr Trump's call with the Ukrainian president.

In his letter to the Government Accountability Office's Gene Dodaro, Mr Van Hollen said he also believed Mr Trump's decision was in violation of the Impoundment Control Act (ICA), which demands that if a president use funds in the manner voted for by Congress, which had approved aid to Ukraine.

"The administration has failed to even state a legal reason under the ICA for its withholding of security assistance for Ukraine, and the evidence refutes the administration’s stated reasons," Van Hollen wrote, warning the Trump administration must be held accountable or risk opening "the floodgates" for future presidents to "violate the ICA with impunity".

Mr Van Hollen has clearly been mulling the best way to proceed for several days, voicing strong condemnation of the president's actions in response to the new information.

Andy Gregory23 December 2019 12:14
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The Independent's Clark Mindock has more details of Donald Trump's meeting at Mar-a-Lago with Eddie Gallagher - the Navy Seal accused of war crimes.

The veteran met the president to thank him for personally intervening to stop military chiefs stripping him of his Trident pin.

He reportedly gave Mr Trump a gift from his time serving in the Battle of Mosul, when the serviceman allegedly repeatedly stabbed a prisoner of war with a hunting knife before posing for photos with his dead body. 

Andy Gregory23 December 2019 12:30
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Russia vows to retaliate over US sanctions that suspended work on pipeline with Germany

Mr Trump signed legislation last week that provides for sanctions against individuals and companies involved with the vessels laying the Nord Stream 2 pipeline under the Baltic Sea from Russia to Germany, work on which was suspended on Saturday.

The move prompted a Swiss company that operates ships laying sections of the pipeline to suspend the work.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Monday that Moscow will take measures of "reciprocity" over the sanctions, which Russia considers unacceptable.

"How and when it will be done remains a question of Russia's national interests," Mr Peskov warned.

Andy Gregory23 December 2019 12:42
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Senate minority leader responds to 'explosive' emails

Here's Chuck Schumer clutching a copy of a newly released email showing that Office of Management and Budget official Michael Duffy ordered the Pentagon to quietly withhold military aid to Ukraine just 91 minutes after the president's call with Volodymyr Zelensky.

Andy Gregory23 December 2019 12:53
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And here's the email.

While there are several incriminating documents among the sea of black ink released under court order, this is the correspondence that comes closest to delivering a coup de grace.

Andy Gregory23 December 2019 12:58

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