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Italian Prime Minister Letta quits after being rebuked by his own party

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Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta announced his resignation on Thursday after his own party voted against his leadership, with 39-year-old leftist Matteo Renzi now expected to replace him.

Letta said he will submit his resignation to President Giorgio Napolitano on Friday after less than a year at the head of an uneasy left-right coalition and just as Italy is beginning to emerge from a painful recession.

Members of the centre-left Democratic Party’s governing directorate voted 136 in favour and 16 against a motion requesting a change of government submitted by Renzi in a dramatic climax to a weeks-long feud with Letta.

“A simple and courageous country,” Renzi tweeted at the end of a tumultuous political day, with the hashtag #proviamoci (#letstryit).

Renzi called on the Democratic Party to back a new “radical programme” and a government that could last until the end of the legislature in 2018.

“We have to offer a way out of the quagmire,” he said.

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The party thanked Letta, who only came to power in April, for his “positive work” but called for “a new phase with a new executive”.

Ever since being elected to lead the party in December, the ambitious and media-savvy Renzi has accused Letta of dragging his feet on crucial political reforms and failing to do enough to combat rampant unemployment.

Letta will now hold his final cabinet meeting starting at 1030 GMT on Friday, then formally submit his resignation to Napolitano who will have to name someone to replace him — with Renzi virtually certain to be his pick.

A new cabinet could be in place by next week, following a round of formal consultations with political parties hosted by the nominee for premier.

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In the space of just a few days, a possibility that Renzi himself and top party leaders had excluded until very recently could take shape and Renzi could become the youngest government leader in the European Union.

Some analysts however were sceptical about Renzi’s chances once in power.

Giovanni Orsina, politics watcher for La Stampa daily, said Renzi’s power move was “grave and risky” because he lacked an electoral mandate to govern.

“He will be forgiven all of this if he manages to do important things but his would be a weak government,” Orsina said, pointing out that the fragmentation of political forces in parliament would be unchanged.

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Marco Bracconi from La Repubblica warned that if Renzi fails to implement reforms “he will be remembered as a presumptuous and boorish meteor who destroyed everything and failed to build — all due to a personal ambition”.

Stock markets fell sharply during trading but later gained ground and the benchmark FTSE Mib index ended the day down 0.17 percent, while borrowing costs rose for Italy on the bond market, reflecting increased investor jitters.

In a note to investors, Germany’s Berenberg Bank said a Renzi government in charge until 2018 “would probably be the best possible outcome for Italy”.

“Renzi promises to step up the pace of reforms. He claims that is the reason he wants to replace Letta. And Renzi may well deliver,” it said.

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Thursday’s meeting also exposed divisions within the party with one dissenter against Renzi, Pippo Civati, likening the internal struggle between his party’s leader and Letta to the 1980 horror film “The Shining”.

Renzi, a former Boy Scout and the mayor of Florence, is running high in the opinion polls because he is seen as a relative outsider on the national political scene with on-the-ground local experience.

He has never been in government or parliament and often rails against the costs of the political machine. His catchphrases and informal style appeal particularly to younger voters and he often communicates through social media.

Tensions had been rising in the Democratic Party ever since Renzi won the party leadership in December and several experts had said that a long “cohabitation” between Letta and his party’s leader would have been impossible.

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Renzi’s star has risen just as Silvio Berlusconi’s has waned.

The disgraced former prime minister has spoken highly of the young Renzi, stirring unease among leftists in the party but opening up a potential for “transversal” appeal for Renzi to disgruntled centre-right voters.

[Image via Agence France-Presse]

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Fireworks erupt at latest Mueller hearing as chairman Jerry Nadler schools GOP’s Jim Jordan

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A feisty Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) schooled Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) for blatantly misstating facts about the investigation into potential coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russian government during the 2016 presidential election.

After Jordan went on a lengthy diatribe against the FBI for supposedly relying on the Steele dossier to launch an investigation against the Trump campaign, Nadler jumped in to formally correct the record.

"It is well established that the investigation was not predicated on the Steele dossier, but rather on the observation of..." Nadler began.

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Trump emphatically explains that unmanned drones don’t have people in them as he rambles about Iran’s big ‘mistake’

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During a joint press availability with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, President Donald Trump opened up about the drone that was shot down by Iran.

According to Trump, drones are unmanned, a fact he felt was important to convey to those who haven't seen a Jason Bourne film or a spy thriller.

"Iran made a big mistake," Trump said. "This drone was in international waters clearly. We have it all documented. It’s documented scientifically, not just words. They made a big mistake."

He also said that he doesn't believe the decision to shoot the drone down likely came from the Iranian government in Tehran.

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BUSTED: Trump super PAC accused of lying to government about the source of mysterious $325,000 donation

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According to a report from the Daily Beast's "Pay Dirt" investigative unit, a Super PAC affiliated with President Donald Trump has some explaining to do about a $375,000 donation that was wrongly attributed to one company -- but wire transfers tell a completely different story.

As the Beast notes, "The super PAC America First Action reported receiving a $325,000 contribution last year from a company called Global Energy Producers. But records released in federal court this week indicate that contribution came from an entirely different company," adding that the discrepancy was pointed out by the  Campaign Legal Center which labeled it a violation of federal campaign-finance laws.

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