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Eastern US braces for polar vortex as bitter cold remains

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A major winter storm will start hitting the U.S Southeast up through New England on Wednesday with freezing rain, snow and strong winds, adding to record-shattering cold that is keeping its grip on much of the eastern United States.

The winter mix along with low wind chills could cause widespread power outages and ice over roadways, making commuting treacherous for millions of Americans from northern Florida to southern Virginia, the National Weather Service said in a series of warnings.

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“Travel will be dangerous and nearly impossible, including during the morning commute on Wednesday,” the service said in an advisory for northeastern Florida.

Eastern Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia will get as much as 6 inches (15 cm) of snow along with an accumulation of ice while parts of New England could see 12 to 15 inches (30-38 cm) of snow and wind gusts of 35 mph (55 kph) by the end of week, the service said.

Late on Tuesday, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal declared a state of emergency for 28 counties after the National Weather Service issued the winter storm warning.

Florida Governor Rick Scott on Tuesday urged residents in the northern part of his Sunshine State to prepare for the cold. His office said cold weather shelters have opened or are planning to open in 22 of the state’s 67 counties.

As the storm bears down, an arctic air mass will remain entrenched over the eastern two thirds of the country through the end of the week. The record-low temperatures is to blame for at least eight deaths in Texas, Wisconsin, West Virginia, North Dakota and Michigan over the past several days.

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A large swath of the Midwest was under a wind chill warning early on Wednesday as places like Cleveland and Indianapolis had temperatures in the wind of 5 to 20 degrees below zero in Fahrenheit ( minus 20 to minus 29 degrees Celsius) while the deep South faced deep freeze temperatures that threatened crops and pipes, the National Weather Service warned.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee Editing by Jeremy Gaunt)

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John Dean says Gordon Sondland just had his ‘John Dean moment’ by flipping on Trump: ‘The truth has come out’

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Former White House aide John Dean on Wednesday compared his testimony against President Richard Nixon to the testimony of European Union Ambassador Gordon Sondland.

"This has been called by some commentators a John Dean moment," CNN host Jake Tapper noted during a break in the testimony. "And there is no person I can think of who is better qualified to weigh in on that than John Dean."

"Is he the John Dean of this impeachment inquiry?" Tapper wondered.

"His statement certainly caught the Republicans off guard," Dean replied. "They didn't pick away -- just a few little picky points."

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‘The worst day with the most damning evidence’: CNN’s Tapper explains how Sondland was very bad for Trump

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European Union ambassador Gordon Sondland's testimony before the House of Representatives' impeachment inquiry on Wednesday generated several startling revelations, including confirmation of an explicit quid-pro-quo deal involving investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden.

CNN's Jake Tapper described Sondland's testimony as "a monumental and historic moment on what may turn out to be the worst day with the most damning evidence for President Trump in the impeachment inquiry."

He then laid out all the ways that Sondland has been very bad news for the president.

"Sondland directly implicated the president in directing the operation to pressure Ukraine," Tapper explained. "Sondland is testifying that there very clearly was a quid pro quo -- this was for a White House visit for the Ukrainians in exchange for an announcement about an investigation into the company Burisma and the Bidens. Now, Sondland later said it became clear to him that the quid pro quo also, he presumed, was tied to the holdup of hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid that Ukraine desperately needed."

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Here are the most important moments from Gordon Sondland’s bomshell impeachment inquiry testimony

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EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland, a key actor in President Donald Trump's effort to pressure Ukraine for dirt on his political rivals, was in the hot seat Wednesday as Democrats built their case for impeaching the US leader.

Here are some of the key quotes from his opening statement.

- Following Trump's orders -

- "As a presidential appointee, I followed the directions of the president. We worked with (Trump's personal lawyer Rudy) Giuliani because the president directed us to do so.

"We had no desire to set any conditions on the Ukranians. Indeed, my own personal view -- which I shared repeatedly with others -- was that the White House meeting and security assistance should have proceeded without pre-conditions of any kind."

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