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South Korea’s Moon proposes weakening president’s powers

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South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Monday proposed weakening the powers of his office and lowering the voting age in a package of constitutional reforms, while allowing the head of state to be re-elected.

South Korea is a vibrant democracy but its executive presidency is extremely powerful, giving rise to a winner-takes-all politics which critics say enables corruption while reducing representation for opposition voices.

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In last year’s election Moon campaigned on a promise to reform the constitution for the first time in three decades.

The vote was a by-election to choose a successor to his ousted predecessor Park Geun-hye, toppled over a wide-ranging corruption scandal that exposed shady links between big business and politics.

Prosecutors are now seeking a 30 year jail sentence for her, and her own predecessor Lee Myung-bak was arrested last week in a separate inquiry.

Moon’s plan has to be approved by parliament before being put to a referendum in June, and its centrepiece measure would see the country’s single five-year presidency be reduced to a four year term, with one opportunity to stand for re-election.

South Korea brought in term limits after the assassination of the late dictator Park Chung-hee, Park Geun-hye’s father, who ruled from 1961 to 1979 and revised the constitution to allow him to rule indefinitely.

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He also made several constitutional changes to strengthen presidential authority — many of which remained in place decades later.

Supporters say two four-year terms would encourage longer-range thinking in the presidential Blue House, while driving incumbents to the centre ground to preserve their chances of re-election.

The bill also includes lowering the voting age from 19 to 18 and giving parliament oversight of several decisions previously made by presidential decree.

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The changes will only come into effect at the next election, and so will not apply to Moon personally.

Moon, a former human rights lawyer, has vowed to end what he described as an “imperial presidency” and said in a statement Monday: “I gain nothing from the constitutional change, which gives some of the presidential power to the people, the regional governments and the parliament.”

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Under the changes, the president will no longer be able to name the chief justice of the constitutional court, with the judges instead choosing among themselves.

Presidential pardons will have to be reviewed by a special committee, and the powerful Board of Audit and Inspection — an internal state inspection agency currently overseen by the president’s office — will be given its independence.


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Maddow reports on ‘a tide of major newspaper editorials’ drowning Trump’s impeachment defenses

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On Thursday, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow noted the sheer volume of editorial boards from newspapers across America calling for President Donald Trump's impeachment and removal from office.

"The editorials that Steve Cohen introduced into the record there that Doug Collins from Georgia said he wanted to read and Steve Cohen said 'I'd love for you to read them,' they're part of a tide of major newspaper editorials that have come out all of a sudden in the last few days in favor of impeachment," said Maddow. "USA TODAY's editorial board saying, quote, 'Until recently we believed impeachment proceedings would be unhealthy for an already polarized nation, rather than simply leaving Trump's fate up to voters next November. But Trump's egregious transgressions and stonewalling in his thuggish effort to trade American arms for foreign dirt on Joe Biden resembled Richard Nixon. It's precisely the type of misconduct the framers had in mind when they wrote impeachment into the Constitution."

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‘People died in Ukraine’: Democrat lectures Doug Collins for Trump’s abuse of power costing lives

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During Thursday's impeachment hearing, Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) laid bare the human cost of President Donald Trump's decision to withhold military aid from Ukraine to force them to hunt for dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden's family — something that ranking member Doug Collins (R-GA) spent the previous day denying.

"In my colleague's efforts to defend this president, you want him to be someone he's not. You want him to be someone he is telling you he is not," said Swalwell. "You're trying to defend the call in so many different ways, and he's saying, guys, it was a perfect call. He's not who you want him to be. And let me tell you how selfish his acts were. And ranking member Collins, you can deny this as much as you want. People died in Ukraine at the hands of Russia," said Swalwell. "In Ukraine, since September 2018 when it was voted on by Congress, was counting on our support. One year passed and people died. And you may not want to think about that, it may be hard for you to think about that, but they died when the selfish, selfish president withheld the aid for his own personal gain."

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Trump administration heavily redacted documents concerning their withholding of Ukraine aid

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The Trump administration has refused to disclose how key officials at the Department of Defense and the White House Office of Management and Budget reacted to President Trump’s decision to halt military aid to Ukraine.

On Nov. 25, federal district court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly ordered the administration to produce records reflecting what these officials said to one another about the legality and appropriateness of Trump’s order. The Center for Public Integrity sought the information in Freedom of Information Act requests filed in late September.

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