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Former Venezuela Supreme Court judge flees to US, denounces President Maduro

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Former Venezuelan Supreme Court Justice Christian Zerpa has fled to the United States to protest President Nicolas Maduro’s second term that will begin with his inauguration this week, the onetime Maduro backer told a Miami broadcaster on Sunday.

The latest defection from the crisis-stricken OPEC nation’s government comes amid growing international pressure on Maduro over his new term, which resulted from a broadly boycotted 2018 vote dismissed by countries around the world as a sham.

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“I’ve decided to leave Venezuela to disavow the government of Nicolas Maduro,” Zerpa said in an interview with EVTV, which is broadcast over cable and the internet.

“I believe (Maduro) does not deserve a second chance because the election he supposedly won was not free and competitive.”

The Supreme Court confirmed in a statement that he had fled, referring to him as a former magistrate and adding it opened an investigation of him in November over accusations of sexual harassment by women in his office. The court’s leadership recommended that he be dismissed over the allegations, it said, without providing details.

Zerpa was for years a crucial ally of Maduro on the Supreme Court, which has backed the ruling Socialist Party in every major legal dispute since Maduro’s 2013 election.

He wrote a 2016 ruling that provided the legal justification for Maduro’s government to strip congress of most of its powers after the Socialist Party lost control of the body to the opposition in a landslide election.

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Zerpa in the interview described the Supreme Court as “an appendage of the executive branch,” and said that justices were at times summoned to the presidential palace to receive instructions on how to rule on certain sensitive cases.

The Information Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Zerpa said he did not criticize Maduro’s May 2018 election to make sure he could pave the way for a safe exit from the country in the company of his family.

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Opposition leaders have urged foreign governments not to recognize Maduro after his inauguration on Thursday, and a group of Latin American nations on Friday called on Maduro not to take office.

But diplomats consulted by Reuters said few countries were likely to shutter embassies or sever ties with Venezuela.

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Zerpa’s words echoed those of former Justice Eladio Aponte, who fled to the United States in 2012 and said the government of late socialist leader Hugo Chavez – Maduro’s predecessor – systematically manipulated court affairs.


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Lev Parnas has Trump ‘unnerved’: ex-FBI official says the president doesn’t know what he ‘has up his sleeve’

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President Donald Trump is "very nervous" about what Lev Parnas may have on him, a former top FBI official suggested on MSNBC on Friday.

Former FBI Assistant Director for Counterintelligence was interviewed by MSNBC's Peter Alexander.

The host played clips of Trump denying any relationship with Parnas.

"Well, I don't know him, I don't know Lev Parnas, other than I guess I had pictures taken -- which I do with thousands of people," Trump argued. "I don't know him at all, don't know what he's about, don't where he comes from. I can tell you this -- I don't know him. I don't believe I've ever spoken to him. I don't believe I've ever spoken to him."

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Trump is now feuding with Iran’s Supreme Leader on Twitter: ‘Make Iran Great Again!’

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President Donald Trump is now replying directly to Iran Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Twitter.

I Friday, Khamenei tweeted a screenshot of a Trump tweet, with a message of his own.

"The villainous US govt repeatedly says that they are standing by the Iranian ppl. They lie. If you are standing by the Iranian ppl, it is only to stab them in the heart with your venomous daggers," Khamenei posted.

"Of course, you have so far failed to do so, & you will certainly continue to fail," he added.

https://twitter.com/khamenei_ir/status/1218141834842660864

Trump retweeted the message, adding his own argument.

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‘Contempt of Congress is illegal’ declared one of Trump’s newest attorneys – just days before the House voted to impeach

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One of the lesser-known names on the new list of lawyers President Donald Trump approved to defend him during the Senate impeachment trial delivered a damning remark last month – damning for President Trump, that is.

"Contempt of Congress is illegal," said Robert Ray, who served as the final Whitewater independent counsel after Ken Starr.

The Washington Post's Paul Waldman and Greg Sargent report Ray made the stunning remark – one of the Articles of Impeachment essentially is contempt of Congress, or technically, obstruction of Congress – to The Daily Signal, a right wing website run by the conservative Heritage Foundation.

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