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Trump speech was a ‘shakedown’ aimed at grabbing dictatorial power: authoritarianism expert

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President Donald Trump’s first Oval Office address was meant to further consolidate his power, according to an authoritarianism expert.

Sarah Kendzior, a journalist and researcher who has studied autocratic regimes in Central Asia, compared Tuesday’s speech to a “hostage video,” with Americans as his “captive audience,” in a new essay published by The Globe and Mail.

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“We watched because the stakes felt too high to turn away,” Kendzior wrote. “We watched because Mr. Trump has taunted us with talk of declaring a ‘national emergency’ – an act which gives him the power to do things like kill the internet, freeze bank accounts, and turn military troops into a domestic police force. We watched because Mr. Trump has long applauded death through his praise of dictators and criminals. We watched because the path to American autocracy was laid out upon his election, and we wanted to know which victims were next.”

Kendzior said the president was attempting to “pad a power-grab as a policy proposal” by hyping misleading statistics that radically overstate the threat from Central American immigrants, which he grotesquely twisted into a humanitarian framework.

She said the only threat Trump truly cares about comes from Democrats, who might have enough legislative power to stop his autocratic consolidation of power.

“The only security Mr. Trump is concerned with is his own,” Kendzior wrote. “With the government shut down, he can capitalize on chaos and operate with greater impunity. His speech was not a public address: it was a shakedown proclamation built on venom and vengeance. It will not be his last.”

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McConnell bluntly defends working with Trump to undermine impeachment: ‘We’re on the same side’

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Speaking in Kentucky on Friday afternoon, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) blithely blew off concerns about coordinating with Donald Trump's White House on how to handle the president's defense in the expected impeachment trial.

One day after admitting on Fox News that he was working hand-in-hand with the White House on impeachment tactics, McConnell was very blunt about his motivations when asked about his admission.

In a clip shared by MSNBC, the Senate leader was pressed about his plans.

"You told Sean Hannity last night you were coordinating with the White House when it comes to impeachment. Why is that appropriate?" McConnell was asked.

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Mitch McConnell in battle with White House over calling Senate impeachment trial witnesses: report

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As the Senate braces for the expected impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, there is a battle going on between the White House and Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnel (R-KY) over tactics -- specifically a desire by the president to have an extended trial that will include witnesses he wants to see testify.

According to a report in the New York Times, Trump would like to see former Vice President Joe Bidens' son Hunter called to testify along with the whistleblower whose report led to the impeachment inquiry. Additionally, the president wants to House Intelligence Committee chair Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to take the stand.

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North Korea conducts ‘crucial test’ at Sohae launch site: report

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North Korea has conducted another "crucial test" at its Sohae satellite launch site, state media reported Saturday, as nuclear negotiations between Pyongyang and Washington remain stalled with a deadline approaching.

The announcement comes a day before US Special Envoy on North Korea Stephen Biegun is set to arrive in Seoul for a three-day visit, and after the United States tested a medium-range ballistic missile over the Pacific Ocean on Thursday.

"Another crucial test was successfully conducted at the Sohae Satellite Launching Ground from 22:41 to 22:48 on December 13," a spokesman for the North's National Academy of Defence Science said in a statement carried by the official KCNA news agency.

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