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US military intervention in Venezuela ‘not an option’: lawmaker

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Congress will not support U.S. military intervention in Venezuela despite hints by President Donald Trump that such action had not been ruled out, the Democratic chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee said on Wednesday.

“I do worry about the president’s saber rattling, his hints that U.S. military intervention remains an option. I want to make clear to our witnesses and to anyone else watching: U.S. military intervention is not an option,” U.S. Representative Eliot Engel said at the opening of a hearing on the volatile political situation in the OPEC nation.

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Under the U.S. Constitution, Congress has to approve foreign military action.

Engel also warned about the possible effects on the Venezuelan people of U.S. sanctions on state oil company PDVSA. The United States in January imposed sanctions aimed at limiting President Nicolas Maduro’s access to oil revenue.

“I appreciate the need to squeeze Maduro,” Engel said. “But the White House must think through the potential repercussions that these sanctions could have on the Venezuelan people if Maduro does not leave office in the coming weeks.”

Venezuela already faces chronic food and medical supply shortages, hyperinflation and severe economic contraction.

The head of the country’s National Assembly legislature, Juan Guaido, invoked a constitutional provision to assume the presidency three weeks ago, arguing that Maduro’s re-election last year was a sham.

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Most Western countries, including the United States, have recognized Guaido as Venezuela’s legitimate head of state, but Maduro retains the backing of Russia and China, as well as control of state institutions including the military.

Trump’s pick to lead U.S. efforts on Venezuela, former U.S. diplomat Elliott Abrams, said Washington would keep up pressure on Maduro and his inner circle by “a variety of means.”

“But we will also provide off-ramps to those who will do what is right for the Venezuelan people,” he said.

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Asked about a Wall Street Journal report that Guaido has held debt negotiations with Chinese officials in Washington, Abrams said there had been some discussions but he was unaware of any formal talks. Beijing has denied it held any talks with Venezuela’s opposition to protect its investments.

“I don’t believe there are any negotiations, using that term narrowly. Discussions, sending of messages have taken place,” Abrams said.

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China has lent more than $50 billion to Venezuela through oil-for-loan agreements over the past decade, securing energy supplies for its fast-growing economy.

Abrams drew intermittent protests at the start of the hearing. “You are a convicted criminal!” one man shouted before being escorted out of the room.

Abrams, assistant secretary of state during the administration of former U.S. President Ronald Reagan, was convicted in 1991 on two misdemeanor counts of withholding information from Congress during the Iran-Contra scandal. He was later pardoned by President George H.W. Bush.

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Reporting by Patricia Zengerle and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Bill Berkrot and Rosalba O’Brien


Report typos and corrections to: [email protected].
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‘The veneer has been lifted’: Adam Schiff says Sondland testimony exposed Trump White House conspiracy

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Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) said the "veneer has been torn away" from the White House scheme to pressure Ukraine into helping President Donald Trump's re-election campaign.

The House Intelligence Committee chairman reacted to EU ambassador Gordon Sondland's bombshell testimony during a brief break in the impeachment hearing, and Schiff put top administration officials on notice.

"This is among the most significant evidence to date and what we have just heard from Ambassador Sondland is that the knowledge of this scheme, this conditioning of the White House meeting, of the security assistance to get the deliverable that the president wanted, these two political investigations that he believed would help his re-election campaign was a basic quid pro quo," Schiff said.

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Elise Stefanik was once touted as a GOP ‘moderate’ — but she’s gone full Trumpian with impeachment

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Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York State is often described as a “moderate Republican” who hasn’t been afraid to part company with President Donald Trump at times. But journalists Alayna Treene and Stef W. Kight, in a November 20 article for Axios, assert that when it comes to impeachment, the congresswoman has become an aggressive Trump defender.

Stefanik, Treene and Kight note, has “built a reputation as a moderate” and “opposed President Trump on Vladimir Putin, women, tariffs, the travel ban and the border wall.” But the Axios reporters go on to say that Stefanik’s “fierce defense of Trump during the impeachment hearings — along with her attacks on House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff — has made her a champion among the pro-Trump community.”

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Are Republicans even trying to defend Trump? Or just doing Vladimir Putin’s bidding?

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Last Friday, President Trump made the huge error of committing an impeachable offense while a House impeachment hearing was underway, by seeking to intimidate former Marie Yovanovitch, the former ambassador to Ukraine — who he had already threatened during the famous July phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. He did it again over the weekend with this insult toward Jennifer Williams, an aide to Vice President Mike Pence, who heard that call.

https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1196155347117002752

 

Someone seems to have gotten through to Trump since then, because he didn't personally insult or threaten the witnesses during Tuesday's marathon hearings. He did, however, retweet insults by others and issued an official White House tweet questioning the integrity of the National Security Counsel's Ukraine expert, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman. In his one appearance before the cameras, he made a snotty observation that Vindman had worn his U.S. Army uniform to the hearing, implying — as did several Republican members of the House Intelligence Committee — that he was being theatrical. There was a time when they would have swooned over any military dress uniform covered with salad. Now they only revere those who commit war crimes.

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