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Ecuador denies Galapagos Islands will host US military base

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Ecuador President Lenin Moreno insisted Tuesday the United States would not be installing a military base on the Galapagos Islands, a day after the government revealed that American aircraft would be able to use an airstrip there.

“There are not, nor will there be, foreign military bases in the country,” Moreno wrote on Twitter, expressing his commitment to preserving the Galapagos Islands.

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Defense Minister Oswaldo Jarrin caused a stir on Monday when he revealed that an air surveillance agreement signed with Washington would allow US planes to refuel or temporarily be stationed at the San Cristobal airport.

Jarrin said those planes would be taking part in surveillance to combat drug trafficking and illegal fishing, but would only use the airstrip “once a month, for no more than three days.”

Moreno stressed that “aerial surveillance is a joint activity between several countries to protect this world heritage” site that lies around 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) off Ecuador’s Pacific coast.

“Peace, sovereignty and national security are our legacy,” added the president.

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Jarrin had been called before Congress’ international relations commission to explain the US agreement, while several lawmakers voiced concerns over Ecuador’s sovereignty and the impact on the environment.

The Galapagos Islands are best known for their unique flora and fauna, which inspired naturalist Charles Darwin to write his landmark 1859 study on evolution, “On the Origin of Species.”

They are home to species of tortoises, iguanas, birds and fish found nowhere else.

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Ecuador’s constitution, adopted in 2008, prohibits the installation of foreign military bases in the country.

Moreno’s predecessor, Rafael Correa decided in 2007 not to extend beyond 2009 the lease of a US base in the Manta fishing port, which was used to carry out anti-drug trafficking flights.

However, since last September, US planes started taking off from the southwestern coastal town of Guayaquil on missions to combat drug trafficking and illegal fishing following a new pact signed between Quito and Washington.

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Relations between the two countries were tense during socialist Correa’s decade in power from 2007-17 but have improved since Moreno took over.

Correa has lived in Belgium since 2017 and sources close to the former president claim he has requested political asylum there.

He is wanted in his homeland on suspicion of kidnapping, a charge he has dismissed as “political persecution.”

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George Kent destroys right-wing conspiracy theory Ukraine interfered in 2016 election: ‘No factual basis’

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Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent debunked a right-wing conspiracy theory that it was Ukraine -- not Russia -- who intervened in the 2016 election.

Kent was interviewed by former federal prosecutor Daniel Goldman, who is currently serving as a senior advisor and director of investigations for the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

"Are you aware this is all part of a larger allegation that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election?" Goldman asked.

"Yes, that is my understanding," Kent replied.

"To your knowledge, is there any factual basis to support the allegation that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election?" Goldman asked.

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‘Very damaging to the president’: Chris Wallace says first impeachment hearing left scorch marks on Trump

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Fox News host Chris Wallace on Wednesday reacted to the first public impeachment hearing by calling it "very damaging to the president."

During a break in the proceedings, Wallace said that President Donald Trump should be worried about the testimonies of Bill Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, and George Kent, the deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs.

Wallace said that he expected the hearing to be "pretty devastating."

"I think that William Taylor was a very impressive witness and was very damaging to the president," the Fox News host explained. "He took very copious notes at almost every conversation. When he put quotes in his opening statement, he said those were direct quotes from what was said."

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‘This is Congress’s authority and responsibility’: National security lawyer fires back at Stephanie Grisham for saying impeachment hearings are ‘boring’

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As the first public hearing in the House impeachment inquiry gets underway, an emerging talking point from allies of President Trump is that the spectacle is "boring." One of those regurgitating that talking point is White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham, who went a step further and said that the "sham" hearing is not only boring, but a "colossal waste of taxpayer time & money."

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