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US, allies urge Iran diplomacy as Pompeo seeks coalition

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The United States joined its Saudi, Emirati and British allies in urging a diplomatic solution to soaring tensions with Iran, as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sought Monday to build a coalition to step up surveillance.

Pompeo flew to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to meet their leaders days after Iran shot down a US spy drone, prompting President Donald Trump to order and then cancel a retaliatory strike.

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In a joint statement, the United States, Britain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates renewed concern about Iran including over alleged attacks on oil tankers but held out hope for talks.

“We call on Iran to halt any further actions which threaten regional stability, and urge diplomatic solutions to de-escalate tensions,” said the statement released by the United States on Monday.

Trump has said he wants negotiations with Iran, which has replied that he is insincere after walking away from an earlier denuclearization deal and slapping punishing sanctions.

Iran says the US drone violated its airspace, a charge that Washington denies. The United States has sought to end all of Iran’s oil exports, one of a series of unilateral sanctions that Tehran has described as “economic terrorism”.

US officials traveling with Pompeo cast the drone as a defensive push against Iran, which has in the past threatened to shut the Strait of Hormuz, the chokepoint to the Gulf through which 20 percent of the world’s oil flows.

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“We have to build a coalition to prevent what the Iranians are doing in the Gulf, which is to inhibit or undermine the freedom of commerce and trade and freedom of navigation,” an official told reporters as Pompeo flew from the Saudi port of Jeddah to Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates.

The coalition would provide “both material and financial” support “to have eyes on all the shipping”, the official said.

Pompeo’s trip comes as Trump, who often complains of other nations freeloading on the United States, called on Asian nations in particular to do more to ensure safe passage of oil from the Gulf.

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The US official said that the coalition concept, which is in its infancy, could involve foreign militaries but that their task would be to observe, not to escort commercial ships.

“It’s not about shooting at people. It’s about shooting pictures of Iranians,” the official said.

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Pompeo met in Jeddah with Saudi King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who last week was linked by a UN investigator to the killing and dismemberment of US-based dissident writer Jamal Khashoggi.

The US officials said they did not know if Pompeo raised the issue with Prince Mohammed.


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GOP will be ‘aided and abetted’ by Russian bots and trolls defending Trump: Former FBI counter-intel chief

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The former assistant director for counterintelligence at the Federal Bureau of Investigation warned Americans to "hunker down" because Russian intelligence will be repeating Republican talking points.

Frank Figliuzzi was interviewed Thursday by MSNBC's Brian Williams on "The Last Word."

"Frank, Fiona Hill -- who richly deserves it -- has been awarded front page status tomorrow morning on the front page of The New York Times, and I imagine newspapers and websites across this country," Williams noted.

"It was extraordinary today when she -- in effect, begged -- asked, certainly, members of the committee to stop supplying Russian talking points, to stop advancing Russian propaganda in the Congress of the United States," he continued.

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Trump has committed 6 impeachable offenses: Harvard Law’s Laurence Tribe says ‘the evidence is all there’

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Constitutional law expert Laurence Tribe broke down the six impeachable offenses President Donald Trump has committed during a Thursday appearance on MSNBC's "The Last Word" with Lawrence O'Donnell.

Tribe has argued 36 cases before the United States Supreme Court and taught at Harvard Law for 50 years. He co-authored the 2018 book To End a Presidency: The Power of Impeachment with Joshua Matz.

"Everyone was in the loop, it was no secret. That was the testimony from Ambassador Gordon Sondland yesterday as he implicated the president, Secretary of State, White House chief of staff, and former National Security Advisor John Bolton and other administration officials in the plot to bribe the president of Ukraine to publicly launch an investigation into Joe Biden in exchange for U.S. military aid to Ukraine that was authorized by Congress and that the president was withholding," O'Donnell reported.

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Rachel Maddow breaks down how public opinion is catching up with the facts of Trump’s impeachment

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MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow on Thursday broke down how the details from the televised impeachment hearings are being reported in local newspapers.

The host read the headlines from multiple newspapers following the damning testimony by Ambassador Gordon Sondland.

The Los Angels Times headlined, "Sonland implicates president." "Envoy says Trump directed effort," was The Wall Street Journal headline.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch headlined, "'Everyone was in the loop. It was no secret': Defiant Sondland says he followed Trump's orders."

"Trump directed pressure on Ukraine, ambassador says," headlined The Kansas City Star.

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