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American evangelicals hold human rights meeting with Saudi crown prince — a notorious human rights abuser

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Saudi Arabia’s crown prince hosted a delegation of American Christian evangelicals on Tuesday, state media said, the latest such visit as the conservative Muslim kingdom seeks to repair its image of religious intolerance.

The visit comes on the eve of the anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States, in which most of the hijackers who crashed jetliners into the twin towers in New York were identified as Saudi nationals.

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Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman met the delegation, led by Israeli-American author Joel Rosenberg, at his palace in the western city of Jeddah, the official Saudi Press Agency said.

“Honoured to be back in kingdom of Saudi Arabia for (the second) time in less than a year,” Rosenberg said on Twitter.

“We met (with) his royal highness the crown prince (and) other senior officials to discuss terrorism, peace, religious freedom and human rights.”

The delegation also met Prince Khalid bin Salman, the kingdom’s deputy defence minister, and secretary-general of the Muslim World League Mohammed al-Issa, SPA reported.

The crown prince hosted a similar delegation led by Rosenberg that travelled last November to Saudi Arabia, which is home to Islam’s holiest sites in Mecca and Medina and where the practice of other religions is banned.

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Saudi leaders have courted a flurry of representatives of various Christian traditions in recent months.

In April 2018, Saudi Arabia hosted French Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, who headed the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. Tauran, who died in July 2018, was seen as an energetic promoter of dialogue between the Catholic Church and Islam.

And in November 2017, the head of Lebanon’s Maronite church, Beshara Rai, paid an official visit to Saudi Arabia where he met King Salman and Prince Mohammed.

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Prince Mohammed, the heir to the Saudi throne, has sought to project a moderate image of his austere kingdom, often associated in the West with jihadist ideology.

The self-styled reformer has faced global criticism for the kingdom’s poor human rights record including the jailing of political activists and critics.

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Trump ignored aides’ advice before first Ukraine call — and it destroyed his impeachment defense: report

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President Donald Trump has repeatedly referred to himself as his own top advisor and a political "genius." But his interactions with Ukraine at the heart of the impeachment inquiry could demonstrate the limitations of such an approach to governing.

Friday's bombshell, behind-closed-door testimony from David Holmes has made White House aides unhappy, but the bad news for the administration did not stop there.

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‘Aides to the president are not happy’ Gordon Sondland held the phone up in restaurant: CNN’s Jim Acosta

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CNN White House correspondent Jim Acosta reported on Friday that White House aides are unhappy with Ambassador Gordon Sondland for holding up a call with Trump in a restaurant for multiple witnesses to listen.

The details were revealed in bombshell closed-door testimony before Congress on Friday.

Acosta noted the administration was trying to downplay the significance of the call.

"But I will tell you, that the aides of the president are not happy that Gordon Sondland apparently held the phone up so other aides could hear what was going on and the words of the source familiar with the conversations inside the White House, the president speaks loudly, Sondland should know that," Acosta reported.

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David Holmes’ opening statement to Congress directly implicated Donald Trump: report

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donald trump on the phone

Congress will hear first-hand testimony of President Donald Trump's involvement in the Ukraine scandal.

"David Holmes, the state department aide who overheard President Donald Trump's conversation with the US ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, said that Sondland told Trump that the Ukranian President would do 'anything you ask him to,' and that he confirmed the Ukrainians were going to 'do the investigation,'" CNN reported Friday.

""Sondland told Trump that (Ukrainian President Volodymyr) Zelensky 'loves your ass,'" Holmes testified. "I then heard President Trump ask, 'So, he's gonna do the investigation?' Ambassador Sondland replied that 'he's gonna do it,' adding that President Zelensky will do 'anything you ask him to.'"

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