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Iran says seized British-flagged tanker ‘free’ to leave

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Iran said on Monday that a British-flagged oil tanker is “free” to leave more than two months after it was seized in the Gulf.

“The legal process has finished and based on that the conditions for letting the oil tanker go free have been fulfilled and the oil tanker can move,” government spokesman Ali Rabiei told a news conference.

He did not specify when the Swedish-owned vessel would be allowed to set sail.

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The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps surrounded the Stena Impero with attack boats before rappelling onto the deck of the tanker in the Strait of Hormuz on July 19.

The vessel was impounded at Iran’s Bandar Abbas port for allegedly failing to respond to distress calls and turning off its transponder after hitting a fishing boat.

Stena Bulk, the company that owns the tanker, said on Sunday that it expected the vessel to be released soon, but expressed caution about the situation.

“We understand that the political decision has been taken to release the ship,” Stena Bulk’s chief executive Erik Hanell told Swedish television station SVT.

“We hope it will be able to leave in a few hours, but we don’t want to take anything for granted. We want to make sure the ship sails out of Iranian territorial waters,” he said.

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The ship’s seizure came hours after a court in the British overseas territory of Gibraltar said it was extending the detention of the Grace 1, an Iranian oil tanker later renamed the Adrian Darya 1.

At the time, Tehran denied the seizure of the Stena Impero was a tit-for-tat move.

A Gibraltar court ordered the Iranian tanker’s release on August 15 despite an 11th-hour US legal bid to keep it in detention.

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GOP lawmakers are ‘shaken’ by State Department aide’s testimony — and dread what he’ll say on Wednesday: CNN

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On Monday's edition of CNN's "OutFront," correspondent Jamie Gangel told anchor Erin Burnett that Republican lawmakers were shocked at what State Department official David Holmes revealed in the impeachment investigation — and fear that his public testimony on Wednesday could be even more damaging.

"This is your reporting, 'shaken' is the word you are using of how some Republicans feel about David Holmes' testimony," said Burnett. "What are you hearing?"

"What we're hearing is, according to one congressional GOP source, several GOP lawmakers were, quote, 'more shaken by David Holmes' testimony than they have publicly let on,' that behind closed doors they expressed a lot of frustration about Sondland's testimony in light of what David Holmes said," said Gangel. "We're also hearing that they're now very worried about Sondland's testimony. We've been told by multiple sources that he was ill-fitted to being a diplomat, that multiple sources in the diplomatic community thought that he was in over his head, and they're really worried about what he's going to say on Wednesday and how far he will go."

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Trump wants to move impeachment witnesses out of the White House: CNN says could be ‘retaliation’

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President Donald Trump may commit further crimes if he follows his instinct to punish officials testifying in the impeachment inquiry.

To date, the evidence presented in public impeachment hearings has been very damning, and it has angered the president.

"President Donald Trump's aides have explored moving some impeachment witnesses on loan to the White House from other agencies, such as Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, back to their home departments ahead of schedule," CNN reported Monday, citing people familiar with the conversations.

Advisors have warned the president not to follow his gut on this issue.

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CNN

Sondland has a ‘sword of Damocles’ hanging over him thanks to his ever-changing testimony: CNN legal analyst

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On Monday's edition of CNN's "The Situation Room," CNN legal analyst Laura Coates walked through the precarious legal situation of President Donald Trump's EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland, who will testify before the House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday amid accusations he has lied to Congress in his previous depositions.

"He omitted some crucial information in his earlier sworn deposition. He revised it once," said anchor Wolf Blitzer. "What do you anticipate?"

"The idea that he had one of these epiphanies is precisely why you have closed-door hearings to begin with," said Coates. "One of the tactics and strategies involved here for members of the House was to make sure you couldn't coordinate your testimony, you actually must present what you tell, have a full and complete accounting of what you've done. And you've seen over time, that when you have other witnesses come in, suddenly, he realized, oh, you meant the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help me Congress. And in this role he has failed time and time again. It'll be interesting to see whether he will have additional epiphanies in his opening statements, or if he waits until there are questions. If he waits until that moment, it might be too late for him to correct his testimony."

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