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Trump administration concludes Assad again used chemical weapons — vows action against Syria

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The United States vowed a response Thursday as it said it had confirmed another chemical weapons attack by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces in May.

The Assad regime used chlorine on May 19 in Latakia province as part of its deadly offensive to take back the last major rebel stronghold in nearby Idlib, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said.

“The United States will not allow these attacks to go unchallenged nor will we tolerate those who choose to conceal these atrocities,” Pompeo told reporters in New York, where he was taking part in the UN General Assembly.

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“The United States will continue to pressure the insidious Assad regime to end the violence directed at Syrian civilians and participate in the UN-led political process,” he said.

No independent verification was available of the attack from war-ravaged northwestern Syria, where 400,000 people have been displaced since April alone from the government’s bombardment.

The United States and France had both earlier aired suspicions of a chemical attack but had held off on making a formal determination, saying more research was needed.

International investigators say Assad has repeatedly used chemical weapons against civilian targets in his brutal quest to end the civil war, in which more than 370,000 people have died.

Former president Barack Obama had called chemical weapons use a red line but ultimately declined military retaliation.

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Drawing a contrast, President Donald Trump ordered strikes with 59 cruise missiles in response to a sarin gas attack in April 2017 in the rebel-held Idlib town of Khan Sheikhun.

The reprisal evidently did not deter Assad, who enjoys strong support from Russia, which has deployed its air power and repeatedly vetoed efforts at the UN Security Council to punish the Syrian regime.

– No word on response –

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The United States announced one countermeasure on Thursday, slapping sanctions on a Russian network of three individuals and five vessels for supplying fuel to Russian forces in Syria.

Pompeo said that the United States was donating an additional $4.5 million to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the Hague-based body that monitors the international treaty that bans such arms.

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But Pompeo appeared to downplay the prospect of military action, noting that the attack involved chlorine, which affects the respiratory system.

The Khan Sheikhun attacks, which the United Nations said killed 83 people, entailed sarin, an ultra-potent gas that devastates the nervous system.

“So it’s a bit of a different situation,” Pompeo said.

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But he warned: “The Syrian regime should know and the world should appreciate the fact that we’re going to do everything we can reasonably do to prevent this kind of thing from happening again.”

The US finding on chemical weapons came in a week that offered one glimmer of hope, with the United Nations announcing the formation of a committee to write a new Syrian constitution.

The group will involve both the government and opposition, although there is no consensus on which direction they will take the constitution.

The Assad government, however, said it would not halt its military operations.

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Syria is likely to be a major topic on Friday when Pompeo meets in New York with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.


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John Dean says the Republican Party clearly doesn’t know what they’re doing

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Former White House counsel John Dean couldn't help but notice that the Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives seem to be in a mess of trouble.

The morning began with the GOP's key witness, Ambassador Gordon Sondland not only didn't give Republicans what they needed, he threw the president, vice president and Secretary of State under the bus, along with the president's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani.

Dean explained that when he was dealing with former President Richard Nixon's impeachment, the GOP was far more organized.

CNN's Jake Tapper asked Dean about his observations during the Watergate era and if the White House kept claiming that everything was awesome.

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‘Fox News knew’: Vindman lawyers rip Laura Ingraham for hosting ‘false and defamatory’ segment

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An attorney representing Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman is demanding Fox News retract a segment that aired on the "Ingraham Angle" that suggested Vindman may have committed treason.

"This firm represents Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman," read the letter from David Pressman of Boies, Schiller Flexner, LLP.

"We are compelled to write because of a deeply flawed and erroneous Fox News segment that first aired on October 28, 2019, the gist of which has since been republished countless times, including by the president of the United States to his 66.9 million Twitter followers. Laura Ingraham reported the Segment during her show, 'The Ingraham Angle' along with John Yoo, who was a panelist invited by Fox News to participate in its coverage of LTC Vindman," the letter read.

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Republicans are at each other’s throats about Gordon Sondland’s testimony

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Ambassador Gordon Sondland’s testimony in the impeachment inquiry on Wednesday turned high-profile Republicans against each other.

His remarks sparked explosive reactions from both critics and defenders of President Donald Trump. Sondland detailed extensive evidence that he, in concert with the White House, administration officials, and with the president’s attorney Rudy Giuliani, set up a quid pro quo both with Ukraine both for a meeting with Trump and for military aid in exchange for an announcement about investigations into his political rivals. But Republicans latched on to Sondland’s claim that he didn’t recall ever hearing from Trump directly that military aid was conditioned on an announcement and that late in the process — after the scheme was coming to light — the president denied asking for a “quid pro quo.”

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