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‘A train wreck for the GOP:’ Legal experts blast Republican attorney’s performance during impeachment hearing as a total embarrassment

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During the first public testimony in the House impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump, one of the Republicans who questioned Ambassador William Taylor (top U.S. diplomat to Ukraine) and State Department official William Kent on Wednesday was attorney Steve Castor — who tried to discredit their testimony. But according to some well-known legal experts, he didn’t do a good job.

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Trump is facing an impeachment inquiry following a whistleblower’s complaint that during a July 25 phone conversation, he tried to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky into investigating former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden. Castor, during his questioning on Wednesday, tried to make Hunter Biden look bad because of his involvement with the Ukrainian gas company Burisma — and according to Georgetown University law professor Carrie Cordero, Castor’s Biden-related questioning was an ineffective smokescreen that offered “no actual defense” of Trump’s “abuse of office.”

One of the Trump allies who hoped to see the Ukrainian government investigate the Bidens was Trump’s personal attorney, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Castor tried to defend Giuliani during his questioning of Taylor, asking, “This irregular channel of diplomacy, it’s not as outlandish as it could be, is that correct?”— to which Taylor responded, “It’s not as outlandish as it could be, I agree.”

In other words, Castor admitted that Giuliani’s actions on behalf of Trump were “outlandish” — which is hardly a robust defense of Trump or his allies.

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When Asha Rangappa (a former FBI special agent) tweeted, “is Steve Castor really the best lawyer the GOP could get?,” CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti responded, “to be fair to him, he doesn’t have much to work with.

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Susan Hennessey, executive editor of Lawfare and a legal analyst for CNN, tweeted that Castor “generally faltered” on Wednesday and “all in all….. was a train wreck for the GOP.”

Preet Bharara, a former federal prosecutor for the Southern District of New York, tweeted, “I don’t believe Mr. Castor is a former prosecutor. Does it show?” And writer Matt Naham, in an article for Law & Crime, notes that Castor “has largely worked behind the scenes for the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee since 2005.”

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The second day of public impeachment hearings is set for this Friday, November 15, with testimony from Marie Yovanovitch (former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine).

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No vaccine, no carnival, Rio’s samba schools warn

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Some of Rio's biggest samba schools say they will not participate in next year's Carnival unless a coronavirus vaccine is widely available, Brazilian media reported Tuesday.

Five of the 12 top samba schools, including Mangueira and Beija Flor, told Brazil's O Globo newspaper they would vote to postpone the parades at a meeting set for Tuesday.

"It's simple. If there's no vaccine, there will be no samba," said the head of the Sao Clemente school, Renatinho Gomes.

"How can you gather crowds without collective immunity?"

The mayor of the northwestern city of Salvador de Bahia, where festivities also attract thousands of tourists, has proposed postponing the carnival season nationwide until April or June.

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New York couple point guns at Black Lives Matter protesters marching past their house

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A New York couple pointed guns at protesters marching past their house during a Black Lives Matter rally, and activists want them to be charged.

Protesters were nearing the end of their parade route when a white man came out of his home shouting obscenities in an apparent attempt to incite the group, and then yelled to his wife to get his gun, reported WNYT-TV.

Hudson Mayor Kamal Johnson, who took part in the march, said the woman came back outside and started waving the gun around.

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Australian columnist aghast at America’s ‘rotten’ COVID-19 response: ‘We are witnessing the fall of a great power’

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A columnist for an Australian newspaper has been watching the United States' response to the novel coronavirus with a mix of shock and horror -- and he now believes "we are witnessing the fall of a great power."

Crispin Hull, an editor and columnist for The Canberra Times, argues in his latest column that President Donald Trump's disastrous handling of the pandemic is symbolic of deep rot within the American political system.

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