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There are plenty of ‘smoking guns’ in Trump’s impeachment inquiry: Watergate prosecutor

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Republicans are already trying to muddy the waters to convince Americans that the upcoming impeachment hearings are part of a kind of televised trial for President Donald Trump’s political career. In fact, the trial doesn’t begin until it moves to the U.S. Senate, but conservatives are attempting to turn the investigation into the trial itself.

In an all-star MSNBC panel, former U.S. Attorney Chuck Rosenberg and Watergate prosecutor Jill Wine-Banks explained that there are plenty of “smoking guns” in the case against Trump so far.

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“I think the key moment for Watergate was the final release of a smoking gun tape in which the president was heard discussing committing a crime,” said Wine-Banks. “Using the CIA to stop the FBI from investigating the original break-in. But here we have a lot of smoking guns. I would equate the conversation between [Ukraine President] Volodymyr Zelensky and Trump has another smoking gun. In obvious, plain sight, you have a commission of a request from a foreign power to help in his own personal benefit for his political gain. That, to me, is a crime.”

She also added that the crimes outlined in the Watergate investigation are remarkably similar to those of Trump’s.

“All three, by the way, would apply today to the same acts by Donald Trump,” Wine-Banks said of the charges against former President Richard Nixon. “The contempt of Congress is very important in refusing to cooperate with any investigation as well as the obstruction, as well as the abuse of power. All three apply to Donald Trump. That’s what we should be looking at. We can focus on the Ukraine phone call because America understands that. It’s important to bring the public into this conversation and to have them understand what’s going on. But to allow the Republicans to divert attention to things that have no factual basis would be a mistake.

She urged focusing on the evidence first and not allowing GOP members to go off on conspiracy theories.

“Many cases are built brick by brick, piece by piece and circumstantially,” Rosenberg said. “I agree with Jill. You have very compelling evidence in that phone call, if you want to call it a smoking gun, great. If you want to call it a big piece of evidence, great. I don’t think the terminology matters all that much. Going to have, though, are witnesses who corroborate the phone call, what they heard, what they heard from others, and the things they saw, including the back channel foreign policy that’s deeply disturbing. So, I wouldn’t be too focused on whether or not you have a smoking gun. I would look for credible, corroborative witnesses who are thoughtful and honest. I think that’s what the American public is going to see the lat either part of this week.”

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Watch the full discussion below:

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Syria army says retakes key northwest town

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Syria government forces recaptured the strategic highway town of Maaret al-Numan from jihadist and allied rebels on Wednesday, the army said, returning for the first time in seven years.

"Our forces managed in the past few days to stamp out terrorism in many villages and towns," including Maaret al-Numan, an army spokesman said.

In 2011, Maaret al-Numan was one of the first towns in the northwestern province of Idlib to rise up against the Damascus government and the following year, it was captured by rebels fighting against President Bashar al-Assad's rule.

It lies on a key highway connecting the capital to second city Aleppo and has long been in the sights of the government.

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The only nationwide database of priests deemed credibly accused of abuse

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ProPublica published an interactive database on Tuesday that lets users search for clergy who have been listed as credibly accused of sexual abuse in reports released by Catholic dioceses and religious orders.

It is, as of publication, the only nationwide database of official disclosures. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the religious leaders’ national membership organization, does not publicly release any centralized, countrywide collection of clergy members who have been credibly accused of sexual assault.

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Catholic peaders promised transparency about child abuse — but they haven’t delivered

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It took 40 years and three bouts of cancer for Larry Giacalone to report his claim of childhood sexual abuse at the hands of a Boston priest named Richard Donahue.

Giacalone sued Donahue in 2017, alleging the priest molested him in 1976, when Giacalone was 12 and Donahue was serving at Sacred Heart Parish. The lawsuit never went to trial, but a compensation program set up by the archdiocese concluded that Giacalone “suffered physical injuries and emotional injuries as a result of physical abuse” and directed the archdiocese to pay him $73,000.

Even after the claim was settled and the compensation paid in February 2019, however, the archdiocese didn’t publish Donahue’s name on its list of accused priests. Nor did it three months later when Giacalone’s lawyer, Mitchell Garabedian, criticized the church publicly for not adding Donahue’s name to the list.

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