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Trump to meet with top Russian foreign minister amid impeachment battle

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Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday opened a visit to Washington in which he will meet Donald Trump, the very day when Democrats unveiled impeachment charges against the president.

The timing marks a redux of the veteran Russian diplomat’s last visit to Washington in May 2017, when Trump was fighting off allegations that he cooperated with Russia and was accused of sharing classified information with Lavrov.

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Lavrov began the day of talks by meeting with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who said the Trump administration was determined to pursue its work despite the politics at home.

“We didn’t pick this date to coincide with the process on Capitol Hill, but we can’t allow the zaniness that’s taking place on Capitol Hill to impact our job,” Pompeo told conservative broadcaster One America News on Monday.

Pompeo said that he would look to find ways to work with Russia including on improving business ties and on arms control.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has called for the quick renewal, even by the end of the year, of the New Start treaty, the last remaining major arms treaty between the United States and Russia.

Negotiated under Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama, the treaty which expires in February 2021 obligated the two powers to halve their arsenals of strategic nuclear missile launchers.

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The Trump administration, while not ruling out an extension, wants a new treaty to include China, which has a quickly growing, but still much smaller, arsenal than Russia and the United States.

The United States earlier this year withdrew from the Cold War-era Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces, which limited missiles that could hit European cities, after saying that Moscow was in violation.

Lavrov is also expected to discuss the hotspots of Iran, North Korea and Syria — where Russia, which backs President Bashar al-Assad, has become even more pre-eminent as the top foreign player after Trump pulled US troops.

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– Movement on Ukraine –

The talks in Washington come a day after Putin held a landmark first meeting with Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, although they did not reach any breakthrough.

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The pair met in Paris alongside the presidents of France and Germany, who are leading efforts to end a five-year war in which Ukraine is battling Russian-backed separatists.

The impeachment inquiry is linked to the war, with House Democrats unveiling charges that Trump abuses his power and obstructed Congress.

The White House delayed nearly $400 million in military aid sought by Ukraine to fight the separatists as Trump asked Zelensky to announce an investigation into Joe Biden, a leading Democratic candidate seeking to challenge him in 2020 elections.

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Trump, in a phone call to Zelensky that triggered the impeachment inquiry, also sought an investigation into a conspiracy theory debunked by US intelligence that Ukraine — not Russia — interfered in the 2016 election.

US intelligence says that Russia tried to sway the 2016 election to Trump, especially through manipulation of social media, but an extensive probe by former FBI chief Robert Mueller found insufficient evidence to accuse the Trump campaign of conspiring with Moscow.

After his last visit in May 2017, The Washington Post reported that Trump shared classified information with Lavrov and Russia’s then ambassador to Washington about a threat from the Islamic State group.

The US ally that provided the information, which led to restrictions on laptops in the cabins of commercial flights from the Middle East, did not authorize its sharing, the report said.

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The White House denied the accusation but Trump later insisted he had the “absolute right” to share “facts pertaining to terrorism and airline flight safety.”


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Adam Schiff trapped the GOP — by challenging them to refute documents Trump is blocking: Attorney

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In a thread on Twitter, The Nation justice correspondent Elie Mystal broke down the ingenious argument that House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) used to trap the GOP with President Donald Trump's own obstruction — by laying out the case against Trump that witnesses said were in documents the president is blocking, and then challenging them to compel Trump to produce those documents if they don't believe the evidence.

Bad faith actors like @LindseyGrahamSC will not care, but what @RepAdamSchiff is doing here is brilliant. He's referencing docs he doesn't have, reminding the Senate that they can demand those docs, and then explaining what *other witnesses under oath* have said about those docs.

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GOP claim Ukraine felt ‘no pressure’ shredded by Adam Schiff during impeachment trial

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The lead House impeachment manager fact-checked Republicans during opening arguments in the prosecution of President Donald Trump.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), who chairs the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, reminded the Senate of the actual evidence that refutes the GOP talking point.

Schiff noted the testimony, emails and text messages that show Ukraine felt enormous pressure to go along with the quid pro quo.

The former federal prosecutor shouted, "they're at war!"

Schiff said it was "$400 million worth of pressure."

Lead impeachment manager Adam Schiff pushes back on GOP argument that Ukraine didn't feel pressure following Trump call with Zelenskiy and withheld aid: "Like they're going to admit that they were being shaken down by the president of the United States." https://t.co/nfmmCjGJjV pic.twitter.com/1idgdnIpec

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GOP would ‘block the smoking gun’ Trump used to shoot someone on Fifth Ave: law professor

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As the Senate impeachment trial entered its second day, the Democratic impeachment managers laid out a gigantic trove of damning evidence against President Donald Trump regarding his scheme in Ukraine. But there is no indication that any Republican senator has been swayed to vote to convict, and it remains unclear even whether they will vote to allow additional evidence to be heard.

Law professor Jennifer Taub laid out in colorful imagery how hellbent Republicans are on acquitting the president, in the face of any conceivable evidence:

If Trump shot someone on Fifth Avenue (as he once bragged he could without losing voters), Senate Republicans would vote to block the introduction of the smoking gun into evidence.

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