Trump confirms US Navy secretary forced out over SEAL case

Robie de Guzman   •   November 25, 2019   •   177

A handout file photo made available by the US Navy shows US Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer addressing the crew of USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) via the ship’s 1MC during a visit to the ship at sea near Newport News, Virginia, USA, 27 October 2019 (issued 25 November 2019).

WASHINGTON – The United States president confirmed Sunday that the Pentagon has asked for the resignation of Navy Secretary Richard Spencer over his management of the case of a Navy SEAL who was demoted for misconduct.

In a statement, Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said Defense Secretary Mark Esper had requested Spencer’s resignation after “losing trust and confidence in him regarding his lack of candor over conversations with the White House involving the handling of Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher.”

In July, Gallagher was convicted for illegally posing next to the body of the dead jihadist for photographs during his 2017 deployment in Iraq, and acquitted him of a murder charge for allegedly killing an injured captive.

The case has attracted the attention of US President Donald Trump, who last week expressed his support for Gallagher and on Sunday night confirmed Spencer had been “terminated.”

“Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer’s services have been terminated by Secretary of Defense Mark Esper,” Trump said on Twitter on Sunday night, adding “Eddie will retire peacefully with all of the honors that he has earned, including his Trident Pin.”

The Trident pin is the badge that marks membership to the elite Navy SEALs.

Last week, the New York Times reported that Spencer and Naval Special Warfare Commander Rear Admiral Collin Green had threatened to resign if the Navy complied with Trump’s request to revoke Gallagher’s demotion, although Spencer denied the news.

Trump said Sunday he “was not pleased with the way that Navy Seal Eddie Gallagher’s trial was handled by the Navy.”

“He was treated very badly but, despite this, was completely exonerated on all major charges. I then restored Eddie’s rank,” Trump added.

In its statement, the Pentagon said that Esper spoke with the “commander in Chief” on Friday about the Gallagher case and found out that Spencer had privately proposed to the White House, contrary to his public position, to restore Gallagher’s rank and allow him to retire with the Trident pin.

The Department of Defense spokesman added that recently during a conversation between the two, Spencer never informed Esper of his private proposal to the White House.

In the statement, Esper said he is “deeply troubled by this conduct shown by a senior DOD official.”

“Unfortunately, as a result I have determined that Secretary Spencer no longer has my confidence to continue in his position,” Esper said.

Following recent events, Esper has also ordered that Gallagher retain his Trident pin.

Trump said that “Admiral and now Ambassador to Norway Ken Braithwaite will be nominated by me to be the new Secretary of the Navy.” EFE-EPA

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Trump’s defense team asks Senate to speedily reject impeachment case

UNTV News   •   January 21, 2020

US President Donald Trump. EFE-EPA/Jim Lo Scalzo/File

By Susana Samhan

Washington –
Defense attorneys for President Donald Trump on Monday called on the Republican-controlled Senate to “speedily reject” the impeachment case against him, scheduled to begin on Tuesday, and called the Democrats’ investigation of the president “rigged.”

The president’s lawyers had until noon on Monday to present in writing their arguments in defending Trump, after Democratic lawmakers who will be the “managers” of the impeachment case formally expressed their point of view in a similar document last Saturday.

Trump’s lawyers said in their memo released by the White House on Monday that House Democrats during the impeachment inquiry last fall were trying “to corrupt the extraordinary power of impeachment for use as a political tool to overturn the result of the 2016 election and to interfere in the 2020 election.”

“All of that is a dangerous perversion of the Constitution that the Senate should swiftly and roundly condemn,” wrote lead attorney and White House counsel Pat Cipollone. “The Articles themselves – and the rigged process that brought them here – are a brazenly political act by House Democrats that must be rejected.”

In a telephone press conference before the delivery and release of the document, sources working with Trump’s defense team and requesting anonymity refused to clarify if the request for a “speedy” rejection of the two impeachment articles filed against him will include a motion to demand that the Senate simply dismiss the charges.

The source said that they were not going to discuss details about what the defense strategy will be when the trial commences, saying only that neither of the two articles is legitimate because they do not specify that the president broke the law.

In the 171-page document, the legal team focuses more on claiming that the impeachment articles – for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress – are invalid than in denying that Trump illegally pressured Ukraine to launch an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden with an eye toward influencing the 2020 presidential election, in which the former VP is a top Democratic contender.

The attorneys called the charges shaky since they do not specify any crime, despite the fact that many legal scholars assert that a president does not have to break the law to commit an impeachable offense.

During their September-December impeachment investigation, House Democrats say they found ample evidence that Trump abused his power by pressuring Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to announce a bogus Biden corruption investigation while withholding some $400 million in military aid and that he obstructed Congress by refusing to release any documents related to – or allow any White House officials to testify on – the matter.

The two impeachment articles against Trump were approved along party lines in December by the House, but Speaker Nancy Pelosi withheld delivering them to the GOP-led Senate for weeks, during which time additional evidence of administration wrongdoing emerged.

On Saturday, the seven House managers who will prosecute the Democratic case against Trump in the Senate, filed a brief with the upper house saying that the president’s actions constituted “the Framers’ worst nightmare” and his behavior presents a “danger to our democratic processes.”

The president’s defense team includes Cipollone and Jay Sekulow, along with Ken Starr, Alan Dershowitz, Pam Bondi, Jane Raskin, Eric Herschmann and Robert Ray.

Trump is just the third US president to be impeached after Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998, both of whom were acquitted in the Senate. Richard Nixon resigned before he could be impeached in 1974.

The president will not be in Washington, at least for the start of the trial on Tuesday, because he is scheduled to travel to Davos, Switzerland, for the World Economic Forum.

Trump invites Duterte, other ASEAN leaders for March Summit

Aileen Cerrudo   •   January 20, 2020

ASEAN Summit and Related Meetings in Manila epa06325844 US President Donald J. Trump (L) talks to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (R) before the opening ceremony of the 31st Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Manila, Philippines,13 November 2017. The Philippines is hosting the 31st ASEAN Summit and Related Meetings from 10 to 14 November. EPA-EFE/MARK R. CRISTINO / POOL

United States (US) President Donald Trump has invited President Rodrigo Duterte and nine other leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nation (ASEAN) for the US-ASEAN Summit in March.

Trump previously invited the ASEAN leaders on November 1, 2019 and reiterated his invitation on January 9, 2020.

“This will provide an excellent opportunity for us to broaden and deepen our cooperation on matters of great importance to the nearly one billion people in the United States and ASEAN nations that we have the privilege to represent,” Trump said in his invitation.

However, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said there is still no official response on whether President Duterte will accept the invitation of the US president.—AAC

Trump’s impeachment trial in Senate officially begins

UNTV News   •   January 17, 2020

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (Front L) and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (Front R) lead impeachment managers walking to the Senate chamber before being sworn-in at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on 16 January 2020. The Senate impeachment trial of US President Donald J. Trump started with the reading of the articles of impeachment on the Senate floor by House managers and the swearing-in of Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts and senators. The trial is to get under way in earnest on 21 January 2020. EPA-EFE/MICHAEL REYNOLDS

Washington – The impeachment trial of President Donald Trump officially kicked off on Thursday in the Senate with the reading of the charges that the United States’ lower house approved last month.

Substantial trial proceedings, however, will not begin until Tuesday afternoon.

The chairman of the House of Representatives’ Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff (D-CA), who will head a group of seven House managers prosecuting the case, was tasked with reading the two articles of impeachment to the members of the Republican-controlled Senate.

The first charge of “abuse of power” states that Trump used the power of his office to solicit “the interference of a foreign government, Ukraine, in the 2020 United States presidential election.”

That accusation stems from an allegation that during a phone call last July Trump sought personal political gain by improperly pressuring Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to publicly announce an investigation into the alleged interference years ago of US former Vice President Joe Biden, a leading contender for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, in a probe of his son Hunter’s business dealings in Ukraine.

The lower house found that Trump also improperly pushed Ukraine to publicly announce an investigation into a “discredited theory promoted by Russia alleging that Ukraine – rather than Russia – interfered in the 2016 United States presidential election.”

The House alleges that Trump exerted pressure by freezing nearly $400 million of US military and security aid to Ukraine about a week before he talked to Zelensky and delaying a head of state meeting between the two leaders at the White House.

Trump, who says the aid – eventually released on Sept. 11 – was withheld due to his frustration with what he considered to be an insufficient amount of monetary assistance provided to Ukraine by other countries, says the rough transcript of the phone call that the White House released on Sept. 25 shows he did nothing wrong.

The second article of impeachment accuses the president of “obstruction of Congress,” for directing executive branch agencies, offices and officials not to comply with subpoenas seeking documents and testimony deemed vital to the House’s inquiry.

Trump and his supporters say the constitution gives presidents broad constitutional grounds for resisting such demands from the legislative branch for privileged executive material unless a court compels them to produce it.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had delayed sending over the charges under the argument that she first needed to know what rules would govern the Senate trial.

Democrats say a fair trial can only be assured if the senators, who will act as jury in the impeachment case, hear from witnesses who did not testify during the proceedings in the House. It still remains to be seen whether 51 senators will vote to do so.

Since the approval of the impeachment articles, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has proposed a procedure modeled on the one the Senate followed in 1998 during the impeachment of Democratic President Bill Clinton.

On that occasion, senators listened to presentations from the prosecution and the defense before holding a vote on whether to call witnesses.

On Thursday afternoon, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts was sworn in to oversee the impeachment trial. He then proceeded to swear in all 100 senators – 53 Republicans, 45 Democrats and two independents (who caucus with the Democrats) – as jurors for the proceedings.

Trump is only the third US president to be impeached.

Both Andrew Johnson – in 1868 – and Clinton were acquitted in the Senate, while Richard Nixon resigned in 1974 before the lower house could vote on his impeachment.

Under the Constitution, the approval of articles of impeachment in the House is to be followed by a trial in the Senate, where it takes a two-thirds majority to remove the president from office.

Due to Republicans’ control of that upper chamber, a conviction is considered highly unlikely. EFE-EPA

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