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Trump news: Angry president cuts short Nato summit trip and rages at Trudeau, as Congress launches next stage of impeachment after damning report

Three Constitutional scholars argued that the president committed 'high crimes and misdemeanours'

Law professor Pamela Karlan blasts Trump's quid-pro-quo deal with Ukraine

A trio of scholars agreed that Donald Trump’s alleged abuses of power in his dealings with Ukraine amounted to "high crimes and misdemeanours" as grounds for impeachment, according to the rules outlined in the US Constitution.

Four constitutional scholars testified to the House Judiciary Committee on its first day of public impeachment hearings, which provided expert analysis to determine Constitutional grounds for removing the president from office, a process that will be determined formally by a majority vote of Congress.

Michael Gerhardt, Pamela Karlan and Noah Feldman vehemently agreed that the president had committed impeachable offences, including abuses of power, bribery, the hampering of Congress, and the obstruction of justice.

Ms Karlan invoked the image of America as a "shining city on a hill" that, if unable to investigate foreign influence into its own democracy, would cease to be that example.

Jonathan Turley — who was summoned by Republicans — said the inquiry is "one of the thinnest records ever to go forward on impeachment."

Ms Karlan also apologised — after right-wing outrage, including a tweet from First Lady Melania Trump — for a play on words in which she said that the president could name his son Barron but could not make himself a baron.

In a White House statement, press secretary Stephanie Grisham said that "the only thing the three liberal professors established at Chairman Nadler’s hearing was their political bias against the president."

The hearing followed the release of a damning 300-page report from the House Intelligence Committee, summarising its findings and detailing “overwhelming evidence of misconduct” by Mr Trump and his inner circle over Ukraine, with call records dragging Rudy Giuliani and implicating Congressman Devin Nunes further into the scandal.

Meanwhile, the president suffered fresh humiliation after world leaders Boris Johnson, Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron were filmed apparently laughing behind his back at a Nato reception at Buckingham Palace in London.

The US president slammed the Canadian prime minister as "two-faced" to reporters shortly after, while announcing the abrupt cancellation of a press conference later that day, saying he would instead be returning home.

Follow our coverage as it happened.

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Hello and welcome to The Independent's rolling coverage of the Donald Trump administration.

Joe Sommerlad4 December 2019 09:30
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World leaders filmed mocking Trump at Buckingham Palace Nato reception

Donald Trump has suffered fresh humiliation after world leaders Boris Johnson, Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron were filmed apparently laughing behind his back at a Nato reception at Buckingham Palace in London.

The trio are seen in the clip apparently joking about the length of the US president's impromptu press conferences and the reaction of his advisers.

As New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman points out above, this will be especially galling to Trump because he has very little sense of humour when it comes to himself (remember Barack Obama roasting him at the White House Correspondent's Dinner?) and frequently promotes the idea that "other countries are laughing at us" to get his way.

This morning the president has already arrived in Hertfordshire for day two of the Nato summit and resumed his heavy tweeting schedule.

Trump will be meeting with German chancellor Angela Merkel, Italian PM Giuseppe Conte and Danish PM Mette Frederiksen on the sidelines today, with the subject of Greenland likely to come up in the latter exchange.

Here's Vincent Wood's on that quietly devastating video.

Joe Sommerlad4 December 2019 09:40
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Adam Schiff releases report documenting 'overwhelming evidence of misconduct'

Back in Washington, House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff has published a damning 300-page report detailing “overwhelming evidence of misconduct” by the president and his inner circle over Ukraine, with call records dragging Rudy Giuliani and Devin Nunes further into the swamp.

The draft lays out in stark terms the Democrats’ case that Trump abused his power for personal gain by withholding $391m (£302m) in congressionally-approved US military to Ukraine. It claims Trump hoped to compel Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky to announce an investigation into domestic political rival Joe Biden.

“Our investigation determined that this telephone call was neither the start nor the end of President Trump’s efforts to bend US foreign policy for his personal gain,” the report says, referring to Trump’s now-notorious 25 July call with Zelensky. “Rather, it was a dramatic crescendo within a monthslong campaign driven by President Trump.”

The report, which formally hands over the investigation to the House Judiciary Committee, also accuses the White House of attempting to subvert the impeachment process by ordering key figures of interest not to comply with subpoenas, devoting 90 pages to the theme. That effort ultimately failed after several high profile American diplomats and foreign service officials testified during marathon hearings in November.

Here's Clark Mindock with more.

Joe Sommerlad4 December 2019 09:55
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Top Republican Devin Nunes dragged into Ukraine scandal by call records

California congressman Devin Nunes has been a regular sight on international TV screens in recent weeks as the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, working hard to discredit the Democratic-led impeachment inquiry, pushing conspiracy theories and attempting to undermine the credibility of witnesses.

But phone logs obtained by Congress and contained in Schiff's new report reveal Nunes spoke regularly with President Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, who is alleged to have co-ordinated a campaign within the Trump administration to pressure Ukraine and smear former US ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch.

Schiff comments that it is "deeply concerning that at a time when the president of the United States was using the power of his office to dig up dirt on a political rival, that there may be evidence that there were members of Congress complicit in that activity."

The call records from AT&T and Verizon also reveal frequent communications between Nunes and Giuliani goon Lev Parnas, whose lawyer, Joseph Bondy, has been taking the congressman to task on Twitter. 

Nunes has already responded by pleading his innocence to Sean Hannity on Fox (see below) and filing a defamation lawsuit against CNN for citing Bondy in an article accusing him of meeting up with ex-Ukraine prosecutor general Victor Shokin in Vienna to push for dirt on Biden, according to The Washington Examiner.

Another intriguing line from the report is the identity of "-1", a mysterious number regularly called by Giuliani. Schiff told Anderson Cooper last night he's investigating - and it could be Trump himself.

"We can’t confirm yet who that '-1' number belongs to, but certainly there was indications in the trial of Roger Stone that when he was communicating with the president, it would show up in phone records as a '-1' number," Schiff told Cooper.

Here's more from Alex Woodward.

Joe Sommerlad4 December 2019 10:15
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White House brands impeachment report 'ramblings of a basement blogger'

One person who is - predictably - less than convinced by the findings is White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham.

"This report reflects nothing more than their frustrations. Chairman Schiff’s report reads like the ramblings of a basement blogger straining to prove something when there is evidence of nothing,” she said.

Trump himself repeatedly attacked Schiff at his Nato press sessions yesterday in highly offensive and personal terms.

Joe Sommerlad4 December 2019 10:30
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House Judiciary Committee to stage latest impeachment hearing

The House Judiciary Committee will open the next stage of the impeachment inquiry on Wednesday with a public hearing going over the report’s findings and taking testimony from four constitutional scholars as the president looks on anxiously from the second day of the summit in Hertfordshire.

The panel consists of 41 members and is therefore much larger than the Intelligence Committee, which oversaw the investigative stage of the process. Among that number of some of Trump's most vocal apologists including ranking Republican Doug Collins and Andy Biggs, Matt Gaetz, Jim Jordan, Louie Gohmert and John Ratcliffe.

The Democrats have several powerful voices of their own on the benches, including chairman Jerrold Nadler (who you will remember from the Robert Mueller proceedings), Hakeem Jeffries, Eric Swalwell, Sheila Jackson Lee, Ted Lieu and Pramila Jayapal.

Also joining the discussion will be expert legal witnesses Noah Feldman of Harvard Law School, Pamela Karlan of Stanford Law School, Michael Gerhardt of the University of North Carolina School of Law and Jonathan Turley of the George Washington University Law School.

"The impeachment is going nowhere," Trump insisted on Tuesday as he sat down with Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg. "It is a waste of time. They're wasting their time. And it's a disgrace. It's a disgrace to our country."

Trump insisted he remains unconcerned about the unfolding inquiry in Washington where the Democrats admittedly still face a mountainous climb to remove him from office. While the opposition hold the majority in the House, Republicans control the Senate and not one Republican lawmaker in the upper chamber has yet signaled support for kicking Trump out of office. An impeachment conviction in the Senate requires 67 votes out of 100.

Joe Sommerlad4 December 2019 10:45
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Trump and Johnson reunite in Watford after night of protests

Here are the latest scenes from the summit in Hertfordshire, as Trump attends a photo call with Stoltenberg and Boris Johnson.

The president is up and at it early after again calling in on the royal family for tea last night, with Princess Anne going viral after appearing to shrug with indifference at the prospect of being introduced to the Trumps.

There were protests against Trump and Johnson in Trafalgar Square as the dignitaries gathered at the Palace, an event intended as an expression of support for the NHS that came perilously close to Alan Partridge's nightmare of turning into an all-night rave.

Relations between Trump and Johnson might not stay so cosy as they appear above as Boris risks alienating his American counterpart by taxing the tech giants of Silicon Valley and saying he "deplores" Washington's new tariffs against France.

Andrew Woodcock has more on that below.

Joe Sommerlad4 December 2019 11:00
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Kamala Harris drops out of 2020 race and burns Trump with farewell tweet

We said goodbye to Kamala Harris yesterday after the California senator bowed out of the 2020 presidential race, blaming funding issues for her decision and saying she could not continue running “in good faith” as there was no longer a realistic path forward for her campaign.

Trump reacted sarcastically to the news of the once-promising candidate's fall and got well and truly burned for his trouble.

Here's Conrad Duncan's report.

Joe Sommerlad4 December 2019 11:15
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Where did it all go wrong for Kamala Harris?

Alex Woodward has this analysis of Harris's journey from early pace-setter to surprise drop-out.

Joe Sommerlad4 December 2019 11:30
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Jared Kushner takes on yet another role - China trade negotiator

Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner has added yet another role to his long list of White House duties - US-China trade negotiator - as Washington and Beijing try to reach an initial agreement to avoid new US tariffs on 15 December.

Kushner, who helped bring the US-Mexico-Canada trade agreement (USMCA) to fruition, has increased his direct involvement in the negotiations with China over the past two weeks, according to Reuters sources.

While the talks have made some progress, the two sides have reportedly not yet agreed on the extent to which the United States will remove existing tariffs on Chinese goods and on specific commitments by China to increase purchases of US agriculture products.

A White House official confirmed Kushner's involvement, but declined to provide specific details on the influence he has had on the negotiations. The official said Kushner has recently met with Cui Tiankai, the Chinese ambassador to the United States.

The two have met multiple times since Trump took office, establishing a kind of back-channel relationship, trade experts say.

(Patrick Semansky/AP)

US trade representative Robert Lighthizer and treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin have been leading negotiations with Chinese vice premier Liu He for the past two years over a range of US complaints about China's trade and subsidy practices, including the forced transfer of American technology to Chinese firms.

"Jared has been engaged in the process from the beginning in full co-ordination and in support of Ambassador Lighthizer's and Secretary Mnuchin's efforts," the White House official said.

Kushner apparently played a pivotal role in the later stages of US trade negotiations with Canada and Mexico in 2018 to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement, helping to resolve final differences. Lighthizer said the USMCA deal "would not have happened if it wasn't for Jared." Former Mexican foreign minister Luis Videgaray, with whom Kushner met frequently, said Kushner patched up the negotiations more than once after they fell apart.

Kushner, who is married to Trump's daughter Ivanka, has taken on many challenges during the past three years, including trying to develop a Middle East peace plan, working on changes to US immigration policies and advising Trump on dealing with opioid addiction and problems with Department of Veterans Affairs.

But sealing a deal with the China could prove daunting. US commerce secretary Wilbur Ross, speaking to Reuters on Tuesday, rejected any deadlines for a deal and launched a fresh attack on Chinese telecom equipment giant Huawei, accusing it of telling suppliers to move operations overseas to skirt US sanctions.

Joe Sommerlad4 December 2019 11:45

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