Washington: Democrats are mulling impeachment proceedings against US president Donald Trump after reports surfaced that he had asked new president of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskiy to probe his political rival and Democratic presidential nomination frontrunner Joe Biden and his son.
This followed the reports that Trump made a phone call to Ukrainian president pressurizing him to investigate the dealings of Biden and his son Hunter Biden.
“Extorting a foreign leader for the purposes of getting that leader to do your political work, to try to find dirt on your opponent, is extortion. It is using the assets of the United States of America and the public trust for your own corrupt … ends, certainly political ends. I can’t tell you that the House will move into impeachment mode right away, but this really ups the ante”, Jim Himes of Connecticut, a member of the House panel, told CNN on Monday.
At the weekend, Biden, among the frontrunners for the Democratic presidential nomination, accused Trump of making a baseless political smear, in an “overwhelming abuse of power”.
Campaigning in Iowa on Saturday, Biden said “Trump deserves to be investigated” for “trying to intimidate a foreign leader, if that’s what happened”. Biden said Trump was motivated by politics, “because he knows I’ll beat him like a drum”.
The Republican Utah senator Mitt Romney, a longtime Trump critic, said it was “critical for the facts to come out”. “If the president asked or pressured Ukraine’s president to investigate his political rival, either directly or through his personal attorney [former New York mayor Rudy Giuiliani, who has admitted pressuring Ukraine], it would be troubling in the extreme. Critical for the facts to come out,” Romney said.
Even the South Carolina senator Lindsey Graham, a fierce defender of Trump, said details of the call should be released. “I’m hoping the president can share, in an appropriate way, information to deal with the drama around the phone call,” Graham said. “I think it would be good for the country if we could deal with it.”
The details of the call are the subject of an intelligence community whistleblower complaint about the president’s behaviour. Against legal precedent, the acting director of national intelligence Joseph Maguire has refused to share details with lawmakers, citing presidential privilege. In what is swiftly becoming one of the most challenging moments of Trump’s presidency, Maguire is due to testify before the House intelligence committee on Thursday
Adam Schiff, the chairman of the committee that will oversee Thursday’s hearing, said on Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union: “We may very well have crossed the Rubicon here.”
Hunter Biden was hired by the Ukrainian gas company Burisma Holdings in April 2014, two months after Ukraine’s Russia-friendly president was ousted by protesters.
Joe Biden was heavily involved in US efforts to support the new pro-western government and its pledge to fight corruption. The hiring of the younger Biden raised concerns that the Ukrainian company, whose owner was an ally of the ousted president, was seeking to gain influence with the Obama administration.
Two years later, Joe Biden pressured the Ukrainian government to fire its prosecutor general, who was accused by many in Ukraine and in the west of being soft on corruption.
Trump has claimed that the prosecutor, who had led an investigation into Burisma’s owner, “was after” Hunter Biden and the vice-president, was trying to protect his son. There is no evidence for this.
Trump has insisted he said “absolutely nothing wrong” in the call to Zelenskiy. He did not answer directly when asked whether he would release a transcript. Trump and Zelenskiy plan to meet at the UN general assembly in New York this week.
Trump called the intelligence community whistleblower “partisan” before acknowledging he did not know the identity of the official who lodged the complaint.
The complaint was based on a series of events including the 25 July call between Trump and Zelenskiy, the Associated Press reported, citing intelligence officials.
Leaving the White House on Sunday for Texas, Ohio and then New York and the United Nations, Trump told reporters the call, on 25 July, with Volodymyr Zelenskiy was both “congratulatory” and focused on corruption in the eastern European nation.
Trump said he raised Biden as an example. There is no evidence of wrongdoing by Biden or his son Hunter, who was on the board of a Ukrainian gas company.
Regardless, Trump said: “It was largely the fact that we don’t want our people, like Vice-President Biden and his son, creating to the corruption already in the Ukraine.”
Trump’s apparent admission added to pressure on Democrats to begin impeachment proceedings. Even some Republicans urged the president to make public the details of his call with Zelenskiy. Trump hinted at such a move.
No power can stop KPs from returning to Kashmir: Rajnath
Mangaluru, Jan 27: No power can now stop Kashmiri Pandits from going back to Kashmir, defence minister Rajnath Singh said on Monday, forcefully defending the NDA government’s decision to reorganize Jammu and Kashmir and abrogating its special status under Article 370.
In an address at a rally, the defence minister also sent a strong message to Pakistan and said India will not let anyone live in peace if it is harmed.
“We will not touch anyone, but if someone bothers us, then we are not going to let them live in peace,” he said.
Referring to the exodus of a large number of Kashmiri Pandits from the Valley in the late 1990s at the height of militancy, Singh said no power now can stop them from returning to their homes.
On the Citizenship Amendment Act, the minister said it is not a law to hurt the sentiments of any religion but to give relief to victims of religious persecution.
“Mahatma Gandhi had told Nehru to give citizenship to minorities like Hindus and Sikhs if they come to India and Prime Minister Narendra Modi has fulfilled that vision by bringing in the law,” Singh said.
On several non-BJP states refusing to implement the CAA, the defence minister said it it is a central law and everyone should follow it.
Accusing the Congress of misleading people on the issue, he said the party should not forget its duty towards the nation just because it is in opposition.
More snow, rains from today
Srinagar, Jan 27: The local meteorological department has predicted yet another spell of rains and snow in Kashmir from Tuesday, even as minimum temperatures settled above the freezing point on Monday, providing some relief to the people.
In a statement, the MeT department predicted widespread moderate rains and snow on Tuesday which will dwindle to scattered places by Wednesday.
“Generally cloudy sky to widespread light to moderate rain/snow from night of 27th January. Widespread moderate rain and snow for the next two days,” read the MeT statement.
On Monday, Srinagar recorded a minimum temperature of 0.6 degrees Celsius, up from the minus 0.2 degrees Celsius on Sunday, a MET official said.
He said the night temperature in the city was above the freezing point for the first time in recent days and it was 1.6 degrees above normal for this part of the season.
In Qazigund the gateway town to the valley in south Kashmir the minimum settled at a low of 0.8 degrees Celsius an increase of 1.5 degrees from the previous night’s minus 0.7 degrees Celsius.
The night temperature in Pahalgam tourist resort in south Kashmir settled at a low of minus 10.4 degrees Celsius down over seven degrees from the minus 3 degrees Celsius on Sunday and Pahalgam was the coldest recorded place in the Kashmir Valley, the official added.
The ski-resort of Gulmarg, in north Kashmir, registered a minimum of minus 10.2 degrees Celsius, the official added.
The night temperature in Kokernag in south settled at a low of minus 0.8 degrees Celsius, while Kupwara in north recorded a low of minus 4.4 degrees Celsius, the official said.
Leh in Ladakh Union Territory recorded a low of minus 18.4 degrees Celsius, he said, adding the nearby Drass registered a minimum of minus 27.8 degrees Celsius.
Nixing Sher-e-Kashmir from awards political vendetta: NC
Srinagar, Jan 27: National Conference Monday took strong exception to axing of the name of Sheikh Abdullah from various J&K police gallantry awards, saying the measure has taken vendetta to a higher level.
During a meet of party functionaries here, the NC leaders and workers unanimously condemned the axing of ‘Sher-e-Kashmir from J&K Police gallantry awards.
“It is a calibrated effort to trim every single symbol of J&K’s political individuality. The present ruling dispensation in Delhi heaving with subjective prejudices and complexes against ideals revolving around the Indian constitution and the spirits of its accommodative federalism hasn’t ceased its witch hunt against everything recognisable with sheikh Abdullah. The axing of Sher-e-Kashmir’s name from state gallantry awards should be seen in that direction. It is yet another glaring attempt of perversion aimed to distort J&K’s history, which has long been familiarized with Sheikh Abdullah even decades after his physically leaving the world,” said party spokesperson Imran Nabi Dar.
He said nixing Sher-e-Kashmir’s name from awards, and state holidays cannot erase him from J&K’s history.
“His persona is above petty recognitions, and awards. A conscious leader, he preached to his countrymen to overcome timidity and prejudices. He decried lack of courage as a biggest curse in achieving self-respect,” he said.
While rebuffing former deputy CM Nirmal Singh’s remarks on Sheikh Abdullah, Imran said: “We unequivocally condemn his uncouth remarks against Sheikh Sahib. Being lost into the obscurity he is hitting on the tallest political statesman and charismatic mass leader of J&K and Sub-continent to gain cheap publicity.”
Meanwhile party’s members of parliament Muhammad Akbar Lone and (Retd) Justice Hassnain Masoodi also condemned axing of Sher-e-Kashmir’s name from JK police gallantry awards, terming the move “vengeful and shocking”.