Just a fraction of voters want to block witnesses in Trump’s impeachment trial — but Republicans are likely to block them anyway

The Senate is largely divided along partisan lines on whether to call witnesses to testify in President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial.

While Democrats appear united in demanding key witnesses — namely people who directly witnessed Trump’s Ukraine pressure campaign — nearly all Republicans are opposed to opening the trial up to witnesses.

And the GOP is poised to vote on Friday to block any witnesses from testifying. On Thursday night, Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander, who was considered a possible vote for witnesses, said that while Trump’s actions concerning Ukraine were “inappropriate,” he’d vote “no” on the motion to call witnesses.

“Let the people decide,” he concluded, referring to the 2020 presidential election.

Two Republican senators — Susan Collins of Maine and Mitt Romney of Utah — have announced they’ll vote to call witnesses. Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska is the only other Republican who appears open to the motion. That would fall short of the four Republican votes Democrats need to reach a 51-vote majority and pass the motion.


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Venezuela’s Guaidó angles for Trump meeting at end of trip

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó wraps up an international tour with a rally in Miami on Super Bowl weekend with the looming question whether the opposition leader can score an important meeting with President Donald Trump. Guaidó’s ability to win face time with Trump in a symbolically important meeting will test the young political leader’s standing with his most important international ally. “If Trump does not meet with Guaidó, that would raise serious questions about the administration’s continuing commitment to Venezuela’s interim president,” said Michael Shifter, president of the Washington-based Inter-American Dialogue think tank.


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Netanyahu Recruits Trump, Putin for Election

(Bloomberg) — Want to receive this post in your inbox every day? Sign up for the Balance of Power newsletter, and follow Bloomberg Politics on Twitter and Facebook for more.Benjamin Netanyahu is a man in a hurry. The Israeli prime minister faces a corruption trial and a third parliamentary election in less than a year that he hopes will put off his legal Judgment Day.Securing extra support after two tight and inconclusive polls is of the essence. The U.S. and Russia looked to be obliging this week.A beaming Netanyahu stood next to Donald Trump in Washington as the U.S. president laid out a Middle East peace plan that heavily favors Israel. He then traveled to Moscow where President Vladimir Putin gifted him the release from prison of Israeli-American backpacker Naama Issachar, having previously snubbed multiple pleas to pardon her on drug-smuggling charges.So far, though, polls aren’t showing the back-to-back diplomatic coups helping Netanyahu all that much.He had barely left the stage with Trump when he announced his cabinet would vote on Sunday to annex West Bank land on which Jewish settlements stand. But then an aide said technical issues would delay that vote, and senior White House official Jared Kushner urged Israel not to act until after its March 2 election.While Netanyahu’s Likud party got a boost in opinion polls, so did its main rival, former military chief Benny Gantz’s Blue and White. Both gained by cannibalizing votes from potential allies and neither has an easy path to forming a government.If an Israel-tilted U.S. peace plan and the freeing of Issachar, whose fate became a cause celebre at home, can’t get Netanyahu over the line, then what would?Global HeadlinesVirus spreads | China said more than 7,700 people have been infected by the deadly novel coronavirus, as the World Health Organization’s Emergency Committee meets today to consider issuing a global alarm. Airlines are suspending more flights to China while the U.S., U.K., and other countries moved to evacuate their citizens from the outbreak’s epicenter in Wuhan.Fears the virus is spreading quickly present a conundrum for other nations: How to protect public safety without stigmatizing China’s entire population?Impeachment sparring | Former National Security Advisor John Bolton wants the White House to expedite the classification review of the Ukraine portion of his book in case he’s called to testify in Trump’s Senate impeachment trial. The president and his defense team are trying to discredit Bolton after reports said his draft alleges Trump told him he wanted military aid to Ukraine withheld unless Kyiv probed his political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden.Democrats’ chances of getting Bolton and others to testify are dwindling as the pool of Republicans willing to potentially defy Trump shrinks.Conservative curse | Ever since Edward Heath and Margaret Thatcher made the case for the U.K. joining the European Union’s forerunner, the Conservative Party has been bedeviled by internal rifts over its relations with the continent. Boris Johnson will hope his delivery of Brexit puts an end to that. But as Robert Hutton reports, history suggests the Conservatives have a seemingly limitless appetite to argue about Europe.Shattered dreams | Wish Town was once a sought-after destination for India’s aspiring middle classes seeking a slice of the “good days” promised by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Now its unfinished apartments are a symbol of an economy in distress, with consumers too worried about job cuts and rising costs to spend. India’s slumping consumption is so severe it’s denting global growth. It’s unclear whether Saturday’s budget can turn the country’s fortunes around.A lone shooter opened fired at a prominent site of protests against the contentious religion-based citizenship law in New Delhi, wounding one person today.Health horror | A fire during an operation on a woman who later died in one of Romania’s top hospitals is fueling anger in a nation that spends less on health care than any other EU state. Compounded by widespread graft, the situation resonates beyond the country’s borders: As many as 5 million Romanians now live elsewhere, stoking populism — as in the case of Brexit — and leaving uncertain economic prospects back home.What to WatchTrump ally Senator Lindsey Graham is targeting giant internet platforms with a proposed child protection measure that could threaten encrypted services such as Apple’s iCloud and Facebook’s WhatsApp chat. A group of citizens in the Democratic Republic of Congo are asking the U.K.’s Serious Fraud Office to recognize them as victims in its investigation of alleged corruption by Kazakh mining company Eurasian Natural Resources. Chile’s congress approved a tax bill presented by President Sebastian Pinera’s government to raise as much as $2.2 billion to fund its social agenda and ease months of unrest. It now goes to the Constitutional Court.Tell us how we’re doing or what we’re missing at balancepower@bloomberg.net.And finally…Corrupt officials, soaring temperatures and prowling lions are among challenges facing truck drivers like Nyoni Nsukuzimbi that stymie attempts to boost intra-African trade. The continent’s leaders say they’re acting to change all that by signing up to an agreement that would establish the world’s biggest free-trade zone by area. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa called it a “game-changer.” It will have to be if Africa’s economies are ever going to achieve their potential. \–With assistance from Alan Crawford, Michael Winfrey, Ruth Pollard, Rosalind Mathieson and Karen Leigh.To contact the author of this story: Amy Teibel in Jerusalem at ateibel@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Halpin at thalpin5@bloomberg.net, Karl MaierFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.


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Trump will demand the NHS pays more for drugs after Brexit, warns outgoing UK ambassador to US

Donald Trump will demand that the NHS pays higher prices for US drugs as part of any trade deal, the departing British ambassador to Washington has said.

Kim Darroch, who announced his resignation in July, said that Trump would put corporate American interests first and reward US farmers and drugs firms who insist that he should seek to open up the UK.

He also suggested it would be difficult for the UK to negotiate free trade deals with the EU and US at the same time, something that Boris Johnson is keen to do to maximise leverage in Brussels.


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Putin Frees Israeli Backpacker, Helping Embattled Netanyahu

(Bloomberg) — President Vladimir Putin’s pardon of an Israeli woman imprisoned in Russia on drug-smuggling charges gave a much-needed electoral gift to visiting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.Naama Issachar, 26, was released Thursday from a prison outside of Moscow, according to Russia’s Federal Penitentiary Service. She was arrested in April and sentenced in October to 7 1/2 years for carrying a small amount of hashish on a transit flight via Moscow after a backpacking trip to India.Putin pardoned Issachar late Wednesday. He had previously rebuffed Netanyahu’s appeals for her release and his about-face couldn’t have been timed better for the premier, who’s battling fraud and bribery charges ahead of March elections. The Israeli leader flew to Moscow from Washington, where he attended the unveiling of the U.S. Middle East peace plan, whose heavy tilt in Israel’s direction also favored his campaign.Netanyahu said Russian-Israeli relations were the strongest in history as he thanked Putin at a Kremlin meeting, where the two men were due to discuss President Donald Trump’s new initiative to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.The prime minister’s Twitter account later posted footage of him greeting a smiling Issachar and her mother, Yaffa, at Moscow’s Vnukovo airport. His plane later departed for Israel with the Issachars on board. A Kremlin foreign policy aide said earlier this month that Israel and Russia had made progress in settling a dispute over the ownership of Russian Orthodox Church property in Jerusalem, which Israel’s Haaretz newspaper said could form part of a quid pro quo to secure Issachar’s release. The property wasn’t mentioned in public statements in Moscow on Thursday.Yaffa Issachar asked the Russian leader in November to pardon her daughter in a letter handed to him by Theophilos III, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem. Last week, she met with Putin in Jerusalem, where the president attended an international forum on the Holocaust on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the Soviet Red Army’s liberation of the Nazi Auschwitz death camp.Toughest BattleEarlier this week, Netanyahu was standing next to Trump and praising his peace plan as a “historic” opportunity to annex swaths of West Bank territory. With Issachar’s release — she’ll be flying back home with him on his plane, Israeli media reported — he now has another triumph to brandish as he faces the toughest battle of his political life.Victory eluded him in two inconclusive elections last year, and he’s started framing the March 2 vote as a contest between a prime minister burnishing Israel’s security, economy and global standing, and the inexperience of former military chief Benny Gantz, a political novice.His campaign also showcases Israel’s recent natural gas deals with Egypt and Jordan, for which he takes credit.As of late Wednesday, Netanyahu’s achievements hadn’t pushed his Likud party past Gantz’s Blue and White bloc in the polls, though neither man is expected to have enough support to form a majority government and break Israel’s political stalemate.(Updates with Issachar departing Russia in fifth paragraph.)\–With assistance from Henry Meyer, Alex Sazonov and Jake Rudnitsky.To contact the reporters on this story: Ilya Arkhipov in Moscow at iarkhipov@bloomberg.net;Yaacov Benmeleh in Moscow at ybenmeleh@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Pierre Paulden at ppaulden@bloomberg.net, Tony Halpin, Paul AbelskyFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.


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Hungary to build more prisons to tackle overcrowding, halt inmates’ lawsuits

Hungary will begin an ambitious prison-building program in an attempt to stem a tide of costly lawsuits by inmates complaining of overcrowding and inhumane conditions, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Friday. Orban accused “business-savvy lawyers” of exploiting the conditions to launch 12,000 lawsuits against the Hungarian state for breaking EU prison standards, leading to penalties of 10 billion forints ($33 million) in total. Orban, who has often come under fire from the European Union and rights groups over his perceived erosion of the rule of law since he took power in 2010, announced plans for more prisons to reduce the prison overcrowding and disarm “malignant lawyers”.


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Pope Francis promises to help Argentina in debt crisis, president says

Argentine President Alberto Fernandez said Pope Francis had promised him in a meeting to do everything he could to help with his homeland’s debt crisis. Fernandez, who was sworn in last month, met Francis privately for about 45 minutes in the papal library. “The pope is helping us a lot and I appreciate it because he is an Argentine worried about his homeland,” Fernandez told reporters.


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Israel hits targets in Gaza after militants fire 3 rockets

Israel launched airstrikes on militant targets in the Gaza Strip shortly after Palestinians fired three rockets into Israel, two of which were intercepted, the military said Friday. There were no reports of casualties or major damage from the exchange of fire overnight, which came amid heightened tensions after President Donald Trump released his Mideast plan, a U.S. initiative aimed at ending the conflict that heavily favors Israel and was rejected by the Palestinians. The Israeli military said Palestinian militants had also launched “explosive balloons” toward Israel and that a sniper had shot an observational antenna.


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Hillary Clinton refusing to be served $50m defamation lawsuit, Tulsi Gabbard lawyer claims

Hillary Clinton’s representatives have refused to accept legal papers relating to the $50 million defamation lawsuit filed against her by Tulsi Gabbard, according to the Hawaii congresswoman’s lawyer.Ms Gabbard, who is currently seeking the Democratic party’s 2020 presidential nomination, filed the suit against Ms Clinton after the former secretary of state and 2016 presidential candidate insinuated that she was “the favourite of Russians”.


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Bloomberg Says He Won’t Accept Contributions to Make the Debates

(Bloomberg) — Michael Bloomberg reaffirmed Thursday that he won’t be accepting contributions just to qualify for the Democratic presidential debates.The Democratic National Committee has required candidates to have a certain number of individual donors to qualify for debates, and Bloomberg is self-funding his campaign. The DNC has said candidates could make the Feb. 7 debate in New Hampshire by winning at least one pledged delegate in Monday’s Iowa caucuses, but the former New York mayor is not competing in the early nominating contests.“I always said I’d like to participate in the debates. But the rules are the rules, and it’s up to the Democratic Party to set those rules,” Bloomberg told reporters after a speech in Washington, according to The Hill.Some Democrats who believe that Bloomberg is avoiding scrutiny by not participating in televised debates with other candidates are pushing the party to allow the billionaire on stage. Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, a group that’s endorsed Elizabeth Warren, has said he’s proposed that the party add an exception for candidates who exceed some of the other criteria, such as doing very well in a number of recognized polls.Bloomberg is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News.Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar told MSNBC this week that she would welcome Bloomberg to the debate stage.“I’d be fine with him being on the debate stage because I think that instead of just putting your money out there, he’s actually got to be on the stage, and be able to go back and forth so that voters can evaluate him in that way,” Klobuchar said.But Bloomberg has said he won’t accept even token $1 donations just to qualify for the debate stage because he’s never accepted contributions and doesn’t want the appearance he can be bought. He has said he made his fortune building a business that allows him to spend money on the race and issues he cares about, and that his rivals had the same opportunity but are using money from contributors who “expect something from them.”This post is part of Campaign Update, our live coverage from the 2020 campaign trail.To contact the reporter on this story: Mark Niquette in Columbus at mniquette@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Wendy Benjaminson at wbenjaminson@bloomberg.net, Max BerleyFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.


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