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U.S. AG Barr faces wrath of Democrats for skipping 2nd day of hearings – National

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U.S. AG Barr faces wrath of Democrats for skipping 2nd day of hearings National

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WASHINGTON — Attorney General William Barr skipped a House hearing Thursday on special counsel Robert Mueller’s Trump-Russia report, escalating an already acrimonious battle between Democrats and President Donald Trump’s Justice Department. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Barr had already lied to Congress in other testimony and called that a “crime.”


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AG William Barr skips hearing with U.S. House Judiciary Committee

Democrats raised the prospect of holding Barr in contempt after the department also missed the House Judiciary Committee deadline to provide it with a full, unredacted version of Mueller’s report and its underlying evidence. Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler of New York said that if the attorney general doesn’t provide the committee “with the information it demands and the respect that it deserves, Mr. Barr’s moment of accountability will come soon enough.”

Barr’s decision to avoid the hearing, made after a disagreement with the committee over questioning, and the Democratic pushback brought both sides closer to a court battle — one that could pit Trump against House Democrats well into the 2020 campaign season. The standoff further heightened tensions sparked by Trump’s refusal to comply with House investigations, with some senior Democrats hinting that a continued blockade could nudge them closer to impeachment.

WATCH: Nancy Pelosi says Barr lied to Congress during testimony on Mueller report





Nadler said he wouldn’t immediately issue a subpoena for Barr’s testimony but would first focus on getting the full Mueller report, likely including a vote holding Barr in contempt of Congress.

With Barr absent, Democrats convened a short hearing that included an empty chair with a place card set for Barr. Shortly afterward, Pelosi increased the tensions further. In a reference to the attorney general’s testimony last month, Pelosi said Barr “was not telling the truth to the Congress of the United States — that’s a crime.”

At a hearing on April 9, Florida Rep. Charlie Crist asked Barr about reports that members of Mueller’s team believed he had failed to adequately portray their findings in a four-page memo that was released before the full report.

READ MORE: Robert Mueller’s letter of complaint was ‘a bit snitty’, U.S. AG William Barr says

Crist asked at the hearing, “Do you know what they are referencing with that?” Barr responded, “No, I don’t,” and went on to say Mueller’s team probably wanted “more put out” about what they had found.

Democrats have raised questions about that testimony since it was revealed this week that Mueller had written Barr two weeks earlier, on March 27, complaining that the attorney general’s memo “did not fully capture the context, nature and substance” of his work.

Barr said Wednesday his answer was not misleading because he had been in touch with Mueller, rather than members of his team, and that the concerns were mostly about process and not substance. Within minutes of Pelosi’s comments, Justice Department Spokeswoman Kerri Kupec called her words “reckless, irresponsible and false.”

Pelosi also said the administration’s refusal to respect subpoenas by a House committee is “very, very serious” and noted that ignoring congressional subpoenas was one of the articles of impeachment against former President Richard Nixon.


As Democrats portrayed Barr as untruthful, they sought to speak to Mueller. Nadler said the panel hoped the special counsel would appear before the committee on May 15 and the panel was “firming up the date.” It wasn’t clear whether Barr would eventually negotiate an appearance with the House panel.

While a contempt vote would make a strong statement, it is unlikely to force the Justice Department to hand over the report. A vote of the full House on contempt would send a criminal referral to the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia — a Justice Department official who is likely to defend the administration’s interests. But even if the U.S. attorney declines to prosecute, Democrats could pursue other avenues in court or even issue fines against witnesses who fail to appear.

“In the past they had a House jail,” said Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., a member of the Judiciary panel. “I don’t think we’re going to go that far, but courts have upheld that.”

At Barr’s no-show hearing, Democratic members of the committee had fun with the spectacle, passing around fried chicken and placing a prop chicken by Barr’s unused microphone to underscore their contention that he was afraid to appear. One lawmaker jokingly looked under the desk to make sure Barr wasn’t there.

Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., placed a prop chicken on the witness desk for Attorney General William Barr after he does not appear before a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, May 2, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Republicans were not amused by the antics or Nadler’s tough talk.

“The reason Bill Barr isn’t here today is because the Democrats decided they didn’t want him here today,” said the top Republican on the panel, Georgia Rep. Doug Collins. Nadler had demanded that staff attorneys, in addition to lawmakers, be allowed to question Barr. Barr said he wouldn’t attend under that condition.

The attorney general’s cancellation meant he would avoid another round of sharp questioning after testifying Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Democrats on the panel contended that Barr was protecting Trump after he assessed Mueller’s report on his own in the early memo and declared there wasn’t enough evidence that the president had committed obstruction of justice. Mueller didn’t charge Trump with obstruction but wrote that he couldn’t exonerate him, either.

Barr strongly defended himself against those criticisms and also Mueller’s, saying at one point that Mueller’s March letter to him was “snitty.”

READ MORE: Full text of Mueller’s letter to Barr criticizing report summaries

The attorney general’s confrontational approach is in line with the White House, which argued in an April 19 letter that Trump has the right to instruct advisers not to testify before congressional oversight probes. The letter from White House legal counsel Emmet Flood to Barr, which was obtained by The Associated Press on Thursday, argues that Trump would, if necessary, assert executive privilege to prevent advisers from testifying.

Trump has vowed to battle “all of the subpoenas” as multiple committees have sought to speak with administration officials or obtain documents relevant to his policies and finances. The president, his business and his administration have already filed lawsuits to prevent the turning over of Trump’s financial records and have declined to comply with a deadline to provide his tax returns.

Trump signaled Thursday that he would not allow aides, including former White House counsel Don McGahn, to testify before Congress, telling Fox News: “They’ve testified for many hours, all of them. I would say, it’s done.”


He insisted he provided “total transparency,” to Mueller, and said Democrats “shouldn’t be looking anymore. It’s done.”

Democrats have signalled they won’t back down and will take steps — including in court — to get the White House to comply.

But advisers to the president have suggested that any legal fight, even one that ends in defeat, would likely extend well into the 2020 campaign and allow them to portray the probes as political.

In the April letter, Flood blasted the Mueller report as defective and political. He called the 448-page report a “prosecutorial curiosity — part ‘truth commission’ report and part law school exam paper.”

Associated Press writers Jonathan Lemire, Alan Fram, Michael Balsamo, Eric Tucker, Laurie Kellman, Jill Colvin and Padmananda Rama contributed to this report.



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FOREIGN NEWS

Catholic Bishops react to military coup in Mali

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Catholic Bishops react to military coup in Mali

Contrary to the expectations of the people, the leadership of the Episcopal Conference of Mali (CEM) has termed the Tuesday, August 18 military coup in the West African nation as “regrettable” and “a big failure for our democracy” and called for a change of mentality if the country has to put an end to coups.

In an interview with ACI Africa Wednesday, August 19, made available to RECOWACERAO NEWS AGENCY, RECONA, the President of CEM, Bishop Jonas Dembélé said that the governance challenges the country is facing can be managed through dialogue.

“The military coup that led to the ousting of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta is regrettable because we are in a state of law and democracy. This is the second time that Mali has had a military coup as a result of the way in which the country is governed. It is a big failure for our democracy even if there were reasons for it,” Bishop Dembélé told ACI Africa.

“It is true that our country has serious challenges including bad governance, the poor management of the economy, corruption, insecurity and so on,” Bishop Dembélé said and probed, “Why is it that we Malians have not managed to engage in dialogue to be able to discuss these problems and face up to these challenges responsibly?”

“Our leaders, our people lack transparency, they hate those who speak the truth and advocate for good governance. This mentality must change for our country to move on,” the Prelate told ACI Africa August 19.

Bishop Dembélé who is a frontline member of RECOWA-CERAO urged the military officials “to ensure a return to democracy as promised but most especially ensuring the new leadership of the country put the people first and tackle the security challenges facing the nation.”

Asked about the role of the Church in the current crisis, the 57-year-old Prelate noted, “For us the Catholic Church in Mali, our role is to preach peace; our role is to preach dialogue. We shall continue in this path of dialogue for peace just like Cardinal Jean Zerbo and some religious leaders initiated.”

“In a state of law, power is not in the hands of certain individuals but to the people. The anger of our people led to this crisis, but we must work for peace and reconciliation in Mali,” Bishop Dembélé said.

He continued in recollections, “The Bishops in Mali have always issued messages before every election in our country sounding the alert and inviting the government to organize transparent elections, ensure good governance and better management of resources.”
“But it seems our messages are never taken into consideration that is why we find ourselves in this situation today,” the Local Ordinary of Kayes Diocese told ACI Africa and added, “If the opinion of the Episcopal Conference of Mali is needed to mediate in bringing back stability and peace in the country, then we are ready.”

As a way forward, the Bishop urged the people of God in Mali to “seek the path to conversion” and to accept dialogue in the spirit of truth and honesty.
“We all want change in our

country, but this change can only be possible if individually we seek the path to conversion. It is for Malians be they Muslims or Christians or members of traditional religion, to do an examination of conscience and accept personal and community conversion in order to engage in sincere dialogue,” he said.

The Malian Prelate added, “Now there is this coup d’état to demand change we really wonder where change should come from. As long as we don’t change our behavior, our mentality, we will always have a repeat of the current situation.”

On Tuesday, August 18, President Keita announced his resignation and dissolved parliament hours after mutinying soldiers detained him at gunpoint, Aljazeera reported.
“For seven years, I have with great joy and happiness tried to put this country on its feet. If today some people from the armed forces have decided to end it by their intervention, do I have a choice? I should submit to it because I do not want any blood to be shed,” President Keita said August 18 during the televised address to the nation.

Rev. Fr. George Nwachukwu
RECOWACERAO NEWS AGENCY, RECONA

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Harris accepts VP nomination

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Harris accepts VP nomination

Senator Kamala Harris formally accepted the Democratic nomination for vice president on Wednesday following a scathing speech by former President Barack Obama, who said the fate of the nation” depends entirely on the outcome of this election.”

Both Mr. Obama and Harris stressed the importance of voting, with Harris saying “we’re all in this fight together.” Harris sounded an optimistic note by highlighting her personal history and the promise of America, saying she was “so inspired by a new generation.”

“Make no mistake, the road ahead will not be not easy,” she said. “We will stumble. We may fall short. But I pledge to you that we will act boldly and deal with our challenges honestly. We will speak truths. And we will act with the same faith in you that we ask you to place in us.” She called Mr. Trump a “predator” in a speech that came after Mr. Obama issued his most forceful rebuke of his successor to date, saying Mr. Trump “hasn’t grown into the job because he can’t.”

“This president and those in power — those who benefit from keeping things the way they are — they are counting on your cynicism,” Mr. Obama said. “They know they can’t win you over with their policies. So they’re hoping to make it as hard as possible for you to vote, and to convince you that your vote doesn’t matter.

That’s how they win. That’s how they get to keep making decisions that affect your life, and the lives of the people you love. That’s how the economy will keep getting skewed to the wealthy and well-connected, how our health systems will let more people fall through the cracks. That’s how a democracy withers, until it’s no democracy at all.”

Mr. Obama and Hillary Clinton, speaking earlier in the night, both said they had hoped Mr. Trump would rise to the occasion. But they both stressed what they called his failures while in office, with Mr. Obama saying Mr. Trump has shown “no interest in treating the presidency as anything but one more reality show that he can use to get the attention he craves.”

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Mali coup leaders vow to hold elections as history repeats itself

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Mali coup leaders vow to hold elections as history repeats itself

The Malian soldiers who forced President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita to resign in a coup promised early Wednesday to organize new elections after their takeover was swiftly condemned by the international community.

In a statement carried overnight on state broadcaster ORTM, the mutinous soldiers who staged Tuesday’s military coup identified themselves as the National Committee for the Salvation of the People led by Colonel Major Ismael Wagué.

“With you, standing as one, we can restore this country to its former greatness,” Wagué said, announcing that borders were closed and that a curfew was going into effect from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m

The news of Keita’s departure was met with jubilation by anti-government demonstrators in the capital, Bamako, and alarm by former colonial ruler France and other allies and foreign nations.

The U.N. Security Council scheduled a closed meeting Wednesday August 19, 2020 afternoon to discuss the unfolding situation in Mali, where the U.N. has a 15,600-strong peacekeeping mission. Keita, who was democratically elected in a 2013 landslide and re-elected five years later, still had three years left in his term.

But his popularity had plummeted, and demonstrators began taking to the streets calling for his ouster in June.

West African regional bloc ECOWAS had sent mediators to try and negotiate a unity government but those talks fell apart when it became clear that the protesters would not accept less than Keita’s resignation.

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