Republicans have no unified argument in the impeachment inquiry of Donald Trump , in large part because they can't agree on how best to defend the president — or for some, if they should.
That would require a level of consensus that Trump's call with the Ukraine president was "perfect," as he insists. Or it would take a measure of GOP independence from Trump to suggest there may be a need to investigate.
Instead, it's every Republican for himself or herself.
Utah Sen. Mitt Romney says the president's actions toward Ukraine are "troubling." Other Republicans say the behavior may raise concerns, but it's not impeachable.
South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham calls the whole impeachment inquiry "B.S."
The result is a mishmash of GOP commentary spilling from Capitol Hill that may shield lawmakers, for now, from risky political choices, but leaves them with a disjointed defense of Trump as impeachment hearings push into the public realm this coming week.
"It's not good," said veteran GOP strategist Alex Conant. "Normally you want to establish the facts, get them out on their own terms, and build a message around that strategy. They're not doing any of that."
He added: "It's hard to rally people to your side without a coherent and sustainable message."
Early on, as the White House ceded the PR strategy to the president, Republicans in the House and Senate parted ways as they confronted the political threat posed by the Democrats' impeachment investigation.
As far back as mid-October, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., gathered his GOP colleagues in private and offered them advice on impeachment.
McConnell told Republican senators their best bet was to calibrate their own message about the impeachment inquiry to fit their political situation, according to two people familiar with the private meeting who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the closed-door session.
With a Power Point presentation, McConnell outlined the process ahead if the investigation moves to a vote in the House and trial in the Senate. But when it came time to broach what Republicans should say about impeachment, McConnell showed a preference for saying as little about it as possible.
McConnell suggested a couple of options. Senators could say they disagreed with the House process, he said, or they could simply say that as potential jurors in an eventual impeachment trial they wouldn't discuss it, according to the people familiar with the meeting.
It was the kind of political advice one would expect from the risk-averse leader as he tries to insulate his 53-seat GOP majority, including several senators up for reelection in 2020 in states such as Maine and Colorado where voters are split on Trump.
"That's what a good leader does — gives them the flexibility they need to respond. My problem is, given how egregious the president's conduct is, he's given them a pass," said Jim Manley, a veteran Democratic strategist.
"Most of these folks have got to know that what the president's doing is wrong, but they've made a cold-hearted, political decision right now it's best to stick with the president," he said.
At its core, the impeachment inquiry is based on what Democrats say is an improper quid pro quo — a "shakedown" — that Trump engaged in during his July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelesnkiy.
According to a White House rough transcript of the call and testimony from several government officials, Trump was withholding needed military aid the East European ally as he wanted Zelenskiy to investigate Trump's potential 2020 rival, Joe Biden, as well 2016 U.S. election interference.
In the House, where congressional district boundary lines have been drawn in a way that leaves Republicans barely exposed to voters with centrist or left-leaning views, GOP leaders are mounting a more fulsome, if shifting, defense of Trump.
GOP leader Kevin McCarthy of California says the president did nothing wrong on the call with Zelenskiy, and Trump's top allies in the House, including Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, the top Republican on a committee conducting the impeachment inquiry, are leading the daily arguments against Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and the Democrats.
Jordan is seen as the "chief messenger" for Republicans, said one senior House GOP aide who was not authorized to publicly discuss the strategy and spoke on condition of anonymity.
The House Republican message against impeachment has four distinct parts, according to this aide: The transcript of Trump's call with Zelenskiy shows the president did nothing wrong; several key witnesses testified that they don't have firsthand knowledge of what transpired; the Ukrainians didn't know the military aid was being upheld until it was publicly reported; and eventually the U.S. agreed to send the money to Ukraine.
It's a message being reinforced daily in the media by Jordan and other Trump surrogates, including Reps. Mark Meadows, R-N.C. and Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., who are also part of the inquiry panels, the person said.
What goes without saying, though, is that few Republicans lawmakers are willing to say the call was "perfect" or that there was "no quid pro quo," as Trump insists.
More often, they say a little of this, a little of that.
"There are perfectly appropriate quid pro quos and there are inappropriate quid pro quos," offered Sen. John Kennedy, R-La. "Just saying that there is a quid pro quo, at least based on my analysis of the evidence that I've seen so far, is a red herring."
Freed from his cell, former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva told thousands of jubilant supporters Saturday that the left can take back Brazil's presidency in the 2022 election.
Dressed in a black blazer and T-shirt, da Silva spoke from a stage outside the union near Sao Paulo that he once led and that served as the base for his political career. The crowd of red-clad supporters cheered and waved flags.
"We are going to do a lot of fighting. Fighting is not one day on, then three months off, then back. Fighting is every day," said da Silva, a 74-year-old who promised to bring the energy of a 30-year-old to the streets.
In his 45-minute speech, he spoke briefly of conservative President Jair Bolsonaro, who won the 2018 election after da Silva's corruption conviction barred him from running. Da Silva said Brazilians must accept the results of the democratic election and work to defeat the "ultra-right" in 2022.
He also called for solidarity with fellow South American countries and lambasted U.S. President Donald Trump, saying his border wall plan is unacceptable and aimed at keeping out poor people.
"Trump should resolve Americans' problems and not bother Latin Americans. He wasn't elected to be the world's sheriff," said da Silva, who in a Twitter post Friday backed U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign.
Brazil's Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that a person can be jailed only after all appeals to higher courts have been exhausted. Da Silva was released the next day, after 19 months imprisonment.
He is still appealing his conviction related to the alleged purchase of a beachfront apartment and remains entangled in other cases. He was also convicted by a lower court judge in a case involving ownership of a farmhouse in Atibaia, outside Sao Paulo.
If he loses his appeals in either conviction, he could be locked up again.
Da Silva has denied any wrongdoing and accused prosecutors and Sergio Moro, then a judge and now justice minister, of manipulating the case against him.
Moro said on Twitter earlier that the Supreme Court's decision should be respected, but Congress could alter the constitution to change when convicted criminals start serving their sentences.
Some Brazilian groups organized demonstrations in dozens of cities in support of the Bolsonaro administration, but turnout was low.
The president's son, Eduardo Bolsonaro, said on Twitter that da Silva's release will prompt people to set aside differences and unite against the Workers' Party, a sentiment that helped carry his father to the presidency.
Jair Bolsonaro had refrained from commenting on da Silva, but when asked by journalists about the case Saturday, the president responded: "He is free, but he still has all his crimes on his back."
Da Silva said he had a message for his opponents in power: "I want to say to them: I'm back."
Iraqi security forces killed six anti-government protesters and wounded more than 100 others on Saturday, pushing them back from three flashpoint bridges in central Baghdad, medical and security officials said.
Five of the protesters were killed by live ammunition, while the sixth died after being shot in the head with a tear gas canister. The Iraqi officials spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.
The current cycle of anti-government protests and the heavy-handed security crackdown has left more than 250 people dead. Mass protests erupted in Baghdad and across southern Iraq last month, calling for the overhaul of the political system established after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.
The deaths occurred Saturday as the protests intensified in the afternoon, when demonstrators tried to reach the three bridges spanning the Tigris River to the heavily fortified Green Zone, the seat of government. Protesters have tried to force their way across on an almost daily basis.
The protesters were pushed from the Sinak bridge to the nearby Khilani square, where 35 people were wounded, according to medical officials. Security forces also regained control of the nearby Ahrar and Shuhada bridges.
The day before, authorities found a bomb under the Sinak bridge and carried out a controlled explosion of it, according to state television.
In the southern city of Basra, three more protesters were killed overnight, raising the death toll there to eight since Thursday. Clashes with security forces also wounded 10 people in other parts of southern Iraq, including the city of Nasiriyah, according to security officials.
The demonstrators complain of widespread corruption, lack of job opportunities and poor basic services, including regular power cuts, despite Iraq's vast oil reserves. They have rejected government proposals for limited economic reforms, and instead called on the country's political leadership to resign, including Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi.
"We consider the peaceful protests of our people as among the most important events since 2003," Abdul-Mahdi said in a statement Saturday that vowed to meet the protesters' demands for wide-ranging reforms. He added that electoral reforms would be put forward soon along with "an important government reshuffle" in response to the protests against the sectarian system imposed in 2003, though the statement didn't provide further details.
Iraq's top Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, released a statement saying his office was not part of a deal reportedly reached to keep the prime minister in his post and put an end to the protests. Al-Sistani's office said the government should respond to protesters' demands, adding that the cleric's name was being used for "political exploitation."
In al-Sistani's Friday sermon, which was delivered by his representative Abdul Mahdi al-Karbalai, the top cleric said it is the responsibility of the security forces to ensure protests are peaceful and to avoid using excessive force against the demonstrators.
The prime minister also acknowledged Saturday that the government has been blocking access to the internet.
Shortly after the statement's release, internet on cellphones resumed for half an hour before being cut again.
Netblocks, a group that monitors worldwide internet access, reported a major shutdown by Iraqi authorities as of Monday, with usage in Baghdad and southern Iraq dropping to 19% of normal levels. It said the internet was partially restored early Tuesday, but that "some networks are still offline and social media and messaging apps remain blocked or degraded."
Authorities shut down internet access and blocked social media sites several times during the protests in October, but Netblocks said the latest shutdown was the most severe yet.
Germany marked the 30th anniversary Saturday of the opening of the Berlin Wall, a pivotal moment in the events that brought down Communism in eastern Europe.
Leaders from Germany, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic attended a ceremony at Bernauer Strasse — where one of the last parts of the Berlin Wall remains — before placing roses in the once-fearsome barrier that divided the city for 28 years.
"The Berlin Wall, ladies and gentlemen, is history," German Chancellor Angela Merkel said later at a memorial service inside a small chapel near where the Wall once stood. "It teaches us: No wall that keeps people out and restricts freedom is so high or so wide that it can't be broken down."
Noting the cruelty of the East German regime — which had torn down a previous church on the former death strip site so snipers could get a better shot at people fleeing to the West — Merkel paid tribute to those who were killed or imprisoned during the Communist dictatorship and insisted that the fight for freedom worldwide isn't over.
"We are bereft of excuses, challenged to do our part for freedom and democracy," she said.
In a statement issued by his office, U.S. President Donald Trump congratulated Germany on its anniversary, saying that "courageous men and women from both East and West Germany united to tear down a wall that stood as a symbol of oppression and failed socialism for more than a quarter of a century."
"The United States and our allies and partners remain steadfast in our unwavering allegiance to advancing the principles of individual liberty and freedom that have sustained peace and spawned unparalleled prosperity," he added.
Speaking to European leaders at Bernauer Strasse, head of the Berlin Wall memorial site, Axel Klausmeier, recalled the images of delirious Berliners from East and West crying tears of joy as they hugged each other on the evening of Nov. 9, 1989 .
The collapse of the Berlin Wall was brought about largely by peaceful protests and a stream of people fleeing East Germany that piled pressure on the country's Communist government to open its borders to the West and ultimately end the nation's post-war division.
Thirty years on, Germany has become the most powerful economic and political force on the continent, but there remain deep misgivings among some in the country about how the transition from socialism to capitalism was managed.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel acknowledged this in a recent interview with daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung, saying that "with some things, where one might have thought that East and West would have aligned, one can see today that it might rather take half a century or more."
She also recalled that Nov. 9 remains a fraught date in German history, as it also marks the anniversary of the so-called Night of Broken Glass, an anti-Jewish pogrom in 1938 that foreshadowed the Nazi's Holocaust.
Light installations, concerts and public debates were planned throughout the city and other parts of Germany to mark the fall of the Wall, including a concert at Berlin's iconic Brandenburg Gate.
Among those who had come to Berlin to celebrate were members of the Trabant Club Middle Hesse, an association that promotes the old East German car affectionately known as the Trabi.
Jens Schmidt, who fled East Germany before the fall of the Wall by driving his Trabi to Hungary and then across the open border to the West, said the club has many young members for whom learning to repair the simple but sturdy vehicles can be a lesson in history and civics, too.
"The team spirit," he said. "It was stronger back then."
British political leaders swapped blame Saturday over floods that have drenched parts of England as the deluge became an issue in the campaign for the Dec. 12 election.
Opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn was visiting parts of northern England that were soaked by overflowing rivers after as much as 4.4 inches (112 mm) of rain — more than a month's worth — fell in one day. One woman died when she was swept away by floodwaters.
The rain eased Saturday but the Environment Agency said seven severe "danger to life" flood warnings remained in place along the swollen River Don.
Corbyn said the Conservative government had "failed to prepare communities by investing in flood prevention."
"This is what a climate and environment emergency looks like," he said. "Every year we don't act means higher flood waters, more homes ruined and more lives at risk."
Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited the area on Friday, and insisted the government was investing in flood defenses.
"We are seeing more and more serious flooding — perhaps because of building, almost certainly because of climate change," Johnson said. "We need to prepare and we need to be investing in those defenses, and that's what this government is doing."
Johnson pushed for the December election — taking place more than two years early — in the hope of breaking Britain's political impasse over Brexit.
All 650 seats in the House of Commons are up for grabs. Johnson says that if voters give the Conservatives a majority he will "get Brexit done" and take the U.K. out of the European Union by the current deadline of Jan. 31.
Labour says it will negotiate a new divorce deal with the EU and then let voters decide between leaving on those terms and remaining in the bloc.
Both big parties are also promising more money for infrastructure, health care and public services.
In the latest sign that Brexit uncertainty is destabilizing the country, credit rating agency Moody's downgraded Britain's outlook from stable to negative on Friday.
It said Brexit had caused "inertia and, at times, paralysis" that had undermined Britain's institutional strength. Moody's did not lower Britain's Aa2 rating, but said the U.K. economy could be "more susceptible to shocks than previously assumed."