U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday held a phone conversation with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson over issues of trade and burden-sharing among NATO allies, the White House said in a statement.
"The two leaders again reaffirmed their commitment to strengthening the Special Relationship through a robust bilateral free trade agreement once the United Kingdom leaves the European Union," said the statement.
Trump in the phone call also stressed the need for NATO allies to robustly fund their defenses, according to the statement.
Speaking on a British radio show last week, Trump said a trade deal between Washington and London would be impossible after Brexit under the withdrawal terms Johnson reached with the European Union.
Trump, who repeatedly complained about NATO allies' free-riding on the U.S. military, is expected to visit London early December to attend the NATO Leaders' Meeting.
House Democrats on Tuesday released the Transcripts of closed-door testimony by two more witnesses in an impeachment inquiry into U.S. President Donald Trump.
The testimony was from Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, and Kurt Volker, the Trump administration's former special envoy to Ukraine, both believed to be key witnesses in the impeachment inquiry over the White House's alleged efforts to withhold a military aid to pressure Ukraine to investigate former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and his son.
Sondland sent House investigators an addition to his testimony on Tuesday, saying that he now recalls a conversation in Warsaw with a top aide to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, during which he said that resumption of the military aid likely would not happen until Ukraine had provided a public anti-corruption statement.
According to his testimony provided last month, Sondland said Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani "kept repeating" Ukrainian gas firm Burisma, in which Biden's son Hunter Biden had served on the board of directors, on their calls, while adding that the former New York City mayor never mentioned the Bidens.
Volker, in his testimony, acknowledged he was out of the loop on matters related to the administration's moves on Ukraine and that he "never got a clear explanation as to what happened" as regard to the withholding of the military aid.
The former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine also said it was correct that no "quid pro quo" had been communicated to him.
In a tweet on Tuesday, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said the testimony of Sondland and Volker "show the progression of Trump's efforts to press Ukraine into the service of his own personal political goals."
The White House, by contrast, claimed the release of their transcripts shows "there is even less evidence" for impeachment than previously thought.
Press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement that Sondland's testimony didn't "identify any solid source" for his presumption that "there was a link to the aid" and that Volker's testimony "confirms there could not have been a quid pro quo."
"No amount of salacious media-biased headlines, which are clearly designed to influence the narrative, change the fact that the President has done nothing wrong," she added.
The impeachment inquiry, which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi initiated in late September, has entered into a new phase as Democrats began releasing transcripts of closed-door depositions with former and current Trump administration officials on Monday.
Trump has denied any wrongdoing or a "quid pro quo." The White House has refused to cooperate with the impeachment inquiry.
San Francisco Mayor London Breed claimed victory Tuesday night in municipal elections while voters appeared to be snubbing out a bid to overturn a city ban on e-cigarette sales.
Breed was ahead of five little-known challengers with some 60 percent of the votes when she declared victory about 90 minutes after the polls closed.
"Thank you for honoring me with four more years as mayor!" she told a cheering crowd, adding: "I grew up in this city and in poverty and I never thought that in my life that I would have the opportunity to serve in this capacity."
Breed has been in office since winning a special election last year following the sudden death of Mayor Ed Lee. She was seeking her first four-year term.
Voters also took up Proposition C, which was put on the ballot by e-cigarette maker Juul Labs. The measure would have overturned a new city law to ban sales of e-cigarettes until they have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Early results showed the "no" votes with an insurmountable lead.
San Francisco-based Juul dumped $12 million into the campaign before halting financial support two months ago.
"Make no mistake, this was yet another clear repudiation of Big Tobacco's e-cigarettes," said James P. Steyer, CEO of Common Sense, a nonprofit that opposed the proposition. "It sends a national message to Juul that we won't sit idly by while they addict a new generation to nicotine with kid-friendly flavors, high-tech gadgets, and manipulative marketing."
Breed is the first African American woman elected mayor of San Francisco, a politically liberal city of nearly 890,000 grappling with high housing costs, an increase in homelessness and a drug crisis.
The former president of the Board of Supervisors was raised by her grandmother in the city's public housing and has made equity a priority in a city that has become deeply inequitable. She wants to build housing and provide more shelter and services for people who are homeless, addicted to drugs or have a mental illness.
The mayor said in an interview with The Associated Press before the election that she is frustrated by people who want more housing but don't want more units in their neighborhood.
"We want more housing, and we know we need more housing," she said. "We can't have it both ways."
Pushing to help a Republican governor hold onto his office, President Donald Trump barnstormed for Gov. Matt Bevin of Kentucky on Monday, delivering a raucous election eve rally in which he delivered a series of stinging attacks on Democrats and the impeachment inquiry that is imperiling his presidency.
The campaign finale at Rupp Arena in Lexington reinforced one of Bevin's main themes throughout his bitter, closely fought reelection campaign — his alliance with Trump, whose popularity eclipses the governor's in the Bluegrass State. Trump praised Bevin and linked the governor's contest against Democrat Andy Beshear, the state's attorney general, with his own battle against possible impeachment, saying a victory in Kentucky would signal the rise of "an angry majority that will vote the do-nothing Democrats the hell out of office."
"We are sending a signal to the rest of the country, to the rest of the world what the Republican party stands for," said Trump. "While we are creating jobs and killing terrorists the radical Democrats are going totally insane."
"Beshear doesn't represent you, he represents the Washington swamp and represents the same people who are trying to overthrow the last election," declared Trump, before adding of Bevin, "He's such a pain in the ass, but that's what you want."
If Bevin loses, Trump said, "they will say Trump suffered the greatest defeat ever. You can't let that happen to me!"
As he so often does, Trump turned the rally meant for a fellow Republican into a venue to air his own grievances against a litany of familiar foes, including the news media and the House Democrats who voted last week to open an impeachment inquiry into the president's push for Ukraine to investigate one of his political foes, former Vice President Joe Biden.
"With last week's vote, the Democrats have declared war on democracy itself," Trump declared. "In their crazed thirst for power, the Democrats are trying to tear our country apart."
The impeachment inquiry also loomed large for many in the packed arena: A few dozen supporters seated directly behind the president wore matching "Read the transcript" t-shirts, echoing Trump's claim that the memo released by the White House of his call with Ukrainian President Volodymir Zelenskiy showed he did nothing wrong.
Democrats believe the memo shows evidence of a quid pro quo in which Trump offered military aid to Ukraine in exchange for the probe into Biden and his family.
Trump supporters packed Rupp Arena, the famed home of the University of Kentucky basketball team, and roared when Trump saluted Bevin. Beshear, meanwhile, spent the day campaigning in western Kentucky and, despite Trump's presence, focused on state issues.
The challenger stuck to his themes of improving public schools, creating better-paying jobs and protecting health care and public pensions. Beshear planned to finish the day with an evening rally in Louisville, a Democratic stronghold where he needs a big turnout.
"People try to distract us with national issues and get us thinking about things other than our well-being," Beshear said in a Monday radio interview on WKDZ. "Our families should be doing so much better. And I'm going to make sure they do."
The bitter Kentucky contest is being watched closely for early signs of how the increasingly partisan impeachment furor in Washington might affect Trump and other Republican incumbents in 2020. Among those with an especially keen interest: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who's on the ballot himself next year in Kentucky.
McConnell briefly addressed the rally crowd, but his Senate colleague, fellow Republican Rand Paul, tore into the investigation and demanded that Biden's son Hunter, who worked for a Ukrainian gas company, be subpoenaed. And he called for the public identification and subpoena of the anonymous whistleblower who first expressed concern about Trump's call with Zelenskiy. U.S. whistleblower laws exist to protect the identities and careers of people who bring forward accusations of wrongdoing by government officials.
Trump also drew raucous applause for declaring that, hours earlier, his administration had given official notice that the United States was withdrawing from the Paris climate change agreement. Trump had signaled early in his term that he would pull out of the multinational treaty, but the United States was not permitted to officially begin withdrawing until Monday.
Bevin has repeatedly tried to link himself to Trump's popularity among Kentuckians in ads, tweets and speeches throughout the campaign. It was part of his strategy to nationalize the race and rev up his conservative base. The governor called for a crackdown on illegal immigration and a ban on "sanctuary cities." He denounced the impeachment probe. And he touted his opposition to abortion and support for gun rights.
The election will settle a grudge match between Bevin and Beshear that spanned their terms in office. Wielding his authority as the state's top lawyer, Beshear filed a series of lawsuits challenging Bevin's executive actions to make wholesale changes to boards and commissions and sought to block Bevin-backed pension and education initiatives. In the highest-profile case, a Beshear lawsuit led Kentucky's Supreme Court to strike down a Bevin-supported pension law on procedural grounds last year.
It started with a warning to watch her back, that people were "looking to hurt" her. From there, former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch told House investigators, it escalated into a chilling campaign to fire her as President Donald Trump and his allies angled in Eastern Europe for political advantage at home.
Testimony from Yovanovitch, released Monday, offered a first word-for-word look at the closed-door House impeachment hearings. Inside, Democrats and Republicans are waging a pitched battle over what to make of Trump's efforts to get Ukraine's leaders to investigate political rival Joe Biden, Biden's son and Democratic activities in the 2016 election.
The transcript came out on the same day that four Trump administration officials defied subpoenas to testify, acting on orders from a White House that is fighting the impeachment investigation with all its might. Among those refusing to testify: John Eisenberg, the lead lawyer at the National Security Council and, by some accounts, the man who ordered a rough transcript of Trump's phone call with Ukraine's leader moved to a highly restricted computer system.
During nine hours of sometimes emotional testimony, Yovanovitch detailed efforts led by Rudy Giuliani and other Trump allies to push her out of her post. The career diplomat, who was recalled from her job in May on Trump's orders, testified that a senior Ukrainian official told her that "I really needed to watch my back."
While the major thrust of Yovanovitch's testimony was revealed in her opening statement, Monday's 317-page transcript provided new details.
Yovanovitch offered significant threads of information including the possibility that Trump was directly involved in a phone call with Giuliani, the president's personal lawyer, and the Ukrainians dating back to January 2018. And she pushed back on Republican suggestions that she harbored opposition to Trump.
She had been recalled from Kyiv before the July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy that's at the center of the impeachment inquiry. Later, she was "surprised and dismayed" by what she saw in the transcript of the call — including that Trump had called her "bad news." He also said that "she's going to go through some things."
"I was shocked," Yovanovitch said, to see "that the president would speak about me or any ambassador in that way to a foreign counterpart."
Asked about her as he left on a campaign trip Monday, Trump had a more equivocal comment: "I'm sure she's a very fine woman. I just don't know much about her."
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said transcripts from the hearings are being released so "the American public will begin to see for themselves." Two were released Monday, and more are coming.
Republicans have accused Democrats of conducting a one-sided process behind closed doors.
But the transcripts show GOP lawmakers were given time for questioning, which they used to poke at different aspects of the impeachment inquiry. Some Republicans criticized the process as unfair, while others tried to redirect witnesses to their own questions about Biden's work on Ukraine corruption issues while he was vice president.
In public, some Republicans say the president's actions toward Ukraine, though not ideal, are certainly not impeachable.
Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, the top Republican on the Oversight committee, defended Yovanovitch's ouster as clearly within the president's prerogative.
"President Trump has the authority to name who he wants in any ambassador position. That's a call solely for the president of the United States as the commander in chief," Jordan said.
Yovanovitch was recalled from Kyiv as Giuliani pressed Ukrainian officials to investigate baseless corruption allegations against Biden and his son Hunter, who was involved with Burisma, a gas company there.
Giuliani's role in Ukraine was central to Yovanovitch's testimony. She said she was aware of an interest by the Trump lawyer and his associates in investigating Biden and Burisma "with a view to finding things that could be possibly damaging to a presidential run," as well as investigating the 2016 election and theories that it was Ukraine, and not Russia, that interfered.
However, asked directly if Giuliani was promoting investigations on Burisma and Biden, Yovanovitch said, "It wasn't entirely clear to me what was going on."
More directly, she drew a link between Giuliani and two businessmen -- Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, who have been indicted in the U.S. on charges stemming from campaign donations -- as part of the campaign to oust her. She understood they were looking to expand their business interests in Ukraine "and that they needed a better ambassador to sort of facilitate their business' efforts here."
Yovanovitch said was told by Ukrainian officials last November or December that Giuliani was in touch with Ukraine's former top prosecutor, Yuriy Lutsenko, "and that they had plans, and that they were going to, you know, do things, including to me."
She said she was told Lutsenko "was looking to hurt me in the U.S."
The diplomat said she sought advice from Gordon Sondland, Trump's ambassador to the European Union, after an article appeared in The Hill newspaper about Giuliani's complaints against her. Sondland told her, "'You need to go big or go home," advising her to "tweet out there that you support the president."
Yovanovitch said she felt she could not follow that advice as a nonpartisan government official.
The former envoy stressed to investigators that she was not disloyal to the president. She answered "no" when asked point blank if she'd ever "badmouthed" Trump in Ukraine, and said she felt U.S. policy in Ukraine "actually got stronger" because of Trump's decision to provide lethal assistance to the country — military aid that later was held up by the White House as it pushed for investigations into Trump's political foes.
Long hours into her testimony, Yovanovitch was asked why she was such "a thorn in their side" that Giuliani and others wanted her fired.
"Honestly," she said, "it's a mystery to me."
Yovanovitch, still employed by the State Department, is in a fellowship at Georgetown University.
She told the investigators that the campaign against her, which included an article that was retweeted by Donald Trump Jr., undermined her ability to serve as a credible ambassador and she wanted Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to issue a statement defending her. But no statement was issued.
The impeachment panels also released testimony Monday from Michael McKinley, a former senior adviser to Pompeo.
McKinley, a 37-year career diplomat, testified that he decided to resign from his post as a senior adviser to Pompeo after his repeated efforts to get the State Department to issue a statement of support for Yovanovitch after the transcript of the Trump-Zelenskiy phone call was released. "To see the impugning of somebody I know to be a serious, committed colleague in the manner that it was done raised alarm bells for me," he said.
McKinley said he was already concerned about politicization at the State Department, and that the refusal to publicly back Yovanovitch convinced him it was time to leave.