A senior official of U.S. State Department said on Monday that Saudi Arabia's sentencing of five people to death over the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was "an important step" to hold the perpetrators accountable.
"Today's verdicts were an important step in holding those responsible for the terrible crime accountable," the official said in a press briefing anonymously.
"We've encouraged Saudi Arabia to undertake a fair and transparent judicial process, and we will continue to do so," the official added.
Saudi Public Prosecution earlier in the day announced that five people had been sentenced to death over the case of Khashoggi, and three others were given jail terms.
Spokesperson of the Saudi Public Prosecution Shalaan Al Shalaan noted that the former Deputy Intelligence Chief Ahmed al-Asiri was released for insufficient evidence. Saud al-Qahtani, the advisor at the Royal Court, was investigated in the case but was not charged.
Khashoggi was murdered inside the Saudi consulate in Turkey in October 2018, and a number of top Saudi officials were arrested in connection with the case. The Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud also ordered to restructure the intelligent authority.
The White House is projecting confidence that it will prevail in a constitutional spat with Democrats over the nature of the Senate's impeachment trial, which threatens to deprive President Donald Trump of the swift acquittal he seeks.
The House voted Wednesday to impeach Trump, who became only the third president in U.S. history to be formally charged with "high crimes and misdemeanors." But Speaker Nancy Pelosi has delayed sending the articles of impeachment to the Senate until Republicans provide details on witnesses and testimony in hopes of shaping the upcoming trial. Democratic and Republican leaders in the chamber remain at an impasse over the question of whether witnesses will be called, but the White House believes Pelosi won't be able to hold out much longer.
"She will yield. There's no way she can hold this position," Marc Short, the chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence, said Sunday. "We think her case is going nowhere.''
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., have been at an impasse over the issue of new testimony, leaving open the possibility of a protracted delay until the articles are delivered. Trump complained Saturday that the holdup was "unfair" and claimed that Democrats were violating the Constitution, as the delay threatened to prolong the pain of impeachment and cast uncertainty on the timing of the vote Trump is set to claim as vindication.
Schumer told reporters in New York that "the Senate is yearning to give President Trump due process, which means that documents and witnesses should come forward. What is a trial with no witnesses and no documents. It's a sham trial."
Short called Pelosi's delay unacceptable, saying she's "trampling" Trump's rights to "rush this through, and now we're going to hold it up to demand a longer process in the Senate with more witnesses."
"If her case is so air-tight ... why does she need more witnesses to make her case?'' Short said.
White House officials have highlighted Democrats' arguments that removing Trump was an "urgent" matter before the House impeachment vote, as they seek to put pressure on Pelosi to send the articles of impeachment to the Senate.
McConnell has all but promised an easy acquittal of the president, and he appears to have secured Republican support for his plans to impose a framework drawn from the 1999 impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton. That trial featured a 100-0 vote on arrangements that established two weeks of presentations and argument before a partisan tally in which then-minority Republicans called a limited number of witnesses.
That has sparked a fight with Pelosi and Schumer, who are demanding trial witnesses who refused to appear during House committee hearings, including acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and former national security adviser John Bolton.
A close Trump ally, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said Pelosi would fail in her quest "to get Mitch McConnell to bend to her will to shape the trial.'' Graham is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and was a House manager, comparable to a prosecutor, during the Senate's impeachment trial of Clinton.
"She'll eventually send the articles because public opinion will crush the Democrats,'' said Graham. Asked whether he expected witnesses in the Senate, he replied: : "No, I don't."
At one point, Trump had demanded the testimony of witnesses of his own, like Democrats Joe Biden and his son Hunter, and the intelligence community whistleblower whose summer complaint sparked the impeachment probe. But he has since relented after concerted lobbying by McConnell and other Senate Republicans who pushed him to accept the swift acquittal from the Senate and not to risk injecting uncertainty into the process by calling witnesses.
The Senate's second-ranking Democrat, Dick Durbin of Illinois, said his party is looking for a signal from McConnell that he hasn't ruled out new witnesses and documents. But Durbin acknowledged that Democrats may not have much leverage in pushing a deal.
He criticized both Republican and Democratic senators who have already announced how they will vote in the trial, saying the Constitution requires senators to act as impartial jurors. Republicans hold a 53-vote majority in the Senate.
"The leverage is our hope that four Republican senators will stand up, as 20 years ago, we saw in the impeachment of Bill Clinton, and say, this is much bigger than our current political squabbles," Durbin said.
The Constitution requires a two-thirds majority in the Senate to convict in an impeachment trial — and Republicans have expressed confidence that they have more than enough votes to keep Trump in office.
Short spoke on "Fox News Sunday," Durbin appeared on CNN's "State of the Union," and Graham was on Fox News Channel's "Sunday Morning Futures."
One person has been charged in connection with a shooting early Sunday at a house party that left 13 people wounded, four of them critically, Chicago police said.
The shooting stemmed from a dispute at the memorial party, Chief of Patrol Fred Waller said at a news conference. He said shots were first fired just after 12:30 a.m. The party was being held in honor of someone who was killed in April.
Chicago police announced Sunday evening that Marciano White, 37, was charged with unlawful use of a weapon by a felon. White was arrested a short distance from where the party was being held, authorities said.
The victims range in age from 16 to 48 and suffered "different and various gunshot wounds to their bodies." Waller said police recovered a revolver.
"It looked like they were just shooting randomly at people as they exited the party," Waller said.
Waller did not provide details on the person who was being memorialized, including that person's identity. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who visited victims on Sunday, said the party was celebrating the birthday of a person who had been killed.
Waller described three different shooting scenes at the residential location in the city's Englewood neighborhood, a predominantly low-income stretch of the city roughly 10 miles (16 kilometers) southwest of downtown that has high crime. The shooting started inside, then more shots were fired as people began spilling out of the house. Shots were also fired at a third place nearby, Waller said.
He described the shooting as an "isolated incident."
The shooting comes as the city has been on the verge of closing out 2019 with sizable drops in shootings and homicides for the third straight year. Through roughly mid-December, about 475 people were killed, compared with 549 in 2018, which is a 14% drop. In 2016, the number of homicides was roughly 750, according to Chicago police data.
The declines happened citywide, including in historically high-crime areas. Still, Chicago still has more violent crime than New York and Los Angeles. Both cities had about 1,800 shooting victims combined, while Chicago has had about 2,500 this year, according to the Chicago Tribune, which tracks shootings.
Police have credited Chicago's drop in crime to the use of technology used to predict where shootings might occur, while experts also credit anti-violence programs that offer jobs and gang conflict mediation.
Lightfoot, who met with victims at the University of Chicago Hospital, urged those with information about the shooting to come forward, even if they want to do so anonymously.
"It's a terrible tragedy and frankly an incredible act of cowardice," she told reporters. "People in that house know what happened and we've urged them to overcome their fears and come forward with information."
President Donald Trump complained Saturday about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's delayed transmission of the articles of impeachment to the Senate, which may delay a trial in the GOP-controlled chamber.
"It's so unfair," Trump said, days after he was impeached by the House, as he spoke at a conservative student conference organized by the group Turning Point USA. "They are violating the Constitution," he added.
Pelosi has refused so far to send the articles of impeachment to the Senate, in part to provide more leverage to Democrats in that chamber as they seek to negotiate the rules for the trial proceedings. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Democratic leader Chuck Schumer remain at an impasse over whether there will be new witnesses and testimony in the trial.
Still, Trump is expected to be acquitted of both charges in the Senate, where Republicans have the majority, in what will be only the third presidential impeachment trial in U.S. history. Proceedings are expected to begin in January.
Trump lashed out at the Democrats who supported impeachment, accusing them of trying to "overthrow" the 2016 election.
"They call themselves Democrats, but they really don't believe in democracy," he said.
Trump lauded House Republicans for remaining in lockstep against impeachment as a few Democrats crossed the aisle to oppose it.
"We have to say it was a bipartisan vote," Trump said. "No Republican went to their side."
Speaking to thousands of enthusiastic supporters, many wearing his campaign paraphernalia, Trump encouraged young conservatives to stand up to the "radical left," as he sought to harness the nation's cultural and divisions for political gain.
"The Democrat Party is trying to shred our Constitution, tear down our history and erase the nation's borders," Trump said.
"Each of you are on the front lines of defending our way of life," he added. "The radical left doesn't stand a chance against young conservatives who put America first."
Trump spoke on the first day of his more than two-week winter vacation at his private club in Palm Beach.
Trump was introduced by conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh, who encouraged the high school students in attendance not to believe in climate change and for conservatives to attack Trump's critics, not spend time defending him.
"The people that need to be defending themselves are the people attacking him and the people attacking us," Limbaugh said. "The president doesn't need to be defended. He needs to be supported."
President Donald Trump is in sunny Florida after his historic impeachment, while plans for his speedy trial back in Washington remained clouded. Senate leaders jockeying for leverage have failed to agree on procedures for the trial.
Trump is still expected to be acquitted of both charges in the Senate, where Republicans have the majority, in what will be only the third presidential impeachment trial in U.S. history. Proceedings are expected to begin in January.
But the impasse between Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer over whether there will be new witnesses and testimony — along with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's refusal so far to send the articles of impeachment to the Senate — have left the situation unresolved.
"Nancy Pelosi is looking for a Quid Pro Quo with the Senate. Why aren't we Impeaching her?" Trump tweeted, mocking one of the accusations against him before heading out for a two-week stay at his Mar-a-Lago resort for the holidays.
McConnell, Trump's most powerful GOP ally in the Senate, welcomed the president's emerging defense team Friday for a walk-through of the Senate chamber. White House counsel Pat Cipollone and legislative affairs director Eric Ueland came to Capitol Hill to assess logistics.
A six-term veteran of the Senate, McConnell is acting very much though he has the votes to ensure a trial uncluttered by witnesses — despite the protests of top Democrats Pelosi and Schumer.
"We have this fascinating situation where, following House Democrats' rush to impeachment, following weeks of pronouncements about the urgency of this situation, the prosecutors have now developed cold feet," McConnell, R-Ky., said late Thursday as senators left town for the year.
"We'll continue to see how this develops, and whether the House Democrats ever work up the courage to take their accusations to trial."
McConnell has all but promised an easy acquittal of the president. He appears to have united Republicans behind an approach that would begin the trial with presentations and arguments, lasting perhaps two weeks, before he tries drawing the proceedings to a close. The Senate will reconvene Jan. 3.
That has sparked a fight with Pelosi and Schumer, who are demanding trial witnesses who refused to appear during House committee hearings, including acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and former national security adviser John Bolton.
"They should have witnesses and documentation," Pelosi told The Associated Press. "This could be something very beneficial to the country, if the facts are there."
Schumer's leverage is limited, though his party can force votes on witnesses once a trial begins. He appears to be counting on public opinion, and political pressure on vulnerable Republican incumbents like Susan Collins of Maine, to give Democrats the 51 votes they need.
"You wouldn't get them to say, 'I'm going to vote to kick President Trump out of office,'" Schumer said in an interview. "But you might get them to vote for witnesses, you might get them to vote for documents, and we'll see where it falls from there."
McConnell isn't budging. After a 20-minute meeting with Schumer on Thursday, he declared the talks at an impasse and instructed senators to return on Jan. 6 ready to vote.
McConnell appears ready to impose a framework drawn from the 1999 trial of Bill Clinton, who was acquitted of two articles of impeachment. That trial featured a 100-0 vote on arrangements that established two weeks of presentations and argument before a partisan tally in which Republicans called a limited number of witnesses, including Monica Lewinsky for a videotaped deposition.
McConnell said Thursday: "I continue to believe that the unanimous bipartisan precedent that was good enough for President Clinton ought to be good enough for this president, too. Fair is fair."
There's a risk that Schumer's protests — which started Sunday with a letter to McConnell requesting four witnesses — could cement GOP unity. Endangered Republican senators including Cory Gardner of Colorado and Martha McSally of Arizona need strong turnout by the GOP base to win, and will be hard-pressed to take Schumer's side.
Trump, meanwhile, has been hoping the trial will serve as an opportunity for vindication. He continues to talk about parading his own witnesses to the chamber, including former Vice President and 2020 Democratic candidate Joe Biden and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., who led the fact-finding phase of the impeachment investigation.
There is little appetite for witnesses among McConnell and other key Senate GOP allies, however.