By Robert A. Vella

Before getting to today’s main story, the House Judiciary Committee is currently hearing testimony from four legal and constitutional scholars concerning the drafting of impeachment charges against President Trump.  In this morning’s session, three of the scholars informatively detailed how and why America’s founding fathers incorporated impeachment into the U.S. Constitution, its intended use to protect the rule of law from abuses of executive power and to ensure free and fair democratic elections, and the specific offenses committed by President Trump (i.e. bribery as an abuse of power, obstruction of justice, and contempt of Congress).  The fourth scholar ignored these substantive arguments and instead warned about the politicization of impeachment.  There was a memorable moment in which one of the scholars resoundingly chastised the lead Republican member for questioning her knowledge of the facts.  I’ll cover this hearing more thoroughly in a later post, either tonight or tomorrow.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is a military alliance formed in 1949 to defend the democratic nations of Europe and North America primarily against aggression from the former Soviet Union.  In recent years, it has stood in opposition to Russia under authoritarian strongman Vladimir Putin.  But, since the election of U.S. president Donald Trump, NATO has been thrown into disarray as Trump has forged personal and unofficial relationships with Putin, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and other undemocratic governments in the region (e.g. Saudi Arabia) which run contrary to the longstanding goals and policies of the alliance.

Trump’s pro-Russia animosity towards NATO has caused European leaders to isolate him from their shared interests, and Trump’s buffoonish behavior and worsening domestic troubles have so weakened his standing overseas that European leaders are now openly mocking him.  Earlier today, an embarrassed Trump apparently left the summit meeting rather abruptly (see:  Trump leaving NATO early after video of world leaders mocking him goes viral).

Here’s the news from the NATO summit plus a story on deteriorating relations between the U.S. and China:

From:  NATO leaders caught on camera mocking Trump

The leaders of Britain, Canada, France and the Netherlands have  been caught on camera at a Buckingham Palace reception mocking US President Donald Trump’s lengthy media appearances ahead of Wedensday’s NATO summit.

The footage, shot by the British host’s camera pool on Tuesday evening and spotted and subtitled by Canada’s CBC, set the tone for the allies’ summit in Watford, just outside London.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson can be heard asking France’s President Emmanuel Macron: “Is that why you were late?”

From:  Broken bromance: Trump and Macron clash in lengthy bickerfest at NATO summit

One of the world’s most unlikely world leader bromances appears to be over.

President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron clashed Tuesday in a remarkable question-and-answer session with reporters that was broadcast around the globe. From U.S.-French trade to Turkey’s invasion of northern Syria and the Islamic State’s posture there to a clear disagreement about the role of NATO, the two leaders who once wooed one another jousted and interrupted one another for nearly 45 minutes during an alliance meeting in London.

From:  For Trump and Europe, a Surprising Role Reversal

LONDON — President Trump has always relished throwing European leaders off balance, antagonizing allies, embracing insurgents and setting off a frantic contest for how best to deal with him. Now, as Europe undergoes dizzying political changes of its own, it is throwing Mr. Trump off balance.

In London for a NATO summit meeting, Mr. Trump was subjected to a rare tongue-lashing on trade and terrorism by President Emmanuel Macron of France, who dismissed his attempt to lighten the mood with a curt, “Let’s be serious.” Earlier in the day, Mr. Trump held his own tongue about British politics, heeding Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s plea not to barge into Britain’s election at the 11th hour.

For a president who prides himself on being the Great Disrupter, it was a startling turnabout, one that underscored how Europe’s shifting landscape — with an ambitious president in France, a lame-duck leader in Germany and a breakaway populist in Britain — has scrambled the calculus for Mr. Trump.

From:  AP FACT CHECK: Trump’s misstatements at NATO summit

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump on Tuesday wholly misrepresented the U.S. record on international trade disputes, incorrectly accused House Democrats of denying him lawyers in impeachment proceedings and dismissed as a mysterious “rumor” his own statement from months ago about Britain’s health system.

From:  NATO unity on the line as Turkey row festers

What should have been a celebration of NATO’s 70th birthday has been overshadowed by bitter rows about money and the future strategy of the alliance.

Last year, the Western allies’ get-together was derailed by US President Donald Trump’s demand for greater European defence spending, but 2019’s provocateur was France’s Emmanuel Macron.

The French president has called for a renewed strategic dialogue with Moscow and demanded that Turkey explain itself over its assault — backed by Syrian rebels Paris sees as extremists — on Kurdish forces and its purchase of the Russian S-400 air defence system.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan meanwhile has threatened to hold up NATO efforts to bolster the protection of the Baltic republics against Russia unless the allies brand the Kurdish militias who defeated the IS group in Syria as “terrorists”.

From:  U.S. House Passes Xinjiang Bill, Prompting Threat From China

The U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved legislation that would impose sanctions on Chinese officials over human rights abuses against Muslim minorities, prompting Beijing to threaten possible retaliation just as the world’s two largest economies seek to close a trade deal.

The bill is an amended version of the Senate’s S. 178 to support the Uighurs, a Muslim ethnic group in the Xinjiang region of western China, and it passed Tuesday, on a vote of 407 to 1. China’s foreign ministry on Wednesday urged the U.S. to stop the bill and vowed to further respond if the legislation progresses, without providing any details.

Ahead of the vote, Chinese state media warned that the government could release a list of “unreliable entities” that may lead to sanctions against U.S. companies. The Xinjiang bill follows legislation supporting Hong Kong protesters signed into law last week by President Donald Trump.

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