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First Public Trump Impeachment Hearing Changes No Minds in Washington

A day of testimony in the impeachment inquiry targeting U.S. President Donald Trump changed no minds in Washington, with his critics convinced as ever that he abused his office by pushing Ukraine for political investigations of Democrats in the U.S. and his staunchest allies unwavering in their opinion that he did nothing wrong.Trump declared on Twitter, “This Impeachment Hoax is such a bad precedent and sooo bad for our Country!”….that the House Democrats have done since she’s become Speaker, other than chase Donald Trump.” This Impeachment Hoax is such a bad precedent and sooo bad for our Country!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) Speaker of the House, Democrat Nancy Pelosi, talks to reporters on the morning after the first public hearing in the impeachment probe of President Donald Trump, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Nov. 14, 2019.”The bribe is to grant or withhold military assistance in return for a public statement of a fake investigation into the elections. That’s bribery,” Pelosi said at a news conference. “What the president has admitted to and says it’s perfect, I say it’s perfectly wrong. It’s bribery.”Trump called Wednesday’s testimony from two career U.S. diplomats detailing his efforts to get Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to open the investigation of Biden “a joke.” The U.S. leader delighted in retweeting comments from supporters, including Congressman Mark Meadows’s assessment that the hearing was “a MAJOR setback for the unfounded impeachment fantasy.”But Democratic Congressman Jerrold Nadler, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee that could soon push for Trump’s impeachment, called the day’s testimony “pretty damning.” However, Nadler said he would remain open-minded “for the moment” on whether articles of impeachment should be written.  White House adviser Kellyanne Conway told CNN, “The president was very placid. I’ll tell you why. There was nothing new yesterday.”FILE – White House adviser Kellyanne Conway talks with reporters outside the White House, in Washington, Nov. 7, 2019.She dismissed the importance of the day’s major news from the first of several days of the public impeachment inquiry, only the fourth against a U.S. president in the country’s 243-year history.William Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, testified that an aide of his overheard a cell phone conversation at a Kyiv restaurant on July 26 in which Trump asked Gordon Sondland, a million-dollar Trump political donor and now the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, about whether Ukraine was opening “the investigations” he wanted about Biden, his son Hunter Biden’s work for a Ukrainian natural gas company and a debunked theory that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election Trump won. The U.S. intelligence community concluded Russia was behind the election meddling.The overheard conversation occurred a day after Trump from the White House asked Zelenskiy in a half-hour call for “a favor” — the investigations of the Bidens — at a time when he was blocking release of $391 million in military aid to Ukraine that it needed to help fight pro-Russian separatists in the eastern part of the country.FILE – U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a bilateral meeting with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on the sidelines of the 74th session of the U.N. General Assembly in New York, Sept. 25, 2019.Taylor said his aide, David Holmes, told him that Sondland said he believed Trump was more concerned about the investigations of the Bidens, which Trump personal attorney Rudy Giuliani was pursuing, than anything else in Ukraine.Democratic Congresswoman Jackie Speier, a member of the House Intelligence Committee conducting the impeachment inquiry, called the previously undisclosed phone conversation “so explosive.”But Trump adviser Conway said, “You’re calling that evidence, respectfully. In a real court of law we’d not be referring to something as evidence that is, oh, someone on my staff recalled overhearing a conversation between someone else and the president where they think they heard the president use the word investigations. This is not what due process and the rule of law in our great democracy allows.”Trump said he knew “nothing” about the alleged Kyiv call from Sondland.FILE – U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland arrives at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Oct. 17, 2019.Impeachment investigators are interviewing Holmes, the Taylor aide, on Friday, while Sondland is set to testify before the impeachment inquiry next Wednesday. Sondland has already testified for hours in private behind closed doors, telling investigators that he told an aide to Zelenskiy that Ukraine would not get the military assistance unless the Ukrainian leader promised publicly that it would initiate the Biden investigations.Trump at one point called Sondland a “‘great American,” but after he revised his testimony to say there were conditions on the Ukraine aid, Trump contended, “I hardly know the gentleman.”Trump has denied a quid pro quo with Zelenskiy – release of the military aid in exchange for the Biden investigations – and described his July 25 call with Zelenskiy as “perfect.” After a 55-day delay, Trump released the military assistance on Sept. 11 without Ukraine undertaking the Biden investigations.Trump’s Republican supporters say the fact that he released the aid without Ukraine investigating the Bidens is prime evidence there was no quid pro quo. They also pointed to the testimony from Taylor and George Kent, the State Department’s top Ukraine overseer, that they have had no personal interactions with Trump during the months that the Ukraine drama has played out.Trump called the diplomats “NEVER TRUMPERS,” but both denied the characterization and cited their long service in the diplomatic corps under both Republican and Democratic presidents.FILE – Former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch (C) arrives on Capitol Hill, in Washington, Oct. 11, 2019.The House Intelligence Committee is now turning its attention to Friday’s testimony from Marie Yovanovitch, a former U.S. ambassador to Kyiv who was ousted from her posting earlier this year by the Trump administration months before her tour of duty was set to end.Her dismissal, according to career diplomats who watched helplessly as it unfolded, came after Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney he had assigned to oversee Ukraine affairs outside normal State Department channels, pushed for her removal, viewing her as an impediment to getting Ukraine to undertake the Biden investigations.Trump called Yovanovitch “bad news” in his July call with Zelenskiy.Next week, the impeachment panel is calling eight more witnesses, including two on Tuesday who listened in as Trump talked with Zelenskiy — Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who serves as director for European affairs on the White House’s National Security Council, and Jennifer Williams, a foreign affairs aide to Vice President Mike Pence.Political analysts in Washington say the Trump impeachment drama could last for several months. If Trump is impeached by a simple majority in the House, perhaps by the end of the year as appears possible, a trial would be held in January in the Republican-majority Senate, where a two-thirds vote would be needed for his conviction and removal from office.The time frame could bump up against the first Democratic party presidential nominating contests starting in February, when voters will begin voting on who they want to oppose Trump when he seeks a second four-year term in the November 2020 national election. Six Democratic senators are among those running for the party’s presidential nomination, but could be forced to stay in Washington to sit as jurors in the 100-member Senate as it decides Trump’s fate, rather than campaign full-time for the presidency.Trump’s removal remains unlikely, with at least 20 Republicans needed to turn against him and vote for his conviction. To date, while a small number of Republicans have criticized Trump for his actions on Ukraine, no Republican senator has called for his removal from office via impeachment, a drastic action that has never occurred in U.S. history. 

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GOP Senators Confronted Erdogan Over Video, Participants Say

A band of GOP senators rebuffed Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s effort to depict anti-Islamic State Kurd forces as terrorists in a contentious Oval Office meeting, as the White House allies took a far harder line against Erdogan than did President Donald Trump.
                   
Participants said Erdogan played a propaganda video for Republican senators attending Wednesday’s meeting, drawing a rebuke from Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham and others.
                   
Graham said Thursday that he asked Erdogan, “do you want me to get the Kurds to play a video about what your forces have done?”
                   
The lawmakers also told Erdogan that he is risking economic sanctions by going ahead with a new Russian anti-aircraft missile system.
                   
The exchange behind the scenes was far more confrontational than the reception Trump gave Erdogan in public.

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Turkey Deports American Islamic State Suspect to US

Turkey said Thursday that it is deporting an American who is a suspected member of Islamic State to the U.S.Turkey’s interior ministry said 39-year-old Mohammad Darwis B is being repatriated after being stuck for several days in a no-man’s land between Turkey and Greece.The ministry said the U.S. agreed to allow him to return to the U.S. after the U.S. initially refused to accept him.His return to the U.S. comes after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met in Washington Wednesday with U.S. President Donald Trump.Turkey has initiated a campaign to deport foreign IS members who are detained in Turkey or Syria, since Turkey invaded parts of northeast Syria to oust Syrian Kurdish fighters from the border area. 

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Ex-Governor Deval Patrick Announces 2020 Presidential Bid

Former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick is making a late entry into the Democratic presidential race.Patrick announced his bid Thursday in an online video, saying, “I am today announcing my candidacy for president of the United States.”Patrick made history as the first black governor of Massachusetts and has close ties to former President Barack Obama and his network of political advisers. But he faces significant fundraising and organizational hurdles less than three months before voting begins.Patrick’s announcement comes as some Democrats worry about the strength of the party’s current field of contenders. Another Democrat — former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg — is also weighing a last-minute bid for the party’s nomination. Bloomberg has taken steps toward launching a last-minute presidential campaign, filing candidate papers in Alabama and Arkansas. Even 2016 nominee Hillary Clinton this week said in a BBC interview that she is “under enormous pressure from many, many, many people to think about it,” adding that she has no such plans but still would “never, never, never say never.”The moves reflect uncertainty about the direction of the Democratic contest with no commanding front-runner. Joe Biden entered the race as the presumptive favorite and maintains significant support from white moderates and black voters, whose backing is critical in a Democratic primary. But he’s facing spirited challenges from Patrick’s home-state senator, Elizabeth Warren, and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, progressives whose calls for fundamental economic change have alarmed moderates and wealthy donors.Patrick could present himself as a potential bridge across the moderate, liberal and progressive factions — as candidates like Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Kamala Harris and Sen. Cory Booker are trying to do. 

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Two US Diplomats: Trump Wanted Ukraine Probes to Help Him Politically

U.S. President Donald Trump became the third president in modern U.S. history to face open impeachment hearings Wednesday. Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives called two key State Department witnesses to begin making the case that Trump abused the power of his office by allegedly pressing Ukraine for information that would help him in the 2020 election.  VOA’s Congressional correspondent Katherine Gypson has more on the first day of hearings and Republican response from Capitol Hill.
 

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Appeals Court Again Backs House Request for Trump Tax Documents

A U.S. appeals court said on Wednesday it would not revisit an October decision backing a U.S. House of Representatives subpoena issued to President Donald Trump’s accounting firm for his financial records.The 8-3 vote by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, declining the Republican president’s request to rehear arguments that the subpoena to Mazars LLP was illegitimate, brings Democrats closer to shedding light on his business interests and how he built his fortune.In a statement, Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow said the president would appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.The House Oversight Committee subpoenaed Mazars this year, saying it needed the records to determine if Trump complied with laws requiring disclosure of his assets, and to assess whether those laws needed to be changed.While campaigning for the presidency in 2016, Trump broke with a decades-old convention of candidates releasing their tax returns publicly.Trump sued the House panel in April, arguing that its subpoena exceeded limits on Congress’s investigative power.He said the true motive for the subpoena was to expose private financial information “with the hope that it will turn up something that Democrats can use as a political tool against the President.”A lower court judge ruled against Trump in May, saying the documents might assist Congress in passing laws and performing other core functions.The May decision was the first time a federal court waded into the tussle about how far Congress can go in investigating Trump and his business affairs, and marked an important victory for House Democrats.A three-judge panel of D.C. circuit judges, in a 2-1 ruling, upheld the lower court judge in October.”Contrary to the president’s arguments, the committee possesses authority under both the house rules and the constitution to issue the subpoena, and Mazars must comply, Judge David Tatel wrote on behalf of the majority.Judge Neomi Rao, who was appointed by Trump to the D.C. appeals court, dissented from the October decision.Rao and another Trump appointee to the court, Gregory Katsas, voted to rehear the case, Wednesday’s order showed. They were joined by Karen Henderson, an appointee of former President George H.W. Bush.   

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$134 Billion Deficit in October for US Government

The U.S. government recorded a $134 billion budget deficit in October, the first month of the new fiscal year, the Treasury Department said Wednesday.That compared to a budget deficit of $100 billion in the same month last year, according to the Treasury’s monthly budget statement.Analysts polled by Reuters had forecast a $133 billion deficit for the month.Unadjusted receipts last month totaled $246 billion, down 3% from October 2018, while unadjusted outlays were $380 billion, a rise of 8% from the same month a year earlier.The U.S. government’s fiscal year ends in September each year. Fiscal 2019 saw a widening in the deficit to $984 billion, the largest budget deficit in seven years, a result of the Trump administration’s decision to cut taxes and increase government spending.Those figures reflected the second full budget year under U.S. President Donald Trump, a Republican, and a time when the country had an expanding tax base with moderate economic growth and an unemployment rate near a 50-year low.When adjusted for calendar effects, the deficit for October remained at $134 billion compared with an adjusted deficit of $113 billion in October 2018.
 

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Esper: US Could Alter Military Drills to Boost North Korea Talks

Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Wednesday that he is open to the possibility of altering American military activities in South Korea if it would help advance a diplomatic deal with North Korea to eliminate its nuclear program.In an interview with reporters flying with him to Seoul, Esper said any changes in military exercises or training would be done in ways that did not jeopardize troops’ combat preparedness. And he said they would be done in consultation with the South Korean government.FILE – U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper speaks to reporters during a briefing at the Pentagon, Aug. 28, 2019.He would not say what specific adjustments might be contemplated. The U.S. and South Korea already scaled back their 2018 and 2019 military exercises in the hope that it would help move North Korea toward agreement to give up its nuclear weapons. So far that has not worked.”We will adjust our exercise posture, either more or less, depending on what diplomacy may require,” Esper said, adding, “We have to be open to all those things that empower and enable our diplomats” in the nuclear talks.North Korea has long objected strongly to large-scale American and South Korean military exercises, which it calls preparations for an invasion of the North. President Donald Trump also has criticized the exercises as too costly and provocative, but U.S. military commanders consider them crucial to deterring North Korea and ensuring that any invasion by the North would fail.”As we consider adjusting — either dialing up or dialing down — exercises, training, stuff like that, we want to do that in close collaboration with our (South) Korean partners, not as a concession to North Korea but, again, as a means to keep the door open to diplomacy,” he said.Esper said he takes seriously North Korea’s statement that the end of this year is a deadline for the U.S. to change its approach to the nuclear negotiations.He said he is hopeful that diplomacy will prevail, given the history of tensions on the Korean Peninsula since the North Koreans began launching intercontinental-range ballistic missiles that could eventually be nuclear-armed.FILE – A missile is launched during testing at an unidentified location in North Korea, in this undated image provided by KCNA, Aug. 7, 2019.Esper recalled his concern about the prospects for war on the peninsula when he became Army secretary in 2017.”We were on the path to war,” he said. “It was very clear to me because the Army was making preparations.” He did not elaborate.The U.S. has about 28,000 troops in South Korea, and Esper said they must be ready to fight the North at a moment’s notice.Esper also said that during his talks in Seoul this week with his South Korean counterpart, he will express U.S. concern about Seoul’s stated plan to withdraw from an intelligence-sharing pact with Japan. Esper said the dispute between Tokyo and Seoul is only helping North Korea and China.
 

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Republicans Defend Trump in Public Impeachment Hearings  

Republicans contended Wednesday that U.S. President Donald Trump did not improperly pressure Ukraine to investigate political rivals for political advantage, with Representative Devin Nunes declaring the accusations were based on “zero evidence” and that Democrats “made it up.” 
 
At the urging of Trump, Republican lawmakers mounted a vigorous defense of the president’s actions in dealing with Ukraine over several months, and they asserted that the Democrats’ case for impeachment against Trump was nonexistent. Trump’s political supporters on the House Intelligence Committee focused on the fact that the president released military aid that Ukraine wanted, without opening investigations of former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, which Trump had urged Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to undertake. 
 
The Democratic-led impeachment inquiry against Trump entered a new phase Wednesday as witnesses began testifying publicly after weeks of closed-door testimony.   
 Top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine William Taylor, right, and career Foreign Service officer George Kent arrive to testify before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Nov. 13, 2019.Acting U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor and George P. Kent, deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, were the first to testify at the open hearing. Taylor said a member of his staff overheard Trump on a July phone call with U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland inquire about “the investigations.” 
 
The call was said to have taken place on July 26 at a restaurant, a day after Trump asked Zelenskiy in a call to investigate a political rival, Biden, a potential rival in the 2020 presidential election, and his son Hunter, at a time when the Trump administration was withholding critical military aid to Ukraine. 
 
“Following the call with President Trump, the member of my staff asked Ambassador Sondland what President Trump thought about Ukraine,” Taylor testified. “Ambassador Sondland responded that President Trump cares more about the investigation of Biden,” for which Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuiliani, was pressing. 
 
Taylor acknowledged under questioning from Representative Jim Jordan, an Ohio Republican and steadfast Trump supporter, that he met with Zelenskiy three times last summer, but that linkage of U.S. military aid to Ukraine was never mentioned. 
 
The impeachment probe was triggered by a whistleblower complaint related to concerns about the July 25 phone call. 
 
Before Republicans questioned the witnesses, the party took to social media to criticize the hearing. 
 
A tweet from House Oversight Committee Republicans said: FACT CHECK: Neither Ambassador Taylor nor George Kent have first-hand knowledge of a quid pro quo from the President. We must hear from the whistleblower. https://t.co/nXnFytSkrb— Oversight Committee Republicans (@GOPoversight) November 13, 2019House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California contended, “Both of the Democrats’ star witnesses just admitted that they were NOT on the July 25th call between Presidents Trump and Zelenskiy. Everything they are saying today is 2nd or 3rd or 4th-hand knowledge. Democrats are trying to impeach the president based on a game of telephone.” 
 
In the lead-up to Wednesday’s testimony, a Republican strategy memo circulating at the Capitol outlined four defenses for Trump: that the July 25 call “shows no conditionality or evidence of pressure”; that both Zelenskiy and Trump have subsequently said there was no pressure during the call; that Kyiv was not aware at the time, only later, that U.S. military aid was being withheld; and that Trump eventually released the military aid on September 11 without the investigations of the Bidens being opened. 
 
“These four key points undercut the Democrat impeachment narrative that President Trump leveraged U.S. security assistance and a presidential meeting [with Zelenskiy at the White House] to force Ukraine to investigate the president’s political rivals,” the memo said. 
 
Trump has described his telephone call with Zelenskiy as “perfect,” and he is accusing Democrats of conducting a witch hunt, calling the entire impeachment inquiry a hoax. 
 
Some of Trump’s Republican supporters have said they don’t agree with asking a foreign government to investigate a political rival but they don’t believe it is an impeachable offense that could lead to his removal from office.  
 

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US Federal Reserve Chair Sees Steady Growth, Signals Pause in Rate Cuts

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell indicated Wednesday that the Fed is likely to keep its benchmark short-term interest rate unchanged in the coming months, unless the economy shows signs of worsening.But for now, in testimony before a congressional panel, Powell expressed optimism about the U.S. economy and said he expects it will grow at a solid pace, though it still faces risks from slower growth overseas and trade tensions.“Looking ahead, my colleagues and I see a sustained expansion of economic activity, a strong labor market, and inflation near our symmetric 2% objective as most likely,” Powell said in testimony before Congress’ Joint Economic Committee.Fed policymakers are unlikely to cut rates, Powell said, unless the economy slows enough to cause Fed policymakers to make a “material reassessment” of their outlook.The Fed cut short-term rates last month for the third time this year, to a range of 1.5% to 1.75%.“It now looks increasingly likely that the Fed will move to the sidelines for an extended period,” Andrew Hunter, an economist at Capital Economics, a forecasting firm, said.Powell’s testimony comes a day after President Donald Trump took credit for an “economic boom” and attacked the Fed for not cutting interest rates further. Powell and other Fed officials, however, argue that their rate cuts, by lowering borrowing costs on mortgages and other loans, have spurred home sales and boosted the economy.Powell was asked about negative interest rates, which Trump also called for Tuesday, and responded that they “would certainly not be appropriate in the current environment.”Negative rates occur “at times when growth is quite low and inflation is quite low, and you really don’t see that here,” Powell said.Other Fed officials have also questioned whether cutting rates below zero has actually succeeded in boosting growth in places like Europe and Japan, where central banks have pushed rates into negative territory.Despite Trump’s attacks, both Republican and Democratic lawmakers took a largely supportive and respectful approach to Powell. Several complimented him for the “Fed Listens” events the central bank has held around the country, which have sought input from a range of groups, including unions and nonprofits, on ways the Fed could update its monetary policy framework.Powell repeatedly demurred when Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, pressed him on how higher tax rates would affect the economy, including wealth taxes that have been proposed by Democratic presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders.But Powell did concede, under questioning from Cruz, that a ban on fracking would “not be a good thing for the economy.” Some Democrats have called for a fracking ban over environmental concerns about the controversial method for drilling for oil and gas.Recent data suggests that growth remains solid if not spectacular. The economy expanded at a 1.9% annual rate in the July-September quarter, down from 3.1% in the first three months of the year. The unemployment rate is near a 50-year low of 3.6% and hiring is strong enough to potentially push the rate even lower.Inflation, according to the Fed’s preferred gauge, is just 1.3%, though it has been held down in recent months by lower energy costs and most Fed officials expect it to move higher in the coming months.Yet Powell reiterated that higher tariffs from the Trump administration’s trade war with China and uncertainty over potential future duties have caused many businesses to delay or cut back on their investment spending in large equipment and buildings. That has slowed economic growth.“Uncertainty around future trade policy has been weighing on business sentiment,” Powell said. “It’s been a real distraction for management.”Powell on Wednesday also urged Congress to lower the federal budget deficit so that lawmakers would have more flexibility to cut taxes or boost spending to counter a future recession.“The federal budget is on an unsustainable path, with high and rising debt,” Powell said. “Over time, this outlook could restrain fiscal policymakers’ willingness or ability to support economic activity during a downturn.”Other Fed officials have voiced similar concerns. Patrick Harker, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, said Tuesday that the large deficit, and the constraints it imposes on Congress in the event of a recession, “is one of the things I do lose sleep over.”Powell also noted that with the Fed’s benchmark rate at historically low levels, the central bank will have less room to maneuver whenever the next downturn arrives.“Central banks around the world are going to have less room to cut in this new normal of low rates and low inflation,” he said.The Fed is exploring an alternative policy framework, Powell said, that it hopes will provide more flexibility. In typical recessions, the Fed cuts short-term rates by roughly 5 percentage points.Powell reiterated that the Fed believes the unemployment rate could fall further without necessarily pushing inflation higher, a view that suggests the central bank is a long way off from hiking rates.“The data is not sending any signal that the labor market is so hot or that inflation is moving up,” he said in response to a question from New York Rep. Carolyn Maloney, a Democrat and vice chair of the Joint Economic Committee. “What we have learned … is that the U.S. economy can operate at a much lower level of unemployment than many thought.”Historically, super-low unemployment has been seen as likely to push up inflation, as workers push for higher pay and companies offer greater salaries to find and keep workers.Powell’s testimony comes after many Fed officials in the past two weeks have voiced support for the Fed’s recent moves and expressed confidence in the economy. That contrasts with the Fed’s previous meetings when as many as three officials dissented.Most analysts forecast that the Fed will hold rates steady when it meets next month. But some economists expect growth will slow in the coming months and the Fed will likely have to cut again next year.
 

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North Korea Out of ‘Patience’ with Washington

North Korea intensified its demand Wednesday that the United States take steps by the end of this year to normalize relations, saying it is out of patience with Washington. “We, without being given anything, gave things the U.S. president can brag about, but the U.S. side has not yet taken any corresponding step,” said the statement from North Korea’s State Affairs Commission and circulated by its U.N. mission. “Now, betrayal is only what we feel from the U.S. side.”Diplomatic efforts to get North Korea to denuclearize have been largely stalled since a second summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in February, which was cut short with no agreement.FILE – U.S. and South Korean jets fly over South Korea during a joint military drill called Vigilant Ace, in this handout photo released by the South Korean Defense Ministry, Dec. 6, 2017.Pyongyang is especially upset that the U.S. and South Korean militaries plan to hold joint aerial exercises next month. The Pentagon said the routine drills, which involve aircraft and fighter jets, would go ahead but be scaled back this year. North Korea warned that such acts have put relations between the two countries “on the verge of a breakdown.” “Our official stand is that we can no longer remain an onlooker to such a reckless act of the U.S.,” the statement said. Since the two leaders met in Singapore at their first summit in June 2018, the U.S. has either suspended or scaled down the joint military exercises it holds with South Korea in order to enhance the atmosphere for denuclearization talks to continue.North Korea says the U.S. move is a violation of the joint statement adopted at that summit. “It is our intention and will to answer dialogue with dialogue and recourse to force in kind,” the statement said. “To look back on the past hours which we let them pass with patience, we no longer feel the need to exercise any more patience.”North Korea wants international economic and trade sanctions imposed on it lifted in exchange for progress on the denuclearization file.
 

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North Korea Issues Warning Over US-South Korea Drills

North Korea’s supreme decision-making body has lashed out at planned U.S.-South Korean military drills and warned that the United States will face a “bigger threat and harsh suffering” if it ignores North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s end-of-year deadline to salvage nuclear talks.The North’s State Affairs Commission said Wednesday that the drills would violate agreements between Kim and President Donald Trump on improving bilateral relations and compel North Korea to raise its war readiness.Kim is chairman of the commission, which he established in 2016 following years of efforts to consolidate his power and centralize governance.The statement is North Korea’s latest expression of displeasure over the military drills and slow pace of nuclear negotiations with Washington. The talks have stalled over disagreements on disarmament steps and sanctions relief. 

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North Korea Issues Warning Over US-South Korea Drills

North Korea’s supreme decision-making body has lashed out at planned U.S.-South Korean military drills and warned that the United States will face a “bigger threat and harsh suffering” if it ignores North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s end-of-year deadline to salvage nuclear talks.The North’s State Affairs Commission said Wednesday that the drills would violate agreements between Kim and President Donald Trump on improving bilateral relations and compel North Korea to raise its war readiness.Kim is chairman of the commission, which he established in 2016 following years of efforts to consolidate his power and centralize governance.The statement is North Korea’s latest expression of displeasure over the military drills and slow pace of nuclear negotiations with Washington. The talks have stalled over disagreements on disarmament steps and sanctions relief. 

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