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Donald Trump calls off House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s ‘public relations event’ citing shutdown

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Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn faces heat over second referendum option and African Union urges DR Congo to suspend final results of presidential elections.

Donald Trump cancels Pelosi’s foreign trip after her letter to him

The impasse over the ongoing partial and the longest US government shutdown hit a new low Thursday as President Donald Trump called off House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s planned trip to Afghanistan, a day after she wrote to Trump recommending him to postpone his State of the Union address, reported Washington Post.

In her letter, Pelosi had suggested that Trump either delay his address or deliver it in writing citing security concerns as the federal agencies responsible for maintaining it remained unfunded since the shutdown began 27 days ago.

According to a New York Times reportTrump did not respond immediately but released a “sarcasm-tinged” letter 24 hours later informing her that her trip has been cancelled which he passed it off as a “public relations event”.

The report quoted Trump’s letter saying, “In light of the 800,000 great American workers not receiving pay, I am sure you would agree that postponing this public relations event is totally appropriate.”

“I also feel that, during this period, it would be better if you were in Washington negotiating with me and joining the strong border security movement to end the shutdown,” he wrote.

“Obviously,” Pelosi still had the option of flying commercial, the report said quoting Trump’s letter.

Pelosi was about to leave her office to lead a congressional delegation, in what NYT reported was a “secret visit” to American troops in war-torn Afghanistan and Brussels by a military aircraft when the word came to them about Trump grounding their plane.

report in The Wall Street Journal said, “The Republican president has often attacked his political adversaries in blunt language, and Mrs. Pelosi has at times thrown her own barbs his way. Both their letters sought to cast the other as being self-centered and out of touch.”

Labour Party members refuse to back second referendum

Under pressure by some supporters to back a second Brexit referendum, Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn might face a dozen resignations by members of his party if he goes for the move.

“A string of junior shadow ministers have told the Guardian they are strongly opposed to the idea of a second referendum, which they fear would expose Labour to a vicious backlash in leave-voting constituencies,” reported The Guardian.

Shadow justice minister Gloria De Piero told the Guardian she was not in favour of a second referendum. “I stood on a manifesto that promised to respect the referendum result,” she said.

With the Brexit crisis deepening, Corbyn and British Prime Minister Theresa May have been at odds over ruling out the option of a “no-deal”.

On Monday, May is expected to present a plan B to the House, expected to be on similar lines as the previous plan. However, lawmakers will have the option to make amendments before the scheduled vote on 29 January.

“Mrs. May could, at that point, try to win back Brexit hard-liners to her deal by warning them that the balance of power in Parliament was tilting away from their position, toward closer ties with the European Union than her plan envisages. Alternatively she could risk splitting her party by opting for a softer, more pro-European Brexit desired by many Labour lawmakers,” reported The New York Times.

Britain is scheduled to exit the European Union on 29 March.

African Union urges DR Congo presidential results to be suspended

The African Union has called on the Democratic Republic Congo (DRC) to suspend the final results of its presidential election citing “serious doubts”, reported Al Jazeera.

The “rare” move by the 55-nation bloc Thursday “creates fresh uncertainty into the post-election process” which was expected to enable the first democratic transfer of power since its independence in 1960, said the report.

“The Heads of State and Government attending the meeting concluded that there were serious doubts on the conformity of the provisional results, as proclaimed by the National Independent Electoral Commission, with the votes cast,” the bloc said after its meeting at its headquarters in Ethiopia’s Addis Ababa.

The Al Jazeera report said the AU wrote in its statement that it has “called for the suspension of the proclamation of the final results of the elections.”

Congo’s provisional results declared last week named opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi as the winner in the 30-December polls with 38.57 per cent votes.

Tshisekedi’s “chief rival” Martin Fayulu received second-highest 38.4 per cent votes.

Fayulu has challenged the results in court. He claimed that the provisional results were an “electoral coup” settled through backroom dealings between Tshisekedi and outgoing president Joseph Kabila, said the report.

A BBC report said Fayulu filed his appeal in the country’s constitutional court Saturday seeking a manual recount of votes.

The report said that the court verdict is expected as early as Friday. Experts have predicted three possible outcomes: confirmation of Tshisekedi’s victory, a recount, and a call for fresh elections.

Model who claimed evidence of Russian interference in US elections arrested in Moscow

Anastasia Vashukevich, a Belarus model who claimed to have proof of Russia’s alleged interference in 2016 US presidential elections, was arrested Thursday at the time of her arrival in Moscow after being deported from Thailand, reported The Guardian.

According to the report, Moscow police in a statement said that Vashukevich was detained in the city’s Sheremetyevo airport on charges of inducement to prostitution, along with three people deported alongside her.

The model, known as Nastya Rybka on social media, was first arrested in Thailand last year in February. Her sentence was suspended Tuesday and she was ordered to be deported after she confessed to soliciting and conspiracy along with seven co-defendants in a case regarding holding a “sex training” seminar in the country, CBS News reported.

An earlier Washington Post report said Vashukevich claimed in custody that she had recordings of meetings between Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska and undisclosed Americans talking about interference in US’s 2016 elections. However, she never released them.

The report added, “Vashukevich’s claims about recording Deripaska were notable because the oligarch has ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin and used to work with President (Donald) Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort.”

Vashukevich and others face up to six years in prison if convicted on charges of inducement to prostitution.

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