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Westlake Legal Group > News Media (Page 218)

Joe Biden Is Out Here Calling Weed a ‘Gateway Drug’ in 2019

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Joe Biden Is Out Here Calling Weed a ‘Gateway Drug’ in 2019

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In general, be courteous to others. Debate/discuss/argue the merits of ideas, don’t attack people. Personal insults, shill or troll accusations, hate speech, any advocating or wishing death/physical harm, and other rule violations can result in a permanent ban.

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In Shift, U.S. Says Israeli Settlements in West Bank Do Not Violate International Law

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration declared on Monday that the United States does not consider Israeli settlements in the West Bank a violation of international law, reversing four decades of American policy and removing what has been an important barrier to annexation of Palestinian territory.

The announcement by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was the latest political gift from the Trump administration to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has vowed in two elections this year to push for the annexation of the West Bank. His chief opponent, Benny Gantz, has until Wednesday night to gather a majority in Israel’s Parliament or he will relinquish his chance to form a new government, raising the prospect of a third round of elections.

The United States has in the past described the settlements as illegitimate, and Palestinians have demanded the land for a future state, a goal that has been backed by the United Nations, European governments and American allies across the Middle East.

But President Trump has been persistent in changing United States policy on Israel and the Palestinian territories — moves aimed at bolstering political support for Mr. Netanyahu, who has failed to form a government after two rounds of elections with razor-thin outcomes.

Mr. Pompeo said the new decision — reversing a 1978 legal opinion by the State Department — was not inconsistent with international law. As it stands, he said, the earlier settlements ruling “hasn’t advanced the cause of peace.”

“We’ve recognized the reality on the ground,” Mr. Pompeo told reporters at the State Department.

The settlements have been a main sticking point in peace negotiations that have failed to find a solution for generations. The settlements are home to Israelis in territory that Palestinians have fought to control, and their presence makes negotiations for a two-state solution all the more difficult.

Mr. Netanyahu praised the decision and said it reflected “historical truth — that the Jewish people are not foreign colonialists in Judea and Samaria,” a term for the West Bank. He said Israeli courts were better suited to decide the legality of the settlements, “not biased international forums that pay no attention to history or facts.”

Mr. Gantz, a former army chief and centrist candidate who has the support of the Israeli left and some Arab lawmakers, politely welcomed the announcement but said that the fate of West Bank settlements “should be determined by agreements that meet security requirements and that can promote peace.”

Palestinian officials, by now used to unwelcome policy shifts from Mr. Trump, nonetheless summoned new outrage.

“We cannot express horror and shock because this is a pattern, but that doesn’t make it any less horrific,” said Hanan Ashrawi, a veteran Palestine Liberation Organization official. “It sends a clear signal that they have total disregard for international law, for what is right and just, and for the requirements of peace.”

And Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, said the Trump administration’s decision was the latest of “unceasing attempts to replace international law with the ‘law of the jungle.’”

In Washington, Mr. Pompeo said the decision would provide greater space for the Israelis and Palestinians to negotiate over the status of the settlements. He said that the issue could be largely left to Israeli courts to decide, and that it had no bearing on legal conclusions regarding similar situations elsewhere in the world.

Instead, Mr. Pompeo said, the issue must be solved by the Israelis and the Palestinians. “And arguments about who is right and wrong as a matter of international law will not bring peace,” he said.

The new policy was first reported by The Associated Press.

The timing of Mr. Pompeo’s announcement is almost certain to bolster Mr. Netanyahu’s political fortunes should Israel be headed to a third round of elections this year.

If Mr. Gantz fails to form a government by midnight Wednesday, the Israeli Parliament has 21 days to come up with a candidate who can command a majority of 61 of the 120 seats. And if that effort falls short, Israel will call a new election.

Before the first vote, in April, Mr. Trump officially recognized the contested Golan Heights as Israeli territory. It then was widely expected that the Trump administration would soften its stance on the Israeli settlements in the West Bank before the second round of elections, which were held in September.

And earlier, in December 2017, Mr. Trump formally recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and ordered the United States Embassy to move there from Tel Aviv, a symbolic decision that outraged Palestinians who also claim territory in the city.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_160562358_f4c1174a-9541-4861-a2c5-c7e320f68618-articleLarge In Shift, U.S. Says Israeli Settlements in West Bank Do Not Violate International Law West Bank United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J State Department Palestinians Israeli Settlements Israel

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, right, at the White House in September.Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

A prime mover in the policy change was David Friedman, the United States ambassador to Israel, who has pushed each of the Trump administration’s major policy gifts to Mr. Netanyahu.

Mr. Friedman signaled a shift in United States policy toward settlements in occupied Palestinian territory in June, in an interview with The New York Times. He said that Israel had the right to annex some, but “unlikely all,” of the West Bank.

Oded Revivi, a spokesman for the Yesha Council, an umbrella group of West Bank settlements, said that Mr. Friedman confided to him recently that he had been pressing within the Trump administration for the policy change on the Hansell Memorandum for months.

Mr. Revivi said he believed the timing of the announcement — which Mr. Friedman tipped him to two weeks ago — sought to both help Mr. Netanyahu remain in power and also bolster Mr. Trump among evangelical and Jewish voters in the United States who support the current right-wing government in Israel. He also said it served as a reminder to right-wing Israelis to reap whatever more windfalls the Trump administration might supply.

“It’s an indication to the Israeli public, look where you can go with this president — you’re wasting time,” said Mr. Revivi, the mayor of Efrat, a West Bank settlement near Jerusalem.

He said the policy shift was a move toward endorsing annexation and also served as a clear indication to the Palestinians who have resisted reopening negotiations with the Trump administration. “You’re not willing to hear a compromise; the train has left and you’ll be left with nothing at the end of the day,” he said.

Opponents of annexation, however, warn that it puts Israel’s status as a Jewish democracy at risk in two ways: If the West Bank’s Palestinians are made Israeli citizens, the country’s Arabs could quickly outnumber its Jews. If they are not given full citizenship rights, Israel would become an apartheid state.

“We are strong enough to deter and defeat our enemies,” said Nimrod Novik, a former aide to Shimon Peres and longtime supporter of a two-state solution. He added, referring to Israel’s air-defense system: “What we don’t have is an Iron Dome system to defend us from friends who threaten to end the Zionist vision.”

A secretive Trump administration plan to revive peace negotiations has been delayed repeatedly, but it is widely believed to bolster Mr. Netanyahu and fail to break a stalemate between Israel and the Palestinians. Few details have been released beyond a call for major new economic development in Palestinian areas.

The Trump administration’s peace effort is run by Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, to deliver what the president has described as the “ultimate deal.”

Ilan Goldenberg, who worked on Israeli-Palestinian negotiations at the State Department during the Obama administration, said Monday’s decision undercut the United States’ ability to credibly mediate the stalled peace process.

“The notion this somehow advances peace, as Secretary Pompeo claims, is laughable,” said Mr. Goldenberg, who is now director of Middle East security at the Center for a New American Security in Washington.

Lara Jakes reported from Washington, and David M. Halbfinger from Jerusalem. Edward Wong contributed reporting from Washington, and Isabel Kershner from New York.

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The Far Right Used A Political Crisis To Seize Control Of Bolivia

WASHINGTON — When Bolivia’s socialist president, Evo Moralesstepped down last week after nearly a month of sometimes violent protests over a disputed October election, it was right-wing opposition leader Luis Fernando Camacho who declared victory.

“Today we won a battle,” Camacho, a businessman who came seemingly out of nowhere to lead the charge against Morales, told Reuters. “Only when we can be sure that democracy is solid, then will we go back home.”

Bolivians and international observers have debated whether the president was the victim of a coup, as he asserts, or a popular uprising, as his opponents and even some of his former supporters claim. 

But in the week since Morales fled the country he led for 14 years amid pressure from the armed forces, Camacho and a cadre of previously unknown conservative leaders have seized on popular unrest to assert control over Bolivia’s transitional government, providing a clear picture of what their version of “solid democracy” looks like. 

And it’s not democratic at all.

“It was a democratic protest with a view toward new elections, and it got seriously co-opted by an extreme right wing that didn’t follow any of the rules,” said Linda Farthing, a journalist and researcher who is based in Bolivia. 

Camacho, a lawyer and businessman with previous ties to far-right extremist groups, was barely known across Bolivia before he emerged as a key opposition figure during this year’s elections, and especially after declarations of fraud during the Oct. 20 vote sparked nationwide protests. He has not taken a place in the transitional government, but he has remained a powerful figure: Camacho, a Christian, stood alongside Jeanine Áñez, a conservative Christian senator, on Wednesday as she declared herself Bolivia’s interim leader while carrying an oversized Bible into the presidential palace. 

Since then, Áñez has promised to “pacify” Bolivia and put the Andean nation on the path to new elections. But she has acted as if she wants to govern, and she and her allies have wasted little time in proving that their image as restorative democrats was nothing more than a facade.

Westlake Legal Group 5dd2ee51210000226d34d4ef The Far Right Used A Political Crisis To Seize Control Of Bolivia

Javier Mamani via Getty Images Luis Fernando Camacho, right-wing opposition leader and president of the Civic Committee for Santa Cruz, helped drive Evo Morales from office and is now wielding influence over Bolivia’s transitional government.

Áñez has stocked her Cabinet with right-wing figures who have accused political opponents and reporters of committing “seditious acts” worthy of official punishment. She has guaranteed the military impunity in its dealings with protesters ― even amid accusations that the armed forces and police have violently suppressed demonstrations and killed poor workers who oppose the new government. And over the weekend, her government suggested it may prosecute members of opposition parties ― Morales’ Movement for Socialism, or MAS, in particular. 

Áñez, who previously tweeted bigoted messages about Indigenous people, together with Camacho, has ignited racist backlash from Bolivians angry that poor and Indigenous Bolivians made strides during Morales’ time in office. 

To a democracy that needed maintenance, the right-wing has taken a bulldozer, and even if it does move toward new elections now, it has acted like the authoritarian regime it accused Morales of forming. This has created the sort of violent and chaotic atmosphere in Bolivia that has proven prosperous for the far-right recently not just in Latin America but across the world. 

It was a democratic protest with a view toward new elections, and it got seriously co-opted by an extreme right wing that didn’t follow any of the rules. Linda Farthing, journalist and researcher based in Bolivia

Camacho has drawn inspiration from Jair Bolsonaro, the far-right president of Brazil who fanned the flames of racism and bigotry and rode anger over political corruption to victory in presidential elections in that country last year. 

“Camacho in particular has taken advantage of the rejection and the disaffection even among Evo supporters to convert the protests to their own ends,” said John Walsh, a Bolivia expert at the Washington Office on Latin America. “Camacho and the more extreme fringes are not representative, but they are driving the opposition’s demands and generating the energy in the streets and the sense of no restraint.”

“He has taken almost masterful advantage,” Walsh said, “with the massive risk that his take-no-prisoners brand is a recipe for catastrophe for Bolivia.”

The First Indigenous President 

Morales, initially elected in 2005, turned Bolivia away from the neoliberal policies it had embraced after its return to democratic rule in the 1980s and 1990s. 

Morales slashed Bolivia’s poverty rate in half and rode a global commodities boom that boosted the economy of what had long been South America’s poorest nation. In Bolivia’s western Andean highlands, Morales’ movement inspired a renewed embrace of Indigenous identity and power in Bolivia, where Indigenous people, despite making up more than half the population, did not gain the right to vote until 1952. Indigenous rights were not formally recognized until 1993.

Camacho, a lawyer and businessman, hails from Santa Cruz de la Sierra, the Bolivian financial hub in the eastern part of the country that is home to the bulk of the country’s mestizo and Spanish-descendent population, as well its financial and business elites. 

Westlake Legal Group 5dd2efce210000a76d34d4f0 The Far Right Used A Political Crisis To Seize Control Of Bolivia

JORGE BERNAL via Getty Images Supporters of Evo Morales carry Wiphala flags that represent Indigenous peoples in La Paz on Nov. 18, 2019.

Morales’ rise inspired a backlash in the east that was, at times, fueled by decidedly right-wing and racist views and even separatist politics. Santa Cruz has long been home to some of the country’s most fringe right-wingers, and in the early 2000s, Camacho was a member of a nationalist movement and an extremist far-right youth group. Human rights groups have previously said that the Civic Committee of Santa Cruz, the organization Camacho leads, is one of the “main promoters” of “racist discourses” in Bolivia.

As Bolivia prospered under Morales, popular opposition never took root: Morales overwhelmingly won a second term in 2009 and a third five years later. 

It was during his third term, which was set to expire in January, that the mood began to change. Under the constitution Bolivia adopted in 2009, Morales was term-limited ― but in 2016, he put forth a referendum asking Bolivians to approve a reform that would allow him to seek another term this year. Voters narrowly rejected the referendum, but in early 2017, Bolivian courts overturned the result on grounds that term limits violated Morales’ human rights. Morales, who had pledged to respect the result in 2016, decided to run again ― a move that turned many Bolivians against him.

“At that moment, I was against him completely,” Juan Carlos Cespedes, a self-described socialist from La Paz, said as he participated in a protest against Morales outside the White House on Sunday. “People were asked if they wanted him to remain in power, and they say no. He believed, ‘It’s my right to be elected again, so that’s it, I’ll be elected again.’”

A Disputed Election Leads To Protests 

Still, heading into October’s elections, most polls showed Morales running ahead of former Bolivian President Carlos Mesa, a centrist and his closest challenger. But polling also suggested Morales could fall short of either a clear majority or the 10-point victory needed to avoid a runoff, in which a unified opposition may have been able to defeat him.

On election night, voting totals showed Morales short of the threshold to avoid a second round of voting when the electoral tribunal’s public count suddenly went offline. When it returned nearly 24 hours later, Morales had cleared the necessary hurdle and declared himself the victor.

People were asked if they wanted him to remain in power, and they say no. He believed, ‘It’s my right to be elected again, so that’s it, I’ll be elected again.’ Juan Carlos Cespedes, Morales opponent

Protests erupted across the country and grew after election officials declared Morales victorious. Mesa and his supporters cried foul, and the Organization of American States, the regional body of governments from across the Americas, refused to certify the results. 

Although Morales attempted to paint the protests as driven by right-wing opponents of his Movement for Socialism party, MAS, they were ideologically diverse and included many of his own former supporters.

The frustration fueling the demonstrations had not begun with the allegations of fraud, leftist Uruguayan writer Raul Zibechi argued, but “with systematic attacks” from Morales and his vice president “against the same popular movements that brought them to power, to the point that when they needed the movements to defend them, the movements were deactivated and demoralized.”

Extractivist environmental policies and deals Morales made with agribusiness interests had eroded support among some Indigenous groups. Some leftist and Indigenous leaders also became tired of Morales’ increasingly autocratic tendencies, including his efforts to suppress opposition from his own supporters and his attempts to roll back press freedom. 

“There are some people who still have the idea that Evo Morales and his party, the MAS, are from the left,” said Diego Cuadros, who served under Morales during his first term but is now critical of him. “Nothing is more wrong.”

Westlake Legal Group 5dc9d844250000bc02d2cbc6 The Far Right Used A Political Crisis To Seize Control Of Bolivia

AP Photo/Juan Karita Evo Morales called for new elections in Bolivia following the release of a preliminary report by the Organization of American States that found irregularities in the Oct. 20 vote. He resigned shortly thereafter.

After Morales’ first term, Cuadros said, he “allied to the great interests of landowners, industrialists and banks.” And while Morales presented himself internationally as an ardent critic of U.S. imperialism and as a defender of Indigenous rights and Bolivia’s environment, he has “divided and repressed [Indigenous people] and overwhelmed the country’s natural reserves,” Cuadros said.

But this was, in the eyes of many of Morales’ leftist critics, a squabble between various left-oriented factions, not a traditional battle between the political left and right.

Right-wing figures like Camacho, however, quickly moved to the forefront and almost immediately began infusing the demonstrations with more extreme notions. While Mesa and the OAS called for the election to proceed to a runoff, for instance, Camacho and his allies demanded Morales’ immediate resignation and totally new elections. 

Outbreaks of violence during the protests fueled chaos: Anti-government demonstrators targeted the homes of MAS politicians and even dragged one of the party’s mayors through the streets and cut her hair. They also accused Morales and the government of fostering violence after homes of opposition leaders were also destroyed, and especially when police allegedly shot and killed a student protester. Misinformation spread rapidly across social networks. Allegations of who was to blame for the worst violence flew just as quickly. 

Westlake Legal Group 5dd2f281210000406834d4f6 The Far Right Used A Political Crisis To Seize Control Of Bolivia

AP Photo/Juan Karita Protesters demand a second-round presidential election in La Paz, Bolivia, on Oct. 26, 2019. 

The protests escalated last weekend, after the OAS released a preliminary audit that it said showed “serious irregularities” in the election. Morales immediately promised to form a new electoral tribunal and hold new elections. But Camacho’s wing of the movement insisted that the president had to resign and helped foster the belief that Morales had blatantly stolen the election. 

Scrutiny was warranted, but the suggestion that Morales had totally rigged the race was exaggerated: Hardly anyone questioned that the incumbent president had still earned more votes than anyone else — the original dispute was over whether he’d cleared the runoff threshold. (The MAS is “still the largest political force in the country,” Farthing, the Bolivia-based journalist, said. “With fraud or without fraud, there’s very little doubt about that.”)

But Camacho’s efforts to move the goal posts worked, helping to turn a movement with legitimate concerns into a crusade driven by its most radical elements ― even as Camacho and his allies remained focused on increasing the sense of “anti-Evismo” in the protests rather than by pushing their own aims explicitly. That could wait. 

There were some things that weren’t right. But it was supposed to be done a different way. We are a democracy, but this is not democracy. Juan Carlos Cadima, Morales supporter

The first sign that the protests might achieve their primary goal came when police in multiple cities joined in the demonstrations; reports have suggested that Camacho helped persuade them to do so. Then, last Sunday, the leader of the armed forces asked Morales to step down. (The military wasn’t alone: Fearing more violent outbreaks, leaders of some Indigenous groups and top labor organizations also begged Morales to yield.)

Hours later, Morales announced his resignation. Top leaders from MAS, including Morales’ vice president and the presidents of both chambers of the legislature, joined him, citing concerns for their safety. Morales called his departure a coup, and the speed of the ouster enraged supporters who wondered how the demands had escalated so quickly, even as Morales had two months left on his current term. 

“They say it was fraud, but they have not proven the fraud. They started saying fraud before the election,” said Juan Carlos Cadima, a 61-year-old from Cochabamba, during a protest supporting Morales that took place Sunday, just across from anti-Morales demonstrators outside the White House. “There were some things that weren’t right. But it was supposed to be done a different way. We are a democracy, but this is not democracy.”

With Morales gone, it was Camacho and the conservatives who quickly rose to fill the void he’d left behind.

“They took total advantage of this power vacuum that occurred, in order to seize state power,” said Nicole Fabricant, a Towson University anthropologist and expert on Bolivia. “People were calling for real democracy, but the images are vivid that it’s not democratic.”

The Right Seizes Control 

The right’s intentions were clear even before Morales landed in Mexico, where he remains in exile.

Morales had led a primarily secular government, but the night he resigned, Camacho and a fellow Christian activist marched into the presidential palace and declared that they were returning Bolivia to Christ

Backlash against Indigenous people, many of whom had raised their own concerns with Morales for years, began almost immediately: Hard-line Morales opponents burned the Wiphala, a symbol of Indigenous unity that Morales had established as a national symbol alongside the Bolivian flag, outside the presidential palace in La Paz. Some military and police officers cut the Wiphala off their uniforms and threw the emblems to the ground.  

The rhetoric and actions of the right wing have only intensified since.

Westlake Legal Group 5dd2f07a210000906434d4f1 The Far Right Used A Political Crisis To Seize Control Of Bolivia

AIZAR RALDES via Getty Images Militarized Bolivian police stand guard as supporters of Evo Morales demonstrate in La Paz on Nov.14, 2019.

Áñez, the conservative Christian who had served as the second vice senator, declared herself interim president last Tuesday, a move leaders from the MAS declared illegitimate as they boycotted the proceedings and, in some instances, were blocked from attending by military and police units outside. 

Áñez, who represents the northeast and is her conservative party’s only elected senator, has pledged to foster “inclusion and unity,” but there were no Indigenous people among her initial Cabinet selections. However, her choices did include numerous reactionaries who made it clear they intended to crack down on Morales supporters and MAS leaders. 

One of them, new Interior Minister Arturo Murillo, promised to “hunt down” the Morales ally who’d previously held the same position, The Guardian reported. Roxana Lizárraga, the new minister of communications, accused “journalists or pseudo-journalists” of committing acts of “sedition” and said that the government would target them.

Murillo has since gone farther: Over the weekend, he said he would set up a special prosecutorial unit to target “subversive” lawmakers. This week, Camacho targeted foreign journalists from across the region, accusing one of communist ties because he had visited Cuba on vacation. Áñez also booted Cuban doctors from Bolivia in a move that could have drastic consequences for Indigenous people, and cut ties with Venezuela.

In the streets, reports suggest that the police and military have only become more repressive of leftist protesters challenging the new government, and on Friday, Morales supporters in the city of Sacaba accused the military and police of shooting and killing coca workers during a demonstration there. 

“After 14 years, we are going back to the past, to what it used to be when I was young and we had to ask for democracy,” Cadima said outside the White House on Sunday. “It’s really sad.”

Reports from La Paz, the country’s administrative capital, showed police firing tear gas at Indigenous Morales supporters. It followed Áñez’s decree that gave the military immunity from any actions against protesters. 

“The return of conservative right-wing forces, fused with anti-Indigenous evangelical Christian symbolism, threatens to run roughshod over the legitimate efforts of many Bolivian citizens to pluralize, democratize, and renovate the party system,” the North American Congress on Latin America, or NACLA, said in a statement last week that called the right’s resurgence a “particularly troubling development” for democracy in the country

Bolivia’s new right-wing leadership is out of step with the majority of Bolivians on both sides of the Morales equation: Áñez’s preferred candidate, a conservative, received less than 5% of the vote in the October elections. But it was also apparent at the dueling protests in Washington this weekend. Demonstrators on each side ― most of whom had, at some point, voted for Morales ― insisted that all they wanted were free elections and a legitimate democratic government. Each seemed to hold out hope that those elections were imminent, and that Áñez and the far right would cease to be factors once they occurred. 

But each day that passes seems to move Bolivia closer to the brink, especially with a right-wing faction in power that has a limited traditional electoral base. Morales, meanwhile, has promised to return to the country, and even if he has said he won’t run in new elections, his presence ― and threats from Áñez that he could face criminal charges of election fraud ― could only further inflame the situation.

“The international community has a critical role to play in helping to restore calm and ensure the path to credible elections,” said Walsh, from the Washington Office of Latin America ― but thus far, a bitter and divided hemisphere has done little to help ease the tensions. 

Recent history, meanwhile, suggests that Camacho and his ilk may stand to benefit even if elections do occur. Figures like Brazil’s Bolsonaro have prospered by turning demands for better, more democratic governments into skepticism of democracy itself. They have used legitimate unrest to foster fear, chaos, hatred and violence that polarizes populations and reinforces itself. The far right has thrived, over and over again, on hate, distrust and vitriol exaggerated by its own exaggeration ― and Camacho has picked up the playbook.

Last week, as thousands of Bolivians awaited Camacho’s arrival at an event in Santa Cruz, a speaker celebrated that the country had finally rid itself of Morales. He shouted: “Satan, get out of Bolivia now!”

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Epstein accuser says she once took Bill Clinton’s seat on private jet, saw bedroom floor made of mattress foam

A woman who came forward with accusations of child sex abuse against Jeffrey Epstein on Monday described a disturbing encounter with the now-deceased sex offender, said she took Bill Clinton’s seat on the “Lolita Express,” and noted bizarre bedroom floors made of mattress foam and being encouraged to cry after sex with the disgraced money man.

The accuser, who went by the name Jane Doe 15, enlisted high-powered attorney Gloria Allred who held a news conference Monday in Los Angeles. The accuser was 15 when Epstein preyed upon her and she was seeking compensatory and punitive damages as a result, Allred said.

“Her lawsuit alleges battery, assault and intentional infliction of emotional distress,” Allred said.

ABC NEWS’ AMY ROBACH CAUGHT ON HOT MIC SAYING NETWORK SPIKED JEFFREY EPSTEIN BOMBSHELL

Jane Doe 15 said Epstein began grooming her when she was in New York for a school trip and eventually found herself on the “Lolita Express,” his private jet.

“When I chose a seat on the jet, Jeffrey told me that is where his good friend Bill Clinton always chose to sit,” Jane Doe 15 said.

Westlake Legal Group Gloria-Allred-Victim Epstein accuser says she once took Bill Clinton's seat on private jet, saw bedroom floor made of mattress foam fox-news/us/us-regions/west/california fox-news/us/crime/sex-crimes fox-news/person/jeffrey-epstein fox news fnc/us fnc Brian Flood article 45ba0dc9-6fd1-54f7-a31d-18ac506a3194

Jane Doe 15 enlisted high-powered attorney Gloria Allred for her lawsuit alleging sexual abuse by Jeffrey Epstein.

Jane Doe 15, who is now 31 years old, detailed her first sexual encounter with Epstein.

THE AMY ROBACH VIDEO LEAKER IS ALL ANYBODY AT ABC NEWS CAN TALK ABOUT, SOURCES SAY

“I was invited to his home. There, his assistant took a photo of me and later reached out, inviting me to Epstein’s ranch. I only knew Jeffrey Epstein for five days. During a trip to the Zorro Ranch, his massive compound surrounded by government land in the New Mexico desert, Epstein took my sexual innocence in front of a wall of framed photographs of him shaking hands with and smiling with celebrities and political leaders,” Jane Doe 15 said. “I was only 15 years old. After, he wanted to talk to me about what had just been my first sexual experience and directed me to take time to myself that night to cry.”

Jane Doe 15 said Epstein offered her money for college almost immediately after the sexual encounter.

“While he was giving me a tour of the bedroom, he told me to get down and feel the carpeted floors of the room. He then asked if I noticed anything special about the floor and I responded that it felt very soft,” Jane Doe 15 said. “He laughed and said it was because the floors in the bedroom were foam mattress floors, because he liked to have girls sleep around him on the floor while he slept in the bed.”

Jane Doe 15 said she declined other invitations from Epstein.

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“I left Zorro Ranch with a deep sense of shame,” she said.

Epstein was found dead this past August in his Manhattan prison cell while awaiting trial on federal sex-trafficking charges. Prosecutors alleged that the convicted sex offender paid girls as young as 14 hundreds of dollars for massages before he molested them in his homes in New York and Palm Beach, Fla., between 2002 and 2005.

Fox News’ Frank Miles contributed to this report.

Westlake Legal Group 694940094001_6102764578001_6102763572001-vs Epstein accuser says she once took Bill Clinton's seat on private jet, saw bedroom floor made of mattress foam fox-news/us/us-regions/west/california fox-news/us/crime/sex-crimes fox-news/person/jeffrey-epstein fox news fnc/us fnc Brian Flood article 45ba0dc9-6fd1-54f7-a31d-18ac506a3194   Westlake Legal Group 694940094001_6102764578001_6102763572001-vs Epstein accuser says she once took Bill Clinton's seat on private jet, saw bedroom floor made of mattress foam fox-news/us/us-regions/west/california fox-news/us/crime/sex-crimes fox-news/person/jeffrey-epstein fox news fnc/us fnc Brian Flood article 45ba0dc9-6fd1-54f7-a31d-18ac506a3194

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Impeachment Inquiry Calls Aide Who Overheard Trump Asking for Ukraine Investigations

Westlake Legal Group 18DC-IMPEACH-facebookJumbo Impeachment Inquiry Calls Aide Who Overheard Trump Asking for Ukraine Investigations Zelensky, Volodymyr United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Sondland, Gordon D (1957- ) Senate Johnson, Ron (1955- ) impeachment Foreign Aid

WASHINGTON — The House Intelligence Committee on Monday unexpectedly added to its roster of public impeachment witnesses, announcing testimony this week from a United States Embassy official in Kyiv who overheard President Trump ask a top American diplomat in July if Ukraine would move forward with investigations he sought.

The official, David Holmes, testified before investigators privately on Friday. Now, he will sit at the witness table beside Fiona Hill, the former senior director for Russia and Europe at the National Security Council, when the committee convenes its final hearing of a jam-packed week on Thursday.

Behind closed doors, Mr. Holmes described being at a restaurant in Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, also known as Kiev, over the summer when Gordon D. Sondland, the American ambassador to the European Union, called Mr. Trump on his cellphone. Speaking loudly enough for Mr. Holmes to hear, Mr. Trump asked Mr. Sondland if Ukraine’s president had agreed to conduct an investigation into one of his leading political rivals, Mr. Holmes said. And in colorful terms, the ambassador, fresh off meetings with top Ukrainian officials, told Mr. Trump that he had.

The addition to the week’s already busy public hearing schedule came as Speaker Nancy Pelosi defended the impeachment inquiry, arguing that lawmakers have no choice but to dig into what she called clear evidence of wrongdoing by Mr. Trump.

“The facts are uncontested: that the president abused his power for his own personal, political benefit, at the expense of our national security interests,” Ms. Pelosi wrote in a letter to Democratic colleagues.

The House Intelligence Committee will now take testimony from nine witnesses this week in the impeachment inquiry, in public hearings intended to prove that Mr. Trump pressured Ukraine to publicly commit to investigations to discredit his political rivals.

House Republicans, who will have their first chance to question witnesses they believe will undercut the allegations, have also requested that a Republican senator who has repeatedly found himself drawn into the impeachment inquiry tell them what he knows about Mr. Trump’s dealings with Ukraine.

The top Republicans on the Oversight and Intelligence Committees wrote to Senator Ron Johnson, Republican of Wisconsin, that they were “reluctantly” requesting “any firsthand information you have about President Trump’s actions toward Ukraine,” according to their letter released Monday.

As Mr. Johnson appeared to mull their request, Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter that he would “strongly consider” testifying in the impeachment inquiry, after Ms. Pelosi raised the idea during a weekend television interview.

“Even though I did nothing wrong, and don’t like giving credibility to this No Due Process Hoax, I like the idea & will, in order to get Congress focused again, strongly consider it!” Mr. Trump wrote.

Hours later, in her letter to Democrats, Ms. Pelosi rebutted what has emerged as a leading argument among Republicans against the inquiry: that the upcoming presidential election, not a vote on articles of impeachment, should decide Mr. Trump’s political fate.

“That dangerous position only adds to the urgency of our action because the president is jeopardizing the integrity of the 2020 elections,” Ms. Pelosi said.

House Republicans are hoping Mr. Johnson, a member of the bipartisan Senate Ukraine Caucus, can help shed light on why Mr. Trump withheld a package of nearly $400 million in military assistance for Ukraine. Mr. Johnson traveled to Ukraine as part of a delegation attending President Volodymyr Zelensky’s inauguration this year, and joined phone calls between Mr. Trump and Mr. Sondland, who is a witness in the inquiry.

Typically a staunch defender of the president, Mr. Johnson has said that he confronted Mr. Trump in a phone call in late August about allegations that the president was engaging in a quid pro quo with Ukraine tying the security aid for the country to a public commitment for investigations that Mr. Trump wanted. The president, Mr. Johnson has said, flatly denied it.

But the senator has also revealed information that could be damaging to Mr. Trump: that Mr. Sondland told him that the aid to Ukraine was, in fact, tied to Mr. Trump’s request to have Kyiv investigate Democrats. He told reporters at an event in Wisconsin that he had tried to get permission from Mr. Trump to tell Ukraine’s president that American aid was on its way in the wake of those allegations, but the president refused.

Republicans have argued that the fact that the military funding was ultimately delivered to Ukraine in September, without any announcement of investigations by the country, proves that there was never any effort to tie the two issues together.

But Ms. Pelosi noted in her letter that the money “was only released after the whistle-blower exposed the truth of the president’s extortion and bribery, and the House launched a formal investigation.”

Mr. Johnson was one of several senators in both parties who were deeply concerned about the hold that had been placed on the military aid for Ukraine, which had been allocated by Congress to help the former Soviet republic defend itself from attacks by Russia, and who pressed privately and publicly for it to be released.

Mr. Johnson said on “Meet the Press” on Sunday that he would not be called to testify before the House “because certainly Adam Schiff wouldn’t want to be called by the Senate.” But he added, “I’ll supply my telling of events.”

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Impeachment Inquiry Calls Aide Who Overheard Trump Asking for Ukraine Investigations

Westlake Legal Group 18DC-IMPEACH-facebookJumbo Impeachment Inquiry Calls Aide Who Overheard Trump Asking for Ukraine Investigations Zelensky, Volodymyr United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Sondland, Gordon D (1957- ) Senate Johnson, Ron (1955- ) impeachment Foreign Aid

WASHINGTON — The House Intelligence Committee on Monday unexpectedly added to its roster of public impeachment witnesses, announcing testimony this week from a United States Embassy official in Kyiv who overheard President Trump ask a top American diplomat in July if Ukraine would move forward with investigations he sought.

The official, David Holmes, testified before investigators privately on Friday. Now, he will sit at the witness table beside Fiona Hill, the former senior director for Russia and Europe at the National Security Council, when the committee convenes its final hearing of a jam-packed week on Thursday.

Behind closed doors, Mr. Holmes described being at a restaurant in Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, also known as Kiev, over the summer when Gordon D. Sondland, the American ambassador to the European Union, called Mr. Trump on his cellphone. Speaking loudly enough for Mr. Holmes to hear, Mr. Trump asked Mr. Sondland if Ukraine’s president had agreed to conduct an investigation into one of his leading political rivals, Mr. Holmes said. And in colorful terms, the ambassador, fresh off meetings with top Ukrainian officials, told Mr. Trump that he had.

The addition to the week’s already busy public hearing schedule came as Speaker Nancy Pelosi defended the impeachment inquiry, arguing that lawmakers have no choice but to dig into what she called clear evidence of wrongdoing by Mr. Trump.

“The facts are uncontested: that the president abused his power for his own personal, political benefit, at the expense of our national security interests,” Ms. Pelosi wrote in a letter to Democratic colleagues.

The House Intelligence Committee will now take testimony from nine witnesses this week in the impeachment inquiry, in public hearings intended to prove that Mr. Trump pressured Ukraine to publicly commit to investigations to discredit his political rivals.

House Republicans, who will have their first chance to question witnesses they believe will undercut the allegations, have also requested that a Republican senator who has repeatedly found himself drawn into the impeachment inquiry tell them what he knows about Mr. Trump’s dealings with Ukraine.

The top Republicans on the Oversight and Intelligence Committees wrote to Senator Ron Johnson, Republican of Wisconsin, that they were “reluctantly” requesting “any firsthand information you have about President Trump’s actions toward Ukraine,” according to their letter released Monday.

As Mr. Johnson appeared to mull their request, Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter that he would “strongly consider” testifying in the impeachment inquiry, after Ms. Pelosi raised the idea during a weekend television interview.

“Even though I did nothing wrong, and don’t like giving credibility to this No Due Process Hoax, I like the idea & will, in order to get Congress focused again, strongly consider it!” Mr. Trump wrote.

Hours later, in her letter to Democrats, Ms. Pelosi rebutted what has emerged as a leading argument among Republicans against the inquiry: that the upcoming presidential election, not a vote on articles of impeachment, should decide Mr. Trump’s political fate.

“That dangerous position only adds to the urgency of our action because the president is jeopardizing the integrity of the 2020 elections,” Ms. Pelosi said.

House Republicans are hoping Mr. Johnson, a member of the bipartisan Senate Ukraine Caucus, can help shed light on why Mr. Trump withheld a package of nearly $400 million in military assistance for Ukraine. Mr. Johnson traveled to Ukraine as part of a delegation attending President Volodymyr Zelensky’s inauguration this year, and joined phone calls between Mr. Trump and Mr. Sondland, who is a witness in the inquiry.

Typically a staunch defender of the president, Mr. Johnson has said that he confronted Mr. Trump in a phone call in late August about allegations that the president was engaging in a quid pro quo with Ukraine tying the security aid for the country to a public commitment for investigations that Mr. Trump wanted. The president, Mr. Johnson has said, flatly denied it.

But the senator has also revealed information that could be damaging to Mr. Trump: that Mr. Sondland told him that the aid to Ukraine was, in fact, tied to Mr. Trump’s request to have Kyiv investigate Democrats. He told reporters at an event in Wisconsin that he had tried to get permission from Mr. Trump to tell Ukraine’s president that American aid was on its way in the wake of those allegations, but the president refused.

Republicans have argued that the fact that the military funding was ultimately delivered to Ukraine in September, without any announcement of investigations by the country, proves that there was never any effort to tie the two issues together.

But Ms. Pelosi noted in her letter that the money “was only released after the whistle-blower exposed the truth of the president’s extortion and bribery, and the House launched a formal investigation.”

Mr. Johnson was one of several senators in both parties who were deeply concerned about the hold that had been placed on the military aid for Ukraine, which had been allocated by Congress to help the former Soviet republic defend itself from attacks by Russia, and who pressed privately and publicly for it to be released.

Mr. Johnson said on “Meet the Press” on Sunday that he would not be called to testify before the House “because certainly Adam Schiff wouldn’t want to be called by the Senate.” But he added, “I’ll supply my telling of events.”

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‘Jersey Shore’ star Mike ‘The Situation’ Sorrentino, wife tell of miscarriage after he got out of prison

Westlake Legal Group mike-the-situation-sorrentino-lauren-pesce 'Jersey Shore' star Mike 'The Situation' Sorrentino, wife tell of miscarriage after he got out of prison Tyler McCarthy fox-news/person/mike-the-situation-sorrentino fox-news/entertainment/tv fox-news/entertainment/genres/reality fox-news/entertainment/events/couples fox-news/entertainment/celebrity-news fox-news/entertainment fox news fnc/entertainment fnc article 76e46cab-109e-520f-99b8-8fdc1076bed7

Jersey Shore” star Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino and his wife, Lauren, revealed they suffered a miscarriage shortly after he was released from prison.

The reality TV star served eight months in federal prison for tax fraud before his release in September. Speaking on “Strahan, Sara & Keke” Monday, the couple opened up about losing their first pregnancy six to seven weeks in.

“Being the type-A personality that I am, when Mike was away, I was tracking my cycle and all that,” Lauren explained to the hosts. “It worked out perfectly that when he came home, I was ovulating within two days… So the night he came home we actually conceived.”

‘JERSEY SHORE’ STAR MIKE ‘THE SITUATION’ SORRENTINO CLAPS BACK AFTER STEROID ACCUSATIONS

Unfortunately, she explained that they lost the baby at “six or seven weeks.”

It’s been months since Sorrentino was released from prison and more than a year since he and Lauren tied the knot in a highly publicized event that aired on the MTV reality series’ revival, “Jersey Shore: Family Vacation,” which just finished airing its third season. The couple’s engagement, wedding and legal issues have all been key plot points in recent episodes.

‘JERSEY SHORE’ STAR MIKE SORRENTINO TALKS PRISON LIFE WITH MICHAEL COHEN, BILLY MCFARLAND

“It was heart-wrenching,” Lauren said of the miscarriage. When we found out we were pregnant, I felt like, ‘This is why we went through all these challenges for years,’ and that it was our time and it was our blessing.

She continued: “I rely on my faith to get me through everything in life, especially the challenging things we’ve gone through. If I didn’t have my faith, I wouldn’t be here.”

The couple explained that they wanted to share this aspect of their lives, as negative as it is, because being on TV and letting the world into their story has helped them through struggles in the past.

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“It was really difficult, and we share so much of our life and we’ve already shared so many negative things that we’ve gone through that I didn’t want to hold this in,” Lauren explained. “I wanted to share it with other people going through it and be honest so that I can heal through the process.”

Westlake Legal Group mike-the-situation-sorrentino-lauren-pesce 'Jersey Shore' star Mike 'The Situation' Sorrentino, wife tell of miscarriage after he got out of prison Tyler McCarthy fox-news/person/mike-the-situation-sorrentino fox-news/entertainment/tv fox-news/entertainment/genres/reality fox-news/entertainment/events/couples fox-news/entertainment/celebrity-news fox-news/entertainment fox news fnc/entertainment fnc article 76e46cab-109e-520f-99b8-8fdc1076bed7   Westlake Legal Group mike-the-situation-sorrentino-lauren-pesce 'Jersey Shore' star Mike 'The Situation' Sorrentino, wife tell of miscarriage after he got out of prison Tyler McCarthy fox-news/person/mike-the-situation-sorrentino fox-news/entertainment/tv fox-news/entertainment/genres/reality fox-news/entertainment/events/couples fox-news/entertainment/celebrity-news fox-news/entertainment fox news fnc/entertainment fnc article 76e46cab-109e-520f-99b8-8fdc1076bed7

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After Venice Floods, Volunteers Wade In To Help Salvage What They Can

Westlake Legal Group gettyimages-1182108966_custom-ac9be56a64b2abc95b8570b7886d165d35f402e2-s1100-c15 After Venice Floods, Volunteers Wade In To Help Salvage What They Can

Volunteers set up a footbridge across Venice’s flooded Riva degli Schiavoni embankment on Nov. 13. Marco Bertorello / AFP via Getty Images hide caption

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Marco Bertorello / AFP via Getty Images

Westlake Legal Group  After Venice Floods, Volunteers Wade In To Help Salvage What They Can

Volunteers set up a footbridge across Venice’s flooded Riva degli Schiavoni embankment on Nov. 13.

Marco Bertorello / AFP via Getty Images

The Italian city of Venice is still reeling from a week of three exceptional tides whose floodwaters have caused massive damage to the city’s cultural legacy and to residences and businesses.

The disaster has gripped Italy and inspired a wave of volunteers to salvage what they can.

There is a bookshop in Campiello del Tintor square named Libreria Acqua Alta, which means High Water Bookstore. Following Sunday’s exceptional high tide, the square as well as the store’s pavement were under several inches of water.

Westlake Legal Group img_6364-2_custom-bf0f3a733fb78ae6e812ea582c3934f14027073e-s800-c15 After Venice Floods, Volunteers Wade In To Help Salvage What They Can

The books at Venice’s Acqua Alta (High Water) bookstore have always been displayed inside bathtubs, plastic bins and even a full-size gondola. Sylvia Poggioli / NPR hide caption

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Sylvia Poggioli / NPR

This eccentric bookshop is a Venice landmark. Aware of the constant danger of floods, the owners always displayed books inside bathtubs, plastic bins and even a full-size gondola. But last Tuesday, the books were not high enough for the worst high tide in more than 50 years — reaching 6 feet, 1 inch.

The shop’s fire escape opens onto a canal — where a gondola now floats above the height of the bookstore’s pavement. Wading inside her store with hip-high rubber boots, co-owner Diana Zanda has been assessing the damage and trying to save whatever she can.

“Nobody was ready for that. But at the end of the situation, well, I think we are all feeling pretty lucky because a lot of young people came here in Venice to take care of us and help us. They helped them a lot,” she says.

That volunteer spirit has taken over much of the city. Young people have helped older residents dispose of heavy appliances, such as now-useless washing machines and refrigerators.

The Italian Culture Ministry has sent experts to assess damage in the flooded crypt of St. Mark’s Basilica, where mosaic pavements and frescoes were submerged by saltwater. But in many of the city’s less-known cultural institutes, volunteers are doing the salvage work.

Westlake Legal Group img_6409-a4f35a374dbfc2ca889a77eb0f59ebcac1bc713c-s1100-c15 After Venice Floods, Volunteers Wade In To Help Salvage What They Can

At Venice’s Querini Stampalia Foundation, volunteers including American student Anna Dumont (right) work to save books damaged in flooding. “We’re taking books that are wet with saltwater and we are, page by page, putting paper towels in between the pages to soak up the water and hopefully save the books,” she says. Sylvia Poggioli/NPR hide caption

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Sylvia Poggioli/NPR

Westlake Legal Group  After Venice Floods, Volunteers Wade In To Help Salvage What They Can

At Venice’s Querini Stampalia Foundation, volunteers including American student Anna Dumont (right) work to save books damaged in flooding. “We’re taking books that are wet with saltwater and we are, page by page, putting paper towels in between the pages to soak up the water and hopefully save the books,” she says.

Sylvia Poggioli/NPR

The Querini Stampalia Foundation is located in an 18th century Venetian palazzo. An elegant room with Murano glass chandeliers is now a rescue center for precious books from the foundation’s seriously damaged library.

Anna Dumont, an American Ph.D. student doing research on textiles from the 19th and 20th centuries, is one of several volunteers there.

“So right now we’re taking books that are wet with saltwater and we are, page by page, putting paper towels in between the pages to soak up the water and hopefully save the books,” she says.

Working at the next table is Venetian Gianmarco Bondi.

“I’m actually a criminal lawyer. I should be at work right now. But, you know, I have a debt towards this place, given I came here to study for a long time,” Bondi says. “I felt like I had to be back somehow.”

A major engineering project was supposed to place moveable floodgates to hold back the tides from flooding Venice, but it is still unfinished after 16 years and more than $5 billion in public funds. The project is known by an Italian acronym that translates to “Moses.”

Bondi echoes widespread accusations that foul play and incompetence by officials have caused the delays.

“It’s time for people to actually invest in the city and save what’s left and finish this Moses project, hopefully, and eventually work on what else is needed to save the most beautiful city we have,” he says.

Venice is used to high water. A century ago, tides occurred seven times a year. But today, it’s closer to 100 with the rising sea level. Moses’ engineers have said they aim to complete the project by the end of 2021.

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In Shift, U.S. Says Israeli Settlements in West Bank Do Not Violate International Law

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration declared on Monday that the United States does not consider Israeli settlements in the West Bank a violation of international law, reversing four decades of American policy and removing what has been an important barrier to annexation of Palestinian territory.

The announcement by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was the latest political gift from the Trump administration to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has vowed in two elections this year to push for the annexation of the West Bank. His chief opponent, Benny Gantz, has until Wednesday night to gather a majority in Israel’s Parliament or he will relinquish his chance to form a new government, raising the prospect of a third round of elections.

The United States has in the past described the settlements as illegitimate, and Palestinians have demanded the land for a future state, a goal that has been backed by the United Nations.

But President Trump has been persistent in changing United States policy on Israel and the Palestinian territories — moves aimed at bolstering political support for Mr. Netanyahu, who has failed to form a government after two rounds of elections with razor-thin outcomes.

Mr. Pompeo said the new decision — as outlined in a 1978 legal opinion by the State Department — was not inconsistent with international law. As it stands, he said, the earlier settlements ruling “hasn’t advanced the cause of peace.”

“We’ve recognized the reality on the ground,” Mr. Pompeo told reporters at the State Department.

The settlements have been a main sticking point in peace negotiations that have failed to find a solution for generations. The settlements are home to Israelis in territory that Palestinians have fought to control, and their presence makes negotiations for a two-state solution all the more difficult.

Mr. Netanyahu praised the decision and said it reflected “historical truth — that the Jewish people are not foreign colonialists in Judea and Samaria,” a term for the West Bank. He said Israeli courts were better suited to decide the legality of the settlements, “not biased international forums that pay no attention to history or facts.”

Mr. Gantz, a former army chief and centrist candidate who has the support of the Israeli left and some Arab lawmakers, politely welcomed the announcement but said that the fate of West Bank settlements “should be determined by agreements that meet security requirements and that can promote peace.”

Palestinian officials, by now used to unwelcome policy shifts from Mr. Trump, nonetheless summoned new outrage.

“We cannot express horror and shock because this is a pattern, but that doesn’t make it any less horrific,” said Hanan Ashrawi, a veteran Palestine Liberation Organization official. “It sends a clear signal that they have total disregard for international law, for what is right and just, and for the requirements of peace.”

And Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, said the Trump administration’s decision was the latest of “unceasing attempts to replace international law with the ‘law of the jungle.’”

In Washington, Mr. Pompeo said the decision would provide greater space for the Israelis and Palestinians to negotiate over the status of the settlements. He said that the issue could be largely left to Israeli courts to decide, and that it had no bearing on legal conclusions regarding similar situations elsewhere in the world.

Instead, Mr. Pompeo said, the issue must be solved by the Israelis and the Palestinians. “And arguments about who is right and wrong as a matter of international law will not bring peace,” he said.

The new policy was first reported by The Associated Press.

The timing of Mr. Pompeo’s announcement is almost certain to bolster Mr. Netanyahu’s political fortunes should Israel be headed to a third round of elections this year.

If Mr. Gantz fails to form a government by midnight Wednesday, the Israeli Parliament has 21 days to come up with a candidate who can command a majority of 61 of the 120 seats. And if that effort falls short, Israel will call a new election.

Before the first vote, in April, Mr. Trump officially recognized the contested Golan Heights as Israeli territory. It then was widely expected that the Trump administration would soften its stance on the Israeli settlements in the West Bank before the second round of elections, which were held in September.

And earlier, in December 2017, Mr. Trump formally recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and ordered the United States Embassy to move there from Tel Aviv, a symbolic decision that outraged Palestinians who also claim territory in the city.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_160562358_f4c1174a-9541-4861-a2c5-c7e320f68618-articleLarge In Shift, U.S. Says Israeli Settlements in West Bank Do Not Violate International Law West Bank United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J State Department Palestinians Israeli Settlements Israel

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, right, at the White House in September.Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

A prime mover in the policy change was David Friedman, the United States ambassador to Israel, who has pushed each of the Trump administration’s major policy gifts to Mr. Netanyahu.

Mr. Friedman signaled a shift in United States policy toward settlements in occupied Palestinian territory in June, in an interview with The New York Times. He said that Israel had the right to annex some, but “unlikely all,” of the West Bank.

Oded Revivi, a spokesman for the Yesha Council, an umbrella group of West Bank settlements, said that Mr. Friedman confided to him recently that he had been pressing within the Trump administration for the policy change on the Hansell Memorandum for months.

Mr. Revivi said he believed the timing of the announcement — which Mr. Friedman tipped him to two weeks ago — sought to both help Mr. Netanyahu remain in power and also bolster Mr. Trump among evangelical and Jewish voters in the United States who support the current right-wing government in Israel. He also said it served as a reminder to right-wing Israelis to reap whatever more windfalls the Trump administration might supply.

“It’s an indication to the Israeli public, look where you can go with this president — you’re wasting time,” said Mr. Revivi, the mayor of Efrat, a West Bank settlement near Jerusalem.

He said the policy shift was a move toward endorsing annexation and also served as a clear indication to the Palestinians who have resisted reopening negotiations with the Trump administration. “You’re not willing to hear a compromise; the train has left and you’ll be left with nothing at the end of the day,” he said.

Opponents of annexation, however, warn that it puts Israel’s status as a Jewish democracy at risk in two ways: If the West Bank’s Palestinians are made Israeli citizens, the country’s Arabs could quickly outnumber its Jews. If they are not given full citizenship rights, Israel would become an apartheid state.

“We are strong enough to deter and defeat our enemies,” said Nimrod Novik, a former aide to Shimon Peres and longtime supporter of a two-state solution. He added, referring to Israel’s air-defense system: “What we don’t have is an Iron Dome system to defend us from friends who threaten to end the Zionist vision.”

A secretive Trump administration plan to revive peace negotiations has been delayed repeatedly, but it is widely believed to bolster Mr. Netanyahu and fail to break a stalemate between Israel and the Palestinians. Few details have been released beyond a call for major new economic development in Palestinian areas.

The Trump administration’s peace effort is run by Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, to deliver what the president has described as the “ultimate deal.”

Ilan Goldenberg, who worked on Israeli-Palestinian negotiations at the State Department during the Obama administration, said Monday’s decision undercut the United States’ ability to credibly mediate the stalled peace process.

“The notion this somehow advances peace as Secretary Pompeo’s claims is laughable,” said Mr. Goldenberg, who is now director of Middle East security at the Center for a New American Security in Washington.

Lara Jakes reported from Washington, and David M. Halbfinger from Jerusalem. Edward Wong contributed reporting from Washington, and Isabel Kershner from New York.

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