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“It disturbs all of us, and me, too,” Sanchez said on national TV this month.

Spanish media now report almost daily on the alleged financial dealings of former King Juan Carlos I, even before he abdicated in 2014, and on the efforts of his son, King Felipe VI, Spain’s current head of state, to distance himself from his father.

“The judicial system is at work,” Sanchez said. “And the Royal Household is keeping a distance in the face of these disturbing reports.”

In March, just as Spain went into lockdown, King Felipe renounced any personal inheritance from his father and stopped the annual public stipend paid to the former king.

The royal household, in a statement, said its move was prompted by various news reports at the time. These news reports claimed King Felipe might inherit large sums from two offshore foundations allegedly linked to his father.

Analysts told CNN there’s now unprecedented pressure on Spain’s monarchy, which King Felipe vowed to make more transparent when he took over six years ago.

“The monarchy is being questioned. It’s not the former king. That’s the deeper problem,” Javier Perez Royo, an emeritus professor of constitutional law at the University of Seville, told CNN.

Royo said he expects further efforts “to put a firewall between King Felipe VI and his father.”

Juan Carlos abdicated under a cloud of financial scandal and his much-criticized elephant-hunting trip to Botswana during Spain’s financial crisis in 2012.

But his abdication didn’t stop investigations.

Swiss prosecutors are examining documents that allege Juan Carlos may have received $100 million from Saudi Arabia’s king in 2008, a senior Spanish official with knowledge of the proceedings told CNN.

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The prosecutors are focusing on people purportedly linked to Juan Carlos who may have acted as proxies for bank accounts, the Spanish official said.

The official said the hypothesis is that the money may have been related to a contract for a Spanish consortium’s construction of a high-speed train between Medina and Mecca in Saudi Arabia.

In 2012, according to allegations in the documents in Switzerland, King Juan Carlos gave €65 million to his then companion, Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein, the Spanish official said.

Zu Sayn-Wittgenstein has testified twice before Swiss prosecutors and “no formal charges have been brought against her,” her lawyer, Robin Rathmell told CNN.

“She’s been the victim of a campaign of harassment headed by the King Emeritus [Juan Carlos] for eight years,” Rathmell said, adding it has hurt her reputation and business. She plans to sue in English courts to stop it, he said.

From left to right: then-Crown Prince Felipe, Spain's then-Queen Sofia, Saudi Arabia's then-King Abdullah, then-King Juan Carlos and then-Princess Letizia pose before a dinner in Madrid in July 2008.

The attorney general’s office for the canton of Geneva declined to comment on the Swiss investigation, but the Spanish official told CNN that prosecutors at Spain’s Supreme Court had received information from Switzerland.

The attorney general’s office in Spain said in a statement on June 8 that the Supreme Court investigation was indeed focused on the high-speed rail project in Saudi Arabia — and that Juan Carlos’ name had come up in the case.

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Prosecutors “will try to define or discard the criminal relevance of events that occurred after June 2014,” when Juan Carlos abdicated, the statement said. Juan Carlos had constitutional immunity from prosecution while king.

The former king’s lawyer, Javier Sanchez-Junco, told CNN, “There are no formal charges against King Juan Carlos in Spanish or in foreign courts at this time.” He declined further comment.

CNN contacted the embassies of Saudi Arabia in London and Madrid regarding the alleged 2008 transfer from the Saudi king to Juan Carlos, but received no immediate reply.

Juan Carlos, who is now 82, is widely credited with helping to guide Spain to democracy after the long dictatorship of Francisco Franco. But in recent years, his image has suffered. Last year, on the fifth anniversary of his abdication, he announced he was stepping down from public life.

Spanish media have reported that King Felipe may be planning to put further distance between himself and his father — by asking him to leave his residence at the Zarzuela Palace grounds west of Madrid.

The facade of Zarzuela Palace, seen in February 2019.
Reuters quoted an unnamed government source who said the matter of distance must be decided by the royal household, adding that Juan Carlos leaving Zarzuela Palace “may be an option.”

“The King [Felipe], if he has to make another decision, he will,” a palace spokesman told CNN. “The rest is speculation.”

There’s also been talk of a constitutional reform to strip immunity from the king. Yet that’s unlikely, three analysts told CNN, because Spain’s political parties are deeply divided.

King Felipe, 52, appears to be working hard to carve out his own image among Spaniards. He and Queen Letizia are nearly finished with a tour of all 17 of Spain’s regions, to thank people for their efforts during the coronavirus pandemic.

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Trump’s ex-Russia adviser Fiona Hill: US increasingly seen as ‘object of pity’

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“We are increasingly seen as an object of pity, including by our allies, because they are so shocked by what’s happening internally, how we’re eating ourselves alive with our divisions,” Fiona Hill, who was a witness in the Trump impeachment hearings, told CNN’s Jim Sciutto on Tuesday during the Citizen by CNN 2020 conference. “We’re the ones who are creating all this. It’s not the Russians or the Chinese or anyone else. We are doing this to ourselves.”

Asked whether the US is still seen as a model, Hill replied, “Unless we get our domestic act together, no.”

Her comments come on the heels of a recent Pew Research Center survey among 13 nations that found America’s reputation has declined further over the past year among its key allies, with part of the decline linked to the United States’ response to the coronavirus pandemic.

“What is really eroding our standing is what people are seeing happening here in the United States,” Hill, who was a national security adviser until she left the administration last summer, told CNN on Tuesday.

She said it’s the “bungled handling of Covid, on top of race relations, on top of our political polarization and the spectacles that we’re presenting to the outside world is what’s really pushing all of this.”

Hill said it would be “difficult” for NATO to survive under a second term of President Donald Trump, adding that the US needs to “revitalize our commitment to NATO.”

“Right now, most of our closest allies, not just partners and other major players, do not see the United States as leading. They see us as quite the contrary, as being so consumed with domestic problems that we really can’t do anything very much at all,” she said.

During congressional hearings in the 2019 impeachment inquiry, Hill warned that the Republican defense of the President — by peddling Ukraine conspiracy theories — was in danger of extending Russia’s meddling in the 2016 US presidential election.

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House hits pause on spending vote as Hill leaders resume talks

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Both Democrats and Republicans are eager to reach a deal to avert last-minute drama, though the two parties have squabbled for weeks over various funding and policy provisions in the continuing resolution, which would buy more time for negotiations on a broader spending deal.

“The talks continue, and hopefully we’ll reach an agreement,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters in the Capitol on Tuesday, though he did not comment when asked if he’d spoken with Pelosi.

Without a spending agreement, top Democrats and Republicans would find themselves exactly where they don’t want to be just weeks before the election — perilously close to the Sept. 30 deadline with no agreement to keep the government open.

A deal had appeared to be coming together on Friday, including tens of billions of dollars in farmer payments that Republicans sought in exchange for $2 billion in pandemic-related nutritional assistance that Democrats wanted.

But last-minute objections to the trade relief — including Democratic concerns that the president is leveraging the money to boost his reelection chances — tanked the talks. House Democrats ultimately released stopgap legislation on Monday that lacked both provisions, drawing the ire of McConnell, who tweeted that it “shamefully leaves out key relief and support that American farmers need.”

Both Pelosi and McConnell have been adamant about avoiding yet another government shutdown under President Donald Trump, and have supported a bill to extend funding through mid-December.

Senate Republicans on Monday said a lack of relief for farmers in the stopgap spending bill is problematic. But most stressed that it’s not worth shutting down the government in protest and said their side of the Capitol could still attempt to amend the bill.

“We could offer an amendment to try to put it back,” Senate Appropriations Chair Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) said of the trade aid on Monday. “Or we could vote against the CR. But I’m for running the government. I’d prefer to keep the government running.”

Asked if Republicans would be willing to spend more on food-related assistance in exchange for the farm aid, Shelby said Tuesday: “I’d listen to reason on that.”

Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), the chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, slammed the lack of assistance for farmers. But when asked if Republicans would shut down the government without it, he replied, “No.”

As of Friday, Democrats had dropped a request that would extend the Census Bureau’s Dec. 31 deadline to turn over apportionment data used to divvy up House seats to the president — potentially punting the final handling of census data to Democratic nominee Joe Biden if he’s elected this November. Democrats had also failed to secure $3.6 billion in election security grants.

The GOP demands for farm aid, however, have emerged as a sticking point for many rank-and-file Democrats, who have been increasingly irate about Trump’s blatant use of farm aid for political purposes. That includes a campaign rally in Mosinee, Wis., last week, where Trump touted the taxpayer money as if it were a gift from him.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, the No. 4 Senate Democrat and ranking member of the agriculture committee, this week criticized Trump’s use of the program as a “slush fund” and argued Republicans have been unwilling to agree to stricter guardrails around how the aid can be spent.

“This is not just a political fund for the election,” she said.

Helena Bottemiller Evich contributed to this report.

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Nicola Sturgeon Has Banned Household Mixing In Scotland And Claimed English Measures Do Not Go Far Enough

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Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has banned household mixing (Credit: PA)

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Nicola Sturgeon has announced a ban on households mixing in Scotland, claiming experts say the restrictions introduced in England by Boris Johnson do not go far enough.

The first minister said the Scottish government’s top experts had warned the curbs announced by the Prime Minister on Tuesday would not make a big enough impact on Covid-19 transmission rates.

“The advice given to the Cabinet by the chief medical officer and the national clinical director is that this on its own will not be sufficient to bring the R number down,” she told the Scottish parliament.

“They stress that we must act, not just quickly and decisively, but also on a scale significant enough to have an impact on the spread of the virus, and they advise that we must take account of the fact that household interaction is a key driver of transmission.”

Mr Johnson has imposed a 10pm curfew on the hospitality industry from midnight on Thursday, as well as a legal requirement for those working in the sector, and in retail, to wear masks.

The PM stopped short of preventing different households from socialising with each other outside of local lockdown areas, but said people should work from home wherever possible.

Mrs Sturgeon said she planned to impose similar restrictions on pubs, bars and restaurants but would also go further.

“To that end, we intend as Northern Ireland did yesterday to also introduce nationwide additional restrictions on household gatherings, similar to those already in place in the west of Scotland,” she added.

Earlier in the Commons, Mr Johnson claimed the four nations of the UK were following “similar” restriction plans, despite Northern Ireland announcing on Monday that it would ban socialising between households.

This applies in places like pubs and restaurants as well as in people’s homes.

In Wales, people are not allowed to mix indoors with people outside their own household or support bubble, and meetings or gatherings indoors even within an extended household is limited to six people.

Reports suggest insiders were worried about the prospect of Mrs Sturgeon diverging and implementing a “circuit-breaker” of stricter measures – leaving the actions of Mr Johnson’s government further exposed should they fail.

Some members of the prime minister’s frontbench – including Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Home Secretary Priti Patel – are believed to have lobbied for lighter intervention, while other cabinet ministers were in favour of a more drastic approach.

Mr Johnson told MPs: “I want to stress that this is by no means a return to the full lockdown of March.  We’re not issuing a genuine instruction to stay at home, we will ensure that schools, colleges and universities stay open.”

He added: “We will continue to act against local flare ups, working alongside councils and strengthening measures where necessary.”

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