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It's a new year but the politics of 2020 isn't going away – CNN



(CNN) It is officially, finally 2021. But while everyone on Earth has had enough of the year that was, Americans need to gird themselves for a bit more 2020, at least to start, as a large portion of Republican lawmakers put their names next to President Donald Trump’s effort to overturn the election.

There will be 20 more days of Trump and he will be on fire. The President has brought his drama show back to Washington early, perhaps realizing his time in the White House is down to days and counting. He’s also hoping to pressure Republican lawmakers to back his wild and inaccurate claims of fraud when the electoral votes that seal his exit are counted in what’s normally an antiquated ceremony.

He will also travel to Georgia for his last political rally as President, when he encourages voters there to show up for the all-important January 5 runoff and protect Republicans’ Senate majority. There are, as of this writing, two developing complications for Trump. He’s spent months attacking the electoral system as fraudulent, particularly in Georgia, where he lost. And one of the Republican candidates, Sen. David Perdue, will have to quarantine after coming into contact with someone who tested positive for Covid-19.

There will be a show January 6. CNN’s Jake Tapper reported Thursday that as many as 140 House Republicans could vote to throw out electoral votes from swing states. That’s a strong majority of the Republicans in the House trying to overturn the election and swear fealty to the President.

It’s an easier vote in the House, where objections to the election are destined to fall against the larger number of Democrats in that chamber.

Senators who bit their tongues during his presidency will have a chance to find their independence.

There will be calls for sanity. Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse criticized those who would object to the electoral votes of Pennsylvania, and perhaps other states, when they’re counted January 6.

“I have been urging my colleagues also to reject this dangerous ploy,” Sasse wrote in a six-part Facebook post, after Sen. Josh Hawley, a Missouri Republican, said he would be the senator who forced votes on the objections.

It’ll be an aggravating vote for those Senate Republicans running for reelection in 2022, when the party is defending more Senate seats than Democrats.

There will be a split in the GOP. A vote for the objections Trump wants is a vote for conspiracy theory over fact and against the democratic will of the country.

A vote against the objections is to accept the decision of the people but defy the grassroots of the GOP and fail a fealty test to Trump, likely inviting a primary challenge in the near future.

Few Senate Republicans want to make this choice, which is why party elders had tried to shield themselves from it. But now that Hawley has decided to object, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has made it clear to lawmakers he’s giving them room to vote their conscience, according to a source familiar with a Thursday conference call on which McConnell asked Hawley — who was not in attendance — to explain his rationale.

Still, McConnell went on to tell his colleagues that even with a career as long as his, the vote would mark one of the most significant, perhaps the most significant, he’d ever cast — and that it would mark the same for each senator on the call, two people familiar with the call told CNN.

But this intraparty split will carry over to other questions. As Trump weighs in, unbound by any sort of official responsibility, his sway over the party will be tested.

President Trump’s tweets in favor of $2,000 stimulus checks got several GOP senators to endorse the idea, although McConnell effectively killed it.

When former President Trump tweets in favor of something, will Republicans pay attention?

There will be a reckoning over the President’s Twitter account. Even after he’s left office, the President will have access to his Twitter account. It’s been his preferred mode of communication while in office. The problem for the soon-to-be former President is that he may not be given the same deference by social media companies out of office as he’s been given as leader of the free world.

Twitter and Facebook have taken to marking as suspect the posts in which he spreads outright falsehoods about his election loss, but it may soon become difficult for those companies to justify allowing him to spread them at all.

Accounts have been suspended for less than what Trump does on a daily basis and the social media companies will come under immediate pressure to censure Trump, perhaps by suspending his account.

The effects of such a move, were it to occur, would be interesting not only to see if his power to influence is clipped without his platform, but also to hasten GOP scrutiny of “Section 230,” a provision of telecom law that separates the companies from the content users publish on their sites.

There will be a split among Democrats. It’s much easier to be united in pursuit of power than it is to stay united in power. Trump, to his credit, was able to effectively marshal Republicans, often through fear and bullying, during his time in office. As president, it’s unlikely Biden will use those same tactics. And he’ll have to contend with progressives on the left who want more attention to big problems like climate change and inequality that require systemic change the moderates in his party have less interest in pursuing. A year from now, it will be much easier for Republicans to focus on Biden’s policies — and he’s likely to be a relatively moderate president — in a way to aggravate and turn off progressives. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders won’t quietly let Biden take the moderate route. Neither will Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or the Congressional Black Caucus.

The proof of these divides is already evident in the scrutiny Biden has faced from progressives in the selection of his Cabinet.

His ability to navigate the demands of the groups that rallied behind his campaign, and navigate around Republican obstruction, will determine whether he can get anything done in the White House.

There will be a majority in the Senate. We just don’t know yet which party will have it. That depends on what happens in Georgia’s twin US Senate runoffs Tuesday. If the two Republican incumbents — Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler — win, Republicans will have 51 votes and control access to the Senate floor. Given McConnell’s expertise in obstruction and interest in the 2022 midterms, a 51-seat majority could be Biden’s biggest presidential headache. If the Democratic challengers — Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock — win, the resulting 50-50 tie won’t give Democrats much wiggle room to pass legislation, but it will give them the ability to get measures on the Senate floor with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris able to break ties as president of the Senate.

There will be so much more Covid. The beginning of Biden’s presidency will likely be judged more for what he does to kickstart the use of Covid vaccines than for any large policy proposals. The country is at war with the disease and, as he prepares to take office, thousands of Americans are dying each day. He’s promised to “move heaven and earth” to get vaccines out to Americans, something more easily said than done as he navigates public skepticism of vaccines.

There will be something new. Think back to the beginning of 2020, when Covid was not yet known to be in the country, and the overriding political story was the historic impeachment of Trump for pressuring foreign governments to help him taint Biden.

One year later, those words seem like something from a different era. Covid rages, impeachment feels like a footnote to history and, rather than suffer Trump’s sabotage, Biden will soon be president.

The coming year is sure to include its own twists, and our collective view of this strange and tumultuous period will change as it’s stretched through time and perspective.

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Green Party in turmoil, leader resists calls to step down



Canada‘s Green Party was increasingly mired in an internal dispute over its position on Israel on Tuesday, and a news report said the bloc would hold a vote next month on whether to oust its leader, Annamie Paul, who was elected just eight months ago.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corp (CBC) reported that the Greens had triggered a process that could remove Paul, the first black person to head a mainstream Canadian party, beginning with a vote next month.

A Green Party spokesperson declined to comment on the report, but said the party’s “federal council” would meet later on Tuesday. Earlier in the day, Paul, 48, rejected calls from the Quebec wing of the party for her to resign after a member of parliament left the Greens due to the Israel controversy.

“I believe that I have been given a strong mandate. I believe that I have been given the instructions to work on behalf of Canadians for a green recovery,” Paul said at a news conference in Ottawa.

Paul herself is not a member of parliament. The Greens – who champion the environment and the fight against climate change – had only three legislators in the 338-seat House of Commons and one, Jenica Atwin, abandoned the party last week to join the governing Liberals.

Atwin has said that her exit was in large part due to a dispute over the party’s stance on Israel. Atwin on Twitter has criticized Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, while a senior adviser to Paul, Noah Zatzman, has posted on Facebook that some unspecified Green members of parliament are anti-Semitic.

The party’s executive committee voted last week not to renew Zatzman’s contract, local media reported. Paul converted to Judaism some two decades ago after she married a Jewish man.

While the Greens are the smallest faction in parliament, they perform well in British Colombia and hold two seats there. The current turmoil may favor their rivals ahead of a national election that senior Liberals say could be just a few months away.

The Greens would win about 6.7% of the vote nationally if a vote were held now, according to an average of recent polls aggregated by the CBC.


(Reporting by Steve Scherer and Julie Gordon; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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Hope, anger and defiance greet birth of Israel’s new government



Following are reactions to the new government in Israel, led by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.


“We’ll be back, soon.”


“On behalf of the American people, I congratulate Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Alternate Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, and all the members of the new Israeli cabinet. I look forward to working with Prime Minister Bennett to strengthen all aspects of the close and enduring relationship between our two nations.”


“This is an internal Israeli affair. Our position has always been clear, what we want is a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with Jerusalem as its capital.”


“On behalf of the UK, I offer my congratulations to

@naftalibennett and @yairlapid on forming a new government in Israel. As we emerge from COVID-19, this is an exciting time for the UK and Israel to continue working together to advance peace and prosperity for all.”


“I look forward to working with the Government to advance the ultimate goal of a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians.”


“Congratulations to Prime Minister @naftalibennett and to Alternate PM & MFA @yairlapid for the swearing in of the new Israeli government. Looking forward to strengthen the partnership for common prosperity and towards lasting regional peace & stability.”


“Regardless of the shape of the government in Israel, it will not alter the way we look at the Zionist entity. It is an occupation and a colonial entity, which we should resist by force to get our rights back.”


“With all due respect, Israel is not a widower. Israel’s security was never dependent on one man. And it will never be dependent on one man.”


“So, there’s a new Administration in Israel. And we are hopeful that we can now begin serious negotiations for a two-state solution. I am urging the Biden Administration to do all it can to bring the parties together and help achieve a two-state solution where each side can live side by side in peace.”


“Congratulations on the formation of a new Israeli government, Prime Minister @NaftaliBennett and Alternate Prime Minister @YairLapid. Together, let’s explore ways to further strengthen the relationship between Canada and Israel.”


“We are aware that this step has a lot of risks and hardships that we cannot deny, but the opportunity for us is also big: to change the equation and the balance of power in the Knesset and in the upcoming government.”


“I think it’s very exciting for Israel to have a new beginning and I’m hopeful that the new government will take them in the right direction.”


“It’s a sad day today, it’s not a legitimate government. It’s pretty sad that almost 86 (out of 120 seats) in the parliament, the Knesset, belong to the right-wing and they sold their soul and ideology and their beliefs to the extreme left-wing just for one purpose – hatred of Netanyahu and to become a prime minister.”


“Congratulations to PM @naftalibennett and alternate PM @yairlapid for forming a government. I look forward to working with you. Austria is committed to Israel as a Jewish and democratic state and will continue to stand by Israel’s side.”

(Reporting by Stephen Farrell; Editing by Andrew Heavens, Daniel Wallis and Lisa Shumaker)

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Boris Johnson hails Biden as ‘a big breath of fresh air’



British Prime Minister Boris Johnson hailed U.S. President Joe Biden on Thursday as “a big breath of fresh air”, and praised his determination to work with allies on important global issues ranging from climate change and COVID-19 to security.

Johnson did not draw an explicit parallel between Biden and his predecessor Donald Trump after talks with the Democratic president in the English seaside resort of Carbis Bay on the eve of a summit of the Group of Seven (G7) advanced economies.

But his comments made clear Biden had taken a much more multilateral approach to talks than Trump, whose vision of the world at times shocked, angered and bewildered many of Washington’s European allies.

“It’s a big breath of fresh air,” Johnson said of a meeting that lasted about an hour and 20 minutes.

“It was a long, long, good session. We covered a huge range of subjects,” he said. “It’s new, it’s interesting and we’re working very hard together.”

The two leaders appeared relaxed as they admired the view across the Atlantic alongside their wives, with Jill Biden wearing a jacket embroidered with the word “LOVE”.

“It’s a beautiful beginning,” she said.

Though Johnson said the talks were “great”, Biden brought grave concerns about a row between Britain and the European Union which he said could threaten peace in the British region of Northern Ireland, which following Britain’s departure from the EU is on the United Kingdom’s frontier with the bloc as it borders EU member state Ireland.

The two leaders did not have a joint briefing after the meeting: Johnson spoke to British media while Biden made a speech about a U.S. plan to donate half a billion vaccines to poorer countries.


Biden, who is proud of his Irish heritage, was keen to prevent difficult negotiations between Brussels and London undermining a 1998 U.S.-brokered peace deal known as the Good Friday Agreement that ended three decades of bloodshed in Northern Ireland.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters aboard Air Force One on the way to Britain that Biden had a “rock-solid belief” in the peace deal and that any steps that imperilled the accord would not be welcomed.

Yael Lempert, the top U.S. diplomat in Britain, issued London with a demarche – a formal diplomatic reprimand – for “inflaming” tensions, the Times newspaper reported.

Johnson sought to play down the differences with Washington.

“There’s complete harmony on the need to keep going, find solutions, and make sure we uphold the Belfast Good Friday Agreement,” said Johnson, one of the leaders of the 2016 campaign to leave the EU.

Asked if Biden had made his alarm about the situation in Northern Ireland very clear, he said: “No he didn’t.

“America, the United States, Washington, the UK, plus the European Union have one thing we absolutely all want to do,” Johnson said. “And that is to uphold the Belfast Good Friday Agreement, and make sure we keep the balance of the peace process going. That is absolutely common ground.”

The 1998 peace deal largely brought an end to the “Troubles” – three decades of conflict between Irish Catholic nationalist militants and pro-British Protestant “loyalist” paramilitaries in which 3,600 people were killed.

Britain’s exit from the EU has strained the peace in Northern Ireland. The 27-nation bloc wants to protect its markets but a border in the Irish Sea cuts off the British province from the rest of the United Kingdom.

Although Britain formally left the EU in 2020, the two sides are still trading threats over the Brexit deal after London unilaterally delayed the implementation of the Northern Irish clauses of the deal.

Johnson’s Downing Street office said he and Biden agreed that both Britain and the EU “had a responsibility to work together and to find pragmatic solutions to allow unencumbered trade” between Northern Ireland, Britain and Ireland.”

(Reporting by Steve Holland, Andrea Shalal, Padraic Halpin, John Chalmers; Writing by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Giles Elgood, Emelia Sithole-Matarise, Mark Potter and Timothy Heritage)

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