US split as country awaits 2nd Trump impeach trial
As the nation braces for Donald Trump’s 2nd impeachment trial, only half of Americans believe the Senate should vote to convict former president, that’s despite a majority saying he bears at least some blame for the Capitol insurrection Jan. 6. (Feb. 5)
Senate leaders agreed Monday on shaping how former President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial will be conducted, with arguments consuming most of this week and a decision about whether to call witnesses days away.
Democrats have been wrestling with whether to push for a quick trial or include witnesses, which could lengthen the proceedings by weeks or months. Some Democrats are eager to call witnesses for an exhaustive review of the Capitol riot Jan. 6. But other Democrats want to move quickly beyond the trial, to confirming President Joe Biden’s nominees and working on spending legislation for COVID-19.
The trial is historic in several ways. Trump was the first president to be impeached twice and will be the first to be tried after leaving office. Senators who will be jurors were also witnesses to the insurrection as they evacuated the chamber, which was occupied by rioters.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said he and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., negotiated the bipartisan framework with House managers and Trump’s defense team.
The framework calls for four hours of debate Tuesday about whether the case should be dismissed. Trump’s defense team argues that the trial is unconstitutional because he already left office.
The Senate must still vote on the resolution that Schumer outlined.
But the Senate has already rejected a point of order about whether the trial was unconstitutional, on a 55-45 vote. Congressional Democrats cited precedents about trials of a Cabinet secretary and judges after they left office.
If case isn’t dismissed, the trial continues Wednesday with House prosecutors, who are called managers, and Trump’s defense team each having 16 hours for arguments.
“Each side will have ample time to make their arguments,” Schumer said.
After both sides complete their arguments, House managers could make a contentious request for witnesses. Most Republicans and some Democrats say witnesses would greatly prolong the trial. But some Democrats want a thorough trial.
Schumer said the Senate would honor a request from one of Trump’s lawyers, David Schoen, to avoid working on the Sabbath, so the trial won’t continue after Friday sundown through Saturday. The trial could resume Sunday afternoon, if it lasts that long.
— Bart Jansen
House Democrats replied Monday to former President Donald Trump’s written argument for his Senate impeachment trial by calling it “wholly without merit.”
Trump’s defense team had argued that the trial, with oral arguments beginning Tuesday, was unconstitutional because he is no longer in office. The defense also argued that Trump’s speech Jan. 6 was protected by the First Amendment, despite the House charge that he incited insurrection at the Capitol.
The House reply called Trump’s reliance on the First Amendment “baseless.” The Democrats again cited Trump’s statement to a crowd – “if you don’t fight like hell you’re not going to have a country any more” – before the mob siege to the Capitol.
Trump’s team said the House’s article of impeachment was flawed because it contained multiple allegations behind a single charge. But House Democrats said they described a “single course of conduct” that constituted incitement.
“There must be no doubt that such conduct is categorically unacceptable,” the House reply said.
— Bart Jansen
Trump’s attorneys attacks Democrats ahead of impeachment trial, call case ‘political theater’
Former President Donald Trump’s attorneys on Monday laid out their defense to the impeachment article charging the former president with inciting an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. In the 78-page filing, they argue the case is unconstitutional, would violate Trump’s First Amendment rights, and is based on cherry-picked facts and remarks.
Trump’s legal team also argued the House’s impeachment process was rushed, pointing out the chamber impeached him a week after the attack at the U.S. Capitol and before any investigation had started. The team argued the speed did not allow Trump due process
“This rushed, single article of impeachment ignores the very Constitution from which its power comes and is itself defectively drafted,” the brief states. “The Article of Impeachment presented by the House is unconstitutional for a variety of reasons, any of which alone would be grounds for immediate dismissal. Taken together, they demonstrate conclusively that indulging House Democrats hunger for this political theater is a danger to our Republic democracy and the rights that we hold dear.”
Impeachment stakes: The stakes are high not only for Trump but also for almost everybody else
The brief argues the president did not incite the crowd during his speech the day of the attack, noting law enforcement has said the attack was planned ahead of time. The lawyers argue Trump’s words about “fighting” the election have been used by before and they outline remarks top Democrats have used over the years about protesting and fighting against Trump’s policies.
The brief also lists one new member of Trump’s legal team: Philadelphia attorney Michael T. van der Veen. The attorney, who heads a law firm and specializes in personal injury and criminal defense cases, works with fellow Trump attorney Bruce Castor. The addition marks the third attorney to join Trump’s team, far less than the 10 who represented him during his first impeachment trial last year.
– Christal Hayes
White House: Trump hasn’t requested classified intelligence
The Biden administration hasn’t had to decide whether to bar former President Donald Trump from receiving classified materials because Trump hasn’t asked for an intelligence briefing, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday.
If Trump does request a briefing, Psaki said, the president will let his intelligence team decide how to proceed.
Biden said Friday that Trump should no longer receive classified intelligence briefings because of his “erratic behavior.”
“There is no need for him to have the intelligence briefings,” Biden said on the CBS Evening News With Norah O’Donnell. “What value is giving him an intelligence briefing? What impact does he have at all, other than the fact he might slip and say something?”
Former presidents are frequently given routine intelligence briefings and access to classified materials after they leave office. But some Democratic lawmakers have questioned whether Trump should continue to receive the reports, arguing he could pose a national security risk.
Psaki said Biden was expressing his concern about Trump receiving access to sensitive intelligence, “but he also has deep trust in his own intelligence team to make a determination about how to provide intelligence information, if at any point the former president requests a briefing.”
“So that’s not currently applicable,” she added. “But if he should request a briefing, he leaves it to them to make a determination.”
– Maureen Groppe and Michael Collins
Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby announces retirement in 2022
Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., announced Monday he will not be seeking reelection and will be retiring from the Senate in 2022.
“Today I announce that I will not seek a seventh term in the United States Senate in 2022. For everything, there is a season,” Shelby said in a statement. “I am grateful to the people of Alabama who have put their trust in me for more than forty years.”
Shelby, 86, is the Senate’s fourth most senior member. He was elected to the Senate in 1986 and has spent the last two years as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, before Democrats gained control of the chamber in the last election.
“Although I plan to retire, I am not leaving today,” he said in the statement. “I have two good years remaining to continue my work in Washington. I have the vision and the energy to give it my all.”
– Savannah Behrmann
Report: $15 per hour minimum wage would cost 1.4 million jobs
A new government report concludes that raising the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour would cause 1.4 million Americans to lose their jobs but would lift 900,000 people out of poverty.
Higher wages would increase the cost of producing goods and services and cause employers to reduce their workforce, the Congressional Budget Office says in a report that examined the impact of boosting the minimum wage.
By 2025, when the hourly minimum wage would hit $15 under a proposal before Congress, some 1.4 million Americans would be out of work, the report concludes. Young, less educated people would account for a disproportionate share of the job reductions, the report says.
President Joe Biden advocated for raising for the minimum wage during his campaign last year and has proposed boosting the hourly rate to $15 as part of his COVID-19 relief package. Congressional Republicans, however, largely object to raising the minimum wage.
Biden conceded last week that the minimum wage proposal is unlikely to survive as part of his COVID-relief bill. “Apparently, that’s not going to occur,” he said in an interview with CBS Evening News With Norah O’Donnell.
Biden told O’Donnell he is prepared to negotiate a separate proposal to boost the minimum wage to $15 per hour.
– Michael Collins
Rep. Ron Wright, R-Texas, dies after contracting COVID-19
Rep. Ron Wright, R-Texas, died Sunday, according to a statement released by his campaign, weeks after testing positive for COVID-19. He was 67.
Wright, a second-term congressman from a district sprawling from Arlington to rural areas south of Dallas, announced he had tested positive for COVID-19 on Jan. 21. He had also been undergoing treatment for lung cancer. Wright is the first sitting member of Congress to die after contracting COVID-19.
“His wife Susan was by his side and he is now in the presence of their Lord and Savior,” his campaign said. He and his wife had been in the hospital for the last two weeks, his campaign said.
Wright has three children and nine grandchildren, according to his official biography.
– Nicholas Wu
Senate to decide contours of Trump impeachment trial
With oral arguments in the Senate impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump scheduled to start Tuesday, senators face key decisions on how to arrange the trial, including the crucial question of whether to call witnesses.
Witnesses could help House Democrats prosecuting the case chronicle the insurrection Jan. 6 at the Capitol that Trump is charged with inciting. Some Senate Democrats, including Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock, who was sworn in after the riot, are eager to hear as much detail as possible.
“I want a clear record for future generations about what happened on Jan. 6,” said Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the second-ranking Democrat in the Senate. “When I read that 40% of Trump’s followers believe that antifa was actually in the group that motivated these people to act in a terrorist way, I’m outraged.”
Extensive reporting by USA TODAY and other media organizations has identified dozens of people who forced their way into the Capitol, all of whom showed a history of being avid Trump supporters. USA TODAY also tracked how the antifa “false flag” conspiracy theory was generated online and quickly spread — even to the floors of Congress.
House Democrats are expected to play videos of Trump’s speech, the mob smashing into the Capitol and rioters occupying the Senate chamber. Police officers could offer harrowing witness testimony. Beyond the events of Jan. 6, the article charged Trump with pressuring Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to change overturn the election results in his state based on a recorded phone call. Prosecutors could at least play the recording, but might also want to call him as a witness.
Jurors and witnesses: Senators take on unprecedented role in Trump’s second impeachment trial
House prosecutors, who are called managers, led by Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., asked last week for Trump to testify under oath. He declined, with his lawyers calling the request a publicity stunt.
Witnesses could also prolong a trial that members of both parties want over quickly. Democrats are eager to confirm President Joe Biden’s nominees and to adopt legislation dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. All but a handful of Republicans in each chamber opposed even holding a trial.
“I don’t think the country needs a whole lot,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who noted that House Democrats approved the article of impeachment without calling witnesses. “I guess the public record is your television screen, I don’t know.”
The decision on witnesses will be part of the Senate debate on a resolution organizing details about the trial such as how much time each side has for arguments. For Trump’s first trial, the Senate, then led by Republicans, voted to reject calling witnesses. At that time, House Democrats wanted witnesses to explain Trump’s dealings with Ukraine, but Senate Republicans refused.
In addition to the organizing resolution, the Senate is set to receive Monday the most detailed written argument yet from Trump’s defense team responding to a House brief filed last week. Trump’s team has called the trial unconstitutional for pursuing him after he left office. The team also argued that the speech Trump gave Jan. 6 before the mob rampaged through the Capitol was protected by the First Amendment.
– Bart Jansen
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)
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.
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, FORMER ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER
“We’ll be back, soon.”
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES
“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.”
NABIL ABU RUDEINEH, SPOKESMAN FOR PALESTINIAN PRESIDENT MAHMOUD ABBAS
“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.”
BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER VIA TWITTER
“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.”
TOR WENNESLAND, U.N. MIDDLE EAST PEACE ENVOY VIA TWITTER
“I look forward to working with the Government to advance the ultimate goal of a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians.”
CHARLES MICHEL, EUROPEAN COUNCIL PRESIDENT VIA TWITTER
“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.”
FAWZI BARHOUM, HAMAS SPOKESMAN
“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.”
BENNY GANTZ, ISRAELI DEFENCE MINISTER
“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.”
CHUCK SCHUMER, U.S. SENATE MAJORITY LEADER
“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.”
JUSTIN TRUDEAU, PRIME MINISTER OF CANADA
“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.”
MANSOUR ABBAS, ARAB MEMBER OF NEW ISRAELI GOVERNMENT
“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.”
DAPHNA KILION, ISRAELI IN JERUSALEM
“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.”
EREZ GOLDMAN, ISRAELI IN JERUSALEM
“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.”
SEBASTIAN KURZ, CHANCELLOR OF AUSTRIA, VIA TWITTER
“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)
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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