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Senate Republicans rally behind Trump on eve of impeachment trial – CBC.ca

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Donald Trump’s defenders in the Senate on Sunday rallied around the former president before his impeachment trial, dismissing it as a waste of time and arguing that his fiery speech before the U.S. Capitol insurrection does not make him responsible for the violence of Jan. 6.

“If being held accountable means being impeached by the House and being convicted by the Senate, the answer to that is no,” said Republican Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi, making clear his belief that Trump should and will be acquitted. Asked if Congress could consider other punishment, such as censure, Wicker said the Democratic-led House had that option earlier but rejected it in favour of impeaching him.

“That ship has sailed,” he said.

The Senate is set to launch the impeachment trial on Tuesday to consider the charge that Trump’s fighting words to protesters at a Capitol rally, as well as weeks of falsehoods about what he called a stolen and rigged presidential election, provoked a mob to storm the Capitol. Five people died as a result of the melee, including a police officer.

Many senators, including Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, immediately denounced the violence and pointed a finger of blame at Trump. Following the riot, Wicker said Americans “will not stand for this kind of attack on the rule of law” and, without naming names, said “we must prosecute” those who undermine democracy.

But with Trump now gone from the presidency, Republicans have shown little political appetite to take further action, such as an impeachment conviction that could lead to barring him from running for future office. Those partisan divisions appear to be hardening ahead of Trump’s trial, a sign of his continuing grip on the Republican Party.

On Sunday, Wicker described Trump’s impeachment trial as a “meaningless messaging partisan exercise.” When asked if Trump’s conduct should be more deserving of impeachment than that of former president Bill Clinton, whom Wicker voted to impeach, he said: “I’m not conceding that President Trump incited an insurrection.” Clinton’s impeachment, in 1998, was sparked by his false denial in a deposition of a sexual relationship with a White House intern.

Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky dismissed Trump’s trial as a farce with “zero chance of conviction,” describing Trump’s words to protesters to “fight like hell” as Congress was voting to ratify Joe Biden’s presidential victory as “figurative” speech.

“If we’re going to criminalize speech, and somehow impeach everybody who says, `Go fight to hear your voices heard,’ I mean really, we ought to impeach Chuck Schumer then,” Paul said, referring to the now Democratic Senate majority leader and his criticisms of Justice Neil Gorsuch and Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

“He went to the Supreme Court, stood in front of the Supreme Court and said specifically, `Hey Gorsuch, Hey Kavanaugh, you’ve unleashed a whirlwind. And you’re going to pay the price.”‘

Republican Sen. Rand Paul speaks while Trump looks on during a campaign rally in Lexington, Ky., in November 2019. (Susan Walsh/The Associated Press)

Paul noted that Chief Justice John Roberts had declined to preside over this week’s impeachment proceeding because Trump was no longer president. Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy will preside over the trial as Senate president pro tempore.

“It is a farce, it is unconstitutional. But more than anything, it’s unwise and going to divide the country,” Paul said.

Last month, Paul forced a vote to set aside the trial as unconstitutional because Trump is no longer in office, which legal experts say is disputable. But the vote suggested the near impossibility in reaching a conviction in a Senate where Democrats hold 50 seats but a two-thirds vote — or 67 senators — would be needed to convict Trump.

Forty-four Republican senators sided with Paul and voted to oppose holding an impeachment trial at all. Five Republican senators joined with Democrats to reject Paul’s motion: Mitt Romney of Utah, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania.

WATCH | Republicans face backlash for speaking out against Trump:

Although former U.S. president Donald Trump still has allies in the Republican Party, others are facing backlash for saying he should be punished for inciting the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol. 2:05

Some Republicans have said the vote doesn’t “bind” them into voting a particular way on conviction, with Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana saying Sunday he would listen carefully to the evidence. But even Trump’s sharper Republican critics on Sunday acknowledged the widely expected outcome.

“You did have 45 Republican senators vote to suggest that they didn’t think it was appropriate to conduct a trial, so you can infer how likely it is that those folks will vote to convict,” said Toomey, who has made clear he believes Trump committed “impeachable offences.”

“I still think the best outcome would have been for the president to resign” before he left office, Toomey said. “Obviously he chose not to do that.”

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, one of Trump’s ardent defenders, said he believes Trump’s actions were wrong and “he’s going to have a place in history for all of this,” but he insisted it’s not the Senate’s job to judge.

“It’s not a question of how the trial ends, it’s a question of when it ends,” Graham said. “Republicans are going to view this as an unconstitutional exercise, and the only question is, will they call witnesses, how long does the trial take? But the outcome is really not in doubt.”

Wicker spoke on ABC’s This Week, Paul was on Fox News Sunday, Toomey appeared on CNN’s State of the Union and Graham was on CBS’s Face the Nation.

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'Totally unacceptable': U.S. secretary of state calls on China to free Two Michaels – National Post

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Antony Blinken told CBC that he has been advocating for the release of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig in talks with Chinese counterparts

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Top politicians in the United States and Canada sounded off on China on the weekend, condemning the detention of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig and signalling plans to co-operate in securing the release of the two Canadians.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken called the detentions “totally unacceptable,” in an interview with CBC News aired on Sunday.

“Using people, human beings, as pawns for political purposes, it is totally unacceptable conduct by any country,” said Blinken, who met virtually with Canadian officials on Friday as part of a round of talks last week between the Canadian federal government and U.S. President Joe Biden’s new administration.

Kovrig and Spavor, known in Canada as the two Michaels, have been detained in China on espionage charges since December 2018. Canadian officials have decried their detention as political retribution or “hostage diplomacy” by China, since their arrests came shortly after the RCMP detained Meng Wanzhou, a senior executive with Chinese telecom giant Huawei, on an extradition request from the United States.

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Using people, human beings, as pawns for political purposes, it is totally unacceptable conduct by any country

“We stand strongly with Canada when it comes to the need to see the two Michaels released immediately and unconditionally,” Blinken told CBC. “We will continue to stand with Canada on that. I’ve made that clear in my own conversations with Chinese counterparts and we look forward to the day when they’re able to return home.”

Blinken’s comments on the matter echoed those of Biden, who pledged to help bring back the two Canadians during his summit with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last week.

“Human beings are not bartering chips,” Biden said. “We’re going to work together until we get their safe return.”

But it’s not clear exactly how the two nations will achieve that.

“These are processes that are ongoing,” Trudeau told a news conference on Friday. “The United States is taking their role in this very seriously and we look forward to working with them on bringing the two Michaels home as soon as possible.”

Blinken has repeatedly declined to comment on questions about whether the U.S. is considering a so-called deferred prosecution agreement — a form of plea deal that could allow Meng to return to China in return for an admission of wrongdoing.

Last week, a Justice Department spokesman confirmed to The Canadian Press that prosecutors were continuing to seek Meng’s extradition to the U.S., where she is facing fraud charges.

  1. U.S. President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, appearing via video conference call, give closing remarks at the end of their virtual bilateral meeting from the White House, February 23, 2021.

    Trudeau’s swipe at Trump in call with Biden: ‘U.S. leadership has been sorely missed over the past years’

  2. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks about the detention by China of Canadians, Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, on July 1, 2020, in Washington. U.S. intervention in the extradition proceedings against Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou could be one way to bring about their freedom.

    China, Canada or U.S. could each bring about Two Michaels’ freedom, says Kovrig’s wife

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In an interview with NBC’s Meet the Press that aired on Sunday, Trudeau said Canada will honour its extradition treaty, accusing China of using “trumped-up” charges “to try and pressure us to release” Meng.

“The relationship with China in Canada is deeply coloured by the fact that they have arbitrarily detained two Canadian citizens, simply because we lived up to an extradition treaty with the United States,” he said in the pre-taped interview.

“They, shortly afterwards, arrested two Canadian citizens on national security trumped-up charges and have detained them for about 800 days and counting now, in an attempt to try and pressure us to release the executive. We, of course, are a country of the rule of law. We will not do that. We live by our treaties and live by the rule of law.”

We, of course, are a country of the rule of law. We will not do that. We live by our treaties and live by the rule of law

Trudeau said his talks with Biden were “very positive in us working together to try and resolve this situation and hold China to account.”

After his meeting with Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau on Friday, Blinken praised the Canadian government’s work on snuffing out politically motivated imprisonment around the globe, by getting countries to sign onto its Declaration Against Arbitrary Detention.

The declaration, a project initiated by former foreign affairs minister François-Philippe Champagne, is from a coalition of more than 50 countries opposed to the state-sponsored political detention of foreign nationals.

“Obviously we have to focus on bringing the two Michaels home, but more broadly we have to work together to establish a basic norm in international conduct that this is simply unacceptable,” Blinken told CBC on Sunday. “That takes time. It takes effort — it takes sustained effort.”

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Over the weekend, Michael Kovrig’s wife, Vina Nadjibulla, told Global News that she hopes the government will “seize this moment” and convert the fresh U.S. support into action.

“What I took away from that is that President Biden has compassion for the unjust suffering that our Michael and Michael Spavor are going through, as well as that he understands that Canada has been paying a really high price since it accepted the extradition request from the U.S. two years ago,” she said.

Asked how her husband was doing, Nadjibulla said she has received letters from him and noted “he is staying mentally strong.”

“His situation is so incredibly, unspeakably difficult and he continues to stay focused on what he can control,” she said.

—With files from The Canadian Press

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Toronto Raptors' game against Chicago postponed due to COVID-19 cases – CTV Toronto

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NEW YORK —
The Toronto Raptors’ COVID-19 troubles have worsened.

The NBA called off Toronto’s game against the visiting Chicago Bulls on Sunday night due to COVID-19 health and safety protocols.

The league said the Raptors are dealing with positive test results, and combined with contact tracing issues, won’t have the league-required eight players available for the game.

The Raptors were missing head coach Nick Nurse, five members of his staff and star forward Pascal Siakam for Friday’s victory over Houston. Assistant Sergio Scariolo stepped in to coach the team to a 122-111 win.

The Raptors had largely managed to dodge the global pandemic in an NBA season reeling from COVID-19 cases. This is Toronto’s first game rescheduled due to COVID-19, but the 30th this season league-wide. Prior to Sunday, the Raptors had been one of just four teams with no game postponements.

The Raptors had 14 players available on Friday, and played 12. Siakam was the only Raptor player listed on Saturday’s injury report as out due to health and safety protocols, suggesting the results and contact tracing investigations from Saturday showed either positive tests or exposure to individuals who had positive results.

The names of players or staff members affected were not revealed.

Players and staff are tested twice daily.

Because of Canada’s border regulations around COVID-19, and health and safety measures in Toronto, the Raptors are playing their home games out of Amalie Arena in Tampa, Fla.

The Raptors’ next game, at least for now, is Tuesday against Detroit. Toronto then plays Boston in the team’s final game before the NBA all-star break.

With files from The Associated Press

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 28, 2021.

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Matthews skates as extra at Leafs' practice – TSN

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Auston Matthews was on the ice and skated at Toronto Maple Leafs practice, but wasn’t in his usual spot for line rushes. 

Matthews, 23, missed Toronto’s game Saturday night with a hand/wrist injury. 

He skated as an extra and didn’t take any hard shots. 

“He’s progressed here today compared to where he’s been in the last few days so that’s very positive.” Head coach Sheldon Keefe said, “So, he’s not ruled out for tomorrow. We’re just going to have to see how he is.”

Captain John Tavares continues to centre the top line alongside Joe Thornton and Mitch Marner. 

Frederik Andersen (lower body) was a full participant, while Jack Campbell was absent. 

hornton−Tavares−Marner
Barabanov−Kerfoot−Nylander
Mikheyev−Engvall−Hyman
Petan−Boyd−Spezza
Vesey−Agostino−Sabourin
 
Rielly−Brodie
Muzzin−Holl
Dermott−Bogosian
Lehtonen−Liljegren
 
Andersen, Hutchinson, Woll

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