GOP largely sides against holding Trump impeachment trial
WASHINGTON (AP) — All but five Senate Republicans voted in favour of an effort to dismiss Donald Trump’s historic second impeachment trial on Tuesday, making clear a conviction of the former president for “incitement of insurrection” after the deadly Capitol siege on Jan. 6 is unlikely.
While the Republicans did not succeed in ending the trial before it began, the test vote made clear that Trump still has enormous sway over his party as he becomes the first former president to be tried for impeachment. Many Republicans have criticized Trump’s role in the attack — before which he told his supporters to “fight like hell” to overturn his defeat — but most of them have rushed to defend him in the trial.
“I think this was indicative of where a lot of people’s heads are,” said South Dakota Sen. John Thune, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, after the vote.
Late Tuesday, the presiding officer at the trial, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., was taken to the hospital for observation after not feeling well at his office, spokesman David Carle said in a statement. The 80-year-old senator was examined by the Capitol’s attending physician, who recommended he be taken to the hospital out of an abundance of caution, he said. Later Tuesday, Carle said Leahy had been sent home “after a thorough examination” and was looking forward to getting back to work.
Leahy presided over the trial’s first procedural vote, a 55-45 tally that saw the Senate set aside an objection from Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul that would have declared the impeachment proceedings unconstitutional and dismissed the trial.
US boosting vaccine deliveries amid complaints of shortages
Answering growing frustration over vaccine shortages, President Joe Biden announced Tuesday that the U.S. is ramping up deliveries to hard-pressed states over the next three weeks and expects to provide enough doses to vaccinate 300 million Americans by the end of the summer or early fall.
Biden, calling the push a “wartime effort,” said the administration was working to buy an additional 100 million doses of each of the two approved coronavirus vaccines. He acknowledged that states in recent weeks have been left guessing how much vaccine they will have from one week to the next.
Shortages have been so severe that some vaccination sites around the U.S. had to cancel tens of thousands of appointments with people seeking their first shot.
“This is unacceptable,” Biden said. “Lives are at stake.”
He promised a roughly 16% boost in deliveries to states over the next three weeks.
UK’s ‘tsunami’ of grief as coronavirus deaths pass 100,000
LONDON (AP) — For nine months, Gordon Bonner has been in the “hinterlands of despair and desolation” after losing his wife of 63 years to the coronavirus pandemic that has now taken the lives of more than 100,000 people in the United Kingdom.
Only recently did Bonner think he might be able to move on — after sensing the spirit of his wife, Muriel, near him on what would have been her 84th birthday.
“I suddenly understood I had to change my attitude, that memories are not shackles, they are garlands and one should wear them like garlands around your shoulders and use them to communicate between the quick and the dead,” the retired Army major said in an interview from his home in the northern city of Leeds. “Grief is the price we pay for love.”
Bonner, 86, is just one of many hundreds of thousands of Britons toiling with grief because of the pandemic. With more than 2 million dead worldwide, people the world over are mourning loved ones, but the U.K.’s toll weighs particularly heavily: It is the smallest nation to pass the 100,000 mark.
While Wuhan, Bergamo or New York City may be more associated with the pandemic, the U.K. has one of the the highest death tolls relative to its population. For comparison, the United States, with five times Britain’s population, has four times the number of deaths. Experts say virus tallies, in general, are undercounts due to limited testing and missed cases, especially early in the pandemic.
AP Exclusive: DOJ rescinds ‘zero tolerance’ immigration rule
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department on Tuesday rescinded a Trump-era memo that established a “zero tolerance” enforcement policy for migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border illegally, which resulted in thousands of family separations.
Acting Attorney General Monty Wilkinson issued the new memo to federal prosecutors across the nation, saying the department would return to its longstanding previous policy and instructing prosecutors to act on the merits of individual cases.
“Consistent with this longstanding principle of making individualized assessments in criminal cases, I am rescinding — effective immediately — the policy directive,” Wilkinson wrote.
Wilkinson said the department’s principles have “long emphasized that decisions about bringing criminal charges should involve not only a determination that a federal offence has been committed and that the admissible evidence will probably be sufficient to obtain and sustain a conviction, but should also take into account other individualized factors, including personal circumstances and criminal history, the seriousness of the offence, and the probable sentence or other consequences that would result from a conviction.”
The “zero tolerance” policy meant that any adult caught crossing the border illegally would be prosecuted for illegal entry. Because children cannot be jailed with their family members, families were separated and children were taken into custody by Health and Human Services, which manages unaccompanied children at the border.
Farmers back at protest camp after deep challenge to PM Modi
NEW DELHI (AP) — Tens of thousands of farmers who stormed the historic Red Fort on India’s Republic Day were again camped outside the capital Wednesday after the most volatile day of their two-month standoff left one protester dead and more than 80 police officers injured.
The protests demanding the repeal of new agricultural laws have grown into a rebellion that is rattling Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government. On Tuesday, more than 10,000 tractors and thousands more people on foot or horseback tried to advance into the capital, shoving aside barricades and buses blocking their path and at times met by police using tear gas and water cannons.
Their brief takeover of the 17th century fort, which was the palace of Mughal emperors, played out live Indian news channels. The farmers, some carrying ceremonial swords, ropes and sticks, overwhelmed police. In a profoundly symbolic challenge to Modi’s Hindu-nationalist government, the protesters who stormed Red Fort hoisted a Sikh religious flag.
“The situation is normal now. The protesters have left the streets of the capital,? New Delhi police officer Anto Alphonse said Wednesday morning.
Most New Delhi roads were reopened to vehicles by midnight Tuesday, hours after the protest organizer, Samyukt Kisan Morcha, or United Farmers’ Front, called off the tractor march and accused two outside groups of sabotage by infiltrating their otherwise peaceful movement.
Democrats prep Biden’s virus aid package with or without GOP
WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Democrats are preparing to push ahead quickly on President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package even if it means using procedural tools to pass the legislation on their own, leaving Republicans behind.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told senators to be ready to vote as soon as next week on a budget reconciliation package that would lay the groundwork for swift passage. Coming so soon in Biden’s administration, the action provides a first test of Republican opposition to the White House priorities as well as to the new president’s promise of a “unity” agenda.
“The work must move forward, preferably with our Republican colleagues, but without them if we must,” Schumer said after a private meeting of Democratic senators.
“Time is of the essence to address this crisis. We’re keeping all options open on the table.”
Unwilling to wait for Republicans who argue Biden’s price tag is too high and his priorities too wide-ranging, Democrats are flexing their newfound power as they take control of the Senate alongside the House and White House.
Biden orders Justice Dept. to end use of private prisons
President Joe Biden on Tuesday ordered the Department of Justice to end its reliance on private prisons and acknowledge the central role government has played in implementing discriminatory housing policies.
In remarks before signing the orders, Biden said the U.S. government needs to change “its whole approach” on the issue of racial equity. He added that the nation is less prosperous and secure because of the scourge of systemic racism.
“We must change now,” the president said. “I know it’s going to take time, but I know we can do it. And I firmly believe the nation is ready to change. But government has to change as well.”
Biden rose to the presidency during a year of intense reckoning on institutional racism in the U.S. The moves announced Tuesday reflect his efforts to follow through with campaign pledges to combat racial injustice.
Beyond calling on the Justice Department to curb the use of private prisons and address housing discrimination, the new orders will recommit the federal government to respect tribal sovereignty and disavow discrimination against the Asian American and Pacific Islander community over the coronavirus pandemic.
Kerry aims to talk US back into a lead role in climate fight
From a wood-paneled library in his Boston mansion, new climate envoy John Kerry is talking the U.S. back into a leading role in global climate action, making clear the nation isn’t just revving up its own efforts to reduce oil, gas and coal pollution but that it intends to push everyone in the world to do more, too.
Kerry’s diplomatic efforts match the fast pace of domestic climate directives by the week-old Biden administration, which created the job Kerry now holds. Those directives include a Biden order expected Wednesday spelling out how U.S. intelligence, defence and homeland security agencies should address the security threats posed by worsening droughts, floods and other natural disasters under global warming.
At 77, Kerry is working to make a success out of the global climate accord that he helped negotiate in Paris as President Barack Obama’s secretary of state — and that he then saw rejected by President Donald Trump, who also spurned all other Obama-era legacy efforts to wean the U.S. and global economies off climate-damaging fossil fuels.
Success for Kerry is hardly assured. At home, he faces pushback from the oil and gas industry and hears concerns that jobs will be lost. Internationally, there’s uncertainty about whether Biden’s climate commitments can survive the United States’ intensely divided politics, let alone the next presidential transition.
Meanwhile, environmentalists are pushing him to be aggressive — even demonstrating outside his house on his first full day on the job.
First Biden-Putin call shows both cautious on big concerns
WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian leader Vladimir Putin held their first conversation as counterparts Tuesday in a phone call that underscored troubled relations and the delicate balance between the former Cold War foes.
According to the White House, Biden raised concerns about the arrest of opposition figure Alexei Navalny, Russia’s alleged involvement in a massive cyber espionage campaign and reports of Russian bounties on American troops in Afghanistan. The Kremlin, meanwhile, focused on Putin’s response to Biden’s proposal to extend the last remaining U.S.-Russia arms control treaty.
While the readouts from the two capitals emphasized different elements, they both suggested that U.S-Russia relations will be guided, at least at the beginning of the Biden administration, by a desire to do no harm but also no urgency to repair existing damage.
The two presidents agreed to have their teams work urgently to complete a five-year extension of the New START nuclear weapons treaty that expires next month. Former President Donald Trump’s administration had withdrawn from two arms control treaties with Russia and had been prepared to let New START lapse.
Unlike his immediate predecessors — including Trump, who was enamoured of Putin and frequently undercut his own administration’s tough stance on Russia — Biden has not held out hope for a “reset” in relations. Instead he has indicated he wants to manage differences without necessarily resolving them or improving ties.
Baseball Hall gets no new members; Schilling 16 votes shy
NEW YORK (AP) — The baseball Hall of Fame won’t have any new players in the class of 2021 after voters decided no one had the merits — on the field or off — for enshrinement in Cooperstown.
Curt Schilling, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens were the closest in voting by members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America released Tuesday, and the trio will have one more chance at election next year. It’s the first time the BBWAA didn’t choose anyone since 2013.
Schilling, a right-handed ace who won three World Series titles, finished 16 votes short of the 75% threshold necessary for enshrinement. He got 71.1% per cent this time after coming up 20 votes shy at 70% last year.
Schilling’s on-field accomplishments face little dispute, but he has ostracized himself in retirement by directing hateful remarks toward Muslims, transgender people, journalists and others.
“It’s all right, the game doesn’t owe me anything,” Schilling said during a live video stream on his Twitter account.
The Associated Press