Trump parts with impeachment lawyers a week before trial
WASHINGTON (AP) — Former President Donald Trump has parted ways with his lead impeachment lawyers just over a week before his Senate trial is set to begin, two people familiar with the situation said Saturday.
Butch Bowers and Deborah Barbier, both South Carolina lawyers, are no longer with Trump’s defence team. One of the people described the parting as a “mutual decision” that reflected a difference of opinion on the direction of the case. Both insisted on anonymity to discuss private conversations.
One said new additions to the legal team were expected to be announced in a day or two.
The upheaval injects fresh uncertainty into the makeup and strategy of Trump’s defence team as he prepares to face charges that he incited the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. However, all but five Senate Republicans this week voted in favour of an effort to dismiss the trial before it even started, making clear a conviction of the former president is unlikely regardless of his defence team.
Greg Harris and Johnny Gasser, two former federal prosecutors from South Carolina, are also off the team, one of the people said.
Playing favourites? Hospital boards, donors get COVID shots
While millions of Americans wait for the COVID-19 vaccine, hospital board members, their trustees and donors around the country have gotten early access to the scarce drug or offers for vaccinations, raising complaints about favouritism tainting decisions about who gets inoculated and when.
In Rhode Island, Attorney General Peter Neronha opened an inquiry after reports that two hospital systems offered their board members vaccinations. A Seattle-area hospital system was rebuked by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee after it offered COVID-19 vaccination appointments to major donors. And in Kansas, members of a hospital board received vaccinations during the first phase of the state’s rollout, which was intended for people at greater risk for infection.
Hospitals in Florida, New Jersey and Virginia also have faced questions about distributing vaccines, including to donors, trustees and relatives of executives.
The disclosures could threaten public confidence in a national rollout already marked by vaccine shortages, appointment logjams and inconsistent standards state to state for determining who’s eligible.
“We want people vaccinated based on priority, not privilege,” Inslee spokesman Mike Faulk said. “Everyone deserves a fair opportunity to get vaccinated.”
AP Analysis: Racial disparity seen in US vaccination drive
A racial gap has opened up in the nation’s COVID-19 vaccination drive, with Black Americans in many places lagging behind whites in receiving shots, an Associated Press analysis shows.
An early look at the 17 states and two cities that have released racial breakdowns through Jan. 25 found that Black people in all places are getting inoculated at levels below their share of the general population, in some cases significantly below.
That is true even though they constitute an oversize percentage of the nation’s health care workers, who were put at the front of the line for shots when the campaign began in mid-December.
For example, in North Carolina, Black people make up 22% of the population and 26% of the health care workforce but only 11% of the vaccine recipients so far. White people, a category in which the state includes both Hispanic and non-Hispanic whites, are 68% of the population and 82% of those vaccinated.
The gap is deeply troubling to some, given that the coronavirus has taken a disproportionate toll in severe sickness and death on Black people in the U.S., where the scourge has killed over 430,000 Americans. Black, Hispanic and Native American people are dying from COVID-19 at almost three times the rate of white people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Latest: Protesters temporarily block LA vaccination site
The Los Angeles Times reports that one of the largest vaccination sites in the nation temporarily shut down Saturday because dozen of protesters blocked the entrance, stalling hundreds of motorists who had been waiting in line for hours.
Officials say the Los Angeles Fire Department shut the entrance to the vaccination centre at Dodger Stadium about 2 p.m. as a precaution. The protesters had members of anti-vaccine and far-right groups.
Some of them carried signs decrying the COVID-19 vaccine and shouting for people not to get the shots. There were no incidents of violence.
Follow all of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic, https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak
Thousands flee Hong Kong for UK, fearing China crackdown
LONDON (AP) — Cindy had a comfortable lifestyle in Hong Kong: she owned several properties with her husband, they had a good business going. But last year she made up her mind to leave it all behind and move her family to Britain, and not even a global pandemic was going to sway her decision.
“To uproot ourselves like this is definitely not easy. But things got uglier last year, the government was really driving us away,” said the businesswoman and mother of two young children who didn’t give her family name because she feared repercussions for speaking out against the Chinese government. “Everything we value – freedom of speech, fair elections, liberties – has been eroded. It’s no longer the Hong Kong we knew, it’s no longer somewhere we can call home.”
Cindy, who landed in London last week, is one of thousands of Hong Kongers fleeing their hometown since Beijing imposed a draconian national security law on the territory last summer.
Some are leaving because they fear punishment for supporting pro-democracy protests. But many others, like her, say China’s encroachment on their way of life and civil liberties has become unbearable, and they want to seek a better future for their children abroad. Most say they don’t plan to ever go back.
Many firmed up their exit plans after Britain announced in July that it would open a special immigration pathway for up to 5 million eligible Hong Kongers to live, work and eventually settle in the U.K.
For GameStop day traders, the moment they’ve dreamed about
WASHINGTON (AP) — They’ve endured a financial crisis. Two deep recessions. Mounds of student debt. Stagnant pay. Costly health care. Dim job prospects.
They’ve seen the uber-rich grow richer while a pandemic threw tens of millions of people out of work and left many more isolated and vulnerable at home.
Now, they feel, it’s payback time.
Nearly a decade after the Occupy protest movement left Wall Street more or less unscathed, the citadel of financial might faces a new assault.
Day traders, mobilized on a subreddit page, have poured about all the money they can find into the stocks of a struggling video game retailer called GameStop and a few other beaten-down companies. Their buying has swollen those companies’ share prices beyond anyone’s imagination — and, not coincidentally, inflicted huge losses on the hedge funds of the super-rich, who had placed bets that the stocks would drop.
Russia warn Navalny supporters not to attend Sunday protests
MOSCOW (AP) — Russian police have issued a strong warning against participating in protests planned for Sunday to call for the release of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny, the Kremlin’s most prominent foe.
The warning comes amid detentions of Navalny associates and opposition journalists and a police plan to restrict movement in the centre of Moscow on Sunday.
Navalny was arrested on Jan. 17 after flying back to Russia from Germany, where he had spent five months recovering from nerve-agent poisoning. His detention sparked nationwide protests one week ago in about 100 cities; nearly 4,000 people were reported arrested.
The next demonstration in Moscow is planned for Lubyanka Square. The Federal Security Service, which Navalny claims arrange to have him poisoned with a Soviet-era nerve agent on behalf of the Kremlin, is headquartered in the square. The Russian government has denied a role in the 44-year-old’s poisoning.
The city police department said much of central Moscow from Red Square to Lubyanka would have pedestrian restrictions and that seven subway stations in the vicinity would be closed on Sunday. Restaurants in the area also are to be closed, and the iconic GUM department store on Red Square said it would open only in the evening.
Federal conspiracy charges for 2 Proud Boys in Capitol riot
NEW YORK (AP) — Two men identified as members of the Proud Boys have been indicted on federal conspiracy and other charges in the Capitol riot as prosecutors raise the stakes in some of the slew of cases stemming from the Jan. 6 insurrection.
Dominic Pezzola, a former Marine who authorities say was seen on video smashing a Capitol window with a stolen Capitol Police riot shield, and William Pepe, who authorities said was photographed inside the building, were arrested earlier in the month on federal charges that included illegally entering a restricted building. The two, both from New York state, have now been indicted in Washington on charges that newly include conspiracy.
“The object of the conspiracy was to obstruct, influence, impede and interfere with law enforcement officers engaged in their official duties in protecting the U.S. Capitol and its grounds,” the indictment says, accusing Pezzola, Pepe and unnamed others of leading a group of Proud Boys and others to the Capitol and moving police barricades there.
Pezzola went on to snatch an officer’s shield and use it to break the window, according to the indictment, which was filed in court Friday.
Pezzola’s lawyer Michael Scibetta said Saturday he was researching the charges but hadn’t been able yet to discuss the indictment with his client, who is being held without bail. A lawyer for Pepe, Shelli Peterson, declined to comment.
Lawmakers push mental health days for kids amid pandemic
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — When she was growing up, Sophie Corroon struggled to get through a ballet class or soccer tryout without having an anxiety attack.
The idea of going to sleepovers or being home alone left her feeling panicked. Corroon’s anxiety grew even more during high school in Salt Lake City, when the pressures of getting into college left her in tears at school or toiling for hours on assignments.
Corroon, now 20, has struggled with her mental health since fourth grade, and she’s not alone. And now, the coronavirus pandemic has multiplied the pressures on kids — many have spent almost a year doing remote learning, isolated from their friends and classmates. The portion of children’s emergency-room visits related to mental health was 44% higher in 2020, compared with the year before.
State lawmakers are increasingly seeking more support for kids. This year, legislation proposed in Utah and Arizona would add mental or behavioural health to the list of reasons students can be absent from class, similar to staying out with a physical illness. Similar laws have passed in Oregon, Maine, Colorado and Virginia in the past two years.
Offering mental health days can help children and parents communicate and prevent struggling students from falling behind in school or ending up in crisis, said Debbie Plotnick, vice-president of the non-profit advocacy group Mental Health America. Plotnick said mental health days can be even more effective when paired with mental health services in schools.
AP source: Lions trade Stafford to LA for Goff, draft picks
LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Detroit Lions are trading quarterback Matthew Stafford to the Los Angeles Rams in exchange for quarterback Jared Goff, two future first-round picks and a third-round pick, a person with knowledge of the deal tells The Associated Press.
The person spoke on condition of anonymity Saturday night because the deal has not been completed. ESPN first reported the swap, which will include the Rams’ first-round picks in 2022 and 2023, along with their third-round pick this year.
The blockbuster trade of two starting quarterbacks and former No. 1 overall draft picks will provide a change of scenery for two players who probably need it.
Stafford asked to be traded shortly after the current season ended with the Lions’ third straight double-digit losing record. He has been one of the NFL’s most prolific passers during his 12-year career spent entirely in Detroit, but has never won a playoff game.
Meanwhile, the Rams’ coaching staff and front office have publicly expressed a clear loss of confidence in Goff in recent weeks, even after Los Angeles earned its third playoff berth and posted its fourth straight winning record during his four years under coach Sean McVay. Goff also led the Rams to the Super Bowl after the 2018 season.
The Associated Press