AP News in Brief at 12:04 a.m. EST News Staff

Trump trial gets go-ahead after emotional, graphic first day

WASHINGTON (AP) — House prosecutors on Tuesday wrenched senators and the nation back to the deadly attack on Congress as they opened Donald Trump’s historic second impeachment trial with graphic video of the insurrection and Trump’s own calls for a rally crowd to march to the iconic building and “fight like hell” against his reelection defeat.

The detailed and emotional presentation by Democrats was followed by meandering and occasionally confrontational arguments from the Trump defence team, which insisted that his remarks were protected by the First Amendment and asserted that he cannot be convicted as a former president. Even Trump’s backers in the Senate winced, several saying his lawyers were not helpful to his case.

The senators sitting as jurors, many of whom fled for safety themselves the day of the attack, watched and listened, unable to avoid the jarring video of Trump supporters battling past police to storm the halls, Trump flags waving. While many minds are made up, the senators will face their own moment to decide whether to convict or acquit Trump of the sole charge “incitement of insurrection.”

The heavy emotional weight of the trial punctuates Trump’s enduring legacy as the first president to face impeachment trial after leaving office and the first to be twice impeached. The Jan. 6 Capitol siege stunned the world as hundreds of rioters ransacked the building to try to stop the certification of Democrat Joe Biden’s victory, a domestic attack on the nation’s seat of government unlike any in its history. Five people died.

“That’s a high crime and misdemeanour,” Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., declared in opening remarks. “If that’s not an impeachable offence, then there’s no such thing.”


Trump fumes, GOP senators baffled by legal team’s debut

WASHINGTON (AP) — Former President Donald Trump fumed that his attorneys’ performance on the opening day of his second impeachment trial was a disaster, as allies and Republican senators questioned the strategy and some called for yet another shakeup to his legal team.

Trump, who was watching the proceedings in Washington from his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida, was furious at what he saw, according to a person familiar with his thinking. Senators, too, criticized what they described as an unfocused and rambling performance as Trump’s team and Democratic House managers began to lay out their cases in front of the Senate jury.

While it remains unlikely that more than a handful of Republicans will join Democrats in convicting the former president at the end of the trial, the proceedings were a chance for Trump to try to repair some of the damage to his legacy incurred over the storming of the Capitol by a mob of his supporters. Trump has been charged with inciting the Jan. 6 insurrection, and last month he became the first president in history to be impeached by the House twice.

But Trump’s team — which was announced little more than a week ago — appeared unprepared as they attempted a good cop, bad cop routine that veered from flattery to legalese, and stood in dramatic contrast to Democrats’ focused emotional appeals.

Trump — ever the showman — was impressed with the Democrats, who opened Tuesday’s session with powerful video that compiled scenes of the deadly attack on Congress. And he complained that his team — especially lead lawyer Bruce Castor — came off badly on television and looked weak in comparison, according to the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.


Trial highlights: history lessons, Trump tweets and more

WASHINGTON (AP) — Donald Trump will stand trial for impeachment after the Senate rejected arguments from the former president’s lawyers Tuesday that the chamber cannot move forward because he is no longer in office.

Several Republicans joined Democrats in voting 56-44 to proceed.

Democrats said if Trump is not held accountable for inciting the violent mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol last month, the impeachment process would be rendered meaningless — in effect signalling to all future presidents that they could abuse their power near the end of their term without consequence.

“It’s hard to imagine a clearer example of how a president could abuse his office, inciting violence against a co-equal branch of government while seeking to remain in power after losing an election,” said Rep. Joe Neguse, D-Colo., one of the House impeachment managers.

Highlights from the opening day of the trial:


In Biden’s early days, signs of Trump-era problems at border

HOUSTON (AP) — The day after she gave birth in a Texas border hospital, Nailet and her newborn son were taken by federal agents to a holding facility that immigrants often refer to as the “icebox.”

Inside, large cells were packed with women and their young children. Nailet and her son were housed with 15 other women and given a mat to sleep on, with little space to distance despite the coronavirus pandemic, she said. The lights stayed on round the clock. Children constantly sneezed and coughed.

Nailet, who kept her newborn warm with a quilt she got at the hospital, told The Associated Press that Border Patrol agents wouldn’t tell her when they would be released. She and her son were detained for six days in a Border Patrol station. That’s twice as long as federal rules generally allow.

“I had to constantly insist that they bring me wipes and diapers,” said Nailet, who left Cuba last year and asked that her last name be withheld for fear of retribution if she’s forced to return.

Larger numbers of immigrant families have been crossing the U.S.-Mexico border in the first weeks of President Joe Biden’s administration. Warning signs are emerging of the border crises that marked former President Donald Trump’s term: Hundreds of newly released immigrants are getting dropped off with non-profit groups, sometimes unexpectedly, and accounts like Nailet’s of prolonged detention in short-term facilities are growing.


Dems attempt to push through school funding, wage increase

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Democrats on Tuesday muscled past Republicans on portions of President Joe Biden’s pandemic plan, including a proposed $130 billion in additional relief to help the nation’s schools reopen and a gradual increase of the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.

Democrats on the Education and Labor Committee say schools won’t be able to reopen safely until they get an infusion of federal funding to repair building ventilation systems, buy protective equipment and take other steps recommended by federal health officials. The plan faces opposition from Republicans who want to tie new school funding to reopening.

The panel met Tuesday to craft its portion of a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package that tracks with Biden’s plan for battling the pandemic and reviving a still staggering economy. Democrats hope to rush the bill to Biden for his signature by mid-March, using a special budget-related process allowing certain legislation to be approved by a simple majority.

Rep. Bobby Scott, chair of the Education and Labor Committee, dismissed complaints from Republicans who objected to use of the process.

“We must address the urgent needs of the people now,” said Scott, D-Va., “The multiple crises affecting our communities will grow worse every day if we do not act. We must recognize that we cannot afford to prioritize process over the urgent needs of people across this country.”


US vaccine drive complicated by 1st, 2nd dose juggling act

The U.S. has entered a tricky phase of the COVID-19 vaccination effort as providers try to ramp up the number of people getting first shots while also ensuring a growing number of others get second doses just when millions more Americans are becoming eligible to receive vaccines.

The need to give each person two doses a few weeks apart vastly complicates the country’s biggest-ever vaccination campaign. And persistent uncertainty about future vaccine supplies fuels worries that some people will not be able to get their second shots in time.

In some cases, local health departments and providers have said they must temporarily curb or even cancel appointments for first doses to ensure there are enough second doses for people who need them.

Nola Rudolph said she struggled to book appointments for her 71-year-old father and 68-year-old mother, who live in rural upstate New York. Everywhere she looked within driving distance was booked.

“Seeing they were eligible, I was elated,” she said. “Seeing they were in a dead zone, I went from very hopeful to hopeless again.”


1 dead, 4 hurt in Minnesota health clinic shooting; man held

BUFFALO, Minn. (AP) — A 67-year-old man unhappy with the health care he’d received opened fire at a clinic Tuesday, killing one person and wounding four others, and bomb technicians were investigating a suspicious device left there and others at a motel where he was staying, authorities said.

All five victims were rushed to the hospital, and a hospital spokeswoman confirmed the one death Tuesday night. Three remained in stable but critical condition and a fourth had been discharged.

The attack happened Tuesday morning at an Allina clinic in Buffalo, a community of about 15,000 people roughly 40 miles (64 kilometres) northwest of Minneapolis. Authorities said Gregory Paul Ulrich, of Buffalo, opened fire at the facility and was arrested before noon.

Though police said it was too early to tell if Ulrich had targeted a specific doctor, court records show he at one point had been ordered to have no contact with a man whose name matches that of a doctor at the clinic.

As authorities searched the clinic for more victims, they found the suspicious device and evacuated the building, Wright County Sheriff Sean Deringer said.


Hack exposes vulnerability of cash-strapped US water plants

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — A hacker’s botched attempt to poison the water supply of a small Florida city is raising alarms about just how vulnerable the nation’s water systems may be to attacks by more sophisticated intruders. Treatment plants are typically cash-strapped, and lack the cybersecurity depth of the power grid and nuclear plants.

A local sheriff’s startling announcement Monday that the water supply of Oldsmar, population 15,000, was briefly in jeopardy last week exhibited uncharacteristic transparency. Suspicious incidents are rarely reported, and usually chalked up to mechanical or procedural errors, experts say. No federal reporting requirement exists, and state and local rules vary widely.

“In the industry, we were all expecting this to happen. We have known for a long time that municipal water utilities are extremely underfunded and under-resourced, and that makes them a soft target for cyber attacks,” said Lesley Carhart, principal incident responder at Dragos Security, which specializes in industrial control systems.

“I deal with a lot of municipal water utilities for small, medium and large-sized cities. And in a lot of cases, all of them have a very small IT staff. Some of them have no dedicated security staff at all,” she said.

The nation’s 151,000 public water systems lack the financial fortification of the corporate owners of nuclear power plants and electrical utilities. They are a heterogenous patchwork, less uniform in technology and security measures than in other rich countries.


Trump at Mar-a-Lago? Palm Beach has other issues to consider

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — The Palm Beach Town Council spent close to seven hours Tuesday considering issues important to the wealthy island community: the availability of the coronavirus vaccine. Revitalizing the downtown’s upscale shopping district. Even the durability of Belgian tile being used on a new walking path and the danger posed by coconuts falling when palm trees get too tall.

Each agenda item provoked a litany of questions, comments and observations, except one: whether former President Donald Trump may continue living at his Mar-a-Lago Club. Though presumably the most contentious among residents and of the most interest nationally and internationally, the issue took up no more than a half-hour of the council’s time — at the meeting’s end.

The five-member council took no action on the question, which was placed on the agenda because of neighbours’ complaints that Trump’s presence would hurt property values. It’s unclear if the council will address the issue further, although an attorney representing the residents asked — with no response — that he be allowed to give a fuller presentation in April. The neighbours could also sue the town and Mar-a-Lago. Meanwhile, 990 miles (1,593 kilometres) to the north, the U.S. Senate began Trump’s second impeachment trial.

Town attorney Skip Randolph said there is nothing in the club’s 1993 agreement with Palm Beach that prohibits Trump from residing there.

“This is a debate that I really think is silly,” Randolph said. He and Trump attorney John Marion said the town permits clubs and resorts to provide onsite housing for their employees and Trump, as Mar-a-Lago’s president, fits the bill.


World’s second-oldest person survives COVID-19 at age 116

PARIS (AP) — A 116-year-old French nun who is believed to be the world’s second-oldest person has survived COVID-19 and is looking forward to celebrating her 117th birthday on Thursday.

The Gerontology Research Group, which validates details of people thought to be 110 or older, lists Frenchwoman Lucile Randon — Sister André’s birth name – as the second-oldest known living person in the world.

French media report that Sister André tested positive for the virus in mid-January in the southern French city of Toulon. But just three weeks later, the nun is considered recovered.

“I didn’t even realize I had it,” she told French newspaper Var-Matin.

Sister André, who is blind and uses a wheelchair, did not even worry when she received her diagnosis.

The Associated Press

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