Headlines: February 2, 2021
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House impeachment managers filed a brief on Tuesday morning, formally kicking off a Senate trial in the charge of “incitement of insurrection” against former President Donald Trump. The nine impeachment managers held Trump “singularly responsible” for the violent mob that he aimed like a “loaded cannon” at the Capitol building on January 6th and that his actions were a, “grievous betrayal of his Oath of Office.” The brief described how, on the morning of the attack, “President Trump appeared behind a podium bearing the presidential seal. Surveying the tense crowd before him, President Trump whipped it into a frenzy, exhorting followers to ‘fight like hell [or] you’re not going to have a country anymore.’ Then he aimed them straight at the Capitol, declaring: ‘You’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength, and you have to be strong.’” Additionally, House impeachment managers wrote, “His conduct endangered the life of every single Member of Congress, jeopardized the peaceful transition of power and line of succession, and compromised our national security.” Trump’s lawyers filed their first response to the impeachment charge focusing on a claim that because he is no longer in office, the Senate trial is unconstitutional. This was the advice that Trump loyalists in Congress gave the former president, allowing both them and the impeachment legal team to avoid discussing the substance of the charge.
Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Monday in a live Instagram video described her harrowing experience as the Capitol was overrun by the Trump mob. During her raw testimony she also revealed that she had once been sexually assaulted and that the new traumas opened up old wounds. She described eventually hiding in the office of fellow Democrat Katie Porter who confirmed in an interview on MSNBC just how grave the situation was as both lawmakers feared for their lives. Meanwhile, many rioters have been tracked down via social media sleuths and reported to authorities. On Monday journalist Ronan Farrow, writing in the New Yorker, profiled one mother of 8 from Pennsylvania named Rachel Powell, who was among the thousands whipped into an angry frenzy by Trump and who with a battering ram and bullhorn helped break into the Capitol building. At least 6 out of the approximately 170 people who have now been charged in connection to the Capitol riot squarely blame Trump for inciting them to attack.
In addition to Trump’s impeachment, Democrats are taking steps to censure Republican Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene by stripping her of committee assignments. Greene’s past statements calling for violence and murder against Democrats and spreading dangerous conspiracy theories have so far been met with silence from a majority of Republicans, prompting Democrats to release a new ad linking the party with the conspiracy movement QAnon. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell came the closest to denouncing Greene but he did so without naming her. McConnell released a short statement saying, “Loony lies and conspiracy theories are cancer for the Republican Party and our country.” Greene responded by saying, “The real cancer for the Republican Party is weak Republicans who only know how to lose gracefully. This is why we are losing our country.”
In other news President Joe Biden met with a group of so-called “moderate” Republicans on Monday who presented a covid-economic relief bill that was less than one third of the size of Biden’s proposal. The White House indicated that they did not reach a deal and that the President would not allow Republicans to delay sending his $1.9 trillion relief package to the House and Senate for votes. Senate Democrats joined Biden on Tuesday for a “virtual launch” of the more ambitious proposal. In related news, two Princeton economists just published a paper that concluded the U.S. economy has always done “startlingly” better under Democratic Presidents than Republican ones over the past 100 years. The gap between parties, “holds almost regardless of how you define success,” they write.
Biden’s nominee for Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack faced a confirmation hearing before the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee on Tuesday. If confirmed by the full Senate Vilsack will face a massive national challenge of hunger and poverty across the U.S. Vilsack served as Agriculture secretary under President Obama for eight years during which progressives criticized his pro-corporate stance. In his opening remarks on Tuesday to Senators he said, “the pandemic, racial justice and equity, and climate change must be our priorities.”
In news from the Pandemic, the Lancet medical journal has just published the peer-reviewed results of Phase 3 clinical trials of Russia’s COVID-19 vaccine and found that it is more than 91% effective at curbing the disease. The Sputnik vaccine is now the third vaccine, after the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech ones, to pass Phase 3 clinical trials with peer-reviewed published results of more than 90% efficacy. China’s Sinovac vaccine has yet to pass such rigorous tests although it is already being dispensed on a mass scale. A separate study found that those people who have survived the COVID-19 virus still should get vaccinated but that one dose rather than two might be enough.
President Biden is continuing his roll-back of Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda with three more executive orders on Tuesday aimed at reuniting several hundred separated undocumented families as well as reviewing Trump’s asylum policies and those that make it harder to emigrate to the U.S. Biden’s pick to lead the Department of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas, is expected to be confirmed by the Senate on Tuesday. The President has also asked the U.S. Supreme Court to delay two cases involving Trump policies on funding for a border wall with Mexico and the “Remain in Mexico” policy for those seeking entry into the U.S. via the southern border. Meanwhile the Biden administration has been found to have deported hundreds of undocumented people in the first couple of weeks of the administration. Although a federal judge prevented Biden from enacting a 100-day moratorium on deportations, the ruling did not require that the government move ahead with deportations. According to the LA Times, the government deported, “15 people to Jamaica on Thursday and 269 people to Guatemala and Honduras on Friday.”
Police officers involved in a horrific incident of pepper spraying a 9-year old girl in Rochester, New York, have been suspended. The city says it is investigating the incident and has not named the officers involved nor how many were suspended. Meanwhile a newly revealed video recording of a police chief and a sergeant in a Georgia town captured their ugly racist conversation around Black Lives Matter protests last year. The video was captured by the body camera of the sergeant in the town of Hamilton. And finally, new accounts by past victims of Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin have emerged. Chauvin is the man whose knee was on George Floyd’s neck for more than 8 minutes last year, and who faces charges over his death. Of Chauvin’s six previous victims two were Black, one was Latino, and one Native American. They revealed a similar pattern of being arrested by him and being restrained by their necks.