Headlines: February 5, 2020
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The US Senate on Wednesday afternoon voted to acquit President Donald Trump of the two articles of impeachment passed by the House. Republican Senator Mitt Romney became the only member of his party to vote against Trump saying in an exclusive interview with Fox News that he had to, “follow my conscience.” Romney explained, “I believe that the act he took, an effort to corrupt an election is as destructive an attack on the oath of office and our Constitution as I can imagine…It is a high crime and misdemeanor within the meaning of the Constitution, and that is not a decision I take lightly. It is the last decision I want to take.” The vote-tally on the article of impeachment over abuse of power was 52 for acquittal and 48 against. All 47 Democratic Senators voted for the articles together with Romney. Romney stayed with his party in voting to acquit Trump of charges of Obstruction of Congress with the resulting vote being 53 to 47. Earlier in the day, one of the other so-called “moderate” Republicans, Senator Susan Collins said she thought “it would be helpful” if Trump apologized for his behavior. Collins voted to acquit. Meanwhile hundreds of pro-impeachment protests are planned across the nation on Wednesday under the banner of “Reject the Coverup.”
On Tuesday evening President Donald Trump delivered his last State of the Union address before the November election. He became only the second president in history to deliver such an address while in the middle of an impeachment trial. As he arrived in the same chamber that just weeks ago had witnessed two votes to impeach him, Trump refused to take House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s outstretched hand. During his 80-minute speech the President did not mention his impeachment and instead spent much of his time touting a list of economic achievements he has laid claim to. He even denigrated the previous administration during his State of the Union address that he had dubbed “the Great American Comeback.” Several media outlets including Associated Press fact-checked the president’s speech which was predictably filled with exaggerations and outright lies. According to AP, Trump lied about immigration, about global oil and gas production, jobs, trade deals, the economy, dug pricing, manufacturing, healthcare, social security, and Medicare.
The speech was filled with theatrics including the surprise tearful reunion of a US soldier with his wife, the announcement of an “opportunity grant” to a black 8-grader in an obvious nod to school privatization, and the awarding of the Presidential medal of freedom to right-wing shock jock Rush Limbaugh, his personal friend and stalwart cheerleader. It was the first time a president awarded the medal during a State of the Union address. Previous awardees have included Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and Mother Teresa. The Presidential Medal of Freedom is meant to be given to those, “who have made exceptional contributions to the security of national interests of America, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.” Mr. Limbaugh, who recently announced he’s in treatment for late-stage lung cancer, is famous for referring to feminists as “femi-nazis,” and for being openly racist.
Trump also trotted out another special guest – Juan Guaido – the Venezuelan opposition leader who has declared himself an unelected president of his nation. During one particularly powerful moment during Trump’s speech, a number of female lawmakers dressed in white stood up and chanted “H.R. 3” when Trump raised the issue of prescription drug prices. The representatives chanting H.R. 3 were angry that their bill to lower prescription drug prices was stalled in the Senate thanks to Trump-backer and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Fred Guttenberg, the father of a victim of the Parkland shooting yelled at Trump when the President spoke about guns. Guttenberg said, “What about victims of gun violence like my daughter?” before he was kicked out. Trump’s speech was boycotted by a number of congressional Democrats including Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and Ayanna Pressley. At the end of his speech House Speaker Nancy Pelosi pointedly tore up the transcript of Trump’s speech in full view of cameras. When asked later why she did it, she said it was because the speech was a, “manifesto of mistruths.”
Democrats picked Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer to deliver the party’s official English-language response to the State of the Union. The Democrats’ also picked Texas representative Veronica Escobar to deliver the party’s Spanish-language response. Presidential frontrunner Bernie Sanders also delivered his response to Trump from Manchester, New Hampshire where he said, “How do you give a speech, a State of the Union speech, and not mention climate change when the leading scientists of the world tell us that climate change is the greatest existential threat facing humanity?”
A day after Trump’s speech, the US Senate is taking up a vote on the articles of impeachment facing the President. The vote is expected to go strictly along partisan lines, despite some Republicans admitting to Trump’s clearly proven misconduct in the Ukraine scandal. In an op-ed in the New York Times, Senator Rob Portman explained his vote saying erroneously that, “no crime was alleged.” Senator Susan Collins said she thought “it would be helpful” if Trump apologized for his behavior. No Republican admitted that Trump’s misdeeds would likely have gone unnoticed were it not for the impeachment. Meanwhile hundreds of pro-impeachment protests are planned across the nation on Wednesday under the banner of “Reject the Coverup.”
As more results from the Iowa Caucuses emerge, South Bend Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg is now leading in delegate counts with more than 70% of precincts reporting results from Monday night’s primary that ended in confusion and chaos. A close second is Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, followed by Elizabeth Warren and then Joe Biden. Although Senator Sanders won more votes – 32,772 compared to Buttigieg’s 31,458 – he won fewer delegates because of arcane caucus rules. A video of a woman who voted for Buttigieg asking to change her vote after learning he was gay has gone viral. Meanwhile former Congressman Joe Walsh who is the only Republican challenger to Trump, has claimed that state GOP officials attempted to rig the Republican caucuses to benefit the President.
The latest in the Coronavirus threat spreading around the world puts the figures of those infected at 24,500 people. Nearly 500 people have died. About 11 people are confirmed to have been infected in the US. The World Health Organization has put together a multi-national team of experts who are meeting in Geneva next week to spearhead research into a vaccine and quarantine methods.
Human Rights Watch has a new report that found 138 Salvadorans were killed and dozens assaulted or raped between 2013 and 2019, after they were deported back to their country from the US. The report is entitled, “Deported to Danger: United States deportation policies expose Salvadorans to death and abuse.”