Headlines: February 6, 2020
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President Donald Trump spent the day after his impeachment acquittal triumphantly basking in the political victory he pulled off with the help of almost all his Republican allies. At an address from the White House that was nakedly partisan and included only Republican lawmakers, Trump denounced the impeachment proceedings as a “disgrace,” saying he “went through hell unfairly.” Sputtering angrily at Democratic leaders, Trump lashed out in a manner never seen from a President. Ahead of his White House address Trump spoke earlier at the National Prayer breakfast meeting where he railed especially against Republican Senator Mitt Romney, the sole GOP vote against him in the Senate. Trump said, without any hint of irony, “I don’t like people who use their faith as justification for doing what they know is wrong.” At both the White House and the National Prayer breakfast Trump celebrated his impeachment acquittal holding up a newspaper with the headline, “Trump Acquitted.”
Speaking at a Press Conference after the National Prayer Breakfast House Speaker Nancy Pelosi criticized Trump’s behavior and words. She also justified ripping up the transcript of Trump’s State of the Union address on Tuesday on live television. Meanwhile, other Democratic lawmakers took to the pages of newspapers to express themselves. The House impeachment managers wrote a joint op-ed in the Washington Post titled, “Trump won’t be vindicated. The Senate won’t be, either.” Representative Adam Schiff and others wrote, “Because of the impeachment process, voters can now stand forewarned of the lengths to which the president will go to try to secure his reelection, violating the law and undermining our national security and that of our allies.”
Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown also published his opinion in the New York Times on Wednesday sharing that Republican lawmakers in private are fearful of Trump and admit his wrongdoing. Brown wrote, “I have asked some of them, ‘If the Senate votes to acquit, what will you do to keep this president from getting worse?’ Their responses have been shrugs and sheepish looks.” Former US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch who was fired from her position by Trump because she stood in his way, also wrote an op-ed. Yovanovitch warned, “This administration, through acts of omission and commission, has undermined our democratic institutions, making the public question the truth and leaving public servants without the support and example of ethical behavior that they need to do their jobs and advance U.S. interests.”
Iowa Democratic Party authorities on Thursday released a close-to-final count of results from Monday’s caucuses showing that South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders were essentially tied for votes and delegates. But, after the New York Times published a detailed analysis of the caucus results saying they were, “riddled with inconsistencies and other flaws,” Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez announced a recanvass of the results. Writing on Twitter, Perez said, “Enough is enough. In light of the problems that have emerged in the implementation of the delegate selection plan and in order to assure public confidence in the results, I am calling on the Iowa Democratic Party to immediately begin a recanvass.” He explained, “A recanvass is a review of the worksheets from each caucus site to ensure accuracy.”
In other election-related news Democratic frontrunner Bernie Sanders announced a massive fundraising haul for the month of January of $25 million raised entirely from small donations. It was the highest fundraising total of all Democratic candidates and Sanders now plans to spend much of it on TV and online advertising in critical states. Meanwhile Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren’s campaign has pulled television ads from Nevada and South Carolina after Warren’s disappointing showing in the Iowa caucuses. Warren explained, “I just always want to be careful about how we spend our money.” Former Vice President Joe Biden, whose Iowa results were disappointing, said, “I am not going to sugarcoat it…We took a gut punch in Iowa. The whole process took a gut punch.”
The Justice Department has announced new restrictions this week on any FBI surveillance of presidential candidates. In a memo issued on Wednesday Attorney General William Barr announced that in order to keep elections, “free from improper activity or influences,” any investigations would have to be cleared by top DOJ officials. Barr – who faced accusations of overt partisan-ship – has railed against the FBI surveillance of Trump campaign figures and their links to Russia ahead of the 2016 election. Meanwhile FBI Director Christopher Wray this week speaking to the House Judiciary Committee warned of on-going foreign interference in US elections. He said, “We are seeing, and have never stopped seeing, efforts to engage in malign foreign influence by the Russians.”
The Justice Department has just announced it will investigate the Mississippi State prison system after numerous documented cases of abuse and deaths of inmates. The Civil Rights Division at the DOJ plans to investigate four prisons in Mississippi including one that is run by a private contractor.
US Governors are warning that a new Trump Administration rule on Medicaid regulations could lead to massive cuts in the program that their residents rely heavily on. In a statement by the National Governors Association that was signed by leaders from both parties the Governors warned, “States may be unable to adequately fund their Medicaid programs, which could lead to unintended consequences that would negatively impact Medicaid beneficiaries across the country.” The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services insists that it is not their intention to lead to cuts.
In the on-going coronavirus epidemic, deaths from the new mystery strain have reached 563 with the total number of confirmed infections reaching more than 28,000. According to the New York Times, “Many doctors believe that the number of deaths and infections are undercounted because hospitals and laboratories are under severe strain to test for the virus.” Meanwhile the whistleblower doctor Li Wenliang who reportedly tried in vain to raise awareness of the coronavirus weeks ago was in critical condition himself after getting infected. Chinese media are now reporting Dr. Li has died. And a Princess Cruise ship that has remained under quarantine in Japan has reportedly developed 20 confirmed cases of the virus as passengers remain trapped. There are about 3,700 people on board. Meanwhile a number of airlines have now suspended flights to China and hundreds of Americans who were evacuated from China are spending their quarantine at two military bases in California.
Finally aid groups are warning of a “humanitarian catastrophe” in northwest Syria demanding a ceasefire in Idlib, the rebel stronghold being relentlessly bombed by the Syrian government and its Russian allies. Hundreds of thousands of civilians have fled and are running out of options for where to go. One aid agency spokesperson said, “The exodus of people is staggering, and tens of thousands more are joining them every day.”