Headlines: February 9, 2021
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The second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump officially began in the U.S. Senate on Tuesday. The first day’s agenda was to focus on the constitutionality of impeaching a President after they have left office. Taking the advice of his backers, Trump relented and directed his lawyers to first focus on the technical aspect of the trial. Some are pointing out that it was only a year ago that Trump himself suggested impeaching former President Barack Obama over some comments he made about health care. Impeachment manager Representative Jamie Raskin opened the Senate hearing saying there can be no “January exception” to impeachable offenses. Mr. Raskin played for Senators a detailed video timeline of how events transpired on January 6th as Senators gathered inside the Capitol building to certify the November 2020 election results while a massive and angry mob, egged on by Trump, gathered outside and eventually breached the building, chanting “Fight for Trump.”
In their 78-page memo submitted to the Senate on Monday, Trump’s lawyers attempted to make the case that it was unconstitutional to try a former President, citing extensively the work of a constitutional law professor named Brian Kalt at Michigan State University. But Professor Kalt in an interview on NPR explained that his lengthy article on the subject in fact came to the opposite conclusion: that it is in fact constitutional to impeach a former President. He said in his interview, “The worst part is the three places where they said I said something when, in fact, I said the opposite.” Meanwhile Illinois Republican Representative Adam Kinzinger who was among those that voted to impeach Trump, wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post saying, “My fellow Republicans, convicting Trump is necessary to save America.” A second poll this week found that a majority of Americans want to see Trump convicted of inciting insurrection on January 6th. The CBS-YouGov poll released Tuesday found 56% support a day after a Gallup poll found 52% support against Trump.
Meanwhile in Georgia, officials have launched an investigation into Trump’s efforts to overturn the Presidential election results there. The investigation focuses on a phone call that the former president made to Georgia State Secretary Brad Raffensperger asking him in coercive tones to “find” enough votes in the state to overturn the results.
The federal investigation into the January 6th Capitol riot that is at the heart of the Trump impeachment trial continues. One rioter was found to be a Georgia teenager named Bruno Joseph Cua became the youngest person at 18 years of age to be charged. His charges include assault against a police officer. Meanwhile another man named Thomas Edward Caldwell, a Navy veteran and a leader of the Oath Keepers hate group has been charged with masterminding a plot to overrun the Capitol building. According to the Washington Post, Caldwell’s attorney said, “he had a top-secret security clearance and served as a section chief for the FBI after leaving the armed forces in 2009.” Newly seated Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has just ordered an initiative to determine the extent of extremism within the ranks of the U.S. military.
Observers of this week’s impeachment trial have pointed out that the conservative media is also to blame. Lou Dobbs, one of the far-right voices that for years has buttressed Trump’s lies on Fox News and who was abruptly dropped by the outlet last week has been lashing out at his former employer. Fox is facing a multi-billion defamation lawsuit by a tech company that its hosts and commentators routinely blasted on the airwaves claiming nefarious intent to steal the election from Trump. Fox is now asking for the lawsuit to be dropped.
In news from the economic relief bill that Congress is considering, Democrats in the House have rejected an attempt to restrict $1,400 stimulus checks and have pushed for all Americans making $75,000 or less a year to receive them. Progressive Democrats also secured the $15 an hour federal minimum wage increase to be part of the bill. Representative Pramila Jayapal, who is with the Congressional Progressive Caucus said, “Democrats have to fight. We have to fight with everything we’ve got for these progressive, bold ideas that are gonna bring relief to people.” The Congressional Budget Office on Monday released a report finding that although there may be some job losses nationwide from raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, it would significantly lower poverty levels as well for millions of working class Americans.
In news from the pandemic, the World Health Organization team in Wuhan, China, that has been investigating the origins of COVID-19 has concluded that it is extremely unlikely the virus was generated in a laboratory as some conspiracy theorists have claimed. Instead, all evidence points to it having originated in an animal. Meanwhile, a new study found that people with dementia are twice as likely to contract the disease. The study controlled for risk factors such as residing in an assisted living facility, age, and other comorbidities like obesity, asthma, diabetes, etc. And still, the risk was twice as high as those without dementia. There is also a racial component as Black people with dementia are three times more likely to be infected as whites with dementia. In St. Louis, Missouri, incarcerated people rose up over the weekend in protest of living conditions in a pandemic. Observers say they weren’t surprised when violence broke out and led to a corrections officer being hospitalized, as conditions inside the prison are intolerable. Despite being hot spots for infections, prisons are likely to be the last places where Covid-19 vaccines are distributed.
In other news, President Joe Biden is facing pressure to commute the sentences of the remaining federal death row prisoners after his predecessor went on a killing spree of executions in his last weeks in office. And Alabama is preparing to execute a Black man on its state death row under laws that critics say go back to the era of slavery.
In international news, Haiti is experiencing a political crisis once more as President Jovenel Moïse’s rule is facing an end. Opposition forces declared as the new interim President, Supreme Court Judge Joseph Mécène Jean-Louis on Monday. A day earlier President Moïse announced the arrest of nearly 2 dozen people over what he called a failed coup attempt after another judge was nearly installed in his stead. According to the Washington Post, “Moïse, 52, was elected to a five-year term that was supposed to begin in 2016. His claim to more time is based on a year-long delay in his taking office amid disputed election results.” The U.S. has backed the incumbent’s claim to the Presidency. Meanwhile the Biden administration is under fire for allowing the recent deportation of 72 Haitians including more than 20 babies and young children back to their country of origin. The immigrants were deported on Monday on two flights from Texas to Port-au-Prince even as Haiti faced fresh violence.