Headlines: January 14, 2021
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The House voted to impeach President Donald Trump over his role in inciting an insurrection at the Capitol, with a vote of 232 to 197. Ten Republicans joined all Democrats in voting to impeach and while that is a very small percentage of GOP lawmakers in the House, it is ten more than those who voted to impeach in December 2019. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi explained why the House voted to make Trump the first President in history to be impeached twice. It remains to be seen when Pelosi will send the Article to the Senate for a trial. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has now signaled publicly that he is considering whether or not to vote against Trump—a stunning change of posture after 4 years of protecting the President at all costs from paying any political price for his misdeeds. He is expected to not take up the impeachment trial in the Senate if it is sent to the body while he remains Senate Majority Leader for the next few days. While there is some disagreement as to whether Trump can be convicted after he leaves office – particularly from his supporters – legal experts say he can indeed be convicted as an ex-President. There is speculation that Trump’s trial could begin on January 20th, inauguration day, when President elect Joe Biden takes office.
President Trump, whose Twitter megaphone has been cut off, released a tweet-like statement through his Press Secretary’s account saying in part, “In light of reports of more demonstrations, I urge that there must be NO violence, NO lawbreaking and NO vandalism of any kind.” He then released a highly scripted video statement echoing the same and where he pretended as though he was entirely cut off from the riot, violence, and insurrection he incited.
In an insider account of Trump’s last days at the White House, the Washington Post on Wednesday explained that the President’s daughter, son-in-law, and Vice President Pence among others, “persuaded Trump to film the video, telling him it could boost support among weak Republicans. They asked him not to mention impeachment, and he didn’t.” The report also explained that, “he is said to be doing little these days besides watching television and fulminating with this coterie of loyalists about Republicans not defending him enough.” One official explained, “He is feeling increasingly alone and isolated and frustrated.” Additionally, the piece pointed out that Trump is increasingly angry with his lawyer Rudy Giuliani who failed to move the needle on legal challenges to the 2020 election and has, “instructed aides not to pay Giuliani’s legal fees.”
During the House impeachment debate, one Republican, Brian Mast of Florida, demanded evidence that Trump incited the riot. Numerous reports show that Trump supporters came to the Capitol claiming clearly and overtly that their president invited them there. Here is just one instance. In fact there is increasing suspicion that Republican lawmakers were in on the insurrectionist violence. Democratic Representative Mikie Sherrill of New Jersey has made a written request for the Sergeant-at-Arms to investigate whether GOP lawmakers led rioters on “reconnaissance” tours of the Capitol a day before the riot. She explained more in an MSNBC interview.
President elect Joe Biden, who has attempted to remain separate from the discourse on impeachment, tweeted that he hoped the Senate would “deal with their Constitutional responsibilities on impeachment while also working on the other urgent business of this nation.” On Thursday Mr. Biden planned to lay out an ambitious agenda for his first order of business, which includes a dramatic expansion of the nation’s Covid-19 vaccination program and economic stimulus to help struggling Americans. In fact, Thursday’s Labor Department figures on unemployment highlighted the urgent need for government intervention as jobless claims sharply rose from the week before. In the first week of the new year, 1.15 million American workers filed for unemployment benefits. Not only are individuals hurting badly as Trump ends his term, but state and local governments are falling far short of cash. Now labor unions are asking Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer to prioritize at least $1 trillion in emergency relief.
In other news, the Trump administration has apparently launched what are being called “11th hour attacks” on human rights and the environment. As he leaves office Trump is taking aim at the Clean Air Act, the EPA’s reliance on vetted science, automakers’ fuel efficiency standards, Medicaid block grants, and regulations protecting LGBTQ Americans. Most of these changes can be undone by Biden and can be repealed under the Congressional Review Act.
Meanwhile, a years-long legal battle for accountability for the Flint water crisis has resulted in 8 former Michigan officials being charged, including ex-Governor Rick Snyder. In spite of the legal liability, critics slammed the fact that Mr. Synder faces only two misdemeanor charges in a crisis that impacted the long-term health and wellbeing of thousands of Flint residents and especially children. Many were exposed to lead and Legionnaires disease. The charges facing others were more serious, particularly Former Michigan Chief Medical Executive Dr. Eden Wells, who faces nine counts of involuntary manslaughter among other things.
Finally, the New York State Attorney General has sued the New York City Police Department over egregious brutality aimed at Black Lives Matter protests in the wake of George Floyd’s killing last year. Attorney General Letitia James filed the lawsuit and told press, “We found a pattern of deeply concerning and unlawful practices that the NYPD utilized in response to these largely peaceful protests.” A new study by US Crisis Monitor has found that police are 3 times more likely to use force against leftwing protesters than rightwing. And, Presidential candidate Andrew Yang has joined the race for mayor of New York city saying he wants to implement at a city-wide level his signature issue of a universal basic income.