Headlines: January 21, 2020
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The Senate Impeachment trial began in earnest this week with lawmakers tussling over the rules for how the proceedings will be run. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has vowed to push through rules with a 51-vote majority that will make the trial as short as possible. McConnell has openly promised a biased process and yet last week took an oath to deliver “impartial justice.” House impeachment managers are demanding a trial that includes witnesses and the presentation of evidence. House Intelligence Committee chair Adam Schiff who leads the team of impeachment managers made these comments on Tuesday morning. Among the specific moves McConnell is making is to insist that opening arguments from both the House impeachment team and President Trump’s defense team are limited to 24 hours over 2 days each. McConnell is also working to ensure that former National Security Advisor John Bolton does not testify at the Senate even though Bolton has indicated he is willing to do so. If Bolton is allowed to testified he may be moved behind closed doors with the issue of “national security” used as a justification.
House impeachment managers had sent a 48-page trial memorandum along with a 60-page statement to the Senate. In it they laid out their arguments of the President engaging in a corrupt scheme to benefit himself politically and then proceeding to hide his conduct from Congress. “President Trump’s conduct is the framers’ worst nightmare,” said the memo. In response, on Monday President Trump’s legal team issued a blistering defense in a 6-page memo demanding the immediate dismissal of the trial and declaring that it was a political move by Democrats to interfere in the 2020 election. House managers then responded on the same day in a 9-page memo saying, “the outcome of these proceedings will determine whether generations to come will enjoy a safe and secure democracy in which the President is not a king, and in which no one, particularly the President, is above the law.”
In other news from the impeachment trial House managers are questioning whether White House Counsel Pat Cippolone ought to be part of Trump’s legal team, saying he was personally involved in the Ukraine scandal at the heart of the impeachment articles and therefore his legal representation is a conflict of interest. Meanwhile a new CNN poll found that 51% of Americans want the Senate to convict and remove Trump from office. Nearly 70% feel that the Senate trial should allow witnesses to speak.
In other news world leaders are gathering this week in Davos, Switzerland for the annual World Economic Forum and among the attendees is teen climate activist Greta Thunberg. She spoke at a panel discussion sponsored by the New York Times and the WEF and demanded leaders do more. President Trump also spoke, delivering a message that was quite the opposite. As per the New York Times, Trump, “delivered what amounted to a version of his campaign speech, speaking little of international alliances and touting America’s supremacy in the world.” In what might have been a reference to Thunberg he said, “we must reject the perennial prophets of doom” and that it was “not a time for pessimism.” He actively avoided focus on the Senate impeachment trial.
An estimated 22,000 people showed up to Richmond, Virginia on Monday to show off their firearms and denounce efforts to control the free availability of guns. Virginia’s Democratic legislature worked hard ahead of time to ensure security and prevent violence and their efforts appear to have paid off. The heavily armed, mostly male attendees equated the freedom to arm themselves with the freedom of human beings despite the fact that gun violence continues to have a devastating toll nationwide. Only one woman was arrested and no violence reported. Meanwhile the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence just issued a new report that finds gun violence linked to a deep distrust of police nationwide. According to the report, “when communities experience over-enforcement of minor infractions and under-protection from violence, trust in law enforcement plummets.” And, “The lack of trust… encourages a desperate few to resort to vigilante, retaliatory violence instead.”
In electoral news, former Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton issued a savage criticism of this election’s frontrunner Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, the former State Secretary and First Lady whose own popularity is low, claimed that “Nobody Likes” Sanders and, “nobody wants to work with him.” She refused to commit to backing Sanders if he became the nominee even though Sanders forcefully campaigned for her in 2016 when she narrowly won the Democratic nomination. Over the years polls have consistently shown that a majority of voters like Sanders. Meanwhile Sanders has just apologized to his rival Joe Biden for a critical op-ed that one of his leading supporters published in the Guardian. Former New York Gubernatorial candidate Zephyr Teachout, who backs Sanders, wrote that Biden has a “corruption problem.” In an interview on CBS, Sanders said, “It is absolutely not my view that Joe is corrupt in any way. And I’m sorry that that op-ed appeared.” And, over the weekend The New York Times endorsed two candidates for President: Senators Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar. Admitting that Sanders has helped make once radical ideas like a higher minimum wage become mainstream, the paper concluded Sanders would not compromise his ideals and therefore would not receive an endorsement.
A military trial on a case in Guantanamo will focus on the American torture of detainees for the first time. Lawyers for Khalid Sheikh Mohammad will accuse CIA psychologists of torturing their client using brutal techniques like water boarding. Mohammad’s trial will take place nearly 20 years after the September 11th 2001 attacks he is accused of helping to organize.
The World Health Organization has called an emergency meeting this week to address the spread of a dangerous new infectious disease that has broken out in Chinese cities. A new strain of Coronavirus can cause pneumonia and has been spreading fast, claiming at least 3 lives. Reuters explained that, “Adding to the difficulties of containing it, hundreds of millions of Chinese will be traveling domestically and abroad during the Lunar New Year holiday that starts this week.” According to the New York Times, “Patients have been identified in Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen, as well as Taiwan, Japan, Thailand and South Korea.” The first case of the Coronavirus in the US has now been announced in the state of Washington.
A large group of central American migrants attempting to head to the US has been stopped at the border between Mexico and Guatemala by Mexican police. The Mexican government, at the behest of the US, has refused to give the migrants authority to travel through Mexico in order to reach the US. As of Monday there were about 4,000 migrants waiting at the border although a few dozen have apparently slipped through. Mexican police are being accused of violence as they hurled tear gas at the refugees. In some cases children were separated from their mothers in the confusion.
And finally in Brazil, President Jair Bolsonaro’s government has charged Intercept journalist Glenn Greenwald with cybercrimes for his work in reporting on government corruption. Prosecutors have accused Greenwald of being part of a “criminal organization.”