Headlines: January 25, 2021
Listen to story:
Download: mp3 (Duration: 8:11 — 7.5MB)
The House of Representatives on Monday is sending its impeachment article against the former U.S. President to the full Senate ahead of a trial even as Republicans in the Senate are split over how to respond. The article that all House Democrats and ten House Republicans voted to pass in the last weeks of Donald Trump’s Presidency, accused him of “incitement of insurrection” in the Capitol riot of January 6th. The trial is expected to begin on February 9th. Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren warned in an interview on CNN that, “We need accountability, accountability for Donald Trump and accountability for everyone who participated in that insurrection.” Republican Senator Mitt Romney said on Fox News, “It is pretty clear that over the last year, there has been an effort to corrupt the election in the United States, and it was not by President Biden, it was by President Trump.” But Mr. Romney appears to be in the minority within his party where a majority of elected Republicans still seem intent on questioning the election results and defending the former president. The Washington Post reports that, “Members of the Republican National Committee also were in a heated debate over the weekend on how to respond to impeachment — and how fiercely to defend Trump, who maintains support among a majority of the 168 committee members.” What is remarkable about the Trump loyalists is that members of Congress continue to receive violent threats from pro-Trump people. According to Associated Press, “Federal law enforcement officials are examining a number of threats aimed at members of Congress as the second trial of former President Donald Trump nears, including ominous chatter about killing legislators or attacking them outside of the U.S. Capitol.”
Reflecting the battle at the federal level, Arizona’s Republican legislators appear firmly in the Trump camp as the state-party moved to censure those officials they felt were not loyal enough to the former president, including Gov. Doug Ducey, former Sen. Jeff Flake and the late Sen. John McCain’s wife Cindy McCain. There is little acknowledgement of the on-going emergence of Trump’s various coup attempts. The Inspector General of the Department of Justice on Monday announced he will probe allegations that Trump colluded with a DOJ official named Jeffrey Clark to oust the Acting Attorney General Jeff Rosen in order to force the state of Georgia to invalidate Joe Biden’s election win in that state and thereby overturn the presidential election.
Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who was the president’s most vocal surrogate in efforts to overturn the election, is now facing a $1.3 billion lawsuit by the tech company Dominion. The company accuses Giuliani of spreading lies about their voting machines being involved in fraud and helping Biden win. The complaint says, “The harm to Dominion’s business and reputation is unprecedented and irreparable because of how fervently millions of people believe it.”
In other news, the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday dismissed without comment a major case against the former President over violations of the emoluments clause of the Constitution. For four years ethics groups attempted to hold Trump accountable over his business dealings and conflicts of interest as President. Now that the case finally reached the Supreme Court, justices, as per CNN, “instructed the lower courts to wipe away previous lower court opinions that went against Trump because he is no longer in office.” In other words, Trump simply “ran out the clock” as one lawyer working on the case complained.
United States Senators are squabbling over the rules of the 2021 Senate considering that the body is essentially split between Democrats and Republicans with Vice President Kamala Harris conferring Democrats majority status. The Washington Post explained that the stalemate, “could force Democrats to choose within a matter of weeks whether they will continue to pursue the sort of bipartisan cooperation that Biden — and many senators of both parties — have preached or whether to pursue procedural shortcuts or rule changes that would sideline the GOP but also are likely to divide their caucus.” Senate Budget Committee Chair Bernie Sanders plans to use an expedited reconciliation process to push through an ambitious coronavirus relief program to sidestep Republican opposition. In an interview on CNN, Senator Sanders explained his reasoning to play hardball with Senate Republicans who are demanding “unity” now that they are in the minority party.
President Joe Biden signed an executive order on Monday to close loopholes for the federal government to purchase American manufactured goods. Currently there are already requirements that the government purchase American made products when possible but there are many waivers that allow companies to sidestep the requirement and sell non-American made products.
The new president also signed an order reversing his predecessor’s ban on transgender people serving in the U.S. military saying, “an inclusive force is a more effective force.” And, he fired Trump’s controversial White House physician Sean Conley who came under fire last year for his comments when the President caught Covid-19. Biden also plans to reinstate some travel restrictions in order to stop the spread of potentially dangerous new variants of the coronavirus from nations like the UK and South Africa. The biotech company Moderna says it is developing a booster shot against the South Africa variant as its current vaccine appears to be slightly less effective against it.
In other coronavirus-related news, as we approach the one-year anniversary of the start of the pandemic, infections in the U.S. have reached 25 million—the single largest total for any nation in the world. The nation’s most populous state California, unsurprisingly, has the largest case load and may have spawned its own new variant of the virus. Despite this, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday canceled his state’s stay-at-home orders opening the door for restaurants and gyms to reopen in-person services. The state still lags behind others in the rate of vaccinations, hampered by a shortage of doses and a disorganized system of inoculations. The state of West Virginia — which has a much smaller population than California — has been hailed as a model for vaccine dispensing. So far about 9% of residents have received their first shots – the highest state percentage in the nation. Internationally, Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador became the latest world leader to catch the disease. He has mild symptoms so far.
In other international news, thousands of Brazilians protested over the weekend against the government of Jair Bolsonaro over his handling of the pandemic that has claimed nearly a quarter of a million lives. According to AP, “Sunday’s protests were called by conservative groups that had once backed the president, while those on Saturday had come from the left.” There is even talk of impeaching Bolsonaro.
And finally, there were mass protests in Russia as well over the continued imprisonment of opposition leader Alexei Navalny. A whopping 3,700 people were arrested on Saturday alone as the government of Vladimir Putin struggled to keep a hold on power over accusations of having poisoned Mr. Navalny last year and immediately arrested him when he returned to Moscow.