Nation & World: Trump rejects Dems’ request to testify at impeachment trial
photo by: AP File Photo
WASHINGTON (AP) — House Democrats on Thursday asked Donald Trump to testify under oath for his Senate impeachment trial, challenging him to respond to their charge that he incited a violent mob to storm the Capitol. A Trump adviser said the former president won’t testify.
Although Democrats might not have the power to force Trump’s testimony, the request from House impeachment managers is part of their overall effort to put the violent events of Jan. 6 on the record for history and hold him accountable for his words. Democrats will look to use his refusal to testify against him as they argue that the ex-president has avoided responsibility for his actions.
Hours after the Democrats’ request was revealed, Trump adviser Jason Miller dismissed the trial as “an unconstitutional proceeding” and said the former president would not testify. Separately, Trump’s lawyers denounced the request as a “public relations stunt.”
The impeachment trial starts Feb. 9. Trump, the first president to be impeached twice, is charged with inciting an insurrection on Jan. 6, when a mob of his supporters broke into the Capitol to interrupt the electoral vote count. Five people died. Before the riot, Trump had told his supporters to “fight like hell” to overturn his election defeat.
Democrats have said a trial is necessary to provide a final measure of accountability for the attack. If Trump is convicted, the Senate could hold a second vote to disqualify him from seeking office again.
In the letter to the former president and his attorneys, Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin, one of the impeachment managers, asked that Trump explain why he and his team have disputed key factual allegations at the center of their case. He asked that Trump provide testimony about his conduct “either before or during the Senate impeachment trial,” and under cross-examination, as early as Monday, Feb. 8, and not later than Thursday, Feb. 11.
The request from Raskin cites the words of Trump’s own attorneys, who in a legal brief earlier this week not only denied that Trump had incited the riot but also asserted that he had “performed admirably in his role as president, at all times doing what he thought was in the best interests of the American people.”
With that argument, Raskin said, Trump had questioned critical facts in the case “notwithstanding the clear and overwhelming evidence of your constitutional offense.” He said Trump should be able to testify now that he is no longer president.
Trump attorneys Bruce Castor and David Schoen responded hours later that the letter proves that Democrats “cannot prove your allegations” and that an impeachment trial is too serious “to try to play these games.”
The back-and-forth continued Thursday evening when Raskin said Trump’s refusal to testify “speaks volumes and plainly establishes an adverse inference supporting his guilt.”
“Any official accused of inciting armed violence against the government of the United States should welcome the chance to testify openly and honestly — that is, if the official had a defense,” he said in a statement.
Defense lawyers, and many Senate Republicans, have argued that the trial is unconstitutional because Trump is no longer in office, even though he was impeached while he was still president. In a test vote in the Senate last week, 45 Republicans voted for an effort to dismiss the trial on those grounds.
Democrats say the Republicans are arguing process because they can’t defend the former president’s actions, and they point to the many legal scholars who have said the trial is on firm constitutional ground.
Raskin said in the letter that if Trump refuses to appear, the managers will use his refusal against him in the trial — a similar argument put forth by House Democrats in last year’s impeachment trial, when many Trump officials ignored subpoenas. Trump was eventually acquitted of two charges that he abused his presidential powers by pressuring the Ukrainian government to investigate now-President Joe Biden.
The impeachment managers do not have the authority to subpoena witnesses now since the House has already voted to impeach him. The Senate could vote to subpoena Trump, or any other witnesses, on a simple majority vote during the trial. On Thursday, senators in both parties made it clear they would be reluctant to do so.
Shortly after Raskin’s letter was made public, Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., said it would be a “terrible idea” for Trump to testify. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said Trump’s statements before and after the attack on the Capitol “are the most powerful evidence. His own words incriminate him. They show his guilty intent.”
South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, one of Trump’s closest GOP allies, said he thought the letter was a “political ploy” and noted that Democrats didn’t invite or subpoena Trump to testify before the House voted to impeach him on Jan. 13.
Asked if he thinks Trump will testify, Graham said it would be a “bad idea.”
“I don’t think that would be in anybody’s interest,” he said.
J&J asks US regulators to OK its one-shot vaccine
Johnson & Johnson asked U.S. regulators Thursday to clear the world’s first single-dose COVID-19 vaccine, an easier-to-use option that could boost scarce supplies.
J&J’s vaccine was safe and offered strong protection against moderate to severe COVID-19, according to preliminary results from a massive international study.
It didn’t appear quite as strong as two-dose competitors made by Pfizer and Moderna — a finding that may be more perception than reality, given differences in how each was tested.
But the Food and Drug Administration is asking its independent advisers to publicly debate all the data behind the single-dose shot — just like its competitors were put under the microscope — before it decides whether to green light a third vaccine option in the U.S. The panel will meet Feb. 26.
Dem-led House, drawing a line, kicks Greene off committees
WASHINGTON (AP) — A fiercely divided House tossed Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene off both her committees Thursday, an unprecedented punishment that Democrats said she’d earned by spreading hateful and violent conspiracy theories.
Underscoring the political vise her inflammatory commentary has clamped her party into, nearly all Republicans voted against the Democratic move but none defended her lengthy history of outrageous social media posts.
Yet in a riveting moment, the freshman Republican from a deep-red corner of Georgia took to the House floor on her own behalf. She offered a mixture of backpedaling and finger-pointing as she wore a dark mask emblazoned with the words “FREE SPEECH.”
U.S. virus deaths surpass 450K; daily toll is stubbornly high
Coronavirus deaths in the United States surpassed 450,000 on Thursday, and daily deaths remain stubbornly high at more than 3,000 a day, despite falling infections and the arrival of multiple vaccines.
Infectious disease specialists expect deaths to start dropping soon, after new cases hit a peak right around the beginning of the year. New COVID-19 deaths could ebb as early as next week, said the new director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
But there’s also the risk that improving trends in infections and hospitalizations could be offset by people relaxing and coming together — including this Sunday, to watch football, she added.
“I’m worried about Super Bowl Sunday, quite honestly,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Thursday in an interview with The Associated Press.
‘Ma Rainey,’ ‘Minari’ and Boseman lead SAG nominations
NEW YORK (AP) — Chadwick Boseman received two posthumous nominations from the 27th Screen Actors Guild Awards on Thursday, while the Korean American family drama “Minari” and Spike Lee’s Vietnam veteran drama “Da 5 Bloods” were among the nominees for best ensemble.
The nominees, announced on Instagram Live, differed notably from the Golden Globe nominations announced the day before. While the Hollywood Foreign Press Association spurned films with largely non-white casts in its tops awards, the actors guild nominated a strikingly more diverse slate of nominees for its top award, best ensemble.
Up for best ensemble are Regina King’s “One Night in Miami,” about a 1964 meeting of four Black icons; the August Wilson adaptation “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”; Lee Isaac Chung’s “Minari”; Lee’s “Da 5 Bloods” and Aaron Sorkin’s 1960s courtroom drama “The Trial of the Chicago 7.”
Efforts to end Myanmar’s ethnic conflicts shaken by coup
JAKARTA, INDONESIA (AP) — The coup that removed an elected government and reimposed military control in Myanmar has raised even more uncertainty about a fragile peace process aimed at ending decades of conflict between the military, armed ethnic groups and militias.
Over 20 ethnic groups have been fighting the military over control of predominantly ethnic-minority borderland areas, including Shan, Kachin, Karen and Rakhine states. The groups have sought greater autonomy for their regions, which are often rich with natural resources. The military and militias aligned with it have fought for continued centralized power and control.
U.S. urges Ethiopia’s PM to allow ‘immediate’ help to Tigray
NAIROBI, KENYA (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a call with Ethiopia’s prime minister on Thursday expressed “grave concern” about the crisis in the embattled Tigray region and urged “immediate, full and unhindered humanitarian access to prevent further loss of life,” a U.S. spokesman said.
There was no immediate comment from Ethiopian officials.
The call is the latest this week that world leaders have held with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed as Ethiopia faces growing pressure to open Tigray to journalists, independent investigators and far more humanitarian aid.
Voting company sues Fox, Giuliani over election claims
MIAMI (AP) — A voting technology company is suing Fox News, three of its hosts and two former lawyers for former President Donald Trump — Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell — for $2.7 billion, charging that the defendants conspired to spread false claims that the company helped “steal” the U.S. presidential election.
The 285-page complaint filed Thursday in New York state court by Florida-based Smartmatic USA is one of the largest libel suits ever undertaken. On Jan. 25, a rival election-technology company — Dominion Voting Systems, which was also ensnared in Trump’s baseless effort to overturn the election — sued Guiliani and Powell for $1.3 billion.
Unlike Dominion, whose technology was used in 24 states, Smartmatic’s participation in the 2020 election was restricted to Los Angeles County, which votes heavily Democratic.
UK tribunal to hear witnesses on China genocide claims
LONDON (AP) — An independent tribunal in Britain aiming to establish whether the Chinese government’s alleged rights abuses against Uighur Muslims in the far western Xinjiang region constitute genocide is expected to hear dozens of witness testimonies when it holds its first public hearing in London in May.
Organizer Nick Vetch said Thursday an eight-member panel that will act as a jury has been finalized, and that researchers for the tribunal were sifting through about 1,500 documents and pieces of evidence submitted from different countries.
The tribunal, which doesn’t have government backing, will be chaired by prominent barrister Geoffrey Nice, who previously led the prosecution of ex-Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and worked with the International Criminal Court.
Social media stars sail away with sea shanty record deals
LONDON (AP) — The long forgotten sea shanty has been enjoying a renaissance on social media and is now moving into popular music with two U.K. artists landing record deals, following their online performances.
Scottish postman Nathan Evans and Bristol folk band The Longest Johns signed record deals last week, with Evans even securing a No. 1 record in the U.K. for his recording of the New Zealand song “Wellerman,” which he originally performed on TikTok.