Nation & World: Trump impeachment trial to open with sense of urgency, speed
photo by: AP File Photo
WASHINGTON (AP) — Donald Trump’s historic second impeachment trial is opening this week with a sense of urgency — by Democrats who want to hold the former president accountable for the violent U.S. Capitol siege and Republicans who want it over as fast as possible.
Scheduled to begin Tuesday, just over a month since the deadly riot, the proceedings are expected to diverge from the lengthy, complicated trial that resulted in Trump’s acquittal a year ago on charges that he privately pressured Ukraine to dig up dirt on a Democratic rival, Joe Biden, now the president. This time, Trump’s Jan. 6 rally cry to “fight like hell” and the storming of the Capitol played out for the world to see. While Trump very well could be acquitted again, the trial could be over in half the time.
Details of the proceedings are still being negotiated by the Senate leaders, with the duration of opening arguments, senators’ questions and deliberations all up for debate.
So far, it appears there will be few witnesses called, as the prosecutors and defense attorneys speak directly to senators who have been sworn to deliver “impartial justice” as jurors. Most are also witnesses to the siege, having fled for safety that day as the rioters broke into the Capitol and temporarily halted the electoral count certifying Biden’s victory.
Defense attorneys for Trump declined a request for him to testify. Holed up at his Mar-a-Lago club, the former president has been silenced on social media by Twitter without public comments since leaving the White House,
Instead, House managers prosecuting the case are expected to rely on the trove of videos from the siege, along with Trump’s incendiary rhetoric refusing to concede the election, to make their case. His new defense team has said it plans to counter with its own cache of videos of Democratic politicians making fiery speeches.
“We have the unusual circumstance where on the very first day of the trial, when those managers walk on the floor of the Senate, there will already be over 100 witnesses present,” said Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., who led Trump’s first impeachment. “Whether you need additional witnesses will be a strategic call.”
Trump is the first president to be twice impeached, and the only one to face trial after leaving the White House. The Democratic-led House approved a sole charge, “incitement of insurrection,” acting swiftly one week after the riot, the most violent attack on Congress in more than 200 years. Five people died including a woman shot by police inside the building and a police officer who died of injuries the next day.
Democrats argue it’s not only about winning conviction, but holding the former president accountable for his actions, even though he’s out of office. For Republicans, the trial will test their political loyalty to Trump and his enduring grip on the GOP.
Initially repulsed by the graphic images of the siege, Republican senators including Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell denounced the violence and pointed a finger of blame at Trump. But in recent weeks GOP senators have rallied around Trump arguing his comments do not make him responsible for the violence. They question the legitimacy of even conducting a trial of someone no longer in office.
On Sunday, Republican Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi described Trump’s impeachment trial as a “meaningless messaging partisan exercise.” Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky called the proceedings a farce with “zero chance of conviction” and described Trump’s language and rally words as “figurative” speech.
Senators were sworn in as jurors late last month, shortly after Biden was inaugurated, but the trial proceedings were delayed as Democrats focused on confirming the new president’s initial Cabinet picks and Republicans sought to put as much distance as possible from the bloody riot.
At the time, Paul forced a vote to set aside the trial as unconstitutional because Trump is no longer in office, drawing 44 other Republicans to his argument.
A prominent conservative lawyer, Charles Cooper, rejects that view, writing in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece Sunday that the Constitution permits the Senate to try an ex-official, a significant counterpoint to that of Republican senators who have looked toward acquittal by advancing constitutional claims.
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, one of Trump’s ardent defenders, said he believes Trump’s actions were wrong and “he’s going to have a place in history for all of this,” but insisted it’s not the Senate’s job to judge.
“It’s not a question of how the trial ends, it’s a question of when it ends,” Graham said. “Republicans are going to view this as an unconstitutional exercise, and the only question is, will they call witnesses, how long does the trial take? But the outcome is really not in doubt.”
But 45 votes in favor of Paul’s measure suggested the near impossibility of reaching a conviction in a Senate where Democrats hold 50 seats but a two-thirds vote — or 67 senators — would be needed to convict Trump. Only five Republican senators joined with Democrats to reject Paul’s motion: Mitt Romney of Utah, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania.
Schiff was on NBC’s “Meet the Press, Wicker spoke on ABC’s “This Week,” Paul was on “Fox News Sunday” and Graham was on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”
Rescuers in India digging for 37 trapped in glacier flood
RUDRAPRAYAG, India (AP) — Rescuers in northern India were working Monday to rescue more than three dozen power plant workers trapped in a tunnel after part of a Himalayan glacier broke off and sent a wall of water and debris rushing down the mountain in a disaster that has left 18 people dead and 165 missing.
More than 2,000 members of the military, paramilitary groups and police have been taking part in search-and-rescue operations in the northern state of Uttarakhand after Sunday’s flood, which destroyed one dam, damaged another and washed away homes downstream.
Officials said the focus was on saving 37 workers who are stuck inside a tunnel at one of the affected hydropower plants. Excavators had been brought in the help with the efforts to reach the workers, who have been out of contact since the flood.
Authorities fear many more are dead and were searching for bodies downstream using boats. They also walked along river banks and used binoculars to scan for bodies that might have been washed downstream.
The flood was caused when a portion of Nanda Devi glacier snapped off Sunday morning, releasing water trapped behind it. Experts said the disaster could be linked to global warming and a team of scientists was flown to the site Monday to investigate exactly happened.
The floodwater rushed down the mountain and into other bodies of water, forcing the evacuation of many villages along the banks of the Alaknanda and Dhauliganga rivers. Video showed the muddy, concrete-gray floodwaters tumbling through a valley and surging into a dam, breaking it into pieces with little resistance before roaring on downstream. It turned the countryside into what looked like an ash-colored moonscape.
Israeli PM pleads not guilty as corruption trial resumes
JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pleaded not guilty on Monday as his trial on corruption charges resumed in a Jerusalem courtroom just weeks before national elections in which he hopes to extend his 12-year rule.
Netanyahu was indicted last year for fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes in three separate cases. In recent months, Israelis have held weekly protests calling on him to resign over the charges and criticizing his government’s response to the coronavirus crisis. Protesters gathered outside the courthouse could be heard inside the room where the hearing was being held.
He stands accused of accepting lavish gifts from wealthy friends and offering to grant favors to powerful media moguls in exchange for favorable coverage of him and his family. The latest hearing was postponed last month due to lockdown restrictions on public gatherings.
Israel’s longest serving leader is also the first sitting prime minister to go on trial for corruption. Israeli law requires Cabinet ministers to resign when charged with criminal offenses, but does not specifically address the case of a prime minister under indictment.
Netanyahu has denied any wrongdoing and has dismissed the charges against him as a “witch-hunt” orchestrated by biased law enforcement and media. He has refused to step down and has used his office as a bully pulpit against critics and the criminal justice system.
At Monday’s hearing, Netanyahu’s lawyers submitted a written response pleading not guilty. They then argued against the cases on procedural grounds, saying the attorney general had not properly approved the investigations in writing.
After around 20 minutes, Netanyahu left the courtroom without explanation and his motorcade departed.
The hearing continued in his absence, with his lawyers arguing for more than an hour that constitutional procedures had not been followed. The judges appeared skeptical and repeatedly called on the defense lawyers to wrap it up. The prosecution then rejected those arguments, saying the attorney general had approved the investigations in dozens of meetings.
Water fired at crowd as anti-coup protests swell in Myanmar
YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — Police fired a water cannon Monday at hundreds of protesters in Myanmar’s capital who are demanding the military hand power back to elected officials, as demonstrations against last week’s coup intensified and spread to more parts of the country.
The demonstrations in Naypyitaw, ongoing for several days, are especially significant since the city, whose population includes many civil servants and their families, has no tradition of protest and has a heavy military presence.
A protest also swelled at a major downtown intersection in the country’s largest city, Yangon, with people chanting slogans, raising a three-finger salute that is a symbol of resistance and carrying placards saying, “Reject the military coup” and “Justice for Myanmar.”
There were also reports of new demonstrations in towns in the north, southeast and east of the country, as well as in the city of Mandalay, where there was a procession of marchers and motorbikes.
State media for the first time on Monday made reference to the protests, claiming they were endangering the country’s stability.
The coup was seen internationally as a shocking setback for Myanmar, which had been making progress toward democracy in recent years after five decades of military rule. The takeover came the day newly elected lawmakers were supposed to take their seats in Parliament after November elections. The generals have said that vote was marred by fraud — though the country’s election commission has dismissed that claim.