Nation & World: Prosecutors: Convict Trump or face democracy damage

photo by: Associated Press

Bruce Castor, lawyer for former President Donald Trump, arrives on the third day of the second impeachment trial of Trump in the Senate, at the Capitol, Thursday, Feb. 11, 2021, in Washington. (Mandel Ngan/Pool via AP)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Dire harm from Donald Trump’s false and violent incitements will vex American democracy long into the future unless the Senate convicts him of impeachment and bars him from future office, House prosecutors insisted Thursday as they concluded two days of emotional arguments in his historic trial.

Making their case, they presented piles of new videos of last month’s deadly Capitol attack, with invaders proudly declaring they were merely obeying “the president’s orders” to fight to overturn the election results as Congress was certifying his defeat to Democrat Joe Biden. Trump is accused of inciting the invasion, which prosecutors said was a predictable culmination of the many public and explicit instructions he gave supporters long before his White House rally that unleashed the Jan. 6 attack.

“If we pretend this didn’t happen, or worse, if we let it go unanswered, who’s to say it won’t happen again?” argued prosecutor Rep. Joe Neguse, D-Colo. Even out of office, Democrats warned, Trump could whip up a mob of followers for similar damage.

Trump’s defense will take the Senate floor on Friday, arguing that as terrible as the attack was, it clearly was not the president’s doing. The proceedings could finish with a vote this weekend by the senators who are sitting as impeachment jurors.

The Democrats, with little hope of conviction by two-thirds of the evenly divided Senate, are also making their most graphic case to the American public, while Trump’s lawyers and the Republicans are focused on legal rather than emotional or historic questions, hoping to get it all behind as quickly as possible. Five people died in the Capitol chaos and its aftermath, a domestic attack unparalleled in U.S. history.

Trump’s second impeachment trial, on a charge of incitement of insurrection, has echoes of last year’s impeachment and acquittal over the Ukraine matter, as prosecutors warn senators that Trump has shown no bounds and will pose a continuing danger to the civic order unless he convicted. Even out of the White House, the former president holds influence over large swaths of voters.

The Democratic House members acting as prosecutors drew a direct line Thursday from Trump’s repeated comments condoning and even celebrating violence — praising “both sides” after the 2017 outbreak at the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va. — and urging his rally crowd last month to go to the Capitol and fight for his presidency. He spread false claims about election fraud, without evidence, and urged his supporters to “stop the steal” of the presidency.

Prosecutors used the rioters’ own videos from that day to pin responsibility on Trump. “We were invited here,” said one. “Trump sent us,” said another. “He’ll be happy. We’re fighting for Trump.”

“They truly believed that the whole intrusion was at the president’s orders,” said Rep. Diana DeGette of Colorado. “The president told them to be there.”

At the White House, President Biden said he believed “some minds may be changed” after senators saw chilling security video Wednesday of the deadly insurrection at the Capitol, including of rioters searching menacingly for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Mike Pence.

Biden said he didn’t watch any of the previous day’s proceedings live but later saw news coverage.

Though most of the Senate jurors seem to have made up their minds, making Trump’s acquittal likely, the never-before-seen audio and video released Wednesday became a key exhibit.

Senators sat riveted as the jarring video played in the chamber on Wednesday. The footage showed the mob smashing into the building, rioters engaging in hand-to-hand combat with police, with audio of officers pleading for back-up. Rioters were seen roaming the halls chanting “Hang Mike Pence,” and eerily singing out “Where are you, Nancy?” in search of Pelosi.

Videos of the siege have been circulating since the day of the riot, but the graphic compilation offered a moment-by-moment retelling of one of the nation’s most alarming days. And it underscored how dangerously close the rioters came to the nation’s leaders, shifting the focus of the trial from an academic debate about the Constitution to a raw retelling of the assault.

Trump attorney David Schoen took issue, saying the presentation was “offensive” and that the Democrats “haven’t tied it in any way to Trump.”

He told reporters Thursday at the Capitol he believed Democrats were making the public relive the tragedy in a way that “tears at the American people” and impedes efforts at unity in the country.

And by Thursday, senators sitting through a second full day of arguments appeared somewhat fatigued, slouching in their chairs, crossing their arms and walking around to stretch.

One Republican, Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, said during a break: “To me, they’re losing credibility the longer they talk.”

The goal of the two-day presentation by prosecutors from the House, which impeached the outgoing president last month a week after the siege, was to cast Trump not as an innocent bystander but rather as the “inciter in chief” who spent months spreading falsehoods and revving up supporters to challenge the election.

“This attack never would have happened but for Donald Trump,” Rep. Madeleine Dean, one of the impeachment managers, said as she choked back emotion. “And so they came, draped in Trump’s flag, and used our flag, the American flag, to batter and to bludgeon.”

Trump’s lawyers are likely to blame the rioters themselves for the violence.

The first president to face an impeachment trial after leaving office, Trump is also the first to be twice impeached.

His lawyers say he cannot be convicted because he is already gone from the White House. Even though the Senate rejected that argument in Tuesday’s vote to proceed to trial, the issue could resonate with Senate Republicans eager to acquit Trump without being seen as condoning his behavior.

While six Republicans joined with Democrats to vote to proceed with the trial on Tuesday, the 56-44 vote was far from the two-thirds threshold of 67 votes needed for conviction.


BRIEFLY


Chick Corea, jazz great with 23 Grammy Awards, dies at 79

New York (ap) — Chick Corea, a towering jazz pianist with a staggering 23 Grammy Awards who pushed the boundaries of the genre and worked alongside Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock, has died. He was 79.

Corea died Tuesday of a rare form of cancer, his team posted on his website. His death was confirmed by Corea’s web and marketing manager, Dan Muse.


Budget office expects $2.3T deficit before Biden relief plan

Baltimore (ap) — The Congressional Budget Office says the federal government is on track for a $2.3 trillion deficit this year, down roughly $900 billion from last year when the coronavirus pandemic led Congress to provide historic amounts of financial aid.

Stronger economic growth has helped to reduce the anticipated shortfall for this year. Still, the deficit could soon be revised upward if President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package becomes law. The additional aid — coming after roughly $4 trillion was approved last year — would add more red ink once enacted, but isn’t included in Thursday’s CBO projections.

Excluding the Biden plan, this year’s deficit will equal 10.3% of gross domestic product, which is a measure of the total value of the economy’s goods and services. The past two years have the highest deficits relative to GDP since 1945.


Attorneys spar over powers held by Britney Spears’ father

Los Angeles (ap) — Attorneys for Britney Spears and her father sparred Thursday over how he should share power with a financial company newly appointed as his partner in the conservatorship that controls her money.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Brenda Penny overruled the objections of Jamie Spears’ attorney, Vivian Lee Thoreen, who argued that he should not yield previously granted rights and powers while working with his new co-conservator, The Bessemer Trust.

Thoreen had argued that the proposed order Britney Spears’ court-appointed attorney Samuel Ingham III drafted to appoint the new co-conservator was “unclear and ambiguous by design” as he seeks to take authority away from Jamie Spears.

The judge’s decision was a minor victory for Britney Spears. Ingham, appointed by the court to speak directly for Spears in the conservatorship’s decisions, repeated that her goal is to have her father out entirely.


White House says it will defer to CDC on school reopenings

Facing criticism that President Joe Biden has not acted aggressively enough on reopening schools, the White House on Thursday said it’s aiming for a full reopening but will defer to science experts on how to achieve it in the middle of a pandemic.

The White House drew criticism this week when it said schools would be considered opened if they teach in-person at least one day a week. Asked about it Thursday, press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden hopes to get students in the classroom five days a week as soon as it’s safe.

Psaki did not detail a timeline for that milestone, however, saying the administration will act on new school guidance that’s expected to be released today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


African nations still encouraged to use AstraZeneca vaccine

Nairobi, Kenya (ap) — African countries without the coronavirus variant dominant in South Africa should go ahead and use the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday, while the World Health Organization suggested the vaccine even for countries with the variant circulating widely.

They spoke to reporters a day after South Africa announced it would not use the AstraZeneca vaccine, citing a small study that suggested it was poor at preventing mild to moderate disease caused by the variant.

Africa CDC director John Nkengasong said seven countries on the 54-nation African continent have reported the variant and none besides South Africa is “overwhelmed” by it. No other has expressed concerns about the AstraZeneca vaccine. The seven countries are South Africa, Botswana, Comoros, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique and Zambia.


Biden says U.S. is securing 600 million vaccine doses by July

Bethesda, Md. (ap) — President Joe Biden said Thursday that the U.S. will have enough supply of the COVID-19 vaccine by the end of the summer to inoculate 300 million Americans.

Biden made the announcement at the sprawling National Institutes of Health complex just outside Washington as he visited some of the nation’s leading scientists on the frontlines of the fight against the disease. He toured the Viral Pathogenesis Laboratory that created the COVID-19 vaccine now manufactured by Moderna and being rolled out in the U.S. and other countries.

The U.S. is on pace to exceed Biden’s goal of administering 100 million vaccine doses in his first 100 days in office, with more than 26 million shots delivered in his first three weeks.


6 killed in 130-vehicle pileup on icy Texas interstate

Dallas (ap) — A massive crash involving more than 130 vehicles on an icy Texas interstate left six people dead and dozens injured Thursday amid a winter storm that dropped freezing rain, sleet and snow on parts of the U.S.

At the scene of the crash on Interstate 35 near downtown Fort Worth, a tangle of semitrailers, cars and trucks had smashed into each other and had turned every which way, with some vehicles on top of others.

“There were multiple people that were trapped within the confines of their vehicles and requiring the use of hydraulic rescue equipment to successfully extricate them,” said Fort Worth Fire Chief Jim Davis.

At least 65 people were treated at hospitals, with 36 of them taken by ambulance from the crash site, including three with critical injuries, said Matt Zavadsky, spokesperson for MedStar, which provides the ambulance service for the area. Numerous others were treated at the scene and released, he said.


Stock indexes wobble as investor caution offsets optimism

Another day of choppy trading on Wall Street left the major U.S. stock indexes nearly flat Thursday, even as the S&P 500 and Nasdaq composite hit all-time highs.

The S&P 500 rose 0.2% after wobbling between small gains and losses up until the final minutes of trading. Technology stocks led the gainers after two relatively weak days, almost single-handedly outweighing losses by energy stocks, banks and companies that rely on consumer spending.

The yield on 10-year Treasury notes rose to 1.16% from 1.15% late Wednesday after being as high as 1.20% earlier this week.

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