Nation & World: Trump acquitted, denounced in historic trial
photo by: Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — Donald Trump was acquitted Saturday of inciting the horrific attack on the U.S. Capitol, concluding a historic impeachment trial that spared him the first-ever conviction of a current or former U.S. president but exposed the fragility of America’s democratic traditions and left a divided nation to come to terms with the violence sparked by his defeated presidency.
Barely a month since the deadly Jan. 6 riot that stunned the world, the Senate convened for a rare weekend session to deliver its verdict, voting while armed National Guard troops continued to stand their posts outside the iconic building.
The quick trial, the nation’s first of a former president, showed in raw and emotional detail how perilously close the invaders had come to destroying the nation’s deep tradition of a peaceful transfer of presidential power after Trump had refused to concede the election. Rallying outside the White House, he unleashed a mob of supporters to “fight like hell” for him at the Capitol just as Congress was certifying Democrat Joe Biden’s victory. As hundreds stormed the building, some in tactical gear engaging in bloody combat with police, lawmakers fled for their lives. Five people died.
The verdict, on a vote of 57-43, is all but certain to influence not only the former president’s political future but that of the senators sworn to deliver impartial justice as jurors. Seven Republicans joined all Democrats to convict, but it was far from the two-thirds threshold required.
The outcome after the uprising leaves unresolved the nation’s wrenching divisions over Trump’s brand of politics that led to the most violent domestic attack on one of America’s three branches of government.
“Senators, we are in a dialogue with history, a conversation with our past, with a hope for our future,” said Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-Pa.., one of the House prosecutors in closing arguments.
“What we do here, what is being asked of each of us here, in this moment, will be remembered.”
Trump, unrepentant, welcomed his second impeachment acquittal and said his movement “has only just begun.” He slammed the trial as “yet another phase of the greatest witch hunt in the history of our Country.”
Though he was acquitted of the sole charge of incitement of insurrection, it was easily the largest number of senators to ever vote to find a president of their own party guilty of an impeachment count of high crimes and misdemeanors.
Voting to find Trump guilty were GOP Sens. Richard Burr of North Carolina, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mitt Romney of Utah, Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Patrick Toomey of Pennsylvania.
Even after voting to acquit, the Republican leader Mitch McConnell condemned the former president as “practically and morally responsible” for the insurrection. McConnell contended Trump could not be convicted because he was gone from the White House.
The trial had been momentarily thrown into confusion when senators Saturday suddenly wanted to consider potential witnesses, particularly concerning Trump’s actions as the mob rioted. Prolonged proceedings could have been especially damaging for Biden’s new presidency, significantly delaying his emerging legislative agenda. Coming amid the searing COVID-19 crisis, the Biden White House is trying to rush pandemic relief through Congress.
Biden has hardly weighed in on the proceedings and was spending the weekend with family at the presidential retreat in Camp David, Md.
The nearly weeklong trial has delivered a grim and graphic narrative of the riot and its consequences in ways that senators, most of whom fled for their own safety that day, acknowledge they are still coming to grips with.
House prosecutors have argued that Trump’s was the “inciter in chief” stoking a monthslong campaign with an orchestrated pattern of violent rhetoric and false claims they called the “big lie” that unleashed the mob. Five people died, including a rioter who was shot and a police officer.
Trump’s lawyers countered that Trump’s words were not intended to incite the violence and that impeachment is nothing but a “witch hunt” designed to prevent him from serving in office again.
The senators, announcing their votes from their desks in the very chamber the mob had ransacked, were not only jurors but also witnesses. Only by watching the graphic videos — rioters calling out menacingly for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Mike Pence, who was presiding over the January certification tally — did senators say they began to understand just how perilously close the country came to chaos.
Many senators kept their votes closely held until the final moments on Saturday, particularly the Republicans representing states where the former president remains popular. Most of them ultimately voted to acquit, doubting whether Trump was fully responsible or if impeachment is the appropriate response.
“Just look at what Republicans have been forced to defend,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. “Look at what Republicans have chosen to forgive.”
The second-ranking Republican, John Thune of South Dakota, acknowledged, “It’s an uncomfortable vote,” adding, “I don’t think there was a good outcome there for anybody.”
In closing arguments, lead defender Michael van der Veen emphasized an argument that Republican senators also embraced: that it was all a “phony impeachment show trial.”
“Mr. Trump is innocent of the charges against him,” said van der Veen. “The act of incitement never happened.”
The House impeached Trump on the sole charge of incitement of insurrection one week after the riot, but the Senate was not in full session and McConnell refused requests from Democrats to convene quickly for the trial. Within a week Biden was inaugurated, Trump was gone and Pelosi sent the article of impeachment to the Senate days later, launching the proceedings.
270,000 lose power in ice storm in Pacific Northwest
Lake Oswego, Ore. (ap) — A winter storm blanketed the Pacific Northwest with ice and snow Saturday, leaving hundreds of thousands of people without power and disrupting travel across the region.
Freezing rain left roads, power lines and trees coated in ice in the Portland, Oregon, region, and by Saturday morning more than 270,000 people were without power. The extreme conditions, loss of power and transportation problems prompted Oregon Gov. Kate Brown to declare a state of emergency Saturday afternoon.
White House aide resigns after threat to reporter
Washington (ap) — White House deputy press secretary T.J. Ducklo has resigned, the day after he was suspended for issuing a sexist and profane threat to a journalist seeking to cover his relationship with another reporter.
Ducklo had been put on a weeklong suspension without pay on Friday after a report surfaced in Vanity Fair outlining his sexist threats against a female Politico journalist to try to suppress a story about his relationship, telling her “I will destroy you.” The journalist had been seeking to report on his relationship with a political reporter at Axios who had previously covered the Biden campaign and transition.
In a statement Saturday, Ducklo said he was “devastated to have embarrassed and disappointed my White House colleagues and President Biden.”
It’s the first departure from the new administration, less than a month into President Joe Biden’s tenure, and it comes as the White House was facing criticism for not living up to standards set by Biden himself in the decision to retain Ducklo.
Ex-FBI agent who worked with Bulger seeks prison release
Boston (ap) — The former FBI agent serving a 40-year prison sentence for alerting Boston mobster Whitey Bulger that he could be implicated in a murder is seeking to be released from prison on medical grounds.
The Florida Commission on Offender Review will hear the request Wednesday from John “Zip” Connolly, who is being held at the Reception and Medical Center in Lake Butler, Fla.
Connolly’s Cambridge lawyer, Peter Mullane, confirmed to the Boston Herald Friday that Connolly, who is 80, is seeking to be released.
“He has multiple melanomas and pretty bad diabetes,” Mullane said.
Connolly, who was James “Whitey” Bulger’s FBI handler, was convicted in 2008 of second-degree murder after a mob hitman killed World Jai Alai President John Callahan in Fort Lauderdale in 1982. Trial evidence showed Connolly tipped Bulger that Callahan was about to implicate the gang in another killing.
Myanmar protests in second week; neither side backing down
Yangon, Myanmar (ap) — Mass street demonstrations in Myanmar entered their second week Saturday, with neither protesters nor the military government they seek to unseat showing any signs of backing down from confrontations.
Protesters in Yangon, the country’s biggest city, again congregated at Hleden intersection, a key crossroads from which groups fanned out to other points, including the embassies of the United States and China. They marched despite an order banning gatherings of five or more people.
The U.S., especially after President Joe Biden announced sanctions against the military regime, is regarded as an ally in the protesters’ struggle against the Feb. 1 coup. China is detested as an ally of the ruling generals, whose support is crucial to them keeping their grip on power.
Demonstrations also resumed in Myanmar’s second-biggest city, Mandalay, with lawyers making up one large contingent.
The military ousted the country’s leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, and her government and prevented recently elected lawmakers from opening a new session of Parliament. Suu Kyi and other senior members of her government and party remain in detention.
Water rights activists worry about sale of Poland Spring
Fryeburg, Maine (ap) — Water rights activists on Saturday decried the potential sale of bottled water brand Poland Spring, saying the buyer identified in news reports represents a new threat to Maine’s resources.
A crowd that organizers estimated reached about 100 gathered for the rally sponsored by Community Water Justice to express their worries.
Nickie Sekera, co-founder of the group, said she is worried that a private equity firm could be less responsive than Nestle, relieving the company of any accountability it promised to Maine communities.
Nestle has not been a good neighbor, “but at least a corporation like Nestle to a degree will be sensitive to bad public image,” she said.
Nestle announced in June that it was considering selling its bottled water brands in North America. In Maine, Nestle has more than a half-dozen water sources and two bottling plants, employing 860 people.
The brands to be sold include Deer Park, Ozarka, Ice Mountain, Zephyrhills and Arrowhead, in addition to Poland Spring.
Endangered baby whale found dead on Florida beach
Tallahassee, Fla. (ap) — The plight of endangered right whales took another sad turn Saturday, when a baby whale, possibly two months old, washed ashore dead on a Florida beach with telltale signs of being struck by a boat.
There are fewer than 400 north Atlantic right whales remaining, and any mortality of the species is a serious setback to rescuing the animals from extinction, according to federal biologists who expressed dismay over Saturday’s discovery of the 22-foot male infant at Anastasia State Park near St. Augustine.
The circumstances surrounding the whale’s death are under investigation. But federal officials said the whale suffered propeller wounds to the head and back.
Founder of Black megachurch dies
Los Angeles (ap) — Frederick K.C. Price, the televangelist who built his Los Angeles ministry into one of the nation’s first Black megachurches, has died. He was 89.
Price died Friday, according to a statement his family posted on the Crenshaw Christian Center’s Facebook page. His daughter said in an earlier post that her father had been hospitalized due to complications from COVID-19.
Price founded the church in 1973 with about 300 members, according to the church’s website. He expanded his reach, first through radio broadcasts, then televised services, and grew the ministry to over 28,000 members.
The services were famously held at the FaithDome, a 10,000-seat sanctuary housed in a large geodesic dome built on the former campus of Pepperdine University. The sprawling property also includes schools, a ministry training program and a prison ministry.