Nation & World: Trump impeachment trial to focus on his attacks on election
photo by: Alex Brandon/AP Photo
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump’s historic second impeachment could go to trial as soon as Inauguration Day, with U.S. senators serving not only as jurors but as shaken personal witnesses and victims of the deadly siege of the Capitol by a mob of his supporters.
Trump is the only president to be twice impeached, and the first to be prosecuted as he leaves the White House, an ever-more-extraordinary end to the defeated president’s tenure.
In pursuing conviction, House impeachment managers said Thursday they will be making the case that Trump’s incendiary rhetoric hours before the bloody attack on the Capitol was not isolated, but rather part of an escalating campaign to overturn the November election results. It culminated, they will argue, in the Republican president’s rally cry to “fight like hell” as Congress was tallying the Electoral College votes to confirm he’d lost to Democrat Joe Biden.
The trial could begin shortly after Biden takes the oath of office next Wednesday, but some Democrats are pushing for a later trial to give him time to set up his administration and work on other priorities. No date has been set. Already National Guard troops flood the city and protect the Capitol amid warnings of more violence ahead of the inaugural. It’s a far different picture, due to the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the threats of violence, from the traditional pomp and peaceful transfer of power.
Whenever it starts, the impeachment trial will force a further reckoning for the Republican Party and the senators who largely stood by Trump throughout his presidency and allowed him to spread false attacks against the 2020 election. Last week’s assault angered lawmakers, stunned the nation and flashed unsettling imagery around the globe, the most serious breach of the Capitol since the War of 1812, and the worst by home-grown intruders.
“The only path to any reunification of this broken and divided country is by shining a light on the truth,” said Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-Pa., who will serve as an impeachment manager.
“That’s what the trial in the Senate will be about,” she told The Associated Press on Thursday.
Trump was impeached Wednesday by the House on a single charge, incitement of insurrection, in lightning-quick proceedings just a week after after the siege. Ten Republicans joined all Democrats in the 232-197 vote to impeach.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell is open to considering impeachment, having told associates he is done with Trump, but he has not signaled how he would vote. McConnell continues to hold great sway in his party, even though convening the trial next week could be among his last acts as majority leader as Democrats prepare to take control of the Senate.
No president has ever been convicted in the Senate, and it would take a two-thirds vote against Trump, an extremely high hurdle. Two new senators from Georgia, both Democrats, are to be sworn in, leaving the chamber divided 50-50. That will tip the majority to the Democrats once Kamala Harris takes office. The vice president is the tie breaker.
But conviction of Trump is not out of the realm of possibility, especially as corporations and wealthy political donors distance themselves from his brand of politics and the Republicans who stood by his attempt to overturn the election.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said Thursday, “Such unlawful actions cannot go without consequence.” She said in a statement that the House responded “appropriately” with impeachment and she will consider the trial arguments.
At least four Republican senators have publicly expressed concerns about Trump’s actions, but others have signaled their preference to move on. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., issued a statement saying he opposes impeachment against a president who has left office. Trump ally Lindsey Graham of South Carolina is building support for an alternative of launching a commission to investigate the siege.
Ahead of opening arguments, Democratic Rep. Eric Swalwell of California, another impeachment manager, suggested senators will be asked to focus on their own experiences the day of the attack.
“You don’t have to tell anyone who was in the building twice what it was like to be terrorized,” Swalwell said.
The riot delayed the tally of Electoral College votes that was the last step in finalizing Biden’s victory as lawmakers fled for shelter and police, guns drawn, barricaded the doors to the House chamber.
A Capitol Police officer died from injuries suffered in the attack, and police shot and killed a woman. Three other people died in what authorities said were medical emergencies.
Under Senate procedure, the trial is to start soon after the House delivers the article of impeachment. The soonest the calendar has senators back in session is Tuesday.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has not said when she will take the crucial next step to transmit the impeachment article to the Senate. After Trump’s first impeachment, in 2019, she withheld the articles for some time to set the stage for the Senate action.
Biden has said the Senate should be able this time to split its work, starting the trial and working on his priorities, including swift confirmation of his Cabinet nominees.
On Inauguration Day, the Senate typically confirms some of the new president’s Cabinet, particularly national security officials. Biden’s choice of Avril Haines as director of national intelligence will have a hearing Friday by the Senate Intelligence Committee.
“We are working with Republicans to try to find a path forward,” said Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer’s office.
Biden ally Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., said the tension among Democrats is over moving ahead quickly on impeachment or focusing on the president-elect’s other priorities. “We are balancing,” he said on CNN.
Holed up at the White House, watching the impeachment proceedings on TV, Trump released a video statement late Wednesday in which he appealed to his supporters to refrain from any further violence or disruption of Biden’s inauguration.
“Mob violence goes against everything I believe in and everything our movement stands for,” Trump said.
He was first impeached by the House in 2019 over his dealings with Ukraine, but the Senate voted in 2020 to acquit.
In making a case for the “high crimes and misdemeanors” demanded in the Constitution, the four-page impeachment resolution relies on Trump’s own language spreading falsehoods about the election. It also seeks to prevent him from ever holding public office again.
Judges across the country, including some nominated by Trump, have repeatedly dismissed cases challenging the election results, and former Attorney General William Barr, a Trump ally, has said there was no sign of widespread fraud.
While some have questioned impeaching the president so close to the end of his term, there is precedent. In 1876, during the Ulysses Grant administration, War Secretary William Belknap was impeached by the House the day he resigned, and the Senate convened a trial months later. He was acquitted.
Joanne Rogers, widow of TV’s famed Mister Rogers, dies
Joanne Rogers, an an accomplished concert pianist who celebrated and protected the legacy of her husband, the beloved children’s TV host Mister Rogers, has died in Pittsburgh. She was 92.
Rogers died Thursday, according to the Fred Rogers Center. No cause of death was given. The center called her “a joyful and tender-hearted spirit, whose heart and wisdom have guided our work in service of Fred’s enduring legacy.”
Joanne and Fred Rogers were married for more than 50 years, spanning the launch and end of the low-key, low-tech “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” which presented Fred Rogers as one adult in a busy world who always had time to listen to children. His pull as America’s favorite neighbor never seemed to wane before his death in 2003.
Most major U.S. airlines ban guns in luggage for DC flights
Airlines and airports say they are stepping up security before next week’s presidential inauguration, with Delta and other major airlines saying they will prohibit passengers flying to the Washington area from putting guns in checked bags.
The moves follow the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol by supporters of President Donald Trump and politically tinged confrontations on some flights.
Delta Air Lines was the first to announce Thursday that it will prohibit checking guns to Washington-area airports and was soon followed by United, Alaska, American and Southwest. All said their bans will start Saturday and run through Inauguration Day until Jan. 23.
Trump slashes imperiled spotted owls’ habitat
PORTLAND, ORE. (AP) — The Trump administration said Wednesday that it would slash millions of acres of protected habitat designated for the imperiled northern spotted owl in Oregon, Washington state and Northern California, much of it in prime timber locations in Oregon’s coastal ranges.
Environmentalists immediately decried the move and accused the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under President Donald Trump of taking a parting shot at protections designed to help restore the species in favor of the timber industry. The tiny owl is listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act and was rejected for an upgrade to endangered status last year by the federal agency despite losing nearly 4% of its population annually.
Mars digger bites the dust after 2 years on red planet
CAPE CANAVERAL, FLA. (AP) — NASA declared the Mars digger dead Thursday after failing to burrow deep into the red planet to take its temperature.
Scientists in Germany spent two years trying to get their heat probe, dubbed the mole, to drill into the Martian crust. But the 16-inch-long (40-centimeter) device that is part of NASA’s InSight lander couldn’t gain enough friction in the red dirt. It was supposed to bury 16 feet into Mars, but only drilled down a couple of feet.
Following one last unsuccessful attempt to hammer itself down over the weekend with 500 strokes, the team called it quits.
WHO team arrives in Wuhan to investigate pandemic origins
WUHAN, CHINA (AP) — A global team of researchers arrived Thursday in the Chinese city where the coronavirus pandemic was first detected to conduct a politically sensitive investigation into its origins amid uncertainty about whether Beijing might try to prevent embarrassing discoveries.
The group sent to Wuhan by the World Health Organization was approved by President Xi Jinping’s government after months of diplomatic wrangling that prompted an unusual public complaint by the head of WHO.
Scientists suspect the virus that has killed more than 1.9 million people since late 2019 jumped to humans from bats or other animals, most likely in China’s southwest. The ruling Communist Party, stung by complaints it allowed the disease to spread, has suggested the virus came from abroad, possibly on imported seafood, but international scientists reject that.
Biden unveils $1.9T plan to stem virus and steady economy
WILMINGTON, DEL. (AP) — President-elect Joe Biden unveiled a $1.9 trillion coronavirus plan Thursday to end “a crisis of deep human suffering” by speeding up vaccines and pumping out financial help to those struggling with the pandemic’s prolonged economic fallout.
Called the “American Rescue Plan,” the legislative proposal would meet Biden’s goal of administering 100 million vaccines by the 100th day of his administration, and advance his objective of reopening most schools by the spring. On a parallel track, it delivers another round of aid to stabilize the economy while the public health effort seeks the upper hand on the pandemic.
Biden proposed $1,400 checks for most Americans, which on top of $600 provided in the most recent COVID-19 bill would bring the total to the $2,000 that Biden has called for. It would also extend a temporary boost in unemployment benefits and a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures through September.
Quake sets off landslides, kills at least 3 in Indonesia
JAKARTA, INDONESIA (AP) — A strong, shallow earthquake shook Indonesia’s Sulawesi island just after midnight, causing landslides and sending people fleeing from their homes in the nighttime darkness. At least three people had died and 24 were injured, but Indonesian officials said they were still collecting information from devastated areas.
In a video released by the National Disaster Mitigation Agency, a girl trapped in the wreckage of a house cried out for help and said her mother was alive but unable to move out. “Please help me, it’s hurt,” the girl told rescuers, who replied that they desperately wanted to help her.
In the video, the rescuers said an excavator was needed to save them. Other images in the video showed a severed bridge and damaged and even flattened houses. TV stations reported the earthquake damaged part of a hospital and patients were moved to an emergency tent outside.