JUST IN: Donald Trump Acquitted In Impeachment Trial

(FILES) In this file photo former US President Donald Trump speaks during a briefing at the White House on September 27, 2020, in Washington, DC.(Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP)

 

Donald Trump survived a second impeachment trial Saturday when the US Senate acquitted him on the charge of incitement of insurrection, ending Democratic efforts to hold the former president accountable over the deadly US Capitol riot.

The five day trial, in which Democratic impeachment managers argued that Trump betrayed his oath of office by urging his supporters to storm Congress in a bid to block certification of the November election, concluded with an insufficient 57-43 majority of senators voting to convict.

It was the most bipartisan impeachment trial vote ever, with seven Republicans breaking ranks to join all 50 Democrats in seeking conviction — a dark and permanent stain on a former president who may yet seek to run for office again.

But two-thirds of the chamber, or 67 senators, is necessary to convict, and the Senate ultimately was not willing to punish the former president.

In Trump’s historic second impeachment trial, the senators for the first time ever were not only jurors, but witnesses to the assault at the heart of the charge against Trump.

Democrats argued that Trump’s behavior was an “open and shut” example of an impeachable offense, saying that as president he repeated the falsehood that the election was stolen, then whipped up supporters to attack Congress and stop the certification of the vote.

“He summoned his supporters to Washington, on the Ellipse, whipped them into a frenzy, and directed them at the Capitol,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said after the vote.

The defense team swatted such evidence away, insisting the Senate had no constitutional jurisdiction to try a former president. Most Republican senators agreed.

Trump, who has been secluded in his Florida club since leaving office on January 20, issued a statement in which he expressed thanks for the verdict, and called the proceedings “yet another phase of the greatest witch hunt in the history of our country.”

 

WASHINGTON, DC – FEBRUARY 13: House impeachment managers led by Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) depart the Senate Chamber at the conclusion of former President Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial February 13, 2021 in Washington, DC. The Senate voted 57-43 to acquit Trump. Win McNamee/Getty Images/AFP

 

WASHINGTON, DC – FEBRUARY 13: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) walks to his office at the conclusion of former President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial at the U.S. Capitol on February 13, 2021 in Washington, DC. The Senate voted 57-43 to acquit Trump of the charges of inciting the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/AFP

 

The 74-year old Republican also hinted at a possible political future, and at “continuing our incredible journey together to achieve American greatness for all of our people.”

“We have so much work ahead of us, and soon we will emerge with a vision for a bright, radiant, and limitless American future,” Trump said.

– ‘Never happened’ –

Democrats described how Trump refused to call a halt to the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol that left then-vice president Mike Pence and lawmakers in mortal danger.

But the defense team repeatedly proclaimed Trump’s innocence, insisting “the act of incitement never happened” and rioters acted alone.

With influential Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell revealing he would vote against convicting Trump, the case tilted even more solidly toward acquittal.

Before moving to final arguments, the proceedings were interrupted for a few hours when House impeachment managers, in a surprise move, said they wanted to call witnesses at the trial.

Lead manager Jamie Raskin, a Democratic congressman, said he wanted to call a Republican lawmaker as a witness but eventually agreed with Trump’s defense lawyers just to have a statement of hers entered into evidence.

Trump’s lawyers had threatened in response to call witnesses of their own, including Vice President Kamala Harris, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and others in a process that could have prolonged the trial for days if not weeks.

Raskin had wanted Representative Jamie Herrera Beutler, a Republican who voted to impeach Trump last month, to testify after she released a statement about a notable exchange on January 6.

In her statement entered into the record, she said Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had made a frantic call to Trump while the attack was ongoing and implored him to call off the rioters.

Instead Trump falsely blamed other groups, not his own supporters, for breaching the Capitol, Herrera Beutler said.

“McCarthy refuted that and told the president that these were Trump supporters,” the congresswoman said.

“That’s when, according to McCarthy, the president said: ‘Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are,'” she said.

– ‘Willfully betrayed’ –

Democrats pounced on her statement.

“There can be no doubt that at the moment we most needed a president to preserve, protect and defend us, president Trump instead willfully betrayed us,” impeachment manager David Cicilline told the Senate, adding Trump “violated his oath” of office.

Trump was impeached by the Democratic-controlled House on January 13 for inciting the attack by his supporters, who were seeking to block congressional certification of Democrat Joe Biden’s November 3 election victory.

Trump’s defense lawyers argued on Friday that the ex-president bears no responsibility for the attack on Congress and wrapped up their presentation in just three hours.

This followed two days of evidence from Democrats centered around harrowing video footage of the mob assault on the Capitol.

Trump’s defense lawyers called the impeachment unconstitutional and an “act of political vengeance.”

They argued that Trump’s January 6 rally speech near the White House that preceded the attack, when he told supporters to “fight like hell,” was merely rhetorical.

US Senate Votes To Allow Witnesses, Prolonging Trump Trial

(FILES) “The Article of Impeachment presented by the House is unconstitutional for a variety of reasons, any of which alone would be grounds for immediate dismissal,” Trump’s lawyers said in a 78-page brief on the eve of his trial on charges of inciting a deadly riot at the US Capitol. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP)

 

The US Senate voted Saturday to allow the calling of witnesses in Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, throwing a wrench into Republican hopes to wrap up proceedings with a swift acquittal of the former president.

Five Republicans joined all 50 Democrats to vote to allow witnesses, after Democratic impeachment managers signalled their intent to subpoena congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler, a Republican who voted to impeach Trump in January, to testify about the then-president’s phone call with a House leader during the US Capitol insurrection.

The call for witnesses triggered moments of chaos on the Senate floor, with leaders hitting the pause button on the trial so they can figure out the next steps in the process.

House Rests Trump Impeachment Case, Defense Begins Today

In this file photo taken on December 7, 2020 -ex-US President Donald Trump looks on during a ceremony. PHOTO:AFP

 

House prosecutors wrapped up their impeachment case against Donald Trump on Thursday with an impassioned appeal to the Senate to convict the former president of inciting the deadly January 6 attack on the US Capitol and bar him from holding office again.

“We humbly, humbly ask you to convict President Trump for the crime (of) which he is overwhelmingly guilty,” said Democratic Representative Joe Neguse, one of the nine impeachment managers from the House of Representatives.

“Because if you don’t, if we pretend this didn’t happen — or worse, if we let it go unanswered — who’s to say it won’t happen again?”

READ ALSO: China Bans BBC World News In Row Over Xinjiang Reporting

The House impeachment managers rested their case after two days of arguments that included Trump’s own words and hours of graphic video from the assault on the Capitol by Trump supporters who were seeking to halt certification of Democrat Joe Biden’s November 3 election victory.

Trump’s lawyers will begin their defense on Friday, arguing that the former president cannot be held personally responsible for the storming of Congress.

They have also argued that the trial itself is unconstitutional because Trump is now out of office, although the Senate rejected that argument earlier this week.

Jamie Raskin, the lead House manager, reminded the 100 senators who are sitting as jurors of their oath to render “impartial justice.”

“Exercise your common sense about what just took place in our country,” Raskin said, noting that Trump stood by doing nothing for two hours as his supporters rampaged through Congress.

“Why did President Trump not tell his supporters to stop the attack on the Capitol as soon as he learned about it?” Raskin asked. “As our constitutional commander in chief, why did he do nothing to send help?”

Earlier, Biden said the video evidence against his 74-year-old predecessor presented at the Senate trial may change “some minds.”

But despite what even some Republicans have said was a strong prosecution case, Trump retains an unshakeable grip on the party, making conviction highly unlikely.

It would take a two-thirds majority in the 100-member Senate, meaning 17 Republicans would need to join the chamber’s 50 Democrats.

 

– ‘Future of democracy’  –

The mayhem on January 6 erupted after Trump held a large rally near the White House, insisting falsely, as he had done since losing to Biden in November, that he was cheated.

Instructed by Trump to march on Congress, where lawmakers were at that moment certifying Biden’s election, the crowd smashed through police lines, then went on a rampage.

The chaos left five people dead, including one woman shot after she invaded the Capitol and one policeman killed by the crowd.

Video footage played by impeachment managers showed the mob hunting down opponents of Trump, as well as senior figures, including then vice president Mike Pence, having to flee to safety.

The defense will stress that Trump did not expressly tell his supporters to commit violence, but Raskin pointed out that the Republican president had been stoking anger and encouraging extremism since Election Day — and even before.

“This pro-Trump insurrection did not spring out of thin air,” Raskin said. “This was not the first time Donald Trump had inflamed and incited a mob.”

Raskin said it was imperative the Senate convict Trump and bar him from running for the White House again in 2024.

“Is there any political leader in this room who believes that if he’s ever allowed by the Senate to get back into the Oval Office Donald Trump would stop inciting violence to get his way?” Raskin asked.

“Would you bet the future of your democracy on that?”

Raskin also dismissed claims by Trump’s lawyers that the president did not incite the riot but was just exercising his free speech rights under the First Amendment of the Constitution.

Calling this a “smokescreen,” Raskin said that “nobody can incite a riot.”

“First Amendment doesn’t protect it,” he said. “Nobody in America would be protected by the First Amendment if they did all the things that Donald Trump did.”

 

– Republicans stand by Trump –

Biden said he did not watch any of the trial live but had seen news coverage of Wednesday’s wrenching video footage.

“My guess is some minds may be changed,” Biden told reporters in the White House.

Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Biden, who has been trying to stop the trial from overshadowing his push for a huge economic stimulus package and the fight against Covid-19, was not intending to predict the outcome.

Republican Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana said video footage shown by House managers on Wednesday was “powerful,” but “how that influences final decisions remains to be seen.”

Other Republican senators have clearly already made up their minds and do not intend to break with Trump, who has threatened to derail their careers.

Senator Marco Rubio of Florida insisted the Senate cannot try a former president.

“What happened on Jan. 6 — I said it the moment it started — was unpatriotic, un-American, treasonous, a crime, unacceptable,” he said.

“The fundamental question for me, and I don’t know about for everybody else, is whether an impeachment trial is appropriate for someone who is no longer in office. I don’t believe that it is,” said Rubio.

AFP

US Senators Vote To Proceed With Trial Of Donald Trump

n this file photo taken on December 7, 2020 US President Donald Trump looks on during a ceremony presenting the Presidential Medal of Freedom to wrestler Dan Gable in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC.

 

The US Senate voted on Tuesday to proceed with the impeachment trial of former president Donald Trump, rejecting defense arguments that it was unconstitutional.

Defense lawyers had argued that Trump should not face a trial in the Senate for inciting insurrection because he was no longer president.

But the Senate voted 56-44 to proceed with the trial, with six Republicans joining Democratic lawmakers.

The vote, held before the main part of the trial was to get underway Wednesday, saw six Republicans join all 50 Democrats in the evenly divided Senate.

Despite this modest show of bipartisanship, the result highlighted the nearly impossible task of getting the two-thirds majority — requiring 17 Republicans to join the Democrats — that would be needed to convict Trump of inciting insurrection.

Earlier, both sides presented their opening cases, with Democrats arguing that Trump broke his oath in a naked bid to retain power after losing the November election to Joe Biden.

Refusing to accept his defeat, Trump spread lies about vote rigging and repeatedly pressured officials, including then vice president Mike Pence, to try and stop the transfer of power.

Finally, on January 6, Trump told enraged Republican supporters near the White House to “fight like hell.” The crowd, chanting “stop the steal,” then attacked Congress, where Pence and lawmakers were in the process of certifying Biden’s victory.

“If Congress were to just stand completely aside in the face of such an extraordinary crime against the Republic, it would invite future presidents to use their power without any fear of accountability,” Democratic impeachment manager Joe Neguse said.

Video from the January 6 mayhem played back inside the ornate Senate packed the biggest punch.

Senators — who witnessed the events first hand when they had to be rushed to safety that day — watched raw footage of Trump’s speech and the crowd’s ensuing assault on the Capitol.

The video montage showed the mob chanting pro-Trump slogans as it smashed through the doors, swarmed over police, and managed for the first time in history to disrupt the congressional vote certifying the election.

“If that’s not an impeachable offense, then there is no such thing,” lead impeachment manager Jamie Raskin said.

Fighting tears, Raskin recounted how he and his family — who were visiting to watch the certification — had been trapped, listening to “the sound of pounding on the door like a battering ram, the most haunting sound I have ever heard.”

“This cannot be the future of America,” he implored senators.

Trump laywer David Schoen, however, said the Senate had no jurisdiction to try Trump once he had left office and warned that the impeachment threatened to “tear this country apart.”

It will leave the United States “far more divided and our standing around the world will be badly broken,” he argued.

Trump sets record

Trump is the first president ever to face two impeachment trials — he was already acquitted in 2020 of abuse of power — as well as the first in history to be tried after leaving the White House.

His team is basing its case largely on the procedural argument that a former president cannot be tried, calling the Senate trial “absurd.”

They also argue that whatever Trump said during his January 6 rally is protected by the constitutional right to free speech and did not amount to ordering the assault on Congress.

The trial is clearly uncomfortable for many Republican senators, who, like their Democratic colleagues, had to flee to safety during the violence. Reminders of the mayhem are everywhere around them, with thousands of National Guard troops still deployed around the newly fortified Capitol building.

Despite this, a second acquittal is all but certain for Trump, who is holed up in his luxury Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

Amped up on four years of Trump’s populist claims to be fighting for ordinary people against the elites, huge numbers of Republican voters continue to support the ex-president, pushing their party ever further to the right.

Polls show that a small majority of the country overall believes Trump deserves conviction. An Ipsos/ABC News poll found 56 percent back this, while a Gallup poll found 52 percent support.

Among Republicans, however, an overwhelming majority opposes convicting Trump.

Biden above the fray

Biden, who succeeded Trump on January 20, is attempting to stay above the fray.

Daily, the White House is sending a message that the Democrat is focused instead on the fragile economy and the desperate effort to vaccinate Americans against the still out-of-control Covid-19 pandemic.

When asked on Tuesday about the trial, Biden offered a short few words.

“Look, I told you before… I have a job,” he said. “The Senate has their job and they are about to begin it and I am sure they are going to conduct themselves well.

“That’s all I am going to say about impeachment.”

If Trump were convicted, the Senate would then hold a simple-majority vote on barring him from future public office.

But even if the impeachment trial ends in acquittal, calls to punish Trump for his behavior will likely continue, including possibly a push for a bipartisan vote of censure

Second Impeachment Trial Of Donald Trump Begins

File Photo of Donald Trump

 

 

The US Senate on Tuesday opened the historic second impeachment trial of Donald Trump, who stands accused of inciting insurrection on January 6, when the former president’s supporters stormed Congress.

Trump is the first president ever to face two impeachment trials — he was acquitted in 2020 of abuse of power — as well as the first in history to be tried after leaving office.

“It’s our solemn constitutional duty to conduct a fair and honest impeachment trial of the charges against former president Trump — the gravest charges ever brought against a president of the United States in American history,” Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said.

Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy is presiding over the trial, which will begin with hours of debate, followed by a vote, on the constitutionality of trying an ex-president.

This will almost certainly be just a formality as the Democrats have enough votes, but it will give an early indication of how to open Republicans are to the case at all.

The main part of the trial will start Wednesday, with each side having 16 hours to present oral arguments

Amazon’s Bezos, Latest Tycoon To Pursue His ‘Passion’

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos testifies via video conference during the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law hearing on Online Platforms and Market Power in the Rayburn House office Building, July 29, 2020 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Graeme Jennings-Pool/Getty Images/AFP
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos testifies via video conference during the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law hearing on Online Platforms and Market Power in the Rayburn House office Building, July 29, 2020 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Graeme Jennings-Pool/Getty Images/AFP

 

 

Bill Gates set out to heal the world. His Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen bought sports teams. Ted Turner raced yachts. And Donald Trump went into politics.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest man, plans to build rockets and save the planet.

Bezos, 57, is the latest in a line of corporate titans who have stepped away from their day jobs to devote themselves to other activities.

Bezos, whose net worth is $197 billion according to Forbes magazine, announced on Tuesday he was resigning as chief executive officer of the online retail giant he launched 27 years ago.

He said he would remain executive chairman of Amazon but would devote more time to “passions” such as his private space firm Blue Origin and the Bezos Earth Fund, to which he made a $10 billion donation last year.

In stepping away from the executive suite, Bezos is following in the footsteps of other tycoons who temporarily — and in some cases permanently — walked away from running the businesses that made them rich.

Gates, 65, and Allen, who died of cancer in 2018 at the age of 65, founded Microsoft in 1975 and built it into the world’s leading computer software company.

Gates stepped down as CEO in 2000 and with his wife launched the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which is devoted to improving global health.

Gates, the world’s fourth-richest man according to Forbes, resigned as Microsoft’s chairman in 2014 and left the board in March of last year.

Allen, whose fortune was estimated at $20 billion by Forbes when he died, left Microsoft in 1983 when he suffered a first bout with cancer but remained on the board until 2000.

After leaving the company, Allen bought the Portland Trail Blazers of the National Basketball Association and Seattle Seahawks of the National Football League.

He was also an active philanthropist, giving away billions of dollars for medical research and other worthy causes.

– Sights on space –
Turner, 82, turned his father’s advertising company into a multi-billion dollar business, launching Cable News Network (CNN) and also buying sports teams — Major League Baseball’s Atlanta Braves and the Atlanta Hawks of the NBA.

But his real passion was sailing.

As the skipper of the yacht “Courageous,” he successfully defended the America’s Cup in 1977 against the Australian challenger.

A number of tycoons have put aside business for politics, most recently former president Trump, a global real estate magnate, and Michael Bloomberg.

Trump, 74, ran for the White House in 2016 while Bloomberg, founder of the financial news company that bears his name, was elected mayor of New York City in 2001.

Bloomberg, 78, was re-elected mayor of the Big Apple in 2005 and in 2009 and made an ill-fated bid for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020.

Bezos, who founded his space company Blue Origin in 2000, is not the only tycoon who has expanded his sights beyond Earth’s orbit.

Richard Branson, 70, founder of the Virgin Group, also has a spaceflight company, Virgin Galactic, and is seeking to make space tourism affordable.

Both Bezos and Branson, however, have been left in the dust when it comes to space by another billionaire — South African-born Elon Musk, the world’s second-richest man.

Musk, 49, made his first major fortune when PayPal was sold to eBay in 2002 and has gone on to launch electric car company Tesla and solar power company SolarCity.

In 2002, Musk founded SpaceX.

It has since become the world’s leading private rocket launch company, sending commercial satellites into space and delivering cargo to the International Space Station.

SpaceX became the first private company to launch humans into space last year when it sent two astronauts to the ISS.

House Sends Trump Impeachment Article To Senate, Triggering Trial

WASHINGTON, DC – JANUARY 25: (L-R) The impeachment managers Representatives Ted Lieu (D-CA), Stacey Plaskett (D-US Virgin Islands AT-Large), Joe Neguse (D-CO), and Madeleine Dean (D-PA) leave the Senate floor after delivering the article of impeachment on Capitol Hill on January 25, 2021 in Washington DC.  Melina Mara-Pool/Getty Images/AFP

 

The US House of Representatives presented a single article of impeachment to the Senate on Monday accusing Donald Trump of inciting the storming of the Capitol, setting in motion the first-ever impeachment trial of a former president.

In a solemn procession, the nine House impeachment managers silently walked the article through the same ornate halls of Congress overrun by Trump supporters on January 6 and delivered it to the Senate.

Representative Jamie Raskin, the lead impeachment manager, then read out the charge against Trump on the Senate floor, where the former president continues to enjoy significant support from Republican senators.

“Donald John Trump engaged in high crimes and misdemeanors by inciting violence against the government of the United States,” Raskin said. “He threatened the integrity of the democratic system, interfered with the peaceful transition of power and imperiled a coequal branch of government.”

The Senate trial of the 74-year-old Trump, who was impeached by the Democratic-majority House on January 13 for an unprecedented second time, is to begin the week of February 8.

Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the 100 members of the Senate, who will act as jurors, will be sworn in on Tuesday and a summons issued to Trump.

Democrats and Republicans agreed to delay the start of the trial for two weeks to allow Trump to prepare his defense against the charge of “incitement of insurrection,” and for the Senate to confirm President Joe Biden’s cabinet appointees.

US Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts presided over Trump’s previous Senate trial — which ended with his acquittal — but presiding this time will be the Senate president pro tempore.

The president pro tempore is the senior senator of the party with the majority in the Senate, currently the Democrats. Patrick Leahy, 80, who was elected to the Senate in 1974, holds the position.

Republican senator John Cornyn said having a senator serve as both judge and juror raised a conflict of interest, but another Republican senator, Lindsey Graham, dismissed his concerns.

“I’ve known Pat a long time,” Graham said. “I believe and hope he’ll be fair.”

 

WASHINGTON, DC – JANUARY 25: Snow falls as the U.S. Capitol building is seen past a perimeter fence after the House Impeachment Managers delivered the articles of impeachment to the Senate on January 25, 2021 in Washington, DC.  Samuel Corum/Getty Images/AFP

 

‘Must be held accountable’

Leahy said he would take an oath to be impartial.

“The president pro tempore has historically presided over Senate impeachment trials of non-presidents,” Leahy said.

“When presiding over an impeachment trial, the president pro tempore takes an additional special oath to do impartial justice according to the Constitution and the laws,” he said. “It is an oath that I take extraordinarily seriously.”

Biden, 78, eager to put Trump in the rear-view mirror and make progress in fighting the coronavirus pandemic and reviving the economy, has taken a hands-off approach to the impeachment. However, he told CNN on Monday evening, “I think it has to happen.”

Democratic representative Jerry Nadler, the House Judiciary Committee chairman, said Monday that Trump “must be held accountable.”

“We must not give Donald Trump a pass for inciting a deadly insurrection on our Capitol,” Nadler said.

“The House has done its job by impeaching Trump, and now the Senate must complete the task by ensuring that he is never again in a position to directly harm the United States.”

Ten Republicans joined their Democratic colleagues in the House in voting to impeach Trump for inciting the crowd that stormed the Capitol while Congress was certifying Biden’s November 3 election victory.

Five people died in the mayhem, including a police officer and a protester who was shot by Capitol police.

The House also impeached Trump a year ago for seeking to dig up political dirt on Biden from Ukraine, but he was acquitted by the Senate, where only a single Republican senator, Mitt Romney of Utah, voted for conviction.

 

WASHINGTON, DC – JANUARY 25: Snow falls around the U.S. Capitol after the House Impeachment Managers delivered the articles of impeachment to the Senate on January 25, 2021 in Washington, DC.  Samuel Corum/Getty Images/AFP

 

‘Get out of jail free card’

While more Republican senators may vote to convict Trump this time, it seems unlikely at least 17 of them will do so.

Democrats control 50 seats in the 100-seat chamber, and a two-thirds majority is needed to convict Trump, who remains a powerful figure in the Republican Party.

If Trump is convicted, the Senate could bar him from holding office again, a move that would prevent him from running for president in 2024.

A number of Republicans have denounced the plans to try Trump in the Senate, and some have argued that the body has no authority to put a private citizen — as Trump now is — on trial.

Schumer dismissed that argument in remarks on the Senate floor on Monday.

“It makes no sense whatsoever,” he said. “The theory that the Senate can’t try former officials would amount to a constitutional ‘get out of jail free card’ for any president who commits an impeachable offense.”

Trump repeatedly and falsely claimed he had won the election and summoned his supporters to Washington on January 6 for a rally that coincided with the certification of the results by Congress.

Following a speech by Trump, thousands of his supporters stormed the Capitol, fighting pitched battles with police and sending lawmakers into hiding.

Trump is facing potential legal jeopardy on numerous fronts, but he got welcome news on Monday when the Supreme Court shut down lawsuits claiming he had violated laws barring a president from accepting income from foreign sources.

Voting Machine Maker Sues Trump’s Lawyer For Defamation

) In this file photo taken on July 01, 2020 Rudy Giuliani, attorney for US President Donald Trump, speaks at the White House in Washington, DC. JIM WATSON / AFP
In this file photo taken on July 01, 2020 Rudy Giuliani, attorney for ex-US President Donald Trump, speaks at the White House in Washington, DC. JIM WATSON / AFP

 

A voting machine manufacturer sued Rudy Giuliani, the lawyer for former US President Donald Trump, on Monday after he claimed the company had cost Trump last November’s election.

In a defamation lawsuit seeking damages of $1.3 billion, Dominion Voting Systems said Giuliani and other Trump allies had damaged its reputation by alleging its widely used voting machines were part of a “massive fraud” that Giuliani claimed had “fixed the vote” for now-President Joe Biden.

Dozens of state and federal rulings, as well as the US Congress, have rejected such claims.

READ ALSO: Biden To Reinstate COVID-19 Travel Ban

But the allegations underpinned what Dominion called the “Big Lie” behind the January 6 attack on the US Congress by Trump supporters attempting to overturn Biden’s victory.

Former New York mayor Giuliani and his allies “manufactured and disseminated the ‘Big Lie,’ which foreseeably went viral and deceived millions of people into believing that Dominion had stolen their votes and fixed the election,” Dominion said in the suit, filed in Washington federal court.

Giuliani did not immediately comment on the lawsuit.

Dominion said Giuliani, 76, had requested $20,000 a day from Trump’s campaign for pushing the fraud argument, which he also used to publicize other commercial ventures — selling gold coins, cigars and cybersecurity services.

“Even after the United States Capitol had been stormed by rioters who had been deceived by Giuliani and his allies, Giuliani shirked responsibility for the consequences of his words and repeated the Big Lie again,” it said in the suit.

Dominion said Giuliani knew the claims that Dominion’s voting machines produced false counts were bogus because, while he repeatedly promoted the idea in public, he declined to say so in court before a judge.

“He was unwilling to make false election fraud claims about Dominion and its voting machines in a court of law because he knew those allegations are false,” it said.

The viral claims saw Dominion pilloried online and in conservative media and forced the company to repeatedly defend its reputation, despite no evidence that its vote tallies were erroneous.

It was the second such case filed by Dominion.

On January 8 it sued Sidney Powell, another attorney representing Trump in the effort to overturn the election results, also for $1.3 billion.

Similar to the Powell suit, the Giuliani suit said he worked “in concert with” conservative media companies Fox News, Fox Business, Newsmax, One America News Network, and The Epoch Times to push “defamatory falsehoods.”

It was not clear if Dominion intended action against any of those companies or against Trump himself, who also questioned Dominion’s technology.

AFP

Biden Undoes Trump Migration Orders, Pushes For Major Reform

File photo: Then President-elect Joe Biden delivers a Thanksgiving address at the Queen Theatre on November 25, 2020 in Wilmington, Delaware.  Mark Makela/Getty Images/AFP

 

Within hours of taking office, President Joe Biden undid some of Donald Trump’s most controversial immigration policies and sparked cautious hope that millions living in the shadows could one day get legal status in the US.

Scribbled signatures from his pen on Wednesday lifted an entry ban for people from many majority Muslim nations and halted construction of Trump’s border wall with Mexico, heartening immigration defenders left reeling by four years of “America First” nationalism.

Yet advocates see new battles ahead, including whether lawmakers can finally overhaul the nation’s immigration system which has been branded as “broken” with some 11 million undocumented people living in limbo.

These discussions, however, have only begun as the Trump administration has just left the White House.

His so-called “Muslim ban,” which in 2017 targeted citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, ignited international outrage and lead to domestic court rulings against it.

Iraq and Sudan were dropped from the list, but in 2018 the Supreme Court upheld a later version of the ban for the other nations — as well as North Korea and Venezuela.

As part of his first acts, Biden signed new protections for so-called “Dreamers” — immigrants who arrived illegally as children and had been temporarily shielded from deportation by a program Trump tried to dismantle.

In addition, the new president overturned one of his predecessor’s orders pushing aggressive efforts to find and deport unauthorized immigrants, and imposed a 100-day suspension on most deportations.

Immigration advocates erupted in support for Biden’s first orders.

“There is that dark cloud that used to hang over our heads, which is gone,” said Camille Mackler, the executive director of a pro-migrant lawyers group founded against the ban targeting Muslim nations.

– Republican pushback –
“After four years of what was a war on immigration and immigrants, this feels like the dawn of a new day,” said Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, president of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service.

“I think (this) is pretty significant action for, you know, a president unilaterally on day one,” she added.

Aura Hernandez, a 39-year-old immigrant from Guatemala who doesn’t have papers, heaved a sigh of relief.

“These past four years have been the worst of my life,” said the mother of five, who took refuge for several months in a Manhattan church in 2018 to avoid deportation.

But like millions of others in her position, Hernandez has to keep her hope in check because Biden’s executive orders do not change the fundamentals of the nation’s immigration system.

The president’s nominee to lead the nation’s Homeland Security department, Alejandro Mayorkas, said this week that Biden has “committed to presenting Congress, on day one, with an immigration reform bill that, once and for all, fixes I think what we all can agree is a broken immigration system.”

Previous efforts to pass a major reform of the system have come tantalizingly close but failed in the end, leaving powerful Democratic Senator Bob Menendez to describe what he expects will be a “Herculean” effort in Congress this time around.

A proposed bill would allow immigrants without documents, but who pay taxes and have no criminal record or national security issues, to work legally for six years and then get on a possible track to permanent legal status.

Menendez noted that 60 of 100 votes would be needed for passage in the Senate, which means Democrats would have to have bipartisan support.

Immigration reform is a particularly delicate issue for Republicans, who have been skeptical of regularization measures and some of whom will be up for re-election in 2022.

Menendez called on the business community, especially in the migrant-heavy agricultural and tech sectors, to push Republicans for action.

Apple boss Tim Cook said on Wednesday he was ready to work with the Biden administration and Congress for “comprehensive solutions to fix our broken immigration system.”

Yet any reform proposal will likely require negotiation and thus compromise, Menendez noted.

The legal status of millions of undocumented people “is a major immigration issue that hasn’t been resolved for decades,” said Sahar Aziz, a law professor at Rutgers University.

“Each time a Democratic president tries to find a path to citizenship, Republicans push back.”

Trump Impeachment Trial At Senate To Begin February 8

In this file photo taken on December 3, 2020 US President Donald Trump speaks before awarding the Presidential Medal of Freedom to retired football coach Lou Holtz in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC. Brendan Smialowski / AFP
In this file photo taken on December 3, 2020 US President Donald Trump speaks before awarding the Presidential Medal of Freedom to retired football coach Lou Holtz in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC. Brendan Smialowski / AFP

 

Donald Trump’s US Senate trial will begin in the second week of February, days after a fresh impeachment case against the former president is transmitted by the House, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Friday. 

The newly announced schedule reflects a deal struck by Senate leaders to delay the substantive portion of the trial for two weeks so that the chamber may conduct other critical business including confirmation of President Joe Biden’s cabinet nominees.

The House of Representatives impeached Trump for a historic second time on January 13, just one week before he left office.

READ ALSO: Trump Leaves White House, Skipping Biden’s Inauguration

Schumer said the article of impeachment will be delivered and read out to the Senate on Monday at 7:00 pm (0000 GMT Tuesday). The chamber’s 100 members will be sworn in as trial jurors the next day.

The House members assigned by Speaker Nancy Pelosi as impeachment managers, and members of Trump’s yet-to-be-named defense team, will then be given time to draft their legal briefs.

“Once the briefs are drafted, presentation by the parties will commence the week of February 8,” Schumer told colleagues on the Senate floor.

During the two-week interim, the Senate will act on Biden’s cabinet nominations “and the Covid relief bill which would provide relief for millions of American who are suffering during this pandemic,” Schumer added.

“Healing and unity will only come if there is truth and accountability, and that is what this trial will provide.”

Members will deliberate whether to convict Trump on what the US Constitution describes as “high crimes and misdemeanors.”

Trump was impeached on a single charge of “incitement of insurrection” for his role in whipping up his supporters during a speech in Washington on January 6, the day a pro-Trump mob stormed Congress and threatened the lives of lawmakers and then-vice president Mike Pence.

Five people died in the violence, including a police officer.

‘Unprecedentedly fast’

The delay is the result of a deal Schumer struck with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

McConnell was a close congressional ally to Trump during his term, but he severely reprimanded the outgoing president for repeatedly seeking to overturn results of the election and for his incitement of protesters, and he left the door open for voting to convict Trump.

But he had sought a delay in the trial until February, arguing Trump needs time to hire lawyers and mount a defense.

On Friday, McConnell appeared to express regret for the Democrats’ speedy timetable.

“As I understand, it must be headed our way Monday. By Senate rules, if the article arrives, we have to start a trial right then,” he said on the floor.

But the Senate can agree to its own parameters of the trial timeline.

McConnell spoke of the “unprecedentedly fast” process in the House, where Trump was impeached in a single day.

“The sequel cannot be an insufficient Senate process that denies former president Trump his due process or damages the Senate or the presidency itself,” he said.

Trump survived a first impeachment almost a year ago when the then Republican-controlled Senate acquitted him of abusing his office to try to get dirt on Biden’s family before the presidential election.

With the Senate now comprised of 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans, and a two-thirds majority needed to convict Trump, at least 17 Republicans would have to vote against the former president to secure a conviction.

If that occurs, a subsequent vote would be held on whether to ban Trump from holding public office in the future.

A handful of Republicans have spoken out harshly against the president but it remains unclear if there would be enough GOP senators to vote for conviction.

 

AFP

Biden Orders New US COVID-19 Measures As EU Discourages Travel

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks during an event at the State Dining Room of the White House January 21, 2021 in Washington, DC. Alex Wong/Getty Images/AFP
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks during an event at the State Dining Room of the White House January 21, 2021 in Washington, DC. Alex Wong/Getty Images/AFP

 

In his first full day as US president, Joe Biden tackled his country’s staggering coronavirus caseload with a spate of new measures, including mask-wearing and quarantining requirements, as EU leaders “strongly discouraged” their constituents from non-essential travel.

Before signing 10 executive orders to strengthen the US fight against Covid, Biden confirmed earlier in the day that he had reversed his predecessor Donald Trump’s decision to quit the World Health Organization (WHO).

Under the new measures, travelers to the US, in addition to needing a negative Covid test result before flying, will now need to quarantine upon arrival, Biden said. This toughened existing regulations under Trump.

READ ALSO: Fire Erupts At World’s Biggest Vaccine Maker In India

Biden’s other orders included reenergizing a so-far-stumbling vaccination program and expanding requirements to wear masks on public transport.

The longtime politician was a fierce critic of Trump’s approach to handling the virus in the US, which with more than 400,000 people dead is the world’s worst-hit nation.

The new president is seeking to vaccinate 100 million people in 100 days, increase the use of masks and testing, expand the public health workforce and offer more emergency relief to those struggling with the restrictions.

On Thursday alone the US registered 4,045 new deaths and more than 192,000 new cases over the past 24 hours.

With infection rates spiraling and vaccine campaigns still in their infancy — and with the global death toll now past two million —  countries from Lebanon to Sierra Leone are tightening restrictions.

EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen and Council president Charles Michel encouraged Europeans to refrain from non-essential travel Thursday while warning that tougher restrictions on movement could come within days if efforts to curb the coronavirus fall short.

After a four-hour summit by video link with the heads of government of the 27-nation bloc, the pair emphasized the EU wanted to avoid a repeat of the height of the region’s first wave, in March last year.

“All non-essential travel should be strongly discouraged both within the country and of course across borders,” von der Leyen told a media conference.

Gasping for breath

Brazil announced that it would finally receive two million doses on Friday of the British AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine that were made in India. The jabs, which were originally due to arrive last week, will allow the second worst-hit country in terms of deaths to ramp up its Covid-fighting campaign.

In northwest Brazil hospitals are battling drastic shortages of oxygen and hospital beds, with health workers describing harrowing scenes with dying patients gasping for breath due to the lack of available oxygen.

Elsewhere in Latin America, Colombia surpassed 50,000 Covid-19 deaths Thursday, while Mexico notched two new records with 1,803 deaths and 22,339 new infections over the past 24 hours.

More contagious coronavirus variants have traveled quickly around the globe — including from Brazil — tempering optimism that mass vaccination campaigns would bring a swift end to the worst phase of the pandemic.

Meanwhile the WHO has repeatedly warned that richer countries are hogging the vaccine — and they are paying less for their doses, after negotiating favorable deals with manufacturers.

South Africa, for example, will pay 2.5 times more than most European countries for each Oxford-AstraZeneca shot, the South African health ministry has confirmed.

The US provided a boost to efforts to share out vaccines across the world, however, by announcing it intends to join the Covax initiative, a pool of doses supplied by countries and companies.

Glastonbury cancelled again

In Japan, questions are intensifying about the viability of hosting the Tokyo Olympic Games in six months’ time — an event which would require thousands of athletes to fly in from around the world.

Olympic chief Thomas Bach said there was “no reason whatsoever” to believe the games would not go ahead.

But many organizers of large-scale events are already grappling with the reality that the return to pre-pandemic normality may come later than previously hoped.

The Swiss edition of international art fair Art Basel has been postponed from June until September, while in Britain, which is facing record daily death tolls, the storied Glastonbury music festival was axed for another year.

But the same urgency is not being felt everywhere.

The Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan plans to vaccinate its entire population, but not until after March 13 because the period before has been deemed “inauspicious.”

 

AFP

Biden To Reverse Trump Policies, Remake US Role In Climate Crisis

US President Joe Biden looks up into the crowd during his inauguration as the 46th President of the United States on the West Front of the US Capitol in Washington, DC on January 20, 2021. Biden was sworn in as the 46th president of the US. JONATHAN ERNST / POOL / AFP
US President Joe Biden looks up into the crowd during his inauguration as the 46th President of the United States on the West Front of the US Capitol in Washington, DC on January 20, 2021. Biden was sworn in as the 46th president of the US. JONATHAN ERNST / POOL / AFP

 

President Joe Biden committed the United States to rejoining the Paris climate accord, blocked an oil pipeline project and froze Arctic drilling in a raft of executive orders signed hours after taking office Wednesday.

But for the Democrat who has pledged to roll back four years of environmental harm done by his predecessor Donald Trump, that’s just the start.

Experts say that Biden will have to rebuild the credibility the US lost in the eyes of the international community, by setting concrete goals for emissions reductions on the path to net zero by 2050.

READ ALSO: ‘This Is Democracy’s Day’, Says Biden

Next, he’ll need to realize his $2 trillion climate plan, which would place green action at the heart of the economy and its recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, while ensuring a long term shift that can’t be rapidly undone under a future Republican president.

“I think it’s important that the US shows that it means business at home,” David Waskow of the World Resources Institute told AFP.

The WRI is advocating for the US to set a 45-50 percent reduction in total greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 compared to 2005 levels.

Biden has also said he will convene the leaders of major economies for a climate summit within 100 days of his inauguration.

Among the executive orders Wednesday, the Biden administration submitted a letter to the UN that formally triggers a 30-day process to reenter the Paris climate agreement.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres welcomed the action and the prospect of “the leadership of United States in accelerating global efforts towards net zero” emissions, calling on the president to adopt an “ambitious” plan to fight global warming.

French President Emmanuel Macron lauded Biden’s decision to return to the accord, telling him “welcome back” in a congratulatory message.

Biden also scrapped the Keystone XL pipeline connecting the Alberta oil sands to coastal refineries in Texas — a move that threatens to strain ties with Canada.

Still, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who had pressed Biden to reverse his decision on the pipeline, vowed to “work together to advance climate action and clean economic growth.” The two leaders are due to speak Friday.

Beyond Paris, the US federal government has numerous levers at its disposal, from imposing strict methane limits on new oil and gas infrastructure, to gearing federal contracts towards renewable energy and zero-emissions vehicles.

The Trump administration took an axe to a host of environmental regulations, and a fact sheet sent to reporters from the new administration vowed to “immediately review and take appropriate action” on all these measures.

Biden on Wednesday also placed a temporary moratorium on drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, where Trump’s administration had issued leases on its last full day in office.

While former secretary of state John Kerry will lead US climate negotiations abroad, the domestic front will be headed up by Gina McCarthy, whom Biden has picked as the first national climate adviser.

Infrastructure plan

Biden will present to Congress next month an infrastructure-focused “Build Back Better Recovery Plan” — separate from the $1.9 trillion Covid and economic stimulus package he’s seeking.

This is where things can potentially become more tricky, given the Democratic Party’s razor thin control of the Senate.

The package is expected to be similar to the $2 trillion green climate plan Biden outlined during his campaign.

It promises “to meet the climate crisis, build a clean energy economy, address environmental injustice, and create millions of good-paying union jobs.”

“The challenge will be to bring Republicans on board with a clean energy infrastructure package that could systematically reduce American emissions,” Paul Bledsoe, a climate advisor to former president Bill Clinton, told AFP.

Bledsoe predicted Biden will initially be expected to try to work with Republican colleagues to reach the 60-vote threshold required to pass most legislation — though if that doesn’t pan out there are processes to pass laws with a simple 51-vote majority.

“Embedding climate action fully into the way in which we build the economy, the way in which we generate jobs and ensure an equitable recovery, all of that is what will make this something long lasting,” said Waskow.

The political and technical challenges are great, and there will be pressure on Biden not to pivot from fossil fuels too quickly — particularly natural gas, which has helped the US lower its net emissions for a decade and is seen as a crucial “bridging” energy.

But it also comes at a time of record-high recognition of climate change and desire for action among the US public.

A survey conducted after the election and published last week by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication found a majority of voters from both parties support policies to reduce carbon pollution and promote clean energy.

Fifty-three percent of voters said that global warming should be a high or very high priority for the president and Congress, while 66 percent said that developing sources of clean energy should be a high or very high priority.

 

AFP