Asian cinema’s wackiest buddy-comedy action franchise is now at the threequel stage and after a period of bewilderment I’ve begun to enjoy its eccentric hyperactivity. The two zany Chinese cops, Qin Feng (Haoran Liu) and Tang Ren (Baoqiang Wang), have already clocked up some misadventures in Bangkok for the first film and New York for the second (which featured a peculiar cameo from Michael Pitt); now the daffy duo rock up in Tokyo, where they have been summoned to tackle a bizarre crime.
A local gang boss has been murdered, apparently by a turf rival called Watanabe (Miura Tomokazu) over dinner, but this man insists he’s innocent and demands our heroes find the evidence that will acquit him. The rest of the film is one bonkers digression after another, concerning some strange criminal conspiracies and the shadowy motivations of the victim’s assistant Anna Kobayashi (Masami Nagasawa).
The Thai action star Tony Jaa makes an appearance for some enjoyable martial arts sequences, and there’s a small role for the veteran Japanese player Tadanobu Asano – who appeared in Takashi Miike’s cult shocker Ichi the Killer – as a police detective. You can’t fault this film for its ambition and its willingness to pull out all the stops in terms of spectacle, especially during a colossal slapstick fight scene at Tokyo airport and zany chaos at Tokyo’s world-famous Shibuya crossing.
Bizarrely, after all the knockabout absurdity, the movie climaxes with a melodramatic court scene involving a passionate speech and a sentimental flashback to the culprit’s unhappy childhood. We get a diverting moment when the “locked room” detective-story theories of mystery author John Dickson Carr are given an airing. There’s a puppyish charm here.
Detective Chinatown 3 is released in the UK on 24 January, and in Australia and the US on 25 January.
In a part of New Zealand where escalating tension between gangs has erupted into violence, police say the matter is well beyond them to solve – and community advocates are urging the government to do more to tackle the poverty and unemployment they say are fuelling the problem.
Officers in Hawkes Bay, a region on the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island, are to be armed – police do not routinely carry guns in New Zealand – and have a more visible presence, with officers brought in from other areas, after shots were fired during a gang brawl in Taradale, Napier, on Sunday.
A 25-year-old man injured in the brawl was due to appear in court on Wednesday and police said more arrests were likely. Another shooting took place further north on Saturday, near the town of Ruatoria in the Bay of Plenty. Police said it was also gang-related.
The number of gang members in Hawkes Bay has increased by 30% to 35% in the past two or three years, according to police. Officers said on Wednesday they had arrested more gang members for unlawfully carrying weapons, including in an episode where members had “converged” on the Hawkes Bay town of Wairoa. “There is a growing number of younger gang members and the older hierarchy can’t control the young cohort the way they used to,” the eastern district commander, Supt Tania Kura, said. Officers’ ability to control the proliferation was “well beyond police”. Hawkes Bay had a specific policing unit but that was “not a silver bullet”, Kura said.
Jarrod Gilbert, a sociologist at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch who studies gangs, said it was “not the first time” New Zealand’s police had said they were unable to solve the problem alone.
“The police do very well at the ability to control incidents of gang violence, but they can’t rid us of gangs,” he said. “That’s going to require social and economic policies – it’s not just about law and order – and the quicker the politicians understand that, the better.”
Gilbert said Hawkes Bay had pockets of extreme deprivation and one of New Zealand’s highest profile gangs, the Mongrel Mob, had originated there “so they tend to have a voice and a very strong presence”. A small area that was home to a rival gang, Black Power, had “always been a bone of contention”.
‘Gangs are not the problem. Poverty, unemployment and inadequate skills are’
Stuart Nash, New Zealand’s police minister, admitted the country had “a gang problem” – due, he said, to the rising tide of methamphetamine in the country. But the government had done plenty to tackle it, including putting “900 more police” on the streets, he said.
“We have confiscated more than 0m of gang assets and we are hoping to introduce laws that will allow us to go even harder on this,” Nash told Newstalk ZB.
Manu Caddie, a businessman and community leader in Ruatoria, where the second shooting of the weekend took place, decried “pretend support” and “populist policies” such as crackdowns as strategies to tackle gangs.
“Governments need to address these issues with practical, sustained and community-led support,” he said. “Gangs are not the problem. Poverty, unemployment and inadequate skills are.”
Caddie said he worried the matter would be sensationalised in an election year. The issue of gangs has already proved a favoured topic for New Zealand’s centre-right opposition party, National, which has promised that if it comes to power, it will ban gang patches, create a special police unit to target gangs, and revoke parole for those associated with the groups.
“We don’t know why they happened. It could be drugs, could be tit for tat, it’s stuff we will never know,” Kura said. It would be “horrendous” if a child was hurt.
Henare O’Keefe, a long-time community worker in Flaxmere, a township near Taradale, said that in the short term, “the full brunt of the law” should be brought to bear on those responsible, while in the long term, examining children’s home environments would be crucial to solving the problem.
“People are fearful, they’re angry, they’ve had enough, they’re sick of it, and understandably so,” he said. “If [the shot] was left or right by a millimetre or so, a life could have been taken.”
Police said they would hold a public meeting on Sunday “to speak with the community about the ongoing gang-related issues and wider community safety concerns”.
Gilbert said New Zealand’s street gangs were unique in that they wore patched jackets identifying themselves in public – which was usually the province of motorcycle gang members in other countries. “What that means is that it gives our gangs a prominence, a real presence – they’re very, very visible.”
Democratic hopes that a moderate bloc of Senate Republicans would join their demand for witnesses and testimony at Donald Trump’s impeachment trial were temporarily disappointed, if not dashed, as arguments on the first proper day of the trial extended past midnight into Wednesday morning.
In seven consecutive votes split precisely along party lines, the Senate voted down Democratic proposals to subpoena testimony from four potential witnesses and documents from multiple government agencies. Four additional votes defeated proposals to ease the admission of documents and testimony and to relax related time restrictions.
“I know it’s late, but it doesn’t have to be late,” Adam Schiff, the lead impeachment “manager”, or prosecutor in the case, said as the proceedings entered their 12th hour.
“We don’t control the schedule. There is a reason why we are still here at five minutes till midnight, and that’s because they don’t want the American people to see what’s going on here.”
Democrats fruitlessly called for testimony and documents from the former national security adviser John Bolton; the acting White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney; Mulvaney’s aide Robert Blair; the budget official Michael Duffey; the White House; the state department; the defense department; and the budget office relevant to an alleged scheme by Trump to twist the powers of the presidency to extract personal political favors from Ukraine.
Each of the proposed subpoenas was defeated by a 53-47 vote. Only one procedural amendment garnered a single Republican vote, from Susan Collins of Maine. The 13-hour session came to an end just before 2am local time, with yet another straight party-line vote to approve guidelines for the trial unveiled by the majority leader, Mitch McConnell, just a day earlier.
Democrats accused Republicans of failing to commit to a fair impeachment trial and of engaging in a “cover-up” of misconduct by the president.
“The president is engaged in this cover-up because he is guilty, and he knows it,” said Representative Val Demings of Florida, one of the impeachment managers.
A further opportunity for the senators to demand documents or witnesses was anticipated in the weeks ahead. But Schiff urged the senators to issue subpoenas before an allotted period for senators to question the legal teams.
“You should want to see these documents,” said Schiff. “You should want to know what these private emails and text messages have to say.
“The American people want a fair trial,” Schiff said. “But a great many Americans don’t believe that will happen. Let’s prove them wrong.”
Trump’s defense team struck a combative posture, expressing outrage at what they said was unfair treatment of the president and accusing the House of an attack on democracy.
“They’re not here to steal one election, they’re here to steal two elections,” said Pat Cipollone, the White House counsel. “They won’t tell you that. They don’t have the guts to say it directly. But that’s exactly what they’re here to do.”
The trial was scheduled to continue with late-night sessions starting on Wednesday afternoon and running into the weekend. A long-shot two-thirds majority of senators present would be required to remove Trump from office.
The supreme court’s chief justice, John Roberts, gaveled the trial to order shortly after 1pm.
“The Senate will convene as a court of impeachment,” Roberts said, proceeding to swear in one senator, James Inhofe of Oklahoma, who missed the group swearing-in last week.
Over the next 12 hours, Roberts stepped out of a strictly procedural role only once, after the manager Jerry Nadler accused any senator who voted against hearing from Bolton of casting a “treacherous vote” and Cipollone demanded that Nadler apologize to Trump and his family.
Admonishing both sides, Roberts noted that Senate rules and tradition required civil discourse. “I do think that those addressing the Senate should remember where they are,” he said.
The opposing legal teams, seated in a cramped arrangement at tables stacked with paper at the base of the Senate rostrum, struck an immediate contrast in style and substance.
While Trump’s team attacked the conduct of the impeachment process in the House and resuscitated a call for more information about the whistleblower whose complaint launched the process, the Democrats appealed to the 100 senators before them.
“They talk about how bad the House is – I don’t agree with that at all,” the minority leader, Chuck Schumer, told reporters during a break in the trial, referring to Trump’s defense team. “They don’t make a single argument why there shouldn’t be witnesses or documents.”
As the hours wore on, certain rhythms and incongruities in the trial emerged. While the House managers used almost all of their allotted debate time, liberally deploying video clips drawn from public hearings last month, Trump’s defense team used only a fraction of its time, repeating a blanket defense of the president’s conduct and rarely referring to previous testimony in the case.
To debate various proposed subpoenas, Schiff deployed one of the other seven managers to make a scripted case and then, after Trump’s team had spoken, rose to deliver impromptu rebuttals.
After the deputy White House counsel Patrick Philbin said the Democratic request for new witnesses amounted to an admission that they were unprepared for trial, Schiff pounced, calling on Trump’s former national security adviser and current acting chief of staff to appear.
“We’re ready,” Schiff said. “The House calls John Bolton. The House calls Mick Mulvaney. Let’s get this trial started, shall we.
“We are ready to present our case. We are ready to call witnesses. The question is, will you let us?”
Pounding the lectern, Jay Sekulow, a personal lawyer for Trump and talk-radio host, blazed through a series of conservative talking points and conspiracy theories ranging in focus from the special counsel Robert Mueller to the former attorney general Eric Holder.
“This isn’t a legal defense,” tweeted Kate Brannen, editorial director of the Just Security website. “It’s the equivalent of impeachment jazz hands.”
After Cipollone delivered a terse statement declaring: “The president has done absolutely nothing wrong,” Schiff took the lectern to reprise his description of Trump’s alleged misconduct and to underscore the gravity of the moment.
“You have all now sworn an oath,” Schiff told the senators. “To do impartial justice. That oath binds you. That oath supersedes all else. Nothing matters now but the oath to do impartial justice. And that oath requires a fair trial.”
Trump is charged with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, in connection with his attempts to pressure Ukraine to investigate his political rivals.
In the hours before the trial began, Democrats escalated their criticism, lambasting what they called a “cover-up” and a “rigged process” designed to push key moments of the trial into the “dark of night”.
If Democrats are to secure additional witnesses, they will need at least four Republicans to back them. A handful of moderates, including Susan Collins of Maine and Mitt Romney of Utah, have indicated that they could support an effort to call witnesses – but only on the timeline outlined in a proposal advanced by McConnell.
With the trial under way, Democrats continued to press Republicans to refuse McConnell’s terms and work with them to reach a bipartisan solution.
“No jury would be asked to operate on McConnell’s absurdly compressed schedule,” said Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker. “It is obvious that no senator who votes for it is intending to truly weigh the damning evidence of the president’s attacks on our constitution.”
In their legal brief submitted to the Senate on Sunday, the House managers outlined their case, alleging Trump corruptly sought foreign interference in the 2020 election by pressuring Ukraine to launch investigations into his political opponents while withholding nearly 0m in military aid and dangling a coveted White House meeting with Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
Live impeachment reporting continues on Wednesday’s blog:
Live coverage of the impeachment trial continues on Wednesday’s blog:
Day one summary
Over the course of nearly 13 hours, House impeachment managers clashed with White House lawyers as they debated the rules that will govern the impeachment trial.
Republican senators voted to kill 11 amendments to the trial rules brought forth by the Democrats, thwarting multiple attempts to subpoena documents and witnesses, including former national security adviser John Bolton.
House Judiciary chair Jerrold Nadler, who is one of the impeachment managers, accused Republicans of “voting for a coverup” by rejecting attempts to acquire more evidence.
Voting along party lines, Republicans pushed through the rules as proposed by Senate leader Mitch McConnell, unamended.
McConnell did change the rules a bit since he first revealed them, allowing for each side to take three days, rather than two, to present their cases. He also allowed the House’s impeachment evidence to be admitted into the Senate record.
Throughout, Chief Justice John Roberts played a procedural role — piping up just once to admonish both sides for a lack of civil discourse. “I do think that those addressing the Senate should remember where they are,” he said.
As the hours wore on, lawmakers looked visibly worn out — a couple of senators appeared to nod off.
The trial is adjourned until Wednesday at 1pm ET, when House managers will present their case.
Guardian reporters will be back tomorrow with more live updates from the impeachment trial. In the meantime, catch up on our coverage so far:
Senate Republicans pass the trial rules, without amendments
After 13 hours of debate, Republican senators pushed through the organizing resolution for the impeachment proposed by Mitch McConnell, without any of the 11 amendments proposed by Democrats.
The trial is now adjourned until 1pm ET on Wednesday.
Updated at 6.57am GMT
Senators kill 11th and last Democratic amendment
The final amendment proposed by minority leader Chuck Schumer would allow Chief Justice John Roberts — as a neutral party — to decide whether to allow motions to subpoena witnesses or documents.
Finally, the senators are voting on the organizing resolution for the impeachment trial, as proposed by Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell.
Before the vote, McConnell addressed Chief Justice John Roberts: “We want to thank you for your patience,” he said.
“Comes with the job,” Roberts responded.
Updated at 6.45am GMT
The Office of Management and Budget responded to a FOIA request by releasing a trove of documents on military aid to Ukraine.
The watchdog organization made “request for directives and communications that may relate to any effort to pressure the Ukrainian government to investigate one of President Trump’s political opponents as part of an effort to give the president an electoral advantage,” it said.
Senators kill the 10th Democratic amendment to allow for additional time to file responses to motions. The rules provide each side two hours. Schumer’s amendment asked for 24.
The debate on this one was very short — things are speeding up.
Updated at 6.46am GMT
As expected, Democrats’ eighth amendment, like all the others, was voted down, along party lines. Republicans blocked the Democratic push to subpoena John Bolton.
The former national security advisor could still testify if a majority of senators vote to subpoena his testimony later.
They also killed a ninth amendment, which would force a Senate vote on any motion to subpoena witnesses and documents. The current rules require a procedural vote that must pass before a vote on subpoenas. In this vote, there was one Republican defector: Senator Susan Collins.
Updated at 6.40am GMT
John Roberts took an opportunity to rebuke both House managers and the White House counsel “in equal terms” for their language and personal attacks. He asked everyone to “avoid speaking in a manner and using language that is not conducive to civil discourse”.
Roberts also offered a fun fact. In 1905, a Senator objected to a manager using the word “pettifogging” and the presiding officer found that the world “ought not to be used”, he said. “I don’t think we need to aspire to that high a standard, but I do think those addressing the senate should remember where they are,” Roberts added.
Updated at 6.48am GMT
In response, White House lawyer Jay Sekulow raised his voice and banged the podium for emphasis. He accused Nadler of trying to “shred Constitution on the floor of the floor of the Senate” by questioning Donald Trump’s executive privilege claim.
Pat Cipollone called the impeachment a “farce”.
“Mister Nadler, you owe an apology to the President of the United States and his family, you owe an apology to the Senate, but most of all you owe an apology to the American people,” he said.
Nadler: ‘Only guilty people try to hide the evidence’
Arguing for a subpoena of John Bolton, Jerrold Nadler accused senators quashing against Democrats’ attempts to bring forth more witnesses of “voting for a coverup”.
“Voting to deny witnesses and obviously a treacherous vote,” Nadler said. “A vote against an honest consideration of the evidence against the President. A vote against an honest trial. A vote against the United States.”
Nadler also said that Trump’s supporters want to block Bolton’s testimony are doing so because “they know he knows too much”.
“Only guilty people try to hide evidence,” Nadler said.
Updated at 5.56am GMT
Seventh Democratic amendment tabled, along party lines. And we move on to yet the next amendment… to subpoena John Bolton.
Each side gets an hour to make their case. This time, Jerrold Nadler, the representative from New York and House Judiciary chair, is arguing the Democrats’ case. Bolton, a former national security advisor, recently said he is willing to testify after resisting doing so during the impeachment inquiry. Donald Trump has said he’ll block Bolton, invoking executive privilege.
Democrats believe that Bolton has firsthand information about the president’s efforts to secure a quid pro quo with the government of Ukraine. Three Republican senators — Mitt Romney, Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins — have indicated they might want to hear from Bolton. But it’s unlikely they’ll vote to approve the amendment to subpoena Bolton today. Collins said in a statement today that she’ll consider witnesses after hearing the case, and answers to senators’ questions.
Updated at 5.34am GMT
Chief Justice John Roberts, who has been presiding over the trial all day, will have to be up early tomorrow morning for his day job. At 10 am Eastern Time, he’s expected to hear arguments in a Supreme Court case to decide whether publicly funded religious education is constitutional.
Even today, his very long day started at the Supreme Court, where he oversaw oral arguments in two cases before heading to the Senate.
The constitution requires that the chief justice “shall preside” over an impeachment trial of a president. In practice, the role has mostly been ceremonial. Previously, chief justices have left it to a Senate parliamentarian to manage the process. Roberts could take a more hands-on approach, and compel witnesses to testify — but that’s unlikely to happen.
So far, Roberts’ role in the Senate trial has been to ask White House lawyers and impeachment managers to speak, in turn, and grant motions to take recess as needed.
Updated at 4.59am GMT
Yet another Democratic amendment voted down
It’s close to midnight in Washington DC, and the senators are taking a 5-minute break. Each of Chuck Schumer’s amendments so far have been voted down along party lines, 53-47.
Schumer has proposed yet another amendment, “to prevent the selective admission of evidence and to provide for appropriate handling of classified and confidential materials”. The amendment would require each side to provide the other any additional evidence that is gathered via a subpoena. When he asked for it to be read out loud before the break, he reassured everyone, “It’s short.”
Updated at 4.35am GMT
What the cameras aren’t showing us
The video feed of the trial is controlled by the Senate Recording Studio. C-SPAN asked Mitch McConnell for permission to bring in its own cameras because the existing setup “provides a restricted view of Senate floor debates”, but the Senate majority leader did not respond, the New Yorker reports.
As a result, people at home can’t catch a glimpse of Senator Kyrsten Sinema’s bright yellow boots, or hear what lawmakers are whispering to each other in between presentations. We can’t see the expression on Lisa Murkowski’s face or snoop on what Marco Rubio is scribbling in his notebook.
TV camera crews are also restricted outside the Senate chamber — reporters aren’t allowed to approach senators directly outside.
Some news organizations have commissioned courtroom sketch artists to capture what the cameras aren’t showing.
Updated at 4.32am GMT
Senators vote down the fifth Democratic amendment
Like all the other Democratic efforts to subpoena more evidence, it was voted down along party lines — 53-47.
Minority leader Chuck Schumer has moved right on, and introduced a sixth amendment, to subpoena testimony by Robert Blair, an aide to Mick Mulvaney, and Michael Duffey, and Office of Management and Budget official.
The Democrats’ fifth amendment today is to subpoena documents from the Department of Defense. There will be two hours of debate on this impeachment as well, and it’s unclear how late the trial will go tonight.
Read The Guardian’s recap of the trial so far:
In four consecutive votes split precisely on party lines, the Senate voted down Democratic proposals to subpoena the testimony of the acting White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney,and to subpoena documents and records from the White House, the state department and the budget office relevant to an alleged scheme by Trump to twist the powers of the presidency to extract personal political favors from Ukraine.
Each of the proposed subpoenas was defeated by a 53-47 vote. Democrats accused Republicans of failing to commit to a fair impeachment trial and of engaging in a “cover-up” of misconduct by the president.
“The president is engaged in this cover-up because he is guilty, and he knows it,” said Representative Val Demings of Florida, one of the impeachment prosecutors, referred to as “managers”, in the case.
A further opportunity for the senators to demand documents or witnesses was anticipated in the weeks ahead. But Adam Schiff, the lead impeachment manager, urged the senators to issue subpoenas before an allotted period for senators to question the legal teams.
“You should want to see these documents,” said Schiff. “You should want to know what these private emails and text messages have to say.
“The American people want a fair trial,” Schiff said. “But a great many Americans don’t believe that will happen. Let’s prove them wrong.”
Updated at 3.09am GMT
Report: Senate Democrats are privately considering allowing Republicans to call Hunter Biden as a witness, in exchange for testimony from a key Trump administration official.
Though Democrats have publicly dismissed Republicans’ calls to subpoena Joe Biden’s son Hunter, privately, some senators and aides considering making an unusual deal. They’re willing to call in one of the Bidens if Republicans agree to subpoena national security advisor John Bolton, or another administration official with firsthand knowledge of the Ukraine controversy, the Washington Post reports:
The discussions about the Bidens are being closely held, and the issue is fraught for Democrats, due to the differing levels of support for Biden in a chamber stocked with presidential candidates and the clashing views on impeachment strategy. In private conversations in recent days, there has been much loathing of the Republicans’ spotlight on the Bidens among Senate Democrats, but also a fear that unless a witness deal is eventually struck, the trial could proceed without witnesses, according to party officials and Senate aides.
That predicament has led to discussions about whether, down the line, Hunter Biden or Joe Biden should be considered as part of a witness proposal. But there is hesitancy to raise the issue publicly until Senate Democratic leaders signal interest, the officials and aides said.
Updated at 2.49am GMT
For the fourth time today, senators voted to kill a Democratic amendment to the impeachment trial resolution, deciding against calling Mick Mulvaney as a witness.
In October, Mulvaney admitted that Donald Trump froze nearly 0 million in aid to Ukraine in part to pressure Ukranian officials into investigating Democrats. Almost immediately, he denied it.
Senate leader Mitch McConnell asked the Democrats to “stack” their amendments. Chuck Schumer refused, but said he’d be opening to having some of the votes tomorrow. “There will be a good number of votes. There’s no reason we have to do them tonight,” Schumer said.
Updated at 2.54am GMT
Addressing the Democratic senators running for president, White House lawyer Pat Cipollone said the whole impeachment process was about “removing” Donald Trump from the 2020 ballot.
This wasn’t the first time Cipollone singled out the 2020 candidates. Earlier, he suggested that Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Michael Bennett were sour they couldn’t campaign this week. “ Some of you are upset because you should be in Iowa right now,” he said.
Klobuchar responded by saying she’s able to “do two things at once”.
Updated at 3.00am GMT
The first day of the trial has been far less dramatic than expected. The Guardian’s David Smith fills in what the Senate cameras aren’t showing:
This moment had been much hyped by cable TV but viewers hoping for the political equivalent of the OJ Simpson trial were in for a disappointment. There was no prisoner in the dock; Trump is thousands of miles away in Davos. This was reality TV without the reality TV president.
There was, however, the California Democrat Adam Schiff, the lead House manager in the impeachment trial, who once wrote a screenplay for a Hollywood crime thriller. He was not quite Henry Fonda in 12 Angry Men or Tom Cruise in A Few Good Men, but he did put Republicans on the spot over their pledge on oath to be impartial jurors.
“The American people want a fair trial. They want to believe their system of government is still capable of rising to the occasion,” Schiff entreated. “They want to believe we can rise above party and do what’s best for the country, but a great many Americans don’t believe that will happen. Let’s prove them wrong. Let’s prove them wrong!”
In the Hollywood version, the chamber erupted in applause, heavenly horns played and a solitary tear trickled down McConnell’s face. In the Washington version, however, Republicans sat or slouched expressionless or studied papers on their desks, while McConnell fixed Schiff with a death stare as if intent on turning him to stone.
Updated at 3.12am GMT
The trial has resumed after a 30-minute dinner break. Hakeem Jeffries, one of the House impeachment managers, is now making the case to subpoena Mick Mulvaney.
The congressman from New York said Donald Trump makes Richard Nixon “look like a choir boy”. Trump is “personally responsible for depriving the Senate of information important to consider in this trial”, Jeffries said, referring to the president’s efforts to block House investigators from accessing documents and witnesses throughout the impeachment inquiry.
“Evidence matters. And the truth matters,” Jeffries said.
But Republicans have voted down multiple Democratic efforts to subpoena more evidence. The trial, writes the Guardian’s David Smith, is testing conscience of the Republican party.
Updated at 2.26am GMT
Senators vote to kill third Democratic amendment
A motion to subpoena documents related to the suspension of military aid to Ukraine from the Office of Management and Budget has been tabled, with a 53-47 vote along party lines.
This is the third amendment brought by the minority leader Chuck Schumer that Senate Republicans have voted down. Schumer has also introduced another amendment to subpoena Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff.
The senators will address that later tonight, after taking a 30-minute recess for dinner. While the trial is ongoing, snacks are banned in the chamber, though drinks of water and milk are permitted.
Updated at 1.40am GMT
Both parties have two hours to debate this amendment, and then, the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, indicated he’ll move to table it. After a vote, the lawmakers will get a 30-minute break – which, from the looks of everyone in the chamber is much needed.
Senator James Risch of Idaho appeared to nod off, according to reporters.
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand seemed to rest her eyes for a bit as well. And Senator Martha McSally had a blanket on her lap.
Updated at 12.56am GMT
Senators vote to kill the amendment to subpoena State Department documents
As expected, senators voted along party lines, 53-47.
Minority leader Chuck Schumer has introduced a third amendment to subpoena the White House Office of Management and Budget. This one is again, expected to fail.
Meanwhile, in 2020 news…
Rush, a Democratic representative from Illinois, told the Chicago Sun-Times he was impressed by Bloomberg’s approach to the “economic discrimination in the black community.”
The congressman had endorsed Kamala Harris before she dropped out of the presidential race.
To demonstrate the importance of subpoenaing the state department, Val Demings displayed text messages between the US envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker and the US diplomat Bill Taylor, which were uncovered during the House impeachment inquiry. One of the messages seemed to confirm that the Trump administration was withholding military aid in order to pressure Ukrainian officials to investigate Trump’s political rivals.
The texts and other messages uncovered by House investigators make clear that there’s more damaging information out there, Demings said. But the Trump administration has been blocking the release of information, claiming executive privilege.
Information obtained through a Senate subpoena “would help complete our understanding of how the president’s scheme unfolded in realtime”, Demings said.
Updated at 11.19pm GMT
The trial resumes
Senators are now debating another amendment to the rules of the Senate impeachment trial from Chuck Schumer. This one involves subpoenaing the state department.
Val Demings, a Democratic representative from Florida and one of the House impeachment managers, spoke in support of Schumer’s amendment. State department documents “would support the conclusion that senior Ukrainian officials understood the corrupt nature of President Trump’s demand and they would further expose the extent to which Secretary Pompeo and Mick Mulvaney and other senior Trump officials were aware of the president’s plot and helped carry it out”, she said.
“We know that [the documents] are relevant, and we know the president is desperately trying to conceal them,” she added.
Still, the amendment is expected to fail along party lines. It’s unclear how many amendments that Schumer will introduce today.
Updated at 10.45pm GMT
Republican senator indicates she’ll support a motion to subpoena witnesses
Susan Collins, a Republican senator from Maine, issued a statement indicating that she will likely support a motion to call more witnesses.
That’s it from me today. My west coast colleague, Maanvi Singh, will take over the blog for the next few hours as the Senate impeachment trial continues.
Here’s where the trial stands so far:
In a party-line vote, Senate Republicans successfully killed the minority leader Chuck Schumer’s amendment to the resolution outlining rules for the impeachment trial. The New York Democrat’s amendment called for subpoenaing White House documents related to the charges against Trump.
The House impeachment manager Adam Schiff argued on the Senate floor that it would be “ass-backwards” to hold an impeachment trial and then request witness testimony.
The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, altered the resolution outlining rules for the impeachment trial, allowing each side to present their arguments over three days rather than two. The altered resolution also allows for automatic inclusion of evidence from the House impeachment inquiry, although senators have the chance to object.
The House impeachment managers presented evidence arguing in favor of Trump’s removal from office, while the president’s lawyers depicted his impeachment as the result of a partisan “witch hunt”.
Maanvi will have more updates from the trial coming up, so stay tuned.
Updated at 10.42pm GMT
The Senate is now taking a ten-minute recess, after which the House impeachment managers and Trump’s legal team will be allowed to debate Chuck Schumer’s second amendment to Mitch McConnell’s impeachment trial resolution.
But McConnell said he intended to propose to also table that amendment, and that motion is likely to succeed on a party-line vote, as the first motion to table did.
Republicans kill Schumer’s amendment to the impeachment trial resolution
Senate Republicans successfully killed minority leader Chuck Schumer’s amendment to the resolution outlining rules for the impeachment trial, which called for subpoenaing White House documents related to the charges against Trump.
Schumer is now introducing another amendment, which is aimed at subpoenaing State Department documents related to the impeachment. It will likely also fail along party lines.
As expected, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has introduced a motion to table (or kill) Chuck Schumer’s amendment, which calls for subpoenaeing White House documents related to Trump’s impeachment charges.
The motion to table is expected to pass along party lines, and Schumer will then likely introduce another amendment to McConnell’s resolution outlining the rules for the impeachment trial.
House impeachment manager Zoe Lofgren pushed back against arguments from Pat Philbin, deputy counsel to the president, that the House is trying to get the Senate to do its investigative job.
“The House is certainly not asking the Senate to do the House’s job,” Lofgren said. “The House is asking the Senate to do its job.”
The House impeachment managers and the president’s legal team continue to debate an amendment from Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer calling for the White House to be subpoenaed for relevant documents.
Fun fact: House impeachment manager Adam Schiff is not actually the first person to use the term “ass-backwards” on the Senate floor.
That honor appears to go to Republican senator Lindsey Graham, who used the term in 2016 to denounce a bipartisan proposal to block a military arms sale to Saudi Arabia.
“I think it would be pretty odd for members on the other side of the aisle who almost unanimously supported the Iranian nuclear agreement … [to] deny a weapons sale to somebody who is in the fight with you,” Graham said at the time. “You’re talking about ass-backwards.”
Former Republican senator Jeff Flake, who declined to run for reelection in 2018 because of his opposition to Trump, was spotted in the Senate chamber as the president’s impeachment trial continues.
Flake wrote a Washington Post op-ed last month urging his former Republican colleagues to “put country over party” once the trial began:
I don’t envy you. You’re on a big stage now. Please don’t accept an alternate reality that would have us believe in things that obviously are not true, in the service of executive behavior that we never would have encouraged and a theory of executive power that we have always found abhorrent.
If there ever was a time to put country over party, it is now. And by putting country over party, you might just save the Grand Old Party before it’s too late.
Denouncing the proposed rules for Trump’s impeachment trial, House impeachment manager Adam Schiff argued it would be “ass-backwards” to hold a trial and then request witness testimony.
House impeachment manager Zoe Lofgren has now taken the Senate floor to argue for the need to subpoena White House documents related to the charges against Trump.
Lofgren, who participated in the Clinton and Nixon impeachment cases, will make history as the first woman to present arguments as a manager during an impeachment trial.
The New York Times has more on Lofgren’s impeachment history:
She was a member of the House Judiciary Committee in 1998 when it approved articles of impeachment against President Bill Clinton for lying about an affair with a White House intern. And as a young law student in 1974, she helped the committee draft its Watergate charges against President Richard M. Nixon.
Now — 46 years after the Nixon case — the 72-year-old lawmaker will take a high-profile role in the nation’s third impeachment trial, serving as one of the managers who will prosecute the House’s case against President Trump in the Senate.
Amy Klobuchar, one of the Democratic senators running for president, psuhed back against a comment from White House counsel Pat Cipollone that the presidential candidates are “upset” to be away from the campaign trail.
As Trump’s impeachment trial continues on Capitol Hill, Joe Biden is holding a campaign event in Ames, Iowa, with less than two weeks to go until the state’s caucuses.
Two of Biden’s closest rivals — senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren — have been pulled away from the campaign trial because of the impeachment trial, and Sanders has already had to cancel at least one rally because of the trial schedule.
A Yahoo News reporter sitting in the trial room said Republicans appeared uncomfortable as House impeachment manager Adam Schiff made the case for Trump’s removal from office.
Meanwhile, some of the president’s Senate allies appear to be using the recess to push back against Schiff’s argument because they are not allowed access to electronic devices while they are in the trial room.
Congressional reporters, who are used to relatively free rein at the Capitol to grab lawmakers for hallway interviews, are taking to social media to complain about the press restrictions enforced during Trump’s impeachment trial.
Speaking earlier today on the Senate floor, minority leader Chuck Schumer assured reporters that he would fight to protect their constitutional right to cover the proceedings.
“I want to assure everyone in the press that I will vociferously oppose any attempt to begin the trial unless the reporters trying to enter the gallery are seated,” Schumer said. “Some may not want what happens here to be public. We do.”
Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has called for a 15-minute recess before Trump’s legal team and the House impeachment managers are allowed to debate Chuck Schumer’s amendement.
Schumer’s amendment to the impeachment trial resolution calls for the White House to be subpoenaed for documents related to the charges against Trump, so the president’s lawyers will likely be forcefully pushing back against it.
Schumer introduces amendment to subpoena White House documents
As promised, Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer has introduced an amendment to the impeachment trial resolution to suboena the White House for documents related to the allegations against Trump.
Schumer would need a majority of the Republican-controlled chamber to support the measure in order to get it passed, but the potential Republican swing votes have largely said they are not ready at this point in the trial to back the proposal.
While slamming Trump’s impeachment on the Senate floor, White House counsel Pat Cipollone mocked the Democratic senators who are running for president.
“Some of you are upset because you should be in Iowa right now,” Cipollone said, referring to the imminent Iowa caucuses.
But the Democratic senators who are seeking their party’s presidential nomination — Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar and Michael Bennet — have emphasized the importance of fulfilling their constitutional duty by participating in the impeachment trial.
“Some things are more important than politics,” Warren said during last week’s debate.
White House counsel Pat Cipollone falsely claimed that Republican House members who sit on the committees that led the impeachment inquiry were not allowed to attend closed-door hearings during the investigation.
A staffer for Republican senator Ted Cruz posted this tweet to apparently poke fun at chamber rules barring members from carrying their cell phones into the impeachment trial.
But several Capitol Hill reporters going in and out of the trial room said the Texas Republican did not appear to be actually violating the rule barring senators from carrying electronics during the proceedings.
House impeachment manager Adam Schiff has yielded back the floor, and another one of Trump’s lawyers, Jay Sekulow, is now speaking.
White House counsel Pat Cipollone only used up three minutes of his side’s hour of time, so Sekulow could speak for up to 57 minutes.
Sekulow accused Democrats of spearheading a baseless investigation against Trump with the partisan goal of removing him from office.
It appears Trump is watching the Senate impeachment trial from Davos, where he is attending the World Economic Forum.
The president advised his Twitter followers to read the “transcripts,” inaccurately referring to the memos the White House released about Trump’s calls with the Ukrainian president.
However, the White House memo from Trump’s July phone call with Volodymyr Zelenskiy actually showed the US president asking his Ukrainian counterpart for a “favor” before going on to discuss political investigations.
Presenting the House impeachment managers’ argument against Mitch McConnell’s impeachment trial resolution, Adam Schiff played clips of Trump that Democrats say underscore the president’s abuse of power.
One of Schiff’s clips included Trump falsely saying in July, “Then, I have an Article II, where I have to the right to do whatever I want as president.”
Article II of the constitution outlines the president’s “executive power,” but it does not grant the commander-in-chief unchecked power.
The office of senator Susan Collins, a Maine Republican whose approach to Trump’s impeachment trial is being closely watched because of her tough reelection race this year, said she pushed for changes to the resolution outlining trial procedures.
In another change to Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell’s impeachment resolution, evidence from the House impeachment inquiry will be automatically added to the record unless there’s an objection.
Change to impeachment trial resolution will allow for three days of arguments
Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell’s resolution outlining rules for Trump’s impeachment trial now allows each side to have three days to present their arguments, instead of two.
That change could allow the trial to wrap up around 9 p.m. ET for three consecutive days, instead of ending at around 1 a.m. ET for two days.
Democrats had complained that the original schedule was meant to allow arguments to stretch into the early hours of the morning, when most Americans would not be watching the proceedings.
White House counsel Pat Cipollone used his time on the Senate floor to denounce Trump’s impeachment.
“We believe that once you hear those initial presentations, the only conclusion will be that the president has done absolutely nothing wrong,” Cipollone told senators.
“And that these articles of impeachment do not begin to approach the standard required by the Constitution.”
Cipollone then reserved the rest of his hour of time to rebut the arguments of the House impeachment managers.
White House counsel takes the floor
White House counsel Pat Cipollone has now taken the Senate floor to argue in favor of majority leader Mitch McConnell’s resolution outlining rules for Trump’s impeachment trial.
Cipollone will be given up to an hour to argue in favor of the resolution, and then the floor will be turned over to the House impeachment managers, who will argue against the resolution.
But several congressional reporters noted the reading of the resolution included a significant change from yesterday.
Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell’s resolution outlining rules for Trump’s impeachment hearing is now being read on the floor.
After that, the president’s legal team and the House impeachment managers will each get an hour to debate the proposal.
Minority leader Chuck Schumer will then be able to begin introducing amendments to the resolution aimed at allowing new evidence and witness testimony to be uncovered during the trial, but McConnell has said he will move to table the measures.
As a reminder, senators are not allowed to speak during the debate.
Impeachment trial reconvenes
John Roberts, the chief justice of the Supreme Court, has sworn in senator Jim Inhofe, who missed last week’s swearing-in because of a family medical emergency.
Every senator has now been sworn in, and the impeachment trial of Donald Trump can resume.
A debate over majority leader Mitch McConnell’s resolution outlining potential rules for the impeachment trial will soon begin.
The White House has issued a statement denouncing House impeachment managers’ argument that Pat Cipollone, the White House counsel who will represent Trump during the impeachment trial, has a conflict of interest because he was told about concerns regarding the president’s Ukraine call.
“The Democrats are an utter joke – they have no case, and this latest political stunt proves it,” said White House spokesman Hogan Gidley. “The idea that the Counsel to the President has to turn over protected documents and confidential information is ludicrous, and to imply he can’t represent the President of the United States in an impeachment proceeding is completely absurd.”
The Senate is minutes away from beginning debate on the resolution outlining rules for Trump’s impeachment trial, and the House impeachment managers have just filed a reply to the brief from the president’s team.
“President Trump’s brief confirms that his misconduct is indefensible,” the reply reads. “President Trump’s lengthy brief to the Senate is heavy on rhetoric and procedural grievances, but entirely lacks a legitimate defense of his misconduct.
“It is clear from his response that President Trump would rather discuss anything other than what he actually did.”
The fiery brief from the president’s team derided Trump’s impeachment as “a dangerous perversion of the Constitution that the Senate should swiftly and roundly condemn.”
Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer warned that the impeachment trial rules proposed by majority leader Mitch McConnell would “result in a rushed trial with little evidence, in the dark of night.”
The New York Democrat argued the rules should be taken as further evidence of Trump’s guilt. “The McConnell rules seem to be designed by President Trump for President Trump. It asks the Senate to rush through as fast as possible and makes getting evidence as hard as possible,” Schumer said.
“If Leader McConnell is so confident the president did nothing wrong, why don’t they want the case to be presented in broad daylight?”
Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer is now speaking on the floor, denouncing the press restrictions enforced on Capitol Hill for the impeachment trial.
“Some may not want what happens here to be public,” Schumer said. “We do.”
Congressional reporters have repeatedly complained about the restrictions, warning that they represent an unprecedented infringement on press freedoms.
Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell said he would move to table any amendments to the impeachment trial resolution focused on obtaining new evidence for Trump’s trial.
Minority leader Chuck Schumer has promised to introduce a series of amendments aimed at allowing new evidence and witness testimony to be uncovered in the course of the trial, but McConnell only needs a simple majority to kill those measures.
McConnell defends impeachment trial resolution
Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell is currently speaking on the floor in defense of his resolution outlining proposed rules for Trump’s impeachment trial.
McConnell said the measure already had the support of a majority of the Republican-controlled chamber. “That’s because it sets up a structure that is fair, evenhanded and tracks closely with past precedents,” the Kentucky Republican said.
Democrats have complained the resolution would force arguments to go into the early hours of the morning, when most Americans would not be watching the proceedings, and argued the rules do not mirror those of Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial, as McConnell had claimed they would.
A little more on the growing political pressure on Susan Collins, the moderate Republican from Maine whom Senate Democrats hope might help them force the calling of new witnesses and admission of new information later in Trump’s trial.
Earlier today, Planned Parenthood endorsed a Democratic challenger to Collins in November’s election.
As headlines go, “federal women’s health provider backs challenger to Republican” might sound a bit “dog bites man”, but Collins has defended Planned Parenthood against Republican attempts to cut its funding and as recently as 2017 she was honoured by the group as “an outspoken champion for women’s health”. The organisation endorsed her in 2002.
Here’s a taste of how the Associated Press reported Planned Parenthood’s move:
Sara Gideon, speaker of the Maine House of Representatives [and running for the nomination to face Collins], welcomed the endorsement from the Planned Parenthood Action Fund.
‘There’s never been a more important time to stand up for reproductive rights,’ she said, in the face of ‘systematic attacks on reproductive rights across the country.’
Collins … is facing perhaps the toughest re-election fight of her career. Critics have vowed they won’t forget her key vote for [Trump supreme court nominee Brett] Kavanaugh, whose nomination [in 2018] survived an accusation that he sexually assaulted someone in high school.
‘From her decisive vote to confirm Kavanaugh to her refusal to stop Republican attacks on our health and rights, it’s clear that she has turned her back on those she should be championing,’ said Alexis McGill Johnson, acting president and chief executive of Planned Parenthood, adding that Collins ‘has abandoned not only the people of Maine, but women across the country’.
Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer said he would introduce a series of amendements to majority leader Mitch McConnell’s impeachment trial resolution later today, with the goal of collecting new evidence for Trump’s trial.
The House impeachment managers slammed the proposed trial rules outlined in McConnell’s resolution as “a White House-driven and rigged process, with a truncated schedule designed to go late into the night and further conceal the President’s misconduct.”
The impeachment managers raised ethical concerns about White House counsel Pat Cipollone, who will represent Trump during the Senate trial. The House Democrats said Cipollone was a “material witness to the charges in both Articles of Impeachment for which President Trump now faces trial.”
The blog will have much more as the Senate debate over the impeachment trial rules gets underway, so stay tuned.
Bernie Sanders has issued a statement in response to Hillary Clinton’s comments that “nobody likes” him and “nobody wants to work with” him, insiting he is focusing on Trump’s impeachment trial.
“My focus today is on a monumental moment in American history: the impeachment trial of Donald Trump,” Sanders said. “Together, we are going to go forward and defeat the most dangerous president in American history.”
The comments, which were included as part of an upcoming documentary about Clinton, were first reported by the Hollywood Reporter.
“He was in Congress for years [and] had one senator support him,” Clinton said of her 2016 primary rival, calling him “a career politician” and criticizing the “culture around” the two-time Democratic presidential candidate.
“I feel so bad that people got sucked into it,” Clinton said.
Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer repeatedly declined to answer reporters’ questions about how many amendments Democrats would be introducing to the impeachment resolution.
There will be up to two hours of debate for each amendment, but they will not pass unless four Republicans support the Democrats’ proposals, which currently seems unlikely.
Senate Democrats need at least four of their Republican colleagues to cross the aisle to have their amendments to the impeachment resolution adopted, and that seems very unlikely to happen at this point.
If the amendments are not adopted, it would likely cut off senators from hearing new witness testimony during the impeachment trial.
Schumer pledges to introduce several amendments to impeachment resolution
Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer said he would introduce a number of amendments to majority leader Mitch McConnell’s resolution outlining proposed rules for Trump’s impeachment trial.
In addition to an amendment calling for a subpoena of White House documents related to the allegations, Schumer said he would introduce several other amendments aimed at calling new witnesses to testify.
“We have no intention to be dilatory,” Schumer said.
He closed by reminding senators of their constitutional responsibility. “This is a historic moment,” Schumer said. “The eyes of America are watching. Republican senators must rise to the occasion.”
Schumer: McConnell’s proposed rules outline a trial on ‘fast forward’ mode
Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer is holding a press conference on Capitol Hill and slamming majority leader Mitch McConnell’s resolution outlining proposed rules for Trump’s impeachment trial.
Echoing his earlier statement, Schumer said McConnell’s resolution was “nothing short of a national disgrace” and warned that its implementation would make the impeachment trial “one of the very dark days of the Senate.” He added that the resolution outlined an impeachment trial on “fast forward” mode.
The New York Democrat went on to say he would be introducing amendments to the resolution later today, starting with a proposal to subpoena White House documents related to the charges against the president.
Updated at 4.14pm GMT
Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has canceled a planned rally at the University of Northern Iowa tomorrow because of the Senate impeachment trial.
But the Vermont senator has deployed one of his most high-profile surrogates, congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, to the first caucus state as he participates in Trump’s impeachment trial.
There are four Democratic senators currently running for president — Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar and Michael Bennet — whose campaigning plans will likely be complicated by the impeachment trial.
The proceedings come at a critical moment in the campaign, with less than two weeks to go until the Iowa caucuses.
While speaking to reporters, House impeachment manager Adam Schiff brushed off a question about whether his team would use the full 24 hours to present their case for Trump’s removal from office, as the proposed trial rules would allow.
Republican senator John Cornyn previously downplayed Democrats’ complaints that the proposed rules from Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell could allow arguments to stretch into the early hours of the morning.
Cornyn told a CBS News reporter, “I think some of the hyperventilating over the possibility that we would extend to the wee hours of the morning, I think we’ll work all that out.”
Updated at 3.51pm GMT
Schiff: McConnell’s proposed rules make it ‘impossible to have a fair trial’
House impeachment manager Adam Schiff warned that Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell’s planned rules for the impeachment trial make it “impossible to have a fair trial.”
The California Democrat added that if McConnell’s rules are adopted and Trump is acquitted, the proceedings will not have proven the president innocent.
Instead, Schiff argued, the trial would only be a display of the Senate’s willingness to help the president cover up the truth.
Schiff: ‘This is the process for a rigged trial’
Speaking to reporters on Capitol Hill, House impeachment manager Adam Schiff again criticized Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell’s resolution outlining rules for Trump’s impeachment trial.
“We can see why this resolution was kept from us and the American people,” the California Democrat said.
Schiff outlined the differences between McConnell’s resolution and the rules observed during Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial, which the Senate leader claimed he would use as a model for his proposal.
“This is not the process for a fair trial,” Schiff said. “This is the process for a rigged trial.”
Jerry Nadler, another House impeachment manager, then took the microphione to say, “This fixation on the Clinton trial is weird.”
The New York Democrat argued the focus should not be on a past impeachment trial. “The question is, should you have a fair trial now?” Nadler said.
He added that any senator who supports McConnell’s proposed rules would be “complicit in the cover-up of the president.”
A solid majority of Americans believe the impeachment trial should include new testimony from witnesses who did not appear during the House inquiry, according to a new poll.
The CNN poll found that 69% of Americans, including 48% of Republicans, say the trial should feature new witness testimony. The poll also concluded that 51% of Americans support the Senate voting to remove Trump from office, compared to 45% who oppose it.
But despite half of the country pushing for his ouster, Trump’s approval rating remains unchanged at 43%, compared to 53% who disapprove.
So it appears that nearly everyone who disapproves of Trump’s job performance also believes he should be removed from office.
Speaking to reporters at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Trump dismissed the importance of the impeachment trial as Democrats cried foul over the proposed rules for the proceedings.
“That whole thing is a hoax,” Trump said. “It goes nowhere because nothing happened. The only thing we’ve done is a great job.”
During his speech at the forum this morning, Trump ignored impeachment and instead focused on taking credit for the growth of the US economy.
“America is thriving; America is flourishing, and, yes, America is winning again like never before,” Trump said.
Former Democratic senator Claire McCaskill, who served in the Senate for 12 years before she lost her reelection race in 2018, predicted Susan Collins would be the only Republican senator to split with her party on allowing new witnesses to testify during Trump’s impeachment trial.
Democrats need to pick off at least four Republican senators to get changes to the proposed rules approved, so Collins’ potential vote would not be enought to move the needle.
Collins faces a difficult reelection race later this year in her home state of Maine.
Impeachment managers raise ethical concerns about Trump’s lawyer
The House impeachment managers have issued another statement warning of potential ethical concerns about White House counsel Pat Cipollone, who will represent Trump during the Senate trial.
“In preparation for the trial of Donald J. Trump before the Senate, we write to notify you that evidence received by the House of Representatives during its impeachment inquiry indicates that you are a material witness to the charges in both Articles of Impeachment for which President Trump now faces trial,” said the managers, who are Adam Schiff, Jerrold Nadler, Zoe Lofgren, Hakeem Jeffries, Val Demings, Jason Crow and Sylvia Garcia.
“You must disclose all facts and information as to which you have first-hand knowledge that will be at issue in connection with evidence you present or arguments you make in your role as the President’s legal advocate so that the Senate and Chief Justice can be apprised of any potential ethical issues, conflicts, or biases.”
In a longer letter explaining their concerns, the managers cited this Wall Street Journal story from November, which said that John Eisenberg, the general counsel for the National Security Council, told Cipollone about concerns regarding Trump’s July phone call with the Ukrainian president.
Pelosi calls McConnell’s impeachment trial a ‘sham proposal’
Echoing Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer, House speaker Nancy Pelosi has issued a statement slamming Mitch McConnell’s resolution outlining rules for Trump’s impeachment trial as a “sham proposal.”
“Leader McConnell’s process is deliberately designed to hide the truth from the Senate and from the American people, because he knows that the President’s wrongdoing is indefensible and demands removal,” Pelosi said in the statement.
“No jury would be asked to operate on McConnell’s absurdly compressed schedule, and it is obvious that no Senator who votes for it is intending to truly weigh the damning evidence of the President’s attacks on our Constitution. …
“Duty, honor and country are at stake. Every Senator who supports this sham process must be held accountable to the American people.”
House impeachment managers slam trial as ‘White House-driven and rigged process’
In response to the rules proposed by Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell for the impeachment trial, the House impeachment managers issued a statement slamming the resolution as an unfair attempt to acquit the president without scrutiny.
“A White House-driven and rigged process, with a truncated schedule designed to go late into the night and further conceal the President’s misconduct, is not what the American people expect or deserve,” said the managers, who are Adam Schiff, Jerrold Nadler, Zoe Lofgren, Hakeem Jeffries, Val Demings, Jason Crow and Sylvia Garcia.
The managers also dismissed arguments from McConnell that the proposed rules mirrored those of Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial in 1999.
“In the Clinton case, the President provided all of the documents — more than 90,000 pages of them — before the trial took place. McConnell’s resolution rejects that basic necessity,” the statement read.
“And in the Clinton case, all of the witnesses had testified before the Senate trial began, and the only issue was whether they would be re-called to testify once more. The substance of what they would say was already known. Here, McConnell is trying to prevent the witnesses from ever testifying, and the public from ever finding out what they have to say.”
Updated at 1.57pm GMT
Democrats prepare to argue against proposed impeachment trial rules
Good morning, live blog readers!
It has been more than a month since the House voted to impeach Donald Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, and the matter is finally advancing to a Senate debate over the rules of a trial to determine whether he should be removed from office.
The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, released his proposed rules for the trial last night, and the resolution immediately sparked outrage from Democrats, who argued the president’s allies were trying to rush to an acquittal.
According to the rules, the White House counsel and House impeachment managers will each be allowed 24 hours over two days each to make opening arguments. Those opening arguments will be followed by 16 hours of questioning and a four-hour debate before the ultimate vote on whether to remove Trump from office.
The Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer, called the proposal a “national disgrace,” as many other Democrats complained that the timetable could force arguments to stretch into the early hours of the morning and thus minimize public attention on the proceedings.
But with Republicans holding the majority of Senate seats, Democrats will need to convince some of their colleagues across the aisle to push back against the proposal in order to secure changes. They will get the chance to do so today at 1pm ET, when the trial will pick up again and the Senate will get the chance to debate the resolution.
Here’s what else the blog is keeping its eye on:
Trump is attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, where he delivered a speech early this morning.
Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg are campaigning in Iowa today, with less than two weeks to go until the caucuses.
With a toothless grin and a clenched fist raised to the heavens, 90-year-old Asma Khatun chanted exuberantly. “Azadi,” she cried, using the Hindi word for freedom and joining a loud chorus that rang out across Shaheen Bagh, a neighbourhood in South Delhi that over the past few weeks has become a nationwide symbol of resistance.
In her nine decades, Khatun has lived through British colonial rule, the war of independence and India’s bloody partition with Pakistan, but as a housewife she had always stayed behind closed doors and barely brushed with politics. That was until last month.
For over 40 days, the frail but feisty 90-year-old has been camped out on the streets day and night, side by side with hundreds of women and braving Delhi’s coldest temperatures for more than a century. “I am old, my bones hurt in the cold and my children are very worried about my health, but I am sitting here because I will not stand by as Mr Modi tries to break up India, to tell me that this is not my home after 90 years,” said Khatun.
She added defiantly: “Scared? Who said anything about fear. I have never been in a protest before but I will not be moving and if I die here, then I will die fighting for my children and my country.”
The unrest that engulfed India last month after the passing of a new citizenship law that many believe openly discriminates against Muslims and undermines the secular foundations of India’s constitution has shown no sign of abating. Every week, millions have continued to take to the streets against the Citizenship Amendment Act, and what many see as an unacceptable attempt by the prime minister, Narendra Modi, and his BJP government to implement their Hindutva [Hindu nationalist] agenda and redefine India as a purely Hindu country. While the government has attempted to quash the protests, with bans on gatherings of more than four people and increasing police violence and torture, it has only fuelled the fire of discontent across India.
Strikingly, the loudest voices of dissent have largely been women. From activists and lawyers to students, housewives and grandmothers, both Hindu and Muslim, women across India have been at the forefront of the resistance to the new citizenship law, and a nationwide citizenship test, known as the NRC, which could result in millions of Muslims being declared illegal aliens in their own country. For many, it is the first time they have had any political engagement at all.
The female-driven political awakening sparked by the CAA has been most jubilantly epitomised by the gathering at the Muslim-majority neighbourhood of Shaheen Bagh that began in late December, when hundreds of women blocked a main road and began a sit-in demonstration against the new citizenship law. Since then, numbers have swelled, drawing in a cross-generational, largely female crowd unlike any protest seen in India before.
Among them was 82-year-old Bilkis, who had been camped out for over a month. “In my whole life, this is the first time I have taken part in any political movement,” she said. “Before this I was a housewife, I never left the house. Now I eat here and sleep here, I go back home just every couple of days to get new clothes. It is cold sometimes but it is not difficult. How can I sit by knowing that my children might be thrown out of this country which is their home and made to go to prison or sent to Pakistan? I will only leave this place when my children’s lives are safe. We are powerful and Modi is now afraid.”
Nusrat Asra, 43, said she had abandoned her life as a housewife for the first time, to sit with the women of Shaheen Bagh every day. Her husband had initially been resistant, she said, “but now he knows why I am fighting”.
“I am not afraid of anything, I am not afraid of the police, I am not afraid of being beaten, I am here just to stand up for freedom,” said Asra animatedly, her face lit up in defiance. “We are not fighting for any god or any political party, we are fighting for our rights. And I have brought my 12-year-old daughter here every day to teach her to stand up and fight for her rights too.”
The reasons the protests have struck a chord with India’s women are multifaceted. On a pragmatic level, they are likely to suffer disproportionately from the CAA, which requires certain documents to prove citizenship. Across India, women generally tend to have less documentation, to be poorer, more excluded from the ambit of official administration, often don’t have their names on property documents, have frequently moved away from where they were born to get married and are less likely to have their births registered.
Yet according to Karuna Nundy, one of India’s most prominent lawyers who has been vocal against the CAA and spoken at multiple demonstrations in opposition to the law, it runs deeper than that for India’s women. “Being a woman in India feeds into the experience of, and resistance to oppression. We know exclusion, and we know it viscerally,” said Nundy.
“But it’s important to see how the rise of Hindutva has been powered in part by a toxic masculinity. A lot of the imagery and action around it, is very macho, violent, explicitly supremacist and hostile to women. Our constitution speaks of camaraderie between citizens. What we are seeing in some women’s leadership and at Shaheen Bagh is an energy that’s gentler. It’s happier, more nurturing and yet strong and determined. And I think that is really speaking to the country as a counter to the toxic masculinity of Hindutva.”
As well as the women of Shaheen Bagh, some of the most iconic images and footage of the protests have been of women, often Hindu and Muslim side-by-side, bravely standing up to an onslaught of all-male police officers frequently sent to disperse peaceful demonstrations.
One such video that went viral was five female students at Delhi’s Jamia Millia Islamia university who surrounded a young man to prevent the police beating him with batons after they violently descended onto the university campus. Chanda Yadav, a 20-year-old student who was one of the five women in the clip, said she came from a conservative household in rural Uttar Pradesh where women were taught not to speak up or fight back and was the first woman from her village to take part in the demonstrations.
“I am not afraid,” said Yadav. “I wanted to save my friends and my country and that is why I fought back against the police on that day and why I have been fighting against CAA since.”
The spirit of Shaheen Bagh has proved infectious, and over the past two weeks, similar female-led sit-ins have cropped up across the country, including in Kolkata’s Circus Maidan park. Sitting among the protestors was Navamita Chandra, 25, a student of Jadavpur University in Kolkata. She had already taken a vocal stand against CAA when she refused to accept her degree from the vice chancellor of her university in protest against the attacks by police on the students in Delhi and Uttar Pradesh during the anti-CAA and anti-NRC demonstrations. Walking onto the stage, she held a placard, which read: “I cannot take my degree ceremonially when fellow students are beaten, blinded and killed.”
“Women from all background are waking up and taking to the streets in unprecedented numbers, it’s incredible to see ,” said Chandra. “We will not let our Muslim brothers and sisters be demonised and threatened. My father is not a fan of me taking part in protests but my mother is definitely still more of a trooper – she understands why I’m taking to the streets and she realises that we’ve come to a point where it is more important now than ever to raise our voices.”
For Shafqat Rahim, a 25-year-old law student from a conservative Muslim family, the anti-CAA protests in Kolkata had been a moment of political awakening. “The protests are shaping up like a revolution where women have taken the leading roles,” she said. “We, the women, will remove the fascist rulers.”
A controversial film highlighting “disappearances” in Kashmir that premieres in Britain this week has led to fears of heightened tension between the country’s Indian and Pakistani communities.
No Fathers in Kashmir tells the story of a British-Kashmiri teenage girl who travels to the Indian Himalayan state to search for her father, only to discover that he “disappeared” and was then killed after being taken away by Indian soldiers for interrogation.
The film is set against the backdrop of the continuing turmoil in Indian-administered Kashmir and vividly addresses the contentious issue of human rights violations that are alleged to have been committed by security forces as they battle to suppress a popular insurgency that has raged for the past 30 years.
According to human rights campaigners, an estimated 8,000 people have “disappeared” during this time.
The film, partly funded by a group of British Kashmiris, opens in Bradford followed by screenings in London and other cities where there is a substantial South Asian population.
Last year, Kashmir exploded into renewed turmoil after the Indian government revoked its special status and placed it in lockdown. Known as Article 370, the move stripped away the autonomy Kashmir had been granted in exchange for joining the Indian union after independence in 1947. Another part of the state remained within Pakistan. Both countries claim it as their own.
The move prompted anger in Britain and protests outside the Indian High Commission, which resulted in violence, vandalism and several arrests. Demonstrations were also held in other cities, including Birmingham and Manchester.
Of the 1.1 million British Pakistanis, more than one million originate from the part of Kashmir governed by Pakistan. While there are no official figures for the number of Indian Kashmiris in Britain, the overall British Indian community numbers almost 1.4 million people, and support for India’s position is strong among some sections of that community.
Sabir Gull, a senior member of the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front, which was founded in Birmingham in 1977 and campaigns for the state’s independence, said: “We don’t want this film to create more problems but there’s no getting away from the fact that it definitely could – but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be shown.
“Kashmir is a sensitive matter for both British Indian and Pakistani communities. Drawing attention to human rights violations through film or any other medium is giving the oppressed a voice. Disappearances and the other crimes that have been committed against the Kashmiri people will not go away if we bury our heads in the sand. At the end of the day, we are all British but we can’t ignore what’s going on.”
Kuldeep Shekhawat, head of the UK branch of the Overseas Friends of the BJP, which supports India’s governing party and aims to increase its popularity among British Indians, said: “This film does not serve any purpose. It will just inflame hostility and tension. Things were difficult enough last year between the two communities but have calmed down a lot since then. If Kashmir is an issue then it is between India and Pakistan. We are all British here, so why should we be getting so obsessed with Kashmir?
“This film will not help community relations. India is a democracy and has an effective legal system, so if there are any human rights violations they are addressed through these channels.”
No Fathers in Kashmir was released in India last year following a year-long battle with the country’s board of censors, which insisted that certain parts be cut and that the film also contain a number of disclaimers.
After adhering to the demands, director Ashvin Kumar then had to hire lawyers to challenge the film’s initial adult certification, which would have prevented it from being shown on Indian television. British screenings show the unedited version of the film.
Kumar said: “Disappearances and other human rights violations are wilfully being ignored by Indian society and the media. There’s a denial in the country and it’s sad that this also seems to be the case among sections of the Indian diaspora in Britain.
“Indian armed forces behave with total impunity in Kashmir. The consequences of the disappearances are devastating for families and there’s total apathy towards their plight, which has been continuing for the past 30 years.”
He added: “My film is trying to make things better through compassion and humanity. But if you don’t discuss what’s wrong, you will not make things better. The solution is to talk about the crimes that have been committed against the Kashmiri people – surely, no one in Britain is suggesting that we should not do this just because it may upset a few people?”
Kumar has made two other films about Kashmir; Inshallah Football and Inshallah Kashmir, which both won national awards in India. He was also nominated for an Oscar for a 2005 short film that he directed. He will be taking part in a number of Q&A sessions during the screenings of No Fathers in Kashmir.
The Duke of Sussex has met Boris Johnson and other world leaders attending the UK-Africa Investment Summit in London during what is likely to be one of his few remaining engagements as an official royal.
Hours after a speech in which he spelled out he and Meghan felt they had “no other option” but to step away from royal life, he arrived at London Docklands, where the prime minister was hosting the event. The two had a 20-minute private “catch-up”, without aides present.
Harry, who spoke on Sunday of his great sadness “that it has come to this”, will leave for Canada in the near future to join Meghan and their baby son, Archie. The couple will spend the majority of their time in Canada as they begin a one-year transition period to their roles as royal outsiders.
It was not a decision he had made lightly, he said, describing it as a “leap of faith”. There are not thought to be any engagements in his diary for the latter part of this week.
No date has been given for when the prince will officially step down as a working royal, and no longer be able to represent the Queen in any official capacity. Aides have only said it will be in the spring.
It is thought Harry could conduct a small number of royal engagements, possibly in the UK, before retiring from official royal life, though there is no indication of when Meghan might return to Britain.
Though barred from using their HRH – His or Her Royal Highness – titles, the couple have not been stripped of them. Neither have they been required to give up Frogmore Cottage, their official UK residence on the Windsor estate, though they will repay the £2.4m refurbishment costs met by the public purse. This indicates there has been no burning of bridges by the Queen, allowing the couple a possible way back in future.
Harry said in his speech: “Our hope was to continue serving the Queen, the Commonwealth, and my military associations without public funding. Unfortunately that wasn’t possible.”
The risk of the royal family’s reputation being tarnished by any conflict of interest in the couple’s future commercial dealings was not one Buckingham Palace was prepared to take. They also want to avoid as much as possible any criticism of the couple cashing in on their royal heritage.
In a statement on Saturday, Buckingham Palace said the couple had made clear “that everything they do will continue to uphold the values of Her Majesty”.
The duke was holding one-to-one meetings with a number of foreign leaders at the request of the UK government at the London summit. He sat down for talks with Saad-Eddine El Othmani, the prime minister of Morocco, Peter Mutharika, the president of Malawi, and Filipe Nyusi, the president of Mozambique.
Harry chose a dinner for donors to his charity, Sentebale, to speak from the heart on Sunday after 10 days of turmoil following the couple’s bombshell announcement they wanted to “step back’ as frontline royals.
Johnny Hornby, the chairman of Sentebale, said Harry’s royal status did not matter to the charity.
“I don’t think it matters at all. I think he has a kind of unique ability and an aura around him, when he is with children, when he is with any gathering, his passions come over,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
China’s health ministry has confirmed human-to-human transmission of a mysterious Sars-like virus that has spread across the country and fuelled anxiety about the prospect of a major outbreak as millions begin travelling for lunar new year celebrations.
Zhong Nanshan, a respiratory expert and head of the national health commission team investigating the outbreak, confirmed that two cases of infection in China’s Guangdong province had been caused by human-to-human transmission and medical staff had been infected, China’s official Xinhua news agency said on Monday.
Authorities earlier reported 139 new cases of the new strain of coronavirus over the weekend, bringing the total number of infected patients to 217 since the virus was first detected last month in the central city of Wuhan.
It was also confirmed on Tuesday that an 89-year-old man had died from the virus in Wuhan, bringing the number of fatalities to four.
Cases were confirmed in Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangdong province in the south, heightening fears ahead of the lunar new year holiday, when more than 400 million people are expected to travel domestically and internationally.
State broadcaster CCTV said on Monday evening there were seven suspected cases in other parts of the country, including Shandong in the east, and the south-western provinces of Sichuan, Guangxi and Yunnan. Five people who travelled from Wuhan were also being treated for fevers in Zhejiang province.
“People’s lives and health should be given top priority and the spread of the outbreak should be resolutely curbed,” said China’s president, Xi Jinping, weighing in on the matter for the first time.
The strain has caused alarm because of its connection to severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars), which killed nearly 650 people across mainland China and Hong Kong in 2002-03. The current outbreak has spread to Thailand, Japan and South Korea.
A man was in isolation in Brisbane, Australia after being suspected of having the virus after he returned from a visit to Wuhan.
China’s National Health Commission said it had sent working groups to all provinces to oversee outbreak prevention, describing the situation as “controllable”. Hospitals in Shanghai and Beijing and in Zhejiang province have “comprehensively” strengthened examination procedures. In Shenzhen, temperature checks have been put in place in airports, ports and railway stations.
More than 100 patients with symptoms were waiting to be seen at the Xiehe hospital in Wuhan at 6am on Monday. “If you are coming now, you have to wait between three and four hours before you can see the doctors,” a hospital worker said by phone.
At a hospital in Chaoyang district in Beijing, patients were being given masks and forms to fill out, detailing any recent travel to Wuhan. A nurse said preventive measures were also being taken to protect doctors
Coronaviruses are transmitted between animals and people, and the outbreak in Wuhan has been linked to a now-closed seafood market where live animals were reportedly sold.
The WHO said it would convene an emergency meeting in Geneva on Wednesday to discuss whether the new coronavirus constituted an international health emergency.
Xi Chen, an assistant professor at the Yale School of Public Health, said the likelihood of human-to-human transmission had appeared large given how many cases were confirmed. “It’s hard to see all these cases coming from animals at the same market,” Chen said.
For weeks, the only reported cases were in Wuhan and areas outside mainland China, prompting many people to question whether other cities were simply not reporting or testing for the virus. Some internet users joked the virus appeared to be “patriotic” by only spreading beyond China’s borders.
Chen said the high cost of testing for diagnosis may have contributed to underreporting.
Authorities have still not identified the source of the infection, which further complicates the government’s ability to contain the outbreak. The Huanan seafood market, where thousands of traders sold products, has been closed since 1 January. But some of the detected cases are patients with no history of visiting the market.
“What concerns me is the source of infection. We have no idea. That’s the most important thing. Without knowing that we don’t know the harm, how hard it can be,” Chen said.
Others fear that authorities have not moved quickly enough to contain the spread of the virus or educate the public. In Wuhan, temperature checkpoints have been installed at the airport and at train stations and bus terminals since 14 January, about five weeks after the virus was first detected.
Observers and residents worry about the possibility of a cover-up worsening the outbreak, as was the case with Sars in 2003.
Some residents in Wuhan have been told not to speak to media. The official Weibo account of Wuhan police said on 1 January that eight internet users who spread false information online “causing adverse social impacts” had been dealt with “according to the law”.
But Chinese health officials have made improvements since the Sars episode. In response to a bird flu outbreak in 2013, authorities quickly worked with the World Health Organization and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Fresh food markets were shut down but the outbreak was exacerbated by poultry sales into smaller, less-regulated markets.
The situation is complicated by the fact that farmers are unlikely to be compensated by the government or give up their sick animals.
“It’s not about a cover-up. Rather it’s about a lack of capacity and about a lack of enforced regulation,” said Nicholas Thomas, associate professor focusing on health security at City University of Hong Kong.
“At the moment, it is a bad flu. Yes, it is something to be concerned about and it is probably going to get worse in terms of infections and mortality, but again it’s winter,” he said. “It is likely to spread but we are still a long way off the levels of Sars or bird flu.”
The state-run Global Times said in an editorial on Sunday: “In the early days of Sars, there was a cover-up and delayed reporting. Such things can never be repeated again in China.”
Authorities have advised residents in the run-up to the lunar new year, which falls on 25 January, to be on the lookout for symptoms including fever, coughs, breathing difficulties and pneumonia.
Millions of people will crisscross the country during a weeklong public holiday starting on 24 January, in what is known as humanity’s largest migration. Some of those travelling will have set off already.
The WHO has not recommended any travel restrictions and Chinese authorities have not yet issued any. Still, not all residents were comforted by government assurances.
“With this huge amount of spring festival travel, why are there not any prevention measures?” one wrote on Weibo. On the Douban forum, another observed that few people at Wuhan train station were wearing masks.
Traders at the now-closed suspected seafood market in Wuhan said they were not overly worried, seeing the virus as little more than the common cold. “We start early, at 2am or 3am. We put our hands in the cold water. If we catch a cold, we don’t pay it much attention,” said Li, 52, who has operated a stall in Huanan for most of the past decade.
Li said that starting from late December, the property developer that owned the market asked renters to wear masks to work and avoid going to crowded places. “I’m not worried,” said Li. “My grandchildren all live in Wuhan and we don’t believe it. It’s just rumours.”
However, Li said some tenants who might have shown symptoms of the virus were unlikely to have reported themselves, fearing the impact on their business and being quarantined. “Most people wouldn’t say if they had it,” he said.
PwC chairman reveals disappointment over dos Santos
Newsflash: PwC’s chairman says he is “disappointed” by the revelations that his company is caught up in the Luanda Leaks scandal.
The Guardian, and other media outlets, reported last night how Isabel dos Santos, daughter of Angola’s former president, had accrued a bn fortune through a series of deals involving state companies and offshore tax havens.
PwC acted as her accountant consultant and tax advisor — so is now facing serious questions about its role.
Chairman Bob Moritz has just been tackled about the revelations, at the end of his press conference here in Davos.
Moritz says the issue was brought to PwC’s attention at a corporate, global level.
An investigation is being conducted, and in the meantime PwC has ceased working with certain individuals and corporations.
Moritz says PwC aims for high standards, and expects its people to meet those standards.
He says that he’s “disappointed” on a personal level, that the problems weren’t spotted earlier, and that PwC didn’t exit its relationship with Dos Santos earlier.
We’ll find out what went wrong, and we will take appropriate action to re-establish trust in the organisation, he pledges, adding ruefully:
It’s not exactly our finest hour, but hopefully we can move with speed [to resolve it].
Updated at 6.55pm GMT
There are some interesting regional differences within CEOs, PwC says.
In Europe, bosses are more awake to climate – both as a threat and an opportunity.
While in the US, CEOs are simply more confident in their ability to grow revenues this year.
Q: Does rising pessimism mean we risk a recession next year?
PwC predicts a slowing global economy, but not a recession in 2020.
Q: This survey took place in the autumn, before the US-China trade deal, so are CEOs probably more optimistic today?
Moritz agrees that some pessimism has eased, but there’s still plenty of uncertainty – especially with a presidential election in November.
Q: Stock markets are at record highs, so what are they seeing that your CEOs aren’t?
Moritz points out that the markets are “flush with cash”, meaning investors are scrambling to find an asset with a yield – driving prices up.
Q: So is there going to be a correction?
You may see some companies struggle to justify the valuations out there, Moritz says…. but he’s not going to predict who, or when…..
Q: Is there any hope of tackling the climate emergency, if it’s not even in the top 10 risks which CEOs are worried about?
PwC’s Bob Moritz suggests that CEOs do have lots of other immediate risks to worry, which have pushed climate down their agenda.
The key is for business leaders to see climate as an “upside opportunity”, not a downside risk, he says.
He’s talking about “purpose and profit being aligned together” — a modern spin on the old adage of ‘going well by doing good’, perhaps?
PwC: CEOs not too worried about climate
The number of CEOs confident about revenue growth prospects has fallen in every major economy, PwC’s Bob Moritz adds, apart from China.
In China, bosses are more upbeat…. due to hopes of increased domestic demand.
Moritz tells his audience at Davos that there are several key issues keeping CEOs awake at night. They include:
Trade conflict – fears have risen significantly, since Donald Trump began imposing tariffs on China and Europe
Regulation, which is “seen as a huge challenge” — particularly with regards to tech giants
But climate is NOT in this list.
It’s an increasing risk, but not in the top 10 threats cited by the 1,500+ CEOs interviewed for PwC survey, says Moritz.
The reality is that climate at the CEO level is not a top 10 risk.
That’s pretty alarming, and disappointing, given the urgent need to tackle the climate emergency (as the IMF flagged up today).
Why are business leaders gloomier?
Bob Moritz, chair of PwC, says the magnitude, and the range, of risks facing business chiefs is pushing confidence down.
It’s not all gloom — he reckons the Phase One US-China trade deal has lifted sentiment, as has Boris Johnson’s decisive election win last month.
But the survey is certainly gloomy.
For example, the number of CEOs are very confident in their firm’s ability to grow its revenue has fallen steadily.
Global CEOs gloomier about the future.
Newsflash: pessimism among the world’s top CEOs has jumped sharply over the last year.
That’s according to PwC, the accountancy and consultancy firm.
Its annual survey of over 1,500 global business leaders, just released, shows that optimism about global growth has hit the lowest level in the survey’s 23-year history.
For the first time, a majority think global growth will slow — which means they are less optimistic about their own company’s prospects. The gloom is spread widely across the world’s companies, PcW flags up.
The survey is being presented now….
Updated at 6.15pm GMT
As usual, the World Economic Forum is beginning with its Crystal Awards ceremony. I’ll post proper details later, but for now….
Hello from Davos. This quiet ski resort is filling up with scores of limousines, plenty of police and a horde of the so-called Global Elite.
Business leaders, academics, campaigners and the media are back for the 50th World Economic Forum.
And corporate signs are EVERYWHERE – Facebook has apre-fabricated HQ in the middle of town. SAP, Amazon Web Services and Accenture all have prime spots too, along with Zurich who are giving out their traditional blue hats to the masses.
All quite remarkable. Still, we’ll have the opening ceremony later, plus a big survey of CEOs by PwC.
On the financial markets, it has been a fairly quiet start to the week, with US markets closed for Martin Luther King Day.
This comes following a rather eventful start to the year, since which markets have largely stabilised. The signing of the phase one trade deal [between the US and China] will allow investors to turn their attention elsewhere and this week that place will be the mountains, more specifically, Davos.
The World Economic Forum gets underway [officially] tomorrow which means lots of panel discussions, meetings and interviews for traders to get their teeth stuck into. Given the current environment, it may not be the most market impactful event that we’ll see but when it comes to a gathering of some of the most influential people in the world, you can never be too sure.
Stock markets are trading slightly lower.
UK’s FTSE 100 down 24.8 points, or 0.32%, at 7649.61
Germany’s Dax up 0.11% at 13,540.47
France’s CAC down 0.34% at 6079.85
Italy’s FTSE MiB down 0.54% at 24,011.79
Oil prices have gone up after major production shutdowns in Libya. Brent crude has added 54 cents to .39 a barrel, up 0.83%, while US crude is 36 cents ahead at .9 a barrel, up 0.61%.
Sterling is down slightly against the euro and the dollar, trading at €1.1722 and .2993 respectively.
Hundreds of climate protesters march to Davos
Hundreds of protesters are marching to the ski resort of Davos to call on global leaders to step up action on the climate crisis. They started their three-day march yesterday and some wore koala bear costumes to call attention to the Australian bush fires.
They are set to arrive at Davos on hiking trails or by train after their 30km hike, because authorities have banned foot traffic on a road leading to Davos from the neighbouring village of Klosters, Reuters reported. In contrast, many of the business and political leaders are flying in by private jet – or arriving in limousines.
Protesters will face up to 5,000 military personnel and police as they get to Davos, where US president Donald Trump is the headline speaker, as in 2018 (he pulled out last year). He is expected to attend Davos tomorrow and on Wednesday – while back in the US the Senate holds impeachment hearings to decide whether he should be removed from office.
Greta Thunberg, the 17-year-old climate change activist, will also address the World Economic Forum. She was told by Trump via Twitter in December to “work on her anger management problem” and “chill,” whereupon she changed the bio of her Twitter account to: “A teenager working on her anger management problem. Currently chilling and watching a good old fashioned movie with a friend.”
Updated at 2.24pm GMT
The press conference has finished.
Copinath is now talking about rising political tensions in the Middle East.
The reaction has been fairly muted.
She notes that the price of oil has gone up by to .
Moving on to another topic… social unrest. The IMF’s chief economist says:
Social unrest picked up quite sharply in 2019 in many parts of the world, for different reasons.
She stresses that governments’ social spending must be well targeted to protect the poor.
She is now taking questions about climate change, which the IMF has identified as a major risk to the world economy.
It is a major issue and countries should display all the political will that is needed to get the job done.
Copinath says the IMF had been hoping for a more comprehensive trade deal between the US and China. The two biggest economies have been locked in a trade dispute since June 2018.
She says the phase one trade deal between the US and China, signed last week, is estimated to reduce the cumulative negative impact on global growth to 0.5% from the previously estimated 0.8%, between 2018 and 2020.
Here is our full story on the IMF’s latest outlook.
Updated at 1.52pm GMT
Over to the IMF’s chief economist Gita Copinath, who says:
We are projecting a modest recovery in growth.
The IMF’s head has told policymakers to “be ready to act if growth slows again”.
She has summarised the outlook thus: “Tentative stabilisation, sluggish recovery.”
In Davos, the IMF’s managing director Kristalina Georgiev is discussing the IMF’s World Economic Outlook.
She says the world economy remains “sluggish” and that everyone is adjusting to live with the “new normal” of greater uncertainty.
Updated at 1.08pm GMT
IMF cuts global growth forecasts
The IMF has cut its growth forecasts for the global economy, but also hopes that the downturn is bottoming out, reports Graeme Wearden from Davos.
The IMF’s latest World Economic Outlook predicts the world economy will grow by 3.3% in 2020, compared with a forecast of 3.4% three months ago. Growth in 2021 has been revised down, to 3.4% from 3.6%.
The Fund also estimates that global GDP only rose by 2.9% last year, which would be the weakest annual performance since the financial crisis. Back in 2017, it grew by 3.8%.
The IMF is blaming “increased social unrest” for the downgrades, along with weaker-than-expected growth in emerging markets such as India. It also cites rising geopolitical tensions between the United States and Iran, and the threat of a deeper trade dispute between the US and other trading partners, such as Europe.
“A materialization of these risks could lead to rapidly deteriorating sentiment, causing global growth to fall below the projected baseline,” the IMF says in a report headlined “tentative stabilisation, slugging recovery?”.
But it also sees signs that the slowdown in global trade, and the decline in manufacturing, are bottoming out. The US-China ‘Phase One’ trade deal and declining fears of a no-deal Brexit have boosted market sentiment, it adds.
The Fund is presenting its findings in Davos, at the start of this week’s World Economic Forum.
Updated at 2.20pm GMT
IMF: World economy increasingly vulnerable to climate crisis
Newsflash from Davos: The International Monetary Fund has warned that the world economy is increasingly vulnerable to the impact of the climate emergency, writes my colleague Graeme Wearden from Switzerland.
Today’s World Economic Outlook cites hurricanes in the Caribbean, droughts and bushfires in Australia, floods in eastern Africa, and drought in Southern Africa as examples of weather disruption in 2019.
It warns that the problem could worsen without coordinated action, saying:
Climate change, the driver of the increased frequency and intensity of weather-related disasters, already endangers health and economic outcomes, and not only in the directly affected regions.
It could pose challenges to other areas that may not yet feel the direct effects, including by contributing to cross-border migration or financial stress (for instance, in the insurance sector). A continuation of the trends could inflict even bigger losses across more countries.
UK pension schemes warn on cost of fossil fuel divestment
Several of Britain’s top pension funds have warned that they would have lost hundreds of millions of pounds if they had sold out of oil and gas stocks in recent years, according to Reuters, which contacted 47 of Britain’s largest pension schemes, 33 of which said they were not divesting from fossil fuels.
For example, pension funds for Greater Manchester and West Yorkshire, which together manage £39.6bn in assets, estimate in their annual reports they would have lost more than £600m combined had they pulled out of fossil fuels.
Midday market summary
Time for a quick look at the markets. The main European stock markets are trading slightly lower today, while oil prices have jumped due to major production shutdowns in Libya. Brent crude is 48 cents higher at .33 a barrel, up 0.74% while US crude is 0.6% ahead at .9 a barrel.
FTSE 100 index down 23.7 points, or 0.31%, at 76550
Germany’s Dax up 0.06% at 13,533
France’s CAC down 0.24% at 6085
Italy’s FTSE MiB down 0.26% at 24,078
Sterling has recovered somewhat but is still slightly lower against both the euro and the dollar, after comments from chancellor Sajid Javid over the weekend stoked hard Brexit fears.
US markets are closed today for Martin Luther King Day.
Updated at 1.35pm GMT
The World Economic Forum’s 2020 Global Risks Report ranks biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse as one of the top five threats faced by humanity in the next ten years.
Its research shows that trillion of economic value generation – over half the world’s total GDP – is moderately or highly dependent on nature and its services. Nature loss matters for most businesses – through impacts on operations, supply chains, and markets.
The question is to what extent the Davos participants – political and business leaders – will act on the various reports and their findings.
But the overriding theme at Davos looks to be the climate crisis. Is the World Economic Forum becoming the World Climate Forum?
We demand that at this year’s forum, participants from all companies, banks, institutions and governments immediately halt all investments in fossil fuel exploration and extraction, immediately end all fossil fuel subsidies and immediately and completely divest from fossil fuels.
We don’t want these things done by 2050, 2030 or even 2021, we want this done now – as in right now.
Updated at 11.43am GMT
While we wait for the global economic forecasts from the International Monetary Fund, out at 1pm GMT, the Bundesbank has released growth estimates for Germany.
The German economy grew last year at the slowest pace since 2013, the country’s central bank estimates. Hit by weaker exports, Germany is expected to have expanded by just 0.6% in 2019, the lowest since the eurozone’s debt crisis. Exports have been hit by China’s economic slowdown and trade wars.
Following a boom in recent years, activity in Germany’s manufacturing sector “declined strongly and in a broad range of sectors,” the Bundesbank said.
The Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, will not attend Davos because its organisers “abruptly changed its agenda,” according to a foreign ministry spokesman.
Tensions are high between the US and Iran. Earlier this month, Iran launched missile strikes aimed at US troops in Iraq in what it said was retaliation for the killing of the top Iranian general Qassem Suleimani. Tehran also admitted shooting down a passenger jet, after denying it for several days. The belated admission sparked protests across the country.
Over in Davos, climate protesters marched to the ski resort yesterday to highlight the escalating climate crisis.
It will be interesting to see how much of this is filtering through to the official event. At 1pm GMT, the World Economic Forum’s founder and executive chairman Klaus Schwab and other WEF officials will hold a press conference to outline this year’s programme and participants. Many will be flying in on their private jets, thereby contributing to the climate crisis.
Also at that time, at a separate press conference the International Monetary Fund will present its World Economic Outlook. IMF managing director Kristalina Georgieva will kick off the presentation, while IMF chief economist Gita Copinath will summarise the updated forecast.
There will not be alignment, we will not be a rule taker, we will not be in the single market and we will not be in the customs union – and we will do this by the end of the year.
Sterling lost 0.24% against the dollar to .2978, and was down 0.21% against the euro at €1.1703.
Back in the UK, pressure on households appears to have eased somewhat, with the household finance index from IHS Markit hitting a one-year high in January. It measures households’ perceptions of financial wellbeing and rose to 44.6 from 43.2 in December, suggesting a post-election bounce.
However, the index measuring future financial wellbeing dipped back into negative territory follow a slight improvement in December. Almost one in four households think that the Bank of England’s next move will be a rate cut.
The index is based on survey data collected by Ipsos Mori and is the first consumer survey published each month.
Joe Hayes, economist at IHS Markit, said:
Latest survey data certainly show some post-election bounce for UK households, with the headline index up to a one-year high and house price expectations at their strongest since October 2018. That said, cooling inflation was most likely the real driving force, propping up real earnings and disposable incomes.
“While falling living cost pressures are stimulating purchasing power, UK households are aware that weak economic conditions have led to an increased likelihood of lower interest rates. How this will impact consumer spending behaviour will be crucial to the UK’s growth prospects.”
Updated at 10.08am GMT
Capitalism doing ‘more harm than good’ – survey
Capitalism, in its current form, is seen as doing more harm than good, a survey of more than 34,000 people in 28 countries found ahead of the Davos meeting. The “Edelman Trust Barometer” was launched in 2000 and is conducted by the US communications firm Edelman.
Lack of trust in capitalism was most pronounced in Thailand and India, at 75% and 74% respectively, with France close behind on 69%. Other countries where the majority of people agreed with the statement that capitalism is doing more harm than good include Australia, Canada, the United States, South Korea, Hong and Japan.
Updated at 9.46am GMT
And here is a list of the political leaders and leaders from international organisations, trade unions, charities and NGOs, who are attending Davos. There will be “10 leaders under the age of 20” including the Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, who might square up to US president Donald Trump who is also flying in.
Running alongside the daytime discussions, schmoozing and night-time partying, there is an arts and culture festival for the first time with a number of sessions and “immersive art installations”. Cultural leaders attending Davos include the cellist Yo-Yo Ma and Cambridge university professor Mary Beard.
Updated at 10.20am GMT
Trying to combat its reputation as an elitist gathering, the World Economic Forum has published a number of blogs ahead of the official opening at 4.30pm GMT today. This year’s theme is how do we “create a more cohesive and sustainable world”.
Blogs include a discussion of whether, as businesses are thriving while societies aren’t, this is the end of an era for shareholder capitalism; “financing fossil fuels risks a repeat of the 2008 crash;” and “The route to true gender equality? Fix the system, not women”.
Trading volumes are thin as US markets will be closed for Martin Luther King Day.
In London, the shopping centre firm Intu, which owns the Trafford centre in Manchester and Lakeside in Essex, suffered a 7% fall in its share price after confirming that it was in talks with investors about a fund raising by the end of February to shore up its battered finances. It is thought to be looking to raise as much as £1bn, although the company’s market value is only £288m. Intu has been hit as a number of well-known retailers have gone under or negotiated rent reductions in a bid to stay alive.
Tonic maker Fever-Tree, the former stock market darling, has seen its shares slump 21% today, the lowest level since April 2017. It admitted that trading had been tough in the UK over Christmas and blamed general belt-tightening among consumers, although it remains the market leader with its premium drinks mixers. The company now expects 2019 profits to be 5% below 2018, when it enjoyed a 34% jump in pre-tax profits to £75.6m.
Annual revenues are now set to come in at £260.5m, lower than expected. This equates to a 10% year-on-year growth rate, well below the 40% surge in sales seen in 2018. Fever-Tree already cut its sales outlook in November. Tim Warrillow, the chief executive and co-founder, said then that the company would hold off heavy promotional discounting over the Christmas period.
Nicholas Hyett, equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, says:
Falling sales in the UK will inevitably spark fears the gin boom has turned to bust, while guidance for weaker sales in the US and lower margins undermine Fevertree’s long term pitch that it can replicate its success across the pond.
Updated at 9.33am GMT
European stock markets open lower, oil rises
The European stock markets have opened.
UK’s FTSE 100 flat
Germany’s Dax down 0.2%
France’s CAC down 0.1%
Spain’s Ibex down 0.1%
In Asia, shares held on to their gains despite a jump in the oil price. Japan’s Nikkei rose 0.2% to near a 15-month high, China’s CSI 300 gained 0.75% and Australia’s main index added 0.2% to an all-time peak.
Crude oil prices have hit their highest level in more than a week due to production shutdowns in Libya. Brent crude rose as high as a barrel and was later up 68 cents to .53, a 1% gain.
Updated at 8.21am GMT
And the world’s 22 richest men are wealthier than all the women in Africa combined, says Oxfam.
Updated at 8.22am GMT
The world’s 2,153 billionaires have more wealth than the 4.6 billion people who make up 60% of the planet’s population, according to the latest inequality report from the charity Oxfam.
The climate crisis will loom large over Davos, and Mark Carney, who becomes the new UN special envoy for climate change and finance once his term as governor of the Bank of England ends in mid-March, will be attending. He will also be the UK’s key adviser for the next UN climate change conference in Glasgow in November (COP26). The other thing on people’s minds are trade disputes.
Philip Shaw, chief economist at Investec, says:
Those surveyed in the WEF’s Global Risks Report 2020 identified economic disputes, including trade tensions, as the number one risk to the global economy this year. Alongside this, “domestic political polarisation” and “extreme heat waves” were flagged as top threats.
We also expect world leaders to debate the 2020 events which have already unfolded and the repercussions of these, not least the US-Iranian conflict. Note that the WEF will get underway hot on the heels of the release of IMF’s World Economic Outlook update, providing the macroeconomic context for the discussions.
Updated at 8.24am GMT
Larry Eliott, the Guardian’s economics editor, has looked back at the last few decades since the annual talkfest in the snow started. The World Economic Forum is “committed to improving the state of the world” but in key respects things look worse today than they did in the early 70s.
Updated at 7.46am GMT
Introduction: Davos kicks off
Good morning, and welcome to our rolling coverage of the world economy, the financial markets, the eurozone and business.
It’s Davos week. Nearly 3,000 people from 117 countries will descend upon the Swiss ski resort this week, including 53 heads of state or government, for the 50th annual gathering of the World Economic Forum (WEF). Even more than last year, it is overshadowed by the escalating climate crisis, and the slowing global economy amid trade tensions.
US president Donald Trump (who faces impeachment at home) is coming again this year, as is the Swedish teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg. The German chancellor Angela Merkel, European commission president Ursula von der Leyen, and Chinese vice-premier Han Zheng will all be speaking over the next few days.
My colleagues Larry Elliott and Graeme Wearden are on their way to Davos too. Graeme has looked ahead to what the next four days might bring:
Ahead of the event, which is attended by some of the world’s richest people and always attracts scores of protesters, a WEF report said said greater social mobility would help shrink the gap between rich and poor and lift global growth by almost 5% in the next decade. But it found that only a handful of 82 countries surveyed had put in place policies that would foster social mobility.
At lunchtime, we’ll get the latest economic forecasts from the International Monetary Fund.
As the Senate opened an impeachment trial in which Donald Trump will stand charged with abusing the power of his office, the president was hit with new allegations of wrongdoing by afederal watchdog agency.
The Government Accountability Office released a finding on Thursday morning that the suspension last year of military aid for Ukraine at Trump’s direction violated laws governing the disbursement of congressionally appropriated funds.
Trump caused the law to be broken, the agency found. The White House did not immediately respond to the allegation of criminality.
The opening of the Senate trial on Thursday brought the impeachment inquiry closer to its climax, nearly four months after Nancy Pelosi announced the investigation into Trump’s alleged scheme to pressure Ukraine to investigate his political rival Joe Biden.
Trump, only the third president in US history to have been impeached, now faces a trial due to begin next week. The proceedings could result in the president’s removal from office – but that is seen as unlikely.
A group of seven impeachment managers from the House, led by the intelligence chair, Adam Schiff, arrived just after noon to the Senate chamber, where they were announced by the sergeant at arms, Paul Irving, reading from a historic script.
“Hear ye, hear ye,” Irving said. ‘‘All persons are commanded to keep silence, on pain of imprisonment, while the House of Representatives is exhibiting to the Senate of the United States articles of impeachment against Donald John Trump.”
Schiff then read the articles of impeachment – the first charging abuse of power, the second charging obstruction of Congress – to the senators, each of whom was seated at her or his individual desk.
Later, the US supreme court’s chief justice, John Roberts, was sworn in for his presiding role at the trial. He then swore in the 100 senators – 53 Republicans, 45 Democrats and two independents – as jurors. Each senator signed an “oath book” signifying a pledge of impartiality.
The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, moved for a summons to be sent to Trump, who was given until 6pm on Saturday to file an answer with the secretary of the Senate. House managers were given until 5pm on Saturday to file briefs in the case, with White House briefs required the next day and any House rebuttal due by noon on Tuesday.
The Senate planned to reconvene for the trial at 1pm Tuesday, following the Martin Luther King Jr holiday.
A two-thirds majority of voting senators would be required to convict Trump and remove him from office, but he appears to be extremely well insulated against that possibility by Republican loyalists.
Despite his declaration last month that he could not be an “impartial juror” in the case, McConnell vowed on Wednesday night that each senator would weigh the case against Trump with care.
“We’ll pledge to rise above the petty factionalism and do justice for our institutions, for our states and for the nation,” McConnell said.
But McConnell was back in his partisan foxhole on Thursday morning, vowing that the Senate would check the “runaway passions” of the House and indicating that he would continue to press for a trial limited in scope.
“Now they want the Senate to redo their homework and rerun the investigation,” McConnell said. “It’s not what this process will be going forward.
“The House’s hour is over. The Senate’s time is at hand.”
The White House released a statement on Wednesday that said “President Trump has done nothing wrong” and “expects to be fully exonerated”.
Extraordinary restrictions were in effect on Capitol grounds, including the penning of reporters in the halls of the Senate. Their attempts to interview members of Congress were interrupted by an unusual number of police officers on the scene.
The Government Accountability Office finding that Trump’s Office of Management and Budget had broken the law by withholding aid to Ukraine did not pose an immediate legal hazard for Trump personally, and the president has not been charged with a crime.
But the finding by the GAO, which is part of the legislative branch, could impose further stress on Trump’s Senate Republican defenders, who even before the trial began were lashing out at reporters asking about the continuing stream of evidence damaging to Trump.
The team of impeachment managers is led by Schiff and the judiciary committee chair, Jerry Nadler. Trump has reportedly tapped the White House counsel, Pat Cipollone, to lead his team.
The managers delivered the articles of impeachment to the Senate in a ceremonial procession on Wednesday evening. “We are here today to cross a very important threshold in American history,” Pelosi, the House speaker, said before a vote to transmit the articles.
The second-ranking member of the Senate, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, swore in Roberts on Thursday. The chief justice then administered this oath to the senators:
I solemnly swear that in all things appertaining to the trial of the impeachment of Donald Trump, now pending, I will do impartial justice according to the constitution and laws: so help me God.
Addressing her colleagues on the House floor on Wednesday, Pelosi sharply rejected criticism by Republicans that she had delayed transmission of the articles.
“Don’t talk to me about my timing,” she said. After months of resisting calls “from across the country” for Trump’s impeachment, she said, Trump ultimately “gave us no choice. He gave us no choice.”
Trump was impeached in December for an alleged scheme in which he pressured Ukraine to announce false investigations of the former vice-president Biden and then fought an inquiry into the scheme.
No US president has ever been removed through impeachment, though Richard Nixon resigned in the face of that prospect.
While Trump’s removal is unlikely, the trial holds political hazards for him. He succeeded in enforcing message discipline among Republicans as impeachment moved through the House last fall, but there were indicators that the conduct of some Republicans in the Senate would be more difficult to manage.
A group of moderate Republicans has expressed openness in recent weeks to hearing from witnesses and a desire to weigh the charges against Trump on the merits. Those positions could quickly wither under personal pressure from Trump, who has directed rage at any suggestion that his conduct was less than perfect.
House Republicans responded vigorously to Trump’s demands that they defend him, offering worshipful assessments of Trump’s conduct, which they said was motivated by Trump’s desire to fight corruption in Ukraine.
But that posture may become more difficult as new evidence continues to emerge of Trump’s alleged wrongdoing.
On Tuesday night, House Democrats released newly gathered evidence including a handwritten note by a Trump associate describing a plot involving the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, and Biden.
Trump “knew exactly what was going on” in a scheme to pressure Ukrainian officials to investigate Biden, that associate, Lev Parnas, told MSNBC on Wednesday night.
Correction: This story mistakenly referred to the Government Accountability Office as a Trump administration agency. It is a legislative branch agency.
On Tuesday the Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, announced the inspector-general of emergency management, Tony Pearce, will receive .55m for extra staff to review recent bushfires in the state, including in the Gippsland region and the dramatic evacuation of Mallacoota.
The inquiry will report by mid 2020 on preparedness and firefighting efforts – ahead of the next fire season – with a second report on relief and recovery due in 2021.
On Sunday Scott Morrison said that a national inquiry – most likely a royal commission – would be “necessary” to examine the bushfires and he intended to take a proposal to cabinet for endorsement in coming weeks after agreement with the states.
The Western Australian government has dissented from the call for a royal commission.
On Monday the WA emergency services minister Francis Logan said: “I would prefer – given the royal commissions that are under way at the moment and it takes a huge amount of time in doing royal commissions … I’d prefer personally to see a thorough investigation, not necessarily a royal commission into it.”
The New South Wales premier, Gladys Berejiklian, has already announced that state will hold a separate inquiry.
Andrews told reporters in Melbourne that Morrison was “still working through the type of inquiry he prefers” and a proposal was yet to go to cabinet.
“It is unclear to me – and that’s not a criticism it just isn’t settled yet – whether this would be an inquiry into how the national effort can be as best coordinated as possible or whether it is an inquiry into the event more broadly,” he said.
Andrews said he had told Morrison about Victoria’s plans and Morrison had given a commitment to consult on the terms and scope of a national inquiry.
Andrews praised Pearce, who he said had the “experience, the understanding and the status in our emergency services system” to conduct the Victorian state inquiry.
Later on Tuesday Morrison told reporters in Canberra that a national inquiry had never been intended to replace state inquiries and any suggestion they were in conflict was “false”.
Morrison clarified that a national inquiry would examine the preparation and response to bushfires, the scope of federal power including when it can initiate defence force action rather than simply respond to state requests, and “resilience and adaptation” to climate change.
Bernard Teague, a retired Victorian supreme court judge who conducted the Black Saturday royal commission, said a national royal commission would be ideal if the federal and state governments could agree about the terms of reference and who would conduct it.
“If that’s not possible … then it may be scaled down to have appropriate inquiries in the relevant jurisdictions,” he told Radio National.
Teague said the hurdles to setting up a royal commission in the right way were “substantial” and it was therefore “not particularly likely”.
Teague said it is clear climate change has a major impact on bushfires but an inquiry could consider “taking more appropriate action into the future” to combat it.
The Victorian emergency services minister, Lisa Neville, announced further measures to assist in the cleanup in the state, where 353 residential properties have been damaged by the fires, including the suspension of the landfill levy.
It stopped being dark at about eight o’clock this morning, but it never got exactly light. A robin flashing its breast and singing its song among the brittle lakeside bines is a lively movement in a requiem mass. Everyone else is in funeral-wear: coot and moorhen, jackdaw and crow, a flock of tweed-grey gadwalls, a cormorant poised with thunderous drama at the top of an electricity pylon. Two other cormorants cruise the waters like snakish grebes, chins uplifted.
A black swan, with its red bill and striking white primaries, has the look of a horse decked out to lead a cortege. It’s not welcome near the mute swans’ island, this feral Anglo-Australian, blown in for the holidays from who knows where; the resident pair see it off pretty sharply. It cuts a bit of a sad figure, a little later, browsing and pawing the grass of the meadow with the Canada geese, neck flexed improbably like a U-bend or a croquet hoop.
The hostility of mute swans is one reason why the black swan – a bird of Western Australia, first brought to the UK in 1791 – has never really found a foothold here; our bad winters can’t have helped (perhaps they should simply wait a few decades for the lower Calder to start to resemble the Swan River Valley). Another reason, suggested by RSR Fitter in 1959, is that people have thought them unlucky, and not let them settle.
Dark smudges in trees, seen in the middle distance, might be blackbirds or wood pigeons or discarded baggies of dogshit, or last spring’s birds’ nests. They put me in mind of Edward Thomas’s description of nests seen in autumn, “some torn, others dislodged, all dark”, obvious in the trees and hedges: “I cannot help a little shame/ That I missed most, even at eye’s level, till/ The leaves blew off and made the seeing no game.”
Something I don’t see sends the Canada geese up in a panic. They flee, honking over our heads, perhaps two dozen or so. My daughter looks up, blinks, laughs and shouts “Rah, rah, rah” at them (or with them) and after them.
Beijing has said that anyone seeking to keep Taiwan separate from China would “leave a stink for 10,000 years” in its strongest remarks since the re-election of Tsai Ing-Wen, who opposes unification with China.
On Monday while on a tour in Africa, the foreign minister, Wang Yi, said: “The unification of the two sides of the strait is a historical inevitability,” Xinhua news agency reported.
He described those going against this trend as bound to “stink for 10,000 years” – an idiom to say one will go down in infamy.
Tsai’s landslide electoral victory on Saturday has been embarrassing for China, where state media spent most of the past year isolating Taiwan on the diplomatic stage, deriding Tsai and highlighting the popularity of her opponent, Han Kuo-yu, of the pro-China Kuomintang party.
Her win, after a campaign that leaned heavily on Hong Kong as a cautionary tale for Taiwan, is widely seen as a repudiation of Beijing’s attempts to draw Taiwan into its fold through military intimidation, economic incentives, cultural exchanges and other means. Beijing views Taiwan, a functionally independent country, as part of its territory.
Beijing has sought to downplay the election results which also saw the ruling Democratic Progressive party maintain its majority in the legislature, giving Tsai’s administration a stronger mandate over the next four years.
In an editorial on Sunday, Xinhua said Tsai’s party had used “dirty tactics”, including fake news, repression and intimidation. Mainland commentators said Tsai had “won by fear” while the Global Times blamed infighting within Han’s Kuomintang party.
“Yet no matter how much uncertainty there is across the straits, the fact that the Chinese mainland is getting increasingly stronger and the Taiwan island is getting weaker is an inevitable reality,” an editorial late on Saturday said.
Following the election, Chinese social media was flooded with comments from internet users calling for unification by force. But experts say Beijing prizes stability and would likely remain cool-headed in its approach to Taiwan.
“The ultimate goal for China government is to keep its power. Stability in the mainland is always much more important than the unification,” said Austin Wang, assistant professor of Political Science at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas who focuses on East Asia.
“If China’s economy is good, it may harden its hardline policy and may raise more conflict against Taiwan,” he said. “But if China’s economy goes down, it may need Taiwan’s help… In such a scenario, China may be willing to engage with Taiwan.”
This week, Chinese authorities have tried to highlight the potential of economic links.On Tuesday the international version of the People’s Daily, the mouthpiece of the party, criticised the DPP for focusing on politics rather than Taiwan’s struggling economy, a common argument made by Beijing and pro-China groups in Taiwan that closer ties would help stagnant wage and job growth.
“The people of Taiwan must tighten their belts and continue to live a hard life,” the paper said. State media have also accused “external dark forces”, such as the US, an ally of Taiwan’s, of having a hand in the election.
Experts say China is likely to double down on its strategy of punishing Taiwan. During Tsai’s first term, Beijing cut off a dialogue mechanism, independent travel to Taiwan, and persuaded several of Taiwan’s few remaining allies to switch diplomatic recognition.
In her victory speech on Saturday, Tsai she was committed to maintaining peaceful cross-strait relations but said it was a responsibility to be borne by “both sides”.
“China must abandon threats of force against Taiwan,” she said. “ … Democratic Taiwan and our democratically elected government will not concede to threats and intimidation.”