This article titled “Trump to outline impeachment defense as Biden seeks to undo border family separations – live” was written by Martin Belam, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 2nd February 2021 11.48 UTC
Stephen Collinson at CNN writes this morning that the pandemic is still dwarfing the size of Washington’s efforts to fight it:
A race against time to vaccinate sufficient Americans before mutant versions of the virus cause a new wave of sickness and death is turning into a critical stress test for a mass immunization effort off to a difficult start.
And there is a disconnect in Washington over the scale of the crisis, with Democrats demanding a “go big” economic rescue plan and the few Republicans who back action envisaging a much more modest approach.
It remains unclear whether vaccine and testing efforts, attempts to alleviate harrowing economic suffering and the level of buy-in from the American people themselves are sufficient for the challenges that lie ahead.
“We have got to prepare ourselves for a long battle,” William Haseltine, a groundbreaking medical researcher and author, told CNN’s Erin Burnett on Monday, warning of the potential of variant viral strains to prolong the pandemic. “We can do it. We have to muster the popular will to do it. It can’t be done only by leadership, it has to be done by each and every citizen,” he said.
Collinson also identifies a risk to the Biden administration’s future plans:
Biden’s White House has injected perceptible urgency to the fight, overhauling the faltering vaccine rollout of a previous President who most often ignored the worst domestic crisis in decades. Americans are now deluged with briefings and data from scientists, free to speak without fear of political repercussions. The most important priority will be scaling up the vaccine effort – an operation that depends on the swift approval of a large Covid-19 rescue from Congress.
But the President is leading a country beaten down by months of social distancing, family isolation and economic pain. As new coronavirus infections decline and eventually hospitalizations and death rates fall, state governors are likely to face intense political pressure to restore a semblance of normal life.
Nearly 8% of US population have now received at least one dose of Covid vaccine
Yesterday there were 134,339 new coronavirus cases in the US, and the death toll increased by 2,031. According to the Johns Hopkins University figures the total caseload is now 26,298,768 and the death toll has reached 443,022.
Hospitalizations dropped again – to 93,536. That’s the lowest figure since 30 November. It’s the twentieth day in a row that the figure collected by the Covid Tracking Project has fallen.
On the vaccinations front, at least 26.2 million people have now received a first dose of a Covid vaccine – that’s approaching 8% of the US population. 6.1 million people have been fully vaccinated. 49.9 million doses have been distributed. Alaska, West Virginia, New Mexico and Connecticut are the first US states to vaccinate 10% or more of their populations.
Republican Kevin Faulconer says he will run for California governor
Former San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer has entered the race for California governor, the first major Republican to formally step into the contest.
Faulconer’s announcement came as supporters of a possible recall that could oust current Gov. Gavin Newsom from office continue gathering the nearly 1.5 million petition signatures needed to qualify the proposal for the ballot.
They have until mid-March to hit the required threshold, and organizers say they have over 1.3 million so far.
In an online video, the 54-year-old Republican depicted California as a failed state freighted with scandal and witnessing an eroding quality of life. He said he is running “to make a difference, not to make promises.”
“He’s failed us,” Faulconer said of Newsom. “I know we can clean up California.”
Newsom’s campaign said the governor would remain focused on distributing Covid-19 vaccine and providing relief for families and small businesses while Republicans jockey for political advantage.
“Trying to exploit a global pandemic to advance a political career exposes his craven ambition,” Newsom’s chief strategist, Dan Newman, said about Faulconer in a statement.
Last spring, Newsom received wide praise for his aggressive approach to the coronavirus outbreak, when he issued the nation’s first statewide stay-at-home order. But there has been growing public unrest over subsequent health orders that closed schools and businesses, and investigations continue into a massive unemployment benefits fraud scandal.
The deadline today for Donald Trump to respond to the House of Representatives’ charging him with inciting insurrection comes just days after he parted ways with his initial legal team. Trump is still contending, contrary to the evidence – and the outcome of nearly 60 court cases – that his election loss to president Joe Biden was the result of widespread fraud.
The 6 January rampage at the Capitol by Trump followers was intended to stop the Senate from certifying Biden’s win, reports Richard Cowan for Reuters.
Republican Senator John Cornyn – one of the 100 members of the Senate who will serve as jurors in Trump’s second impeachment trial – said that the election result argument would be “really not material” to the charge that Trump’s remarks urging supporters to “fight” on 6 January, directly leading to the attack on the Capitol.
“I think it would be a disservice to the president’s own defense to get bogged down in things that really aren’t before the Senate,” Cornyn, a former Texas supreme court judge, told reporters on Monday.
One of Trump’s recently hired lawyers, David Schoen, called the process “completely unconstitutional” in an interview with Fox News on Monday, but did not outline the former president’s legal strategy.
“I think it’s also the most ill-advised legislative action that I’ve seen in my lifetime,” Schoen said. “It is tearing the country apart at a time when we don’t need anything like that.”
The attack on the Capitol ultimately left five dead, including police officer Brian Sicknick.
In addition to Trump’s deadline, the nine House Democrats serving as impeachment managers – essentially the prosecutors of the case – need to file their initial briefs, ahead of the trial getting started next week.
Overnight Axios have labelled as a scoop their account of why former president Donald Trump fell out with the first legal team for his second impeachment trial, if you follow my meaning. Alayna Treene writes:
The notoriously stingy former president and his lead lawyer, Butch Bowers, wrangled over compensation during a series of tense phone calls, sources familiar with their conversations said. The argument came even though Trump has raised over $170 million from the public that could be used on his legal defenses.
The two initially agreed Bowers would be paid $250,000 for his individual services, a figure that “delighted” Trump, one of the sources said.
However, Trump didn’t realize Bowers hadn’t included additional expenses — including more lawyers, researchers and other legal fees that would be accrued on the job. He was said to be livid when Bowers came back to him with a total budget of $3 million. Trump called the South Carolina attorney and eventually negotiated him down to $1 million.
All of this infuriated Trump and his political team, who think the case will be straightforward, given 45 Republican senators already voted to dismiss the trial on the basis it is unconstitutional to convict a former president on impeachment charges.
Read more here: Axios – Fees, not just strategy, blew up Trump’s legal team
Pakistan’s supreme court has ordered that the Pakistani-British man acquitted of the 2002 beheading of the American journalist Daniel Pearl be moved off death row and to a government “safe house”.
Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, who has been on death row for 18 years, will be under guard and not allowed to leave the safe house, but his wife and children will be able to visit him.
Sheikh’s father, Ahmad Saeed Sheikh, who attended the hearing on Tuesday, said: “It is not complete freedom. It is a step toward freedom.”
The Pakistan government has been scrambling to keep Sheikh in jail since a supreme court order last Thursday upheld his acquittal over the death of Pearl, a decision that outraged Pearl’s family and the US administration.
In a final effort to overturn the acquittal, Pakistan’s government and the Pearl family have filed an appeal to the supreme court, asking it to review the decision to exonerate Sheikh over Pearl’s murder.
The Pearl family lawyer, Faisal Sheikh, however, has said that such a review has a slim chance of success because the same supreme court judges who ordered Sheikh’s acquittal sit on the review panel.
Biden looks to Rahm Emanuel for significant ambassadorship appointment – reports
Overnight NBC News have had what they are claiming as an exclusive – the news that Rahm Emanuel is being considered for an ambassadorship. Josh Lederman and Carol E. Lee report:
President Joe Biden is considering former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel for a high-profile ambassadorship, potentially to China, three people with knowledge of the discussions said.
Becoming the US ambassador to Japan is another option that Biden administration officials have discussed with Emanuel, one of the people with knowledge of the discussions said.
Emanuel, who became White House chief of staff when Barack Obama took office as president, has a reputation as a sharp-tongued political street fighter. He has clashed at times with progressive Democrats.
He is also a well-known figure in Democratic politics who would bring notoriety to an ambassadorship. Biden is considering him for a key diplomatic position as administration officials look to fill dozens of vacancies in capitals across the world, with decisions expected in coming weeks.
Why does the Biden administration feel it needs a task force to reunite families? Miriam Jordan of the New York Times lays it out here:
More than 1,000 migrant children still in the United States likely remain separated from their parents, and another 500 or more were taken from their parents who have yet to be located, according to the latest estimates from lawyers working on the issue.
One of the continuing obstacles to reunification is that hundreds of parents have been deported to their home countries — places they had fled because of the danger there — and are fearful of having their children sent home to them. And some children are being deported even though their parents are still in the United States trying to obtain legal residence.
Even Trump officially rescinded the policy, border authorities removed more than 1,000 children from their families, sometimes for reasons as minor as committing a traffic infraction or failing to change a baby’s diaper, according to court documents.
There’s also some detail of how the task force is going to work – Alejandro Mayorkas will lead it, and it will have representatives from the Departments of Homeland Security, Health and Human Services and State.
Biden to create task force to reunite migrant families separated by Trump administration
Here’s what we can expect from president Joe Biden today on immigration. He will order a major review of asylum processing at the US-Mexico border and the legal immigration system as he seeks to undo Donald Trump’s hard-line policies.
Biden will also create a task force to reunite migrant families who were separated at the southern US border by Trump’s 2018 “zero tolerance” border strategy, officials said.
Reuters report that overall, Biden will issue three executive orders dealing with regional migration, legal immigration and reunifying families.
As part of the actions, he will call for a review of a Trump-era rule that made it harder for poorer immigrants to obtain permanent residency in the United States. He will also mandate a review of the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), a controversial program that pushed 65,000 asylum seekers back to Mexico to wait for US court hearings. Most returned to their home countries but some remained in a makeshift camp near the Mexican border.
The Biden administration has already stopped adding people to the program but crucially it has not yet outlined how it will process the claims of those already enrolled.
Biden’s actions will follow six immigration orders he issued on his first day in office, but will face logistical challenges and opposition from Republicans.
Lawsuits by conservative groups could also potentially slow down Biden’s agenda. A federal judge last week temporarily blocked one of his first immigration moves – a 100-day pause on many deportations – after the Republican-led state of Texas sought an injunction.
‘It was a very good exchange of views’ – Sen Collins after Covid relief meeting with Biden
“It was a very good exchange of views. I wouldn’t say we came together on a package tonight. No one expected that in a two-hour meeting. But what we did agree to do is follow up and talk further.”
Those were the words overnight of Maine’s Republican Senator Susan Collins who lead a group of 10 Republican lawmakers to meet president Joe Biden. They were presenting their ideas for a stripped-down Covid support package that might command bipartisan support. The Washington Post reports:
The path ahead is uncertain, given that Democratic leaders in Congress started the process Monday of advancing a budget bill that can unlock special Senate rules allowing Biden’s package to pass with a simple majority vote in the Senate, instead of the 60 votes usually needed — meaning no Republican votes would be necessary.
But for Biden, the meeting with the GOP senators posed a test for a new president who campaigned on his ability to make bipartisan deals — but also faces strong pressure from the left to deliver a big new relief package now that Democrats control both chambers of Congress and the White House.
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito said: Biden “seemed really happy to be in the game of negotiating.”
If he does leave Republicans behind on his first major piece of legislation, that could further harden the partisan divides Biden promised he would try to bridge, and sour chances for bipartisan legislation for the remainder of his first term in office. But negotiating with Republicans could drag out indefinitely with no guarantee of success, even as Democrats are demanding quick action at a precarious moment for the economy and the pandemic.
Hi, welcome to our live coverage of US politics for Tuesday. Here’s a catch-up on where we are, and what we might expect today…
- Former president Donald Trump faces a noon deadline (5pm GMT) to file his defense against his second impeachment. It should give us a clue as to whether he is going to attempt to use the Senate floor for his legal team to continue to dispute the election result.
- President Joe Biden and 10 Republican lawmakers agreed to further Covid relief talks, but deep divisions remain – the GOP proposal is less than a third of Biden’s proposed $1.9tn package.
- Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer and House speaker Nancy Pelosi filed their joint budget resolution. The move paves the way for congressional Democrats to pass the coronavirus relief package without Republican support.
- There were 134,339 new coronavirus cases, and 2,031 further deaths in the US yesterday. Hospitalizations fell to 93,536, their lowest since 30 November.
- Biden will sign new executive orders at 5pm EST (10pm GMT) related to immigration and is expected announce a task force to address family separations at the border under the Trump administration.
- Investigators have made a preliminary determination that the Capitol police officer who fatally shot Ashli Babbitt during the 6 January Capitol riot shouldn’t be charged.
- Brian Sicknick, the Capitol Police officer who died of his injuries from the attack on the Capitol, will lie in honor today.
- Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez revealed she is a sexual assault survivor as the Democratic congresswoman gave a candid account of the Capitol attack.
- Rep. Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell called out the embrace of “loony lies and conspiracy theories” as a “cancer for the Republican party” – he probably meant Marjorie Taylor Greene and QAnon. He also threw his support behind embattled Liz Cheney.
- Ice is preparing to resume deportations of asylum seekers after a Trump-appointed Texas judge ruled against a 100-day suspension ordered by Biden.
- White House press secretary Jen Psaki will give a briefing at 1.30pm EST.
- The Senate agriculture committee will hold a confirmation hearing for agriculture secretary nominees Tom Vilsack at 10.30am EST.
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