Republicans reject subpoenas as impeachment debate goes on
WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. Senate plunged into President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial on Tuesday with Republicans abruptly abandoning plans to cram opening arguments into two late-night sessions and Democrats arguing for more witnesses to expose Trump’s “trifecta” of offences.
The turn of events was a setback for Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell and the president’s legal team, exposing a crack in the GOP ranks and the growing political unease over the historic impeachment proceedings unfolding amid a watchful public in an election year.
Chief Justice John Roberts gaveled open the session, with House prosecutors on one side, Trump’s team on the other, in the well of the Senate, as senators sat silently at their desks, under oath to do “impartial justice.” No cellphones or other electronics were allowed.
Opening day stretched deep into the night. Senators remained as the clock passed 10:30 p.m., while Democrats pursued what may be their only chance to force senators to vote on hearing new testimony.
However, Republicans turned back Democratic amendments to subpoena documents from the White House, State Department, Defence Department and budget office, with more votes expected rejecting key witnesses with a front-row seat to Trump’s actions. By the same 53-47 party-line, senators turned aside the Democrats request to subpoena acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney.
At 90, Alaska Native woman is 1st counted in US Census
TOKSOOK BAY, Alaska (AP) — Lizzie Chimiugak has lived for 90 years in the windswept western wilds of Alaska, born to a nomadic family who lived in mud homes and followed where the good hunting and fishing led.
Her home now is an outpost on the Bering Sea, Toksook Bay, and on Tuesday she became the first person counted in the U.S. Census, taken every 10 years to apportion representation in Congress and federal money.
“Elders that were before me, if they didn’t die too early, I wouldn’t have been the first person counted,” Lizzie Chimiugak said, speaking Yup’ik language of Yugtun, with family members serving as interpreters. “Right now, they’re considering me as an elder, and they’re asking me questions I’m trying my best to give answers to, or to talk about what it means to be an elder.”
The decennial U.S. census has started in rural Alaska, out of tradition and necessity, ever since the U.S. purchased the territory from Russia in 1867. The ground is still frozen, which allows easier access before the spring melt makes many areas inaccessible to travel and residents scatter to subsistence hunting and fishing grounds. The mail service is spotty in rural Alaska and the internet connectivity unreliable, which makes door-to-door surveying important.
The rest of the nation, including more urban areas of Alaska, begin the census in mid-March.
Outbreak from new virus rises to 440 in China, with 9 dead
BEIJING (AP) — The number of cases of a new virus has risen to 440 in China and the death toll to 9, Chinese health authorities said Wednesday.
Deputy Director of the National Health Commission Li Bin told reporters that the figures were current as of midnight Tuesday. All the deaths had been in Hubei province, home to Wuhan city where the first illnesses from coronavirus were reported in late December.
Li said that marked an increase of 149 confirmed cases. He said Japan and South Korea had confirmed one case each and Thailand three. The U.S. and Taiwan also confirmed one case each on Tuesday.
Concerned about a global outbreak similar to SARS, another coronavirus that spread from China to more than a dozen countries in 2002-2003, numerous nations have adopted screening measures for travellers from China, especially those arriving from Wuhan.
The worries have been heightened by the coming of the Lunar New Year holiday rush, when millions of Chinese travel at home and abroad.
In reversal, Clinton says she’d back Sanders if he’s nominee
WASHINGTON (AP) — In an abrupt about-face, Hillary Clinton said Tuesday night that she would endorse her 2016 rival Bernie Sanders if he wins the Democratic nomination to face President Donald Trump in November.
The former secretary of state had earlier refused to say whether she would endorse Sanders in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter published Tuesday, instead telling the outlet: “I’m not going to go there yet.” She had also offered a broad condemnation of the progressive candidate’s style of politics.
“I thought everyone wanted my authentic, unvarnished views!” Clinton tweeted Tuesday night. “But, to be serious, the number one priority for our country and world is retiring Trump, and, as I always have, I will do whatever I can to support our nominee.”
Her initial comments ripped open the scars of the brutal 2016 primary battle between Sanders and Clinton just as Democrats are poised to begin voting on their next nominee. Sanders’ loyalists believed the Democratic establishment had rigged the primary in favour of Clinton, who won the nomination but ended up losing the general election to Trump.
For her part, Clinton wrote in her memoir “What Happened” after her 2016 defeat that she felt some of Sanders’ criticism of her had helped propel Trump to victory, and she begrudged Sanders for not backing her campaign quickly enough after she sewed up the nomination. In The Hollywood Reporter interview, she accused Sanders of fostering a toxic culture in his campaign.
Ex-CIA contractor defends brutal post-9-11 interrogations
FORT MEADE, Md. (AP) — An architect of the brutal CIA interrogation and detention program developed after the Sept. 11 attacks defended the agency and its practices on Tuesday as those techniques become the focus of an effort to dismiss key evidence against five men charged in the terrorist plot.
James Mitchell spent the first day of what is expected to be at least a week of questioning by defence teams at the U.S. base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, providing details about the CIA’s interrogation program as well as what he said was the “context” necessary to understand it.
The CIA was the “tip of the spear” in the months after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and was urgently trying to gather vital intelligence using techniques that had been authorized by the U.S. government, the retired Air Force psychologist told the court.
“We were trying to save American lives,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell is facing questions now because lawyers for the five men accused of planning and providing logistical support for the Sept. 11 attacks are seeking to prevent the government from using statements the defendants gave to the FBI as evidence against them in a war crimes trial scheduled to start next January at the U.S. base in Cuba.
Mexico begins flying, busing migrants back to Honduras
CIUDAD HIDALGO, Mexico (AP) — Hundreds of Central American migrants who entered southern Mexico in recent days have either been pushed back into Guatemala by Mexican troops, shipped to detention centres or returned to Honduras, officials said Tuesday. An unknown number slipped past Mexican authorities and continued north.
The latest migrant caravan provided a public platform for Mexico to show the U.S. government and migrants thinking of making the trip that it has refined its strategy and produced its desired result: This caravan will not advance past its southern border.
What remained unclear was the treatment of the migrants who already find themselves on their way back to the countries they fled last week.
“Mexico doesn’t have the capacity to process so many people in such a simple way in a couple of days,” said Guadalupe Correa Cabrera, a professor at George Mason University studying how the caravans form.
The caravan of thousands had set out from Honduras in hopes Mexico would grant them passage, posing a fresh test of U.S. President Donald Trump’s effort to reduce the flow of migrants arriving at the U.S. border by pressuring other governments to stop them.
Brazilian prosecutors accuse Glenn Greenwald in hacking case
SAO PAULO (AP) — Prosecutors accused U.S. journalist Glenn Greenwald on Tuesday of involvement in hacking the phones of Brazilian officials involved in a corruption investigation, though Brazil’s high court had blocked investigations of the journalist or his Brazil-based news outlet in relation to the case.
A federal judge would have to approve a formal charge based on allegations by prosecutor Wellington Divino Marques de Oliveira that Greenwald helped a group of six people hack into phones of hundreds local authorities.
De Oliveira accuses Greenwald of criminal association and illegal interception of communications. He charges the six alleged hackers with criminal organization, money laundering, cybercrimes and illegal interception of communications.
Brazil’s federal police looked at the same evidence and did not find any wrongdoing by Greenwald. A ruling by Supreme Court Justice Gilmar Mendes later barred investigations of Greenwald and his The Intercept Brasil in relation to the alleged hacking.
Prosecutors decided to recommend charges against the journalist anyway.
2020 hopefuls stuck in Washington deploy surrogates for help
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Steve Sovern had low expectations for a recent event he hosted to support Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign. Iowans are legendary for expecting to meet White House hopefuls in person — multiple times — and the candidate wasn’t going to be there, represented instead by California Rep. Katie Porter.
“Surrogates are usually not much of a draw,” Sovern said.
But 45 people crammed into Sovern’s Cedar Rapids condo, and Porter, an Iowa native, made such a strong case for Warren that several undecided voters left the event saying they planned to caucus for the Democratic senator from Massachusetts.
Porter is one of dozens of surrogates who have deployed across the early voting states in recent weeks to expand the footprint of White House hopefuls before the Iowa caucuses usher in the Democratic contest in less than two weeks. They’ll become even more important this week as four senators running for president will be stuck in Washington to serve as jurors for President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial.
Progressive star Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democratic congresswoman from New York, will appear in Iowa this weekend on behalf of Sen. Bernie Sanders. “Queer Eye” host Jonathan Van Ness will also be in Iowa stumping for Warren in addition to Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney and Rep. Joe Kennedy III, who will be in New Hampshire.
Grammys CEO says she was ousted after reporting harassment
LOS ANGELES (AP) — The ousted Grammys CEO fired back at the Recording Academy on Tuesday, alleging that she was removed after complaining about sexual harassment and pay disparities and for calling out conflicts of interest in the nomination process for music’s most prestigious awards.
Lawyers for Deborah Dugan, who was placed on administrative leave last week after six months in the job, filed the discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission just five days before the Grammy Awards. She alleged she was sexually harassed by the academy’s general counsel, Joel Katz, who late Tuesday denied her account.
Dugan detailed the harassment and other issues in an email to an academy human resources executive on Dec. 22, according to the complaint.
The complaint also stated that Dugan was paid less than former academy CEO Neil Portnow, who left the post last year, and that she was also subject to retaliation for refusing to hire Portnow as a consultant for nearly half his former salary.
Portnow had been criticized for saying women need to “step up” when asked backstage at the 2018 show why only two female acts won awards during the live telecast. Portnow called his comments a “poor choice of words” and later said he chose not to seek an extension on his contract.
Jeter 1 vote shy of unanimous, Walker also elected to Hall
NEW YORK (AP) — Known for two decades as No. 2, Derek Jeter is now linked to the number 1 — as in, who was the lone Hall of Fame voter who didn’t put a check mark next to his name?
Jeter came within one vote of being a unanimous pick, falling just shy of the standard set when longtime New York Yankees teammate Mariano Rivera became the first unanimous selection last year. Larry Walker also earned baseball’s highest honour Tuesday in his last chance on the ballot.
For now, the identity and motivation of the non-conformist remains a mystery.
“Well, I look at all the votes that I got,” Jeter said. “Trying to get that many people to agree on something is pretty difficult to do. So that’s not something that’s on mind.”
Longtime shortstop and captain of the Yankees, Jeter appeared on 396 of 397 ballots cast by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. His 99.7% moved above Ken Griffey Jr. (99.3%) for the second-highest share.
The Associated Press