For just the third time in history, the Senate has opened an impeachment trial to determine if a sitting president should be removed from office. On Thursday, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts swore in senators who will serve as jurors when the trial officially begins on Tuesday. Roberts called on the lawmakers to render “impartial justice,” although Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has already said he is not an impartial juror. He’s facing increasing pressure to call witnesses during the trial, as new information continues to emerge about President Trump’s effort to pressure Ukraine to investigate his political rival, Joe Biden, ahead of this year’s presidential election.
On Thursday, the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office said the White House’s Office of Management and Budget broke the law by withholding the nearly $400 million in aid to Ukraine, which had already been allocated by Congress.
Also on Thursday, FBI agents visited the home and business of Connecticut congressional candidate Robert Hyde, who has been thrust into the center of the impeachment story after newly revealed text messages showed Hyde communicating with former Giuliani associate Lev Parnas about surveilling then-U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch. In one message, Hyde wrote, “They are willing to help if we/you would like a price. … Guess you can do anything in the Ukraine with money.” Hyde denies he was offering to harm or assassinate the ambassador, who was later told by State Department officials that she had to leave the country immediately. Ukrainian officials have opened a criminal investigation into the potential surveillance — before the U.S. has announced a similar investigation. We’ll have more on the impeachment trial after headlines.
The Pentagon now says 11 U.S. troops were injured in the Iranian missile strikes on two Iraqi military bases last week — contradicting President Trump’s earlier claims that no U.S. troops were harmed. Iran launched the strikes as retaliation for the United States’ assassination of Qassem Soleimani. Iran warned Iraq about its retaliatory missile strikes ahead of time. Despite these advance warnings, the Pentagon says 11 injured troops were transported to military hospitals in Germany and Kuwait and treated for concussion symptoms.
The Senate has voted to approve the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, the replacement for NAFTA, or the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement. Thursday’s 89-10 vote means the legislation now heads to Trump’s desk, where he’s expected to sign it. Among those who voted against the trade deal was Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who was the only current 2020 Democratic presidential candidate to oppose the deal. He says it doesn’t do enough to combat climate change. The other presidential candidates in the Senate — Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar and Michael Bennet — all supported the deal. The Senate’s approval of the USMCA comes only one day after Trump signed a separate trade deal with China.
A new Bloomberg analysis shows that six banks — JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley — avoided paying a combined total of $18 billion worth of taxes last year as a result of President Trump’s tax cuts. This is Trump speaking earlier this week.
President Donald Trump: “Mary Erdoes, JPMorgan Chase, they just announced earnings, and they were incredible. Where — where are you? They were very substantial. Will you say, 'Thank you, Mr. President,' at least? Huh? I made a lot of bankers look very good.”
The Treasury Department’s inspector general has opened an investigation into Trump’s tax breaks.
In Guatemala, new right-wing President Alejandro Giammattei was sworn in on Tuesday as protesters took to the streets to demand former President Jimmy Morales be arrested for corruption. As Giammattei was sworn in, Morales and his former vice president raced across town to be sworn in as new members of the Central American Parliament — which gives them immunity from criminal prosecution. Protesters barraged Morales with insults, and one protester threw an egg in his face. Meanwhile, hundreds of asylum seekers were apprehended in Guatemala by U.S. immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and local police. The asylum seekers were part of a migrant caravan that had departed Honduras earlier this week, headed to the United States.
Deported immigrant rights leader Jean Montrevil has sued the U.S. government, arguing he was targeted for deportation because of his political speech in violation of his First Amendment rights. Montrevil is a founding member of the New Sanctuary Coalition of New York City, an immigrant rights group. He was deported to Haiti in 2018, after years of organizing. Meanwhile, a Salvadoran asylum seeker has sued the federal government and the private prison corporation CoreCivic over a miscarriage she suffered in January 2018 while detained at an immigration jail in Otay Mesa, California. ICE agents detained Rubia Morales in a cold cell and then denied her medical attention even though she pleaded for it. Days later she suffered a miscarriage.
The FBI has arrested three suspected members of a neo-Nazi group ahead of a planned pro-gun rally in Richmond, Virginia, on Monday — that’s Martin Luther King Day. White supremacists and armed militia members are planning to descend on Richmond to protest the Virginia Legislature’s proposed restrictions on gun purchases. Virginia Governor Ralph Northam has declared a state of emergency and temporarily banned weapons from the grounds of the state Capitol.
The Florida Supreme Court has ruled in favor of a law requiring people with felony convictions to pay all fines related to their sentences before they can register to vote. The law is an effort to roll back the voting rights of the 1.4 million people who were re-enfranchised in 2018 after voters narrowly approved the historic ballot measure, Amendment 4.
In Cambridge, Massachusetts, dozens of Harvard Law School students disrupted a job recruiting event for Paul Weiss, the law firm that is representing ExxonMobil in lawsuits over the oil giant’s efforts to deceive shareholders and the public about fossil fuels’ role in fueling the climate crisis.