The impeachment trial of President Trump opens today in the US Senate. It’s just the third impeachment trial of a president in U.S. history. Democrats slammed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell late Monday after he proposed rules that would rush the trial timeline, forcing Democrats to make their case over just two 12-hour days. Republicans would get the same amount of time. Senators will then have 16 hours for questions and four hours for debate. The rules also do not provide a guarantee that witnesses will be called to testify by forcing a vote on the issue. Four Republicans would have to side with Democrats in order to consider new witnesses and evidence. Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer accused McConnell of orchestrating a “cover-up” by rushing through the trial. Bill Clinton’s Senate impeachment trial took over a month.
Ahead of today’s proceedings, Trump’s legal team called on senators Monday to “swiftly reject” the charges and acquit Trump. Trump’s lawyers argue in a brief that the charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress “do not remotely approach the constitutional threshold for removing a president from office” and would “permanently weaken the presidency.” Trump recently added prominent lawyers Kenneth Starr and former Harvard University law professor Alan Dershowitz to his legal team. Both Starr and Dershowitz helped serial sexual predator Jeffrey Epstein receive a sweetheart plea deal in 2008 when he was arrested on sex trafficking charges. One of Epstein’s victims also accused Dershowitz of sexually assaulting her, but Dershowitz has long denied the charge. Kenneth Starr’s probe led to the impeachment of Bill Clinton.
Congressional impeachment managers argued in their own legal brief that Trump pressured a foreign government to interfere in the 2020 elections by withholding aid to Ukraine unless they announced investigations into his political rival Joe Biden and his son Hunter. Lead impeachment prosecutor Adam Schiff has accused the White House of pressuring the NSA and CIA to withhold records about Ukraine that could be relevant to the impeachment trial.
Meanwhile, several news organizations, including C-SPAN, have criticized rules restricting press access to the trial.
As the impeachment trial gets underway, President Trump is in Davos, Switzerland, for the World Economic Forum, where he delivered a speech earlier today to the gathered elites. The climate crisis was the top priority for this year’s forum. But Trump focused on touting his tax cuts, immigration policies, and trade deals with China, Canada and Mexico. He also claimed that U.S. air and water was cleaner than ever. Trump has worked to dismantle environmental regulations since taking office and has denied climate change. Trump also told reporters in Davos the impeachment trial was a “hoax” and a “witch hunt.”
Meanwhile, a new Oxfam report released ahead of the World Economic Forum warns that “economic inequality is out of control,” with the world’s richest 1% owning twice as much wealth as nearly 7 billion people. The report also finds that just over 2,000 billionaires have more combined wealth than 4.6 billion people. The website Quartz calculated that Trump’s two-day appearance in Davos will cost U.S. taxpayers over $5.6 million.
Seventeen-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg is also in Davos, where she spoke on a youth climate panel earlier today.
Greta Thunberg: “If we are to have a 6 to 7% chance of limiting the global average temperature rise to below 1.5 degrees Celsius, we had, on January 1st, 2018, about 420 gigatons of CO2 left to emit in that budget. … Since last summer. I’ve been repeating these numbers over and over again in almost every speech. But honestly, I don’t think I have once seen any media outlets or person in power communicate this and what it means. I know you don’t want to report about this. I know you don’t want to talk about this. But I assure you I will continue to repeat these numbers until you do.”
Eight Democratic presidential hopefuls took part in the Brown & Black Presidential Forum in Iowa Monday, on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The forum addresses issues affecting communities of color. Also on Monday, Democratic presidential candidates marched arm in arm through the streets of Columbia, South Carolina, to honor Dr. King.
The show of Democratic Party unity came only one day after, in a highly unusual move, The New York Times announced it was endorsing two Democratic candidates for president: Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar. The Times’s editorial board wrote of their controversial decision, “In this perilous moment, both the radical and the realist models warrant serious consideration.” In 2016, The New York Times endorsed Hillary Clinton for president, who went on to lose the election despite winning the popular vote. Senators Warren and Klobuchar are the last two women senators in the Democratic primary race. Hawaii Congressmember Tulsi Gabbard is also running for the nomination.
In more election news, Washington Congressmember Pramila Jayapal has endorsed Senator Bernie Sanders. Jayapal tweeted, “Bernie has the bold passion, authenticity & clarity that working people across this country desperately need.” Congressmember Jayapal is the co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus along with Wisconsin Congressmember Mark Pocan, who endorsed Sanders for president last Thursday.
Meanwhile, Senator Elizabeth Warren has joined Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders in criticizing former Vice President Joe Biden over his record on Social Security, which includes being willing to raise the retirement age or freeze cost-of-living increases. Sanders has opposed Biden on Social Security since as early as 2010, when Sanders filibustered a Biden-negotiated deal that Sanders said would weaken Social Security.
In Yemen, an attack on a government military base killed over 100 soldiers in central Yemen Saturday. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but the Yemeni government has blamed Houthi rebels. Saturday’s drone and missile attack marks one of the single bloodiest days in the ongoing conflict in Yemen.
In Lebanon, anti-government protests continued over the weekend, resulting in violent clashes with police, who deployed water cannons, rubber bullets and tear gas against demonstrators in the capital Beirut. Hundreds were injured, according to local reports. Human rights groups have accused riot police of using excessive force and violating the rights of protesters. The Committee to Protect Journalists is calling on authorities to investigate attacks and the detaining of journalists who have been targeted while covering the protests. Lebanon has been rocked by mass demonstrations for months, which forced out Prime Minister Saad Hariri in October. Protesters say they are increasingly frustrated by the deepening financial and political crises.
Protests also continued in Iraq, where at least four people were reported killed and scores injured Monday after clashes with security forces in Baghdad and other cities. Security forces used tear gas and live fire against the protesters, who continue to demand democratic reforms and the appointment of an independent prime minister. This is protester Abed al Rahman.
Abed al Rahman: “We want our demands: jobs, safe atmosphere. We want to feel like citizens. There are no jobs, no good education, no schools, and there’s nothing. When we graduate, we sit at home.”
Security forces and militias have killed hundreds of protesters since the popular uprising started in October. Iraqi officials said three rockets fell into Baghdad’s Green Zone Tuesday, but no casualties were reported.
Prince Harry arrived in Canada Monday, joining his wife Meghan Markle and their 8-month-old son Archie on Vancouver Island, after Harry finished one of his last official royal appearances since announcing he and Markle are stepping back as senior members of Britain’s royal family. Their decision — known as Megxit — has captivated the world. The British press has largely reacted with shock. But in a New York Times op-ed headlined “Black Britons Know Why Meghan Markle Wants Out,” writer and broadcaster Afua Hirsch writes, “From the very first headline about her being '(almost) straight outta Compton' and having 'exotic' DNA, the racist treatment of Meghan has been impossible to ignore.”
Back in the United States, tens of thousands of so-called gun rights supporters took to the streets of Richmond, Virginia, Monday to protest new gun control proposals by the state’s freshly elected Democratic government. Protesters included members of far-right groups, and many openly carried guns, including assault rifles, as they gathered around the state Capitol. Democratic Governor Ralph Northam called a state of emergency ahead of the rally, but no major incidents were reported.
In environmental news, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has rejected a landmark youth climate lawsuit against the U.S. government, arguing the case does not belong in the courts. Juliana v. United States accuses the U.S. government of perpetuating the climate crisis and endangering the lives of citizens.
Judge Josephine Staton, the dissenting voice on the three-judge panel, wrote, “the government accepts as fact that the United States has reached a tipping point crying out for a concerted response — yet presses ahead toward calamity. It is as if an asteroid were barreling toward Earth and the government decided to shut down our only defenses.” A lawyer for the plaintiffs has vowed to appeal the ruling.
Click here to see Democracy Now’s interview with the lead plaintiff in the case, Kelsey Juliana.
In more environmental news, the U.N. has ruled that climate refugees cannot be forced to return to their home countries. The landmark decision could grant significant new legal power to millions of people around the world. Experts say tens of millions of people are expected to become climate refugees within the decade.
Tens of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets around the country Saturday for the fourth annual Women’s March, demanding action on climate change, reproductive rights and immigration. At the New York Women’s March, Evelyn Yang, the wife of Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang, took to the stage to speak out against sexual assault. Evelyn Yang recently revealed she was assaulted by her obstetrician, Dr. Robert Hadden, when she was pregnant. This is Yang speaking on Saturday.
Evelyn Yang: “As terrifying as it was to share my story on a national stage, I had to believe that coming forward would help me reclaim my voice and help others reclaim theirs. Otherwise, we would all just be another statistic in the shadows. We need to do better, for our mothers, for our daughters, for our sisters and for everyone who loves them. We need to roar against sexual violence.”
The nationwide protests came as the National Archives were forced to apologize for blurring protest signs in a photograph from the 2017 Women’s March. The archives blurred out signs that were critical to Trump, as well as references to female reproductive anatomy. The photo is part of an exhibit for the centennial of women’s suffrage. ACLU Deputy Legal Director Louise Melling said, “Apologizing is not enough. The National Archives must explain to the public why it even took the Orwellian step of trying to rewrite history and erasing women’s bodies from it, as well as who ordered it.” We’ll have more with Louise Melling later in the broadcast.
MOVE 9 member Delbert Orr Africa, known as Del Africa, was released from a Pennsylvania prison Saturday, after 42 years behind bars. Del Africa was arrested with eight others following a 1978 police raid on the house of MOVE, a radical, anti-police-brutality and largely African-American organization. The members were convicted in the killing of Philadelphia police officer James Ramp. One member of the MOVE 9, Chuck Africa, still remains in prison. Six others others have been released, and two members died behind bars. Click here to see our 2018 interview with MOVE 9 member Debbie Africa with her son Mike, shortly after Debbie was released from prison.
Former New York Republican Congressmember Chris Collins was sentenced Friday to 26 months in prison and fined $200,000 for insider trading. Collins, who resigned from Congress in September, was the first Republican congressmember to support Donald Trump’s run for the White House.
In Oakland, California, the group known as Moms 4 Housing has reached an agreement to purchase a previously vacant house that they began occupying as part of their fight against homelessness and real estate speculation. The mothers had been fighting eviction attempts by investment firm Wedgewood Properties, which now says it will sell the property at a fair price through the Oakland Community Land Trust. This is Carroll Fife, director of the Oakland office for Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, celebrating the news Monday.
Carroll Fife: “It’s important to understand the history of civil disobedience in this country, because every single right that we have today was won by people engaging and pushing on what was legal. Right? So it’s important to not criminalize women who are trying to bring attention and justice and humanity to the masses, for everyone. They are not the criminals here. The criminal system is one that allows homelessness.”