House impeachment managers and President Trump’s defense team are giving closing arguments in his historic impeachment trial today as the Senate appears set to acquit President Trump later this week. The Republican-controlled body quashed the Democratic effort to call witnesses and introduce new evidence in the trial in a 51-49 vote Friday. Senators Mitt Romney of Utah and Susan Collins of Maine were the only two Republicans who voted in favor of calling witnesses. The Senate will hold a final vote on the two articles of impeachment Wednesday. Democrats slammed their Republican counterparts following Friday’s vote. This is Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.
Sen. Chuck Schumer: “To not allow a witness, a document — no witnesses, no documents — in an impeachment trial is a perfidy. It’s a grand tragedy, one of the worst tragedies that the Senate has ever overcome. America will remember this day, unfortunately, where the Senate did not live up to its responsibilities, where the Senate turned away from truth and went along with a sham trial.”
Voting in the 2020 presidential election kicks off today with the Iowa caucuses. Candidates spent the weekend making last-minute appeals to voters in what appears to be a tight race. This is Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders addressing his supporters on Sunday.
Sen. Bernie Sanders: “We are taking on the entire political establishment, both the Republican establishment and the Democratic establishment. We are taking on Wall Street and the insurance companies and the drug companies and the fossil fuel industry and the military-industrial complex and the prison-industrial complex and the whole damn 1%.”
In more news about the 2020 elections, the Democratic National Committee is coming under fire after overhauling debate requirements to eliminate the need for candidates to obtain a significant number of small donations, allowing billionaire Mike Bloomberg to take part in upcoming debates even though he does not have widespread grassroots support.
Meanwhile, Politico is reporting DNC members are discussing rule changes that are designed to stop Bernie Sanders from clinching the Democratic nomination by giving superdelegates even more power. We’ll have more on the Iowa caucuses, as well as impeachment, after headlines with The Nation’s John Nichols.
In immigration news, President Trump dramatically expanded his travel ban Friday. Nationals of Nigeria, Eritrea, Burma and Kyrgyzstan will no longer be able to obtain visas to live and work in the U.S., while Sudan and Tanzania will no longer be able to participate in the diversity visa lottery program. The ban, commonly referred to as the “Muslim ban,” already affects citizens from Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Venezuela and North Korea. Democrats say they will challenge the expansion and are expected to introduce the NO BAN Act in Congress soon. We’ll have more on this with the ACLU’s Omar Jadwat later in the broadcast.
In Syria, Doctors Without Borders says multiple hospitals have been destroyed or damaged amid a Russian-backed Syrian government offensive against the northwestern province of Idlib. Nearly a quarter of a million civilians have been forced to flee toward the Turkish border as the Syrian regime aims to recapture one of the last rebel-held territories in Syria. This is 10-year-old Jennah, one of the displaced civilians.
Jennah: “I felt sadness. I lived in Ma’arat and had friends there who were targeted by a plane and died. I cried as I left, when the regime took over. I hope its people will be able to return one day and that we will be able to go back to Ghouta. This is injustice.”
In Iraq, protesters took to the streets across the country this weekend following the appointment of a new prime minister, Mohammed Tawfiq Allawi. In November, massive anti-government demonstrations ousted former Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi. But protesters say Allawi, the former communications minister, is part of the same corrupt political establishment they have been protesting against.
The United States dropped more bombs on Afghanistan in 2019 than any other year since the Pentagon began keeping a record in 2006. Data from U.S. Central Command shows U.S. warplanes dropped nearly 7,500 bombs and other munitions on Afghanistan last year, nearly eight times more than in 2015.
In Nicaragua, six indigenous environmental leaders were assassinated last week after a group of at least 80 armed men raided the Bosawás Biosphere Reserve — the second-largest rainforest in the Americas after the Amazon. The attack is believed to be linked to raging land disputes between the local indigenous community and illegal loggers and miners who seek to exploit fertile land, timber and gold. Another 10 indigenous leaders were also kidnapped during the violent raid.
In Mexico, a second man linked to a monarch butterfly sanctuary in Michoacán has been assassinated. Raúl Hernández Romero’s death comes just days after another slain conservationist’s body was recovered. Authorities are investigating the deaths and whether the men were targeted for their environmental activism. Friends and family of leading monarch conservationist Homero Gómez González, whose body was found last week, attended his funeral Friday.
In Australia, dozens of koalas have been killed or injured at a timber plantation in the southeastern state of Victoria, where environmentalists say they were bulldozed in order to harvest the blue gum trees, a vital koala habitat. Australia’s record-breaking bushfires have already killed tens of thousands of koalas and an estimated 1 billion animals since September.
In New York City, organizers say some 45 people were arrested Friday night after at least 1,000 New Yorkers took part in a protest calling out the policing and high cost of public transportation. The protest, which was met with a heavy police presence, was the third of its kind in recent months following the announcement of a plan to add 500 police officers to subway stations around the city to clamp down on fare evasion. MTA data shows black and brown people are the most targeted by fare evasion policing. The city recently introduced a new reduced fare program known as “Fair Fares,” but critics say the cost is still prohibitive to many low-income New Yorkers. This is Marz, an activist with Decolonize This Place, one of the groups organizing the demonstrations.
Marz: “People keep telling us to be civilized, to call your representative, your senators. But what we understand is that law isn’t justice. And what we’re asking for, again, is very simple. We want free transit, not a 'fair fare.' What is this 'fair fare' idea? If someone can’t pay $2.75, what makes you think they could pay half the price? We asked for free fare, not 'fair fare.' And I think that that’s just a way for them to coopt and silence movements, to give a select few benefits without giving it to all.”