Democratic House impeachment managers have released shocking video from inside the Capitol during the January 6 insurrection showing lawmakers, as well as Vice President Mike Pence, scrambling to evacuate as violent Trump supporters were just yards away. Democrats described Trump as the “inciter-in-chief” and said he was “singularly responsible” for inciting his supporters by spreading the “big lie” that the election was stolen. This is House impeachment manager Stacey Plaskett of the Virgin Islands speaking at the Senate trial.
Del. Stacey Plaskett: “Donald Trump, over many months, cultivated violence, praised it. And then, when he saw the violence his supporters were capable of, he channeled it to his big, wild, historic event. He organized January 6 with the same people that had just organized a rally resulting in substantial violence, and made absolutely sure this time these violent rallygoers wouldn’t just remain in place. He made sure that those violent people would literally march right here to our steps.”
House impeachment managers also revealed that on January 6 Trump sent out a tweet attacking Vice President Pence just minutes after Senator Tommy Tuberville of Alabama told the president on the phone that Pence had to be evacuated from the Capitol due to the riots. Democrats also revealed protest organizers did not initially have a permit to march from their rally site on January 6, but the White House intervened to make sure people could march to the Capitol.
In Georgia, the district attorney of Fulton County has opened a criminal investigation into Donald Trump’s “attempts to influence the administration of the 2020 Georgia general election.” District Attorney Fani Willis has asked state authorities to preserve all records tied to the effort to overturn Joe Biden’s victory in the state. On January 2, Trump asked Georgia’s secretary of state, the Republican Brad Raffensperger, to “find 11,780 votes” — the exact number of votes he needed to win. In another call, Trump urged an investigator in Raffensperger’s office to “find the fraud.” Georgia’s secretary of state’s office has launched its own probe into Trump’s calls to state officials.
The Biden administration has announced plans to partner with New York and Texas to build five new large COVID-19 vaccination sites in communities of color hit hardest by the pandemic. Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith is chair of Biden’s COVID-19 Equity Task Force.
Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith: “This is a perfect example of our equity work coming to life, and this is a model for the potential we have to do this well across the country. … Through the new vaccination sites being announced today, we are taking the response directly to the communities that need it most.”
This comes as the U.S. death toll has topped 471,000 — by far the highest in the world. More than half of all U.S. COVID deaths have occurred since November 1. A new report in The Lancet medical journal finds 40% of all U.S. COVID deaths could have been prevented.
Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now recommending people wear two masks — such as a surgical mask with a cloth mask on top — to reduce exposure.
The World Health Organization is recommending the use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine for all adults. Some European countries have objected to giving the vaccine to people over 65. The Guardian reports the decision opens the way for the United Nations-backed COVAX program to start shipping doses to lower-income countries across the world.
Saudi women’s rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul has been released after being locked up for nearly three years in a Saudi prison. Her sister posted a photo of her Wednesday with a caption reading: “Loujain Hathloul at home after 1001 days in prison.” Under the terms of her release, Loujain al-Hathloul is barred from leaving Saudi Arabia and prohibited from discussing her time in prison, where she was reportedly subjected to electric shocks, waterboarding, flogging and sexual assault. Loujain al-Hathloul was arrested in May 2018 after leading a movement to lift a ban on women drivers and to overhaul the male guardianship system in Saudi Arabia. She was released just days after the Biden administration called on Saudi Arabia to release “political prisoners such as women’s rights advocates from Saudi jails.”
President Biden spoke with Chinese President Xi Jinping Wednesday for the first time since taking office. The call came on the same day that Biden visited the Pentagon, which has just launched a new military task force focused on China.
President Joe Biden: “We need to take on the dangers and opportunities of emerging technologies, enhance our capabilities in cyberspace, ensure that we are positioned to lead a new era of competition, from the deep sea to outer space. And we need to meet the growing challenges posed by China to keep peace and defend our interests in the Indo-Pacific and globally.”
Earlier this week, China criticized the Biden administration for deploying two aircraft carriers to the disputed South China Sea to carry out military drills.
Protests are continuing in Burma for a sixth straight day to condemn the military coup that ousted Burma’s civilian leadership, including Aung San Suu Kyi. This comes as Burma’s military junta has unveiled plans for a sweeping cybersecurity law in a move to crack down on free speech online. On Wednesday, President Biden imposed sanctions on Burma’s military leaders.
President Joe Biden: “The military must relinquish power it seized and demonstrate respect for the will of the people of Burma, as expressed in their November 8th election.”
The Israeli Cabinet has approved a nearly $3 billion arms deal with the United States to buy F-35 and F-16 warplanes, Chinook helicopters, refueling planes, and thousands of bombs and advanced armaments.
Meanwhile, in the West Bank, Israeli forces have demolished the Palestinian Bedouin village of Khirbet Humsah al-Foqa for a third time this month. On Monday, Israel confiscated nine tents that housed 61 people, including 33 children. Israel also demolished five livestock enclosures. Palestinian activist Abdallah Abu Rahmah condemned Israel’s demolition policy.
Abdallah Abu Rahmah: “It is being completely razed and complete demolition, for a clear purpose: to evict the residents and dislocate them from their lands, that are fertile, vast, special, which is our future and the future of the residents here.”
In media news, a columnist with The Guardian newspaper says he was fired after writing a sarcastic tweet criticizing U.S. military aid to Israel. Nathan Robinson, who edits the journal Current Affairs, had written for The Guardian since 2017. But his column was discontinued after the editor-in-chief of The Guardian US criticized a Twitter post of Robinson’s that mockingly claimed all U.S. spending bills must include money to buy weapons for Israel. The Guardian has denied Robinson was fired, saying it regularly reviews its lineup of columnists. The U.S. on average gives Israel $3.8 billion in military aid every year — larger than any other country.
Immigrant rights advocates are criticizing the Biden administration after it announced plans to continue to turn away asylum applicants at the U.S.-Mexico border, keeping in place — at least for now — a policy implemented by Donald Trump. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki spoke on Wednesday.
Press Secretary Jen Psaki: “Due to the pandemic and the fact that we have not had the time as an administration to put in place a humane, comprehensive process for processing individuals who are coming to the border, now is not the time to come. And the vast majority of people will be turned away. Asylum processes at the border will not occur immediately. It will take time to implement.”
In Haiti, police fired tear gas at protesters and attacked journalists as thousands of Haitians took to the streets again Wednesday to demand President Jovenel Moïse leave office, accusing him of illegally extending his term.
Protester: “We have announced that any initiative taken by Haitian President Jovenel Moïse to stay in power after February 7th is a coup. That is why Jovenel Moïse has to face the fury of the people. The people will respond proportionally. Clean slate!”
Protesters also criticized the U.S. ambassador to Haiti after the Biden administration sided with Moïse’s claim that he can serve for another year. Protesters say the head of the Haitian Supreme Court should serve as a transitional president until elections are held, but earlier this week Moïse forced the retirement of three Supreme Court judges who were next in line of succession.
In news from Honduras, Amnesty International is calling for an investigation into the death of 26-year-old nursing student Keyla Martínez. She died in police custody on Saturday night after being arrested for breaking a COVID-19 curfew. Police claimed she died by suicide, but federal authorities are now investigating her death as a murder. The Associated Press reports federal prosecutors have requested seven police officers be turned over to investigators.
President Biden’s nominee to head the Office of Management and Budget, Neera Tanden, faced intense questioning on Wednesday over her past comments attacking progressives, as well as her ties to big business. Tanden has served as president of the Center for American Progress since 2011. This is Senator Bernie Sanders, chair of the Senate Budget Committee.
Sen. Bernie Sanders: “Your attacks were not just made against Republicans. There were vicious attacks made against progressives, people who I have worked with, me personally. … Can you reflect a little bit about some of your decisions and the personal statements that you have made in recent years?”
Neera Tanden: “Yes, Senator. I really appreciate that question, and I recognize that my language and my expressions on social media, you know, caused hurt to people. And I feel badly about that.”
Senator Sanders also grilled Neera Tanden about the Center for American Progress’s reliance on corporate donations.
Sen. Bernie Sanders: “According to The Washington Post, since 2014, the Center for American Progress has received roughly $5.5 million from Walmart, a company that pays its workers starvation wages; $900,000 from the Bank of America; $550,000 from JPMorgan Chase; $550,000 from Amazon; $200,000 from Wells Fargo; $800,000 from Facebook; and up to $1.4 million from Google. In other words, CAP has received money from some of the most powerful special interests in our country. How will your relationship with those very powerful special interests impact your decision-making if you are appointed to be the head of OMB?”
Neera Tanden: “Senator, I thank you for that question. It will have zero impact on my — on my decision-making.”