House Democrats say former President Trump was “singularly responsible” for the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol in a legal brief filed Tuesday ahead of next week’s impeachment trial. The lawmakers write, “[Trump] summoned a mob to Washington, exhorted them into a frenzy, and aimed them like a loaded cannon down Pennsylvania Avenue.” They also argue Trump’s baseless claims of election fraud helped rile up his base.
Trump’s lawyers wrote in their own brief that Trump had a right to question election results, and that the trial is unconstitutional since he is no longer in office.
Meanwhile, President Joe Biden paid his respects to Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, who lay in honor at the Capitol Rotunda, on Tuesday evening. Five people lost their lives in the January 6 insurrection. Two officers died by suicide following the attack.
The U.S. will start shipping coronavirus vaccines to retail pharmacies next week, making the shot much more accessible to many around the country. The Biden administration also said it is increasing the weekly vaccine allocation for states, tribes and territories by 5%, as public health experts urge speeding up vaccination as the best defense against fast-spreading variants. Top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci said 70 to 85% of the U.S. population should be fully vaccinated before the country can return to a sense of normalcy. Less than 2% of the population has been vaccinated so far.
In related news, preliminary data from a new study show a single dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine could cut transmission of the coronavirus by 67% and offer protection from the virus with up to 76% effectiveness for as long as 12 weeks. The findings support the strategy that some countries have employed of spacing out vaccine doses to get more people rapidly inoculated.
On Capitol Hill, Democrats are moving forward with President Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, voting Tuesday to kickstart the budget reconciliation process, which would not require any Republican support to pass the legislation.
In other news from D.C., the Senate confirmed Alejandro Mayorkas as head of homeland security Tuesday, making him the first Latinx and first immigrant to lead the department. The Senate also confirmed Pete Buttigieg as transportation secretary, making the former South Bend, Indiana, mayor and presidential candidate the first openly gay cabinet secretary in U.S. history. Meanwhile, the Senate Armed Services Committee held confirmation hearings for Kathleen Hicks Tuesday, Biden’s pick for deputy defense secretary. Senator Elizabeth Warren questioned Hicks on the $740 billion defense budget, which Warren called “unconscionable.”
Sen. Elizabeth Warren: “We continue to overinvest in defense, while underinvesting in public health and so much more that would keep us safe and that would save lives. So, let me ask the question this way: Dr. Hicks, do you believe that we can find ways to lower the top line budget number and then spend that money more effectively without sacrificing our security?”
Kathleen Hicks responded that cutting the military budget would necessitate “making decisions that may incur risk themselves.”
Senator Elizabeth Warren, who is joining the Senate Finance Committee, said her “first order of business” would be to introduce legislation implementing a wealth tax on fortunes over $50 million. The tax would likely affect 75,000 of the richest households. “It is time to make the ultra-rich pay their fair share,” Warren said.
Politico is reporting House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is leaning toward removing far-right Congressmember Marjorie Taylor Greene from the House Education Committee after meeting with her Tuesday. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell condemned her “loony lies and conspiracy theories” Monday, while House Democrats introduced a resolution to strip her of her committee assignments over her history of violent threats and racist, anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic comments. She has called for the killing of Nancy Pelosi and President Obama and has questioned in the past whether the mass shootings at the Sandy Hook Elementary School and Parkland high school were in fact false flag operations.
Coronavirus vaccinations have started in the occupied West Bank after Israel transferred the first batch of a total of 5,000 doses to inoculate frontline Palestinian health workers, after coming under fire for refusing to share its vaccines with Palestinians. This is a West Bank resident commenting on the arrival of vaccines.
Aisha Salem: “The vaccine is good, but they are only giving it to the healthcare workers, not to the public.”
The Occupied Territories are also expecting to receive 37,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine through the World Health Organization’s COVAX scheme in mid-February.
In the U.S., freshman New York Congressmember Jamaal Bowman called on Israel to vaccinate all Palestinians. He wrote, “As a Black man living in America, I know the feeling of being neglected by my government, and society, of feeling like a second-class citizen or not a citizen at all.”
Serbia and Turkey have condemned Monday’s establishment of diplomatic relations between Israel and Kosovo. Serbia objects to Israel’s recognition of Kosovo’s statehood as part of the deal, while Turkey says Kosovo’s plan to open an embassy in Jerusalem is a violation of international law. Kosovo would be the third country, after the U.S. and Guatemala — and the first Muslim-majority one — to open an embassy in Jerusalem. Kosovo will also recognize Hezbollah as a terrorist group as part of the agreement. The normalization deal was announced by former President Trump last September.
A dozen Mexican state police officers have been arrested for their possible involvement in the massacre of 19 people in the northern state of Tamaulipas. The officers face homicide charges. The 19 bodies were found shot and charred in a town near the U.S.-Mexico border in January. Relatives of asylum seekers from Guatemala say they believe some of the dead could be their loved ones, including teenagers who were trying to reach the U.S. Only four bodies have been identified. Two were Guatemalan, and two were Mexican.
Back in the U.S., Jeff Bezos has announced he is stepping down as CEO of Amazon, the $1.7 trillion company he founded in 1994. Bezos will remain as executive chair and the company’s biggest shareholder. Jeff Bezos is now worth about $185 billion, after personally making over $70 billion since the start of the pandemic. Bezos will be succeeded in July by Andy Jassy, who runs Amazon’s cloud computing division. In a 2018 interview with PBS “Frontline,” Jassy dismissed concerns about Amazon’s market monopoly and the antitrust push against the company.
Andy Jassy: “We have a relatively tiny share of the overall market segments in the categories in which we operate. And then I think the other thing to remember is that consumers and customers have a choice on where they spend their money. Simply because Amazon decides to pursue a market segment doesn’t mean that customers are going to spend their money there.”
Jassy also defended Amazon’s decision to sell facial recognition software to police departments and foreign governments in the interview, though Amazon announced last summer it was banning police use of their facial recognition technology for one year amid the historic Black Lives Matter and anti-police-brutality uprising.
Amazon will pay delivery drivers a settlement of $61.7 million after a Federal Trade Commission probe found it stole tips from its Amazon Flex drivers over two-and-a-half years. Amazon used the tips earned by Flex drivers — hourly workers who do not receive any benefits and make deliveries in their own vehicles — to pay their wages.
In South Florida, two FBI agents were fatally shot and three others wounded Tuesday morning in one of the deadliest shootings in the agency’s history. The officers were shot while executing a search warrant in a child abuse case. The subject of the investigation was found dead and had apparently barricaded himself inside an apartment complex.
In Missouri, a 39-year-old Black father died in the parking lot of a hospital after repeatedly being denied treatment. David Bell was turned away twice from the Barnes-Jewish Hospital days before his death despite reporting severe chest pain. On January 12, he was denied proper treatment for a third time and died minutes later as his wife pushed him back to their car in a wheelchair. David Bell was a father of three and worked as board director at the local fire and rescue center.
In New York, an anti-sex-worker law commonly known as the “walking while trans” ban has been repealed, marking a major victory for sex workers and transgender advocates who have been pressuring state officials for years. The law, which prohibited loitering for the purpose of sex work, led to the disproportionate criminalization, police harassment and arrests of Black and Brown trans people.