Loading articles...

AP News in Brief at 12:04 a.m. EST

Last Updated Jan 12, 2021 at 9:18 pm PDT

House urges Pence to help oust Trump; impeachment next

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. House rushed ahead Tuesday toward impeaching President Donald Trump for the deadly Capitol attack, taking time only to try to persuade his vice-president to push him out first. Trump showed no remorse, blaming impeachment itself for the “tremendous anger” in America.

Already scheduled to leave office next week, Trump is on the verge of becoming the only president in history to be twice impeached. His incendiary rhetoric at a rally ahead of the Capitol uprising is now in the impeachment charge against him — to be taken up Wednesday — even as the falsehoods he spread about election fraud are still being championed by some Republicans.

The House on Tuesday night approved a resolution urging Vice-President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment to the Constitution to remove Trump with a Cabinet vote, although Pence had already said he would not do so. The resolution, passed 223-205 almost entirely along party lines, urged him to “declare what is obvious to a horrified Nation: That the President is unable to successfully discharge the duties and powers of his office.”

Hours before the vote Pence had said no. In a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, he said it would not be in the best interest of the nation and it was “time to unite our country as we prepare to inaugurate President-elect Joe Biden.”

Meanwhile, five Republican lawmakers, including third-ranking House GOP leader Liz Cheney of Wyoming, announced they would vote to impeach Trump on Wednesday, cleaving the Republican leadership, and the party itself.

___

Fury at the shaken Capitol over the attack, security, virus

WASHINGTON (AP) — This time the fury enveloping the Capitol comes not from an insurgent mob but from within.

The anger on display is searing — Democrat against Republican; Republican against Republican; legislators of both parties against the catastrophic security failure that left top leaders of the government vulnerable to last week’s violence as well as to the coronavirus in their ranks.

The rage is being stoked even hotter by the passions aroused by Democrats’ fresh drive to impeach President Donald Trump.

This is a “powder keg” moment, one Democrat said. It’s certainly a historic one.

The House is moving toward making Trump the first president to be impeached twice as part of an extraordinary effort to remove him from office before Democrat Joe Biden’s inauguration a week from Wednesday. The charge to be brought against him: “incitement of insurrection.”

___

Trump takes no responsibility for riot, visits Texas

ALAMO, Texas (AP) — President Donald Trump on Tuesday took no responsibility for his part in fomenting a violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol last week, despite his comments encouraging supporters to march on the Capitol and praise for them while they were still carrying out the assault.

“People thought that what I said was totally appropriate,” Trump said.

He made the comments during his first appearance in public since the Capitol siege, which came as lawmakers were tallying Electoral College votes affirming President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. Trump arrived in Texas on Tuesday to trumpet his campaign against illegal immigration in an attempt to burnish his legacy with eight days remaining in his term, as lawmakers in Congress appeared set to impeach him this week for the second time.

In Alamo, Texas, a city in the Rio Grande Valley near the U.S.-Mexican border — the site of the 450th mile of the border wall his administration is building, Trump brushed off Democratic calls on his Cabinet to declare him unfit from office and remove him from power using the 25th Amendment.

“The 25th Amendment is of zero risk to me, but will come back to haunt Joe Biden and the Biden administration,” Trump said. “As the expression goes, be careful of what you wish for.”

___

Michigan plans to charge ex-Gov. Snyder in Flint water probe

FLINT, Mich. (AP) — Former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, his health director and other ex-officials have been told they’re being charged after a new investigation of the Flint water scandal, which devastated the majority Black city with lead-contaminated water and was blamed for a deadly outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease, The Associated Press has learned.

Two people with knowledge of the planned prosecution told the AP on Tuesday that the attorney general’s office has informed defence lawyers about indictments in Flint and told them to expect initial court appearances soon. They spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

The AP could not determine the nature of the charges against Snyder, former health department director Nick Lyon and others who were in his administration, including Rich Baird, a friend who was the governor’s key troubleshooter while in office.

Courtney Covington Watkins, a spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office, said only that investigators were “working diligently” and “will share more as soon as we’re in a position to do so.”

Snyder, a Republican who has been out of office for two years, was governor when state-appointed managers in Flint switched the city’s water to the Flint River in 2014 as a cost-saving step while a pipeline was being built to Lake Huron. The water, however, was not treated to reduce corrosion — a disastrous decision affirmed by state regulators that caused lead to leach from old pipes and spoil the distribution system used by nearly 100,000 residents.

___

No. 3 House GOP leader backs Trump impeachment as tide grows

WASHINGTON (AP) — Republican opposition to impeaching President Donald Trump began crumbling at the party’s upper echelons on Tuesday as the No. 3 House GOP leader said she would vote to impeach Trump.

“There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution,” Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., said in a statement that, while not unexpected, shook Congress as lawmakers prepared for a Wednesday House vote. With Democrats commanding that chamber, a vote impeaching Trump for an unprecedented second time seemed certain.

More ominously for a president clinging to his final week in office, The New York Times reported that influential Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell thinks Trump committed an impeachable offence and is glad Democrats are moving against him.

Citing unidentified people familiar with the influential Kentucky Republican’s thinking, the Times reported McConnell believes moving against Trump will help the GOP forge a future independent of the divisive, chaotic president.

McConnell thinks Trump’s behaviour before last week’s assault on the Capitol by fuming Trump supporters cost Republicans their Senate majority in two Georgia runoff elections, the newspaper reported. That’s a sentiment shared by many Republicans about Trump, who rather than focusing on bolstering Georgia’s two sitting GOP senators spent the last weeks of their campaign reciting his false narrative that his own reelection was ruined by Democratic election fraud.

___

VIRUS TODAY: Little appetite for lockdowns as deaths soar

Here’s what’s happening Tuesday with the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S.:

THREE THINGS TO KNOW TODAY

— State leaders are sounding a different tune in 2021 on decisions over imposing restrictions on businesses during the deadliest period for the pandemic. Governors from both parties are resisting lockdowns amid fears that their battered economies can’t endure much more.

— The vaccine rollout is gaining new steam. More states are expanding the line for the COVID-19 shots, and the Trump administration took a step toward increasing supply and adding new age groups.

— American tourists are still flocking to beaches in Mexico and the Caribbean despite the resurgence of the virus and soaring death toll. The Mexican state that’s home to Cancun received nearly 1 million tourists at the close of 2020 and start of the new year. Nearly half of them are from the U.S.

___

FBI says it warned about prospect of violence ahead of riot

WASHINGTON (AP) — The FBI warned law enforcement agencies ahead of last week’s breach of the U.S. Capitol about the potential for extremist-driven violence, U.S. officials said on Tuesday, contradicting earlier statements that they were caught off guard by the assault by supporters of President Donald Trump.

Nearly a week after the riot, officials said they were combing through mountains of evidence and vowed to aggressively seek out those who perpetrated the brazen attack on the U.S. Capitol. Though most of the charges brought so far have been misdemeanours, acting U.S. Attorney Michael Sherwin said the Justice Department was considering bringing sedition charges against some of the rioters, effectively accusing them of attempting to overthrow or defeat the government.

“This is only the beginning,” Sherwin said. “We’re going to focus on the most significant charges as a deterrent because, regardless of it was just a trespass in the Capitol or if someone planted a pipe bomb, you will be charged and you will be found.”

The Justice Department has created a specialized strike force to examine the possibility of sedition charges, which could carry up to 20 years in prison. Officials said they were utilizing some of the same techniques in the riot probe as they use in international counterterrorism investigations, examining the money flow and movement of defendants leading up to the breach. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, called for the rioters to be added to a no-fly list, a tool most commonly associated with terrorisms investigations.

The statements by FBI and Justice Department officials on Tuesday were intended as both a defence of federal law enforcement preparations before the deadly riot and as a warning to participants. But they also raised new questions about the co-ordination across agencies for the Jan. 6 riot, which was sparked by Trump’s calls for his supporters to fight Congress’ vote confirming President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.

___

Trump business backlash part of ‘cancel culture,’ son says

NEW YORK (AP) — The PGA cancelled its tournament at his golf course. Banks say they won’t lend to him anymore. New York City is looking to end his contract to operate the Central Park skating rink.

Hits to President Donald Trump’s business empire since the deadly riots at the U.S. Capitol are part of a liberal “cancel culture,” his son, Eric, told The Associated Press on Tuesday, saying his father will leave the presidency with a powerful brand backed by millions of voters who will follow him “to the ends of the Earth.”

“We live in the age of cancel culture, but this isn’t something that started this week. It is something that they have been doing to us and others for years,” said Trump, who along with his brother, Donald Jr., have been running the family company since their father took office four years ago. “If you disagree with them, if they don’t like you, they try and cancel you.”

The remarks in an extended interview to the AP come amid an extraordinary backlash against the Trump Organization after thousands of the president’s supporters stormed the Capitol last week in a violent riot seeking to keep lawmakers from confirming Joe Biden’s presidential election victory.

Amid accusations Trump incited the mob, the PGA of America voted to strip its namesake championship from Trump’s Bedminister, New Jersey, golf course next year, a British golf organization said the British Open will not be played at a Trump property in the “foreseeable future,” the e-commerce company Shopify stopped helping run the online Trump Store, and New York City announced it was looking to cancel contracts with Trump for skating rinks and a golf course in the Bronx.

___

As pandemic worsens, most US states resist restrictions

PHOENIX (AP) — As the U.S. goes through the most lethal phase of the coronavirus outbreak yet, governors and local officials in hard-hit parts of the country are showing little willingness to impose any new restrictions on businesses to stop the spread.

And unlike in 2020, when the debate over lockdowns often split along party lines, both Democratic and Republican leaders are signalling their opposition to forced closings and other measures.

Some have expressed fear of compounding the heavy economic damage inflicted by the outbreak. Some see little patience among their constituents for more restrictions 10 months into the crisis. And some seem to be focused more on the rollout of the vaccines that could eventually vanquish the threat.

The most notable change of tune came from New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, who imposed a tough shutdown last spring as the state became the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak.

“We simply cannot stay closed until the vaccine hits critical mass. The cost is too high. We will have nothing left to open,” Cuomo said this week as confirmed infections in the state climbed to an average of 16,000 a day and deaths reached about 170 per day.

___

Female inmate’s execution on hold; 2 more halted over COVID

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (AP) — The U.S. government’s plans to carry out its first execution of a female inmate in nearly seven decades were on hold Tuesday amid a flurry of legal rulings, and two other executions set for later this week were halted because the inmates tested positive for COVID-19.

The three executions were to be the last before President-elect Joe Biden, an opponent of the federal death penalty, is sworn-in next week. Now it’s unclear how many additional executions there will be under President Donald Trump, who resumed federal executions in July after 17-year pause. Ten federal inmates have since been put to death.

Lisa Montgomery faced execution Tuesday for killing 23-year-old Bobbie Jo Stinnett in the northwest Missouri town of Skidmore in 2004. She used a rope to strangle Stinnett, who was eight months pregnant, and then cut the baby girl from the womb with a kitchen knife. Montgomery took the child with her and attempted to pass the girl off as her own.

But an appeals court granted a stay of execution Tuesday, shortly after another appeals court lifted an Indiana judge’s ruling that found she was likely mentally ill and couldn’t comprehend she would be put to death. If a higher court puts the execution back on, Montgomery, the only female on federal death row, would receive a lethal injection at a federal prison complex in Terre Haute, Indiana. By Tuesday night, the Supreme Court lifted a separate injunction that was put in place by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

Separately, a federal judge for the U.S. District of Columbia halted the scheduled executions later this week of Corey Johnson and Dustin Higgs in a ruling Tuesday. Johnson, convicted of killing seven people related to his drug trafficking in Virginia, and Higgs, convicted of ordering the murders of three women in Maryland, both tested positive for COVID-19 last month.

The Associated Press