Trump trial video shows vast scope, danger of Capitol riot
WASHINGTON (AP) — Prosecutors unveiled chilling new security video in Donald Trump’s impeachment trial on Wednesday, showing the mob of rioters breaking into the Capitol, smashing windows and doors and searching menacingly for Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as overwhelmed police begged on their radios for help.
In the previously unreleased recordings, the House prosecutors displayed gripping scenes of how close the rioters were to the country’s leaders, roaming the halls chanting “Hang Mike Pence,” some equipped with combat gear. Outside, the mob had set up a makeshift gallows.
Videos of the siege have been circulating since the day of the riot, but the graphic compilation amounted to a more complete narrative, a moment-by-moment retelling of one of the nation’s most alarming days. In addition to the evident chaos and danger, it offered fresh details on the attackers, scenes of police heroism and cries of distress. And it showed just how close the country came to a potential breakdown in its seat of democracy as Congress was certifying Trump’s election defeat to Democrat Joe Biden.
“They did it because Donald Trump sent them on this mission,” said House prosecutor Stacey Plaskett, the Democratic delegate representing the U.S. Virgin Islands. “His mob broke into the Capitol to hunt them down.”
The stunning presentation opened the first full day of arguments in the trial as the prosecutors argued Trump was no “innocent bystander” but rather the “inciter in chief” of the deadly Capitol riot, a president who spent months spreading election lies and building a mob of supporters primed for his call to stop Biden’s victory.
Trial highlights: Harrowing footage, focus on Trump’s words
WASHINGTON (AP) — House Democrats opened their first day of arguments in former President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial Wednesday with searing footage of the U.S. Capitol riot as they painted Trump as an “inciter in chief” who systematically riled up his supporters and falsely convinced them the election had been stolen, culminating in the deadly attack.
“He assembled, inflamed and incited his followers to descend upon the Capitol,” said the lead impeachment manager, Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md.
As she presented harrowing footage of the siege, Del. Stacey Plaskett, a Democrat representing the U.S. Virgin Islands and one of the prosecutors, said Trump had “put a target” on the backs of then-Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who were leading the certification of President Joe Biden’s election victory. “His mob broke into the Capitol to hunt them down,” Plaskett said.
Highlights from the first full day of arguments:
TRUMP’S WORDS COME BACK TO HAUNT HIM
Is one day a week enough? Biden’s school goal draws blowback
President Joe Biden is being accused of backpedaling on his pledge to reopen the nation’s schools after the White House added fine print to his promise and made clear that a full reopening is still far from sight.
Biden’s initial pledge in December was to reopen “the majority of our schools” in his first 100 days in office. In January he specified that the goal applied only to schools that teach through eighth grade. And this week the White House said that schools will be considered opened as long as they teach in-person at least one day a week.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki defended the goal Wednesday, calling it part of a “bold ambitious agenda.” But she also said it’s a bar the administration hopes to exceed.
“Certainly, we are not planning to celebrate at 100 days if we reach that goal,” she said. “We certainly hope to build from that.”
The White House had faced increasing pressure to explain the goal as the reopening debate gains urgency. Biden had never detailed what it meant to be reopened or how he would define success. Pressed on the question Tuesday, Psaki clarified that one day a week of in-person learning would meet the mark.
Georgia prosecutor investigates election after Trump call
ATLANTA (AP) — A Georgia prosecutor said Wednesday that she has opened a criminal investigation into “attempts to influence” last year’s general election, including a call in which President Donald Trump asked a top official to find enough votes to overturn Joe Biden’s victory in the state.
In a Jan. 2 telephone conversation with Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, Trump repeatedly argued that Raffensperger could change the certified results of the presidential election, an assertion the secretary of state firmly rejected.
“All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have,” Trump said. “Because we won the state.”
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, a Democrat elected to the job in November, did not specifically mention Trump in the letters she sent to state officials Wednesday announcing her investigation. But the former president has been under intense criticism for the call.
Willis spokesman Jeff DiSantis told The Associated Press that while he could not name the subjects under investigation, he confirmed that Trump’s call to Raffensperger was “part of it” and said “the matters reported on over the last several weeks are the matters being investigated.” In her letters, Willis also remarks that officials “have no reason to believe that any Georgia official is a target of this investigation.”
Countries curb diplomatic ties, weigh sanctions on Myanmar
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — A growing number of governments are curbing diplomatic ties with Myanmar and increasing economic pressure on its military over the coup last week that erased the fragile democratic progress in the long-oppressed Southeast Asian nation.
President Joe Biden said Wednesday he was issuing an executive order that will prevent Myanmar’s generals from accessing $1 billion in assets in the United States, and he promised more measures were to come.
The U.S. was among many Western governments that lifted most sanctions in the past decade to encourage democratic change as Myanmar’s military rulers were taking gradual steps toward civilian rule — changes that proved temporary with the ousting of the elected government and detentions of Nobel Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and others.
One of the strongest reactions came from New Zealand, which has suspended all military and high-level political contact with the country and pledged to block any aid that could go to its military government or benefit its leaders. It also placed a travel ban on its military leaders.
“We do not recognize the legitimacy of the military-led government and we call on the military to immediately release all detained political leaders and restore civilian rule,” Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta said Tuesday.
Digital siege: Internet cuts become favored tool of regimes
LONDON (AP) — When army generals in Myanmar staged a coup last week, they briefly cut internet access in an apparent attempt to stymie protests. In Uganda, residents couldn’t use Facebook, Twitter and other social media for weeks after a recent election. And in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region, the internet has been down for months amid a wider conflict.
Around the world, shutting down the internet has become an increasingly popular tactic of repressive and authoritarian regimes and some illiberal democracies. Digital rights groups say governments use them to stifle dissent, silence opposition voices or cover up human rights abuses, raising concerns about restricting freedom of speech.
Regimes often cut online access in response to protests or civil unrest, particularly around elections, as they try to keep their grip on power by restricting the flow of information, researchers say. It’s the digital equivalent of seizing control of the local TV and radio station that was part of the pre-internet playbook for despots and rebels.
“Internet shutdowns have been massively underreported or misreported over the years,” said Alp Toker, founder of internet monitoring organization Netblocks. The world is “starting to realize what’s happening,” as documenting efforts like his expand, he said.
Last year there were 93 major internet shutdowns in 21 countries, according to a report by Top10VPN, a U.K.-based digital privacy and security research group. The list doesn’t include places like China and North Korea, where the government tightly controls or restricts the internet. Shutdowns can range from all-encompassing internet blackouts to blocking social media platforms or severely throttling internet speeds, the report said.
Government investigating massive counterfeit N95 mask scam
WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal authorities are investigating a massive counterfeit N95 mask operation in which fake 3M masks were sold in at least five states to hospitals, medical facilities and government agencies. The foreign-made knockoffs are becoming increasingly difficult to spot and could put health care workers at grave risk for the coronavirus.
These masks are giving first responders “a false sense of security,” said Steve Francis, assistant director for global trade investigations with the Homeland Security Department’s principal investigative arm. He added, “We’ve seen a lot of fraud and other illegal activity.”
Officials could not name the states or the company involved because of the active investigation.
Nearly a year into the pandemic, fraud remains a major problem as scammers seek to exploit hospitals and desperate and weary Americans. Federal investigators say they have seen an increase in phony websites purporting to sell vaccines as well as fake medicine produced overseas and scams involving personal protective equipment. The schemes deliver phony products, unlike fraud earlier in the pandemic that focused more on fleecing customers.
3M, based in Maplewood, Minnesota, is among the largest global producers of the N95 mask, which has been approved by the U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and is considered the gold standard in protection against the coronavirus. The company delivered some 2 billion N95 masks in 2020 as the pandemic soared, but in earlier months of the pandemic, when masks were in short supply, fraudsters starting popped up.
Biden in call with China’s Xi raises human rights, trade
Joe Biden on Wednesday held his first call as president with Xi Jinping, pressing the Chinese leader about trade and Beijing’s crackdown on democracy activists in Hong Kong as well as other human rights concerns.
The two leaders spoke just hours after Biden announced plans for a Pentagon task force to review U.S. national security strategy in China and after the new U.S. president announced he was levying sanctions against Myanmar’s military regime following this month’s coup in the southeast Asian country.
A White House statement said Biden raised concerns about Beijing’s “coercive and unfair economic practices.” Biden also pressed Xi on Hong Kong, human rights abuses against Uighur and ethnic minorities in the western Xinjiang province, and its actions toward Taiwan.
“I told him I will work with China when it benefits the American people,” Biden posted on Twitter after the call.
China’s state broadcaster CCTV struck a mostly positive tone about the conversation, saying Xi acknowledged the two sides had their differences, and those differences should be managed, but urged overall cooperation.
Hustler publisher Larry Flynt dies at 78
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Porn purveyor Larry Flynt, who built Hustler magazine into an adult entertainment juggernaut that included casinos, films, websites and other enterprises as he relentlessly championed First Amendment rights, has died at age 78.
Flynt, who had been in declining health, died Wednesday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, his longtime attorney, Paul Cambria, told The Associated Press. He had been paralyzed and nearly killed in a 1986 assassination attempt.
“He suffered decades of health issues and you can imagine it was pretty difficult,” said his nephew Jimmy Flynt Jr. He added, “I loved him and may he rest in peace.”
From his beginnings as a fledgling Ohio strip club owner to his reign as founder of one of the most outrageously explicit adult-oriented magazines, Flynt constantly challenged the establishment and was intensely disliked by the religious right and feminist groups that said he demeaned women and put them at risk with pictures of bondage and other controversial acts.
Flynt maintained throughout his life that he wasn’t just a pornographer but also a fierce defender of free-speech rights.
Reports: Mori to resign Tokyo Olympics over sexist remarks
TOKYO (AP) — The long saga of Yoshiro Mori appears to be near the end.
Japan’s Kyodo news agency and others reported on Thursday — citing unnamed sources — that Yoshiro Mori will step down on Friday as the president of the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee.
The move follows his sexist comments about women more than a week ago, and an ensuing and rare public debate in Japan about gender equality,
A decision is expected to be announced on Friday when the organizing committee’s executive board meets. The executive board of Tokyo 2020 is overwhelming male, as is the day-to-day leadership.
The 83-year-old Mori, in a meeting of the Japanese Olympic Committee more than a week ago, essentially said that women “talk too much” and are driven by a “strong sense of rivalry.” Mori, a former prime minister, gave a grudging apology a few days later after his opinions were reported, but declined to resign.
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