Tennessee Gov. Introduces New Bill Banning Abortions Where Fetal Heartbeat Is Detected

Tennessee is taking further steps to protect the lives of unborn children. State Gov. Bill Lee announced on Thursday that he will push for comprehensive restrictions on abortions this year, including a new version of a bill that would prohibit the procedure where a fetal heartbeat is detected.
The state previously passed a so-called “heartbeat bill” in the House of Representatives last year but it failed to gain support in the Senate. Republican state senators said they were concerned that the law could get struck down in court on constitutional grounds.
The proposed heartbeat bill, Lee said, will include a new approach that would include bans on abortion at two-week gestational age intervals if the bill is struck down in court. This approach, which was modeled after Missouri’s law, would also include a severability clause.
The new law, which still has not been finalized, will likely include provisions requiring a mother to undergo an ultrasound prior to an abortion and prohibiting an abortion provider from performing the procedure they know was sought because of the race, sex, health, or disability diagnosis of the unborn child.
“I believe that every human life is precious, and we have a responsibility to protect it,” Lee said in a statement on Thursday. “Today, Tennessee is taking a monumental step in celebrating, cherishing, and defending life at every stage. I’m grateful to be joined by so many leaders in our state who are boldly standing up for our most vulnerable.”
Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, who raised concerns about a similar bill last year, said in a statement that he was “ecstatic” for the proposed bill.
“The many provisions of this bill represent great leaps forward for the cause of life in Tennessee. The destination has always been clear. The issue has been identifying the proper vehicle. We now have the proper vehicle,” McNally said. “This comprehensive, tiered approach is our best chance of advancing the cause of life without sacrificing the gains we have made.”
Several states including Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Ohio have passed their own version of the “heartbeat bills.” Many of these bills have led to a series of legal challenges in courts. These states are hoping that the lawsuits could be a vehicle to challenge the 1973 landmark decision Roe v. Wade, which protects a woman’s access to abortion, in the Supreme Court. Several courts across the country have already invalidated the “heartbeat bill,” such as in Kentucky.
The Supreme Court is preparing to hear a case regarding state laws that put restrictions on abortions. That case asks the court to decide whether an unconstitutional burden has been placed on women seeking abortions after Louisiana passed a law requiring doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges within 30 miles of where the procedure was taking place. Although the right to abortion is not the focus issue of the case, it has garnered significant attention as the case could provide people with some insight into the top court’s attitude toward the procedure, since this case would be the first for President Donald Trump’s two new appointees—Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, 12,140 abortions were performed in Tennessee in 2017, although not all of the abortions were provided to residents of the states. Moreover, the abortion rate in the state declined 14 percent between 2014 and 2017, from 10.7 to 9.2 abortions per 1000 women of reproductive age.
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No Bipartisan Talks on Impeachment Trial Witnesses Are Happening: Schumer

There are no bipartisan talks taking place on the matter of calling witnesses to testify in the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Thursday.
“No Republicans are talking to us about deals,” Schumer told reporters at a press conference in Washington.
Schumer said one report, which cited anonymous sources and claimed that some Democrats are mulling a compromise that would see some witnesses Democrats want testify along with former Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden, was “false.”
“And now everyone is jumping on it,” he said, referring to other outlets citing the single report and pushing the narrative.
Schumer said Democrats still want four witnesses to testify, including former national security adviser John Bolton, but haven’t budged on not making deals.
“We want these four witnesses, these four sets of documents,” Schumer said. “Not a single Republican has approached me and said, ‘What about this? What about that?’”

Then-National Security Advisor John Bolton speaks at a Federalist Society event at The Mayflower Hotel in Washington on Sept. 10, 2018. (Samira Bouaou/The Epoch Times)

Then-Vice President Joe Biden, left, with his son Hunter at the Duke Georgetown NCAA college basketball game in Washington on Jan. 30, 2010. (Nick Wass/AP Photo)
Some GOP members have mused about calling other witnesses, including Hunter Biden. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) told reporters on Wednesday that Biden’s testimony “is now critical” following opening arguments by House impeachment manager Adam Schiff (D-Calif.).
Schiff “not only made his testimony relevant, which it already was, but it is now critical because the House Democrats have built their entire case on the proposition that any investigation into Burisma and corruption was a sham … the problem is, there is very significant prima facie evidence of corruption,” Cruz said, referring to Hunter Biden sitting on Burisma’s board from 2014 to 2019, including a few years when his father was in office and pressured Ukraine to oust a prosecutor who was probing Burisma.
Since Republicans hold a 53-47 majority in the Senate, Schumer needs to find four Republicans willing to vote on calling witnesses. Schumer hasn’t named anyone he’s convinced to join the other party in the upcoming vote but told reporters that “there are a lot of conversations going on.”
The initial trial resolution, which laid out the first steps, passed 53-47 in a party-line vote. Two Independents, including Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), voted with Democrats.
Some Republicans have voiced interest in calling witnesses, including Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Mitt Romney (R-Utah).
The Senate will eventually vote on dismissing the impeachment articles against Trump or convicting him. A dismissal requires a simple majority while a conviction, or removal from office, requires a supermajority of those present. Forty-five Republicans are already prepared to vote for dismissal, one senator said this week.
No president has been removed from office through impeachment in the history of the country.
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Texas Officials Investigating Suspected Case of Coronavirus

Officials in Texas are investigating a suspected case of 2019 Novel Coronavirus, the virus that’s hit China and spread to multiple other countries.
The Brazos County Health District said on Thursday that it’s probing a suspected case of the virus.
The patient traveled from Wuhan, the city at the epicenter of the outbreak.
“Health care providers were aware of public health guidance on novel coronavirus and quickly recognized that the patient met the criteria for coronavirus testing and is being kept isolated at home, while the precautionary testing is done. If there is a confirmed case, we will promptly announce it,” the district said in a statement.
It urged people who traveled to Wuhan to call authorities or seek medical care if they develop flu-like symptoms like fever, coughing, shortness of breath, and a sore throat.
People should call their healthcare provider before traveling to get medical care, the district said.
Brazos County, which has a population of around 225,000, sits south of Dallas between Austin and Houston in southeast Texas.
The first confirmed case of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus was confirmed this week in Washington State, federal officials said. The patient recently returned from Wuhan and sought treatment at a medical facility.

A Chinese man wears a protective mask and glasses before boarding a train at a railway station in Beijing, China on Jan. 23, 2020. (Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)
“While originally thought to be spreading from animal-to-person, there are growing indications that limited person-to-person spread is happening. It’s unclear how easily this virus is spreading between people,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in a statement about the first confirmed case.
A person who flew into Los Angeles on Wednesday and displayed symptoms of an illness potentially resembling coronavirus and was sent a hospital for precautionary testing Thursday.
Later on Thursday, U.S. authorities told people to avoid traveling to Wuhan.
“There is an ongoing outbreak of respiratory illness caused by a novel (new) coronavirus that can be spread from person to person,” the CDC said in a travel notice.
“Chinese officials have closed transport within and out of Wuhan, including buses, subways, trains, and the international airport. Preliminary information suggests that older adults and people with underlying health conditions may be at increased risk for severe disease from this virus.”
The agency did not say to avoid nonessential travel to other parts of China.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said at a press conference Thursday that the coronavirus is not yet a global health emergency, though it is one inside of China.
“Make no mistake. This is an emergency in China, but it has not yet become a global health emergency,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the head of WHO, at the press conference.
“I am not declaring a public health emergency of international concern today,” he added.
Eighteen people have died from the coronavirus, all inside of China. Hundreds of others have been infected, with cases cropping up in Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, in addition to the United States and China.
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Virginia Senate Passes ‘Red Flag’ Law Following Gun Rights Rally

Virginia’s State Senate passed a “red flag” bill days after a massive gun rights rally opposing the legislation drew at least 22,000 Second Amendment advocates from across the country. Gun rights groups decried the move.
The legislation, SB 240, passed on Jan. 22 by a thin 21-19 margin and will head to the state’s House of Delegates where it is also expected to pass. The bill will have to be approved by the House and be signed by Gov. Ralph Northam to become law.
The bill, once signed into law, allows authorities to apply to certain courts for “an emergency substantial risk order to prohibit a person who poses a substantial risk of injury to himself or others from purchasing, possessing, or transporting a firearm.”
Democrats recently won control of both chambers of the state legislature and have vowed to enact stronger gun control policies. They believe that stricter legislation will help reduce shootings and deaths. Northam has indicated previously that he would sign such legislation into law.
According to Dudley Brown, President at the National Association for Gun Rights, red flag laws allow the theft of personal property from law-abiding citizens who have committed no crime.
“It is an unconstitutional pre-crime program like you would expect to see in some Communist backwater nation,” Brown told The Epoch Times via email.
Second Amendment advocates and gun rights supporters at the rally told The Epoch Times the proposals passing through the General Assembly violate their constitutional rights.
Last week, the Virginia Senate had passed a slew of gun control bills including measures to require background checks on all firearms sales, limit handgun purchases to one per month, and restore local government powers to ban weapons from public buildings and other venues.
NRA spokesperson Catherine Mortensen said the red flag bill “fails to address mental health concerns for individuals and falls far short on due process.”
“[It] also creates numerous false flag opportunities for law enforcement,” she told The Epoch Times.
Following the Jan. 20 rally, Northam issued a statement saying he would “continue to listen to the voices of Virginians.” Meanwhile, a Change.org petition has garnered over 68,000 signatures calling for the impeachment of Northam.
“Thousands of people came to Richmond to make their voices heard. Today showed that when people disagree, they can do so peacefully,” Northam said. “The issues before us evoke strong emotions, and progress is often difficult.”
Northam and other Democratic lawmakers in the state have credited their focus on gun control for helping them win full control of the General Assembly for the first time in more than two decades, according to The Associated Press.
A spokesman for Virginia House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn (D) told CNN that the house would “deliver” for voters who support gun control measures.
“Virginians spoke loud and clear on Election Day demanding common-sense gun violence protections, and make no mistake, we will deliver on that mandate,” Jake Rubenstein told the network.
There was a heavy police presence at the gun rights rally, and overhead, security watched from rooftops on nearby buildings and on the Capitol itself. There was only one entrance and a number of security checkpoints to get onto the Capitol grounds.
The mood, however, was upbeat, and authorities said there were no arrests or injuries reported as of 1:40 p.m, with most people having left by that time.
“I think [gun control bills] are too radical,” Gwen Wells, who identifies as a liberal, told The Epoch Times after the rally.
“I think when you have too many extremes from one side or the other you just alienate the people you need to work with to accomplish real change,” she said. “I think the powers in the people, all the people who are represented by the entire constitution.”
“If I want my constitutional right to be protected then I need to help other people keep their constitutional rights protected,” she added.
The rally, also known as “Lobby Day,” is organized annually by the Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL), a nonprofit grassroots organization whose goal is to advance the right to keep and bear arms.
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Former Pentagon Official: Taiwan Election Sends Message to the Region

News Analysis
WASHINGTON—The Pentagon’s former top policy official for Asia views the recent Taiwan election in the context of Taiwan and U.S. security interests.
Randall Schriver, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs, spoke Jan. 16 at Notre Dame’s Keough School of Global Affairs on “Beyond the Ballot: Taiwan’s Elections and Their Implications for U.S. Policy.”
The election saw Taiwan re-elect President Tsai Ing-wen on Jan 11. Election turnout was 74.9 percent, the highest for nationwide elections in 12 years. Tsai’s 57.1 percent of the vote was the highest vote share for a Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) candidate in a presidential election.
Tsai, after losing in the 2018 local elections in Taiwan, was able to successfully characterize the ongoing protests in Hong Kong as an auger of what could happen to Taiwan if it accepted the “one country, two systems” formula offered by Beijing.
Taiwan’s example stands very much in contrast to the solution that Beijing would have it take, however.
As Schriver noted, Taiwan is “a young democracy.”
“Democracy is not an end point, it’s an experiment that sends important messages to the region.”
Chief among those regional targets is the People’s Republic of China. “The people of China pay attention. Surely there are people there who ask why they don’t have the same rights. Someday it might happen, and we hope for it in China.” They would have been inspired by Taiwan, Schriver added.
Schriver’s assumption is that this election will spark no change from China in its “trajectory or tactics towards Taiwan.”
“They don’t show signs of having a broad toolkit or being very nuanced. Stripping diplomatic allies from Taiwan and sailing through the Taiwan Strait” seem to be the extent of Beijing’s powers of persuasion, he implied.
Schriver knows the president of Taiwan “pretty well; she’s pragmatic, and talks about a constitutional environment.” Unsurprisingly, “Beijing is not receptive to what she says.”
American & Taiwanese Commitment to the Region
On the American side, the 2018 U.S. National Defense Strategy commits to a “free and open Indo-Pacific region,” also known as FOIP. FOIP is “not an anti-China policy, and it is not directed at any one country,” Schriver said.
The Defense Department document elaborates on the concept. “We will strengthen our alliances and partnerships in the Indo-Pacific to a networked security architecture capable of deterring aggression, maintaining stability, and ensuring free access to common domains,” it reads.
FOIP is based on enduring, nearly universal principles, Schriver said. Therefore, the United States find itself in contrast to China in terms of issues of sovereignty, international law, and norms. Taiwan, however, is a partner in these concepts, Schriver continued.
“There is a sense of urgency to look after their defense needs”, Schriver said, referring to Taiwan. “We look for Taiwan to preserve their status, and to deal with their de facto independence.”
To that purpose, Schriver points to Admiral Lee His-ming, Taiwan’s Chief of the General Staff. In 2017, Lee “quietly proposed a revolutionary new approach to Taiwan’s defense…called the Overall Defense Concept”. It employs an asymmetric defense strategy which maximizes its defense advantages, while targeting an invading force when it is at its weakest, writes Drew Thompson in “War on the Rocks.”
The concept “makes a lot of sense”, Shriver said. It incorporates capabilities that would make Taiwan safe from an amphibious attack.
Taiwan is moving in this direction, and the United States is doing things to support them. But, said Schriver, “we need Taiwan to have a sense of urgency and make investments.”
Schriver noted that the United States is “engaged in a step-up effort itself,” Schriver said, referring to planned U.S. Army and Navy enhancements of capability in the Indo-Pacific Command.
Even though “Taiwan is a very, very hard target, and there are 80 miles of water between it and the Chinese mainland,” there is still a lot of pessimism about Taiwan’s ability to defend itself.
Partnering, Networking, and Arms Sales
There are other ways in which Taiwan can be a partner, Schriver noted.
“Promoting a networked region is an acknowledgement that security challenges in Asia-Pacific are multilateral in nature. In order to effectively deal with them partners need to be networked.”
The United States believes that Taiwan has more they can do in this area, Schriver suggested.
“The primary driver for PLA modernization remains Taiwan, the primary sense of friction is Taiwan, the most likely area for crisis is Taiwan,” said Schriver.
The United States of course would like to see the two sides work things out peacefully.
But in the meantime, Schriver noted that “our arms sales have a record of promoting and improving Cross-Straits relations.”
He cited the Bush administration’s massive arms sales package to Taiwan in April 2001, which was originally for $18 billion U.S. dollars. It “was followed by Taiwan and China entering the World Trade Organization.”
“We have seen China change some facts on the ground. They have completed land reclamation and have militarized,” he said, referencing Beijing’s island-grabbing in the South China Sea.
Schriver said that he personally supports seeing the United States ratify the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). However, it is unlikely that the Senate would take it up, he added.
The irony is that “China has ratified it and doesn’t honor it, while the United States has signed it, not ratified it, but does honor it,” the former Pentagon official said.
“We want to see Taiwan remain free and open,” Schriver said. “We’re doing FONOPS (freedom of navigation operations) and joint drills, but it has to be a sustained effort because any gaps, and China will fill in the void.”
“We must keep an eye on the South China Sea,” he urged.

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Rep. Richard Neal to Discuss Infrastructure Plan With Secretary Mnuchin

The Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.) will meet with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to discuss an infrastructure package, saying he is hopeful about working with the White House on this important legislation following the passage of the bi-partisan trade deal.
Neal told reporters in his home state of Massachusetts that he plans to meet with Mnuchin next week when he returns to Washington.
“We need to agree on some numbers and proceed on the basis that the country badly needs it, and I think that it is doable,” Neal said, according to the State House News Service.
Neal was optimistic that there is bipartisan support for improving the nation’s infrastructure. He said passing of the USMCA trade deal showed him the House and Senate can get something done.
“I think big things can get done in election years,” Neal said. “This is one of those issues that’s interesting because the president needs it and we want it.”
In order to craft legislation that would best meet the needs of U.S. cities’ infrastructure, the Ways and Means Committee will hold a hearing, “Paving the Way for Funding and Financing Infrastructure Investments,” on Jan. 29.
The committee will be hearing from witnesses who can give the members insight into the current condition of U.S. infrastructure.
At a 2019 hearing, Mnuchin told members of the committee that he is fully committed to the passage of the Trump administration’s $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan.
Mnuchin, like Neal, emphasized bipartisanship.
“I look forward to working with Chairman Neal and the committee on a bipartisan basis,” Mnuchin told the House Ways and Means Committee, adding that the goal is to pass the ambitious building plan “this year.”
Trump’s long-term infrastructure plan would depend mostly on private investments, as well as local and state governments, to provide a lion’s share of the funding, with 200 billion of the $1.5 trillion earmarked by the administration to pay for infrastructure in the short term.
“We’re going to sit down on a bipartisan basis and we’ll see what we can agree on,” Mnuchin told the committee. “This has to be a combination of the administration, the House, and the Senate … and see what we can get done. Everyone has got the same objective, we want to make infrastructure investments.”
The White House said in an infrastructure budget summary, “The Administration looks forward to working with the Congress to develop a package that will significantly improve the Nation’s infrastructure, and the Budget includes $200 billion towards this effort.”
It added that much of America’s infrastructure is in “urgent need of repair, expansion, and modernization.” America’s overall infrastructure was ranked 9th by the World Economic Forum and 11th for the quality of its roads.
Beginning in the 1980s, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) compiled regular summaries of the condition of U.S. infrastructure. In its 2017 report, the ASCE found that the nation’s infrastructure averages a “D,” meaning that conditions are exhibiting deterioration, with a “strong risk of failure.” They estimate that about $1.5 trillion is needed by 2025 to bring the nation’s infrastructure up to standard.

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Former ‘PBS NewsHour’ Co-Anchor Jim Lehrer Dies at 85

Jim Lehrer, the co-founder and former host of the “PBS Newshour,” died at age 85, PBS confirmed on its website.
“With heavy hearts we report the death of PBS NewsHour co-founder Jim Lehrer at age 85. A giant in journalism, his tenacity and dedication to simply delivering the news remain the core of our work,” the show announced on Twitter on Thursday.
PBS said he died in his sleep on Thursday and didn’t provide details about his cause of death.
Lehrer hosted the “NewsHour” for 36 years before he retired in 2011. Lehrer and Robert MacNeil founded the program in 1975 after they extensively covered the Senate Watergate Hearings on PBS in the early 1970s that led to an impeachment inquiry into then-President Richard Nixon.
“I’m heartbroken at the loss of someone who was central to my professional life, a mentor to me and someone whose friendship I’ve cherished for decades,” said Judy Woodruff, anchor and managing editor of the PBS NewsHour, in a statement. “I’ve looked up to him as the standard for fair, probing and thoughtful journalism and I know countless others who feel the same way.”
PBS President Paula Kerger said in a statement she was dismayed to hear of his death.
“From co-creating the groundbreaking MacNeil/Lehrer Report to skillfully moderating many presidential debates, Jim exemplified excellence in journalism throughout his extraordinary career,” Kerger said in a statement on PBS’s website. “A true giant in news and public affairs, he leaves behind an incredible legacy that serves as an inspiration to us all. He will be missed.”
Lehrer also authored about 20 novels, memoirs, and several plays.
He is survived by his wife, Kate, along with daughters Jamie, Lucy, and Amanda, and six grandchildren.

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Sick Person in Los Angeles Sent to Hospital for Precautionary Coronavirus Screening

A passenger who arrived at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) with symptoms of an illness potentially resembling coronavirus was sent for precautionary testing.
The 2019 Novel Coronavirus has sicked hundreds around the world, mostly in China, and killed 17 in China.
The passenger landed on American Airlines flight 2456 from Mexico City, an airport spokesperson told The Epoch Times. The person, who was traveling with relatives, had flu-like symptoms and was sent for testing.
The person landed around 6:30 p.m on Wednesday night.
“Early this morning, sometime after midnight, that person was transferred to a hospital in LA after the CDC and local health officials decided that that person should go to the hospital for precautionary screening,” the spokesman said.
The situation was treated the same as any other health emergency, he said.
LAX was was one of five airports in the United States screening passengers from China for coronavirus. The first case in the country was reported this week in Washington state.

Passengers wear protective masks to protect against the spread of the coronavirus as they arrive at the Los Angeles International Airport, California, on Jan. 22, 2020. (Mark Ralston/AFP via Getty Images)
Airport officials cautioned reporters about connections with the coronavirus. After an NBC reporter claimed that the person was “quarantined at the airport after showing symptoms of contagious and dangerous coronavirus,” the airport stated on social media: “This is not the information provided by the airport.”
“One passenger overnight was taken to the hospital for a precautionary evaluation. We refer you to CDC for additional information,” the airport said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) didn’t respond to The Epoch Times by deadline.
The possible case came after health officers in Los Angeles County said there were no reported coronavirus cases in L.A. county.
“To date, there have been no reported coronavirus cases in LA County and currently the risk of local transmission is low according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). We will keep everyone informed as more information becomes available. We are urging the public to remain calm, as it is very unlikely that they are at risk of contracting this virus,” Barbara Ferrer, director of the county Department of Public Health, said in a statement.
People traveling into the county who displayed symptoms, including having a fever or respiratory illness, would be screened, tested, and cared for, Ferrer’s office said.
“Travelers who have visited Wuhan City who are not ill upon their arrival to the LA County are advised to contact a healthcare provider and seek care if they become ill while here. While there is no cure for this virus, hospital partners and clinical providers are able to test and care for ill travelers to minimize transmission and treatment for symptoms,” the office stated.
“We want to underscore that there is no need to exclude anyone who has traveled to or from Wuhan City, or China in general, unless they are symptomatic, at which time they should seek a medical evaluation.”
Symptoms include fever, coughing, difficulty breathing,
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Key GOP Senator Takes Offense to House Manager’s ‘Cover-Up’ Accusation

A key swing-vote Republican senator told reporters she was offended by a claim levied by one of the House impeachment managers that Republicans are engaging in a “cover-up” during the trial against President Donald Trump, and questioned why Democrats didn’t go to the courts obtain more evidence.
“I took it as very offensive,” Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) told local media on Wednesday. “As one who is listening attentively and working hard to get to a fair process, I was offended.”
Along with Sens. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), Murkowski has widely been seen as a potential swing-vote in the Senate trial after she bucked the Republican party line to vote against confirming Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court in 2018.
However, it appears House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler’s (D-N.Y.) fiery speech during the trial struck a nerve when he accused GOP senators of “voting for a cover-up, voting to deny witnesses, an absolutely indefensible vote, obviously a treacherous vote.”
In another interview, Murkowski told CNN Thursday she had concerns about why the House didn’t try to seek witnesses or documents in their case by seeking a remedy in the courts.
“The House made a decision that they didn’t want to slow things down by having to go through the courts. And yet now they’re basically saying you guys gotta go through the courts. We didn’t, but we need you to,” Murkowski said.
House Democrats have said they wanted to move forward with their articles of impeachment without waiting for court orders to be handed down because the process could be too long. Trump and the White House have said he has executive privilege and doesn’t need to adhere to every subpoena issued by the House.
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) echoed Murkowski’s comments on Nadler’s bellicose accusation, suggesting it was without precedent.
“I mean, that’s an extraordinary thing to say on the floor of the United States Senate, the middle of the trial, and that’s what drew the rebuke and rightly so,” Hawley told reporters, referring to Chief Justice John Roberts admonishing House managers and the president’s counsel, according to Fox News. “I can tell you, there was an open, open gasping on the Senate floor when Nadler was saying these things. I mean, it’s really, really extraordinary.”
He added, “If the goal was to persuade, they took a huge step backward last night.”
Two hours before Thursday’s trial proceedings began, Senate Minority Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) again reiterated the need for witnesses and documents related to the impeachment case against Trump.
“I think the case for witnesses and documents is so self-evident that many of my Republican colleagues are desperate to talk about anything else, they are so eager to change [the] conversation,” Schumer told reporters. He has sought to obtain testimony from former Trump national security adviser John Bolton, White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, and others.

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Trump Administration Announces Visa Restrictions for Pregnant Women

The U.S. government said that women traveling to the United States primarily to give birth for the purpose of getting their child U.S. citizenship, is no longer permissible.
The new rule “establishes that travel to the United States with the primary purpose of obtaining U.S. citizenship for a child by giving birth in the United States is an impermissible basis for the issuance of a B nonimmigrant visa,” or a tourism or business visa, the State Department said in an announcement (pdf).
“The Department does not believe that visiting the United States for the primary purpose of obtaining U.S. citizenship for a child, by giving birth in the United States—an activity commonly referred to as ‘birth tourism’—is a legitimate activity for pleasure or of a recreational nature, for purposes of consular officers adjudicating applications for B nonimmigrant visas.”
Consular officers will be instructed to deny visas to women they think are traveling to the United States primarily to give birth.
People traveling to the United States for “pleasure,” or as tourists, should be planning to engage in “legitimate activities of a recreational character, including tourism, amusement, visits with friends or relatives, rest, medical treatment, and activities of a fraternal, social, or services nature,” the department said in explaining the changes.
The practice of birth tourism, or traveling to another country to give birth, is rife with criminal activity and poses risks to national security, the department said.

A pregnant Honduran migrant stands in line with other migrants for a bus to another place inside the United States, in McAllen, Texas, on Aug. 15, 2016. (John Moore/Getty Images)
“Permitting short-term visitors with no demonstrable ties to the United States to obtain visas to travel to the United States primarily to obtain U.S. citizenship for a child creates a potential long-term vulnerability for national security. Foreign governments or entities, including entities of concern to the United States, may seek to benefit from birth tourism for purposes that would threaten the security of the United States,” it said.
The department estimates that thousands of children are born in the country to nonimmigrants every year. According to the Center for Immigration Studies, which pushes for stricter immigration laws, about 36,000 foreign-born women gave birth in the United States in 2012 before leaving the country.
The new rules also include another provision. It says that visa applicants seeking medical treatment in the United States will be denied if they’re not able to establish “a legitimate reason why he or she wishes to travel to the United States for medical treatment, and that a medical practitioner or facility in the United States has agreed to provide treatment,” the State Department said.
“Additionally, the applicant must provide the projected duration and cost of treatment and any incidental expenses. The applicant must also establish to the satisfaction of the consular officer that he or she has the means and intent to pay for the medical treatment and all incidental expenses, including transportation and living expenses, either independently or with the pre-arranged assistance of others.”

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2020 Democrats Stuck During Impeachment Deny Wanting to Campaign in Iowa

Several senators who are Democratic primary contenders, but remain stuck in Washington for the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, denied they’re frustrated with being forced to stay off the campaign trail as the Iowa caucuses approach.
Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), have to spend six days a week on Capitol Hill to serve as jurors in the impeachment trial. Meanwhile, the Iowa caucuses are Feb. 3, and New Hampshire’s caucuses come about a week later.
On Wednesday, the impeachment trial lasted until about 9:30 p.m., but Tuesday was far more grueling as senators were forced to stay at the Senate building until the early-morning hours to hash out rules. The senators are also prohibited from using smartphones and other electronic devices during the trial, which means they cannot communicate with campaign staffers or write on Twitter to supporters.
The four senators were asked about where they would rather be: Washington or Iowa?
In recent interviews, none of the senators vying for their party’s nomination said they would rather be campaigning on the ground.
“This is my responsibility,” Warren told the Washington Examiner on Wednesday. “I took an oath of office to uphold the Constitution, and that’s why I’m here. Some things are more important than politics.”
“My focus today is on a monumental moment in American history: the impeachment trial of Donald Trump,” Sanders told NBC on Tuesday. “Tomorrow I will be in an impeachment trial,” Sanders told supporters Monday in Des Moines, according to the New York Times. “How long it lasts? Honestly don’t know. I am not going to be able to be here as much as I would like. So you guys are going to have to carry the ball.”
The campaign for Sanders announced on Tuesday that the longtime senator would have to cancel at least one campaign stop in Iowa due to the impeachment trial. Instead, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) will be deployed to “host campaign events in Iowa City, Cedar Rapids, and Ames on Friday and Saturday” before Sanders joins her at an Iowa event on Sunday—his only day off during the impeachment trial.
“This is my constitutional duty,” Klobuchar told reporters in the Capitol. “That is the fact.” NBC News reported that she took a 6 a.m. flight on Tuesday to return to Washington from Iowa.
“I am here doing my constitutional duty; the people of Iowa understand that,” Klobuchar added to the Examiner, adding that she has campaign staffers standing in for her. “Having people on the ground that are people that see folks in the supermarket or at work—that matters.”
Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, told reporters on Tuesday that he was seeking to gain an advantage over his opponents who are tied up with impeachment.
“Look, realistically, a lot of people are going to make up their minds in the last few days in each of the early states and here in Iowa, too,” Buttigieg said. “So we’re going to make the most of every moment that we have on the ground.”
Former Vice President Joe Biden didn’t appear to relish his on-the-ground advantage but said he wasn’t paying attention to the impeachment proceedings.
“I didn’t get to see it all because I was out here campaigning in Iowa, doing town meetings,” he told MSNBC on Wednesday. “But what I saw the reruns of, it was—I have a great respect and reverence for the Senate, for real.”
According to the RealClearPolitics average, Biden is leading in Iowa with 21 percent. He’s followed by Sanders with 17.3 percent, Warren with 16.7 percent, Buttigieg with 16.3 percent, and Klobuchar with 8.3 percent.

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Massachusetts Woman Convicted in Texting Suicide Case Is Released From Jail

Michelle Carter, the Massachusetts woman who encouraged her boyfriend to kill himself, was released from prison on Thursday morning after spending less than a year behind bars.
Carter, 23, was released months early on good behavior after having been sentenced to 15 months in prison, according to Jonathan Darling, spokesman at the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office.
“Ms. Carter has been a model inmate here at the Bristol County House of Corrections. She has participated in a variety of programs, held a job inside the jail, has been polite to our staff and volunteers, has gotten along with the other inmates, and we’ve had no discipline issues with her whatsoever,” Darling told CNN.
According to video footage from local media, she left the Bristol County House of Correction at about 9:30 a.m. WHDH reported that she wearing a black turtleneck, a tan blazer, and black pants. Those were the same clothes she wore when she was sentenced months ago.
Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court upheld Carter’s conviction last February before she began serving out her prison term. She was also denied parole in September.
“After she convinced him to get back into the carbon monoxide filled truck, she did absolutely nothing to help him: she did not call for help or tell him to get out of the truck as she listened to him choke and die,” Justice Scott Kafker wrote in the state Supreme Judicial Court’s decision, reported The Associated Press.
It comes after the U.S. Supreme Court on Jan. 13 rejected an appeal from Carter’s legal team. Her lawyers had asked the Supreme Court to take up her case and argued that her conviction three years ago violated her First Amendment rights. In February 2019, after an appeal, the highest court in Massachusetts upheld her conviction.
Prosecutors said Carter, in 2014, had pressured her boyfriend, Conrad Roy III, into killing himself even after he expressed hesitation.
“I thought you wanted to do this. The time is right and you’re ready, you just need to do it! You can’t keep living this way,” she wrote in one text message to him.
Prosecutors also said Carter listened over the phone while he died of carbon monoxide inhalation in his truck, adding that she did not tell Roy’s parents or authorities after his death.
“Although we are very pleased with the verdict, in reality there are no winners here,” prosecutor Katie Rayburn told reporters at the time. “Two families had been torn apart and will be affected by this for years to come. We hope verdict will bring some closure… It’s been an extremely emotionally draining process for everyone involved.”
Carter’s lawyers argued she was being dragged into participation in Roy’s suicidal tendencies and said he was intent on killing himself.
“The evidence actually established that Conrad Roy caused his own death by his physical actions and by his own thoughts,” defense attorney Joseph Cataldo said, according to CNN. “You’re dealing with an individual who wanted to take his own life. … He dragged Michelle Carter into this.”
Suicide Hotlines
If you are in an emergency in the United States or Canada, please call 911. You can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline on 1-800-273-8255. Youth can call the Kids Help Phone on 1-800-668-6868.
In the United Kingdom, call Samaritans at 116 123, Papyrus at 0800 068 41 41, or Childline at 0800 1111.
In Australia, the suicide prevention hotline at Lifeline is 13 11 14. You can also visit the Lifeline website at lifeline.org.au. Youth can contact the Kids Helpline by phoning 1-800-551-800 or visiting headspace.org.au/yarn-safe
If you are in an emergency in India, call Befrienders India—National Association at +91 33 2474 4704.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Department of Transportation Proposes Ban of Support Animals on Flights

The U.S. Department of Transportation has announced new plans that may allow airlines to ban untrained emotional support animals from airplanes.
New proposals issued on Jan. 22 suggest that only dogs who are “individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a qualified individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other” will qualify as service animals and will be allowed on planes.

Other emotional support animals, including untrained dogs, cats, pigs, pheasants, rabbits, and snakes, may be recognized as pets rather than service animals and could be banned for flights.
However, airlines would not be allowed to refuse transport to service animals based on breed.
Those passengers flying with a service animal would also need to complete and submit a form developed by the Department of Transportation to the airline attesting to the animal’s good behavior and health.
The NPRM would also allow for airlines to set policies to limit the number of service animals that one passenger can bring onboard an aircraft to two service animals, and these must fit within the owner’s foot space on the aircraft.
Those passengers with a disability will need to check in to the airport one hour earlier than the general public.
The U.S. Department of Transportation is seeking public comment for the proposed policy and the public will have 60 days to submit comments at Regulations.gov.
“Today’s NPRM is intended to ensure a safe and accessible air transportation system. It addresses concerns raised by individuals with disabilities, airlines, flight attendants, airports, other aviation transportation stakeholders, and other members of the public, regarding service animals on aircraft,” the new proposal read.
“The Department recognizes the integral role that service animals play in the lives of many individuals with disabilities and wants to ensure that individuals with disabilities can continue using their service animals while also reducing the likelihood that passengers wishing to travel with their pets on aircraft will be able to falsely claim their pets are service animals.”
The Department said it had received 115 service animal complaints against airlines in 2018, 70 complaints in 2017, 110 complaints in 2016, and 100 complaints in 2015, compared with 48 such in 2014 and 45 complaints in 2013.
“The increase in the number of service animal complaints is also representative of the complaints airlines received directly from passengers. U.S. and foreign airlines reported receiving 3,065 service animal complaints directly from passengers in 2018, 2,473 complaints in 2017, 2,433 in 2016, and 1,629 in 2015, compared with 1,010 such complaints in 2014 and 719 in 2013,” it said.
Currently, under DOT’s current ACAA regulations, airlines recognize service animals regardless of species with exceptions for certain unusual species of service animals such as snakes, other reptiles, ferrets, rodents, and spiders.
Sara Nelson, president of the 50,000-member Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, hailed the proposal, adding that “flight attendants have been injured and safety has been compromised by untrained animals loose in the cabin.”
“Today’s proposed rule by the Department of Transportation for service animals in the passenger cabin is welcome news. It sets clear definitions and guidance to ensure people with disabilities and our veterans have necessary service animal assistance while maintaining the safety, health, and security of all passengers and crew onboard our planes,” she said in a statement.
“Passengers claiming pets as emotional support animals has threatened the safety and health of passengers and crews in recent years while this practice skyrocketed. Untrained pets should never roam free in the aircraft cabin. Flight attendants have been hurt and safety has been compromised by untrained animals loose in the cabin.”
“The days of Noah’s Ark in the air are hopefully coming to an end. Passengers can still travel with animals under their preferred carrier’s pet program,” she added.

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Republicans Close to Having Majority Needed to Dismiss Articles of Impeachment: Paul

Republicans need six more senators to decide to dismiss the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said on Jan. 22.
Republicans hold a 53-47 majority in the Senate, which is hearing arguments for removing Trump from office from House Democrats this week before Trump’s lawyers present their case against conviction.
“There are 45, with about five to eight wanting to hear a little more,” Paul told the Washington Post. “I still would like to dismiss it, but there aren’t the votes to do it just yet.”
Convicting Trump, or removing him from office, requires a 67-vote supermajority for one of the articles. Dismissing the impeachment articles requires a simple majority.
Paul didn’t name any names. Republicans who are among those still wanting to hear more likely include Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), and Mitt Romney (R-Utah).
Arguments from House impeachment managers, including lead manager Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the House Intelligence chairman, are only serving to unify the GOP, Paul added. He plans to push for dismissing the articles later in the trial.
“I will push it at some point,” Paul said. “The more Adam Schiff speaks, the more we become unified.”

In this image from video, House impeachment manager Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) holds redacted documents as he speaks during the impeachment trial against President Donald Trump in the Senate at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Jan. 22, 2020. (Senate Television via AP)
Republicans and Democrats differ over when to call witnesses in the trial, whether any witnesses are necessary, and which witnesses should be called if any are subpoenaed. Republicans won out this week, voting to approve initial guidelines that pushed the matter until later in the trial.
Both sides will present their arguments to lawmakers, who will then submit written questions. After receiving answers, the Senate will vote on whether to call witnesses. Democrats want four former or current White House officials, including former National Security Adviser John Bolton, to testify.
Some Republicans appear to want no witnesses while others have said they want to hear from former Vice President Joe Biden, Biden’s son Hunter Biden, or Schiff.
Trump was impeached on Dec. 18, 2019 by House Democrats, who then held the impeachment articles for about three weeks before sending them to the Senate, triggering the start of the current impeachment trial.
Democrats argue that Trump abused his office by asking Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in a July phone call to “look into” allegations of corruption surrounding the Bidens. He noted in the call how Joe Biden in 2018 mentioned that in 2016 he pressured Ukraine to oust Viktor Shokin, a prosecutor who was probing Hunter Biden’s employer, Burisma Holdings.
Because Joe Biden is running for the Democratic presidential nomination, Trump was asking a foreign country to interfere in the 2020 election, Democrats say.
They have also tried to link a hold on congressionally approved aid to Ukraine to the request for the probe, though they’ve failed to produce evidence to connect the two.
Trump said he has a responsibility to target corruption in both the Biden case and for the aid and did nothing wrong.
Follow Zachary on Twitter: @zackstieber

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Schiff: Case Against Trump ‘Cannot be Decided at the Ballot Box’

Voters shouldn’t have a chance to choose whether to re-elect President Donald Trump, House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) argued in the Senate impeachment trial on Jan. 22.
Schiff, the lead House impeachment manager, claimed that he and others couldn’t be sure whether vote tallies in the 2020 election would be accurate if Trump remains in office.
“Impeachment exists for cases in which the misconduct of the president rises beyond mere policies and disputes to be decided otherwise and without urgency at he ballot box,” Schiff said during his opening arguments in Washington.
Trump attempted to use the powers of the presidency “to cheat in an election,” Schiff claimed.
“The President’s misconduct cannot be decided at the ballot box, for we cannot be assured that the vote will be fairly won.”
Democrats say that Trump’s request to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to “look into” corruption allegations surrounding former Vice President Joe Biden and Biden’s son was an attempt to interfere in the 2020 election since Biden is a leading Democratic presidential candidate. Trump was impeached by House Democrats for abuse of office and obstruction of Congress last month. No Republican voted in favor of the articles.

President Donald Trump, right, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speak during a meeting in New York on Sept. 25, 2019. (Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)
Trump has said he was doing his duty to root out corruption.
Schiff also argued on Wednesday that the courts couldn’t handle Trump, leaving the Senate to remove the president from office.
“Given the seriousness of the conduct at issue and its persistence, this matter cannot and must not be decided by the courts, which, apart from the presence of the chief justice today, are given no role in impeachments, in either the House or the Senate,” Schiff said. Litigation could take years, he added.
Schiff’s comments about the 2020 election were met with disdain by some other lawmakers, as well as constitutional scholars.
“As they see things, progressives by definition cannot suffer a legitimate political defeat,” Adrian Vermeule, a constitutional law professor at Harvard Law School, remarked on Twitter.
Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) also took to social media to call Schiff’s charge that the election wouldn’t be fairly decided if Trump remained in office “an absurd statement from the twilight zone.”
“But while we’re here: I was told questioning American elections was fundamentally damaging to democracy. Any of those folks care to weigh in now?” he added.

An absurd statement from the twilight zone.
But while we’re here: I was told questioning American elections was fundamentally damaging to democracy. Any of those folks care to weigh in now? https://t.co/2HAM61x62U
— Mark Meadows (@RepMarkMeadows) January 23, 2020

Rep. Greg Murphy (R-N.C.) added: “So Adam Schift [sic] admits his actions are meant to void the votes of millions of American voters because he doesn’t like their choice. Alexander Hamilton warned about political parties weaponizing Impeachment and here we have it!”
Schiff’s remarks came after Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Democrats didn’t wait for courts to weigh in on executive privilege arguments because they wanted to impeach him before the 2020 election.
“They did not pursue these witnesses, because they knew the president would seek judicial redress, and it would literally stop them from impeaching him before the election,” he said.
Follow Zachary on Twitter: @zackstieber

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States, Immigration Groups Urge Supreme Court to Not Intervene in ‘Public Charge’ Rule Appeal

Three states and a group of immigration organizations have asked the Supreme Court to not intervene in cases regarding the implementation of a new “public charge” rule and instead let the cases play out in the courts.
The public charge rule, which was issued last year, provides clarification about what factors would be considered when determining whether someone is likely at any time in the future to become a public charge. A public charge refers to an individual who is likely to become primarily dependent on the government for subsistence through assistance such as food stamps or Medicaid. The rule will consider a person a public charge if they receive at least one government benefit for more than 12 months in a three-year period.
The rule was challenged in several states, leading to injunctions that prevented the rule from going into effect on Oct. 15, 2019. Two federal appeals courts—the Fourth Circuit and the Ninth Circuit—lifted similar injunctions last month. But the Second Circuit has refused to set aside a pair of injunctions issued by a New York District Court judge, prompting the Trump administration to file an emergency request (pdf) to the top court last week to lift those blocks.
In the New York cases, three states—New York, Connecticut, and Vermont—and a group of immigration organizations such as Make the Road New York sued the Trump administration, in separate cases, to stop the rule taking effect.
The state officials and immigration groups argued in separate filings on Wednesday that the top court should not lift the injunctions because the Trump administration has not identified any reasons for the need to let the rule take effect immediately.
“Defendants have not claimed that a stay is needed for public safety, national security, or military effectiveness, let alone an emergency touching on any of these areas of concern,” the state officials argued in their filing (pdf).
They say four circuit courts are currently expeditiously considering the appeals on their merits and will issue decisions in the next few months. They also argued that the current immigration framework dealing with decisions surrounding public charges is lawful, and the courts should not disrupt the status quo.
“Granting a stay here would inject confusion and uncertainty into immigration decisions and plaintiffs’ administration of their public-benefits programs, and deter potentially millions of noncitizens residing in plaintiffs’ jurisdictions from accessing public benefits that they are legally entitled to obtain,” the state officials argued.
They went on to argue that the expansion of the definition of “public charge” is unlawful because “it vastly exceeds the long-established understanding of that term, contrary to Congress’s intent to incorporate this consensus understanding into federal immigration law.”
The immigration groups made similar arguments in their own filing (pdf).
Meanwhile, the Trump administration argued in its filing on Jan. 13 that its request for a stay on the injunctions is appropriate because the Supreme Court is likely to take up the appeals from the Second Circuit as two other appeals courts have already concluded that the rule will likely be upheld.
The administration argued that the “decisions by multiple courts of appeals have been rendered effectively meaningless within their own territorial jurisdictions because of a single district court’s nationwide injunctions, starkly illustrat[ing] the problems that such injunctions pose.”
The administration also argued that the injunctions would also “would result in effectively irreparable harm to the government.”
The U.S. House of Representatives has filed a motion (pdf) to submit a friend-of-the-court brief on Wednesday in support of the states and immigration groups. The House lawyers argued in their accompanying brief that the DHS “may not substitute its own policy judgment for Congress’s” with the new rule.
“When Congress reenacted the public-charge provision without material change in 1996, it legislated against the backdrop of a long-settled understanding of “public charge” as limited to noncitizens who primarily depend on the government over the long term,” the brief said. “Courts must presume that Congress intended to ratify that long-established meaning when it reenacted the provision without changing it.”
In a statement on Wednesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that the DHS rule leaves the door open for discrimination and uncertainty.
“The Administration’s rule opens the door to unfettered and arbitrary discrimination, vast uncertainty and heightened confusion in our immigration and public assistance systems and therefore ‘would be impossible to apply rationally or fairly,” she said. “Under the Administration’s rule, any immigrant could conceivably be denied critical, life-saving benefits, based simply on language skills or perceived likelihood to one day participate in an assistance initiatives.”
The White House did not immediately respond to our request to comment.
Follow Janita on Twitter: @janitakan

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Biden Says He Doesn’t Want to Testify in Senate Impeachment Trial

Former Vice President Joe Biden, a leading Democratic presidential contender, said he doesn’t want to be part of any deals made between Democrat and Republican lawmakers that would see each side get one or more witnesses in the Senate impeachment trial.
“The reason why I would not make the deal, and the bottom line is, this is a constitutional issue and we’re not going to turn it into a farce, into some kind of political theater,” Biden said while campaigning on Jan. 23 in Osage, Iowa, according to the Des Moines Register.
“They’re trying to turn it into political theater but I want no part of being any part of that,” he added.
Democrats have publicly rejected hypothetical deals that would see Joe Biden, Hunter Biden, or another witness Republicans want to hear from in exchange for hearing from acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney or former national security adviser John Bolton. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) are among the GOP members who have said they’d deal in witnesses, one way or another.
Biden and his son Hunter Biden, who worked for Ukrainian company Burisma Holdings from 2014 to 2019, were accused of corruption by Republican President Donald Trump during a July 2019 phone call with Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine’s president.
Trump noted that Joe Biden said in 2018 that while still in office in 2016, he threatened to withhold $1 billion in aid from Ukraine unless a prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, was ousted. Shokin at the time was investigating Burisma.
“There’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution,” Trump told Zelensky. “And a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great.”

President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky hold a meeting in New York on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly on Sept. 25, 2019. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

Ukrainian prosecutor general Viktor Shokin holds a press conference in Kiev on Nov. 2, 2015. Shokin has claimed he was pressured to drop a probe into Burisma, a Ukrainian company that employed Joe Biden’s son, Hunter. (Genya Savilov/AFP/Getty Images)

Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Ruslan Ryaboshapka speaks during a news conference in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Oct. 4, 2019. (Valentyn Ogirenko/Reuters)

Hunter Biden, son of Vice President Joe Biden, waits for the start of his father’s debate at Centre College in Danville, Ky., on Oct. 11, 2012. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP Photo)
“I understand and I’m knowledgeable about the situation,” Zelensky said. The country’s new top prosecutor would look into the situation, he added, which Ukraine announced later in the year. The probe was expanded a few months after that.
Both Bidens have denied wrongdoing, though Hunter Biden said it was “poor judgment” to be being on the board of Burisma while his father was in office and dealing with the country.
Biden on Wednesday defended his son, claiming that no one has suggested Hunter Biden did anything wrong.
“Nobody has indicated that there was a single, solitary thing that he did that was inappropriate … other than the appearance. It looked bad because he was there,” Biden said, the Register reported. “He did not sign up for a second term on that board but he acknowledges, he acknowledges that he in fact made a mistake going on the board.”
Stephen Delgado, a 70-year-old retiree from Arizona who drove to Iowa to see Biden and was the one who asked the former vice president about testifying, told The Washington Post later that he thinks Biden should testify.
“He should call the bluff. Trump is a bully and he needs to stand up to him. Democrats have to stop all this ‘When they go low, we go high.’ This is a street fight,” Delgado said.
“It would clear the air. The people would get to see what a good, decent man he is.”
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Passengers Screened at Boston Airport for China Virus as Death Toll Rises to 17

A group of nine passengers who traveled from China to Boston were screened at Logan International Airport on Jan. 22 for a new virus that first appeared in Wuhan and has killed at least 17 people, according to officials.
The passengers arrived on a Cathay Pacific flight from Hong Kong and were medically evaluated out of precaution, the Massachusetts Port Authority said, reported WCVB.
Massachusetts State Police said they were examined by Boston Emergency Medical Services (EMS) and Massport Fire Rescue personnel, and a nurse in direct contact with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The remaining passengers were able to deplane.
Both the Boston EMS and Massachusetts State Police found the nine passengers showed no signs of sickness, however, and they were allowed to exit the aircraft and continue on to their final destinations.
It comes as fears grow that the respiratory disease could become a global epidemic and as the United States this week became the fifth country outside of China—and the first outside Asia—to confirm a case of infection.
A patient, who is in his 30s, is understood to have traveled around Jan. 15 to Seattle from Wuhan, where the outbreak originated. He remains in isolation at Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett, Washington.
Deaths from the new viral pneumonia suspected to have come from animals rose to 17 on Jan. 22, with nearly 600 infected by the new coronavirus outbreak so far.
Wuhan, a city of 11 million people in Hubei Province considered the epicenter of the outbreak, has been put on lockdown.
Wuhan city authorities announced on Wednesday they would begin quarantining the city in order to contain the disease’s spread, shutting down the airport and all public transit there.
Chinese authorities said that starting at 10 a.m. on Jan. 23, public transportation, including the subway and ferries, would be suspended.
“Unless there is a special reason, citizens should not leave Wuhan city,” the Wuhan municipal government said in a statement, a state-run media outlet reported.
“Airports and train stations that can be used to leave the city will be temporarily closed. The closures will continue until further announcement.”
China on Jan. 20 admitted that the disease could be transmitted human to human, and it is estimated that the virus has already reached 20 mainland cities other than Wuhan, according to a study by the University of Hong Kong (HKU).
Chinese authorities believe the outbreak is linked to a fresh food market in Wuhan which sold seafood and wild animals. The market, which was linked to all SARS cases seen in Wuhan in 2003, has been closed since Jan. 1.
Li Bin, vice minister of China’s National Health Commission, told reporters Wednesday the new strain of coronavirus is mainly spread through respiratory transmission, warning that China must now urgently work to prevent and control the spread of the disease.
“The virus may mutate, and there is a risk of further spread of the virus,” he said, according to The Guardian.
The World Health Organization (WHO) was scheduled to hold an emergency meeting on Wednesday to discuss the virus and whether to declare a public health emergency of international concern, but it postponed making the call saying physicians need more information.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus asked his committee to reconvene on Thursday.
“Today, there was an excellent discussion during the committee meeting, but it was also clear that to proceed we need more information,” Tedros told reporters, reported CNBC. “The decision about whether or not to declare a public health emergency of international concern is one I take extremely seriously, and one I am only prepared to make with appropriate consideration of all the evidence.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has upgraded its precaution levels for traveling to China from level one to level two on a three-tier scale, warning travelers to exercise “enhanced precautions.”
The WHO has urged people to avoid “unprotected” contact with live animals and avoid close contact with those with cold or flu-like symptoms, as well to as cook meat and eggs thoroughly.
Reuters contributed to this report.

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Trump to Become First Sitting President to Attend March for Life

President Donald Trump will on Jan. 24 address a crowd of pro-life demonstrators at the annual March for Life, marking the first time a sitting president has attended the event since it was first held in 1974.
Trump confirmed he would attend 47th March for Life—themed “Life Empowers: Pro-Life is Pro-Woman”—in a surprise Twitter post on Wednesday, retweeting footage from the organization’s rally last year.
“See you on Friday…Big Crowd!” Trump wrote.

See you on Friday…Big Crowd! https://t.co/MFyWLG4HFZ
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 22, 2020

The event is the largest annual gathering in the United States of opponents of the Supreme Court’s 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade. That ruling found that certain state laws outlawing abortion were an unconstitutional violation of a woman’s right to privacy, effectively legalizing abortion nationwide.
Trump, who once described himself as “very pro-choice,” will on Friday become the first president to attend the march in person in the event’s 47-year history. Republican presidents in the past chose to extend their support in other ways, either by meeting demonstrators or by sending messages of support.
For the 46th march last year, Trump addressed thousands of anti-abortion activists in a pre-recorded video, vowing to veto any legislation that “weakens the protection of human life.”
“I will always defend the first right in our Declaration of Independence, the right to life,” Trump said in remarks recorded in the Oval Office, a right he said extended to “unborn children.”
Mike Pence, meanwhile, became in 2017 the first sitting vice president to make an appearance at the pro-life event. Last year, Pence appeared onstage at the rally to introduce the president’s video, calling Trump, who before entering politics said he supported abortion access, “the most pro-life president in American history.”
March for Life’s president, Jeanne Mancini, said in a statement that Trump has long shown support to the anti-abortion movement, adding that the organization is “deeply honored” he will attend the annual march.
“From the appointment of pro-life judges and federal workers to cutting taxpayer funding for abortions here and abroad to calling for an end to late-term abortions, President Trump and his administration have been consistent champions for life and their support for the March for Life has been unwavering,” she said. “We are grateful for all these pro-life accomplishments and look forward to gaining more victories for life in the future.”
Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators are expected to attend this year’s event, organizers say.
Trump’s announcement came just days after Susan B. Anthony List, the largest pro-life group in the U.S., said it would be injecting $52 million in supporting the president and other Republican candidates ahead of the upcoming presidential election.
Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the group and a former chair of Trump’s pro-life coalition during his 2016 campaign, said in a statement that Trump’s attendance on Friday, “signals a watershed moment for the pro-life movement.”
The president last June demonstrated his commitment to protecting life before birth, as the Trump administration announced that it would discontinue federally-funded research that uses human fetal tissue from elective abortion conducted by government scientists.
Trump in December also received the first Dr. Bernard N. Nathanson’s “Courageous Witness for Life Award” for his efforts to defend the lives of the unborn.
Abortion rights activists have criticized news of Trump’s attendance, slamming it as a ploy to win over supporters ahead of the 2020 election.
NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue described it as “an act of desperation, plain and simple,” accusing Trump of “turning to deception and disinformation about abortion to gin up a vocal and extreme minority as he faces the escalating reality that his presidency is crumbling around him.”
Other speakers at this year’s March for Life include Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) and Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), according to March For Life’s official website.
Reuters contributed to this report.

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Downtown Seattle Shooting Leaves 1 Dead, 5 Wounded

A shooting in downtown Seattle Wednesday night killed at least one person and critically wounded at least five others during the rush-hour commute, according to police, who have not apprehended a suspect.
Officials are searching for at least one suspect in the case, Q13 Fox reported, citing authorities.
The shooting unfolded at around 5 p.m. local time near Pine Street and 4th Avenue, officials said. Five people were hospitalized.

Officers investigating shooting near 4th and Pine. Multiple victims. The suspect has fled, and police are searching for him. Officers and medics are providing first aid to the injured. Additional information to come.
— Seattle Police Dept. (@SeattlePD) January 23, 2020

“Officers investigating shooting near 4th and Pine. Multiple victims. The suspect has fled, and police are searching for him. Officers and medics are providing first aid to the injured. Additional information to come,” the Seattle Police Department wrote on Twitter.
“We’ve locked down the scene,” Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best told NBC. “This is not an active shooting at this point but we are collecting evidence and information.”
The motive for the shooting is not clear.
“Everyone just went to the ground and as we were looking out the windows people were running,” a witness told local station KING5.
“We heard what sounded like a bunch of automatic weapon fire — just 30-40 shots, just ‘Bam-bam-bam-bam-bam!’ exclaimed another witness to KOMO. “We saw people running up the sidewalk toward the McDonalds and hiding around the corner.”
“It was pretty frightening when we saw people running because you don’t know if it’s going to be gun shots or firecrackers,” the person said.
Other details about the shooting are not clear.

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Agency Watchdog Reports Show Government Never Seems to Learn How to Manage Contracts, Spending

News Analysis
WASHINGTON—Official Washington is consumed this week with the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, but the wheels of government continue to turn, spending trillions of tax dollars and making many of the same management mistakes over and over again, according to reports of federal investigators.
Nearly a quarter of the $4.3 trillion the federal government will spend in 2020 will go, via contracts issued by departments and agencies, to buying everything from advanced airplanes and ammunition, fruits and vegetables, office furniture and paint, computers and processors, and on and on.
Billions more will be paid to contractors and subcontractors in benefit programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.
An Epoch Times review of inspector general (IG) and Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports suggests that federal bureaucrats have much to learn about how to manage contracts and benefits programs more effectively and efficiently, to avoid mistakes such as paying somebody who shouldn’t be paid.
Defined by GAO as “any payment that should not have been made or that was made in an incorrect amount,” improper payments have long been a huge problem across a wide span of federal activities. Such payments are one ailment among many that fester under the broader label of government procurement.
“Since 2003, when certain agencies were required by statute to begin reporting improper payments, cumulative improper payment estimates have totaled about $1.4 trillion,” GAO said in its most recent government-wide summary of the problem.
“For fiscal year 2017, federal entities estimated about $141 billion in improper payments—composed of estimates for 90 programs across 21 agencies. This total was down from about $144 billion for fiscal year 2016, but up from about $137 billion for fiscal year 2015. Medicare programs, Medicaid, and the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) account for about 74 percent of this total,” GAO said. The Department of the Treasury administers the EITC.
The Treasury Department estimated the loss from improper payments in 2018 at $151 billion and described the problem as “government-wide.”
The Department of Health & Human Services IG’s 2011 report on top management challenges, for example, noted that the department’s improper payments under Medicare and Medicaid exceeded $70 billion. The report recommended multiple corrective actions.
Eight years later, when the department issued its 2019 top management challenges report, the improper payments under Medicare and Medicaid exceeded $90 billion annually. Many of the recommended corrective actions either remained undone or were incomplete.
But there was good news in one area—improper payments in Medicare’s Fee-for-Service area accounted for $31.6 billion, or 37 percent of the total, but that was down from $36.2 billion in 2017.
Improper payments are also a longstanding problem in the Department of Education’s (DoED) college student loan program. In its 2016 top management challenges report, the department’s IG listed improper payments at the top of the list.
The IG said, “In May 2015, we reported that the department did not comply with the Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Act of 2010. … We have identified concerns in numerous areas relating to improper payments, including the completeness, accuracy, and reliability of improper payment estimates and methodologies and improper payments involving grantees.”
Four years later, improper payments still topped the list of management challenges, according to the DoED IG’s 2020 assessment, with $6.1 billion in improper payments in the Pell and Direct Loan programs.
Trump administration officials are actively seeking new ideas to fix such problems, according to an official who requested anonymity after participating in one such recent meeting.
Good news on government waste and fraud, however, remains rare.
Taxpayers Protection Alliance President David Williams told The Epoch Times on Jan. 22, “The federal government agencies never seem to learn from past mistakes or listen to their own internal watchdogs, like the inspectors general. With the amount of contracts given by federal agencies, they should be experts in not only identifying, but eliminating waste, fraud, and abuse.”
Williams said, “Solyndra [the now-bankrupt solar company] should have been a cautionary tale for the Department of Energy, yet DOE continues to fund solar projects like the Crescent Dunes project in Nevada that has gone belly up.”
Williams was referring to the huge solar energy project that Bloomberg reported earlier this month is “mired in litigation and accusations of mismanagement at Crescent Dunes, where taxpayers remain on the hook for $737 million in loan guarantees.”
Change happens at a glacial pace in Washington, Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) President Tom Schatz told The Epoch Times on Jan. 22, although he sees hopeful signs in several Trump initiatives.
“The president has done a lot to reduce regulations for a lot of things,” said Schatz, whose group’s origins were in the Reagan-era Grace Commission.
“The environmental rules they just came out with, for example, are intended to speed things up, so I think some of those changes will help over time; it’s not going to happen in a day,” Schatz said. “This administration, more than others, has looked at it and said, ‘Look, this should be operating more like a private business would operate.’”
Contact Mark Tapscott at Mark.Tapscott@epochtimes.nyc

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Ohio Jail to Tackle Mental Illness as Opioid Crisis Abates

As the opioid crisis abates, Montgomery County sheriff is now pushing for options other than jail for mentally ill people
DAYTON, Ohio—Jails around the country are facing a barrage of issues.
Almost all inmates are in for drug or alcohol-related crimes; more than one-third have a diagnosed mental illness; the number of state mental health beds has plummeted; inmate numbers have skyrocketed; and many jails have faced budget cuts.
The most pressing issue isn’t new; it has been steadily growing, but the opioid crisis has helped thrust it to the forefront. It’s mental illness.
On any given day, there are about 750,000 people in jails across America.
“Every jail in our country, somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 to 40 percent of the people … are diagnosed mentally ill,” said National Sheriffs’ Association president Sheriff Daron Hall of Davidson County, Tennessee.
Adding in the number of inmates addicted to drugs, the proportion shoots to at least 90 percent, Hall said. Drug addiction and mental health-related issues are often coexisting and it’s difficult to parse out which is driving which.
“The jail is the largest mental health institution in any community,” he said. “And that’s just bad. It’s bad for everyone. Jails aren’t good places to try to treat something as complicated as mental illness.”
Hall said the deinstitutionalization of mental health hospitals that started in the 1960s hasn’t worked and instead has sparked today’s problem.
“The reality is we didn’t really deinstitutionalize it, we just re-institutionalized it into jails and prisons,” he said. “In the ’60s, our country said that people who are mentally ill and put in hospitals were stigmatized. Well think about it, now we double stigmatize them—now you’re a criminal and you’re still mentally ill.”
Changing the Approach
Three years ago, Montgomery County in southwest Ohio was overwhelmed by so many opioid overdoses that the local coroner was forced to hire portable freezer units to store all the bodies.
Sheriff’s deputies raced from overdose to overdose. The jail, packed with addicts, operated as a proxy opioid-withdrawal center and mental health catch-all unit.
“It kind of went backwards,” said Montgomery County Sheriff Rob Streck. “It would have been nice to hit the mental health first before we hit on the addiction, but we were losing too many people to deal with it that way.”
Drug overdose deaths are now down from the peak in 2017. Montgomery County, with a population of a little over half a million people, had 566 overdose deaths in 2017—one of the highest per-capita overdose death rates in the nation. But in 2019, that number had almost halved to 290 deaths.
The jail, which was a revolving door of arrest, release, arrest, release during the height of the crisis, has now become somewhat of a bastion of hope for addicts.

Montgomery County Sheriff Rob Streck in his office in Dayton, Ohio, on Oct. 30, 2019. (Charlotte Cuthbertson/The Epoch Times)
The real change began in the midst of the crisis, when Teresa Russell was hired as the jail’s treatment coordinator. By April 2018, Russell had made available medication-assisted treatments, such as Vivitrol and Suboxone, which help to control opioid cravings and assist addicts through the detox process.
Two former addicts were hired as peer supporters to talk to inmates about treatment options. Each connects with more than 100 addicts per month, and the program has proven very successful.
Many inmates now leave the jail equipped with robust, personalized discharge plans and direct links to community programs that help with issues such as housing, drug rehab, insurance, and jobs.
“How you used to leave the jail three years ago and how you leave the jail now is a total turnaround,” Streck said. “We know it’s changing some lives.”
In years past, inmates would simply be called over to the release counter, receive their belongings, and leave, Streck said.
“We didn’t care where you went. We didn’t care how you were getting there. What medicine you were going to take with you—even if you had medicine you were taking inside,” he said.
“It just wasn’t what a jail did. Now we’re the exact opposite of that.”
Nowhere To Go
In Dayton, the county seat of Montgomery, mental health facilities have been losing money for years and, consequently, closing.
At the end of 2017, Day-Mont Behavioral Health Care closed. It provided mental health treatment for more than 600 people on Dayton’s west side.
In July 2018, Good Samaritan Hospital closed. It had 60 beds in a locked behavioral unit and was also located in the low socio-economic area of west Dayton.
“There’s just nowhere good right now to get somebody,” Streck said, “and then they end up self-medicating.”

The Good Samaritan Hospital is being dismantled after closing in Dayton, Ohio, on Nov. 1, 2019. (Charlotte Cuthbertson/The Epoch Times)
Montgomery County sheriff’s deputy Matt McIntosh said trespassing is the most common charge for the people he arrests who are likely mentally ill.
For example, a business owner will call 911 to report a disturbance. “They can’t have these people sitting there harassing, yelling at every customer that comes in,” McIntosh said. So, the deputy arrests these people and takes them to jail, because there’s no other option. “It’s a crappy situation for everybody.”
Hall said most modern countries would identify such a person as having a problem that needs help.
“Our country sees it as, we need to take him to jail because it’s a violation, there’s something criminal about it. The reason we do that is there aren’t alternatives,” he said. “We are the stabilization unit right now.”
Two years ago, it was hoped that the Greater Dayton Area Hospital Association would have a crisis stabilization unit up and running, but it still hasn’t been built.
“That’s our next big push—is for someone who’s having a mental health breakdown, instead of being put in the jail, they would have a place to go get stabilized by true medical staff who deal with that,” Streck said.
Overdoses Undercounted
Nationally, the number of drug overdose deaths in 2018 showed a decrease for the first time in almost 30 years, according to provisional data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Even so, deaths related to opioids are “grossly underestimated,” according to Scott Weiner, assistant professor at Harvard Medical School and author of a study on overdoses.
He estimates that many deaths aren’t listed as opioid-related on death certificates. “If someone dies from an overdose, first their breathing stops, then their heart stops, and [doctors] might list the cause of death as cardiopulmonary arrest,” he said at an event on Oct. 30, 2017.
The number of people who overdose and survive is also impossible to discern. The opioid-blocker Narcan is now widely available, and many people won’t bother calling 911 if they can revive the person themselves, Streck said.
“We don’t even know most of the overdoses going on at this point,” he said.
When they do call, deputies don’t log it as an overdose if it’s evident the person was revived before they arrive, McIntosh said. In these cases, the deputies can’t prove that they overdosed.

Montgomery County Sheriff’s deputy Matt McIntosh responds to a suspected drug overdose in a gas station carpark in the Harrison Township of Dayton, Ohio, on Nov. 1, 2019. (Charlotte Cuthbertson/The Epoch Times)
On average, Montgomery County deputies respond to a couple of overdoses per shift.
On Nov. 1, 2019, McIntosh responded to a 911 call of a suspected opioid overdose at a gas station parking area.
Upon arrival, he found a young man lying unconscious on the asphalt next to the open door of an old white van. He was pale and his breathing was labored. An agitated woman, likely hopped up on meth, was screaming for help, while another looked on, crying. The driver had parked the van and run off when the man started overdosing.
As McIntosh was piecing together what happened, Harrison Township Fire Department officers arrived. They loaded the man into their ambulance and administered 2 milligrams of Narcan, which revived him immediately.
Deputies searched the van and found a meth pipe, a small bag of suspected crystal meth, and three capsules of suspected fentanyl or heroin-fentanyl mix.
The man was taken to a nearby hospital to recover, the van was impounded, and the two women were let go after providing statements.
Patrolling Dayton
As McIntosh continued to patrol the streets, he pointed out several locations of recent fatal shootings in Fort McKinley, Dayton.
“They call this mini Detroit,” he said.
On most of his night shifts, McIntosh takes at least one illegal gun off the street.
“The guns are the biggest thing. That’s what we look for the hardest—more than the dope,” he said.
When he’s not responding to 911 calls, McIntosh will trawl the streets where known meth-dealers live.
“I hit our meth houses to see if there’s any new cars there. I know who’s supposed to be there, who’s not supposed to be there,” he said.
If he sees an out-of-place vehicle, he’ll follow it and conduct a vehicle stop. He needs probable cause to stop the vehicle and permission to search it, but most people comply.

Montgomery County Sheriff’s deputy Matt McIntosh searches a vehicle in the Harrison Township of Dayton, Ohio, on Nov. 1, 2019. (Charlotte Cuthbertson/The Epoch Times)
Other times, he stumbles upon trouble by chance.
“We almost had to shoot somebody the other night,” he said.
McIntosh said he and his partner were following up on a 911 hangup call in Harrison Township, which ended up being nothing.
“Then across the street, we heard this dude yelling at these people on the sidewalk. It was real dark out. I’m like, ‘What’s in his hand?’ And we start walking across the street and I shine my light on him and he has a shotgun pointed at these people.
“So we were like, ‘Hey, drop the gun.’
“And he looks at us, he says, ‘[expletive] you.’
“I’m thinking: ‘I’m gonna have to shoot this guy.’
“Then he ran and put the gun in his car real quick and came out with his hands up.”
McIntosh never knows what he’ll encounter and has to be prepared for anything.
Dayton, and its local law enforcement officers, have endured a tough few years.
On top of being one of the hardest-hit areas for drug overdoses in the country, a tornado ripped through the county at the end of May 2019, killing one person and damaging at least 500 homes. The faded blue tarps flapping on roofs and the boarded-up abandoned houses are a reminder of the destruction six months later.
Dayton was also the site of a mass shooting on Aug. 4, 2019. Outside a bar, 24-year-old Connor Betts shot and killed nine people and injured 27 others, before being shot by police.
The local coroner determined that Betts had cocaine, Xanax, and alcohol in his system.

Teresa Russell, treatment coordinator at the Montgomery County jail, in Dayton, Ohio, on Oct. 30, 2019. (Charlotte Cuthbertson/The Epoch Times)
The Rise of Fentanyl
About 75 percent of all drug overdoses are opioid-related, including prescription pills, heroin, and fentanyl.
Drug cartels are now mixing fentanyl into everything, including counterfeit pain pills, which are manufactured to look like oxycodone. A user may not know the pill contains fentanyl, increasing the risk of addiction or death.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid originally developed as a painkiller and anesthetic. It’s 50 to 100 times more potent than heroin and as little as two milligrams can be a lethal dose.
Illicit fentanyl is primarily sourced from China and Mexico, according to a 2018 report by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). High-purity fentanyl is often sold online and mailed directly from China to consumers in the United States through the postal system. Other times it is bulk-shipped to Mexico.
In August 2019, the Mexican navy intercepted a 25-ton shipload of fentanyl originating from China and bound for Culiacán, Sinaloa—the home base of the Sinaloa cartel in Mexico.
Before 2015, no fentanyl had been seized by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at the U.S–Mexico border, but the amount has risen steeply over the years since.
In fiscal 2019, border agents seized 2,545 pounds of fentanyl at ports of entry, including a record-breaking seizure in January 2019.
CBP officers at the Nogales, Arizona, port of entry discovered nearly 254 pounds of fentanyl with a value of approximately $3.5 million and almost 395 pounds of methamphetamine valued at $1.1 million.
Smugglers concealed 400 packages of drugs within a special floor compartment of a trailer laden with cucumbers, CBP said.

A port of entry on the U.S.–Mexico border in Nogales, Ariz., on May 23, 2018. (Samira Bouaou/The Epoch Times)
In Dayton, Ohio, fentanyl is both cheap and omnipresent.
Judging by the amount seized by law enforcement in Montgomery County, plenty is making its way up from the southern border undetected.
In 2019, officers seized 94 pounds of fentanyl, along with 26 pounds of heroin-fentanyl mix and about 2,500 opioid pain pills.
“There’s huge amounts. I mean, we just got 20 kilos [44 pounds] of fentanyl,” Sheriff Streck said, referring to a drug bust in October 2019.
“Eight years ago, if you got 20 keys of anything, you would have been nationwide news. Now we get that every couple of months.”
The DEA predicts fentanyl will continue flowing into the United States in large quantities, as it’s cheaper and easier to produce than heroin.
“With cocaine and heroin … those products are expensive because you have to process them,” Streck said. But both fentanyl and meth can be easily manufactured in a lab.
The Rise of Meth
Streck said the Sinaloa cartel has directly driven the proliferation of methamphetamine in his county.
“We knew a couple of years ago that was going to be the trend,” he said. “Because when our task forces would arrest somebody, they’d start telling us that the cartel said, ‘You can have a [kilo] of fentanyl, but you got to have six pounds of meth—and don’t bring the meth back to us.’”
He said there is less heroin on the streets now, but fentanyl, meth, and cocaine are all plentiful. Fentanyl is even mixed into the meth and cocaine, he said.
Almost all meth in the United States comes from Mexico, unlike in the mid-2000s when homegrown labs were ubiquitous.
In fiscal 2019, CBP seized more than 68,000 pounds of meth at ports of entry along the U.S.–Mexico border. That’s up from less than 20,000 pounds in fiscal 2014.
Although meth isn’t killing its users as easily and quickly as opioids, as a psychostimulant, it brings its own challenges.

Montgomery County Sheriff’s deputies respond to a call in the Harrison Township of Dayton, Ohio, on Oct. 29, 2019. (Charlotte Cuthbertson/The Epoch Times)
On Nov. 1, 2019, the 911 dispatcher in Montgomery County relayed a call that a man wielding a knife was on the road, yelling and acting crazy.
McIntosh and several other deputies responded; a couple with tasers at the ready. The man didn’t have a knife, but McIntosh said he was acting as if he’d taken meth. McIntosh knew the man and said he was usually calm, but guessed the drugs would render him insane for a couple of days before they left his system.
There was nothing they could do and nowhere to take him, so after talking to him briefly, the deputies left.
Deputies are finding that, unlike opioids, which generally make people passive, meth users can be aggressive and sometimes physically attack officers.

A known meth house in the Harrison Township of Dayton, Ohio, on Oct. 29, 2019. (Charlotte Cuthbertson/The Epoch Times)
Meth is also causing psychotic breaks in users, according to Russell.
In working with addicted inmates in the county jail, she’s seen a change in how is meth affecting them. Three years ago, as meth users detoxed over several days, the psychosis would go away, she said.
She said according to the medical director at the local department of mental health, the chemicals now used in meth are flipping switches in the brain “that aren’t really flipping back.”
“So people can detox now, [and] sometimes we see they’re completely detoxed, but that psychosis doesn’t leave,” she said.
Meth has traditionally been made with ingredients such as over-the-counter ephedrine tablets, lithium batteries, camp fluid, and fluid from cold packs. Now, ingredients such as wasp spray are being added, which greatly increases potency.
Russell said she’s working with public health and hospitals to figure out how to treat the psychosis under the complicated rules for treatment, classification, and insurance.
“There’s medical necessity when it comes to billing for medical services,” she said. “So do you treat somebody who’s experiencing psychosis as a mental health patient? Or is this because it’s a substance-induced issue? Well, what if the substances have now left the body and you’re still showing psychosis?”

Major Matt Haines, jail administrator and court security for the sheriff’s office, at the Montgomery County Jail in Dayton, Ohio, on Dec. 8, 2017. (Charlotte Cuthbertson/The Epoch Times)
Support Services
The focus now is to address the underlying mental health issues as best a jail can, on top of the addiction treatment and stabilization efforts.
But often, it’s a race against time. Jails are designed to hold people while they’re awaiting trial, or, if they’re sentenced, for up to a year. In Montgomery County, the majority of inmates are in for between six and 20 days.
Russell found that strong discharge plans and good relationships with community providers were the key to real change.
“If you’re not holding this person’s hand through the process of getting them there and getting them signed up and into services, the likelihood that they’re going to come back is pretty high,” Russell said. “And sure enough, that’s exactly what we saw.”
Now, three discharge planners divvy up the list of newly sentenced inmates every Monday and find out their needs. They check on the inmate’s insurance status, housing status, medications, and any assessments they’ve had recently.
Then, when the discharge planner asks the inmate what they need and the inmate says, “Nothing,” the planner can remind them that they came in homeless and might need help with housing, for example.
“Where are you going to live? Where are you going to go? Who is your primary care doctor that will continue your blood pressure medication? Do you need a referral to that? Did you know that your insurance has lapsed?” Russell said.
“They get that discharge plan and they sign it. They sign that they understand it.
“We are trying to close up all the holes. It’s not perfect because it’s a lot of people coming and going and we’re very limited in staffing for that. But there are a lot of people in the community who want to partner and help.”
Streck said federal judges from other parts of the country have moved inmates to his jail because of the work they’re doing.
“We’ve done some really good things and word’s gotten out there,” he said. “We’ll try anything. I mean, if it’s something that’s safe and can be done and may help somebody—we’ll do it, we’ll try it.”
For Help
SAMHSA National Helpline1-800-662-HELP (4357)Samhsa.gov
Follow Charlotte on Twitter: @charlottecuthbo

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Supply Warehouse Discovery Renews Aid Misuse Concerns in Puerto Rico

Concerns over misuse of disaster aid resurfaced in Puerto Rico with the recent discovery of a warehouse where the island’s government kept supplies originally intended for the victims of 2017’s Hurricane Maria.
The warehouse was revealed in Ponce on the southern shore of the island by Lorenzo Delgado Torres, a local activist who runs a Facebook page named “El Leon Fiscalizador” with over 240,000 followers, about 50,000 of whom joined in the last several days. He said he acted on a tip. Dozens of people later stormed the warehouse to grab the supplies.
The supplies included food, cots, diapers, baby formula, washers, dryers, generators, compact stoves, and emergency radios.
The island’s government responded by saying it was distributing the supplies from the warehouse and that there was no shortage of the items stored there.
“No citizen has been denied any of the items stored in the warehouse,” the government said in a statement.
Ponce Mayor María Meléndez, however, said she was outraged, noting that she and other mayors were trying to find basic supplies since the 6.4 magnitude quake hit in the island’s southwest on Jan. 7.
“I spent several days requesting cots and water,” she said. “They sent me to Cabo Rojo for the cots and to San Juan for the water. If I had known that those supplies were there, I would have demanded that they be taken out immediately.”
The warehouse was the latest in a string of incidents where supplies were seemingly found lying dormant across the island.
Governor Wanda Vázquez Garced, in response to the latest revelation, fired three officials: Housing Secretary Fernando Gil, Department of Family Secretary Glorimar Andújar, and Carlos Acevedo, commissioner of the Emergency Management and Disaster Relief Agency (EMDRA).
Maj. Gen. Jose Reyes, head of the Puerto Rico National Guard, was put in charge of EMDRA.
He said the warehouse was one of two rented by the state to keep leftover donations or aid from the relief effort after Maria, the massive storm that caused estimated $90 billion in damage in Puerto Rico.
The Ponce warehouse was damaged by the recent earthquake and so the supplies needed to be moved out, Reyes told David Begnaud, CBS News correspondent in Puerto Rico.
“Apparently, they were kept in secret and the governor was always told that the commodities were distributed properly and according to the contingency plan,” Reyes said. “It was a lack of information being provided to the governor.”
He said EMDRA rented the 41,000-square-foot warehouse in Ponce for three years from the state’s Commerce and Export Agency on June 21, 2018. The contract was for $622,000.
Another smaller warehouse was rented on April 4, 2019, for 2 years at the cost of $268,000.
The government acknowledged 80 pallets of water in the Ponce warehouse that had already expired and will need to be disposed of.
This is not a unique problem. Thousands of expired water bottles form the Maria relief effort had to be discarded and used for irrigation.
Sonia Torres, 59, whose house in rural Adjuntas, the municipality above Ponce, was damaged by the earthquake, said the soup cans she was given after the disaster were expired too.
The earthquake killed one person and is estimated to have caused more than $200 million in damage.
Torres recently managed to pick up some supplies distributed by the government, but the most pressing concern for her and many others is housing. More than 7,000 people remain in shelters since the quake.
Cracks in the walls of her house are getting bigger, she said, and she doesn’t know if it’s safe for her to stay there. She submitted her paperwork to the government, but so far hasn’t heard back. She spent the first night in a shelter set up in a basketball court, but there was no electricity and it was very cold at night. She now sleeps in her car. What she needs the most is somebody to assess the damage on her house.
Electricity remains a problem too. The quake knocked out a major power station and the rest of the grid could barely compensate, said Alex Amparo, assistant administrator of the National Preparedness Directorate at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), in an interview with Begnaud.
For the first week, there was no power in Torres’s town, she said, resulting in all the food in her fridge going bad. She bought more, but the outages persisted, so she’s now hesitant to buy perishable food at all.
Even today, the power is still “on and off,” she said.
The island’s power grid was decimated by the 2017 hurricane. A major reason was its state of disrepair even before the disaster truck. In 2016, the average Puerto Rican saw 4.5 power outages that took an average of 3 hours to fix (pdf). A 2016 study (pdf) found the “generation and transmission infrastructure literally falling apart.”
FEMA organized the major workforce for fixing the grid, having over 2,000 Army Corps of Engineers personnel working on the repairs in 2018.
Since 2017, Puerto Rico received over $15 billion in disaster funding, with tens of billions more on the way.
President Donald Trump on Jan. 16 called Puerto Rico “one of the most corrupt places on earth” and denounced its leaders as either “incompetent or corrupt.”
On Jan. 15, the Trump administration imposed dozens of new conditions on the island’s government to access $8.3 billion in delayed recovery funds for Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017. A day later, Trump declared a major disaster on the island, boosting aid to Puerto Rico.
Trump’s declaration of a major disaster in Puerto Rico makes federal funding available for repairs, temporary housing, and low-cost loans “to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster,” the White House said.
News of the apparently mishandled supplies upset many Puerto Ricans, who were already angry over the government’s botched response to Hurricane Maria, with similar incidents of supplies going unused and being uncovered months later.
Tom Ozimek and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Follow Petr on Twitter: @petrsvab

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Supreme Court Considers Parents Using Public Money for Religious Schools

WASHINGTON—A tax-credit program for needy students in Montana shouldn’t be shut down merely because some of the money may end up in the coffers of private religious schools, the Supreme Court heard Jan. 22.
“What we’re saying here is that … the state can’t discriminate on the basis of religion … [and] that is what they are doing in this case,” said the lawyer for the parents in the case, Richard Komer of the Institute for Justice, a public interest law firm.
Chief Justice John Roberts officiated at oral arguments in the case, cited as Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, just eight hours after he finished presiding over the first day of the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump across the street in the U.S. Senate.
The petitioners are three low-income mothers who needed the scholarship funds to keep their children in Stillwater Christian School, a nondenominational school in Kalispell, Montana.
The program gave individuals and corporations a tax credit for giving as much as $150 annually to a nonprofit student scholarship organization helping poor students attend private schools. Parents sued after the state’s Department of Revenue ruled that those scholarship funds could not be used for religious schools. A trial judge enjoined the rule and then the Montana Supreme Court struck down the program on Dec. 12, 2018, declaring it unconstitutional on a 5–2 vote.
The program, according to the state court, allowed the state legislature to “indirectly pay tuition at private, religiously affiliated schools,” contrary to Montana law. Because the families may use the scholarships at religious schools, the program provided aid to religious institutions and thereby entangled government with religion, contrary to the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, along with provisions in the Montana state constitution barring state aid to “sectarian schools.”
The Trump administration supported the petitioners at the hearing.
“The Montana Supreme Court had no power under federal law to invalidate anything,” Jeffrey B. Wall, principal deputy U.S. solicitor general, said. “It relied on a state constitutional provision that is inconsistent with and preempted by the federal free-exercise clause.”
Komer told the Supreme Court the program was “not aiding the schools,” but, in fact, was “aiding the parents.”
“You have a choice to make about the parents here. You can either view them as mere inconsequential conduits through which public funds flow to the religious schools they choose or you can regard them … as free and independent decision-makers who are being given the power to choose a religious education or a secular education in private schools.”
Komer said he wasn’t arguing that the state wasn’t allowed to fund public schools.
“We are saying that when the legislature, when the state makes the decision to empower parents to exercise their right to choose and direct their children’s education, that the state cannot distinguish between parents who want a religious education for their children and parents who want a secular private education for their children.”
Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg seemed to defend the Montana Supreme Court ruling, which, to borrow expressions used throughout the hearing, leveled down, or got rid of the program, rather than leveled up the program, meaning made it available for use at all schools.
Ginsburg suggested the parents had no standing to bring the case because the treatment they received was no different from what other parents received who sent their children to secular private schools.
“Where is the harm?” she said.
Justice Elena Kagan added, “Because of the [Montana] Supreme Court’s ruling, whether you go to a religious school or you go to a secular private school, you’re in the same boat at this point,” she said. “There is no discrimination at this point going on, is there?”
Justices Samuel Alito and Brett Kavanaugh spoke of the anti-religious, and particularly anti-Roman Catholic, bias of the so-called Blaine Amendment, a failed amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would have prohibited direct government aid to educational institutions with religious affiliations. Despite the failure of the amendment at the federal level, three-quarters of the 50 states later adopted similar amendments in their state constitutions.
Laws banning funding of religious schools are “certainly rooted in … grotesque religious bigotry against Catholics,” Kavanaugh said.
Alito challenged Adam G. Unikowsky, the lawyer for Montana.
“Do you really want to argue that the reason why a lot of this popped up beginning, coincidentally, in the 1840s, at the time of the Irish potato famine, that had nothing to do with discrimination based on religion?”
Unikowsky dodged the question, saying, “It’s a complex history and there’s good reasons and there’s bad reasons and it depends on the state.”

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Trump Administration Plans Visa Restrictions for Pregnant Women

President Donald Trump’s administration is amending visa regulations, targeting birth tourism, an official confirmed to The Epoch Times on Wednesday.
The proposed amendment was outlined in the government’s agenda released late last year.
“The Department is amending its regulation on temporary visitors in the B nonimmigrant visa classification to provide that a temporary visit for pleasure does not include birth tourism,” the State Department said in the agenda, proposing a change to B nonimmigrant visa provisions.
An official confirmed on Wednesday that the administration is moving forward with the proposed amendment.
“This change is intended to address the national security and law enforcement risks associated with birth tourism, including criminal activity associated with the birth tourism industry,” the official said.
The rule will be published in the near future, the official added.
In one draft of the regulations, pregnant women would have to clear an additional hurdle before obtaining tourism visas—convincing a consular officer that they have another legitimate reason to come to the United States.

In this September 2017 file photograph, a flag is waved outside the White House, in Washington. The Trump administration is planning on cracking down on birth tourism. (Carolyn Kaster/AP Photo)
Trump made cracking down on illegal immigration and immigration loopholes a central point of his campaign, zeroing in on an issue that is a top concern for some voters.
Regulating pregnant tourists is a way to prevent them from giving birth in the United States, which would give their child automatic U.S. citizenship, known as birthright citizenship. Trump has also said he’s looking at birthright citizenship “very seriously.”
Consular officers right now aren’t told to ask during visa interviews whether a woman is pregnant or intends to become so. But they would have to determine whether a visa applicant would be coming to the United States primarily to give birth.
Birth tourism is a lucrative business in both the United States and abroad. American companies take out advertisements and charge up to $80,000 to facilitate the practice, offering hotel rooms and medical care. Many of the women travel from Russia and China to give birth in the United States. In one case last year, a Chinese women pleaded guilty for running a birth tourism business. In another case, authorities charged 20 people over Chinese birth tourism schemes.
According to a study published in a maternal journal last year that focused on Chinese birth tourists, women travel to the United States “for a better childbirth experience, and to secure future opportunities for their children.”
There are no figures on how many foreign women travel to the United States specifically to give birth. The Center for Immigration Studies, a group that advocates for stricter immigration laws, estimated that in 2012, about 36,000 foreign-born women gave birth in the United States, then left the country.
Allen Zhong and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Follow Zachary on Twitter: @zackstieber

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Red Flag Gun Control Law Approved by the Virginia Senate

The Virginia state Senate passed a “red flag” law that would allow authorities to take guns away from people who are deemed a danger to others or themselves.
The Democrat-controlled Senate voted for the measure, SB240, on Wednesday along a party-line vote of 21-19, WHSV reported.
The bill stipulates that courts that find “that there is probable cause to believe that a person poses a substantial risk of personal injury to himself or others in the near future by such person’s possession or acquisition of a firearm, shall issue an ex parte emergency substantial risk order,” according to language of the bill. “Such order shall prohibit the person who is subject to the order from purchasing, possessing, or transporting a firearm for the duration of the order.”
Similar bills “have reduced the deaths in several states, particularly suicides, and also have been used in several situations of threats of mass shootings,” said state Sen. George Barker (D-39th), WTVR reported.
However, Republicans said the bill would impact people’s Second Amendment right while creating dangerous situations for officers trying to enforce such measures. “What we’re doing is going to undermine not only the Second Amendment rights but the right to due process of Virginians,” said Sen. Mark Obenshain (R-26th).
The move comes after tens of thousands of gun-rights demonstrators gathered near the state Capitol premises to highlight what they say are draconian measures to stifle their rights. Officials have said that more than 20,000 people showed up.
Gov. Ralph Northam, who signed an emergency declaration ahead of the rally to ban weapons at the State Capitol, said the measures abide by the Constitution and do not threaten Virginia citizens’ constitutional rights.
“They are constitutional. They don’t threaten the Second Amendment. Their purpose is to keep Virginia safe,” Northam said, reported WSLS. “We’re going to do work together, sit down at the table and find things that we can agree on and at the end of the day, make Virginia a safer place for everybody,” he said.
The rally drew the attention of President Donald Trump, who later told reporters that such gun legislation will prompt people to vote for Republicans in 2020.
“I think Virginia is crazy where they want to take away guns,” Trump told Fox News on Wednesday, speaking from Davos, Switzerland. “Virginia is very much in play. I think we are going to win [the] state of Virginia. They want to take everyone’s gun away in Virginia. You can’t do it. You can’t do it. People need that for safety. They need it for hunting … but many people need it for safety.”

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Republican Attorneys General Push Back Against Impeachment Trial

The Republican attorneys general for 21 states called on the Senate on Jan. 22 to reject the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump as constitutionally flawed, warning that doing otherwise would create a “dangerous historical precedent” and “erode the separation of powers” between the executive and legislative branches.
In a 14-page letter (pdf), the attorneys general framed the articles of impeachment as the product of a partisan process meant to undo the results of the 2016 presidential election and influence the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.
“If successful, an impeachment proceeding nullifies the votes of millions of citizens. The Democrat-controlled House passing of these constitutionally-deficient articles of impeachment amounts, at bottom, to a partisan political effort that undermines the democratic process itself,” the letter states.
“Even an unsuccessful effort to impeach the President undermines the integrity of the 2020 presidential election because it weaponizes a process that should only be initiated in exceedingly rare circumstances and should never be used for partisan purposes.”
House lawmakers voted along party lines to approve two articles of impeachment against the president late last year. Every Republican opposed the measure; two Democrats broke ranks with their party against it.
In the first article, the Democrats allege the president abused the power of his office by pressuring the leader of Ukraine to open investigations into his political rivals, including former vice president and Democratic presidential frontrunner Joe Biden. The second article accuses the president of obstructing Congress by defying requests from Democrats who opened an inquiry into his dealings with Ukraine.
The Republican state attorneys general argue that the “abuse of power” charge approved by the Democrats is “infinitely expansive and subjective” because it relies on the vague allegation that Trump acted for a “corrupt purpose.” The say the article essentially charges the president with taking a lawful action for a corrupt purpose, which the Democrats defined as “personal political benefit.”
“The President, in other words, is being impeached for political thought crime,” the letter states.
“The threat such a limitless concept poses to the most fundamental principles of our system of government are plain. It cannot be a legitimate basis to impeach a President for acting in a legal manner that may also be politically advantageous. Such a standard would be cause for the impeachment of virtually every President, past, present, and future.”
The attorneys general say that the second article is “equally flawed,” arguing that it shouldn’t be permissible to impeach a president who seeks to protect the executive privilege against an overreach by a partisan legislative majority.
“If the House can impeach a President for invoking executive privilege, the privilege is meaningless because it is under unilateral control of the House,” the letter states.
The arguments by the attorneys general mirrored some of those put forth by the president’s attorney during the first day of the Senate trial. The Democratic House impeachment managers have rebutted the arguments, calling Trump’s conduct, as alleged in the abuse-of-power article, the framers’ “worst nightmare.” In responding to the criticism of the obstruction charge, Democrats say that the House’s power to impeach would be permanently weakened if the president could get away with denying document and witness requests.
Ivan Eland, a senior fellow at the Independent Institute, told The Epoch Times that the Democrats had no choice but to impeach Trump for obstructing Congress because Trump’s refusals to cooperate with the inquiry impeded the House from conducting its oversight duties. According to Eland, the power of the executive branch has expanded since the Roosevelt era, setting up for the current clash between the White House and congressional Democrats.
“He has blatantly said that he is not cooperating and that’s a problem from the constitutional view,” Eland said. “We are at a place where we have unprecedented executive power, so if anything the Democrats are right in this that the article two of the impeachment is the most important one.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told reporters on Jan. 22 that Trump rightly blocked requests to question his top advisors to protect the office of the presidency.
“If you blow through these privileges because you want to impeach the president before the election, and you come to the Senate and you ask me to destroy the privilege, forget it. I’m not going to reward this kind of behavior.”
Follow Ivan on Twitter: @ivanpentchoukov

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Graham: Democrats Didn’t Wait for Courts Because They Wanted to Impeach Trump Before Election

Democrats declined to wait for courts to weigh in on the impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump because they wanted to impeach him before the 2020 election, Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said on Wednesday.
“They would have the United States Senate create an impeachment process where the president would not be allowed to go to Article III courts to argue privileges that have been argued in every other impeachment trial and have been argued by presidents since George Washington. That would destroy the institution of the presidency as we know it,” Graham said at a press conference in Washington.
“What would it do? It would allow a handful in a 300-plus million country, people, along partisan lines to impeach a president without independent judicial review.”
Graham dismissed Senate Democrat calls to subpoena witnesses, echoing other GOP members who say House Democrats should have subpoenaed the witnesses and built a stronger case for impeachment instead of pushing it off to the Senate.
“They did not pursue these witnesses, because they knew the president would seek judicial redress, and it would literally stop them from impeaching him before the election,” he said.
The House withdrew a subpoena for Charles Kupperman, a former aide to ex-National Security Adviser John Bolton, before voting to impeach Trump, arguing they actually didn’t need him to testify. Kupperman had filed a lawsuit asking a federal judge whether he should comply with the White House’s instruction to ignore the subpoena, or comply with the House and testify.
Trump’s lawyer Jay Sekulow made similar arguments to Graham on Tuesday, telling senators, “We’re acting as if the courts are an improper venue to determine constitutional issues of this magnitude. That is why we have the courts, that is why we have a federal judiciary.”

In this screengrab taken from a Senate Television webcast, House impeachment manager Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) speaks during impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump in the Senate at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Jan. 22, 2020. (Senate Television via Getty Images)
House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the lead House impeachment manager, said the House couldn’t wait for judges to make decisions before moving forward.
“If the House were compelled to exhaust all legal remedies before impeaching the president, it would interpose the courts or the decision of a single judge between the House and the power to impeach,” Schiff said Tuesday. “Moreover, it would invite the president to prevent his own impeachment by endlessly litigating the matter in court.”
Graham referred to Schiff’s comments at the press conference, saying the remarks struck him as essentially saying “we couldn’t impeach him before the election” if the courts were involved.
He also said proposals by Democrats on the opening day of the trial would “destroy the institution of the presidency as we know it, make it naked when it comes to the partisan impeachment, not have a venue to go to court and litigate privileges that have been exercised by prior presidents.”
“When it comes to Donald Trump, they’re willing to destroy the institution of the office in the name of getting him.”
Other Republicans also said the House impeachment case wasn’t well done.
“When I went to high school in Bozeman, Montana, if I turned in a term paper that’s half-complete, my teacher would toss it back to me, say, ‘You didn’t get it done,’” Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) added.
“That’s how I felt last night. They have not done the complete homework.”

Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) in a file photograph in Washington. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)
“Should the United States Senate decide the 2020 election, and overturn the 2016 election, by removing him from office? I put the trust in the voters of this country: they should have that say, not the United States Senate,” Daines said.
Trump was impeached by House Democrats last month on charges of abuse of office and obstruction of Congress. Zero Republicans voted in favor of the articles and a handful of Democrats broke with their party on the vote.
An impeachment inquiry was triggered by a complaint filed against the president over a July 2019 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. During the call, Trump asked his counterpart to “look into” corruption allegations against former Vice President Joe Biden and Biden’s son Hunter Biden.
Democrats say Trump was asking a foreign country to interfere in the 2020 election because Joe Biden is running for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Trump has denied wrongdoing, as have the Bidens, who are under investigation by multiple Senate committees.
Senate Democrats are pushing to call at least four witnesses: Bolton, acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, Mulvaney aide Robert Blair, and White House Office of Management and Budget official Michael Duffey.
A supermajority of 67 votes is required to convict Trump, or remove him from office, in the Senate, which the GOP holds with a 53-47 majority after gaining two seats in the 2018 election.
Follow Zachary on Twitter: @zackstieber

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Justice Department Defends Ohio Law Banning Down Syndrome Abortions

The Justice Department (DOJ) has filed a brief in support of an Ohio law that prohibits abortionists from performing an abortion they know is sought because of Down syndrome.
Ohio passed the law, known as House Bill 214, in 2017 that states that an abortion provider cannot “purposely perform or induce or attempt to perform or induce an abortion on a pregnant woman if” the provider has knowledge that the woman seeking the abortion has sought the procedure because the unborn child has Down syndrome. The state says the law is entrenched in anti-discrimination principles and is trying to protect individuals with disabilities from prejudice.
The law also prevents against opening the floodgates for letting the medical profession participate in abortions on the basis of race, sex, genetic makeup, or other characteristics of the unborn child detected prenatally, the DOJ said. It also protects women from potentially coercive abortion providers who may pressure them in obtaining an abortion because of the genetic disorder.
Following the signing of the law, several reproductive health care providers sued the state on behalf of its patients, arguing that the law imposes an unconstitutional burden on women seeking abortion and that it would undermine the relationship between doctors and patients by making it harder for patients to have an honest conversation with their doctors.
They also argued that the mere fact that a woman is seeking an abortion after receiving a Down syndrome diagnosis cannot be used to construe that the abortionist has knowledge of her motivations.
At trial, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio blocked the law from going into effect. It was scheduled to be enforced on March 23, 2018. A split three-judge panel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit then affirmed the lower court’s ruling upon appeal. The full court of the Sixth Circuit has voted to re-hear the appeal.
On Tuesday, the DOJ filed a friend-of-the-court brief (pdf) arguing in support of the Ohio legislation. The department’s lawyers say the law does not prohibit abortions or create a “substantial obstacle” for women seeking the procedure but rather, it merely prevents abortionists from knowingly participating in abortions they know are sought because of Down syndrome.
“This is what the text of the law says, this is how the State of Ohio understands the statute, and this is the construction the canon of constitutional avoidance compels,” the department argued.
A woman’s ability to obtain an abortion is unfettered, even if she shares her motivation to an abortion provider, because the law does not prevent her from seeking the procedure from a second provider, the department said.
The department also argued that the benefits of the law should outweigh any of its burdens caused by its implementation. They said the law advances the state’s interest in protecting the integrity and ethics of the medical profession, draws a line to certain practices that ends life, and protects disabled people from prejudice, negative, and inaccurate stereotypes.
“A prohibition on abortion providers from knowingly performing abortions based on disability—like a prohibition on knowingly participating in assisted suicides—replaces ‘negative messages’ with a public statement that the lives of individuals with ‘disabil[ities] must be no less valued than the lives’ of others,” the department said.
Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the Civil Rights Division, who signed the brief, said that the department is participating in this case because the federal government has an interest in the “equal dignity of those who live with disabilities.”
“Nothing in the Constitution requires Ohio to authorize abortion providers to participate in abortions the providers know are based on Down syndrome,” he said in a statement.
Like the circuit courts, the Supreme Court will also hear a case on another state’s law putting limitations on abortions. That case asks the court to decide whether an unconstitutional burden has been placed on women seeking abortions after Louisiana passed a law requiring doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges within 30 miles of where the procedure was taking place.
The Trump administration has expressly supported the lives of unborn children. On Tuesday, President Donald Trump signed a proclamation on National Sanctity of Human Life Day 2020 to reaffirm the administration’s commitment to protecting “the precious gift of life at every stage, from conception to natural death.”
Trump said in his proclamation that the number and rate of abortions have been declining in recent years across the nation, but more work needs to be done.
“I will continue to fight to protect the lives of the unborn,” he said. “As a Nation, we must remain steadfastly dedicated to the profound truth that all life is a gift from God, who endows every person with immeasurable worth and potential.”
Follow Janita on Twitter: @janitakan

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Fiery Plane Crash Reported at Airport in California, 4 Killed

Police and fire personnel responded to a plane crash in Southern California on Wednesday, leaving four dead.
NBC Los Angeles reported on the casualty figure, adding that the plane was a single-engine aircraft.
The fiery incident was reported around 12:10 p.m. near the Corona Municipal Airport in Corona, located on 1900 Aviation Drive, reported KLTA.
It’s unclear how many people were on board the plane. Photos uploaded online showed heavy smoke in the distance near the airport.
“Today about 12:11 P.M. The Corona Fire Department and Corona Police officers responded to the Corona Airport regarding a airplane crash. Upon arrival personnel located one plane on fire in the brush. Our fire personnel are working on extinguishing aircraft and brush,” the Corona Police Department wrote.

The aircraft crashed on the East side of the airport. We are working on determining how many people were on board this aircraft. @cityofcorona
— Corona Police Dept. #CoronaPD (@CoronaPD) January 22, 2020

It added that “the aircraft crashed on the East side of the airport,” and officials “are working on determining how many people were on board this aircraft.”
The airport was shut down as a result, according to the Press-Enterprise.

An incident involving a plane is being conducted at the Corona Airport. There are no further details at this time. The airport is closed to flights. pic.twitter.com/gZd7e6xBsk
— Corona Police Dept. #CoronaPD (@CoronaPD) January 22, 2020

CBS Los Angeles reported that fire crews are on the scene to extinguish the flames.
Further details about the plane crash are not clear.
Corona is located about 48 miles southeast of Los Angeles in Riverside County.

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DNC Investing Millions in Battleground States Ahead of 2020 Election

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) announced a multi-million-dollar investment into six battleground states including Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Florida, and Arizona, as part of a strategy to take back the White House from President Donald Trump.
“Today, we’re announcing a new, multi-million-dollar investment in six battleground states! We’re ready to continue laying the groundwork for our eventual nominee — as well as Democrats up and down the ballot,” wrote the DNC Twitter account Wednesday.
It’s called the “Battleground Build-Up 2020” because the money will cover those states that have the potential to swing toward either party in the presidential elections.
The six states targeted are some of the ones Trump won in 2016. But the initial financial investment will not cover Iowa or New Hampshire. Iowa went to Trump in 2016 and Obama in 2012. New Hampshire has gone blue the last 4 cycles, with Clinton winning there in 2016.
“The DNC is making historic, early investments to lay the groundwork for our eventual nominee to win in 2020. We are taking nothing for granted as we work to make Trump a one-term president and win up and down the ballot in 2020,” said DNC Chair Tom Perez.
This initiative will nearly double the on-the-ground organizers in those states, open new offices, and increase the number of operations and data staff.
“These organizers, offices, and staff will help our eventual nominee grow their general election operation as quickly as possible and ensure Democrats are reaching out to every voter possible, starting right now,” said Perez.
Part of the multi-million dollar operation will fund communications and voter protection. The DNC will work to get their message out and increase on-the-ground voter protection infrastructure across multiple states.
The DNC said in a press release, “There was no comparable investment made by the DNC at this point during the 2016 presidential campaign cycle. Additional states and funding could be added as the cycle continues.”
The DNC is counting on Democratic presidential candidates to raise the money needed to unseat Trump. According to the Federal Election Commission, in the year 2019 Senator Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) raised close to 61 million, Senator Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Mass.) campaign raised about 50 million, Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s campaign raised over 51 million and Former Vice President Joe Biden’s fundraising totals were not available. The NY Times reported that Biden’s campaign raised 22 million in the fourth quarter.
The DNC investment comes behind the efforts of the Republican National Committee and Trump’s reelection campaigns in the same battleground states. With no serious competition from other Republicans, Trump’s campaign and the RNC have poured millions into ensuring their win in 2020.
“With this agreement, the RNC, Trump campaign, and state parties will continue our massive fundraising advantage which allows for the largest data-driven ground game in Party history,” RNC Spokesperson Mandi Merritt said. “Try as they may, Democrats can’t compete.”
The RNC has consistently outraised the DNC.
The Hill reported that the Trump campaign, the Republican National Committee (RNC) and other Republican groups raised over $154 million in the fourth quarter of 2019, ending the year with close to $195 million.

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Education Department Opens New Civil Rights Center to Help Schools, Students

The U.S. Department of Education’s civil rights office launched a new initiative designed to help schools, educators, and students understand and apply education civil rights laws, Secretary Betsy DeVos said Jan. 21.
The Outreach, Prevention, Education and Nondiscrimination Center, or OPEN Center, will be housed in the Department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR), which reviews and investigates civil rights complaints. The new center will focus on providing technical assistance to schools and guidance to the public to help them avoid civil rights violations.
“The OPEN Center is all about strengthening civil rights compliance through voluntary, proactive activities,” Kenneth L. Marcus, an assistant secretary at the department, said in Tuesday’s news release. “Instead of waiting for violations to occur before responding, OCR will get in front of the problem, partnering with educators and other institutions to better protect students. As the name implies, we want to be a better resource, more welcoming and supportive of students, families, educators, and communities.”
The Education Department’s OCR is responsible for ensuring equal access to education through the enforcement of federal laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability, or age. The agency issues nonbinding guidelines on how the civil rights laws apply to issues in schools including admissions, class assignment, grading, athletics, employment, discipline, bullying, and sexual harassment.
Last July, the OCR released data that showed its investigators were resolving civil rights complaints at nearly twice the rate as they were during the Obama administration. During fiscal years 2017 and 2018, the OCR resolved 16,000 complaints per year on average, compared to an average of 8,200 complaints resolved annually during the previous administration.
Under a new OCR guideline (pdf) for probing civil rights cases, the scope of the investigation has been narrowed. For example, complaints from transgender students regarding access to bathrooms and locker rooms, as well as a range of other complaints of anti-transgender discrimination, would no longer be investigated. The new guideline also removed all mentions of “systemic” investigations, instructing the investigators to narrow their focus to the merits of a particular claim, rather than probing systemic issues.
“Instead of seeing every case as an opportunity to advance a political agenda, we are focused on the needs of each individual student and on faithfully executing the laws,” Kenneth Marcus said in a statement. “This is the right thing to do, and the data show it works.”

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DC Attorney General Sues Trump Inaugural Committee Over Alleged Overpayment

The District of Columbia attorney general sued President Donald Trump’s inaugural committee and family business on Wednesday, alleging that the committee overpaid to use the Trump Organization’s hotel in the nation’s capital.
Trump’s inaugural committee, a nonprofit, “improperly wasted by grossly overpaying the Defendant Trump Entities for use of event space at the Trump Hotel for certain Inaugural events,” the court filing (pdf) from Attorney General Karl Racine stated.
The committee, or PIC, abandoned its purpose of supporting activities surrounding the 2017 inauguration “when it wasted approximately $1 million of charitable funds in overpayment for the use of event space at the Trump Hotel, owned and controlled by the Trump Entities,” the filing stated.
“A nonprofit abandons its public purpose when it allows any portion of its funds to be spent in ways that are designed to benefit private persons or companies. This well-established nonprofit principle, the prohibition on private inurement, was specifically included in the PIC’s articles of incorporation.”
“District law requires nonprofits to use their funds for their stated public purpose, not to benefit private individuals or companies,” Racine said in a statement. “In this case, we are seeking to recover the nonprofit funds that were improperly funneled directly to the Trump family business.”
The filing said that Rick Gates, a former Trump campaign official who was sentenced to 45 days in jail in December 2019 for financial fraud and lying to investigators, was an inaugural committee executive and agreed with the managing director of the Trump Hotel and members of Trump’s family to pay Trump entities $175,000 a day for the committee to reserve event space from Jan. 17 to Jan. 20 in 2017.

People walk past the Trump International Hotel on Pennsylvania Ave. in Washington on Oct. 25, 2019. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Adding other charges, the committee spent a little over $1 million for the space, the court filing alleged. The committee’s event planner said that the charges were at least twice the market rate, according to an email published by Racine, who also alleged that the event space should have actually been provided for free because the committee rented a block of the Trump Hotel’s rooms during inauguration week. Further, on some of the days the committee paid for the space, it didn’t hold official events and other organizations were actually using the same space, the filing states.
High-level officials at Trump Entities were aware of the inaugural committee’s nonprofit status, the filing stated. It said the PIC engaged in an illegal act “by knowingly contracting and rendering payment 4 for services designed to enrich private entities.”
In a statement sent to news outlets, the Trump Organization called the claims in the suit false.
“The AG’s claims are false, intentionally misleading and riddled with inaccuracies,” a spokesperson said.
“The rates charged by the hotel were completely in line with what anyone else would have been charged for an unprecedented event of this enormous magnitude and were reflective of the fact that hotel had just recently opened, possessed superior facilities and was centrally located on Pennsylvania Avenue. The AG’s after the fact attempt to regulate what discounts it believes the hotel should have provided as well as the timing of this complaint reeks of politics and is a clear PR stunt.”
Follow Zachary on Twitter: @zackstieber

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Michael Flynn Lawyers Argue Against Jail Time

Lawyers for former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn said their client shouldn’t get any jail time, asking a judge to consider his lengthy time in the military.
Flynn moved last week to withdraw a guilty plea to one count of lying to investigators. If Flynn ends up being sentenced, the lawyers said, Judge Emmet Sullivan should take into account Flynn’s “exemplary character,” the attorneys said.
“He served his country for more than thirty-three years. His family up and down and across the generations proudly served and still serve now,” they wrote, noting that prosecutors acknowledged Flynn’s military service and adding that Flynn is involved in charitable work.
“The Court should weigh Mr. Flynn’s military service substantially and favorably. His choice to dedicate his career to protecting Americans, by putting himself in harm’s way, distinguishes him from the vast majority of all Americans and almost anyone else who appears before this Court for sentencing, and certainly more than anyone else prosecuted by the SCO,” the lawyers wrote.
The lawyers also said the government shouldn’t be rewarded for trying to allegedly punish Flynn for pushing back against requests that he give false testimony while cooperating with the government.

Michael Flynn, former national security advisor to President Donald Trump, arrives at the E. Barrett Prettyman Federal Courthouse for a status hearing in Washington, D.C. on July 10, 2018. Flynn’s lawyers said in a new court filing that Flynn shouldn’t get any jail time. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
“In considering an appropriate sentence, factors like deterrence are considered; the Court thinks about the message it sends to others not before it. Here, the Court should applaud Mr. Flynn’s courage to stand firm against attempted coercion. If other cooperators know that they will be rewarded for testifying truthfully, not testifying to please prosecutors, the search for justice will be enhanced,” they wrote.
“Conversely, attempts by prosecutors to use their extraordinary leverage in an attempt to change the facts to meet their theory, rather than the truth, should be overtly chastised.”
Flynn’s team shifted its strategy this month, arguing in a filing that prosecutors breached the plea agreement reached when Flynn pleaded guilty several years ago. Prosecutors ultimately recommended jail time for Flynn, reversing earlier recommendations for only probation.
Flynn’s lawyers said in a Jan. 16 filing that documents show prosecutors knew that they asked Flynn to lie, noting that conspiring to make someone lie to the government is a federal crime punishable by up to five years in prison.
Flynn lawyer Sidney Powell later said that FBI agents wrote in a draft report from their interview with Flynn that he didn’t lie. Flynn’s defense team has an eyewitness who saw the draft report, she said.
“Can’t say more about witness but yes, person saw it,” she told The Epoch Times in an email.
Follow Zachary on Twitter: @zackstieber

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Democrats Won’t Trade Witnesses in Senate Impeachment Trial

Top Senate Democrats said they wouldn’t trade witnesses in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, arguing the ones they want could actually “exonerate” the president, pushing back against the notion that they’re “Democrat” witnesses.
Reporters pressed Democrats in Washington before day two of the trial on whether they’d accept an agreement that will allow for one or more witnesses Democrats want to testify in exchange for the testimony of an equal number of witnesses Republicans want to take the stand.
But Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) framed the dismissal of a proposed swap as Republicans wanting illegitimate witnesses while Democrats want legitimate ones.
“The bottom line is that the witnesses should have something to do with and direct knowledge of charges against the president, we don’t need to have witnesses that have nothing to do with this that are trying to distract Americans from the truth,” Schumer said in Washington on Wednesday.

Hunter Biden, son of former Vice President Joe Biden, waits for the start of his father’s debate at Centre College in Danville, Ky., on Oct. 11, 2012. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP Photo)
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), asked separately about a witness swap, also shot down the idea.
Democrats want former security adviser John Bolton, acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, former Mulvaney aide Robert Blair, and White House Office of Budget and Management official Michael Duffey to testify.
Some Republicans have floated former Vice President Joe Biden, Biden’s son Hunter Biden, and the person who filed a complaint against Trump over the July 2019 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as witnesses they might push for, but GOP leadership has signaled they could be against calling any witnesses.
“Right now we haven’t heard them wanting any witnesses at all,” Schumer said. He then posited that the witnesses Democrats want could actually help Trump.
“We don’t know what these witnesses and documents will reveal. They could be exculpatory of the president, they could be incriminating of the president. These are not Democrat witnesses or Democratic documents. We want, as both of my colleagues said, the truth,” Schumer said.
Republicans voted down 11 amendments proposed by Democrats on Tuesday and early Wednesday, many of which dealt with the matter of witnesses. The trial started back up at 1 p.m. on Wednesday with the issue pushed back until after both sides present opening arguments, senators submit written questions, and each side answer the questions.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said at a press conference later Wednesday that Democrats didn’t wait during the House impeachment inquiry for a federal judge to weigh in on questions surrounding executive privilege, which Trump said he’d cite in blocking testimony from Bolton.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) arrives for the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump in Washington on Jan. 21, 2020. (Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)
“Abuse of power, in this case, I think undercuts the ability of the president to literally do his job,” Graham said.
“There is nobody more important to the president than the secretary of state, the national security advisor, and chief of staff. He needs to protect the institutions of the presidency. If I’m asked to waive the executive privilege, I will say no,” Graham added.
“The only option is to stop the trial and go to court or have the Senate decide the privilege. Here’s what I would tell the future House: If you blow through these privileges because you want to impeach a president before the election, and you come to the Senate and you ask me to destroy the privilege, forget it. I’m not going to reward this kind of behavior.”
Bolton said earlier in January that he’s willing to testify in the impeachment trial. Trump said Wednesday that the former national security adviser’s testimony would be a national security concern.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday he’d testify in the trial if he was legally obligated to.
“If I am legally required to testify, as I’ve said before, I’ll be happy to do it,” Pompeo told reporters while in Jamaica, Reuters reported.
Pompeo said he hasn’t been following updates on the trial as he tours the Western Hemisphere.
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Washington Man Is First in US to Catch New Virus From China

SEATTLE—The United States on Jan. 21 reported its first case of a new and potentially deadly virus circulating in China, saying a Washington state resident who returned last week from the outbreak’s epicenter was hospitalized near Seattle.
The man, identified as a Snohomish County resident is in his 30s, was in good condition and wasn’t considered a threat to medical staff or the public, health officials said.
U.S. officials stressed that they believe the virus’s overall risk to the American public remained low.
“This is not a moment of high anxiety,” Gov. Jay Inslee said.
The newly discovered virus has infected about 440 people, all of whom had been in China, and killed 17. The virus can cause coughing, fever, breathing difficulty and pneumonia. The United States joins a growing list of places outside mainland China reporting cases, following Thailand, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan.
Airports around the world have stepped up monitoring, checking passengers from China for signs of illness in hopes of containing the virus during the busy Lunar New Year travel season.
Late last week, U.S. health officials began screening passengers from Wuhan in central China, where the outbreak began. The screening had been underway at three U.S. airports—New York City’s Kennedy airport and the Los Angeles and San Francisco airports. On Tuesday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced it would add Chicago’s O’Hare airport and Atlanta’s airport to the mix later this week.
What’s more, officials also will begin forcing all passengers from Wuhan to go to one of those five airports if they wish to enter the United States.
The hospitalized U.S. resident had no symptoms when he arrived at the Seattle-Tacoma airport last Wednesday, but he started feeling ill on Thursday and went to a doctor on Sunday with a fever and a cough, officials said. Lab testing on Monday confirmed he had the virus.
“The gentleman right now is very healthy,” Dr. Nancy Messonnier of the CDC said on Tuesday.
The hospital, Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett, said in a statement that it expected the man would remain in isolation and under monitoring there at least until Thursday.
CDC officials said they sent a team to Washington to try to track down people who might have come in contact with the man. The hospital also said it was contacting “the small number of staff and patients” who may have been with the man at a clinic.
The man is originally from central China, lives alone in the United States and made the trip solo, officials said. There were relatively few people who came in contact with him since he got back, health officials said.
Last month, doctors in Wuhan began seeing the new virus in people who got sick after spending time at a wholesale seafood market.
Officials have said the virus probably spread from animals to people, but this week Chinese officials said they’ve concluded it also can spread from person to person.
Health authorities this month identified the germ behind the outbreak as a new type of coronavirus. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses, some of which cause the common cold; others found in bats, camels, and other animals have evolved into more severe illnesses.
SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, belongs to the coronavirus family, but Chinese state media say the illness in Wuhan is different from coronaviruses that have been identified in the past. Earlier laboratory tests ruled out SARS and MERS—Middle East respiratory syndrome—as well as influenza, bird flu, adenovirus, and other common lung-infecting germs.
The new virus so far does not appear to be as deadly as SARS and MERS, but viruses can sometimes mutate to become more dangerous.
University of Washington coronavirus researcher David Veesler said the public “should not be panicking right now.”
The response has been “very efficient,” Veesler said. “In a couple of weeks, China was able to identify the virus, isolate it, sequence it and share that information.”
Veesler added: “We don’t have enough data to judge how severe the disease is.”
The CDC’s Messonnier said health officials expected to see more cases in the United States and around the world in the coming days.

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Homeland Security Chief Warns Caravan Migrants Will Be Sent Home if They Reach US

The head of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which oversees immigration enforcement, warned a new caravan of Central American migrants that they won’t be allowed into the United States.
“Being part of a large group, like a caravan, provides no special treatment or benefits to those who participate. Unfortunately, there have been acts of reported violence by some involved in this caravan,” acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf said in a statement. “The Department is prioritizing the safety and security of our officers and the American people.”
“Should any members of the caravan reach the U.S.-Mexico border, they will be processed accordingly and quickly removed, returned, or repatriated,” he added.
His warning comes a day after Mexican police clashed with hundreds of migrants who were attempting to enter Mexico from Guatemala, according to reports.
“Yesterday there was a group of some 1,000 who tried to enter the country by force. A tragedy was avoided, because there can always be a lot of problems, above all when there are children and women,” Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard told CNN. “Despite the stones [National Guard personnel] were hit with, and a very tense situation, we can say that yesterday, if someone had the intention to provoke, they did not achieve that,” Ebrard said. “If someone is looking for violence in Mexico, they are not going to find it on the part of authorities.”
As reported by NPR, the migrants are in Mexico and are being prevented from traveling through the country by Mexican National Guard members in riot gear. The Guatemalan government confirmed that around 4,000 migrants entered the country from Honduras.
One migrant told the news outlet: “Our goal is to go to the United States. We aren’t turning around here.”
In his statement Wednesday, Wolf praised Mexican authorities’ measures to increase security at their southern border.
“I commend the government of Mexico for upholding their commitment to increased security and law enforcement at their southern border. The efforts by the Mexican National Guard and other officials have thus far been effective at maintaining the integrity of their border, despite outbreaks of violence and lawlessness by people who are attempting to illegally enter Mexico on their way to the United States,” Wolf said.
His agency is monitoring the caravan, adding that there are “dozens of personnel on the ground in Central America assisting local immigration and security officials, which have already led to hundreds of individuals being stopped, apprehended, and sent back to their home countries.”

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Trump Impeachment Trial: What Happened on Day One in the Senate as Day Two Starts

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts and 100 senators gathered in the Senate chambers in Washington on Tuesday for the start of the impeachment trial against President Donald Trump.
Trump’s team of lawyers, led by White House Counsel Pat Cipollone and the president’s person lawyer, Jay Sekulow, argued in support of a resolution introduced by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) that outlined initial trial guidelines.
House impeachment managers, including House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), testified in support of amendments proposed by Senate Democrats, including one that would have guaranteed witnesses would be called, and others that would subpoena specific witnesses, including former national security adviser John Bolton and acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney.
Republicans have a 53-47 majority in the Senate. GOP members shot down all eleven proposed amendments, with only one—the last one—getting any votes from across the aisle. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) broke with her party to support the amendment, which still failed 48-52.
The Senate approved McConnell’s resolution in a party-line vote in the early hours of Wednesday. That means opening arguments from Trump’s team and House Democrats will start Wednesday afternoon after the trial resumes at 1 p.m.

This artist sketch depicts White House counsel Pat Cipollone speaking in the Senate chamber during the impeachment trial against President Donald Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, at the Capitol in Washington on Jan. 21, 2020. (Dana Verkouteren via AP)
Trump was impeached on Dec. 18, 2019, by the House of Representatives in a sharply partisan vote that saw no Republicans vote to impeach the president but four Democrats break from their party to vote “present” or “no” to at least one article of impeachment.
The two articles charged the president with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
House Democrats held the articles for about three weeks before submitting them to the Senate. After senators and Roberts were sworn in on Jan. 16, the trial started on Jan. 21. It’s the third presidential impeachment trial in the history of the country. No president has ever been removed from office through impeachment.
Convicting Trump, or removing him from office, would require a supermajority vote on one of the articles of impeachment. Acquitting him, or dismissing the articles, requires a simple majority.
An acquittal is widely expected.

Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) arrives at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Jan. 22, 2020. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Fight Over Witnesses
The first day was consumed with an ongoing fight over witnesses: whether to call them, when they should be subpoenaed if subpoenas are issued, and who should be called if any are called.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has repeatedly dismissed House Democrats’ impeachment case against Trump, calling it “weak” and “rushed.” He’s argued that the House is attempting to foist its responsibility onto the Senate in terms of calling witnesses and hearing additional testimony.
More than a dozen witnesses testified during the House impeachment inquiry but many lacked firsthand knowledge of the events outlined in the articles of impeachment, including four constitutional law professors. Other witnesses included U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, National Security Council official Alexander Vindman, and former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch.
A number of former or current White House officials refused to testify, including Mulvaney and Charles Kupperman, a former aide to Bolton. The House subpoenaed Kupperman but a judge declined to rule on a lawsuit the ex-aide filed after the House dropped the subpoena.
House Democrats declined to call witnesses requested by House Republicans, including former Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden and the person who filed a complaint against Trump over the July 2019 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
McConnell’s resolution means the trial will start without addressing the matter of witnesses.
“I’m confident that the organizing resolution will allow us to do our due diligence, bring this process to a close in a timely manner, and get back to doing the work that the people of South Dakota sent me here to do,” Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.). said in a statement.
“I voted for the resolution because the rules are fair to both sides,” added Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.). “Consistent with the precedent established by the Senate during the Clinton impeachment trial, I believe that Senators should hear the arguments from both sides and have the opportunity to ask questions before determining whether additional evidence is needed.”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) holds a press conference about the Senate impeachment trial of Republican President Donald Trump at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Jan. 22, 2020, ahead of opening arguments. (Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)
The Rest of the Week
The resolution gives House managers and attorneys for the president up to 24 hours each to make opening arguments. After both sides complete giving their presentations, senators will get a chance to submit written questions to either side. The period in which answers can be given will last up to 16 hours.
The Senate will then debate and vote on whether to subpoena additional witnesses or documents.
Senate Democrats and House impeachment managers criticized the GOP’s refusal to immediately vote on witnesses, arguing that those close to Trump could provide information pertinent to the case.
“If there is one thing we learned from a series of votes on the Senate floor it is that Leader McConnell and Senate Republicans don’t want a fair trial that considers all the evidence,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said at a press conference on Wednesday morning.
“Yesterday we put the spotlight on the number one issue of having a fair trial, witnesses and documents, just the spotlight alone. I predict that as a result, that spotlight will continue to focus on witnesses and documents and the pressure will continue to build on Republican senators.”
Schumer said Senate Democrats would keep pressing for amendments.
“The motions will be made. Right now we have the arguments by House managers, then the arguments by the president’s lawyers, then there will be a question period,” he said.
“We will certainly try to find ways—whether it is the House managers who want to do it themselves or us—to get direct vote on each witness and document, once again, after the arguments are made.”

House Judiciary Chairman Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) walks along the Ohio Clock Corridor following the first day of President Donald Trump’s Senate Impeachment Trial in Washington on Jan. 22, 2020. (Tom Brenner/Reuters)
The Defense and Prosecution
Along with Cipollone and Sekulow, Trump’s team includes Harvard Law School professor emeritus Alan Dershowitz, former independent counsel Kenneth Starr, former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, and former federal prosecutor Robert Ray.
Trump also announced this week that eight House Republicans would assist in the defense effort. They are Reps. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), Mike Johnson (R-La.), Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), Debbie Lesko (R-Ariz.), Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), John Ratcliffe (R-Texas), Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) and Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.).
Schiff is leading the team attempting to convince senators to convict Trump.
Joining him and Nadler are Reps. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), Val Demings (D-Fla.), Jason Crow (D-Colo.), and Sylvia Garcia (D-Texas).

In this image from video, presiding officer Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts speaks during the impeachment trial against President Donald Trump in the Senate at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, on Jan. 21, 2020. (Senate Television via AP)
Jury and Judge
Roberts, the head judge of the nation’s highest court, will preside over the trial.
Roberts, 64, was nominated to the Supreme Court in 2005 by President George W. Bush. He was directly confirmed to be chief justice following the death of Chief Justice William Rehnquist.
Unlike other trials, if Roberts does make a ruling, 51 senators can vote to overrule him.
In a rare rebuke issued early Wednesday, Roberts admonished both the House managers and Trump’s lawyers after an intense back-and-forth.
The hundred senators, meanwhile, are acting like a jury in the partisan trial.
Senators are expected to be in attendance at all times during the proceedings and aren’t allowed to have phones or other electronics during the trial. They can only drink milk or water and also aren’t allowed to speak during the proceedings.
Four Democratic presidential contenders are among those gathered in Washington: Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.).
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AG Barr Unveils National Commission to Study Law Enforcement, Justice System

Attorney General William Barr launched a national commission on Wednesday aimed at addressing problems confronting law enforcement that impact their ability to police in the community.
The Presidential Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice was first announced in late October last year after President Donald Trump signed an executive order designating Barr to form the commission to study the issues plaguing law enforcement and the administration of justice. The commission will meet monthly and submit a report with recommendations based on their review.
A similar panel with the same name was created by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965 and left the legacy of creating the 911 emergency number and improved training for police departments. The panel from the 60s offered more than 200 recommendations (pdf) for a “safer and more just society.”
The commission will conduct most of its study through panel presentations, field visits, hearings, and meetings. They will also draw expertise from academia, officials, private citizens, community organizations, civil liberties groups, bar associations, and victims, who could provide important insights on the issues.
A prominent focus of the commission’s study will be looking at the challenges law enforcement officers face associated with their mental and physical health, such as police officer suicide. Barr underscored in his speech that the number of police officers who died by suicide last year was alarming. Nationwide, the risk of suicide among police officers is 54 percent greater than other workers (pdf), according to a 2019 analysis of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data presented by Dr. John Violanti, who researches police stress and suicide.
The panel has also been recommended to study other areas including obstacles officers are presented with due to changing technology and a trend of social problems such as homelessness, mental illness, and drug addictions. They may also examine best practices for recruiting, training, and retaining law enforcement officers, the impact of progressive state and local prosecutors on law enforcement, and the need to promote public confidence and respect for the law and officers.
“This commission is critical not only because it is timely but also because few callings are more essential to the strength and prosperity of our nation than that of law enforcement,” Barr said. “It is the rule of law that is fundamental to ensuring both freedom and security and it is our more than 900,000 men and women on the beat every day who uphold the rule of law.”
“There is no nobler calling in America than serving as a law enforcement officer,” he added.
Barr has appointed a number of federal and state officials to the commission to carry out the tasks, including FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich. The commission will be chaired by the Director of the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services Phil Keith, alongside vice-chair Katharine Sullivan, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the Office of Justice Programs.
The commission has about 10 months to complete the work, as stipulated by the executive order, which says the panel’s report must be submitted to the president within a year of Oct. 28, 2019—the date the order was signed.
President Trump said in his speech announcing the executive order last year that his administration is committed to standing up for law enforcement, while touting his successes in reducing crime.
“Under this administration, we are once again standing up for law enforcement, we’re condemning anti-police bias in all forms, and we’re giving you the support, resources, and the respect—and we have tremendous respect for you—the respect that you deserve,” he said.
Follow Janita on Twitter: @janitakan

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Trump: Virginia Is ‘In Play’ During Next Election Over Gun Control Measures

President Donald Trump suggested Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, is going to suffer backlash at the polls in 2020 after the Democratic-controlled legislature proposed a series of sweeping gun control measures that prompted thousands of people to turn out and demonstrate at the state Capitol earlier this week.
“I think Virginia is crazy where they want to take away guns,” Trump told Fox News on Wednesday. He added: “Virginia is very much in play. I think we are going to win [the] state of Virginia. They want to take everyone’s gun away in Virginia. You can’t do it. You can’t do it. People need that for safety. They need it for hunting and … but many people need it for safety, they need it for safety.”
Trump added that should Democrats win more elections: “They’re saying it quietly, but if they win these elections, they’re going to try to get rid of the Second Amendment. It will never happen as long as I’m here.”
Northam, in an interview following the rally, said that the measures that are being proposed by the state legislature are constitutional.

Gun rights activists take part in a rally in Richmond, Virginia, on Jan. 20, 2020. (Samira Bouaou/The Epoch Times)
“They are constitutional. They don’t threaten the Second Amendment. Their purpose is to keep Virginia safe,” Northam said, reported WSLS. “We’re going to do work together, sit down at the table and find things that we can agree on and at the end of the day, make Virginia a safer place for everybody,” he said.
However, a number of rallygoers disagreed with his assertion, saying that the proposals would limit their ability to protect themselves.
“We believe that the bills restrict our ability to protect ourselves. You don’t have any rights unless you have power to defend them. The only way that the citizens of the United States have power is through guns. It’s the unfortunate reality of life and so them trying to restrict our magazine capacities and what types of guns we can hold, only restricts our power,” Justin Graf from Virginia told The Epoch Times on Monday.
Northam drew controversy last week when he signed an emergency order to ban all weapons at the state Capitol and cited a potential threat from an armed militia group. A number of people still showed up to the rally with firearms but didn’t demonstrate in a cordoned-off area around the Capitol grounds.
The Virginia Senate on Jan. 16 passed bills to require background checks for all firearms sales, limit handgun purchases to one per month, and restore local governments’ right to ban weapons from public buildings. The measure will go to the state’s House of Delegates.

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Trump’s Impeachment Trial: Live Updates

Here is how Wednesday’s session of President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial is unfolding. Please refresh for updates.
Rules were adopted by senators early Wednesday morning and the Senate will reconvene at 1 p.m. to resume the impeachment trial. Opening arguments will start and House managers will go first. They will have 24 hours over three days to present their case against the president on obstruction of Congress and abuse of power. Next, the president’s legal team will have the same amount of time to present their defense.
The House’s impeachment managers are led by Reps. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), the Democratic chairmen of the House Intelligence and Judiciary Committees, respectively.  Trump has a legal team consisting of White House counsel Pat Cipollone, personal lawyer Jay Sekulow, Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz, former prosecutor Robert Ray, and more.
11 a.m. ET – Schumer Criticizes GOP in Press Conference
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) held a press conference two hours before the impeachment session on Wednesday, saying that a “particular amendment revealed the charade that the Republicans are participating in here.”
“It meant that presentations could not rely on this important evidence. That senators cannot ask questions about this evidence,” Schumer added.
Earlier Updates:
On Tuesday, none of the Democrats proposed amendments were approved, with all 53 Republicans blocking them from moving forward. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) also offered a concession, allowing for the House and Trump’s legal team to make their arguments in three days instead of two. He also loosened a restriction on the Senate records.
Trump said Wednesday he would like to see some of his top aides testify, but he suggested there were “national security” concerns regarding their testimony.
“We have a great case,” Trump told The Associated Press at a global economic forum in Davos. The president said his legal team was doing a “very good job.”
After one politically charged exchange between Trump’s lawyers and the House managers, Chief Justice John Roberts intervened, and told both sides to “remember where they are.”
“I think it is appropriate at this point for me to admonish both the House managers and the president’s counsel in equal terms to remember that they are addressing the world’s greatest deliberative body,” Roberts said. Senate members should “avoid speaking in a manner and using language that is not conducive to civil discourse,” he continued.
The Senate will decide whether Trump should be removed from office for abuse of power stemming from his alleged pressure on Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and Biden’s son Hunter, who sat on the board of a Ukrainian energy company, and for obstructing Congress’ ensuing probe. Trump has denied the allegations of quid pro quo.
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US Drinking Water Widely Contaminated With ‘Forever Chemicals:’ Report

The contamination of U.S. drinking water with man-made “forever chemicals” is far worse than previously estimated with some of the highest levels found in Miami, Philadelphia, and New Orleans, said a report on Jan. 22 by an environmental watchdog group.
The chemicals, resistant to breaking down in the environment, are known as perfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS. Some have been linked to cancers, liver damage, low birth weight, and other health problems.
The findings by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) show the group’s previous estimate in 2018, based on unpublished U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) data, that 110 million Americans may be contaminated with PFAS, could be far too low.
“It’s nearly impossible to avoid contaminated drinking water from these chemicals,” said David Andrews, a senior scientist at EWG and co-author of the report.
The chemicals were used in products like Teflon and Scotchguard and in firefighting foam. Some are used in a variety of other products and industrial processes, and their replacements also pose risks.

People refill bottles at a water store in Temple City, Calif., on March 4, 2016. (Mario Anzuoni/ Reuters)
Of tap water samples taken by EWG from 44 sites in 31 states and Washington D.C., only one location, Meridian, Mississippi, which relies on 700 foot (215 meter) deep wells, had no detectable PFAS. Only Seattle and Tuscaloosa, Alabama had levels below 1 part per trillion (PPT), the limit EWG recommends.
In addition, EWG found that on average six to seven PFAS compounds were found at the tested sites, and the effects on health of the mixtures are little understood. “Everyone’s really exposed to a toxic soup of these PFAS chemicals,” Andrews said.
In 34 places where EWG’s tests found PFAS, contamination had not been publicly reported by the EPA or state environmental agencies.
The EPA has known since at least 2001 about the problem of PFAS in drinking water but has so far failed to set an enforceable, nationwide legal limit. The EPA said early last year it would begin the process to set limits on two of the chemicals, PFOA and PFOS.
The EPA said it has helped states and communities address PFAS and that it is working to put limits on the two main chemicals but did not give a timeline.
In 2018 a draft report from an office of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said the risk level for exposure to the chemicals should be up to 10 times lower than the 70 PPT threshold the EPA recommends.
By Timothy Gardner

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Schumer Claims Republicans Engaging in ‘Charade’

After Republicans voted down an amendment requiring the Senate to call witnesses in the impeachment trial of President Trump, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) claimed on Jan. 22 that Republicans are engaging in a “charade.”
Holding a press conference less than 10 hours after the Senate completed the first day of the trial, which went into the early hours of Wednesday, Schumer highlighted how the GOP voted down an amendment by Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) that would require witnesses to be called during the trial.
“That particular amendment revealed the charade that the Republicans are participating in here,” Schumer said.
“It meant that presentations could not rely on this important evidence. That senators cannot ask questions about this evidence,” Schumer added.
“If the president is truely as innocent as he claims, Republicans should want his aides to testify,” Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the assistant minority leader, said at the press conference.
Senate Democrats at the press conference weren’t asked why the House failed to subpoena the witnesses Senate Democrats want to be subpoenaed. Senate Democrats have also refused to consider witnesses some Republicans want to call, such as former Vice President Joe Biden and Biden’s son Hunter Biden, a refusal Schumer reiterated on Wednesday.
Senate Republicans have said it was up to the House to build an impeachment case and criticized House Democrats, charging they rushed forward without building a proper case. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) addressed the issue earlier Tuesday.
“The way the Senate decides to handle mid-trial questions such as witnesses could have institutional consequences that go far beyond this trial and this presidency. We are not going to rush into these questions without even hearing opening arguments,” he said on the Senate floor.

This artist sketch depicts White House counsel Pat Cipollone speaking in the Senate chamber during the impeachment trial against President Donald Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, at the Capitol in Washington on Jan. 21, 2020. (Dana Verkouteren via AP)
Republicans voted eleven amendments proposed by Democrats down in party-line votes. The last amendment, which would extend the time that trial motions could be filed, garnered one GOP vote from Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine).
The Senate finally approved McConnell’s resolution and opening arguments will start on Wednesday afternoon.
Trump was impeached on Dec. 18, 2019 for abuse of office and obstruction of Congress. House Democrats held the impeachment articles for nearly three weeks before submitting them to the Senate. Senators and Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, who is presiding over the trial, were sworn in last week and the trial started on Tuesday with debate over the resolution outlining the initial part of the trial.
The flurry of amendments proposed by Democrats would have tweaked the trial guidelines, but Republicans hold a 53-47 majority and refused to accept the proposals as the hours went by.
The day included bombastic words from Trump lawyers and House impeachment managers, prompting an admonishment from Roberts early Wednesday.
“I think it is appropriate at this point for me to admonish both the House managers and president’s counsel in equal terms to remember that they are addressing the world’s greatest deliberative body,” Roberts said.
“One reason it has earned that title is because its members avoid speaking in a manner and using language that is not conducive to civil discourse,” he added. “I do think those addressing the Senate should remember where they are.”
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Bolton Testifying Is a National Security Issue: Trump

Former National Security Adviser John Bolton testifying in the Senate impeachment trial would be a national security issue, President Donald Trump said on Jan. 22.
Speaking to reporters in Davos, Trump said that Bolton “knows what I think about leaders.”
“What happens if he reveals what I think about a certain leader and it’s not very positive and then I have to deal on behalf of the country? It’s going to be very hard. It’s going to make the job very hard,” Trump said.
“He knows other things. And I don’t know if we left on the best of terms. I would say probably not, you know. So you don’t like people testifying when they didn’t leave on good terms. And that was due to me, not due to him.”
Trump said the reasons he doesn’t want Bolton to testify involve national security and executive privilege.
“I’ve always gotten along with John Bolton. He didn’t get along with other people,” Trump added. “But when he knows my thoughts on certain people and other governments and we’re talking about massive trade deals and war and peace and all these different things that we talk about, that’s really a very important national security problem.”

President Donald Trump talks during a bilateral meeting with Iraqi President Barham Salih (not pictured) at the 50th World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, January 22, 2020. (Jonathan Ernst/President Donald Trump talks during a bilateral meeting with Iraqi President Barham Salih (not pictured) at the 50th World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, on Jan. 22, 2020. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)
The Senate opened the impeachment trial against Trump this week in Washington as the president attended the World Economic Forum in Switzerland. After a series of proposed amendments to subpoena documents and witnesses—including Bolton—were voted down by the Republican majority, the body approved a resolution allowing the House to submit evidence but pushing back the matter of documents and witnesses until later in the trial.
One proposed amendment, introduced by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), would have subpoenaed Bolton to testify. The amendment said Bolton was involved in meetings at the White House about the U.S. relationship with Ukraine and that he should be called to testify on his knowledge of events pertaining to the two impeachment articles, obstruction of Congress and abuse of office.
“Witnesses with direct knowledge or involvement should be heard,” House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the lead House impeachment manager, told senators during Tuesday’s hearing. “That includes the president’s acting Chief of Staff and Mick Mulvaney, his former national security adviser, John Bolton, who has publicly offered to testify.” Robert Blair, an adviser to Mulvaney, and Michael Duffey, a senior official at the White House of Office of Management and Budget, also have relevant testimony, Schiff said, adding: “Why not hear it?”
The House didn’t issue a subpoena for Bolton, who was fired in September during the House impeachment inquiry. Bolton declined to appear to testify without a subpoena in November 2019.
Democrats said they were rushing to impeach Trump because he represents a danger to the country, but were criticized by Republicans for withholding the impeachment articles from the Senate for about three weeks after impeaching Trump on Dec. 18, 2019, delaying the start of the Senate trial.

President Donald Trump is flanked by National Security Advisor John Bolton as he speaks in Washington in 2018. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Democrats now say they want Bolton, Mulvaney, and two others to testify in the trial. Republicans have rejected calls for witnesses, saying they’ll hear from both sides before deciding whether any are needed.
“The way the Senate decides to handle mid-trial questions such as witnesses could have institutional consequences that go far beyond this trial and this presidency. We are not going to rush into these questions without even hearing opening arguments,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said from the Senate floor on Tuesday.
Bolton said earlier this month that he was “prepared to testify” if called in the Senate trial. His statement came after a federal judge declined to rule on whether a former Bolton aide, Charles Kupperman, should be compelled to testify after House Democrats withdrew a subpoena for his testimony.
Trump said this month that he’d invoke executive privilege to block Bolton from testifying.
“No problem other than one thing,” Trump said in an interview with Fox News. “You can’t be in the White House as president—future, I’m talking about future, any future presidents—and have a security adviser, anybody having to do with security, and legal and other things” testify.
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Trump Confident Tariff Threat Will Lead to ‘Fair Deal’ Between Europe and US on Trade

President Donald Trump told reporters in Davos he is confident in striking a trade deal with Europe as the threat of tariffs looms large.
“We’re going to make a deal I suspect, otherwise we’ll have to do something else,” Trump told a news conference at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland on Wednesday.
“They have no choice,” Trump said in a separate interview, underscoring his conviction that a deal between the United States and its biggest import trading partner will end up signed.
A day earlier, Trump said that unless a “fair deal” is negotiated with the EU, he would impose tariffs on U.S. imports of European cars.
“They know that I’m going to put tariffs on them if they don’t make a deal that’s a fair deal,” Trump told The Wall Street Journal in Davos on Jan. 21, referring to automobiles, the bloc’s key export.
While Trump has not specified when he would greenlight fresh tariffs on cars, the Financial Times reported it would be before the November elections.
“I have a date in my mind, it is a fairly quick date,” he said, according to the FT.

President Donald Trump addresses the World Economic Forum at the congress center in Davos, Switzerland, on Jan. 21, 2020. (Evan Vucci/AP Photo)
During a Jan. 21 meeting with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Trump talked up the prospects of a deal, while acknowledging obstacles.
“It’s great to be with the president of the European Commission and a woman who’s highly respected, I have to say, and I hear a very tough negotiator, which is bad news for us because we’re going to talk about a big trade deal, and we’ve been talking about it for a while, and hopefully we can get something done,” Trump said.
Touting the long-standing relationship between Europe and the United States, Von der Leyen struck a similarly hopeful note, but noted there were unresolved matters still to be ironed out.
“The American people and the European people are good friends,” Von der Leyen said. “And this is what we’re going to build on, and indeed, we have issues to discuss, and we’re going to negotiate. But I’m looking forward to this relationship.”
Differences remain over issues like agriculture, digital tax, and auto import duties.

A robot mounts a windshield on a Mercedes Benz A-Class on the assembly line at the Daimler AG factory in Rastatt, Germany, on Feb. 4, 2019. (Thomas Kienzle/AFP via Getty Images)
‘Tariffs All Over the Place’
Trump has complained the bilateral trade relationship is skewed to America’s detriment.
“They have trade barriers where you cannot trade, they have tariffs all over the place. They make it impossible,” Trump told reporters in Davos on Wednesday.
U.S. trade with the EU totaled nearly $1.3 trillion in 2018, with a $109 billion deficit, according to statistics from the office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR). Machinery ($80.2 billion), pharmaceuticals ($71.9 billion), and vehicles ($56.4 billion) ranked as the top three import categories.
In 2018, the United States was the largest partner for EU exports of goods (21 percent) and the second-largest partner for EU imports of goods (13 percent), according to Eurostat, the European Union’s statistical service.
“Despite this significant trade volume, U.S. exporters in key sectors have been challenged by multiple tariff and non-tariff barriers for decades, leading to chronic U.S. trade imbalances with the EU,” states a Summary of Specific Negotiating Objectives (pdf), published last year by the United States Trade Representative.
The EU applies a 10 percent tariff on passenger vehicles and 22 percent on trucks. In contrast, the United States imposes a maximum 2.5 percent tariff on imported passenger cars and a 25 percent tariff on pickup trucks and work vans.

An employee mounts a wheel on a Mercedes Benz A Class on the assembly line at the Daimler AG factory in Rastatt, Germany, on Feb. 4, 2019. (Thomas Kienzle/AFP via Getty Images)
The Trump administration launched a “Section 232” probe of foreign autos in May 2018, after which Trump agreed with conclusions that some imported vehicles and components are “weakening our internal economy” and could harm national security.
As U.S.-EU trade negotiations have made little progress over the past year, the White House has repeatedly threatened to slap tariffs on Europe, but in each case has delayed action.
In November, the Trump administration let a deadline lapse on tariffs of as much as 25 percent on vehicles and parts imported from the EU.
“The good news is that the U.S. did not announce any new tariffs on EU cars or car parts,” European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said in Brussels on Nov. 21, according to the Chicago Automobile Trade Association. “Of course the threat is not entirely gone, and we are mindful of that.”
Amid the ongoing trade dispute, the White House imposed tariffs on $7.5 billion of EU goods in October over illegal aircraft subsidies.
‘Tremendous New Deal’
Ongoing trade deals—or ones recently struck—featured prominently in Trump’s remarks on Jan. 21 in Davos.
“Our brand-new USMCA is the result of the broadest coalition ever assembled for a trade agreement,” Trump said, referring to the United States-Mexico-Canada deal that superseded NAFTA.
“Manufacturing, agriculture, and labor all strongly endorsed the deal,” Trump said. “And, as you know, it just passed in Congress overwhelmingly. It shows how to solve the 21st century challenge we all face: protecting intellectual property, expanding digital trade, re-shoring lost jobs, and ensuring rising wages and living standards.”
The president said the United States had struck a $40 billion deal with Japan and renegotiated a trade agreement with South Korea.
“We’re also negotiating many other transactions with many other countries,” Trump said, including “a tremendous new deal with the United Kingdom.”
Trump told The Wall Street Journal Tuesday that he and French President Emmanuel Macron agreed to postpone a digital services tax that was supposed to hit American tech firms sometime in 2020.
The president told the newspaper he threatened to impose a tariff of 100 percent on French wine, which currently faces an import duty of 25 percent in relation to a separate trade dispute involving European aviation giant Airbus.
The economic summit in the Swiss Alpine town runs through to Jan. 24.
The high-profile forum brings together world leaders, business elites, economists, and celebrities from around the globe.
Emel Akan contributed to this report.
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Tulsi Gabbard Sues Hillary Clinton for Defamation Over Alleged ‘Russian Asset’ Smear

Democratic presidential candidate Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) filed a lawsuit against former Secretary of State and 2016 contender Hillary Clinton, claiming the former first lady and secretary of state defamed her by suggesting last year that she’s is a “Russian asset.”
“Clinton deliberately and maliciously made false statements in an attempt to derail Rep. Gabbard’s campaign, by alleging that Gabbard is a ‘Russian asset,’” Gabbard’s campaign said in a news release on Wednesday.
Clinton’s office has not responded to a request for comment on the lawsuit.
The lawsuit noted that in October, Clinton publicly said that “somebody who is currently in the Democratic primary … [is a] favorite of the Russians… Yeah, she’s a Russian asset.” The comment was widely interpreted as Clinton referring to Gabbard.
The lawsuit (pdf), which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, is seeking compensatory damages and an injunction that bans the further publication of Clinton’s comments.
“Tulsi Gabbard is running for President of the United States, a position Clinton has long coveted, but has not been able to attain,” the suit reads. “In October 2019—whether out of personal animus, political enmity, or fear of real change within a political party Clinton and her allies have long dominated—Clinton lied about her perceived rival Tulsi Gabbard.”
Clinton made the comments during a podcast appearance on “Campaign HQ” with David Plouffe. She said Republicans were “grooming” a Democratic presidential candidate for a third-party bid and also said the candidate is a “favorite of the Russians.” She didn’t specifically identify Gabbard.
“They’re also going to do third party. I’m not making any predictions, but I think they’ve got their eye on somebody who’s currently in the Democratic primary and are grooming her to be the third-party candidate,” Clinton said at the time. “She’s the favorite of the Russians, they have a bunch of sites and bots and other ways of supporting her so far, and that’s assuming Jill Stein will give it up, which she might not, because she’s also a Russian asset. Yeah, she’s a Russian asset, I mean totally. They know they can’t win without a third-party candidate,” Clinton said.
When asked if Clinton was referring to Gabbard, Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill later told CNN: “If the nesting doll fits…” A nesting doll is a Russian toy that’s also called stacking dolls, Matryoshka dolls, Russian Tea dolls, or Babushka dolls.
“This is not some outlandish claim. This is reality. If the Russian propaganda machine, both their state media and their bot and troll operations, is backing a candidate aligned with their interests, that is just a reality, it is not speculation,” he said of Clinton’s statements.
But on Twitter, he attempted to clarify Clinton’s remarks: “Folks, listen to the podcast. She doesn’t say the Russians are grooming anyone. It was a question about Republicans.”

Folks, listen to the podcast. She doesn’t say the Russians are grooming anyone. It was a question about Republicans.Cc:@VanJones68 https://t.co/xU7WAob0Ve
— Nick Merrill (@NickMerrill) October 19, 2019

Following the remarks, Gabbard went on the offensive against Clinton and made a number of politically charged accusations. She also demanded that Clinton retract her statement.
Her suit is also claiming that Clinton made the comments with “obvious malicious intent,” causing harm to Gabbard’s campaign “and American democracy as well.” Gabbard “seeks to hold Clinton, and the political elites who enable her, accountable for distorting the truth in the middle of a critical Presidential election,” according to the filing.
“Although Rep. Gabbard’s presidential campaign continues to gain momentum, she has seen her political and personal reputation smeared and her candidacy intentionally damaged by Clinton’s malicious and demonstrably false remarks,” Brian Dunne, a partner at Pierce Bainbridge Beck Price & Hecht LLP, said in a statement to NBC about the lawsuit.
Reports said Gabbard is seeking around $50 million in damages.

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F-35s Team up With Army Missile Defense in ‘Major Milestone’ For Battle Concept

In what was described as a major milestone for the military’s new integrated battle concept, two F-35s were integrated into the Army’s missile defense system to be used as sensors to detect and track threats during testing over the New Mexico desert.
Lockheed Martin announced on Jan. 21 that the proof-of-concept test in December marked the first time F-35s were used as sensors during an Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command System (IBCS) live-fire test against multiple airborne targets.
The F-35, which was finally ready for deployment in 2015, provides bundles of next-generation capabilities so far unmatched by rivals. But the military planners aren’t just looking for one-man shows: they want weapons systems to work as a cast.
The first F-35 prototype flew back in 2000 when China was a small blip on the strategists’ radars. With China now spending over a dozen times more on defense, the U.S. military is now revamping for renewed great power competition with Russia and China, as demanded by the 2018 National Defense Strategy.
Strategic solutions have emphasized the need for next-generation capabilities, but a key theme is greater integration of weapons systems across the different forces to crack open the anti-aircraft systems and long-range missile shields thrown up by adversaries.
The Army calls its strategic solution “Multi-Domain Operations.”

Bell Helicopter’s V-280 Valor is shown in this artists image, part of the army’s Vertical Lift program—one of six priority areas identified in the Army Modernization Strategy. (Bell Helicopter)
“The F-35’s advanced sensors and connectivity enable it to gather, analyze and seamlessly share critical information with the joint fighting force to lead the multi-domain battlespace,” said Greg Ulmer, Lockheed Martin vice president and general manager of the F-35 program, in a statement. “This test validated the F-35’s capability to serve as an airborne sensor and extend the range of critical Integrated Air and Missile Defense interceptors.”
Jay Pitman, vice president of Lower Tier Integrated Air and Missile Defense, said that the test was “a major milestone” for multi-domain operations. “This demonstrates a tremendous capability to defeat threats that are terrain masked or beyond ground-based sensor detection capabilities due to terrain and curvature of the earth,” he said.
Multi-Domain Operations is a central tenant of the Army’s Modernization strategy, published in 2018, and then updated last year.

An F-35 performs aerial maneuvers during the Wings Over Houston Airshow in Houston, Texas on Oct. 18, 2019. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Alexander Cook)
“Multi-Domain Operations is the Army’s operating concept that was approved last year by the Chief of Staff in October and then published in the document in December,” Col. Eric Smith, the author of the 2019 Modernization Strategy, previously told The Epoch Times
“It describes how the Army is going to operate in the future in the five domains of land, sea, air, space, and cyber.”
Multi-Domain Operations aim to slice through what is known as a multi-layered standoff.
A multi-layered standoff can be visualized as concentric defensive rings radiating from an adversary’s position, Smith said, starting with the traditional artillery range to longer-range artillery on the inside, going outward to surface-to-surface, surface-to-air, and air-to-air missiles.
Reaching beyond those are extra layers: electronic warfare, unconventional warfare, cyber warfare, and information warfare.
With China and Russia having built up their militaries to target the U.S. systems of dominance, such as aircraft carriers and large amphibious ships, strategists are increasingly looking to the possibility of numerous distributed sensor and weapons systems, working in harmony but with no obvious Achilles heel.
The Navy is developing the concept of distributed operations, which means moving away from reliance on a few large ships, instead distributing the firepower and forces (lethality), as well as surveillance, across many more platforms, including unmanned ships, with no single point of failure.
The Marine Corps has outlined a parallel strategy, proposing to use smaller boats to allow marines to slip inside the anti-access bubble and onto Pacific islands where they can station missile batteries safe from China’s anti-ship missiles.
The integration of the F-35 with the Army’s missiles defense is also a baby step towards the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s even more extreme vision of integrated battle, or Mosaic warfare, which requires the different systems on board various weapons systems to be able to communicate better with each other.
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Illinois Board of Elections Admits Non-US Citizens Voted Illegally in 2018 Election

Some of the 574 non-U.S. citizens who were registered to vote in the 2018 election voted illegally, the Illinois State Board of Elections said.
“We do know that some of them voted” in the election, board spokesman Matt Dietrich said in a phone call on Monday afternoon, WCIA reported.
The board said on Tuesday that it confirmed 19 people who aren’t citizens of the United States voted in Illinois in the election.
The illegal votes were spread across seven counties.
Secretary of State Jesse White’s office blamed the registration of hundreds of non-U.S. citizens on a “programming error” in the state’s automatic voter registration process.
Illinois lets legal and illegal immigrants get a driver’s license or state identification and, in some cases, people who obtain such IDs are automatically enrolled as voters.
“For whatever reason that technological programming error did not properly remove the individuals,” Secretary of State spokesman Henry Haupt said. “The individuals who are applying for driver’s licenses were inadvertently pooled into the automatic voter registration.”
A spokesman for the office told WGN that none of the non-citizens registered to vote are in the United States illegally.
None of the following offices have issued public press releases on the situation: the secretary of state, State Board of Elections, or the office of Democratic Governor J.B. Pritzker.

llinois Secretary of State Jesse White (L) in a file photograph. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Illinois gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker in an Oct. 2018 file photograph. (Joshua Lott/Getty Images)
Pritzker said at a press conference Tuesday that there would be an investigation.
“Securing our elections, making sure that we are, that everybody knows that our democracy is working properly is a priority of mine,” he said.
It’s illegal for non-citizens to vote. Punishment can include jail time or deportation.
“That’s the law today,” said Pritzker, who campaigned on welcoming immigrants to Illinois.
“The people who voted, who actually voted—the 19 people that have been identified—if they are ineligible to vote, which is what it appears they were, then they may in fact be deported.”
Just Democracy Illinois, a nonpartisan group that pushes for a modern, secure, and robust democracy, said what happened was “an unconscionable error that puts vulnerable people at terrible personal risk while undermining confidence in our elections process.”
The automatic voter registration, or AVR, wasn’t the problem, the group said. Instead, it blamed the secretary of state’s office.
“The agency’s massively delayed and error-riddled implementation of AVR has undermined the law’s intended purpose to make Illinois voting rolls more fair, accurate, and secure,” it said.
But State Rep. Tim Butler, a Republican, targeted the automatic voter registration, saying: “We were assured by advocates that this would never happen. Yet it did.”
“It is time to revisit the Illinois AVR law,” he said.
Butler and several other House Republicans called for a hearing regarding what happened.
“This is an absurd lack of compliance with state law, surfacing less than three weeks from the opening of early voting for our state’s 2020 general primary election. Given this, we are requesting an immediate hearing of the House Executive Committee to investigate this situation and to hear testimony directly from Secretary of State Jesse White, officials of the State Board of Elections, representatives from our local election authorities, and others concerned with this situation,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter (pdf) to Democratic Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan.
“The oversight function of the Legislative Branch regarding this law must be used to hold the Executive Branch accountable for ensuring compliance with state law and to determine if additional legislation is needed to tighten our voter registration laws,” they added.
Tim Schneider, the Illinois GOP chairman, said the AVR should be temporarily suspended until a probe uncovered what went wrong.
State Senator Andy Manar, a Democrat, said that the Senate would hold a hearing to get answers from the secretary of state’s office if needed.
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US Has Plan to Contain Coronavirus: Trump

The United States has a plan to contain the coronavirus, which has infected hundreds of people, President Donald Trump said on Jan. 22.
Disease experts in the United States, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), have already handled things well, Trump said on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
“We do have a plan and we think it is going to be handled very well. We’ve already handled it very well,” he said.
“The CDC is terrific. Very professional.”

Satish Pillai, medical officer in the Division of Preparedness and Emerging Infections at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, talks about a confirmed case of coronavirus in a Snohomish County, Washington resident during a press conference in Shoreline, Washington, on Jan. 21, 2020. (Jason Redmond/AFP via Getty Images)
The virus has infected nearly 500 people, mostly from China. Nine people have died. The first case in the United States was confirmed on Tuesday. The virus has also spread to Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan.
Health authorities around the world are keeping an eye on developments. Trump said China and the United States are on top of things.
“We’re in great shape and I think China is in very good shape also,” he told reporters later in Davos.
Speaking to CNBC on the sidelines, Trump also said that “we have it totally under control” and that there were no concerns about a pandemic.
“It’s one person coming in from China, and we have it under control. It’s going to be just fine,” he added. Trump said he trusts how China’s President Xi Jinping has responded to the outbreak.
China’s National Health Commission vice-minister Li Bin told reporters that the virus, which can cause pneumonia, was being spread via breathing. Symptoms include fever, coughing, and difficulty breathing. About 2,200 people in contact with infected people were in isolation.
There is no vaccine for the virus.
“I believe the government for sure, but I still feel fearful. Because there’s no cure for the virus,” said Fu Ning, a 36-year-old woman in Beijing. “You have to rely on your immunity if you get an infection. It sounds very scary.”
Airports around the world have stepped up screening people coming in from China. The World Health Organization (WHO) also began an emergency meeting to rule if the outbreak was a global health emergency, with a verdict expected later Wednesday.
WHO said this week that information from newly reported infections “suggests there may now be sustained human-to-human transmission.”
“But more information and analysis are needed on this new virus to understand the full extent of human-to-human transmission and other important details,” it added.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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Trump: Hong Kong, Human Rights Are Part of China Trade Talks

DAVOS, Switzerland—President Donald Trump said Jan. 22 China’s human rights record and the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong are part of phase two trade discussions with China.
At a press conference in the Swiss Alpine town of Davos on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum, Trump said “we would like to see we can do something” about the issues in China and Hong Kong.
“We are discussing that already,” he told reporters.
“We’re doing a trade deal, and it’s a very big deal. Phase one is done, phase two is being discussed. We are discussing aspects of” human rights as well, he added.
The United States and China signed last week an initial trade deal, making an important breakthrough in the nearly 2-year-old trade conflict.
As part of the deal, Beijing has committed to buying $200 billion worth of additional American goods and services over the next two years, including $40 billion to $50 billion of agricultural goods each year.
“Those are numbers nobody’s ever heard of before. And that number can grow with time, it’s going to grow substantially, I predict,” Trump said at the press conference.
“Phase one turned out to be much bigger than we anticipated,” he added.
Included in the deal are other commitments by Beijing such as protection of intellectual property, ending technology transfers, transparency on foreign exchange practices, and opening China’s financial services markets to U.S. companies.
Trump earlier promised an end to punitive tariffs on China after the completion of the phase two deal, negotiations on which is expected to start soon.
Trump did not indicate any timetable or deadline for the next phase of talks.
Speaking at the press conference White House chief economic adviser Larry Kudlow said China trade deal along with the newly passed U.S.-Mexico-Canada agreement is “going to add a lot of growth this year and the years ahead.”
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