Rudy Giuliani Among Trump Allies Subpoenaed By Jan. 6 Panel

The House committee investigating the Capitol insurrection issued subpoenas Tuesday to Rudy Giuliani and other members of Donald Trump’s post-election legal team who filed multiple lawsuits claiming election fraud that were roundly rejected by the courts but gave rise to the lie that Trump did not really lose the 2020 presidential contest. 

The committee is continuing to widen its scope into Trump’s orbit, this time demanding information and testimony from Giuliani, Jenna Ellis, Sidney Powell and Boris Epshteyn. All four publicly defended the president and his baseless voter fraud claims in the months after the election.  

“The four individuals we’ve subpoenaed today advanced unsupported theories about election fraud, pushed efforts to overturn the election results, or were in direct contact with the former President about attempts to stop the counting of electoral votes,” Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson, Democratic chairman of the panel, said in a statement.  

The committee said it is seeking records and deposition testimony from Giuliani, the 76-year-old former New York City mayor once celebrated for his leadership after 9/11, in connection to his promotion of election fraud claims on behalf of Trump. The panel is also seeking information about Giuliani’s reported efforts to persuade state legislators to take steps to overturn the election results. 

A lawyer for Giuliani did not immediately return a phone message seeking comment. 

Giuliani took on a leading role in disputing the election results on Trump’s behalf after the 2020 presidential election, even visiting states like Michigan and Pennsylvania, where he claimed ballots “looked suspicious” and Biden’s electoral win was a fraud.  

To this day, not a single court has found merit in the core legal claims made by Trump, Giuliani and the other three subpoenaed Tuesday.  

The nine-member panel is also demanding information from Trump legal adviser Ellis, who the lawmakers say reportedly prepared and circulated two memos that analyzed the constitutional authority for then-Vice President Mike Pence to reject or delay counting the electoral votes from states that had submitted alternate slates of electors.  

Besides Giuliani, Sidney Powell was the most public face of Trump’s attempts to contest the election, routinely making appearances on behalf of the president.  

In numerous interviews and appearances post-election, Powell continued to make misleading statements about the voting process, unfurled unsupported and complex conspiracy theories involving communist regimes and vowed to “blow up” Georgia with a “biblical” court filing. 

Ellis and Powell appeared with Giuliani at press conferences, pushing false claims of election fraud. Powell was eventually removed from the team after she said in an interview she was going to release “the kraken” of lawsuits that would prove the election had been stolen. 

Powell did not immediately return an email seeking comment. 

The last person subpoenaed Tuesday by the committee is Boris Epshteyn, a former Trump campaign strategic adviser, who reportedly attended meetings at the Willard Hotel in the days leading up to the insurrection. The committee said Epshteyn had a call with Trump on the morning of Jan. 6, 2021, to discuss options to delay the certification of election results in the event of Pence’s unwillingness to deny or delay the process. 

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Big Voting Bill Faces Defeat as 2 Democrats Won’t Stop Filibuster

Voting legislation that Democrats and civil rights leaders say is vital for protecting democracy appeared headed for defeat as the Senate opened debate Tuesday, a devastating setback enabled by President Joe Biden’s own party as two holdout senators refuse to support rule changes to overcome a Republican filibuster. 

The Democratic senators, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Joe Manchin of West Virginia, faced strong criticism from Black leaders and civil rights organizations for failing to take on what critics call the ” Jim Crow filibuster.”

The debate carries echoes of an earlier era when the Senate filibuster was deployed in lengthy speeches by opponents of civil rights legislation. It comes as Democrats and other voting advocates nationwide warn that Republican-led states are passing laws making it more difficult for Black Americans and others to vote by consolidating polling locations, requiring certain types of identification and ordering other changes. 

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer acknowledged the current bill’s likely defeat this week. But he said the fight is not over as he heeds advocates’ call to force all senators to go on record with their positions. 

“The eyes of the nation will be watching what happens this week,” Schumer said as he opened the session Tuesday.

This is the fifth time the Senate will try to pass voting legislation this Congress. 

The Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act combines earlier bills into one package that would make Election Day a national holiday, ensure access to early voting and mail-in ballots — which have become especially popular during the COVID-19 pandemic — and enable the Justice Department to intervene in states with a history of voter interference, among other changes. 

Both Manchin and Sinema say they support the package, which has passed the House, but they are unwilling to change the Senate rules to muscle it through that chamber over Republican objections. With a 50-50 split, Democrats have a narrow Senate majority — Vice President Kamala Harris can break a tie — but they lack the 60 votes needed to overcome the GOP filibuster. 

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, who led his party in doing away with the filibuster’s 60-vote threshold for Supreme Court nominees during Donald Trump’s presidency, warned off changing the rules again. He said Tuesday it would “break the Senate.” 

Democratic senators countered in speeches from the Senate floor that with Republicans objecting to the voting legislation, they have no choice. 

Just as Manchin and Sinema blocked Biden’s broad “Build Back Better” domestic spending package, the two senators are now dashing hopes for the second major part of Biden’s presidential agenda. They are infuriating many of their colleagues and faced a barrage of criticism during Martin Luther King Jr. Day events. 

Martin Luther King III, the son of the late civil rights leader, compared Sinema and Manchin to the white moderates his father wrote about during the civil rights battles of the 1950s and 1960s — who declared support for the goals of Black voting rights but not the direct actions or demonstrations that ultimately led to passage of landmark legislation. 

“History will not remember them kindly,” the younger King said, referring to Sinema and Manchin by name. 

Once reluctant himself to change Senate rules, Biden used the King holiday to press senators to do just that. But the push from the White House, including Biden’s blistering speech last week in Atlanta comparing opponents to segregationists, is seen as too late, coming as the president ends his first year in office with his popularity sagging.

“The president’s view is that the American people deserve to see where their leaders stand on protecting their fundamental rights,” said White House press secretary Jen Psaki. 

The Senate launched what could become a days-long debate, but the outcome is expected to be no different from past failed votes on the legislation. Biden has been unable to persuade Sinema and Manchin to join other Democrats to change the rules to lower the 60-vote threshold. In fact, Sinema upstaged the president last week, reiterating her opposition to the rules changes just before Biden arrived on Capitol Hill to court senators’ votes. 

Senators have been working nonstop for weeks on rule changes that could win support from Sinema and Manchin. The two, both moderates, have expressed openness to discussing the ideas but have not given their backing. 

Both Manchin and Sinema have argued that preserving the filibuster rules, requiring the 60-vote majority to pass most legislation, is important for fostering bipartisanship. They also warn of what would happen if Republicans win back majority control, as is distinctly possible this election year. 

McConnell has argued the legislation is a federal overreach into state-run elections, and he harshly criticized Biden’s speech last week as “unpresidential.” 

NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson wrote in an open letter to the Senate, “We cannot think of a time more defining to the American story than the chapter you are presently writing.” 

“What country will your children and grandchildren be left with, given the relentless assaults on American freedom and democracy?” 

Leading sports figures from Manchin’s home state of West Virginia also have weighed in. In a letter last week, University of Alabama football coach Nick Saban, NBA Hall of Famer Jerry West and others urged him to support the legislation. 

Manchin spokeswoman Sam Runyon said in a statement late Monday that the senator believes the right to vote “must be protected by law. He continues to work on legislation to protect this right.” 

Sinema’s office did not respond to a request for comment. 

Before Republicans lowered the vote threshold for Trump’s Supreme Court nominees, Democrats had similarly dropped it to a simple majority for confirmation of administrative positions and lower court nominees. 

The voting bill was the Democrats’ top priority this Congress, and the House swiftly approved H.R. 1, only to see it languish in the Senate. 

 

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Biden Faces Tepid Approval at Start of Year 2, Pandemic Year 3

U.S. President Joe Biden began his term under the long shadow of the January 6 Capitol riot, a grinding pandemic and an increasingly divided America.

As he now rounds the one-year mark, he faces many of those same challenges – all as he tries to push through a sweeping and expensive legislative agenda.

The difficulty of governing through the triple threat of a seemingly never-ending pandemic, increasing consumer prices and political polarization from Congress to city halls across America is neatly reflected in Biden’s approval ratings, which hover around 45%. Since he took office on January 20, his approval ratings have weakened, with 50% of Americans now disapproving of his performance, according to the most recent Ipsos poll.

That, said White House press secretary Jen Psaki, comes with the territory.

“You have every challenge at your feet — laid at your feet, whether it’s global or domestically,” she said this month, as Biden’s proposed voting rights legislation stalled in Congress.

“And we could certainly propose legislation to see if people support bunny rabbits and ice cream, but that wouldn’t be very rewarding to the American people. So, the president’s view is we’re going to keep pushing for hard things, and we’re going to keep pushing the boulders up the hill to get it done,” she said.

It’s the economy – and the pandemic

There are two main drivers of this discontent, said Mallory Newall, vice president of public polling at Ipsos: the economy and the pandemic.

Biden campaigned on a platform of addressing the pandemic and healing the wounded economy. As inflation recently hit a 39-year high, the economy has taken the lead, Newall said.

“The economy – and certainly inflation as part of that, has started to surge as a main issue,” she said. ”We see that in our Ipsos core political data. We see that as the top issue for the American public right now. And the president’s approval rating on the economy is underwater, meaning more disapprove of the job he’s doing than approve.”

And then there’s the pandemic, which has long overstayed its welcome with humanity.

“The longer the pandemic goes on, the more uncertainty and the more frustration the American public has in general, but they are starting to look at the top,” she said. “Especially considering that President Biden campaigned so strongly on COVID-19 and tackling the coronavirus once he was in office.”

Amid those challenges, Biden has tried – so far, without success – to leverage his party’s slim Congressional majority to back trillions of dollars’ worth of legislation that he says is necessary for the U.S. to keep pace with the rest of the world. That includes a stalled spending plan worth about $2 billion that aims to address everything from child and elder care to environmental justice, affordable housing and paid family leave.

Do this, not that

Biden’s critics say he should focus more on healing the ailing economy.

“The Biden administration is acting as though it can ignore fundamental economic problems forever,” Andrew Puzder, a visiting fellow in business and economic freedom at the conservative Heritage Foundation, wrote on the organization’s website. “News flash — it can’t. The longer we wait to seriously address inflation, labor shortages, and supply chain problems, the worse the threat of an inevitable and deep recession becomes.” 

Critics also dislike Biden’s handling of the pandemic, with conservative columnist Jarrett Stepman describing Biden’s vaccination mandates as “draconian COVID-19 policies of increasingly dubious effectiveness,” on the website the Daily Signal.

Think of the puppies

Kevin Kosar, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, said the White House’s own messaging is also to blame. He noted that the Biden administration has missed opportunities to tout successful legislation, such as a new bill – passed within five months, with little fanfare – that gives wounded veterans access to emotional support puppies.

“A lot of the conversation coming out of the White House and done in coordination with Democratic leadership in both chambers has been focused on the things that they haven’t been able to get done,” Kosar said.

“And a lot of it has been kind of a circular firing squad, where they’re pointing at, you know, their own senators, and complaining that these people will not get on board, and why are they holding things up? And then trashing Republicans in the process. And for the most part, Americans don’t well respond to that. They don’t like hearing toxic partisan talking points, or like hearing excuses,” he said.

New year reset?

As Biden begins his second year in office, and the pandemic begins its third year, “the mood in the country is tough,” Newall said.

“There’s this collective pause, and with that pause, comes frustration. And with it comes questions and uncertainty. And particularly when this was the number one issue that the president campaigned on, you know, for him to be losing ground on COVID, it doesn’t necessarily bode well for other issues either, because the collective mood is one of questioning and frustration,” she said.

She added: “And I think that does spill over into issues related to the economy, getting back to work, curbing inflation, dealing with other domestic policies. As we enter this collective pause, that’s going to spill over and have a ripple effect.”

Both Biden’s critics and supporters have suggested a reset, but Psaki said the White House is committed to its current path.

“We are still continuing to work with members to determine the path forward on Build Back Better; that we have the vast majority of Democrats in the Senate supporting voting rights,” she said. “That’s a path forward for us. And our effort is to do hard things, try hard things, and keep at it.” 

Patsy Widakuswara contributed to this report.

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Felony Charges Are a First in Fatal Crash Involving Autopilot

California prosecutors have filed two counts of vehicular manslaughter against the driver of a Tesla on Autopilot who ran a red light, slammed into another car and killed two people in 2019.

The defendant appears to be the first person to be charged with a felony in the United States for a fatal crash involving a motorist who was using a partially automated driving system. Los Angeles County prosecutors filed the charges in October, but they came to light only last week. 

The driver, Kevin George Aziz Riad, 27, has pleaded not guilty. Riad, a limousine service driver, is free on bail while the case is pending. 

The misuse of Autopilot, which can control steering, speed and braking, has occurred on numerous occasions and is the subject of investigations by two federal agencies. The filing of charges in the California crash could serve notice to drivers who use systems like Autopilot that they cannot rely on them to control vehicles.

The criminal charges aren’t the first involving an automated driving system, but they are the first to involve a widely used driver technology. Authorities in Arizona filed a charge of negligent homicide in 2020 against a driver Uber had hired to take part in the testing of a fully autonomous vehicle on public roads. The Uber vehicle, an SUV with the human backup driver on board, struck and killed a pedestrian. 

By contrast, Autopilot and other driver-assist systems are widely used on roads across the world. An estimated 765,000 Tesla vehicles are equipped with it in the United States alone.

In the Tesla crash, police said a Model S was moving at a high speed when it left a freeway and ran a red light in the Los Angeles suburb of Gardena and struck a Honda Civic at an intersection on December 29, 2019. Two people who were in the Civic, Gilberto Alcazar Lopez and Maria Guadalupe Nieves-Lopez, died at the scene. Riad and a woman in the Tesla were hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries.

Criminal charging documents do not mention Autopilot. But the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which sent investigators to the crash, confirmed last week that Autopilot was in use in the Tesla at the time of the crash.

Riad’s defense attorney did not respond to requests for comment last week, and the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office declined to discuss the case. Riad’s preliminary hearing is scheduled for February 23. 

‘Automation complacency’

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board have been reviewing the widespread misuse of Autopilot by drivers, whose overconfidence and inattention have been blamed for multiple crashes, including fatal ones. In one crash report, the NTSB referred to its misuse as “automation complacency.”

The agency said that in a 2018 crash in Culver City, California, in which a Tesla hit a firetruck, the design of the Autopilot system had “permitted the driver to disengage from the driving task.” No one was hurt in that crash. 

Last May, a California man was arrested after officers noticed his Tesla moving down a freeway with the man in the back seat and no one behind the steering wheel.

Teslas that have had Autopilot in use also have hit a highway barrier or tractor-trailers that were crossing roads. NHTSA has sent investigation teams to 26 crashes involving Autopilot since 2016, involving at least 11 deaths.

Messages have been left seeking comment from Tesla, which has disbanded its media relations department. Since the Autopilot crashes began, Tesla has updated the software to try to make it harder for drivers to abuse it. The company also tried to improve Autopilot’s ability to detect emergency vehicles.

Tesla has said that Autopilot and a more sophisticated Full Self-Driving system cannot drive themselves and that drivers must pay attention and be ready to react at any time. Full Self-Driving is being tested by hundreds of Tesla owners on public roads in the U.S. 

Bryant Walker Smith, a law professor at the University of South Carolina who studies automated vehicles, said this is the first U.S. case to his knowledge in which serious criminal charges were filed in a fatal crash involving a partially automated driver-assist system. Tesla, he said, could be “criminally, civilly or morally culpable” if it is found to have put a dangerous technology on the road. 

Donald Slavik, a Colorado lawyer who has served as a consultant in automotive technology lawsuits, including many against Tesla, said he, too, is unaware of any previous felony charges being filed against a U.S. driver who was using partially automated driver technology involved in a fatal crash. 

Lawsuits against Tesla, Riad

The families of Lopez and Nieves-Lopez have sued Tesla and Riad in separate lawsuits. They have alleged negligence by Riad and have accused Tesla of selling defective vehicles that can accelerate suddenly and that lack an effective automatic emergency braking system. A joint trial is scheduled for mid-2023. 

Lopez’s family, in court documents, alleges that the car “suddenly and unintentionally accelerated to an excessive, unsafe and uncontrollable speed.” Nieves-Lopez’s family further asserts that Riad was an unsafe driver, with multiple moving infractions on his record, and couldn’t handle the high-performance Tesla. 

Separately, NHTSA is investigating a dozen crashes in which a Tesla on Autopilot ran into several parked emergency vehicles. In the crashes under investigation, at least 17 people were injured, and one person was killed.

Asked about the manslaughter charges against Riad, the agency issued a statement saying there is no vehicle on sale that can drive itself. And whether or not a car is using a partially automated system, the agency said, “every vehicle requires the human driver to be in control at all times.” 

NHTSA added that all state laws hold human drivers responsible for the operation of their vehicles. Though automated systems can help drivers avoid crashes, the agency said, the technology must be used responsibly.

Rafaela Vasquez, the driver in the Uber autonomous test vehicle, was charged in 2020 with negligent homicide after the SUV fatally struck a pedestrian in suburban Phoenix in 2018. Vasquez has pleaded not guilty. Arizona prosecutors declined to file criminal charges against Uber. 

 

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US Airlines, Telecom Carriers Feuding Over Rollout of 5G Technology

Major U.S. air carriers are warning that the country’s “commerce will grind to a halt” if Verizon and AT&T go ahead with plans to deploy their new 5G mobile internet technology on Wednesday.

The airlines say the new technology will interfere with safe flight operations. 

The dispute between two major segments of the U.S. economy has been waged for months in Washington regulatory agencies, with the airline industry contending that the mobile carriers’ technology upgrade could disrupt global passenger service and cargo shipping, while the mobile carriers claim the airlines failed to upgrade equipment on their aircraft to prevent flight problems.

The new high-speed 5G mobile service uses a segment of the radio spectrum that is close to that used by altimeters — devices in cockpits that measure the height of aircraft above the ground. 

AT&T and Verizon argue that their equipment will not interfere with aircraft electronics and that the technology is being safely used in many other countries. 

In a letter Monday to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, chief executives at Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, United Airlines and seven other passenger and cargo carriers protested the mobile carriers’ plan to roll out their upgraded service on Wednesday. 

While the Federal Aviation Administration previously said it would not object to deployment of the 5G technology because the mobile carriers said they would address safety concerns, the airline executives said aircraft manufacturers have subsequently warned them that the Verizon and AT&T measures were not sufficient to allay safety concerns.

The mobile companies said they would reduce power at 5G transmitters near airports, but the airlines have asked that the 5G technology not be activated within 3.2 kilometers of 50 major airports. 

The airline executives contended that if the 5G technology is used, “Multiple modern safety systems on aircraft will be deemed unusable. Airplane manufacturers have informed us that there are huge swaths of the operating fleet that may need to be indefinitely grounded.” 

The airline industry executives argued that “immediate intervention is needed to avoid significant operational disruption to air passengers, shippers, supply chain and delivery of needed medical supplies.” 

After the airlines’ latest protests, AT&T said Tuesday it would postpone its new wireless service near some airports but did not say at how many or where. Verizon had no immediate comment. 

In a statement Monday, the FAA said it “will continue to keep the traveling public safe as wireless companies deploy 5G” and “continues to work with the aviation industry and wireless companies to try and limit 5G-related flight delays and cancellations.” 

The White House said Tuesday that the Biden administration is continuing discussions with the airline and telecommunications companies about the dispute.

Some material in this report came from The Associated Press. 

 

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Nigeria Unveils Massive Pile of Rice Marking Production Progress 

 Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari is unveiling a massive pyramid of rice harvested by farmers to pay back bank loans they borrowed to expand their production. Nigerian officials say the low-interest loans helped more than double the average yield of rice and maize, ending the country’s dependence on rice imports. The Central Bank of Nigeria plans to sell the rice at below market rates to reduce the high prices that consumers have been paying for the staples.  

The massive pyramid of rice bags stacked one on top of the other was unveiled Tuesday at the chapter office of the Nigerian Chamber of Commerce in Abuja. 

 

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari presided over the ceremony, with top government officials, including from the Central Bank and various state governors, in attendance. 

President Buhari praised the farmers and urged more of them to participate in the loan program.

“It is my desired hope and expectation that other agricultural produce commodities will emulate the rice farmers association of Nigeria in supporting our administration drive for food self-sufficiency,” he said.

 

The Anchor Borrowers Program was launched in 2015 by Nigeria’s Central Bank. The plan provides rice farmers with loans and technical advice so they can expand production and increase yields while limiting the nation’s dependence on imports. 

 

Authorities say more than five years later, the program has yielded the desired result, reducing rice imports significantly, and boosting local production from about 4.5 tons a year to nine. 

 

Central Bank Governor, Godwin Emefiele, says the resilience of farmers has paid off. 

 

“Permit me to commend all our holder farmers and the leadership of their various associations for their diligence, bravery, patriotism and [adaptability],” he said. “The past few years your Excellency has been quite challenging for these people as they have battled with insurgency, banditry, lockdowns and other related setbacks. Indeed, we lost some of our farmers to insurgency attacks nationwide, while some could not access their farms for several months.”  

Nigeria banned rice imports in 2015 with the aim of producing the staple locally. 

 

At Tuesday’s launch, authorities expressed confidence that adequate quantities of rice could be produced locally, saying the trend could affect the domestic price of rice.

 

Meanwhile, the Rice Farmers Association urged Nigeria to leverage this opportunity and export the commodity to other West African nations. 

 

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Організатори назвали дати проведення цьогорічного «Книжкового арсеналу» у Києві

«Книжковий арсенал» відбувається з 2011 року. Щороку в ньому беруть участь понад 200 видавців та культурних інституцій і відвідують понад 50 тисяч людей

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‘Power of Siberia 2’ Pipeline Could See Europe, China Compete for Russian Gas

As winter bites, Europe is facing a gas shortage – with lower volumes of gas exports from Russia forcing a big spike in prices. But the volatility of Russia’s gas supply could be about to get worse – as Moscow plans to build a new pipeline to China, which could give Russia the power to sell gas to the highest bidder. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

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У Львові через COVID-19 скасували загальноміське освячення води

«Щоб уникнути великого скупчення людей, отці проведуть чин освячення з самого ранку 19 січня. Відтак, упродовж дня охочі можуть прийти на площу Ринок і набрати свяченої води з резервуара»

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Republicans Mull Trump’s Continuing Grip on Their Party 

Former U.S. President Donald Trump recently addressed 15,000 ardent supporters in Arizona, making his first major public appearance since the one-year anniversary of the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol that sought to keep him in office despite having lost the 2020 presidential election. 

 

In 93 minutes of remarks late Saturday, Trump repeated the false claim that the election had been stolen from him and predicted a Republican victory in the 2024 presidential contest, hinting at what political observers already assume: that he is planning a bid to return to the White House. 

 

Trump is expected to hold more rallies in the months leading up to midterm elections in November that will determine control of Congress for the final two years of President Joe Biden’s term in office. In state after state, Trump aims to boost the fortunes of Republicans seeking office who are loyal to him and repeat his claims. 

Voters are taking notice. 

 

“He’s going to remain a factor in American politics for the next several presidential terms,” Robert Ellis, a New Orleans-based lawyer who voted for Trump in the 2016 and 2020 elections, told VOA. “And he should remain a factor. He got results while president, and the more we see Biden’s failures, the more we see Donald Trump was correct.” 

 

By contrast, many moderate Republicans and independent voters – who are often pivotal in close elections – aren’t sure the former president’s continued politicking is good for the country or the Republican Party. 

 

Chelsea Jaramillo, an entrepreneur in Denver, is one such independent voter. 

 

“Honestly, I believe his presence hurts the Republican party,” she said. “Even many Republicans seem tired of his bull—- all the hate and blame that don’t benefit anyone but him.” 

 

Trump’s supporters 

In his remarks Saturday, the former president attacked his Democratic successor’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, the U.S. economy and international affairs. He also took gleeful aim at the handful of Republican lawmakers who voted with Democrats to impeach him after the Capitol riot and have either announced they will not seek reelection or face a bumpy road to remain in office. 

 

“They’re falling fast and furious. The ones that voted to impeach, we’re getting rid of them fast,” Trump said.

 

Robert Collins, professor of Urban Studies and Public Policy at Dillard University in New Orleans, said there wasn’t much in the speech he found surprising. 

 

“It was a lot of the same stuff from him,” he said. “But where it got interesting to me, is you could hear the crowd get excited when they perceived Trump was talking about running for president again in 2024.” 

 

A recent Marquette Law School Poll found that 60% of Republican voters believe he should run for president again in 2024.

 

“That’s more than enough voters to win the Republican nomination,” Collins said, “so it’s a real possibility should he decide to run.” 

 

Brandon Legnion, a New Orleans-based nurse, is open to the idea. His priorities, he said, include the issue of abortion and how America handles the pandemic. 

 “I don’t believe vaccines and masking are ‘anti-freedom’ like a lot of other conservatives seem to believe,” he told VOA, “but I do think Republican voters are more likely to listen to Trump instead of Biden when it comes to unifying around fighting COVID-19. I’d probably vote for him if he ran in 2024.” 

 

Turning the page 

While the large majority of Republican voters say they would vote for Donald Trump if he secured the party’s presidential nomination, some say they hope a different candidate emerges to lead the party. 

 

“Trump’s independent, patriotic attitude, and his work on border control, jobs and our economy, have all earned him a leading voice in our party,” said Republican voter Jerry Bell of Indiana, “but I do feel there should be a new presidential torchbearer in 2024. New blood to repatriate our conservative vision of governance so we can ‘Make America Great!’” 

 

A University of Massachusetts at Amherst poll conducted December 14-20 showed that 71% of Republicans falsely believe Joe Biden’s election was illegitimate – a contention Trump’s critics often refer to as “The Big Lie.” 

 

Trump addressed the label head-on in Arizona on Saturday, opening the rally by declaring, “The Big Lie is a lot of bull—-,” to wild applause from raucous crowd.

 

Legnion sees the focus on the past as counterproductive. 

 

“It’s time to move on,” he said. “To continue to beat past elections to death is not at all unifying for America.” 

 

Helping or hurting? 

Whether the former president and his obsession with the 2020 election helps the Republican Party in the midterms and in the next presidential election is a matter of ongoing debate among experts, politicians and voters. 

 

“The sitting president’s political party almost always loses the House of Representatives in the midterm elections during their first term,” explained Robert Collins of Dillard University. “So regardless of Trump’s involvement, you can pretty much bet everything you’ve got that that will happen this year.” 

 

The Senate is less of a certainty, he said.

 

“While every seat in the House is up for election every two years, only one third of the Senate is,” Collins said. “And among those, probably only five to eight of those seats will be competitive elections. Trump’s impact is more likely to be felt there.” 

 

The prevailing thought among experts such as Collins is that while Trump can generate excitement and voter turnout for Republican candidates who are loyal to him, some of those candidates – including several he lauded at the rally in Arizona – could struggle to win in swing states and districts with a more moderate electorate. 

 

“I’m not opposed to Donald Trump supporting midterm candidates,” said Ronald Robichaux of Tampa, Florida, who said he voted for Trump in 2016 and 2020, “but I am fearful he’ll bring up voting irregularities that have thus far been unfounded and that that might turn some voters off. He can’t seem to bury the hatchet.” 

 

Collins suggested less bombast from Trump would be helpful for his political fortunes and those of Republicans more broadly. 

 

“People seem to forget that when Trump’s involved, elections tend to be an up or down vote on Trump,” he explained. “If I was working on his campaign, I’d spend time trying to rehabilitate his image and reign him in. But based on Saturday’s speech, that doesn’t seem to be their strategy,” he said. 

 

Collins added, “So if you’re a candidate running for office in the midterms, all that can be done now is decide if you want to keep your distance from Trump, or if you want to embrace him.”

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US Civil Rights Leaders Push for Voting Rights Overhaul

Descendants of slain U.S. civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. and their supporters marched on Washington Monday to urge Senate Democrats to overcome Republican opposition and obstruction within their own ranks to push through a national overhaul of voting rights.

They rallied on the national holiday honoring King on the 93rd anniversary of his birth. The march occurred just days after two centrist Senate Democrats, Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin, said they would oppose attempts to change legislative rules in the politically divided 100-member chamber to allow Democrats to set uniform national election rules over the objections of all 50 Republican senators.  

King’s son, Martin Luther King, III, his wife Arndrea Waters King, and their teenage daughter, Yolanda Renee King, joined several hundred activists as they walked in chilly weather across the Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge, symbolizing recent congressional support for a $1.2 trillion infrastructure measure.

“You were successful with infrastructure, which was a great thing,” King told the crowd. “But we need you to use that same energy to ensure that all Americans have the unencumbered right to vote.”

Watch related video by Laurel Bowman:

U.S. President Joe Biden said in a video address that Americans must commit to the unfinished work of Martin Luther King, Jr., delivering jobs, justice and protecting “the sacred right to vote, a right from which all other rights flow.”

“It’s time for every elected official in America to make it clear where they stand,” Biden said. “It’s time for every American to stand up. Speak out, be heard. Where do you stand?”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is calling for a vote as early as Tuesday on the legislation that would expand access to mail-in voting and early voting before the official election days in early November, strengthen federal oversight of elections in states with a history of racial discrimination and tighten campaign finance rules.

Democratic supporters say the legislation is needed to counter new restrictions on voting passed in 19 Republican-led states that some critics say would make it harder for minority and low-income voters to cast ballots. Republicans say the legislation is a partisan power grab by Democrats and would be a federal takeover of elections that the 50 states have typically managed with state-by-state rules.

But the legislation is almost certainly to be killed unless Sinema and Manchin suddenly reverse their opposition to ending use of the Senate filibuster rule that allows opponents of contentious legislation, either Republicans or Democrats, to demand that a 60-vote supermajority be amassed for passage.   

Marches supporting voting rights and other civil rights measures were planned in several U.S. cities on the King holiday.

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UN Chief: Global Economic Recovery Uneven

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged international business leaders and economists on Monday to do their part to make post-COVID19 economic recovery equitable across the globe. 

“At this critical moment, we are setting in stone a lopsided recovery,” he told the World Economic Forum, which normally meets in Davos, Switzerland, but is virtual this year due to the pandemic. 

“The burdens of record inflation, shrinking fiscal space, high interest rates and soaring energy and food prices are hitting every corner of the world and blocking recovery — especially in low- and middle-income countries,” Guterres said. 

The U.N. chief said recovery remains “fragile and uneven” as the pandemic lingers, and poorer countries are seeing their slowest growth in a generation and need debt relief and financing. He urged reforms to the global financial system so it works for all countries. 

“The last two years have demonstrated a simple but brutal truth — if we leave anyone behind, in the end we leave everyone behind,” he said of the lifespan of the pandemic so far. 

The World Health Organization said on Thursday that 90% of countries have not met the goal of vaccinating 40% of their population by the end of 2021. In Africa alone, about one billion people have not received a single vaccine dose. 

“If we fail to vaccinate every person, we give rise to new variants that spread across borders and bring daily life and economies to a grinding halt,” Guterres warned. 

He said more must also be done to support developing countries to fight climate change. 

“To chart a new course, we need all hands on deck — especially all of you in the global business community,” he said, urging a 45% reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. To accomplish that, he reiterated his call to phase out coal and cease building new coal plants. 

“We see a clear role for businesses and investors in supporting our net-zero goal,” he added, referring to the global target of reaching net-zero emissions by 2050. 

Guterres told the forum that in economic recovery and climate action, the world cannot afford to repeat the inequalities that continue to condemn millions to poverty and poor health. 

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