Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Tia Sewell
Tuesday, February 16, 2021, 1:44 PM

Following former President Trump’s acquittal in the Senate impeachment trial on Saturday, President Biden is now looking to quickly press for the passage of his $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, reports the New York Times. In a statement after the trial, Biden vowed to work towards bipartisanship and national healing. Senior members of his administration have begun internal meetings to discuss the next phase and rollout of Biden’s agenda.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell wrote an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal entitled, “Acquittal Vindicated the Constitution, Not Trump.” 

This morning, the NAACP, Mississippi Rep Bennie Thomspon and civil rights law firm Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll filed a lawsuit against Trump, Rudy Giuliani and two white supremacist groups, according to Politico. The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The plaintiffs allege that Trump and Giuliani conspired with the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers to incite the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that the House will move to establish an independent, 9/11-style commission to probe the causes of the Capitol riot, writes the Washington Post. “It is clear from his findings and from the impeachment trial that we must get to the truth of how this happened,” Pelosi wrote in a letter to Democratic colleagues on Presidents’ Day.

92 percent of Capitol Police officers voted that they have no confidence in Acting Chief Yogananda Pittman, reports CBS News. In the aftermath of the Jan. 6 assault, scores of officers were injured, one officer died during the insurrection and two have since committed suicide. The previous chief, Steven Sund, resigned on Jan. 16 as officials cast blame on him for the security failures concerning the Capitol breach.

The New York Times profiled Huwe Burton, who was wrongly convicted of murder at the age of 16, due to deceptive interrogation techniques in a Bronx police precinct. Burton spent nearly 20 years in prison for a crime he did not commitand his story is one of many. The Bronx district attorney has now opened a wide-ranging inquiry into whether the detectives’ tactics had resulted in fraudulent guilty verdicts in 31 New York homicide cases that relied on confessions.

Parler, a social media app popular with conservatives, has resurfaced, according to the Journal. Amazon took Parler off its cloud-computing service last month due to violations of the company’s terms of service, citing Parler’s failure to adequately moderate content on its platform. The move effectively knocked Parler offline, but the service is now back and “here to stay,” according to Mark Meckler, the company’s interim chief executive.

Iraqi and U.S. officials are investigating a deadly rocket attack in a U.S. military base in Iraqi Kurdistan, writes the Journal. Yesterday, approximately 14 rockets were fired towards the city of Erbil, with three hitting the military base, according to the U.S.-led military coalition. A civilian contractor was killed and nine others were injured.

On Monday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan criticized Washington for failing to adequately confront the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) after the executions of 13 kidnapped Turks in northern Iraq, reports Reuters. Erdogan called an earlier U.S. statement on the killings “a joke,” alleging that U.S. officials “clearly support [the PKK] and stand behind them.” Today, Secretary of State Antony Blinken assured Turkey that Washington blames the PKK for the executions.

State Department spokesman Ned Price today called on the Iran-aligned Yemen Houthi movement to halt an offensive on the government-held city of Marib, according to Reuters. The offensive threatens to displace hundreds of thousands of civilians, as Marib has been a refuge for thousands of Yemenis fleeing violence during the country’s six years of war. “An assault on the city would put two million civilians at risk, with hundreds of thousands potentially forced to fleewith unimaginable humanitarian consequences,” U.N aid chief Mark Lowcock said today, urging de-escalation.

Nine prominent pro-democracy activists appeared in Chinese court today on illegal assembly charges related to the 2019 mass protests in Hong Kong, writes the Journal. The figures, including 82-year old campaigner Martin Lee and newspaper publisher Jimmy Lai, face possible prison sentences of up to five years.

Myanmar’s military, which last week led a coup against the country’s democratically elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi, has promised that it will hold a new election and hand over power to the winning party, reports Reuters. Suu Kyi has been detained by the military and faces charges related to illegally importing walkie talkie radios, in addition to violating a Natural Disaster Management Law, according to her lawyer. The junta has not given a date for a new election. 

The Biden administration is reviewing U.S. policy toward Nord Stream 2, an undersea pipeline designed to carry Russian natural gas to Germany, according to the Journal. Specifically, the U.S. is exploring whether or not to sanction companies involved in the construction of Nord Stream 2. The pipeline is currently about 90 percent completed, with 100 miles of construction remaining to be completed.

ICYMI: This Weekend on Lawfare

Benjamin Wittes and Tia Sewell concluded their impeachment trial diary, arguing that Trump’s acquittal reveals that impeachment is a hollow deterrent in the face of political polarization.

Sewell shared a livestream of Saturday’s arguments during the impeachment trial.

Carol R. Saivetz examined how political crises in Russia have shaken President Putin’s influence in former Soviet republics. 

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