First Thing: chance of Trump Senate impeachment dims

Molly Blackall
·6 min read
<span>Photograph: Rex/Shutterstock</span>
Photograph: Rex/Shutterstock

Good morning.

The chance of Donald Trump being convicted in his impeachment trial in the Senate looks less likely as of Tuesday, when 45 Republicans attempted to dismiss the proceedings before they began. With 55 senators still supporting the trial, the Republicans’ objections were not enough to derail it, but to get a conviction 67 senators need to vote in favour. In practice, this means a dozen Republicans who just voted to end the trial would need to cross the aisle and vote in favour of impeaching Trump, which seems unlikely.

Rand Paul of Kentucky, who led the effort to cancel the trial, argued it was not legitimate since Trump is no longer president, a claim the Democratic majority leader, Chuck Schumer, said had been “completely debunked by constitutional scholars from all across the political spectrum”.

YouTube extended Trump’s ban indefinitely on Tuesday, citing “concerns about ongoing potential for violence”. The video-sharing website had announced an indefinite ban on Trump’s account on 12 January, six days after the siege on the Capitol that left five dead, senators cowering, and the building looted and smashed. After revisiting the issue, it decided to keep the suspension in place.

Meanwhile, Fox News has been accused of hypocrisy after several presenters said the media had been “gushing” over Joe Biden and “not hiding their excitement”. The network has long been accused of blind loyalty to Trump, and as Adam Garrett puts it, spent four years “largely functioning as an extension of Donald Trump’s White House”.

  • Larry Kudlow, a former economic adviser to Trump, is getting a Fox News show, the network said. Following rumours that the former White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany had also been hired, Fox clarified she had not but said the network was “open” to doing so in the future.

  • Rudy Giuliani is annoyed about someone suing him for defamation, after himself threatening to sue someone for defamation. Trump’s personal lawyer claimed a $1.3bn lawsuit brought against him by Dominion Voting Systems over false allegations that their machines were involved in election fraud was “censorship”, but had threatened to sue the New York Post for defamation in 2001.

Biden ramps up vaccine rollout and pushes policies on racism and immigration

Joe Biden pledged to ramp up the coronavirus vaccine rollout in the US, to ensure that most of the population has been vaccinated by the end of the summer or start of fall. Speaking at a White House briefing, Biden said there would be “enough vaccine to fully vaccinate 300 million Americans” by that time, with the new administration exercising an option to buy another 200m doses from Pfizer and Moderna.

Biden signed four more executive orders aimed at promoting racial equality on Tuesday, relating to housing and criminal justice. Speaking before signing the orders, he referenced the death of George Floyd as a turning point for the US, saying it “stirred the consciousness in millions of Americans”.

The government also rolled back Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy that resulted in the separation of thousands of families at the US-Mexico border, a move which is as symbolic as it is practical. More than 5,500 children have been separated from their parents as a result of the policy. However, it was not all good news for the Biden team. In a federal court in Texas, a judge blocked the government from enforcing a 100-day ban on deportations – a key priority of the new president.

  • Portland’s mayor pepper-sprayed a maskless resident who confronted him about coronavirus rules following a meal out. After the man followed Wheeler to his car, the mayor pepper-sprayed the man due to concerns for his “personal safety”.

Biden and Putin have first phone call

The then vice-president, Joe Biden, shakes hands with Vladimir Putin in Moscow in 2011
The then vice-president shakes hands with Vladimir Putin in Moscow in 2011. Photograph: Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP

The US and Russia have agreed to extend an arms control treaty that puts a limit on their deployed nuclear warheads, following Biden’s first phone call as president with Vladimir Putin. The Biden administration is attempting to take a tougher stance on Russia’s violations of human rights and international law, while also making progress on arms control.

During the call, Biden challenged Putin on Russia’s treatment of the opposition leader, Alexei Navalny, interference in the US election and cyber-attacks on government systems, and expressed his support for Ukraine against Russian “aggression”.

  • The US has a “moral imperative” to pursue the use of AI weapons because they are expected to make fewer mistakes than humans in battle so can reduce casualties, a government-appointed panel has said in a draft report for Congress.

In other news …

The most popular action to fight the climate crisis was the protection and restoration of forests, followed by renewable energy and green farming.
The most popular action to fight the climate crisis was the protection and restoration of forests, followed by renewable energy and green farming. Photograph: RBG Kew/PA
  • Two-thirds of people think the climate crisis is a “global emergency”, according to a UN poll, the biggest ever on the environment. Younger people showed the greatest concern, with 69% agreeing, but 58% of those over 60 also agreed, so perhaps the green generation gap is slimmer than we thought.

  • Chinese miners rescued after being trapped underground for two weeks have spoken of their joy and relief. After a mine blast on 10 January in east China, 22 men were stuck hundreds of meters underground, with no food for the first nine days. Eleven of the group were pulled out alive.

  • Amazon is trying to force unionizing workers to vote in person rather than by mail, in an attempt to fight off staff organization. If they are successful, Amazon workers in Bessemer, Alabama, would be the first Amazon warehouse in the US to unionize.

Stat of the day: 84 countries are unlikely to reach mass immunization until 2024

Most poor countries will not achieve mass Covid-19 immunity until at least 2024, and some may never, due to inequality in the distribution of the vaccine, a forecast has said. It said wealthier countries such as the US would probably achieve “widespread vaccination coverage” by late 2021, but 84 of the world’s poorest countries will not receive enough of the vaccine to inoculate their populations for some time.

Don’t miss this: the long history of the manicure

Did you know that nail art dates back to ancient Egypt? Funmi Fetto explores the millennia-long history of the manicure, and what it tells us about social practice and cultural appropriation. She also looks at the modern-day nail industry and the sinister price of this “cheap luxury”.

Last thing: declassified CIA memo reveals some bizarre Russian experiments

An extrasensory perception (ESP) experiment taking place at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland in 2005
An extrasensory perception (ESP) experiment taking place at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland in 2005. Photograph: Murdo MacLeod/The Guardian

A recently declassified CIA memo reveals agents in 1991 discussing two Russian scientists who were conducting experiments on extrasensory perception – the ability to gain information and influence objects using only your mind. According to the memo, one scientist had “perfected” his methods. One such experiment included putting a volunteer between two concave mirrors and trying to transmit “psychic energy” to them.

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