Acquittal likely as push to call witnesses in impeachment trial fails
by Ellen Yandel
On Friday, the Senate voted 51-49 to reject a Democratic effort to hear witnesses and view documents in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump. While the vote was mostly on party lines, two Republican senators — Mitt Romney of Utah and Susan Collins of Maine — voted with Democrats in favor of calling witnesses like former National Security Advisor John Bolton and Trump Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney. The periods of debate and questioning in the Senate have been mostly over witnesses, whom Democrats believe would have revealed damning evidence against the president. Republicans argue that this effort is the result of a rushed impeachment process, saying that Democrats are trying to make-up for investigation that should have been conducted before articles of impeachment were ever filed.
Trump’s defense team argued their case over Saturday, Monday and Tuesday, using less than half of their 24 hour time limit. Their arguments focused mainly on how the House inquiry was conducted, claiming that the process was “illegitimate,” that the charges against Trump did not count as impeachable offenses and that the Senate should not hear from new witnesses.
During the course of the proceedings, an important piece of news broke concerning Bolton, which Trump’s team dismissed:
- Bolton claimed in an unpublished book manuscript, reported on by The New York Times, that Trump directly told him that he didn’t want to release military aid to Ukraine until he received information on top Democrats, including presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden. His claim potentially subverts the Republican argument that the aid and information were not connected, and has increased Democratic interest in bringing Bolton to testify in the Senate trial.
- A Friday report revealed further information from Bolton’s manuscript, where Bolton described a situation where Trump asked him, around two months before Trump’s July phone call with Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, to help arrange a meeting between Zelenskyy and Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani regarding the Biden investigations. The report intensified calls to hear from Bolton and Mulvaney, as they and Giuliani were apparently present during the conversation.
- The result almost guarantees Trump’s acquittal, as there is now no possibility of new evidence or testimony to persuade the Republican-held Senate.
- Next Monday will be reserved for closing arguments and time for senators to speak.
- Next Tuesday, Trump will deliver his State of the Union address to Congress the night before the Senate decides his fate.
The Coronavirus Spreads
by Nicholas Chen
Pictured: A microscopic image of a single Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus virion, a similar virus to the new coronavirus.
On Thursday, the World Health Organization director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, declared a public health emergency of international concern over the spread of a new coronavirus. The announcement, which made sure to commend China for its response to the outbreak originating from the city of Wuhan, was made out of fear of the virus — called the 2019 Novel Coronavirus or 2019-nCoV — spreading to countries with “weaker health systems.” Ghebreyesus also encouraged calm, evidence-based decision making on the part of governments, warning against unnecessary travel and trade restrictions. Currently the WHO reports 14,557 global confirmed cases of 2019-nCoV and over 300 deaths, with one occurring outside of China.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently shows six cases of the virus in the states of Illinois, Washington, California and Arizona. On Thursday, the first case of person-to-person spread in the U.S. was announced in Chicago, and the State Department issued a “do not travel” advisory for China. In addition, several airlines temporarily suspended flights to China. The U.S. also temporarily banned entry of foreigners who recently had been to China on Friday.
Advice for the prevention of 2019-nCoV can be found here and include basic “hand and respiratory hygiene, and safe food practices.”
Trump's plan for Peace in the Middle East
by Rachel Hale
Pictured: Israeli West-Bank barrier near the city of Ramallah.
On Tuesday, President Trump unveiled his new Middle East peace plan at the White House alongside Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. The plan would give key parts of the West Bank to Israel and keep Jerusalem, considered holy by both Israel and Palestine, as Israel’s capital and the site of the U.S. Embassy. It would also provide $50 billion in international investment, contigent on Palestinian participation, toward building a Palestinian state, with a capital proposed in Eastern Jerusalem. Israel also agreed to minimize settlement construction during a four-year “freeze” transition period that would allow Palestinian leaders to consider their participation in the agreement. While Donald Trump called the plan a “win-win” for both groups, the proposal did not include Palestinian input and was rejected by its leadership, with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas describing the deal as a “conspiracy.”
An imminent aspect of the plan is the vote Netanyahu plans to hold regarding sovereignty over the Jordan River Valley and all Jewish settlements in the West Bank. If successful, the move would give Israel nearly a third of the entire territory, including places which have been contested over since the 1967 Six Day War.
The plan has been promised since the start of Trump’s presidency, and follows Trump’s historic December 2017 move of the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capitol, further dismantling Palestinian-White House relations. The Trump administration has categorically given strong support to Israel, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announcing in November that West Bank Israeli settles do not violate the law, although much of the international community regards them as illegal.