President Trump’s second impeachment trial begins today! Aren’t we all excited? Here’s what we might see as it plays out.
Meanwhile, the deadline is fast approaching for the Biden administration to continue pursuing the extradition case against Julian Assange, and a broad coalition of civil liberties and human rights groups are urging the new president to drop it.
And lastly, in Austin, the city council is taking a bold approach to alleviating the housing crisis: buying hotels to provide permanent, supportive homes for unhoused people.
THESE ARE THE STORIES YOU NEED TO KNOW:
Today, the second trial of one Donald J. Trump begins. His crime this time? Inciting an insurrection that briefly occupied the U.S. Capitol building and left five people dead.
Will he get away with it? All signs point to probably!
Here’s where we stand. On Monday, Trump’s crack legal team, made up of random people he cobbled together after most of his actual lawyers quit, argued that the president didn’t commit the crime he was accused of, and even if he did that trying a former president after he had left office was unconstitutional.
The facts point to Trump being a significant driving force in inciting the January 6 insurrection. But when it comes down to it, there’s a good chance he’ll skate simply because of the numbers: 17 Republicans would have to flip on their most recent president in order to get the two thirds majority the Senate needs.
Still, we might see some fireworks in the proceedings, which Senate leadership has set up to be lightning-fast. The initial arguments will take place over about four hours early today, which will set up a vote on whether or not the whole thing is constitutional or not on Tuesday afternoon.
If the Senate votes that the trial is constitutional, things will go on a little longer. Starting Wednesday, each side will have 16 hours to present their arguments. That means that even with the Senate’s usual glacial pace, we could have a final verdict as early as next week.
Both Democrats and Republicans want this thing to be over as quickly as possible, largely so they can go back to fighting over the stimulus bill that actually affects Americans and not this trial, which, well, doesn’t. But hey, now you know, and if we’re lucky we might see some GOP ghouls squirm in the process.
Will Biden Drop Julian Assange Case?
A broad coalition of civil liberties and human rights groups are pushing the Biden administration to finally drop the extradition case against Julian Assange.
The government has until Friday to file a brief with the British court that currently holds Assange’s fate in their hands. The Trump administration had pursued Assange relentlessly, filing their final brief appealing the court’s decision to block Assange’s extradition on January 19, the day before Biden took office.
Assange’s case and the media company he founded, Wikileaks, have taken many twists and turns over the years. But regardless of his personal actions, the U.S. government’s aggressive persecution of him would set an extremely dangerous precedent for press freedom across the world. That’s what the coalition is arguing, with signatures from the ACLU, Amnesty International, the Committee to Protect Journalists, Human Rights Watch, Reporters Without Borders, and many more. Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch, said in a statement quote:
“Most of the charges against Assange concern activities that are no different from those used by investigative journalists around the world every day. President Biden should avoid setting a terrible precedent by criminalizing key tools of independent journalism that are essential for a healthy democracy.” endquote.
That about sums it up. We’ll see how the Biden administration decides to play it: whether they follow in Trump’s draconian footsteps, or ease off the gas.
Austin Buys Hotel for Homeless
In Austin, the local city council has taken a bold approach to the housing crisis plaguing many major cities. At the end of last week, the council approved its second purchase of a hotel that it will convert into permanent, supportive housing for people without a home.
This is the progressive solution that advocates have been clamoring for years: use government funding to just give people a home. If hotels are empty, buy them and let people live in them.
The new measure will use about $9.5 million to acquire the hotel, and use some funding from the police department’s budget to provide services to its residents. At full occupancy, the operation costs are expected to be about $2.2 million per year: not exactly cheap, but also not an exorbitant expense for a city like Austin.
The city councilmembers leading the charge note that this summer’s transformative racial justice movement directly inspired the policy. Council Member Gregorio Casar, who led the effort to cut police funding, said quote:
“In the wake of Black Lives Matter protests this summer, we made a significant cut to policing dollars and reinvested that in things like this. That’s how we’re paying for this. That’s the only reason we’re able to do this.”
Together, the two hotels can provide about 140 units of supportive housing for people in need. That won’t cover all 2500 or so people in Austin experiencing homelessness, but it’s a pretty good start.
AND NOW FOR SOME QUICKER QUICKIES:
U.S. Representative Ron Wright, a Republican of Texas, died on Monday of COVID-19, marking Congress’s first fatality from the disease. Wright had previously battled lung cancer.
A lower court in New York ruled that the state cannot prosecute Paul Manafort under the double jeopardy rule, after the Trump insider skated off with a pardon from the former president. Manafort had been released to home confinement after his lawyers successfully argued that he was in danger of contracting coronavirus, so it’s unlikely he would have seen the inside of a jail again either way.
An unidentified hacker broke in to a water treatment plant in Oldsmar, Florida last week and attempted to raise chemical compositions in the city’s water supply to dangerous levels, according to a new story by Wired. Authorities aren’t sure who did it, or why, or how they got in.
Iran’s foreign minister played the “no, you” card on the Joe Biden’s fledgling foreign policy team this week, saying that it was on the U.S. to rejoin the Iran nuclear deal, not the other way around. The Biden administration had previously demanded that Iran halt its uranium enrichment program before rejoining the deal, so now the ball is back in their court. We’ll see how this tennis match goes!
FEB 9, 2021 - AM QUICKIE
HOSTS - Sam Seder & Lucie Steiner
WRITER - Jack Crosbie
PRODUCER - Dorsey Shaw
EXECUTIVE PRODUCER - Brendan Finn