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Feb 12, 2021: Impeachment: Defense Begins Today
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TODAY'S HEADLINES:

Democrats have wrapped up their arguments in Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial. But it’s not time to vote yet: first, the defense gets a turn.

Meanwhile, governments around the world are using internet shutdowns more and more often, and always for nefarious purposes. Experts say this tactic favored by authoritarians is migrating to democracies.

And lastly, federal housing officials are expanding civil rights protections for transgender people. The Biden administration says it’s the first of many such planned announcements.

THESE ARE THE STORIES YOU NEED TO KNOW:

And that’s a wrap. The House Democrats prosecuting Donald Trump rested their case yesterday, the New York Times reports. They branded him a clear and present danger to democracy who could sow new violence if he was not barred from holding office again. The nine impeachment managers closed their case by laying out the grave damage the January 6th insurrection had caused not just to lawmakers or police officers at the Capitol, but to the democratic system and America’s standing around the world. None of it would have happened without Trump. Representative Jamie Raskin of Mayland, the lead manager, said QUOTE If you don’t find this a high crime and misdemeanor today, you have set a new terrible standard for presidential misconduct in the United States of America ENDQUOTE.

The prosecutors returned for the trial’s third day with new video clips, court documents and interviews in which the rioters defended their actions by citing Trump’s directives, according to the Times. Representative Diana DeGette of Colorado said QUOTE Their own statements before, during and after the attack made clear the attack was done for Donald Trump – at his instructions and to fulfill his wishes ENDQUOTE. They also argued that Trump had encouraged and celebrated violence before January 6th – such as a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017 and scuffles during his campaign rallies.

By turn, the managers sought to appeal to Republicans’ sense of patriotism and decency, the Times reports. (That’s rich, I know.) Seventeen Republicans would have to join every

Democrat to achieve the two-thirds majority needed for conviction. Trump’s lawyers are expected to present his defense beginning at noon today. Senators could reach a verdict by the end of the holiday weekend. Either way, we’ll be here to fill you in.

Governments Increasingly Block Internet

This update about growing threats to free speech comes from the Associated Press. When army generals in Myanmar staged a coup last week, they briefly cut internet access. In Uganda, residents couldn’t use Facebook, Twitter and other social media for weeks after a recent election. And in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region, the internet has been down for months amid a wider conflict. Around the world, shutting down the internet has become an increasingly popular tactic of repressive regimes and illiberal democracies. Digital rights groups say governments use them to stifle dissent, silence opposition voices or cover up human rights abuses.

Last year there were ninety three major internet shutdowns in twenty one countries, according to the AP. Shutdowns can range from all-encompassing internet blackouts to blocking social media platforms or severely throttling internet speeds. The humanitarian costs are exacerbated by Covid-19 lockdowns that are forcing activities like school classes online.

The shutdowns play into a wider battle over control of the internet, the AP reports. In Belarus, the internet went down for sixty-one hours after the August 9th presidential election, marking Europe’s first internet blackout. Service was cut after election results handed victory to authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko but the vote was widely seen as rigged and sparked enormous protests. Access remained unstable for months, particularly around weekend protests, when mobile internet service repeatedly went down. Internet shutdowns are also common in democratic India, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has increasingly used them to target his political opposition. Darrell West, a vice president of governance studies at the Brookings Institution, said the practice is becoming more common in democracies. He said QUOTE It may start at the local level to deal with unrest, but then spread more broadly ENDQUOTE. Seems like a more serious problem than cancel culture.

HUD Expands LGBTQ Protections

Good news for transgender rights: The Department of Housing and Urban Development said yesterday it will investigate complaints of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, the Washington Post reports. This means expanding civil rights protections for LGBTQ people seeking housing or temporary shelter across the country. The announcement comes three weeks after President Joe Biden issued an executive order directing all federal agencies to implement a June ruling by the Supreme Court; the ruling held that civil rights law prohibiting sex discrimination includes gender identity and sexual orientation. HUD is the first agency to respond. The HUD directive builds on the Obama administration’s efforts to end housing discrimination against gay and transgender people, protections that the Trump administration attempted to dismantle.

Transgender people have faced discrimination – and danger – at homeless shelters because they were often denied access to emergency shelter that corresponds to their gender identity, the Post reports. A HUD official told the Post that Thursday’s move expands the universe of people who can file a fair-housing complaint because individuals will no longer have to make a nonconformity allegation in discrimination claims.

The agency will accept and investigate complaints from people who think they have been subject to housing discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity going back to January 20th, 2020, one year before Biden’s executive order, the Post reports. HUD officials said the fair housing office has received about two hundred complaints alleging such discrimination in the past year, but expect those numbers to rise. In a call with reporters, HUD officials characterized Thursday’s action as the first step the Biden administration is taking to uphold LGBTQ rights and said future announcements can be expected. We’ll be waiting.

AND NOW FOR SOME QUICKER QUICKIES:

President Biden announced yesterday that his administration has secured deals for another two hundred million doses of coronavirus vaccine as promised last month, according to the Washington Post. The new deals are unlikely to make the vaccine widely available much sooner, but they would prevent a shortfall later in the year. The purchases increase supply in the United States by fifty percent. Let’s get those shots in arms!

Days before Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial began, more than one hundred former GOP officials reportedly hopped on a Zoom call, the Post reports. Talk touched on whether to launch a new center-right party. Only about forty percent of those on the call appeared to support that course of action. The rest argued they could have more impact by nurturing the anti-Trump faction within the GOP. Let them fight.

The New York Times reports that Royal Dutch Shell yesterday made a bold statement about the waning of the oil age, saying its production reached a high in 2019 and is now likely to gradually decline. But as Europe’s largest oil and gas producer, Shell has faced skepticism about how willing or able it will be to shift to green energy. Count us among the skeptics, but the announcement was surprising regardless.

Here’s a real shocker: The Times reports that Trump was sicker with Covid-19 in October than publicly acknowledged at the time, with extremely depressed blood oxygen levels at one point and a lung problem associated with pneumonia caused by the coronavirus. His prognosis became so worrisome before he was taken to Walter Reed hospital that officials believed he would need to be put on a ventilator. This explains all those weird, cagey press briefings by Trump’s doctors. With luck he was terrified.

FEB 12, 2021 - AM QUICKIE

HOSTS - Sam Seder & Lucie Steiner

WRITER - Corey Pein

PRODUCER - Dorsey Shaw

EXECUTIVE PRODUCER - Brendan Finn