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US Rioters Sought to 'Capture and Assassinate' Lawmakers at Capitol, Say Prosecutors

WASHINGTON, Jan 15: US prosecutors now believe supporters of President Donald Trump planned to "capture and assassinate elected officials" in their siege of the Capitol building last week, according to a new court filing.

The filing, submitted by Justice Department lawyers late Thursday, sought the detention of Jacob Chansley of Arizona, the QAnon conspiracy theorist pictured in the riot dressed as a horned shaman at the desk of Vice President Mike Pence.

"Strong evidence, including Chansley's own words and actions at the Capitol, supports that the intent of the Capitol rioters was to capture and assassinate elected officials in the United States government," prosecutors said of the January 6 siege.

They said Chansley, 33, left a note for Pence at the dais in the Senate Chamber where the second-in-command had been standing just minutes before, which read: "it's only a matter of time, justice is coming."

The filing gives further insight into the FBI probe on the day of chaos at the center of American democracy, which left elected officials holed up fearing for their lives and at least five people dead, including one police officer.

It comes as authorities lay charges against individuals involved in the riot, including a man who flew the confederate flag inside the building, a man who wore a "Camp Auschwitz" sweatshirt and a US Olympic swimming gold medalist.

Chansley is due to appear in court on Friday.

Prosecutors said he is a regular drug user and likely has mental health problems.

"Chansley has spoken openly about his belief that he is an alien, a higher being, and he is here on Earth to ascend to another reality," the filing read.

Prosecutors requested he be detained as he "poses serious risks of flight and danger to the community."

Chansley subscribes to QAnon, the far-right conspiracy theory blamed for fueling a section of Trump's supporters at the Capitol building.

Social media platforms have started cracking down on its followers, who believe Trump is waging a secret war on a liberal cult of Satan-worshipping pedophiles.

In a bipartisan vote, Trump was impeached Wednesday for "incitement of insurrection" by egging on a huge crowd of his supporters to march on Congress.

The center of Washington was in lockdown early Friday as more than 20,000 armed National Guard troops were mobilized after officials warned of the threat of more violence at the presidential inauguration of Joe Biden on January 20, as well as in state capitals.

Trump Plans To Depart Washington On Morning Of Inauguration Day: Report

WASHINGTON, Jan 15: President Donald Trump now plans to leave Washington on the morning of Inauguration Day next Wednesday after considering a departure on Tuesday, a source familiar with the matter said on Friday.

Trump, who had already announced plans not to attend President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration, is planning a farewell event at Joint Base Andrews, the base outside Washington where Air Force One is headquartered, the source said.

He will then fly on to Palm Beach, Florida, to begin his post-presidency at his Mar-a-Lago club, according to the source.

A handful of White House aides plan to work for him there.

Some White House advisers have been urging the Republican president to host Biden for a White House meeting ahead of Inauguration Day, but there has been no sign Trump is willing to do that, an administration official said.

Trump, the only president in U.S. history to be impeached twice, is planning to issue more pardons before leaving. Sources say he has been considering the unprecedented option of pardoning himself.

US House Impeaches President Donald Trump

By Deepak Arora

WASHINGTON D.C., Jan 13: The US House of Representatives on Wednesday impeached President Donald Trump for a second time -- just days before he is to leave office. 222 Democrats and 10 Republicans voted in favour of the impeachment motion and 197 Republicans voted against it. At least 217 votes were required to impeach the President. Four Republicans did not vote.

Trump is the only President to be impeached twice in the history of the United States.

Trump has been impeached for inciting last week's attack by his supporters on the US Capitol as Congress certified Democrat Joe Biden's presidential election victory.

The usual process is for the Senate to hold a trial for a president who has been impeached by the House.

That's what happened last year after Trump was impeached by the Democratic-controlled House for pressuring the leader of Ukraine to dig up political dirt on Biden.

Trump was acquitted by the Republican-majority Senate.

This time, however, Trump has only a week left in the White House and Biden is to be sworn in as the 46th president of the United States on January 20.

The Senate is in recess and is not scheduled to return until January 19.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said a trial could not begin until January 20 -- the day Trump is scheduled to leave office.

According to McConnell's office, bringing the Senate back early would require the unanimous consent of all 100 senators -- an unlikely scenario.

Democrats disagree.

According to the office of Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a 2004 resolution allows the Senate to be brought back for emergency session with the consent of both the Majority and Minority leaders.

"There is nothing to prevent the Senate from taking it up immediately if Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell decides that he wants to proceed," Democratic Representative James McGovern of Massachusetts, the chairman of the House Rules Committee, said Wednesday.

A two-thirds majority of the senators present is needed to convict the president, meaning that if all of them are in the chamber at least 17 Republicans would have to join Democrats in voting for conviction.

Tom Hanks, Lady Gaga, JLo In Star-Studded Biden Inauguration

WASHINGTON, Jan 14: Pop superstar Lady Gaga will sing the national anthem during Joe Biden's swearing-in as US president on January 20, with Jennifer Lopez also performing at the largely virtual event, it was announced Thursday.

The two music icons will headline an inauguration like no other, with security stepped up in Washington against threats by extremist supporters of outgoing President Donald Trump after they attacked the US Capitol last week in a bid to overturn the results of the election.

Local authorities are asking people to stay away from the ceremonies to lessen the chances of unrest -- and of the swearing-in turning into a Covid-19 superspreader event.

Instead, Biden's inaugural committee said that it will broadcast five days of programming under the theme "America United" which "will honor inaugural traditions while safely allowing more Americans than ever before to participate from their own homes."

The calendar includes "United We Serve," a National Day of Service on January 18, Martin Luther King Jr. Day; a nationwide COVID-19 Memorial to Lives Lost on January 19; and wreath laying at Arlington National Cemetery on Inauguration Day.

In place of the hundreds of thousands of people who usually crowd the National Mall for the inauguration, the committee will install a "Field of Flags" which it said will "represent the American people who are unable to travel."

The 90-minute "Celebrating America" inauguration show will be hosted by Tom Hanks and feature more musical performances, from Jon Bon Jovi, Justin Timberlake and Demi Lovato, and will be broadcast on all major US networks, US media reported.

Gaga and Lopez will perform during the ceremony itself, held on the steps of the Capitol building, which still bears the scars of the January 6 attack.

Gaga has been a vocal supporter of Biden, appearing at his campaign finale in Pittsburgh in November; while Lopez has been outspoken in recent months about Covid-19 relief efforts.

Some 20,000 National Guard soldiers are expected in Washington for Biden's inauguration. The capital is already under heavy security, with much of downtown fenced off and under guard.

Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser has asked visitors to stay home due to the raging pandemic, and Airbnb has banned bookings in the capital around the time of the inauguration.

Aretha Franklin sang at Barack Obama's first inauguration in 2009, while Beyonce performed at his second four years later.

Trump -- who on Wednesday became the first president to be impeached for a second time for inciting the Capitol "insurrection" -- had to settle for less well-known artists in 2017 due to his unpopularity in the entertainment world. Country singer Toby Keith headlined the event.

The outgoing president, who claims the election was rigged to deny him victory, will not attend the inauguration.

US Unveils Plan To Counter China With India's Rise

WASHINGTON, Jan 13: The Trump administration declassified its strategy to ensure continued dominance over China, which focuses on accelerating India's rise as a counterweight to Beijing and the ability to defend Taiwan against an attack.

National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien on Tuesday announced the publication of the document, titled "United States Strategic Framework for the Indo-Pacific."

Approved by President Donald Trump in February 2018, it provided the "overarching strategic guidance" for U.S. actions the past three years and was released to show the U.S. commitment to "keeping the Indo-Pacific region free and open long into the future," O'Brien said in a statement.

"Beijing is increasingly pressuring Indo-Pacific nations to subordinate their freedom and sovereignty to a 'common destiny' envisioned by the Chinese Communist Party," O'Brien said in an expanded statement. "The U.S. approach is different. We seek to ensure that our allies and partners - all who share the values and aspirations of a free and open Indo-Pacific -- can preserve and protect their sovereignty."

The document lays out a vision for the region in which North Korea no longer poses a threat, India is predominant in South Asia and the U.S. works with partners around the world to resist Chinese activities to undermine sovereignty through coercion. It assumed that China will take "increasingly assertive" steps to compel unification with Taiwan and warns that its dominance of cutting-edge technologies like artificial intelligence will "pose profound challenges to free societies."

While the timing of the release just a week before President-elect Joe Biden takes office raises questions about the motive, the Trump administration's actions to counter China in Asia have largely enjoyed bipartisan support. Incoming Biden officials have talked about the need to work more with allies and partners against China, which also forms a key part of the strategy -- particularly in strengthening security ties with Australia, Japan and India.

Rory Medcalf, a professor and head of the National Security College at the Australian National University, said that the document shows U.S. policy in Asia was driven by efforts to "bolster allies and counter China." But he noted that the strategy was so ambitious that "failure was almost assured" on issues such as disarming North Korea, sustaining "primacy" in the region and finding international consensus against harmful Chinese economic practices.

"The declassified framework will have enduring value as the beginning of a whole-of-government blueprint for handling strategic rivalry with China," Medcalf wrote in a post for the Australian Strategic Policy Institute research group. "If the U.S. is serious about that long-term contest, it will not be able to choose between getting its house in order domestically and projecting power in the Indo-Pacific. It will need to do both at once."

Key highlights of the report include:

China

Assumes China "aims to dissolve U.S. alliances and partnerships in the region. China will exploit vacuums and opportunities created by these diminished bonds."

"China seeks to dominate cutting-edge technologies, including artificial intelligence and bio-genetics, and harness them in the service of authoritarianism. Chinese dominance in these technologies would pose profound challenges to free societies."

"China will take increasingly assertive steps to compel unification with Taiwan."

Act to "counter Chinese predatory economic practices that freeze out foreign competition, undermine U.S. economic competitiveness, and abet the Chinese Communist Party's aspiration to dominate the 21st century economy."

"Build an international consensus that China's industrial policies and unfair trading practices are damaging the global trading system."

"Work closely with allies and like-minded countries to prevent Chinese acquisition of military and strategic capabilities."

India

Desired outcome: "India's preferred partner on security issues is the United States. The two cooperate to preserve maritime security and counter Chinese influence in South and Southeast Asia and other regions of mutual concern."

"India remains preeminent in South Asia and takes the leading role in maintaining Indian Ocean security."

"Accelerate India's rise and capacity to serve as a net provider of security and Major Defense Partner; solidify an enduring strategic partnership with India underpinned by a strong Indian military."

"Strengthen the capacity of emerging partners in South Asia, including the Maldives, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka, to contribute to a free and open order."

Taiwan

"Devise and implement a defense strategy capable of, but not limited to: (1) denying China sustained air and sea dominance inside the "first island chain" in a conflict; (2) defending the first-island-chain nations, including Taiwan; and (3) dominating all domains outside the first island-chain."

"Enable Taiwan to develop an effective asymmetric defense strategy and capabilities that will help ensure its security, freedom from coercion, resilience, and ability to engage China on its own terms."

North Korea

Objective: "Convince the Kim regime that the only path to its survival is to relinquish its nuclear weapons."

"Maximize pressure on Pyongyang using economic, diplomatic, military, law enforcement, intelligence, and information tools to cripple North Korea's weapons of mass destruction programs, choke off currency flows, weaken the regime, and set the conditions for negotiations aimed at reversing its nuclear and missile programs, ultimately achieving the complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization of the Peninsula."

"Do this by: (1) helping South Korea and Japan acquire advanced, conventional military capabilities; (2) drawing south Korea and Japan closer to one another."

Southeast Asia

Objective: "Promote and reinforce Southeast Asia and Asean's central role in the region's security architecture, and encourage it to speak with one voice on key issues."

"Promote an integrated economic development model in the Indo-Pacific that provides a credible alternative to One Belt One Road; create a task force on how best to use public-private partnerships."

Trump Issues Emergency Declaration In Washington DC

WASHINGTON, Jan 12: US President Donald Trump has issued an emergency declaration for the national capital here ahead of his successor Joe Biden's inauguration on January 20, amidst threat perception to the event by federal agencies.

In a statement on Monday, the White House said the President's action authorises the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to coordinate relief efforts to alleviate the hardship and suffering caused by the emergency on the local population.

The emergency in Washington DC will be effective from Monday till January 24.

It comes in the wake of last week's violent protest, in which thousands of pro-Trump supporters stormed the Capitol building and clashed with police, interrupting a constitutional process by Congress to affirm the victory of President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris in the election. Five people, including a Capitol Police officer, died in the protests.

According to the White House, the emergency declaration also provides appropriate assistance for required emergency measures, authorised under Title V of the Stafford Act to save lives and to protect property and public health and safety, and to lessen or avert the threat of a catastrophe in the District of Columbia.

Specifically, the FEMA is authorised to identify, mobilise, and provide at its discretion, equipment and resources necessary to alleviate the impacts of the emergency.

Emergency protective measures, limited to direct Federal assistance, will be provided at 100 per cent Federal funding, the White House said.

Thomas J Fargione from the DHS and Pete Gaynor, Administrator, FEMA, are the Federal Coordinating Officers for operations in the affected area.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has warned of armed protests at all 50 US state capitals, including Washington, in the lead up to next week's 59th Presidential inauguration. Similarly, the US National Guard Bureau has also warned of possible riots next week.

Trump Defends His Speech Before Capitol Violence

WASHINGTON, Jan 12: Donald Trump emerged from isolation at the White House on Tuesday to brand the likely second impeachment of his presidency "absolutely ridiculous" and warn that it has triggered "tremendous anger."

Speaking as he boarded Marine One at the White House for a trip to Texas, Trump called his scheduled impeachment in the House of Representatives on Wednesday a "continuation of the greatest witch hunt in the history of politics."

With only eight days left in his one-term administration, Trump finds himself alone, shunned by former supporters, barred by social media, and now facing a second impeachment over his instigation of a riot against Congress on January 6.

His trip to Alamo, Texas, where he will tout claims of success in building a US-Mexican border wall, is his first live public appearance since he rallied thousands of followers on the National Mall to march on Congress.

Although this is not the same Alamo as the famous fortress in another part of Texas, the trip marks something of a last stand for the Republican.

Ever since the November 3 election, the real estate tycoon has been obsessively pushing a lie that he, not Democrat Joe Biden, was the real winner and last week, in a speech he described Tuesday as "totally appropriate," he called on the huge crowd to "show strength."

Amped up on Trump's rhetoric, the mob burst into Congress, fighting with police, trashing offices and forcing frightened lawmakers to suspend briefly a ceremony legally formalizing Biden's victory.

The crisis galvanized many of Trump's former boosters in the corporate and sporting world to turn their backs.

In Congress, where the Republican party has been in thrall to the populist leader for four years, even ultra-loyal senior figures like Senator Lindsey Graham have finally told Trump that he must accept his election defeat.

Trump, however, remains in denial.

He has yet to congratulate Biden or urge his supporters to stand behind the incoming president after he is inaugurated on January 20 -- a gesture of political unity considered all but routine after US elections.

And according to Axios, Trump and the top Republican in the House of Representatives, Kevin McCarthy, had a stormy phone conversation Tuesday in which Trump claimed that left wing Antifa activists, not his supporters, attacked Congress.

"It's not Antifa," McCarthy reportedly responded. "I know. I was there."

When Trump continued to push his conspiracy theory that he was the true election winner, McCarthy reportedly interrupted, telling him: "Stop it. It's over. The election is over."

The House of Representatives will vote Tuesday on a longshot bid to get Vice President Mike Pence and the cabinet to invoke the US Constitution's 25th Amendment, which would declare Trump unfit to perform his duties and install Pence as acting president.

This is unlikely to happen.

Although Pence is reportedly furious about Trump's behavior last week, the two met at the White House on Monday for the first time since the Congress attack and had "a good conversation," according to a senior administration official.

That signaled that whatever Pence and the dwindling number of White House officials feel, they are committed to keeping the presidency limping along until January 20.

Still, with a string of cabinet officials quitting the government -- most recently the acting head of the Department of Homeland Security Chad Wolf on Monday -- it's also clear that Trump's grip on power is tenuous.

In an interview Tuesday on ABC News, Health Secretary Alex Azar did not dismiss outright the option of removing Trump, saying: "I'm not going to get into or discuss the 25th Amendment here."

Democrats will follow up the 25th Amendment vote with impeachment proceedings in the House on Wednesday. The single charge of "incitement of insurrection" is all but sure to get majority support.

The Republican-controlled Senate, however, is in recess until January 19 and its leadership says there is no way to rush through an impeachment trial before Biden takes over the following day.

This means that Trump, who was acquitted in the Senate last year after his first impeachment, would not be forced out of office early.

Top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer has reportedly floated the idea of using a rare parliamentary maneuver to force the chamber back into session under emergency circumstances, giving time for the start of an impeachment trial.

But not even all Democrats are gunning for a trial, worried that this would overshadow Biden's first days in office.

The new president will already face the challenges of an out-of-control Covid-19 pandemic, the stumbling vaccination program, a shaky economy, and now the aftermath of violent political opposition from parts of Trump's huge voter base.

 

Democrats file motion to impeach Trump

WASHINGTON, Jan 11: Democrats on Monday filed an article of impeachment against US President Donald Trump accusing him of “incitement of resurrection” for the storming of the Capitol. They also introduced a resolution calling upon Vice-President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Trump declaring him “unable to successfully discharge the duties and powers of his office”.

A vote on the non-binding resolution, which Democrats had hoped to get on Monday, will be taken on Tuesday because Republicans blocked “unanimous consent”, a parliamentary procedure to speed up approval, without requiring a vote. It will give Pence 24 hours to oust Trump invoking the 25th Amendment.

If the vice-president does not respond, Democrats plan to proceed to impeach the president in a vote possibly on Wednesday, making Trump the first president impeached twice.

The four-page article of impeachment, moved by Representatives Jamie Raskin, Ted Lieu and David Cicilline alleges Trump engaged in high crimes and misdemeanours by “wilfully inciting violence against the Government of the United States” for the events that took place on January 6.

The article says that shortly before congress convened a joint session to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s election victory, Trump addressed supporters and “wilfully made false statements that encouraged — and foreseeably resulted in — imminent lawless action at the Capitol”.

“Incited by President Trump, a mob unlawfully breached the Capitol, injured law enforcement personnel, menaced members of Congress and the vice-president, interfered with the joint sessions’ solemn constitutional duty to certify the election results and engaged in violent, deadly, destructive and seditious acts.”

The article also detailed Trump’s efforts to overturn the election results and his appeal to Georgia election officials to “find” the votes he needed to make up the deficit by which he lost to Biden.

“In all of this,” the motion said, “President Trump gravely endangered the security of the United States, and its institutions of government. He threatened the integrity of democratic system, interfered with the peaceful transition of power, and imperiled a coordinate branch of government. He, thereby, betrayed his trust as president, to the manifest injury of the of the United States.”

The article further said that by such conduct, he has demonstrated that “he will remain a threat to national security, democracy and the constitution if allowed to remain in office.”

In a Saturday letter to fellow Democrats, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had said the resolution “calls on the vice-president to convene and mobilise the cabinet to activate the 25th Amendment to declare the president incapable of executing the duties of his office, after which the vice president would immediately exercise powers as acting president”.

“We are calling on the vice-president to respond within 24 hours,” she had added. “Next, we will proceed with bringing impeachment legislation to the floor.”

Pence is said to be reluctant to the removal of the president through the use of either the 25th Amendment or impeachment, fearing that it could push Trump, known for his unpredictability, to act rashly. But he has retained the option of invoking the 25th if Trump “become more unstable”, according to reports citing sources close to him.

The proposed resolution said, among other things, Trump “tweeted to his supporters that ‘Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our country’ after the Capitol had been overrun and the Vice President was in hiding”.”

President Trump’s isolation in the final 10 days of his presidency has been exacerbated by growing backlash from the private sector, which was his world before the presidency.

Marriott hotel chain has cut off donations to senators who tried to block the certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s election. Citigroup, Goldman Sachs and J P Morgan Chase are reviewing their political donations after the Capitol riots. Citi has said it will not support candidates who do not respect the rule of law.

First Lady Melania Trump, meanwhile, joined in condemning the riots triggered by her husband, saying she was “disappointed and disheartened”. She went on to condole the deaths of the two police officers as also the four men and women who were part of the mob that attacked the Capitol, all in the same sentence.

US military, in the meantime, is reviewing the role played by a Psyops officer, Capt Emily Rainey, in the January 6 riot. She had led a group from North Carolina to the rally. She told the Associated Press she had participated in the rally as a private citizen and no one in her group broke the law.

Pompeo Lifts Self-Imposed Restrictions on US-Taiwan Relationship

By Deepak Arora

WASHINGTON D.C., Jan 10: The United States has ended decades-old restrictions governing official contacts with Taiwan, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement Saturday.

Mike Pompeo said "Taiwan is a vibrant democracy and reliable partner of the United States, and yet for several decades the State Department has created complex internal restrictions to regulate our diplomats, servicemembers, and other officials’ interactions with their Taiwanese counterparts."

He said "the United States government took these actions unilaterally, in an attempt to appease the Communist regime in Beijing."

Pompeo added "No more."

Secretary of State said that he was announcing lifting of all of these self-imposed restrictions. Executive branch agencies should consider all “contact guidelines” regarding relations with Taiwan previously issued by the Department of State under authorities delegated to the Secretary of State to be null and void.

Additionally, the statement said any and all sections of the Foreign Affairs Manual or Foreign Affairs Handbook that convey authorities or otherwise purport to regulate executive branch engagement with Taiwan via any entity other than the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) are also hereby voided.

The executive branch‘s relations with Taiwan are to be handled by the non-profit AIT, as stipulated in the Taiwan Relations Act, it added.

He said "the United States government maintains relationships with unofficial partners around the world, and Taiwan is no exception. Our two democracies share common values of individual freedom, the rule of law, and a respect for human dignity. Today’s statement recognizes that the U.S.-Taiwan relationship need not, and should not, be shackled by self-imposed restrictions of our permanent bureaucracy."

The shift comes after a year of mounting US-Chinese tensions.

Trump has sent multiple senior officials to Taipei over the last year, even as he clashed with China on a host of issues, ranging from its handling of the coronavirus pandemic to disputes over trade, security and human rights.

Pompeo's statement also came just two days after China warned the United States it would pay a "heavy price" if its United Nations ambassador, Kelly Craft, made good on plans to travel to Taiwan on Wednesday.

Beijing opposes any diplomatic recognition of Taiwan.

Craft's scheduled three-day visit will come just a week before Joe Biden's inauguration as US president, adding to a string of diplomatic headaches facing the incoming administration.

"The United States will pay a heavy price for its wrong action," the Chinese mission to the UN said in a statement responding to Craft's planned trip.

"China strongly urges the United States to stop its crazy provocation, stop creating new difficulties for China-US relations... and stop going further on the wrong path."

An American statement said Craft's visit, which Taiwan has officially welcomed, would "reinforce the US government's strong and ongoing support for Taiwan's international space."

The AIT was founded in 1979, when the United States extended diplomatic recognition to mainland China under a historic agreement requiring it to end formal recognition of Taiwan.

But Washington remains a staunch ally of Taipei and is bound by Congress to sell it weapons for self-defense. It opposes any move to change Taiwan's current status by force.

Military tensions between mainland China and Taiwan have grown sharper in the past year -- reaching their worst since the mid-1990s, some analysts say.

Chinese jets made a record 380 incursions into Taiwan's defense zone last year, a military official said Tuesday.

Beijing's animosity has increased dramatically since Tsai Ing-wen won election as Taiwan's president in 2016; she rejects Beijing's insistence that the island is part of "one China."

Pence hasn’t ruled out using ‘unfit to rule’ provision against Trump

WASHINGTON, Jan 10: US Vice-President Mike Pence has not ruled out invoking a constitutional provision to remove President Donald Trump from office for being unfit to rule, reports said.

Democrats’ move to impeach the president, for the second time, gathered momentum, for a scheduled launch on Monday.

Pence has not ruled out invoking the 25th Amendment of the US Constitution if Trump “becomes more unstable”, CNN reported on Saturday citing sources close to the vice-president. The constitutional provision empowers the vice-president, working with the majority of the cabinet or a body formed by Congress, to remove the president for being unfit to govern.

CNN also reported that the vice-president’s team believes there is some risk in using the 25th amendment or impeachment to remove Trump as they may push him to rash actions. This may be the reason for reluctance to use the provision, despite his growing estrangement from the president.

Relations between the two men have collapsed according to reports, especially after the January 6 storming of the Capitol. Trump is livid that Pence refused to block Congress from certifying President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.

Pence is disappointed that Trump put him in an impossible position by pressuring him to do something he could not constitutionally — block the certification. And then Trump did not call or inquire about his safety, and his family who were there also, when rioters overran the Capitol, with some of them chanting “Hang Mike Pence”.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, the senior-most congressional Democrats, have demanded that Trump should resign over the storming of the Capitol by his supporters, or Pence should use the 25th amendment to remove him. In the event that neither happens, Democrats will introduce an impeachment motion as early as Monday.

“We’ve just hit 180 co-sponsors of the Article of Impeachment,” tweeted Ted Lieu, Democratic lawmaker who has co-written the drafted the motion. He added, “We will introduce the Article of Impeachment this Monday during the House’s pro forma session.” The motion charges Trump with “incitement of insurrection”.

Democrats, who control the House of Representatives, expect to impeach the president in the coming week. But a conviction by the Senate, which is controlled by Republicans for the next some days, is unlikely. Democrats could try after they take control of the chamber on January 19.

And even then it will not be easy, because they will need the support of Republicans to secure a conviction. Though Trump will be out of office by then, a conviction will bar him from holding a federal office for ever, blocking him from running agai;n.

Trump is preparing to contest the impeachment. He is said to be considering to enlist defence Rudy Giuliani, his personal lawyer who led his election fraud lawsuits, and Alan Dershowitz, who was part of his defence team for the first impeachment in December of 2019. As part of a pre-emptive strategy, his allies have begun calling for dropping the move in the interest of healing and uniting the country.

Meanwhile, more than 80 Capitol rioters have been arrested and charged, including most of those seen in pictures around the world. Among them are the man with fur hat and buffalo horn who sat in the Senate president’s seat in the well of the chamber; Jacob Anthony Chansley, also called Jake Angeli who was seen carrying away Speaker Pelosi’s lectern; Adam Christian Johnson; and Richard Barnett. the man with his foot up on Pelosi’s desk.

The U.S. Struggle Proves That Democracy Is Priceless

Authoritarians Abroad Should Take No Comfort From the Capitol Siege

By Daniel Twining

WASHINGTON, Jan 8: Autocrats around the world reveled in the mayhem that broke out in the U.S. Capitol on January 6: an incompetently governed United States, at odds with itself, would surely be at pains to assert its leadership of a free and open international order. On closer inspection, however, authoritarians have little to celebrate. The events in the United States demonstrated that democracies are self-correcting and resilient because they vest power in institutions, not in rulers. Rather than yield to the political violence of a fringe minority, representative institutions upheld the will of a majority of American voters.

The failure to subvert constitutional order in the United States, the congressional certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s victory, and the coming transfer of power from Republicans to Democrats in both the White House and the Senate on January 20 demonstrate not that democratic institutions are worthless but that they are priceless—and that they in fact sharpen U.S. strategic competitiveness. The foreign policy implications of the United States’ democratic renewal should make authoritarians abroad less confident than nervous.

Democracy does not cure all evils, but its institutions are a bulwark against mob rule, civil war, and tyranny. It is troubling and alarming that a group of violent protesters stormed the U.S. Capitol because their candidate lost a free and fair election. But it is also telling that Congress reconvened within hours to certify Biden’s victory with an overwhelming, bipartisan majority.

U.S. democratic institutions work. The most powerful man in the world will relinquish power on January 20 and cede to new leadership chosen by the American people. President Donald Trump still controls the U.S. security forces, Treasury, and other instruments of power that in China or Russia would allow him to rule indefinitely.

Under the U.S. system of constitutional order, checks and balances, and the rule of law, there is nothing he can do to remain in office. His presidency is a lesson in the limits of strongman rule. Chinese and Russian observers might well wonder: If Americans can choose new leaders to chart a more constructive course, why can’t they?

In the United States, a free press, independent courts, civic activism, congressional oversight, and states’ rights have been instrumental in upholding the law. The experience has proved that democracy consists not primarily of the maneuverings of political elites but of the functioning of an entire system—one that places citizens at its center. Oppressed people around the world, from Venezuela to Iran to Belarus, only wish for such a system.

Some will argue that after the events of this week, the United States cannot credibly promote democracy and the rule of law abroad. And to be sure, Americans have been struggling to improve their democracy for 244 years. That work will never be done. But the United States’ credibility in providing democracy assistance overseas stems directly from its own struggles— many of which have given rise to tremendous progress, such as the enfranchisement of women, the civil rights acts, and growing equality for LGBTQ citizens.

The U.S. support for democracy abroad is a natural extension of Americans’ belief in freedom and justice at home. Americans understand that universal values apply to all peoples, not just themselves, which is why polls show that supermajorities of Americans believe their country should peacefully support human rights and democracy overseas.

Those who believe that the United States “exports” or “imposes” democracy abroad have it backward: democratic political parties, civic activists, and independent media abroad demand more U.S. technical support and training than the National Endowment for Democracy and other groups can supply. Small-d democrats around the world want American help not because they wish to import an American agenda but because they want to advance their own citizens’ rights and freedoms.

People across the globe yearn for responsive and accountable governments. Before COVID-19 lockdowns, more people were protesting in more places than at any time since the fall of the Berlin Wall. Citizens crave the dignity that stems from having political leaders who answer to them, rather than corrupt elites who pursue public office for private gain. Political and economic openness, effective institutions, and the rule of law create opportunity as well.

The democracy assistance the United States provides focuses not on imposing American ideology but on sharing international best practices in order to make governance responsive to and inclusive of all citizens. Lessons learned from Indonesia, for example, may be more relevant to women and youth empowerment in the Middle East than those from the United States; democratic practice in Lithuania may be particularly instructive to Belarusians who want to break from Moscow’s tutelage.

American democracy-assistance organizations work with humility, using the United States’ shortcomings as well as its successes as sources of instruction. Partners abroad learn from the course of the United States’ democratic development, including its current struggles with polarization and racial justice, and from how Americans have shaped their republican institutions to ensure that political violence, mob tactics, and authoritarian abuses cannot succeed.

America’s great-power competitors and assorted petty tyrants would like nothing more than for the United States to step back from international leadership because U.S. foreign policy elites are preoccupied with their country’s deficiencies. President-elect Biden will have Republican support for a foreign policy that confronts authoritarians abroad and rallies the world’s great democracies for the contest of systems that lies ahead.

@ Daniel Twining is President of International Republican Institute

Extremists could return to Washington, disrupt Biden’s inauguration: Report

WASHINGTON, Jan 9: The US department of justice on Friday charged 15 people for their involvement in the violence in the Capitol but reports suggest that the threat of another such assault has not died down. Several organisations monitoring hate and extremism on online platforms had issued warnings of possible violence on January 6 but the law enforcement agencies were caught off guard when US President Donald Trump’s supporters stormed the Capitol.

On January 4, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which tracks and counters hate, wrote a blog alerting about the threats of possible violence when Congressional leaders were supposed to meet and certify president-elect Joe Biden’s win. ADL said that many extremist supporters of Trump were framing rallies as a last resort to prevent Biden from being sworn in as the next president of the United States.

The organisation had cautioned that online chatter among potential attendees in the days leading up to the rally had increased. While ADL made clear that it wasn’t aware of credible threats of violence planned for January 6, “the combination of an extremist presence at the rallies and the heated nature of the rhetoric suggests that violence is a possibility.”

“In response to a user who wondered what happens if Congress ignores ‘evidence’ that President Trump won the election, a user wrote, ‘Storm the capitol’,” the blog post says, referring to a chat on thedonald.win, a pro-Trump online forum.

Experts have issued a similar warning that the calls for violence have only intensified as incoming Biden administration prepares for inauguration on January 20. ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt told CNN that the white supremacists and far-right extremists “feel emboldened in this moment”.

"We fully expect that this violence could actually get worse before it gets better," Greenblatt was quoted as saying by the US media network.

The extremists are vowing to return to Washington ahead of Biden’s inauguration even after five people, including a police officer, lost their lives in the violence that ensued on Wednesday following Trump’s rally.

“Round 2 on January 20th. This time no mercy. I don’t even care about keeping Trump in power. I care about war,” an anonymous person posted on thedonald.win.

Mike Pompeo says US not ‘banana republic’ after mob attacks Capitol

WASHINGTON, Jan 8: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday hit back at assertions that a mob attack on the Capitol showed the United States to be a “banana republic.”

A number of foreign critics as well as former US president George W. Bush made the analogy after rioters stirred up by President Donald Trump rampaged through a session of Congress that certified his loss to Joe Biden.

“The slander reveals a faulty understanding of banana republics and of democracy in America,” said the top US diplomat, a staunch Trump loyalist, as two other members of the cabinet resigned over Wednesday’s violence.

“In a banana republic, mob violence determines the exercise of power. In the United States, law enforcement officials quash mob violence so that the people’s representatives can exercise power in accordance with the rule of law and constitutional government,” Pompeo wrote on Twitter.

Bush in a statement Wednesday made veiled criticism of the “reckless behavior” of members of his Republican Party in fueling the “insurrection.”

“This is how election results are disputed in a banana republic -- not our democratic republic,” Bush wrote.

Republican Ben Sasse would consider Democratic effort to impeach Trump

WASHINGTON, Jan 8: At least one Senate Republican would consider supporting a possible effort by congressional Democrats to impeach President Donald Trump for an unprecedented second time after his supporters, inflamed by his false claims of election fraud, stormed the US Capitol.

Democrats in the House of Representatives, which holds the power to impeach the president, will hold a conference call at noon (1700 GMT) to discuss their next steps, according to two Democratic aides.

Top Democratic leaders say they believe the House can impeach the Republican president within a week but with Trump’s term due to end anyway by Jan. 20 and the Senate still controlled by Republicans, the prospects of him then being thrown out of office are unclear.

Removing a US president requires a two-thirds majority in the Senate.

Senator Ben Sasse, a Republican and often a Trump critic, told CBS News on Friday he would “definitely consider” any articles of impeachment because the president “disregarded his oath of office.”

“I do believe that the votes are in the House of Representatives to put forth articles of impeachment, and he’ll be the only president to be impeached twice,” said James Clyburn, the No. 3 House Democrat.

President-Elect Joe Biden has blamed Trump for instigating Wednesday’s violence but has not said whether he supports removal. Transition spokesman Andrew Bates said Biden would focus on preparing to take power and leave it to Vice President Mike Pence, the Cabinet and Congress “to act as they see fit.”

Trump had encouraged thousands of supporters to march on the Capitol on Wednesday in a fiery speech in which he repeated his baseless claims that the Nov. 3 presidential election was stolen.

A crowd stormed the building, overwhelming police, breaking windows, stealing computers and antiquities and forcing authorities to transport lawmakers to secure locations for their own safety.

The violence killed five people, including a police officer.

As calls mounted for the president to be removed, Trump finally denounced the violence, In a video released on Thursday evening, a flat-toned Trump promised a smooth and orderly transition of power, though he stopped short of abandoning his claims of fraud.

On Friday morning he praised his supporters on Twitter, saying, “They will not be disrespected or treated unfairly in any way, shape or form!!!”

A Capitol police officer died from injuries sustained in the assault, the force said on Thursday. A woman protester was fatally shot by the authorities, and three people died from medical emergencies.

House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer demanded on Thursday that Pence and Trump’s Cabinet invoke the Constitution’s 25th Amendment, which allows them to strip the president of his powers if he cannot discharge the duties of his office. Pence opposes the idea, an adviser said.

Pelosi and Schumer, along with other Democratic leaders, called for immediate impeachment proceedings if Pence and the Cabinet refuse to take steps to remove Trump from power.

“The president’s dangerous and seditious acts necessitate his immediate removal from office,” they said in a statement on Thursday evening, accusing Trump of inciting an “insurrection.”

There is a growing rift within the Republican Party in the wake of Wednesday’s siege. At least two Republicans, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan and US Representative Adam Kinzinger, joined calls for Trump to go.

Numerous senior Trump administration officials have resigned in protest over the invasion of the Capitol, including two Cabinet members: Elaine Chao, the transportation secretary and McConnell’s wife, and Betsy DeVos, the education secretary.

Congress certified Biden’s election victory early on Thursday, after authorities cleared the Capitol.

With Trump’s term almost expired, it was not clear whether there would be enough time to complete the impeachment process.

The Senate is scheduled to be in recess until Jan. 19. Aides to Mitch McConnell, the Republican majority leader, have not said whether he would reconvene the Senate if the House approved articles of impeachment.

Democrats are set to take narrow control of the Senate after winning two runoff elections in Georgia on Tuesday, but the new senators will not be sworn in until the state certifies its results later this month.

The House impeached Trump in December 2019 for pressuring the Ukrainian president to investigate Biden, but the Senate acquitted him in February 2020. Only two other US presidents have been impeached, and none has ever been impeached twice.

US Congress certifies Joe Biden, Kamala Harris victory in US elections

NEW DELHI, Jan 7: Congress has formally validated Joe Biden’s presidential election victory on a day that saw a time-honoured ceremony become a nightmare of unprecedented political terror.

The House and Senate certified the Democrat’s electoral college win early Thursday after a violent throng of pro-Trump rioters spent hours Wednesday running rampant through the Capitol. A woman was fatally shot, windows were bashed and the mob forced shaken lawmakers and aides to flee the building, shielded by Capitol Police.

The rampage began shortly after President Donald Trump repeated his unfounded claims of election fraud to thousands of rallying demonstrators he’d invited to Washington. Many then surged to the Capitol after he incited them to go there as lawmakers debated the electoral votes.

More than six hours after the violence erupted, lawmakers resumed their session.

Thirteen Republican senators and dozens of GOP representatives had planned to force debate and votes on perhaps six different states’ votes.

The assault on the Capitol made some Republicans squeamish about trying to overturn Biden’s win, and challenges were lodged only against Arizona and Pennsylvania. Both efforts lost overwhelmingly.

Biden defeated Trump by 306-232 electoral votes and will be inaugurated Jan. 20.

World leaders condemn storming of US Capitol

NEW DELHI, Jan 7: World leaders have voiced concern and distress over the storming of US Capitol by a group of Trump's supporters in an attempt to overturn his election loss. The incident occurred hours ahead of the US Congress formally certifying Democrat Joe Biden’s win in the November presidential polls.

According to news reports, four people died during the chaos -- one from gunshot wounds and three from medical emergencies -- and 63 people were arrested after rioters forced their way past metal security barricades, broke windows and scaled walls to fight their way into the Capitol, which houses the legislative branch of the American federal government.

“Distressed to see news about rioting and violence in Washington DC," said Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a Twitter post on Thursday. “Orderly and peaceful transfer of power must continue. The democratic process cannot be allowed to be subverted through unlawful protests," he said.

The breach capped weeks of refusal by Trump to accept the verdict of the 3 November polls and repeated charges of the elections being fraudulent.

Some of the leaders who voiced concern, were those who had stood by Trump during the past four years.

“Disgraceful scenes in US Congress," UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a Twitter post after Trump’s supporters stormed the building.

“The United States stands for democracy around the world and it is now vital that there should be a peaceful and orderly transfer of power," Johnson, a previously unabashed admirer of the outgoing president said.

British interior minister Priti Patel described the violence as "terrible", urging Trump to condemn the scenes in Washington. She said the events were "terrible beyond words", and Trump had not only failed to de-escalate the violence but had fuelled it.

"His comments directly led to the violence, and so far, he has failed to condemn that violence and that is completely wrong," Patel, who is in charge of security and policing in Britain, told BBC TV.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, another ally, who had previously voiced support of Trump, described the scenes as “very distressing".

“We condemn these acts of violence and look forward to a peaceful transfer of Government to the newly elected administration in the great American democratic tradition," he said.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in a radio interview said: “We’re following the situation minute by minute as it unfolds."

Another US ally, Japan, said it was watching “with concern" the situation in the US, chief government spokesman Katsunobu Kato told reporters.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed anger and sadness over the images from Washington. “I regret very much that President Trump has not recognized his defeat since November, and again yesterday," she told reporters in Berlin. “Doubt was sown about the election result and that created the atmosphere for the events of yesterday evening."

Close friend and Trump supporter, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the “rampage" as “a disgraceful act that must be vigorously condemned."

“I have no doubt that American democracy will prevail -- it always has," Netanyahu who has shared a warmer relationship with Trump than with his predecessor Barack Obama due to the former’s antagonism towards Iran, was quoted as saying at a meeting with US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, according to the Israeli prime minister’s office.

The reactions came after President-elect Joe Biden used a televised appearance to urge Americans to “think what the rest of the world is looking at" when they viewed the chaotic scenes from Washington.

News reports Thursday said many senior White House officials had resigned or were to hand in their resignations after the breach of security at US Capitol.

Other leaders on friendly terms with Trump played down the incident. Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro told supporters outside the presidential palace in Brasilia that he stood by Trump. “You know I am connected to Trump, you know my response," he said, adding that there “have been many reports of fraud" in the US election.

Polish President Andrzej Duda, who considers himself a political ally of Trump, also held back from criticising Trump. The events in Washington were an “internal affair" and that power depended on the will of the voters, he said in a Twitter post.

Meanwhile, China with which Trump has had an antagonistic relationship during his term in office of trade, human rights and the covid-19 pandemic, used the opportunity to drive home a narrative of American hypocrisy, with state media terming the situation as “retribution" for Washington’s support for global protest movements.

Trump Supporters Attack US Capitol

WASHINGTON, Jan 7: One person has been shot at the US Capitol as dozens of supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the building and violently clashed with police.

The shooting came as dozens of Trump supporters breached security perimeters and entered the US Capitol as Congress was meeting, expected to vote and affirm Joe Biden’s presidential win. Trump has riled up his supporters by falsely claiming widespread voter fraud to explain his loss.

Trump lost the November election to Democrat Joe Biden. He has refused to concede and has worked over the last two months to convince his supporters that widespread voter fraud prevented his own victory.

In a raucous, out-of-control scene, protesters fought past police and breached the building, shouting and waving Trump and American flags as they marched through the halls. One person was reported shot at the Capitol, according to a person familiar with the situation. That person’s condition was unknown.

The Pentagon says about 1,100 DC National Guard members are being mobilized to help support law enforcement as violent supporters of President Donald Trump breached the US Capitol.

It's insurrection: Biden

DELAWARE, Jan 7: The US President-elect Joe Biden branded violence at the Capitol Hill as "insurrection".

Biden calls on Trump to immediately deliver speech to ‘demand an end to this siege’ at US Capitol.

Soon, thereafter, Trump asked his supporters to go back home.

Democrats poised to take Senate as Congress meets to certify Biden win

WASHINGTON, Jan 6: A Democratic candidate is projected to win one of the two runoff elections in Georgia that hold the key to the Senate, and a fellow party nominee expanded his lead in the second race on Wednesday, setting up a potentially stunning upset defeat for Republicans in their stronghold.

US Congress will hold a joint session later in the day to grant one final certification to President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. Republican lawmakers allied to President Donald Trump have announced plans to object to the certification, which will drag out what has been a largely ceremonial process but will not change the outcome, or reverse Biden’s election.

Democrat Raphael Warnock defeated Kelly Loeffler, the sitting Republican senator, by more than 60,000 votes, while Jon Ossoff, the other Democrat, was ahead of David Perdue, the incumbent senator, by over 17,000, expanding his overnight lead and tightening his grip on the race.

Warnock and Ossoff’s wins — if and when the second happens — will raise the number of Democrats in the Senate from current 48 to 50, splitting the majority in the 100-member chamber with Republicans. But with Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris’s tie-breaking vote as president of the Senate, Democrats will be in control.

Democrat control of the Senate will complete a trifecta, with the House of Representatives and the White House already in the bag, starting January 20.

With both chambers of Congress in Democratic control, Biden will have an easier time pursuing his legislative agenda. And the Senate win, on its own, will allow his nominees to be confirmed easily, especially those that Republicans were threatening to block.

In response to the Georgia election outcome, Biden said: “Georgia’s voters delivered a resounding message yesterday: they want action on the crises we face and they want it right now. On Covid-19, on economic relief, on climate, on racial justice, on voting rights and so much more. They want us to move, but move together.”

“It looks like we will emerge from yesterday’s election with Democratic leadership in the House and the Senate, and of course I’m pleased that we will be able to work with Speaker (Nancy) Pelosi and a Majority Leader (Charles) Schumer,” he said in a statement.

“We were told we couldn’t win this election, but tonight, we proved that with hope, hard work, and the people by our side, anything is possible,” said Warnock in a brief victory speech. “May my story be an inspiration to some young person who is trying to grasp and grab hold of the American dream.”

Warnock will be the first African American senator from Georgia. He is reverend of the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church of Atlanta, which was once led by Martin Luther King Jr, the civil rights leader.

And Ossoff, a journalist and documentary filmmaker, will be the first Jewish senator from Georgia. Shortly before he overtook Perdue, his campaign said in a statement , “When all the votes are counted, we fully expect that Jon Ossoff will have won this election to represent Georgia in the United States Senate. The outstanding vote is squarely in parts of the state where Jon’s performance has been dominant. We look forward to seeing the process through in the coming hours and moving ahead so Jon can start fighting for all Georgians in the US Senate.”

Outgoing President Trump was tracking the runoffs closely, but only to pounce on technical glitches and difficulties to bolster his baseless claims of election fraud as he continued to pursue his doomed efforts to overturn his defeat to Biden. “Looks like they are setting up a big ‘voter dump’ against the Republican candidates. Waiting to see how many votes they need?” he tweeted during a pause in counting.

Trump remained largely focused on the upcoming certification of Biden’s victory by Congress at the joint session later in the day. Lawmakers allied to him intend to object to the certification, but do not have the numbers to block the certification or reject.

The president and his allies have been pressuring vice-president Mike Pence, who will preside over the joint session, to reject the certification, overstepping his constitutional authority. Pence is reported to have conveyed to Trump at a meeting on Tuesday that he does not have the power to reject or return the certificates to the states. Trump issued a statement denying Pence said that to him, but, notably, Pence did not endorse the denial, not directly or through surrogates.

“States want to correct their votes, which they now know were based on irregularities and fraud, plus corrupt process never received legislative approval,” Trump wrote in a tweet Wednesday morning, just hours before the start of the joint session. “All Mike Pence has to do is send them back to the States, AND WE WIN. Do it Mike, this is a time for extreme courage!”

Trump’s own lawyer Jay Sekulow disagrees with the president. “Some have speculated that the vice president could simply say, ‘I’m not going to accept these electors. ‘I don’t think that’s what the Constitution has in mind. If that were the case, any VP could refuse any election,” he said on a radio show, according to CNN.

Trump, who is consumed by an obsession to overturn his election defeat, will plough on nevertheless. He is addressing a rally in support of his baseless claims ahead of the joint session called the “Save America March”. He will reiterate his false claims of election fraud and will pile up more pressure on his vice-president, testing his unwavering loyalty.

India may have to make choices on arms deals: US envoy Kenneth Juster

NEW DELHI, Jan 5: With the possibility of sanctions hanging over India’s $5.4-billion deal with Russia for the S-400 air defence systems, outgoing US envoy Kenneth Juster said on Tuesday that New Delhi may need to make hard decisions regarding the acquisition of military hardware.

The US recently imposed secondary sanctions on Turkey under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) for a $2.5-billion deal with Russia for S-400 systems, and experts have warned that India could face similar strictures.

Participating in a question and answer session after delivering a farewell address at an event organised by the Observer Research Foundation, Juster said sanctions under CAATSA weren’t aimed against friends of the US. However, he cautioned that India might soon need to make choices between “trade-offs” and acquiring hi-tech US military hardware.

“The CAATSA sanctions were never designed to harm friends and allies. They were aimed at a particular country. And there are many variables involved in it and I think...I would put that issue to the side because I see other issues that potentially affect the future of the defence relationship,” he said.

India has sought to keep its options open on the issue of arms purchases and the country’s leadership has signalled its intent to continue with the acquisition of military hardware from Russia, which accounts for more than 60% of the weapons systems of the three services. Russia too has said the S-400 deal is on track despite the threat of US sanctions and the five systems ordered by India will be delivered over a five-year period.

However, Juster said India’s approach had its limitations and “choices that might ultimately need to be made”.

“As systems get more technologically advanced, country A that does not get along with country B will be less willing to sell technology that could potentially be compromised to country B,” he said, in an oblique reference to concerns that the S-400 could gather the electronic signatures of US-origin aircraft operated by India.

“We haven’t hit that point yet but that could come down in the future and that will be an issue that – there are trade-offs. India has to decide how much it matters to get the most sophisticated technology, how much it matters to be as inter-operable as it can be, within its technology and potentially with other friendly forces, and how much it matters to diversify its sources of procurement,” he added.

Only the Indian government can decide on the trade-offs but this issue could be a constraint to the transfer of advanced technology and the broader defence relationship, he said.

The Indian government’s choices will set the “ceiling” for defence cooperation. “From the US perspective, we’d like to do more, and in a sense, I think you’re pushing on an open door,” Juster said.

Truth matters, says Georgia official resisting Trump pressure

Cuthbert, Jan 4: Georgia’s secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, says he was just following the law when he rejected claims by Donald Trump, his fellow Republican, that the president’s election defeat was the result of widespread fraud.

Trump returned the 65-year-old former businessman to the limelight when he called Raffensperger on Saturday to badger him to “find” enough votes to reverse Democratic President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the state, according to audio of the call published by the Washington Post on Sunday.

As Georgia’s top election official, Raffensperger oversaw multiple recounts of the Nov. 3 ballots, each of which reached the same result - that the southern state had narrowly favored a Democratic presidential candidate for the first time in a generation.

In the face of Trump’s unsubstantiated claims, Raffensperger echoed the findings of his counterparts across the United States that there was no evidence of widespread election fraud.

Interviewed on ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Monday, Raffensperger said the White House had pushed him against his better judgment to take Trump’s call.

“Did you consider it a lawful request when the president asked you to find the votes?” Raffensperger was asked.

“I’m not a lawyer. All I know is that we’re gonna follow the law, follow the process. Truth matters, and we’ve been fighting these rumors for the last two months,” he replied.

Having for weeks pushed back against Trump’s unfounded claims of fraud, he told Trump on the call on Saturday that the vote showed Biden was the rightful winner.

“Well Mr. President, the challenge that you have is the data you have is wrong,” Raffensperger could be heard telling Trump on the recording of Saturday’s call.

The White House declined to comment.

Raffensperger and his colleagues for weeks had warned that Trump’s rhetoric placed them in danger.

“Stop inspiring people to commit potential acts of violence. Someone’s going to get hurt, someone’s going to get shot, someone’s going to get killed,” Gabriel Sterling, the manager of the state’s voting systems, said at an emotional Dec. 1 news conference.

Noting Raffensperger’s wife had been getting sexualized threats, he added, “It has all gone too far. It has to stop.”

It was unclear if the state had taken security measures around Raffensperger after the threats emerged.

After years as a civil engineer and successful businessman, Raffensperger served two years on a city council and four years in Georgia’s House of Representatives before succeeding Kemp in 2018 as the top election official.

Acquaintances of Raffensperger in the state House described him as a “straight shooter” who backed traditional Republican priorities, supporting a bill to cut regulations on small businesses, for example, and voting against a tax on gasoline, according to a profile in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

A lifelong Republican, Raffensperger was an early supporter of Trump in 2016, and the president returned the favor by endorsing him for secretary of state. But whatever goodwill existed between the two men has since disappeared.

Trump’s relentless attacks since the Nov. 3 election included an accusation that Raffensperger hid tens of thousands of illegal votes, ensuring Biden’s victory. Georgia’s Republican incumbent senators - David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler - have called on Raffensperger to resign.

Perdue and Loeffler themselves are locked in tight campaigns ahead of Tuesday run-off elections that will determine which party controls the US Senate.

India’s defence deal with Russia may trigger US sanctions: Congressional report

WASHINGTON, Jan 4: India’s multi-billion dollar deal to purchase the Russian-made S-400 air defence system may trigger US sanctions on New Delhi, a US Congressional report has warned.

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) - an independent and bipartisan research wing of US Congress - in its latest report to Congress, said India is “eager for more technology sharing and co-production initiatives, while the United States urges more reforms in India’s defence offsets policy and higher Foreign Direct Investment caps in its defence sector.”

Prepared for the members of the Congress for them to take informed decisions, the report went on to warn that “India’s multi-billion dollar deal to purchase the Russian-made S-400 air defence system may trigger US sanctions on India under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act.”

The CRS’ reports are neither an official report of the US Congress nor reflect the view of Congressmen. They are prepared by independent experts for the lawmakers to take informed decisions.

In October 2018, India had signed a USD 5 billion deal with Russia to buy five units of the S-400 air defence missile systems, despite a warning from the Trump administration that going ahead with the contract may invite US sanctions.

In 2019, India made the first tranche of payment of around USD 800 million to Russia for the missile systems.

The S-400 is known as Russia’s most advanced long-range surface-to-air missile defence system.

Last month, Russia had said that implementation of its ongoing defence deals with India including the supply of a batch of S-400 missile systems is advancing well notwithstanding the threat of US sanctions.

At a press conference in New Delhi last month, Russian ambassador to India Nikolay Kudashev appeared to criticise the US sanctions on Turkey for procuring the S-400 missile systems under a USD 2.5 billion deal, saying Moscow does not recognise such unilateral actions.

“We do not recognise or welcome unilateral sanctions as a language or tool or instrument of interstate or international relations, other than those applied by the UN Security Council, this is also the case of Turkey,” he said.

“As far as India is concerned, we share the same platform. India’s position is also crystal clear. No sanctions are acknowledged other than those imposed by the UN Security Council. Whatever the future is, we believe that our ties could withstand the coming challenges,” he said.

Kudashev was asked to comment on the US sanctions on Turkey under the provisions of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act.

Anthony Fauci says US Covid-19 vaccine pace picking up after slow start

WASHINGTON, Jan 3: The US government’s top infectious-disease doctor said the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines is picking up speed and could be fully on track within a week or so.

“It’s just trying to get a massive vaccine program started and getting off on the right foot. The important thing is to see what’s happening in the next week, to week and a half,” Anthony Fauci said on ABC’s “This Week.”

On CNN’s “State of the Union,” Surgeon General Jerome Adams said the initial vaccination program had been superimposed upon a surge of coronavirus cases, which has stressed health care resources in many areas, and on the holiday season.

Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that in the past 72 hours, about 1.5 million vaccine doses have been administered, or about 500,000 per day, a substantial pickup in pace.

“We are not where we want to be, no doubt about that, but I think we can get there if we really accelerate,” he said on ABC.

Operation Warp Speed, the federal effort to develop and distribute a vaccine against the coronavirus, has so far failed to meet projections for how quickly people will be inoculated. Two vaccines have been approved for use in the US.

Officials have blamed the inoculation delays on a delicate vaccine with complex storage requirements, uncertainty over the supply of doses and strain on local health agencies already facing historic challenges.

On NBC Fauci noted the “multiple stages” involved, from allocation to staging and distribution, and finally getting shots into people’s arms.

While the goal to have 20 million people vaccinated by the end of 2020 wasn’t achieved, that many doses should at least be shipped by the end of the first week in January, Fauci said.

About 4.28 million doses had been administrated by Jan. 2, according to the Bloomberg News vaccine tracker.

The number of US cases has exceeded 20 million, with more than 1 million in New York state alone. U.S. deaths attributed to the coronavirus passed 350,000 on Saturday.

President Donald Trump on Sunday called cases and deaths in the U.S. “far exaggerated” in a tweet criticizing the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The numbers are real,” Fauci said. “Those are real numbers, real people, and real deaths.” On CNN, Adams said he had “no reason to doubt those numbers.”

New York state on Saturday passed 1 million Covid-19 cases, after a somber year in which more than 30,000 of its residents died from the virus.

More than a third of the state’s total cases were reported in December as cold weather nudged people indoors, holidays increased social gatherings and residents tired of restrictions.

“We need to double down on the things we talk about all the time,” notably wearing masks, social distancing and avoiding “congregate” settings, especially indoors, Fauci said on NBC.

The current jump in cases “was predictable” given travel and socializing over the holidays, he said.

Asked about the newer, more infectious Covid-19 strain that’s reached the US and elsewhere in the world from the UK, Fauci repeated his advice from the start of the pandemic: “The best way to counter this is to do the public health measures that prevent spread.”

GOP torn over Trump’s Electoral College challenge of Biden

WASHINGTON, Jan 2: President Donald Trump’s extraordinary challenge of his election defeat by President-elect Joe Biden is becoming a defining moment for the Republican Party before next week’s joint session of Congress to confirm the Electoral College results.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is urging Republicans not to try to overturn the election, but not everyone is heeding him. Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri vows to join House Republicans in objecting to the state tallies. On the other side of the party’s split, GOP Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska warns such challenges are a “dangerous ploy” threatening the nation’s civic norms.

Caught in the middle is Vice President Mike Pence, who faces growing pressure and a lawsuit from Trump’s allies over his ceremonial role in presiding over the session Wednesday.

The days ahead are expected to do little to change the outcome. Biden is set to be inaugurated January 20 after winning the Electoral College vote 306-232. But the effort to subvert the will of voters is forcing Republicans to make choices that will set the contours of the post-Trump era and an evolving GOP.

“I will not be participating in a project to overturn the election,” Sasse wrote in a lengthy social media post.

Sasse, a potential 2024 presidential contender, said he was “urging my colleagues also to reject this dangerous ploy.”

Trump, the first president to lose a re-election bid in almost 30 years, has attributed his defeat to widespread voter fraud, despite the consensus of non partisan election officials that there wasn’t any. Of the roughly 50 lawsuits the president and his allies have filed challenging election results, nearly all have been dismissed or dropped. He’s also lost twice at the US Supreme Court.

Still, the president has pushed Republican senators to pursue his unfounded charges even though the Electoral College has already cemented Biden’s victory and all that’s left is Congress’ formal recognition of the count before the new president is sworn in.

“We are letting people vote their conscience,” Sen. John Thune, the second-ranking Republican, told reporters at the Capitol.

Thune’s remarks as the GOP whip in charge of rounding up votes show that Republican leadership is not putting its muscle behind Trump’s demands, but allowing senators to choose their course. He noted the gravity of questioning the election outcome.

“This is an issue that’s incredibly consequential, incredibly rare historically and very precedent-setting,” he said. “This is a big vote. They are thinking about it.”

Pence will be carefully watched as he presides over what is typically a routine vote count in Congress but is now heading toward a prolonged showdown that could extend into Wednesday night, depending on how many challenges Hawley and others mount.

The vice president is being sued by a group of Republicans who want Pence to have the power to overturn the election results by doing away with an 1887 law that spells out how Congress handles the vote count.

Trump’s own Justice Department may have complicated what is already a highly improbable effort to upend the ritualistic count January 6. It asked a federal judge to dismiss the last-gasp lawsuit from Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, and a group of Republican electors from Arizona who are seeking to force Pence to step outside mere ceremony and shape the outcome of the vote.

In a court filing in Texas, the department said they have “have sued the wrong defendant” and Pence should not be the target of the legal action.

“A suit to establish that the Vice President has discretion over the count, filed against the Vice President, is a walking legal contradiction,” the department argues.

A judge in Texas dismissed the Gohmert lawsuit Friday night. US District Judge Jeremy Kernodle, a Trump appointee, wrote that the plaintiffs “allege an injury that is not fairly traceable” to Pence, “and is unlikely to be redressed by the requested relief.”

To ward off a dramatic unraveling, McConnell convened a conference call with Republican senators Thursday specifically to address the coming joint session and logistics of tallying the vote, according to several Republicans granted anonymity to discuss the private call.

The Republican leader pointedly called on Hawley to answer questions about his challenge to Biden’s victory, according to two of the Republicans.

But there was no response because Hawley was a no-show, the Republicans said.

His office did not respond to a request for comment.

Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., who has acknowledged Biden’s victory and defended his state’s elections systems as valid and accurate, spoke up on the call, objecting to those challenging Pennsylvania’s results and making clear he disagrees with Hawley’s plan to contest the result, his office said in a statement.

McConnell had previously warned GOP senators not to participate in raising objections, saying it would be a terrible vote for colleagues. In essence, lawmakers would be forced to choose between the will of the outgoing president and that of the voters.

Several Republicans have indicated they are under pressure from constituents back home to show they are fighting for Trump in his baseless campaign to stay in office.

Hawley became the first GOP senator this week to announce he will raise objections when Congress meets to affirm Biden’s victory in the election, forcing House and Senate votes that are likely to delay — but in no way alter — the final certification of Biden’s win.

Other Republican senators are expected to join Hawley, wary of ceding the spotlight to him as they, too, try to emerge as leaders in a post-Trump era.

A number of Republicans in the Democratic-majority House have already said they will object on Trump’s behalf. They only needed a single senator to go along with them to force votes in both chambers.

When Biden was vice president, he, too, presided over the session as the Electoral College presented the 2016 vote tally to Congress to confirm Trump the winner. The session was brief, despite objections from some Democrats.

Jen Psaki, speaking for the Biden transition team, dismissed Hawley’s move as “antics” that will have no bearing on Biden being sworn in on January 20.

NYSE to delist 3 Chinese telecom companies to comply with US executive order

NEW YORK, Jan 1: Amid growing concerns of security, the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) said on Friday that it will delist three Chinese companies to comply with a US executive order that imposed restrictions on companies that were identified as affiliated with the Chinese military, reported South China Morning Post (SCMP).

The three companies -- China Mobile, China Telecom and China Unicom Hong Kong -- will be delisted between January 7 and January 11 and proceedings to delist them have started, according to a statement by the NYSE.

These companies having separate listings in Hong Kong generate all the revenue for China without any meaningful presence in the US. Thus using the US soil to generate investments in China - an abusive business practice. These companies are involved in civilian and military production with money from US investors.

Earlier, US President Donald Trump on November 12 had signed an executive order that prohibits Americans from investing in 31 firms.

The order prohibited US investors from buying and selling shares in a list of Chinese companies designated by the Pentagon as having military ties.

“The Chinese Communist Party’s threat to American national security extends into our financial markets and impacts American investors,” the State Department said in a factual report.

“Many major stock and bond indices developed by index providers like MSCI and FTSE include malign People’s Republic of China (PRC) companies, listed on the Department of Commerce Entity List and/or the Department of Defense List of Communist Chinese military companies,” it added.

The executive order has resulted in a series of companies being removed from indexes compiled by MSCI, S&P Dow Jones Global Indices and FTSE Russell, reported SCMP.

Following the steps of the US and Japan, the Taiwanese Economic Affairs Ministry on Wednesday too tightened control over Chinese investments due to national security concerns.

Based on new regulations that came into effect from Wednesday, Chinese military-owned companies and Chinese Communist Party-owned companies were banned from investing in Taiwan.

Trump extends ban on H1-B visas by three months

WASHINGTON, Jan 1: US President Donald Trump has extended the freeze on the most sought-after H-1B visas by Indian IT professionals, along with other types of foreign work visas and green cards through March 31 to protect American workers, saying that the reasons for which he had imposed such restrictions amidst the pandemic have not changed.

The freeze on various categories of work visas was ordered by Trump through two proclamations on April 22 and June 22 last year.

Hours before the freeze was set to expire on December 31, Trump issued another proclamation on Thursday to extend it until March 31, ensuring that his sweeping limits on legal immigration will remain in place when President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in on January 20.

He said that the reasons for which he had issued such a restriction have not changed.

The continuation of the restrictions, which comes with just 20 days left in the Republican President’s term, is the latest effort to bar the entry of immigrants to the US.

Restricting immigration has been a focus of the Trump administration since its first days when it issued the travel ban on seven Muslim-majority countries, and it has continued into Trump’s final year in office as the White House uses the coronavirus pandemic as cover.

Biden, a Democrat, has promised to lift the suspension on H-1B visas, saying Trump’s immigration policies are cruel.

US media commented that Trump’s decision was yet another example of how the his administration is trying to box Biden in on challenging policy matters.

The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise. The technology companies depend on it to hire tens of thousands of employees each year from countries like India and China.

They would now have to wait at least till the end of March before approaching the US diplomatic missions to get stamping. It would also impact a large number of Indian IT professionals who are seeking renewal of their H-1B visas.

President Trump said that the effects of COVID-19 on the US labour market and the health of American communities are a matter of ongoing national concern, and the considerations present in the two previous proclamations have not been eliminated.

“The 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to significantly disrupt Americans’ livelihoods. While the November overall unemployment rate in the United States of 6.7 per cent reflects a marked decline from its April high, there were still 9,834,000 fewer seasonally adjusted nonfarm jobs in November than in February of 2020,” Trump said in his proclamation.

The current number of new daily cases worldwide reported by the World Health Organization (WHO), for example, is higher than the comparable number present during June, and while therapeutics and vaccines are recently available for an increasing number of Americans, their effect on the labour market and community health has not yet been fully realised, he said.

“Moreover, actions such as States’ continued imposition of restrictions on businesses still affect the number of workers that can be hired as compared with February of 2020,” Trump said, adding that his latest proclamation may be extended if necessary.

 

 

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