10 things you need to know today: December 20, 2022
The House Jan. 6 committee recommends charging Trump with inciting insurrection, the Supreme Court blocks end of pandemic-era border policy, and more
House Jan. 6 committee recommends charging Trump
The House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack voted during its final hearing on Monday to recommend that the Justice Department prosecute former President Donald Trump for several crimes, including inciting insurrection, conspiracy to defraud the United States, and obstruction of Congress. It is the first time Congress has referred a former U.S. president for criminal prosecution. The panel also named five Trump allies — former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows and four of Trump's lawyers, including Rudy Giuliani — as potential co-conspirators, and referred House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and other Trump allies to the House Ethics Committee for refusing to cooperate with the investigation.
Supreme Court blocks lifting of pandemic-era border policy
Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts on Monday temporarily blocked the Biden administration from lifting the pandemic-era Title 42 public health rule limiting the entry of asylum seekers due to the risk of spreading COVID-19. The restrictions at the U.S.-Mexico border had been set to end Wednesday. Roberts ordered them to remain in place while Republican officials, led by the attorneys general of Arizona and Louisiana, fight to preserve the policy. A federal appeals court on Friday had upheld a lower court ruling that Title 42 must end Wednesday. The White House is seeking more than $3 billion from Congress to handle a possible wave of asylum seekers.
At Hanukkah reception, Biden condemns antisemitism
President Biden on Monday denounced the rise in antisemitic attacks and rhetoric in the United States, saying he is committed to "the safety of the Jewish people and the vibrancy of Jewish life." The president made his remarks during a Hanukkah reception at the White House. There is no place in the U.S. for hate or violence, Biden said, adding, "Silence is complicity." As part of this year's Hanukkah celebration, Biden and first lady Jill Biden added the first menorah to the White House collection. The menorah was made by the White House carpentry shop, and it's the first Jewish artifact to enter the White House archives, NBC News reports. In previous years, the White House borrowed menorahs for special events.
EU ministers agree on natural gas price cap
European Union energy ministers on Monday agreed on a cap on natural gas prices after weeks of negotiations. The 27-nation EU agreed to cap the price of month-ahead natural gas futures on the bloc's benchmark gas exchange, the Dutch Title Transfer Facility, if the price exceeds $191 per megawatt hour for three straight working days. The cap, which also applies to three-month and year-ahead gas futures, will stay in place at least 20 working days once imposed. The policy is scheduled to take effect Feb. 15. The cap is one of the steps the EU has taken this year to counter rising prices and squeezed energy supplies since Russia invaded Ukraine in February.
Russia, Belarus reaffirm military ties, worrying Ukraine
Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Belarusian counterpart, Aleksandr Lukashenko, met in Belarus on Monday and vowed to strengthen their military ties despite Western economic pressure. Lukashenko — who depends on aid from Moscow to maintain his 28-year rule — said the West "will not be able to rip apart our relations." The meeting fueled concerns among Ukrainian officials that Belarus could let Russia prepare to launch a new offensive from the country to attack the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, which is just 55 miles from the Belarusian border. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitri Peskov said reports of Belarusian involvement in a new invasion were "totally stupid, groundless fabrications."
Los Angeles jury finds Harvey Weinstein guilty of rape
A Los Angeles jury on Monday found disgraced movie producer Harvey Weinstein, 70, guilty of raping a woman in a Beverly Hills hotel room in 2013. "Harvey Weinstein forever destroyed a part of me that night. I will never get that back," the woman said in a statement. Weinstein is scheduled to be sentenced for the three charges in early 2023. He is already serving a 23-year prison sentence in New York for other rape convictions. He is appealing those cases. The Los Angeles jury acquitted Weinstein or failed to reach a verdict in the alleged rapes or assaults of three other women between 2004 and 2013.
Chinese cities scramble to handle COVID wave after restrictions lifted
Cities across China on Tuesday rushed to build fever-screening clinics and add hospital beds to handle rising coronavirus infections following the government's relaxing of its strict "zero COVID" policy. Lockdowns and testing requirements under that program had dragged down the world's second-largest economy and sparked rare anti-government protests. Beijing reported five more deaths as COVID spread rapidly with the restrictions now eased. Public health experts said China's COVID wave could be big, as people who have resisted vaccines and lack natural immunity face a sudden risk of exposure. U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said potential mutations of the virus in a major outbreak in China could pose "a threat for people everywhere"
Biden administration releases plan to reduce homelessness
President Biden on Monday unveiled a plan to cut U.S. homelessness by 25 percent within two years. Homelessness has reached crisis levels in some areas. Los Angeles has declared a state of emergency, and New York City Mayor Eric Adams last week announced an effort to force treatment on unhoused mentally ill people. Biden's plan, released through the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, says more than 1.2 million people experienced "sheltered homelessness" in 2020, as homelessness has increased following steady declines in the first half of last decade. More than 580,000 people were homeless in January 2022 on the night the Department of Housing and Urban Development conducted its annual "point-in-time count," which some advocates for the homeless say falls short of the true numbers.
Cold blast from Canada to hit Midwest with coldest Christmas in decades
Much of the United States will get its coldest weather of the year this week as a blast of frigid air comes down from Canada, pushing temperatures below freezing as far south as Houston and Orlando. Most of the Lower 48 states will get freezing temperatures, with parts of the Midwest bracing for the coldest Christmas in nearly 40 years. The cold air will set the stage for a major winter storm starting Tuesday, with heavy snow and strong winds. The snow will hit the Rockies first and head into the Midwest, which could face the heaviest snow from Thursday through much of the Christmas weekend. Parts of Montana and the central High Plains will face high winds and sub-zero temperatures.
Dutch leader apologizes for slave trade
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte apologized on Monday for his country's role in the transatlantic slave trade, making the Netherlands one of few European countries to formally acknowledge its slaveholding past. "For centuries under Dutch state authority, human dignity was violated in the most horrific way possible," Rutte said during a speech in The Hague. He added that slavery is a "crime against humanity." Some critics said the speech did not go far enough. "Reparation wasn't even mentioned," said Mitchell Esajas, director of a Dutch organization called The Black Archives. "So, beautiful words, but it's not clear what the next concrete steps will be."