January 16, 2020

Chief Justice John Roberts and members of the U.S. Senate have been sworn in for the start of President Trump's impeachment trial.

Roberts on Thursday was escorted to the Senate and sworn in to preside over the trial, and members of the Senate were subsequently sworn in to serve as jurors, CNN reports. The senators took an oath swearing "do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws," an oath that dates back to 1798, The New York Times reports.

This historic swearing-in came after the articles of impeachment charging Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress were delivered to the Senate. Trump is the third president in U.S. history to be impeached. The House of Representatives passed its articles of impeachment following an inquiry that centered on allegations that Trump withheld aid to Ukraine to pressure its president into announcing investigations that might benefit him in the 2020 presidential election.

After these procedural steps, the trial will resume on Tuesday, and ABC News reports the White House is hoping it will last about two weeks. Brendan Morrow

11:09 a.m.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has been re-elected to a second term with 50.64 percent of the vote, results released Tuesday reveal.

It's been five months since Afghans voted in that election, with concerns of fraud and mechanical error forcing recounts. Yet supporters of Ghani's rival Abdullah Abdullah have so far refused to accept the results and have even proposed creating an alternative government, putting a peace deal between the Taliban and the U.S. in question, The Washington Post reports.

Ghani received a majority of the vote, meaning there won't be a runoff in the election. Abdullah meanwhile earned 39.5 percent of the vote, according to Afghanistan’s election commission. Abdullah's backers say that commission was biased in favor of Ghani, and former vice president of Ghani turned top Abdullah supporter Abdul Rashid Dostum said last week that "if they announce a government based on fraud, we will announce a parallel government," per The New York Times.

The September vote was marred by Taliban attacks aimed at destabilizing the election, though President Trump's refusal to hold peace talks scheduled for that time eventually allowed the vote to proceed. U.S.-Taliban negotiations have since continued, and both sides said a few days ago they agreed to a conditional deal. But uncertainty in the government could jeopardize the next step after a U.S.-Taliban agreement, which involved negotiations between Afghanistan's government and Taliban leaders. Kathryn Krawczyk

10:17 a.m.

President Trump may have received the impeachment acquittal he hoped for, but that doesn't mean he's satisfied. Indeed, Politico reports, he now appears to be testing the limits of executive power through methods like firing White House staffers who testified against him during House proceedings or weighing in on active Justice Department cases over Twitter.

Per Politico, he's received little resistance from his attorneys, like White House Counsel Pat Cipollone who led Trump's defense during the Senate trial, or congressional Republicans. That means, in the eyes of some analysts, the presidency may continue to grow more powerful.

"It is beyond anything the presidency has achieved yet and beyond anything Nixon could have imagined," Michael Gerhardt, a professor of jurisprudence at the University of North Carolina School of Law, told Politico, referring to the 36th president of the United States. "There is literally no way to hold the president accountable in Pat Cipollone's worldview."

Cipollone's allies, on the other hand, reportedly believe the arguments Cipollone made during the trial simply sought to maintain and protect Trump's ability to exercise the same amount of executive authority as President Obama did during his tenure in the Oval Office. Read more at Politico. Tim O'Donnell

9:54 a.m.

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is apparently letting the progressives get to him.

The billionaire and 2020 candidate is set to unveil his plan for regulating the financial industry on Tuesday, and as The New York Times reports, it "features ideas that wouldn't be out of place" for 2020 candidates Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). Diverging from his past criticism of Wall Street regulation, Bloomberg will propose tighter oversight rules that touch on hot-button topics such as student loans, per the Times.

In his Tuesday announcement, Bloomberg will propose a financial transactions tax of 0.1 percent, as well as create a Justice Department team devoted to corporate crime, the Times reports. That tax plan is "remarkable similar" to one that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) has co-sponsored, the Times writes. Bloomberg also calls for strengthening the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which Warren established during former President Barack Obama's administration, by "expanding its jurisdiction to include auto lending and credit reporting."

Bloomberg's plan stops far short of Sanders and Warren's pledges to cancel student loan debt, but does suggest putting student loan borrowers "into income-based repayment schemes and capping payments," per the Times. There's no sign of Sanders and Warren's pledges to break up big banks, or Warren's call for totally "transforming the private equity industry."

Read more about the plan at The New York Times. Kathryn Krawczyk

9:52 a.m.

The jury in Harvey Weinstein's rape trial is about to begin deliberating.

After the defense and the prosecution in the disgraced movie mogul's trial delivered their closing arguments at the end of last week, Judge James Burke on Tuesday will give jurors instructions before they start to deliberate, USA Today reports.

The sexual assault and rape charges against Weinstein center around the allegations of two women: Jessica Mann, who alleges Weinstein raped her in 2013, and Mimi Haleyi, who alleges Weinstein forcibly performed oral sex on her in 2006. Four other Weinstein accusers testified during the trial, while additional witnesses were brought in to back up the accusers' accounts. Testimony from Sopranos actress Annabella Sciorra that Weinstein raped her in 1993 or 1994 could support the predatory sexual assault charge.

Weinstein pleaded not guilty, and his defense has argued the encounters with his accusers were consensual. His lawyers have pointed to the fact that Haleyi and Mann maintained relationships with Weinstein after he allegedly assaulted them, and they cited friendly email exchanges with him in court. During her closing argument, lead prosecutor Joan Illuzzi told jurors that Weinstein "made sure he had contact with the people he was worried about as a little check to make sure that one day, they wouldn't walk out from the shadows and call him exactly what he was: an abusive rapist."

Meanwhile, Weinstein attorney Donna Rotunno in her closing argument asked jurors to use their "New York City common sense" and ignore the "gut feeling" they may have had coming into the case to rely only on the evidence presented. CBS analyst Rikki Klieman observed Tuesday the jury "may take a long time because there's a lot of evidence in this case."

Weinstein himself did not testify during the trial. If the jury, which consists of five women and seven men, convicts him of predatory sexual assault, he could receive life in prison. Brendan Morrow

8:05 a.m.

The White House Correspondents' Dinner's break from comedians turned out to be short-lived.

Kenan Thompson will host the 2020 White House Correspondents' Dinner in April, where Hasan Minhaj will perform as the featured entertainer, the White House Correspondents' Association announced Tuesday.

This is a pivot back to the show's regularly-scheduled programming of having a comedian perform at the yearly gathering of journalists. Last year, in a break from this tradition, the featured speaker was instead historian Ron Chernow.

The year before, comedian Michelle Wolf had headlined and sparked some outrage with her roast, as when she joked that then-White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders "burns facts and then she uses that ash to create a perfect smoky eye." The New York Times reports Chernow's appearance in 2019 "was a direct consequence" of Wolf's controversial performance.

But the White House Correspondents' Association is bringing back the comedy this year, with Minhaj returning after performing the year before Wolf. WHCA President Jonathan Karl said on Tuesday per the Times, "I'd argue that humor is more important now than ever."

Still, although it had been a tradition for sitting presidents to attend the White House Correspondents' Dinner, it seems unlikely that Trump will go in April after skipping the event every year of his presidency so far. Last year, Trump briefly teased that he could potentially attend for the first time, only to not do so, calling the event "negative" and "boring." Brendan Morrow

8:03 a.m.

Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, the crown prince of Dubai, doesn't want to brag — or maybe he does — but on Monday he posted a video of Dubai extreme sporting outfit X-Dubai showing off a wingsuit that allowed a man to take off from a pier, fly across a stretch of the Arabian Gulf, then shoot up 600 feet into the air, perform a roll and a loop, and parachute down to Earth. The jetpack outfit, flown by Jetman pilot Vince Reffet, reminded a lot of people of Marvel's Iron Man, minus the parachute landing.

The big breakthrough in this Feb. 14 test flight was taking off from the ground, not leaping from a helicopter or other raised platform, and ditching the parachute landing is next, Reffet said in a statement. "One of the next objectives is to land back on the ground after a flight at altitude, without needing to open a parachute. It's being worked on." The Marvel-like action starts at the 2:30 mark.

The "Mission: Human Flight" project is supported by Expo 2020 Dubai, the first world expo held in the Middle East, Africa, or South Asia. The carbon-fiber wingsuit, designed by Swiss aviation expert Yves Rossy and powered by four small jet engines, can travel at 160 mph and has a range of 34 miles, Esquire reports. It isn't for the fainthearted or the amateur, at least not yet: Reffet took his Iron Man suit on at least 50 preparatory flights, and practiced taking off and landing under controlled conditions more than 100 times. Much, we imagine, like Tony Stark would have done. Peter Weber

7:00 a.m.

More than 2,000 former Justice Department officials, current federal prosecutors, and federal judges are urgently concerned about Attorney General William Barr's evident politicization of the Justice Department. Even "Trump voters" should be afraid of "Bill Barr's America," a "banana republic where all are subject to the whims of a dictatorial president and his henchmen," Donald Ayer, a former colleague of Barr's and deputy attorney general under President George H.W. Bush, wrote in The Atlantic on Monday. He elaborated on CNN Monday evening.

Barr was Ayer's successor as deputy attorney general before starting his first go as attorney general a year later, in 1991. In the 40 years the two men have known each other, Ayer told CNN, Barr has "always had a very strong view that the executive ought to have a great deal of power. I've never known quite how far it would go, and there was never any reason to test it, because when he was attorney general under George H.W. Bush, George H.W. Bush had no interest in being an autocrat. So now we're faced with a situation where Bill Barr has won the job of attorney general under a president who apparently does want to be an autocrat."

In The Atlantic, Ayer writes that "it is not too strong to say that Bill Barr is un-American," and he elaborated on CNN. "The reason that I say that he's un-American is because I think it's fair to say, and I think most people would agree with me, that the central tenet of our legal system and our justice system is that no person is above the law," he wrote. "Bill Barr's vision is quite different. Bill Barr's vision is that there is one man, one person who needs to be above the law, and that is the president. ... He said that before he became attorney general but he's now carried it out in many steps."

Ayer elaborated on the ways he thinks Barr is harming America in his Atlantic article, concluding that to prevent this "banana republic," America needs "a public uprising demanding that Bill Barr resign immediately, or failing that, be impeached." Read more at The Atlantic. Peter Weber

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