Archive for Grace Panetta

Biden tells Americans not to let their guards down as new COVID-19 variants spread

Joe Biden
President Joe Biden speaks about US supply chains on February 24.
  • President Joe Biden warned against COVID-19 complacency in the face of new variants. 
  • Biden said that getting back to normal "depends on all of us."
  • COVID-19 cases are on the decline, and vaccinations are ramping up in a race against the variants.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

President Joe Biden warned Americans against getting complacent about COVID-19 as the threat of new variants complicated the rush to end the pandemic through vaccinations.

After a devastating winter surge of coronavirus infections, the rates of new infections, hospitalizations, and deaths are now on the decline. New cases have decreased by 35%, hospitalizations are down by 30%, and deaths are down by 16% over the past 14 days, according to The New York Times.

The decrease in infections is likely because of a number of factors, including Americans being more vigilant about COVID-19 precautions, some partial immunity in communities where a substantial proportion of people have been infected, a ramp-up of vaccinations, and some seasonality-related factors, The Atlantic recently reported.

But at an event to mark 50 million vaccinations during his term, Biden said that even with the weather getting warmer, it was not the time for Americans to let their guard down.

"In five weeks, America's administered the most shots of any country in the world, with among the highest percentage fully vaccinated," Biden said. "It's also true that while COVID-19 vaccinations are up, COVID cases and hospitalizations are coming down. But I need to be honest with you: Cases and hospitalizations are going up as new variants emerge."

He added: "I want to make something really very clear: This is not a time to relax. We must keep washing our hands, stay socially distanced, and for God's sake, for God's sake, wear a mask ... the worst thing we could do now is let our guard down."

The US is in a race to vaccinate its population as the rise of more contagious and potentially more deadly variants threaten to roll back much of the progress the country has made so far. 

"The question I'm asked most often is, 'When will things get back to normal?" Biden said. "My answer is always honest and straightforward: I can't give you a date. I can only promise that we'll work as hard we can to make that day come as soon as possible. ... This is not a victory lap. Everything is not fixed. We have a long way to go. And that day, when everything is back to normal, depends on all of us."

There are two COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in the US from Pfizer and BioNTech and Moderna, with over 68 million vaccine shots administered and 6.6% of the population fully vaccinated as of Thursday.

The pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson released promising data with high levels of efficacy against illness and death for its single-shot vaccine candidate, which is widely expected to receive emergency-use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration.

In his remarks, Biden predicted the supply of vaccines would surpass demand in "60 to 90" days and that rates of vaccine hesitancy, particularly in underserved and hard-to-reach communities, would go down as vaccine rates rose.

"I think when more people see other people getting the shots, it's going to build confidence," Biden said.

Cases of the B.1.1.7 variant, which was first identified in the UK, are on the rise in the US and have been detected in 42 states, according to The Times.

Scientists are studying new variants that have emerged in California and New York City and could be more contagious, though research on those variants has not yet been published or peer-reviewed.

While some vaccines may have lower efficacy against certain variants, particularly the B.1.351 variant first identified in South Africa, they are still highly effective in preventing severe illness, hospitalization, and death on the whole.

Pfizer, which developed one of the two vaccines approved for use in the US, has a third shot in development to protect against variants, and Moderna, which developed its vaccine in coordination with the National Institutes of Health, is also starting trials for a booster.

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Mitt Romney criticizes Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus plan as a ‘clunker’ with a ‘troublesome’ amount of aid to states

Mitt Romney
Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, pauses to answer questions from reporters as senators arrive to vote on President Joe Biden's nominee for United Nation's ambassador, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021.
  • Sen. Mitt Romney criticized Biden's $1.9 trillion stimulus plan at a New York Times DealBook event.
  • Romney said the bill designates too much aid to states with budget surpluses. 
  • The senator also criticized the bill as a "clunker" in a Wall Street Journal op-ed. 
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah sharply criticized President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion economic relief as excessive, wasteful, and lacking in bipartisanship during a New York Times DealBook Policy Project conference on Tuesday evening. 

"Not a lot is happening behind the scenes that involves Republicans," Romney told The Times' Andrew Ross Sorkin. "I think the Democratic leadership has determined that they want to push through the plan without any changes to it whatsoever, and without any input from Republicans and because it'll be done through budget reconciliation, they don't need any of our votes."

Through budget reconciliation, the Senate can pass budget-related legislation with just a simple majority of 51 votes instead of the usual 60-vote majority required in the Senate to get past the filibuster. 

"I find it a very troublesome bill, not so much because of the price tag, which is pretty substantial, but because there's a lot of stuff in there that's just simply wasteful. I wish we could use the money in there that we're going to go out and borrow from China to actually do things that'll make a difference," Romney said. 

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed also published Tuesday, Romney called the bill "a clunker" that, in his view, is "filled with bad policies and sloppy math."

In particular, Romney said much of the $350 billion in aid allocated in the bill to states currently experiencing budget surpluses could be put to better use. 

"Most of our states didn't have a bad couple of years. Most of our states are doing very well. Twenty-one states actually had their revenues go up during COVID," Romney said, adding, "California has record surplus, for instance, but it's slated to get $27 billion in borrowed money from the federal government." 

Romney said he "brought in a big map of the United States" to a meeting with Biden that "had a color code for the economic conditions of each state" to try to convey his concerns to the White House. 

"He didn't have a response to that," Romney said. "He found my chart, I hope, interesting, and he and the vice president looked at it. But I pointed out that we're sending to a bunch of states that don't need it." 

The Senate is currently divided between 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans, with Vice President Kamala Harris serving as the tie-breaking vote. 

Romney cautioned that reconciliation is a double-edged sword for the Democrats. 

"What goes around comes around. We'll be in the majority someday, and we'll probably carry out the same kind of actions that they are, which is unfortunate," Romney said. 

The Utah Senator also opposes Democrats' efforts to raise the federal minimum wage, which is currently $7.25 an hour, to $15 an hour through the stimulus package. Romney argues the jump from $7.25 to $15 will be too costly for small businesses.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office found an increase to $15 an hour would cost 1.4 million jobs but would help 900,000 Americans get out of poverty. 

It's ultimately up to Senate parliamentarian Elizabeth McDonough to determine what can be included in a reconciliation package under the parameters of the Byrd rule, which states that matters "extraneous" to the budget process cannot be passed through reconciliation. 

She's expected to issue her ruling on the matter on Wednesday or Thursday, but even if she gives the green light for the $15 minimum wage increase to be in the bill, its inclusion could cost key votes Democrats can't afford to lose. 

Two key moderate Senate Democrats, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, have both said they oppose raising the minimum rage through the reconciliation process, with Biden telling a group of governors in a recent call not to count on a wage increase to $15 an hour being included in the package. 

Romney and Republican Sen. Tom Cotton have introduced their own bill to raise the federal minimum wage to $10 an hour by 2025 while requiring all employers to use E-Verify to prevent the hiring of undocumented immigrants and impose harsher penalties on employers who do so.

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Former Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund reveals he never saw an FBI warning about the deadly January 6 attack

Steven Sund
Former U.S. Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund testifies before a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs & Senate Rules and Administration joint hearing on Capitol Hill, Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021, to examine the January 6th attack on the Capitol
  • A former Capitol Police leader said he didn't see a January 5 FBI warning about violence at the Capitol.
  • "I actually just in the last 24 hours was informed" that the Capitol police got the report, Sund testified. 
  • Sund emphasized that the intelligence came in the form of unverified "raw data" from social media.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Former Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund testified that neither he nor any law enforcement leaders received a January 5 warning from the FBI detailing possible violence at the Capitol.

The Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs and Senate Rules Committees are holding a crucial joint public hearing on the January 6 capitol riots with some of the key figures involved. 

In addition to Sund, acting Metropolitan Police Department Chief Robert Contee, former Senate Sergeant at Arms Michael Stenger, and former House Sergeant at Arms Paul Irving all testified publicly for the first time on the day's deadly events.

In a question to Sund, Sen. Amy Klobuchar noted that the Norfolk branch of the FBI had issued a threat report on Jan 5. "that detailed specific calls for violence online in connection with January 6, including that protesters 'be ready to fight' and 'go there ready for war.'" 

"When a critical intelligence report is received by the Capitol police from an intelligence community source like the FBI, who usually would see it? Did you see it?" Klobuchar asked. 

"I actually just in the last 24 hours was informed by the department that they actually had received that report, it was received by one of our sworn members assigned to the Joint Terrorism Task Force, which is a task force with the FBI. They received it on the evening of the 5th, reviewed it, and forwarded it to an official at the intelligence division over at US Capitol Police headquarters."

"And so you hadn't seen it yourself?", Klobuchar asked.

"No ma'am, it did not go any further than that," Sund answered, adding that he doesn't believe it went any further at the intelligence division at Capitol police. 

Sen. Gary Peters, the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, said he was "struck" that the leadership of the Capitol police did not receive the FBI report, asking Sund, "How can that happen? How did you not get that vital intelligence on the eve of a major event?"

"I know that's something that's going to be looked at, and I think that information would have been helpful to be aware of," Sund said.

"Looking at the information for the first time yesterday, it is strictly raw data, it's raw intelligence information that has come in, seen on a social media post," Sund told Peters. "Lots of people post things on social media that need to be corroborated and confirmed, so again, it's coming in as raw data, so keep that in mind, but I agree that's something we need to look at." 

Both Stenger and Irving also told Klobuchar that they did not receive the FBI warning. 

Sen. Jacky Rosen of Nevada also pressed Contee on the FBI information shared with the MPD and why it didn't get up the chain of command. 

"What the FBI sent on January 5 was in the form of an email," Contee said. "I would certainly think that something as violent as an insurrection on the Capitol would warrant a phone call or something. But as Chief Sund mentioned earlier, the information that was sent was uncorroborated, it was raw information that we had and we received through the same [Joint Task Force]. That information was not fully vetted and not been sent up the chains of the Metropolitan Police Department." 

Expanded Coverage Module: capitol-siege-module
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Trump directed an RNC member to tell GOP Rep. Adam Kinzinger a ‘vulgar message about what he should do with himself’ in 2016, report says

Adam Kinzinger
In this March 6, 2019 file photo, Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., speaks to the media at the White House in Washington.
  • Former President Trump and Rep. Adam Kinzinger clashed as early as 2016, The New York Times reports.
  • In 2016, Trump asked an RNC member to "deliver a vulgar message about what he should do with himself."
  • When he heard the message, Kinzinger reportedly "laughed" and "invited Trump to do the same."
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Republican congressman Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, one of the most vocally critical GOP critics of former President Donald Trump, clashed with the former president as far back as the 2016 election, The New York Times reports.

The Times said that prior to the 2016 presidential election, Trump queried Illinois Republican National Committee Richard Porter about Kinzinger, who had and whether he had an opponent. 

After Porter told Trump that Kinzinger did not have an opponent that year, Trump "poked his finger in his chest and told him to deliver to Mr. Kinzinger a vulgar message about what he should do with himself."

The Times reported that when Porter told Kinzinger of his conversation around Election Day 2016, Kinzinger "laughed and invited Mr. Trump to do the same."

Read more: GOP Rep. Adam Kinzinger on recognizing the QAnon threat and not fearing a GOP primary challenger for voting to impeach Trump

Kinzinger was one of the few sitting Republican politicians who did not support Trump's bid for the presidency in 2016 and continued to criticize and speak out against the former president throughout his four years in office, and now in his post-presidency. 

"I don't see how I get to Donald Trump any more," Kinzinger told CNN in an August 2016 interview, the Guardian reported at the time. "Donald Trump for me is beginning to cross a lot of red lines of the unforgivable in politics."

Kinzinger was moved to publicly denounce Trump after the ex-president's insults and attacks on the Khans, a Gold Star family who spoke at the 2016 Democratic National Convention in support of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, telling CNN in 2016, "I won't be silent. He can tweet all he wants. I have to do this for my country and for my party."

Kinzinger, who represents the safely conservative 16th district in Illinois, was one of just 10 House Republicans to vote to impeach Trump on a charge of inciting the January 6 insurrection and one of 11 to vote to strip his GOP colleague Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia of her committee assignments on February 4. 

Trump was acquitted by the Senate in a trial that ended on February 13, with seven GOP Senators joining all 50 Senate Democrats in voting to convict. The vote, 57-43, fell short of the two-thirds majority that would have been required to convict Trump.

Kinzinger was also the first House Republican to call for Trump to be removed from office either by the 25th Amendment or the impeachment process the day after the January 6 insurrection. 

Kinzinger recently told Insider's Anthony Fisher that while he realizes his actions have put him at risk for a primary challenge when he's up for reelection in 2022, he's committed to leading the GOP in a new direction. 

"So we have to fight like hell to restore the soul of [the Republican Party] and I'm willing to go down doing that because I think when history looks back at this moment, it's not going to be the people that voted to not certify the election that'll be written about in history books," he said.

He has also started a new political action committee, Country First, that aims to support fellow anti-Trump Republicans like himself who want to take the party in a new direction. 

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GOP Rep. Adam Kinzinger’s relatives called him a ‘disappointment to us and to God’ in a scathing letter over his criticism of Trump

Adam Kinzinger 1
In this image from video, Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., speaks as the House debates the objection to confirm the Electoral College vote from Pennsylvania, at the U.S. Capitol early Thursday, Jan. 7, 2021.

Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger's relatives excoriated him as "a disappointment to us and God" and "an embarrassment" to the family in a scathing two-page letter hammering the congressman over his criticism of former President Donald Trump.

"Oh my, what a disappointment you are to us and to God!" the letter, which Kinzinger first discussed in an interview with Insider's Anthony Fisher and was shared in full with The New York Times, began. "We were once proud of your accomplishments! Instead, you go against your Christian principles and join 'the Devil's army' (Democrats and the news media)." 

Kinzinger, who has represented Illinois' solidly Republican 16th congressional district since 2013, has made waves as one of the most vocal and forceful critics of Trump beginning during Trump's presidential campaign. 

Read more: GOP Rep. Adam Kinzinger on recognizing the QAnon threat and not fearing a GOP primary challenger for voting to impeach Trump

Kinzinger was one of just 10 House Republicans to vote to impeach Trump on a charge of inciting the January 6 insurrection, and one of 11 to vote to strip far-right Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of her committee assignments in a  February 4 vote.

After stating they believe Trump will be forgiven the God, the letter from Kinzinger's relatives said: "It is most embarrassing to us that we are related to you. You have embarrassed the Kinzinger family name."

Karen Otto, Kinzinger's cousin who spearheaded the letter signed by 11 other family members, told The Times that she spent $7 to send the letter via certified mail to make sure that he saw it, adding that she wants to see Kinzinger "shunned." 

They sent Kinzinger the letter after he called for Trump to be removed from office via the 25th Amendment over the Capitol insurrection. 

 

Kinzinger, for his part, believes his family members have been subject to "brainwashing" by their churches.

"I hold nothing against them,'' he told The Times, "but I have zero desire or feel the need to reach out and repair that. That is 100 percent on them to reach out and repair, and quite honestly, I don't care if they do or not."

With Trump out of office, Kinzinger told both Insider and The Times that his goal is to heal the Republican Party, including through a new PAC supporting anti-Trump Republicans. 

"The party's sick right now," Kinzinger told The Times, saying, that he plans to "fight like hell to save it first" before he would consider disaffiliating himself from the GOP.

But as The Times noted, Kinzinger could see himself drawn out of his district in upcoming post-2020 redistricting by Illinois' Democratic-controlled state government. Illinois is one of several Midwestern states expected to lose a congressional district following the 2020 census.

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6 of the 7 GOP Senators who voted to convict Trump are facing blowback and formal censures back home

senator susan collins
Senator Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine.
  • Almost all of the GOP Senators who voted to convict Trump are receiving blowback back home.
  • Several are facing formal censures from local or statewide Republican parties in their states.
  • Only one, Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, is up for reelection next year in 2022. 
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Nearly all of the seven Republican Senators who voted to convict Trump in his second impeachment trial, which concluded February 13, are now facing significant blowback and potential censure votes in their home states.

The senators who voted to find Trump guilty on a charge of inciting the January 6 insurrection on the US Capitol are Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina, Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska, and Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania. 

Burr and Toomey are both retiring their seats when their terms are up in 2022, but their state Republican parties still issued strong statements condemning their votes. 

Read more: Trump just beat his 2nd impeachment conviction, but a tsunami of legal peril awaits

Leaders of at least five county-level Republican parties have moved to censure Toomey already, KDKA News reported, and the North Carolina Republican Party's central committee held an emergency meeting on Monday night where it voted unanimously to censure Burr. 

"It is truly a sad day for North Carolina Republicans," Burr responded in a statement. "My party's leadership has chosen loyalty to one man over the core principles of the Republican Party and the founders of our great nation."

Censures are formal votes of disapproval or disavowal of a lawmaker's decisions or actions, but often only carry symbolic consequences and not material punishment. 

Perhaps the most surprising vote to convict came from Cassidy, who unlike some of the other Senators who moved to find Trump guilty, had not been a vocal Trump critic prior to his conviction vote. The Louisiana Republican Party's Executive Committee censured Cassidy in a unanimous vote on Saturday evening, just hours after the impeachment vote.

"Our Constitution and our country is more important than any one person. I voted to convict President Trump because he is guilty," Cassidy, who just won reelection for a six-year term in 2020, said in a short statement explaining his vote on Saturday night.

In Utah, a number of Republicans are circulating a petition to censure Romney, who is up for reelection next in 2024, the Salt Lake Tribune reported. The petition asserts that Romney "appears to be an agent for the Establishment Deep State" and "misrepresented himself as a Republican" during his 2018 campaign. 

The state Republican Party, however, is not backing any censure effort, and issued a statement that did not condemn either Romney or Sen. Mike Lee, who voted to acquit Trump. Their statement instead framed the healthy disagreement within their party as a positive thing.

"The differences between our own Utah Republicans showcase a diversity of thought, in contrast to the danger of a party fixated on 'unanimity of thought,'" the statement read. "There is power in our differences as a political party, and we look forward to each senator explaining their votes to the people of Utah."

In Maine, the chair of state's Republican party told members in an email "to be prepared for an emergency state committee meeting in the near future" over Collins' conviction vote, the Bangor Daily News reported.

Collins, who has long positioned herself as an independent-leaning Republican voice, handily won reelection to a six-year term in 2020. She was the only senator in either the 2016 or 2020 cycles to win in a state that voted for a presidential candidate of the opposite party. 

And several Nebraska Republican activists were already pushing to censure Sasse, one of the bluntest and most vocal GOP critics of Trump's role in the January 6 riots, prior to his vote to convict Trump. Sasse too is not up for reelection until 2026. 

"You are welcome to censure me," Sasse told the Nebraska GOP in a February 5 video statement. "But let's be clear about why this is happening. It's because I still believe, as you used to, that politics isn't about the weird worship of one dude."

Murkowski is the only one of the seven senators up for reelection in 2022. She'll be somewhat insulated from a primary challenge from the right, however, due to Alaska adopting nonpartisan top-four primaries and ranked-choice voting beginning in 2022. 

"This was consequential on many levels, but I cannot allow the significance of my vote, to be devalued by whether or not I feel that this is helpful for my political ambitions," Murkowski told Politico's Burgess Everett after her vote on Saturday.

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GOP senators slam Trump impeachment lawyer Bruce Castor’s ‘disorganized’ opening arguments

Bruce Castor and David Schoen
David Schoen, left, and Bruce Castor Jr., center, lawyers for former President Donald Trump, left, arrives for the second impeachment trial of Trump in the Senate, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2021
  • GOP Senators had middling reviews for former President Donald Trump's impeachment lawyers.
  • At least eight Republican Senators criticized one or both of the lawyers' performances. 
  • "I was perplexed by the first attorney," Sen. Susan Collins said of Bruce Castor.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

A number of Republican Senators had less-than-stellar reviews for former President Donald Trump's defense lawyers Bruce Castor Jr. and David Schoen after the first day of his second impeachment trial in the Senate.

After hearing arguments from the House impeachment managers and Trump's defense on Tuesday, the Senate voted 56-44 to agree that Trump's second impeachment trial was constitutional, allowing the trial to proceed forward.

Six Republicans joined all 50 Senate Democrats in voting that an impeachment trial of a former president is constitutional. 

Read more: How Trump's Senate trial could end with a vote to ban him from ever holding federal office again and kill any chances of a 2024 run

But many Republican Senators, along with scores with pundits and social media commentators, had some harsh criticism for Castor's almost hour-long meandering initial presentation on the constitutionality of Trump's impeachment. 

Castor's speech jumped around from reminiscing about his parents playing Everett Dirksen's speeches on vinyl when he was a child to extolling the virtues of the US Senate, giving shoutouts to Sens. Pat Toomey and Ben Sasse, and making a number of long-winded historical comparisons and analogies. 

Castor, for his part, told USA Today's Christal Hayes that he "thought we a had good day." 

Here's how some GOP Senators reacted to Castor's performance, according to the Capitol Hill press pool: 

Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana 

"I always said, I would be an impartial juror," Cassidy told reporters. "Anyone that listened to those arguments would recognize that the house managers are, focused, organized, they relied both upon precedent, the constitution, and legal scholars. They made a compelling argument."

Cassidy was the only Republican Senator who switched his vote to side with Democrats in agreeing that the impeachment of a former president is constitutional after previously voting the opposite way on a similar resolution brought by Sen. Rand Paul. 

"President Trump's team was disorganized, they did everything they could but to talk about the question at hand. And when they talked about it, they kind of glided over it, almost as if they were embarrassed of their arguments," Cassidy continued. "Now if I'm an impartial juror, and one side is doing a great job, and the other side is doing a terrible job, on the issue at hand, as an impartial juror, I'm going to vote for the side that did the good job."

Lisa Murkowski
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 23: U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) asks a question at a hearing of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on September 23, 2020 in Washington, DC. The committee is examining the federal response to the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Alex Edelman-Pool/Getty Images)

Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska 

"I was really stunned at the first attorney who presented for former President Trump," Murkowski told PBS NewsHour correspondent Lisa Desjardins. "I couldn't figure out where he was going, spent 45 minutes going somewhere, but I don't think he helped with us better understanding where he was coming from on the constitutionality of this. And I felt that Mr. Schoen did a better job, but I think they sure had a missed opportunity with their first attorney there."

Sen. Susan Collins of Maine 

"I thought the second lawyer was, made the arguments very well. I was perplexed by the first attorney, who did not seem to make any arguments at all, which was an unusual approach to take," Collins told CNN's Ted Barrett, adding that Castor making references to Toomey and Sasse was "inappropriate."

Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania 

"I don't think it was - well, I think they had a weaker case to start with, and I don't think it was very persuasive," Toomey told The New York Times' Emily Cochrane, declining to elaborate further. 

lindsey graham
U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) takes his mask off as he arrives at a news conference at the U.S. Capitol on January 7, 2021 in Washington, DC.

Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina

"I thought I knew where he was going, and I really didn't know where it was going," Graham told reporters of Castor's presentation. 

Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas

When asked by The Washington Post's Kauron Demirjian what he thought of Castor, Cruz paused for about six seconds before saying, "I don't think the lawyers did the most effective job."

ted cruz senate
Sen. Ted Cruz at the joint session to confirm the Electoral College votes on January 6, 2021

Sen. John Cornyn of Texas 

"I thought the President's lawyer, the first lawyer just rambled on and on and on and didn't really address the constitutional argument," Cornyn told NBC's Julie Tsirkin. "Finally the second lawyer got around to it. And I thought, did an effective job, but I've seen a lot of lawyers and a lot of arguments and that was it was not one of the finest I've seen."

Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa:

Ernst told Politico's Burgess Everett that Schoen "did a beautiful job laying out the constitutionality" argument, but said that Castor, "spent too much time there visiting" Toomey and Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania. 

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42 percent of Republicans say they have already returned to normal levels of in-person gatherings, according to a new poll

London coronavirus
A digital display at a bus station warns pedestrians of the new strain of coronavirus in central London on Friday.
  • 42% of Republicans say they've resumed normal in-person gatherings in a new Axios/Ipsos poll. 
  • The poll found that Americans largely don't believe that the vaccine is the magic ticket out of the crisis. 
  • COVID-19 cases are drastically falling across the country, but new variants pose threats. 
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Americans are still largely divided along political lines as to when they plan to resume their normal pre-COVID activities, with 42% of Republicans saying they already resumed normal levels of in-person social gatherings in a new Axios/Ipsos poll.

Overall, the poll found little consensus on when Americans as a whole plan to return to regular social activities or whose guidance they plan to follow.

In the survey, 28% of survey respondents saying they've resumed attending in-person social gatherings, 22% saying they will do so when they and their inner circle are vaccinated, 24% stating they will do so when state and local officials say it's safe, and 24% saying they're unsure. 

The poll, conducted February 5 to 8, surveyed a representative sample of 1,030 American adults with a margin of error of ±3.4 percentage points. 

Read more: Retailers are taking extraordinary measures to convince employees to get vaccinated, experts weigh in on whether they'll work

Among Republicans, 19% said they would wait until they and their inner circle were vaccinated, 12% said they would wait for the green light from public health officials, and 26% didn't know. 

Just 10% of Democrats said they had resumed attending normal in-person social gatherings, while 27% said they would wait under they and their inner circle are vaccinated, 34% will do so when state and national health officials say it's safe to do, and 27% didn't know. 

Results were also somewhat divided along educational lines. While a relatively equivalent proportion of those without a college degree and those with a bachelor's degree (27% and 28%, respectively), said they had resumed normal in-person gatherings, a far higher proportion of those without a degree said they were unsure of when to resume gatherings than those with a degree. 

Among respondents over 65, who are among the most vulnerable to COVID-19, only 15% said they had resumed normal in-person gatherings. 

COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths are in significant decline across the country after a devastating surge of cases around the holidays. 

New cases have fallen by 36% in the last 14 days, hospitalizations by 26%, and deaths by 12%, according to The New York Times. The seven-day average of new daily cases has dropped from nearly 254,000 on January 9 to 111,210 on February 8. 

The United States is steadily vaccinating its population with two vaccines given Emergency Use Authorization from the Food & Drug Administration, Pfizer and BioNTech and Moderna's two-shot mRNA vaccines.

As of Monday evening, 10% of Americans had received their first vaccine dose and 3.5% had received both doses, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

While the decline in cases and the rise in vaccinations are encouraging signs for the United States, emerging COVID-19 variants from the United Kingdom, Brazil, and South Africa are on the rise pose new threats to the US getting the pandemic under control. 

Read the original article on Business Insider

42 percent of Republicans say they have already returned to normal levels of in-person gatherings, according to a new poll

London coronavirus
A digital display at a bus station warns pedestrians of the new strain of coronavirus in central London on Friday.
  • 42% of Republicans say they've resumed normal in-person gatherings in a new Axios/Ipsos poll. 
  • The poll found that Americans largely don't believe that the vaccine is the magic ticket out of the crisis. 
  • COVID-19 cases are drastically falling across the country, but new variants pose threats. 
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Americans are still largely divided along political lines as to when they plan to resume their normal pre-COVID activities, with 42% of Republicans saying they already resumed normal levels of in-person social gatherings in a new Axios/Ipsos poll.

Overall, the poll found little consensus on when Americans as a whole plan to return to regular social activities or whose guidance they plan to follow.

In the survey, 28% of survey respondents saying they've resumed attending in-person social gatherings, 22% saying they will do so when they and their inner circle are vaccinated, 24% stating they will do so when state and local officials say it's safe, and 24% saying they're unsure. 

The poll, conducted February 5 to 8, surveyed a representative sample of 1,030 American adults with a margin of error of ±3.4 percentage points. 

Read more: Retailers are taking extraordinary measures to convince employees to get vaccinated, experts weigh in on whether they'll work

Among Republicans, 19% said they would wait until they and their inner circle were vaccinated, 12% said they would wait for the green light from public health officials, and 26% didn't know. 

Just 10% of Democrats said they had resumed attending normal in-person social gatherings, while 27% said they would wait under they and their inner circle are vaccinated, 34% will do so when state and national health officials say it's safe to do, and 27% didn't know. 

Results were also somewhat divided along educational lines. While a relatively equivalent proportion of those without a college degree and those with a bachelor's degree (27% and 28%, respectively), said they had resumed normal in-person gatherings, a far higher proportion of those without a degree said they were unsure of when to resume gatherings than those with a degree. 

Among respondents over 65, who are among the most vulnerable to COVID-19, only 15% said they had resumed normal in-person gatherings. 

COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths are in significant decline across the country after a devastating surge of cases around the holidays. 

New cases have fallen by 36% in the last 14 days, hospitalizations by 26%, and deaths by 12%, according to The New York Times. The seven-day average of new daily cases has dropped from nearly 254,000 on January 9 to 111,210 on February 8. 

The United States is steadily vaccinating its population with two vaccines given Emergency Use Authorization from the Food & Drug Administration, Pfizer and BioNTech and Moderna's two-shot mRNA vaccines.

As of Monday evening, 10% of Americans had received their first vaccine dose and 3.5% had received both doses, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

While the decline in cases and the rise in vaccinations are encouraging signs for the United States, emerging COVID-19 variants from the United Kingdom, Brazil, and South Africa are on the rise pose new threats to the US getting the pandemic under control. 

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Trump’s lawyers reject a request from House impeachment managers for him to testify under oath in his 2nd trial

Trump exit
Outgoing U.S. President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump exit Air Force One at the Palm Beach International Airport on the way to Mar-a-Lago Club on January 20, 2020 in West Palm Beach, Florida. Trump left Washington, DC on the last day of his administration before Joe Biden was sworn-in as the 46th president of the United States.
  • House impeachment managers requested that Trump testify under oath in his impeachment trial.
  • Trump's Senate trial on a charge of inciting an insurrection is set to begin February 8. 
  • Trump's lawyers shot down the request as a "publicity stunt" and said that Trump will not testify.
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Former President Donald Trump's lawyers rejected a request from House impeachment managers for Trump to testify under oath in the trial, which is scheduled to begin on February 8. 

The House voted on January 13 to charge Trump with one count of inciting the deadly January 6 insurrection at the US Capitol in actions that included a speech he gave that morning to a crowd gathered for a "Save America" rally. 

The nine House Democrats serving as impeachment managers prosecuting the case against Trump in the Senate and Trump's defense lawyers filed pre-trial briefs in the case on Tuesday. 

"Two days ago, you filed an Answer in which you denied many factual allegations set forth in the article of impeachment. You have thus attempted to put critical facts at issue notwithstanding the clear and overwhelming evidence of your constitutional offense," lead impeachment manager Rep. Jamie Raskin wrote in a Thursday letter to Trump and his defense attorneys David Schoen and Bruce L. Castor Jr. 

Schoen and Castor shot down the request only a few hours later, slamming it as a "public relations stunt" and a game.

 

Trump adviser and spokesman Jason Miller also told reporters that the president would not testify. 

In their response brief, Trump's defense attorneys argued that holding an impeachment trial for a former president is unconstitutional and that his comments on the morning of January 6 were protected speech under the First Amendment.

"We would propose that you provide your testimony (of course including cross-examination) as early as Monday, February 8, 2021, and not later than Thursday, February 11, 2021. We would be pleased to arrange such testimony at a mutually convenient time and place," Raskin wrote, adding the impeachment managers "reserve any and all rights, including the right to establish at trial that your refusal to testify supports a strong adverse inference regarding your actions (and inaction) on January 6, 2021." 

In their own pre-trial brief, House impeachment managers argued that the insurrection would not have happened without Trump's comments at the rally that morning and refuted the defense's claim that a trial of a former official is unconstitutional. 

"There is no 'January Exception' to impeachment or any other provision of the Constitution," the impeachment managers' brief said. "A president must answer comprehensively for his conduct in office from his first day in office through his last," the impeachment managers wrote.

Expanded Coverage Module: capitol-siege-module
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