Senate to hold hearing into 6 January Capitol attack by Trump supporters – live updates

1 week ago

Sam Levin

With the US having reached the grim total of over 500,000 Covid deaths, Sam Levin in Los Angeles reports for us on issues with the vaccine roll-out:

California, the largest state in the US, has administered more than 7.3m vaccine doses but is lagging behind other states in vaccine administration. Eligibility is due to dramatically expand in March, but with supplies limited and many doses being used for second shots, essential workers could likely be waiting weeks or longer to get appointments.

The lack of access is particularly frustrating for workers who have faced increasing risks over the last month, as California has moved to reopen parts of the economy and remove restrictions. While infection rates are significantly improving after a catastrophic winter surge, an average of more than 6,000 new cases and 320 deaths are still reported each day.

Facing severe economic strain eleven months into the pandemic, low-wage workers across the state say they can’t afford to stay home from dangerous jobs – and can’t afford to lose income if they get infected. They are exhausted with stressful work conditions and customers who refuse to comply with Covid rules, and are struggling to get basic information on when they might get vaccines.

Dominique Smith, a 33-year-old rideshare driver in Silicon Valley, said he regularly checked his Uber app in hope of an update about vaccine eligibility. He fears he could lose his housing if he contracts Covid from a passenger and then has to stay home: “I do not have enough money saved up to weather three weeks of being sick and out of a job.”

Dr Yvonne Maldonado, a professor of global health and infectious diseases at Stanford, said the Trump administration had not made significant investments in infrastructure to administer vaccines, making the initial rollout especially challenging in a state like California, which has 58 counties and two dense metropolitan regions.

The state has broad guidelines to prioritize immunocompromised people and those with occupational risks, “but the problem is that it’s such a high-level framework that how you operationalize it becomes really tricky”, Maldonado said. “These are tough choices … because you’re judging whose life is worth more. You could make an argument for all kinds of groups.”

Read more of Sam Levin’s report here: ‘We’re risking our lives’ – California’s slow vaccine rollout leaves essential workers exposed

The hearing into appointing Merrick Garland as US attorney general will continue today. Alex Rogers and Jeremy Herb for CNN identified six key takeaways from yesterday, of which this is perhaps one of the more significant for a certain former president:

Democrats largely didn’t mention Donald Trump by name when they asked about the investigation into the January 6 riot at the Capitol, but they touched on the question of whether the Justice Department should examine the former president’s role for encouraging the mob, which led to his impeachment. Even Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell, after voting to acquit Trump in the Senate trial, suggested that the criminal justice system is the right venue in which to consider those allegations.

Sen Sheldon Whitehouse, a Rhode Island Democrat, encouraged Garland to look “upstream” and “not rule out investigation of funders, organizers, ringleaders, or aiders and abettors, who were not present in the Capitol on 6 January.”

“We begin with the people on the ground and we work our way up to those who were involved and further involved,” responded Garland. “We will pursue these leads wherever they take us.”

CNN also suggested that Garland’s disquiet over the death penalty, pledge to ‘protect’ the Justice Department from political pressure, and his suggestion that there is no reason special counsel John Durham’s investigation of the FBI’s Russia probe wouldn’t continue were all important moments.

Read more here: CNN – 6 takeaways from Merrick Garland’s confirmation hearing

I mentioned it was a busy day in Congress today, here’s how Chuck Schumer laid out the agenda last night.

Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer)

What we're doing tomorrow:

Moving forward on COVID relief

Voting to Confirm:
—Thomas-Greenfield @ UN
—Vilsack @ USDA

Confirmation hearings on:
—Becerra @ HHS
—Haaland @ Interior
—Adeyemo @ Treasury
—Garland @ Justice

Hearings on:
—Armed Services

February 23, 2021

Mike DeBonis and Karoun Demirjian write for the Washington Post that what it is at stake today in the Senate is who gets to write the narrative of what happened on 6 January. While there has been a push to make the hearing as bipartisan as possible, it is inevitably going to surface divisions. They write:

Sen Amy Klobuchar said in an interview that preparations for the hearing have been strictly bipartisan and that she expected a “constructive tone” to prevail. “This is a moment to get the actual facts about what happened at the Capitol,” she said. “The issues we identify and the answers we get are part of the solution, so this isn’t just about throwing popcorn at a movie screen to try to get sound bites. We actually have to make decisions in the coming months.”

But she acknowledged that other senators may focus on contested aspects of the narrative surrounding the riot. At least one senator who will ask questions Tuesday has shown a willingness to challenge the prevailing evidence showing that the Capitol attack was conducted by Trump supporters.

Sen Ron Johnson has publicly suggested that Nancy Pelosi is to blame for the riot and last week questioned whether the events of 6 January could be fairly considered an “armed insurrection,” despite the fact that several rioters were carrying weapons and a cache of weapons was found near the Capitol grounds.

Today’s hearing is not likely to be the last, either:

Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Gary Peters said in an interview Monday that he expects Tuesday’s hearings to “lead to even more questions” about what contributed to the security failures on 6 January. Both he and Klobuchar said that at least one additional hearing will be called featuring senior officials of the federal agencies who were involved in the preparations and response to the insurrection.

Read more here: Washington Post – At stake in Senate hearing Tuesday: The story of the Capitol riot, and who is responsible

You might think that an impeachment trial was enough of an investigation into the events of 6 January and to put them on the record in Congress, but today there will be more delving into what happened. Here’s a reminder of the video montage that Democrats used when presenting their evidence that Donald Trump was responsible for what unfolded.

Democrats play montage of footage from Capitol siege during Trump impeachment hearing – video

The session today will start at 10am EST (1500 GMT) and we are expecting four witnesses:

Robert J. Contee III, the acting chief of police of the Metropolitan Police Department in DC Steven A. Sund, former chief of the Capitol Police (2019-2021) Michael C. Stenger, former sergeant at arms and doorkeeper of the Senate (2018-2021) Paul D. Irving, former sergeant at arms of the US House of Representatives (2012-2021)

You’ll notice a lot of 2021 dates in that list – Sund, Stenger and Irving all resigned after the Capitol attack. Neither Stenger or Irving have spoken publicly about the 6 January assault before.

Welcome to our live coverage of US politics for Tuesday. Here’s a catch-up on what is happening, and what we might expect to see later today…

The Senate will begin a hearing on the 6 January Capitol attack, with witness testimony from law enforcement officers, three of whom have subsequently resigned over security failings on the day. It’s likely to be contentious – among those on the Senate panel are Republican Ron Johnson, who has said the events did not amount to an armed insurrection, and Sens Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz, both of whom continued to dispute the election result and chose to discount states’ electoral votes after the riot. Yesterday, president Joe Biden held a ceremony at the White House to mourn those lost to Covid as the US reached the grim milestone of over half a million deaths, the first country in the world to do so.
The US recorded 56,044 new cases and 1,413 further deaths yesterday. The total US death toll, according to figures collated by the Johns Hopkins University, stands at 500,071. The supreme court agreed that Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance Jr could obtain years of former president Donald Trump’s federal tax records. The court also said it would not hear an appeal from Pennsylvania Republicans trying to disqualify mailed ballots in the 2020 presidential election. Emma Coronel, the wife of El Chapo, was arrested in Virginia on drug trafficking charges. In Joe Biden’s diary today he will be meeting with Black essential workers at 1.15pm EST (1815 GMT). Biden will then host Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau at 4pm. It is the new president’s first time hosting a foreign leader, and there might be a little bit of frostiness in the air after his Keystone order halted work on the pipeline between the two countries, although you expect Trudeau will find Biden easier to work with than Donald Trump. They are expected to give a joint statement at 5.45pm. Jen Psaki will give the White House press briefing at noon today. It’s a busy day in Congress. Today will see further hearings in the lengthy process of confirming Joe Biden’s cabinet – Xavier Becerra and Deb Haaland will be up today. It is also the concluding day of the Senate hearing into appointing Merrick Garland as US attorney general.

Updated at 6.01am EST

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