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Pain aboard pretrial Trump train leaves his allies on the defensive

Insurrectionists loyal to then-President Donald Trump breach a

Insurrectionists loyal to then-President Donald Trump breach a police barrier Jan. 6 during the deadly U.S. Capitol siege. Credit: AP / John Minchillo

Open jeerings

With a first-of-a-kind second impeachment trial of ex-President Donald Trump opening in the Senate on Tuesday, elected Republicans appear resolved to acquit him again. Conviction would require a two-thirds majority in a Senate evenly divided between the major parties. But the GOP's post-Trump agenda remains far from settled. So is the future of the defeated president's inner circle.

Over the weekend, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) was censured by her home state's party for breaking ranks and voting last month for Trump's impeachment. On Sunday she replied, as quoted by Newsday's Scott Eidler: "What we already know does constitute the gravest violation of his oath of office by any president in the history of the country." Cheney, who also said Sunday she will not resign, votes loyally with fellow Republicans in Congress on matters of governance.

Details of the deadly Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riot, clearly fueled by Trump's false claims that he won the election, are still under investigation. Federal prosecutors suggest the extremist group Proud Boys, which Trump previously told to "stand back and stand by," played a role in coordinating the disturbances. To those presenting the impeachment case, which charges that the then-president incited the insurrection, the crucial scenario is well established. It could take as little as a week to show.

Trump's frayed political crew doesn't seem to be winning any hearts and minds for his cause. One new poll shows most Americans think Trump should be convicted and disqualified from ever again holding public office.

Roger Stone, convicted in 2019 of obstruction and pardoned by Trump, doesn't seem to have told the whole truth about his own role on Jan. 6. A video has surfaced of Stone with members of the far-right militia group Oath Keepers hours before the violence. Former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn, pardoned after pleading guilty in 2017 to a criminal charge, has returned to the limelight but without moving away from already discredited QAnon fiction about nonexistent plots.

Lou Dobbs, who turned his televised segments into sermons for Trump's election "fraud" canards, had his show canceled by Fox Business Network, so he won't be much help propagating the Trump-acquittal line. Brad Parscale, a former Trump campaign chief, tweeted strange encouragement for his former boss's 2024 run: "I would love to be the only President to be impeached three times. Because history remembers those that didn’t conform. I’m in, are you?"

Rudy Giuliani, the ex-president's lawyer who's now facing multibillion-dollar defamation lawsuits from voting-machine companies, has doubled down on contrived assertions that are far from likely to help Trump or the GOP. "Antifa and BLM attack DC like they helped organize the January 6 attack on Congress," Giuliani tweeted oddly on Sunday. "However, so far their role is being concealed."

Biden's upper hand

The coronavirus relief package, still to be completed in Congress, puts President Joe Biden's bipartisan impulses at odds with his sense of urgency about the pandemic, Washington insiders observe. Republicans who have lost control of the White House, Senate and House of Representatives can complain based on Biden's pledges of "unity." But while in full control, Trump and GOP leaders generally didn't negotiate with Democrats.

Amid an anemic jobs report, Biden said Friday that despite dialogue with Republicans, "I'm going to act fast." As if to shore up that position, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellin predicted that the nation would return to pre-pandemic employment levels by next year if Biden's $1.9 billion COVID-19 relief proposal is enacted, Newsday's Eidler writes.

Senior Democrats on Monday plan to unveil legislation to provide $3,000 per child to tens of millions of families, The Washington Post reports.

Democratic static

Sen. Bernie Sanders, a key progressive in the Democratic caucus, said he opposes moves to lower the income cap for people to get a full $1,400 stimulus payment under the COVID-19 bill. "To say to a worker in Vermont or California or any place else, that if you’re making, you know, $52,000 a year, you are too rich to get this help, the full benefit, I think that that’s absurd," Sanders (I-Vt.) said.

On the conservative side of the Democrats' razor-thin majority sits Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.). He has sternly raised the opposite concern — that checks could go to too many higher-income people who have not lost jobs. Under the current $1.9 trillion relief package, the $1,400 direct checks would go to individuals making up to $75,000 and couples earning up to $150,000.

Biden said he doesn't think a $15-per-hour federal minimum wage backed by Democrats will make it into the relief bill, but Sanders said the procedural fight for that provision continues.

Future of foreign wars

Biden's departures from his predecessor's foreign policies are nowhere near as pronounced as Trump's blustering denunciations of official U.S. positions he inherited in 2017.

The civil war in Yemen that kicked off a severe famine and killed thousands of civilians in recent years took center stage late last week. Biden announced an end to support for the Saudi Arabia-backed military campaign there, raising hopes that conditions will improve. That marks a big change from what many saw as the Trump administration's reflexive coddling of the Saudi monarchy, including his complacency on the killing of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Politically the move is relatively simple for Biden, especially since a majority of both houses in Congress in 2019 called for that disengagement in a resolution vetoed by Trump. But policy toward Afghanistan, China and especially Iran could all prove trickier for Biden as events and talks unfold, according to Dan Janison's column for Newsday.

Biden underscored on Friday that Iran must stop enriching uranium for the U.S. to resume negotiations with the regime.

Don't ask, no intel

Biden said he does not see any point in sharing intelligence information with Trump, as has been done with other former presidents. "What value is giving him an intelligence briefing?" Biden said in a prerecorded interview with Norah O'Donnell that aired Sunday on CBS News. "What impact does he have at all, other than the fact he might slip and say something?"

But there was a slight walkback. On Saturday, the White House issued a statement clarifying that this did not represent a final decision on the issue, which intelligence officials will be relied on to resolve.

Press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden has "deep trust in his own intelligence team to make a determination about how to provide intelligence information if at any point the former President Trump requests a briefing."

More coronavirus news

See a roundup of the latest regional pandemic developments by Newsday's Lisa L. Colangelo. For a full list of Newsday's coronavirus stories, click here.

What else is happening:

  • The nation's trade deficit ended up soaring to its highest level since 2008 under Trump despite all his tariff measures and talk, figures show.
  • Postal Service problems have festered into an issue for Biden and his team to confront.
  • The Biden administration is moving to rejoin the UN Human Rights Council, another reversal of Trump foreign policies.
  • Former Secretary of State George P. Shultz has died. He was 100 years old.
  • Trump's false claim that the election was "stolen" has cost the nation $519 million, according to a Washington Post analysis.
  • Biden's foot fractures have completely healed, his doctor announced.
  • Former GOP Rep. Peter King of Seaford will soon join a new WABC/770 AM radio program, Newsday's Rachelle Blidner reports.
  • Reps. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) and Andrew Clyde (R-Ga.) were fined $5,000 each for bypassing handheld metal detectors, in violation of a new rule, before entering the House chamber on Thursday.

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