News Headlines 2/9/21

TRUMP’S SENATE IMPEACHMENT TRIAL BEGINS TODAY: The second Senate impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump will begin today (February 9th), this time on a single charge of incitement to insurrection over the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol. The House impeached Trump one week after the attack, with 10 Republicans joining the Democrats in voting to do so. Although he was still in office when he was impeached, Trump is now a former president, and his attorneys, as well as many Senate Republicans, have argued he can no longer face an impeachment trial because of it, a claim Democrats have pushed back against. Trump’s attorneys have also suggested he was exercising his First Amendment rights when he encouraged his protesters at a rally before the attack to go the Capitol. Democrats in response have called Trump’s, quote, “incitement of insurrection . . . the most grievous constitutional crime ever committed by a president.”

Witnesses aren’t expected to be called, with the Democratic House managers acting as prosecutors expected to rely on video of the attack and of Trump’s fiery rhetoric refusing to concede the election results. Trump’s attorneys have said they plan to play videos of Democrats making their own fiery speeches. Trump rejected a request to testify. The trial will likely last more than a week and will open today with debate on whether the trial is constitutional, followed by a vote on whether to dismiss the charge against Trump. If that vote fails, as is expected, the House managers will begin their arguments Wednesday.

COVID VACCINATIONS SPEEDING UP; STUDY SUGGESTS U.K. VARIANT COULD BE DOMINANT IN U.S. IN A MONTH: The coronavirus vaccination effort is speeding up, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reporting Monday (February 8th) that there were more than four million vaccinations over the weekend, a significantly faster pace than in previous days. Nearly 10 percent of Americans have now gotten at least one dose, but only under three percent have been fully vaccinated with two doses. The number of new confirmed cases of Covid-19 have fallen to their lowest point since early November, and the number of Americans hospitalized with the virus has also fallen sharply from the levels during and after the holidays. Daily deaths are still high, however, averaging more than 3,100 per days, although down slightly from their January peak.

U.K. Variant Spreading Rapidly: The vaccination effort is continuing to try to outrace the mutated variants, but a new study suggests the variant first found in the U.K. at least, which is more contagious, may be winning. The N.Y. Times reported yesterday that the Scripps Research Institute study found the U.K. variant is spreading rapidly in the U.S., doubling about every 10 days, and researchers predict it could become predominant in the U.S. in a month, which could bring a new surge of cases. It’s still unclear if the U.K. variant is more deadly.

HACKER TRIED TO RAISE LEVELS OF LYE IN FLORIDA CITY’S WATER SUPPLY: A hacker who was able to get into the system controlling a Florida city’s water treatment plant Friday tried to increase the level of the caustic chemical lye in the water supply to “dangerous levels,” Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said yesterday (February 8th). Gualtieri said that the hacker got into the water treatment plant system for Oldsmar, a city of 15,000 northwest of Tampa, by using a remote access program shared by plant workers. The hacker was able to briefly increase the amount of lye, which is used to treat acidity in the water, but can cause irritation, burns and other problems in higher amounts, before a supervisor saw what was going on and immediately reversed the action. Oldsmar officials have since disabled the remote-access system, and say other safeguards were in place. Investigators said it wasn’t immediately clear whether the attack was from a domestic or foreign source. The FBI, Secret Service and the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office are investigating.

NETANYAHU PLEADS NOT GUILTY IN CORRUPTION TRIAL: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pled not guilty in his corruption trial yesterday (February 8th) on charges of fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes. Netanyahu is accused of accepting expensive gifts from wealthy friends and offering favors to powerful media owners in exchange for favorable coverage. The prime minister has accused the corruption cases of being, quote, “rigged” and a “witch-hunt” by biased law enforcement and media. Netanyahu is the first sitting Israeli prime minister to go on trial for corruption.

GEORGIA SECRETARY OF STATE OPENS PROBE OF TRUMP CALLS TO TOP ELECTIONS OFFICIAL: Georgia’s secretary of state’s office opened an investigation Monday (February 8th) into a January 2nd phone call then-President Donald Trump made to the state’s top elections official in which he asked that the official find enough votes to overturn his presidential election loss in Georgia. Trump said in the recorded conversation, “All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have. Because we won the state.” Trump repeatedly contended during the call with Brad Raffensperger that the secretary of state could change the certified election results, which Raffensperger told him wasn’t possible. A senior adviser to Trump, Jason Miller, said in a statement there was, quote, “nothing improper or untoward” about the call.

14 KILLED IN AVALANCHES IN U.S. LAST WEEK, DEADLIEST WEEK ON RECORD: There were 14 people killed in avalanches in the U.S. since February 1st, the deadliest week of avalanche deaths since the U.S Forest Service’s National Avalanche Center began tracking fatalities. The deaths were caused by avalanches in seven incidents over the week in six states: Utah; Colorado; New Hampshire; Montana; California; and Alaska. In three of those incidents, multiple people were killed; four in a Utah avalanche; three in a Colorado avalanche; and three in one in Alaska. At least 21 people have died in avalanches in the U.S. since the start of the season in December 2020.