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WASHINGTON (AP) — Opening arguments in the Senate impeachment trial for Donald Trump over the Capitol riot will begin the week of Feb. 8, the first time a former president will face such charges after leaving office. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced the schedule Friday evening after reaching an agreement with Republicans, who had pushed for a delay to give Trump a chance to organize his legal team and prepare a defense on the sole charge of incitement of insurrection.The February start date also allows the Senate more time to confirm President Joe Biden's Cabinet nominations and consider his proposed $1.9 trillion COVID relief package — top priorities of the new White House agenda that could become stalled during trial proceedings.“We all want to put this awful chapter in our nation’s history behind us,” Schumer said about the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol siege by a mob of pro-Trump supporters.“But healing and unity will only come if there is truth and accountability. And that is what this trial will provide.”House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will send the article of impeachment late Monday, with senators sworn in as jurors Tuesday. But opening arguments will move to February. Trump's impeachment trial would be the first of a U.S. president no longer in office, an undertaking that his Senate Republican allies argue is pointless, and potentially even unconstitutional. Democrats say they have to hold Trump to account, even as they pursue Biden's legislative priorities, because of the gravity of what took place — a violent attack on the U.S. Congress aimed at overturning an election. If Trump is convicted, the Senate could vote to bar him from holding office ever again, potentially upending his chances for a political comeback. The urgency for Democrats to hold Trump responsible was complicated by the need to put Biden's government in place and start quick work on his coronavirus aid package. “The more time we have to get up and running ... the better,” Biden said Friday in brief comments to reporters.Republicans were eager to delay the trial, putting distance between the shocking events of the siege and the votes that will test their loyalty to the former president who still commands voters’ attention. Negotiations between Schumer and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell were complicated, as the two are also in talks over a power-sharing agreement for the Senate, which is split 50-50 but in Democratic control because Vice President Kamala Harris serves as a tie-breaking vote.McConnell had proposed delaying the start and welcomed the agreement. “Republicans set out to ensure the Senate’s next steps will respect former President Trump’s rights and due process, the institution of the Senate, and the office of the presidency,” said McConnell spokesman Doug Andres. "That goal has been achieved.”Pelosi said Friday the nine House impeachment managers, or prosecutors, are "ready to begin to make their case” against Trump. Trump’s team will have had the same amount of time since the House impeachment vote to prepare, Pelosi said. Democrats say they can move quickly through the trial, potentially with no witnesses, because lawmakers experienced the insurrection first-hand.One of the managers, California Rep. Ted Lieu, said Friday that Democrats would rather be working on policy right now, but “we can't just ignore" what happened on Jan. 6. “This was an attack on our Capitol by a violent mob,” Lieu said in an interview with The Associated Press. “It was an attack on our nation instigated by our commander in chief. We have to address that and make sure it never happens again.” Trump, who told his supporters to “fight like hell” just before they invaded the Capitol two weeks ago and interrupted the electoral vote count, is still assembling his legal team. White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Friday deferred to Congress on timing for the trial and would not say whether Biden thinks Trump should be convicted. But she said lawmakers can simultaneously discuss and have hearings on Biden's coronavirus relief package.“We don’t think it can be delayed or it can wait, so they’re going to have to find a path forward,” Psaki said of the virus aid. “He’s confident they can do that.” Democrats would need the support of at least 17 Republicans to convict Trump, a high bar. While most Republican senators condemned Trump's actions that day, far fewer appear to be ready to convict. A handful of Senate Republicans have indicated they are open — but not committed — to conviction. But most have come to Trump's defense as it relates to impeachment, saying they believe a trial will be divisive and questioning the legality of trying a president after he has left office.South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, a close Trump ally who has been helping him find lawyers, said Friday there is “a very compelling constitutional case” on whether Trump can be impeached after his term — an assertion Democrats reject, saying there is ample legal precedent. Graham also suggested Republicans will argue Trump's words on Jan. 6 were not legally “incitement.” “On the facts, they’ll be able to mount a defense, so the main thing is to give him a chance to prepare and run the trial orderly, and hopefully the Senate will reject the idea of pursuing presidents after they leave office,” Graham said. Other Republicans had stronger words, suggesting there should be no trial at all. Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso said Pelosi is sending a message to Biden that “my hatred and vitriol of Donald Trump is so strong that I will stop even you and your Cabinet from getting anything done.” Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson suggested Democrats are choosing “vindictiveness” over national security as Biden attempts to set up his government. McConnell, who said this week that Trump “provoked” his supporters before the riot, has not said how he will vote. He said Senate Republicans "strongly believe we need a full and fair process where the former president can mount a defense and the Senate can properly consider the factual, legal and constitutional questions.”Trump, the first president to be impeached twice, is at a disadvantage compared with his first impeachment trial, in which he had the full resources of the White House counsel’s office to defend him. Graham helped Trump hire South Carolina attorney Butch Bowers after members of his past legal teams indicated they did not plan to join the new effort. ___Associated Press writers Aamer Madhani in Washington, Meg Kinnard in Columbia, South Carolina, and Jill Colvin in West Palm Beach, Florida, contributed to this report.
WASHINGTON (AP) — It's a club Donald Trump was never really interested in joining and certainly not so soon: the cadre of former commanders in chief who revere the presidency enough to put aside often bitter political differences and even join together in common cause.Members of the ex-presidents club pose together for pictures. They smile and pat each other on the back while milling around historic events, or sit somberly side by side at VIP funerals. They take on special projects together. They rarely criticize one another and tend to offer even fewer harsh words about their White House successors.Like so many other presidential traditions, however, this is one Trump seems likely to flout. Now that he's left office, it's hard to see him embracing the stately, exclusive club of living former presidents. “He kind of laughed at the very notion that he would be accepted in the presidents club,” said Kate Andersen Brower, who interviewed Trump in 2019 for her book “Team of Five: The Presidents’ Club in the Age of Trump." “He was like, ‘I don’t think I’ll be accepted.'”It's equally clear that the club's other members don't much want him — at least for now.Former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton recorded a three-minute video from Arlington National Cemetery after President Joe Biden's inauguration this week, praising peaceful presidential succession as a core of American democracy. The segment included no mention of Trump by name, but stood as a stark rebuke of his behavior since losing November's election.“I think the fact that the three of us are standing here, talking about a peaceful transfer of power, speaks to the institutional integrity of our country,” Bush said. Obama called inaugurations “a reminder that we can have fierce disagreements and yet recognize each other’s common humanity, and that, as Americans, we have more in common than what separates us."Trump spent months making baseless claims that the election had been stolen from him through fraud and eventually helped incite a deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. He left the White House without attending Biden’s swearing-in, the first president to skip his successor's inauguration in 152 years.Obama, Bush and Clinton recorded their video after accompanying Biden to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider following the inauguration. They also taped a video urging Americans to get vaccinated against the coronavirus. Only 96-year-old Jimmy Carter, who has limited his public events because of the pandemic, and Trump, who had already flown to post-presidential life in Florida, weren't there. Jeffrey Engel, founding director of the Center for Presidential History at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, said Trump isn't a good fit for the ex-presidents club "because he’s temperamentally different.”“People within the club historically have been respected by ensuing presidents. Even Richard Nixon was respected by Bill Clinton and by Ronald Reagan and so on, for his foreign policy," Engel said. "I’m not sure I see a whole lot of people calling up Trump for his strategic advice.”Former presidents are occasionally called upon for big tasks. George H.W. Bush and Clinton teamed up in 2005 to launch a campaign urging Americans to help the victims of the devastating Southeast Asia tsunami. When Hurricane Katrina blasted the Gulf Coast, Bush, father of the then-current president George W. Bush, called on Clinton to boost Katrina fundraising relief efforts. When the elder Bush died in 2018, Clinton wrote, “His friendship has been one of the great gifts of my life," high praise considering this was the man he ousted from the White House after a bruising 1992 campaign — making Bush the only one-term president of the last three decades except for Trump.Obama tapped Clinton and the younger President Bush to boost fundraising efforts for Haiti after its devastating 2010 earthquake. George W. Bush also became good friends with former first lady Michelle Obama, and cameras caught him slipping a cough drop to her as they sat together at Arizona Sen. John McCain’s funeral. Usually presidents extend the same respect to their predecessors while still in office, regardless of party. In 1971, three years before he resigned in disgrace, Richard Nixon went to Texas to participate in the dedication of Lyndon Baines Johnson’s presidential library. When Nixon’s library was completed in 1990, then-President George H.W. Bush attended with former Presidents Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford.Trump's break with tradition began even before his presidency did. After his election win in November 2016, Obama hosted Trump at the White House promising to “do everything we can to help you succeed.” Trump responded, “I look forward to being with you many, many more times in the future” — but that never happened.Instead, Trump falsely accused Obama of having wiretapped him and spent four years savaging his predecessor's record. Current and former presidents sometimes loathed each other, and criticizing their successors isn’t unheard of. Carter criticized the policies of the Republican administrations that followed his, Obama chided Trump while campaigning for Biden and also criticized George W. Bush’s policies — though Obama was usually careful not to name his predecessor. Theodore Roosevelt tried to unseat his successor, fellow Republican William Howard Taft, by founding his own “Bull Moose” party and running for president again against him. Still, presidential reverence for former presidents dates back even further. The nation’s second president, John Adams, was concerned enough about tarnishing the legacy of his predecessor that he retained George Washington’s Cabinet appointments. Trump may have time to build his relationship with his predecessors. He told Brower that he “could see himself becoming friendly with Bill Clinton again," noting that the pair used to golf together. But the odds of becoming the traditional president in retirement that he never was while in office remain long. “I think Trump has taken it too far," Brower said. "I don’t think that these former presidents will welcome him at any point.”
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden made his first calls to foreign leaders as America's commander in chief on Friday, dialing up Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador at a strained moment for the U.S. relationship with its North American neighbors.Biden's call to Trudeau came after the Canadian prime minister this week publicly expressed disappointment over Biden’s decision — one of his first acts as president — to issue an executive order halting construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline. The long disputed project was projected to carry some 800,000 barrels of oil a day from the tar sands of Alberta to the Texas Gulf Coast, passing through Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma.In their private conversation, Biden told Trudeau that by issuing the order he was following through on a campaign pledge to stop construction of the pipeline, a senior Canadian government official told The Associated Press. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the private conversation between the nations' leaders.Biden also spoke with López Obrador on Friday, days after the Mexican president accused the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration of fabricating drug trafficking charges against the country’s former defense secretary.While Mexico continues to pledge to block mass movements of Central American migrants toward the U.S. border, there has been no shortage of potential flashpoints between the two countries. Mexico demanded the return of former defense secretary Gen. Salvador Cienfuegos after he was arrested in Los Angeles in October, threatening to restrict U.S. agents in Mexico if he wasn’t returned. U.S. prosecutors agreed to drop charges and return Cienfuegos to Mexico. But Mexico passed a law restricting foreign agents and removing their immunity anyway, and went on to publish the U.S. case file against Cienfuegos, whom Mexican prosecutors quickly cleared of any charges.López Obrador said in a statement that the conversation with Biden was “friendly and respectful." The two discussed immigration and COVID-19, among other issues.Trudeau told reporters before the call on Friday that he wouldn’t allow his differences with Biden over the project to become a source of tension in the U.S.-Canada relationship. “It’s not always going to be perfect alignment with the United States,” Trudeau said. “That’s the case with any given president, but we’re in a situation where we are much more aligned on values and focus. I am very much looking forward to working with President Biden.”Biden signed the executive order to halt construction of the pipeline just hours after he was sworn in.“Leaving the Keystone XL pipeline permit in place would not be consistent with my Administration’s economic and climate imperatives,” Biden’s executive order said.Critics say the growing operations increase greenhouse gas emissions and threaten Alberta’s rivers and forests. On the U.S. side, environmentalists expressed concerns about the pipeline— which would cross the Ogallala Aquifer, one of the world’s largest underground deposits of fresh water — being too risky.But proponents of the project say it would create thousands of jobs on both sides of the border.The project was proposed in 2008, and the pipeline has become emblematic of the tensions between economic development and curbing the fossil fuel emissions that are causing climate change. The Obama administration rejected it, but President Donald Trump revived it and was a strong supporter. Construction already started.Biden and Trudeau also discussed the prospects of Canada being supplied with the COVID-19 vaccine from pharmaceutical giant Pfizer's facility in Kalamazoo, Michigan, according to a second senior Canadian government official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe a private conversation.Canada has been getting all its Pfizer doses from a Pfizer facility in Puurs, Belgium, but Pfizer has informed Canada it won’t get any doses next week and will get 50% less than expected over the next three weeks. Ontario Premier Doug Ford has publicly asked Biden to share a million doses made at Pfizer’s Michigan facility.The U.S. federal government has an agreement with Pfizer in which the first 100 million doses of the vaccine produced in the U.S. will be owned by the U.S. government and will be distributed in the U.S. Anita Anand, the Canadian federal procurement minister, has said the doses that are emerging from the Michigan plant are for distribution in the United States.The two leaders also spoke broadly about trade, defense and climate issues. Trudeau also raised the cases of two Canadians imprisoned in China in apparent retaliation for the arrest of a top Huawei executive, who was apprehended in Canada on a U.S. extradition request, according to the prime minister's office.___Gillies reported from Toronto and Stevenson from Mexico City.
WASHINGTON (AP) — It's a proven political strategy: Underpromise and overdeliver. President Joe Biden, in his first three days in office, has painted a bleak picture of the country's immediate future, warning Americans that it will take months, not weeks, to reorient a nation facing a historic convergence of crises.The dire language is meant as a call to action, but it's also a deliberate effort to temper expectations. In addition, it is an explicit rejection of President Donald Trump’s tack of talking down the coronavirus pandemic and its economic toll. Chris Lu, a longtime Obama administration official, said the grim tone is aimed at “restoring trust in government” that eroded during the Trump administration. “If you’re trying to get people to believe in this whole system of vaccinations, and if you want people to take seriously mask mandates, your leaders have to level with the American people,” he said.Biden said Thursday that “things are going to continue to get worse before they get better” and offered “the brutal truth” that it will take eight months before a majority of Americans will be vaccinated.On Friday, he declared outright: “There’s nothing we can do to change the trajectory of the pandemic in the next several months.”It's all part of Biden's pledge that his administration will "always be honest and transparent with you, about both the good news and the bad.”That approach, aides say, explains Biden’s decision to set clear and achievable goals for his new administration. The measured approach is drawing praise in some corners for being realistic -— but criticism from others for its caution.Trump often dismissed the seriousness of the virus and even acknowledged to journalist Bob Woodward that he deliberately played down the threat to the U.S. to prop up the economy. Even as death tolls and infection rates soared, Trump insisted the country was already “rounding the turn.”Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, said Biden’s pledge for 100 million vaccinations in his first 100 days in office might fall short of what’s needed to turn the tide on the virus.“Maybe they’re picking a number that’s easier to achieve, rather than the number that we need to achieve. I would urge people to be bolder than that,” he said. Adalja argued that the goal they’ve set “should be the bare minimum that we accept.” But he also acknowledged that there’s a major political risk in overpromising.“You don’t want people to be discouraged or feel like the government is incompetent” if they fail to meet a goal, he said. “It’s a disappointingly low bar,” said Dr. Leana Wen, a public health expert and emergency physician.Biden on Friday acknowledged the criticism, saying he was hopeful for more vaccinations, but he avoided putting down a marker that could potentially fall out of reach. “I found it fascinating that yesterday the press asked the question, ‘Is 100 million enough?'" he said in the State Dining Room. "A week before, they were saying, ‘Biden, are you crazy? You can’t do 100 million in 100 days.’ Well, we’re — God willing — not only going to 100 million. We’re going to do more than that.”In fact, while there was some skepticism when Biden first announced the goal on Dec. 8, it was generally seen as optimistic but within reach. The Biden administration might be taking lessons from the earliest days of the Obama administration, when there was constant pressure to show real progress in turning around the economy during the financial crisis.One former Obama administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to speak freely about internal conversations, said there was a fevered effort during the first few months of Obama's first term to play down the focus on evaluating the president’s success within his first 100 days because aides knew the financial recovery would take far longer than that.In one notable misstep, Obama’s National Economic Council chair, Christina Romer, predicted that unemployment wouldn’t top 8% if Congress passed the administration’s stimulus package to address the financial crisis. It was signed into law a month into Obama's first term, but by the end of that year, unemployment nevertheless hit 10%.The risk in setting too rosy expectations is that an administration might become defined by its failure to meet them. President George W. Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” speech in 2003 — at a time when the Iraq War was far from over — became a defining blunder of his presidency. Trump provided an overreach of his own in May 2020, when he said the nation had “prevailed” over the virus. At the time, the country had seen about 80,000 deaths from the virus. This week, the U.S. death toll topped 412,000.Trump’s lax approach and lack of credibility contributed to poor adherence to public safety rules among the American public.Former Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Trump’s handling of the virus caused so much damage to public perceptions of its severity that it’s important for Biden to set a contrasting tone.“I think it is really important to start telling the American people the truth. And that has not happened in a year, since we found the first case of coronavirus, so he’s got a lot of damage to undo,” she said. “This is a very serious, very contagious, deadly disease, and anything other than that message — delivered over and over again — is, unfortunately, adding to the willingness of lots of people to pay no attention to how to stop the spread of the disease.”
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — President Joe Biden’s 60-day moratorium on new oil and natural gas leases and drilling permits is prompting widespread concerns in New Mexico, where spending on education and other public programs hinges on the industry’s success. Top Republicans in the state as well as local leaders in communities that border the Permian Basin — one of the most productive regions in the U.S. — say any moves to make permanent the suspension would be economically devastating for the state. Half of New Mexico's production happens on federal land and amounts to hundreds of millions of dollars in royalties each year. Congressional members from other western states also are raising concerns, saying the ripple effects of the moratorium will hurt small businesses already struggling because of the pandemic.“During his inauguration, President Biden spoke about bringing our nation together. Eliminating drilling on public lands will cost thousands of New Mexicans their jobs and destroy what’s left of our state’s economy,” Carlsbad Mayor Dale Janway told The Associated Press on Friday. “How does that bring us together? Environmental efforts should be fair and well-researched, not knee-jerk mandates that just hurt an already impoverished state.”In Utah. the state's delegation asked for Biden to reconsider what they called an arbitrary decision. While it's routine for an incoming administration to pause high-level agency decisions while agency leaders get into place, they argued that such a widespread suspension of routine permitting decisions normally made in the field is unprecedented.Industry groups said the order effectively brings all regulatory activity to a halt, from routine requests that arise during the normal course of business to requests for rights of way for new pipelines designed to gather more natural gas as part of efforts to reduce venting and flaring — a practice that Democrats have targeted in their fight against climate change.“It really has the opposite intent,” said Robert McEntyre, spokesman for the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association. “It means some natural gas is not going to be captured, and that’s not what operators want to do. They want to capture it and send it to market.” New Mexico's sole Republican in Congress, freshman Rep. Yvette Herrell, was the only member of the state's delegation to speak out after Biden's order was issued. She said she's putting her support behind Republican-backed legislation to prevent the Biden administration from imposing any permanent plans that would limit new leases and drilling permits on federal land.The issue has been a thorny one for Democrats in New Mexico, where the oil and gas industry has been vilified over pollution concerns despite its role as the state's top economic driver. Aside from funneling revenues to the state's coffers, the industry supports about 100,000 direct and related jobs.Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham's office told the AP Friday that the administration is reviewing the federal action and the short- and long-term fiscal implications for the state. “Certainly we all understand the critical importance of this industry to New Mexico’s bottom line and of the imperative to diversify our state economy and energy portfolio,” Lujan Grisham spokeswoman Nora Meyers Sackett said in an email.The executive order includes an exception giving a small number of senior U.S. Interior Department officials authority to approve actions that otherwise would be suspended. But industry officials expect there to be a bottleneck given the amount of requests nationwide.The order has drawn praise from environmentalists, who have been seeking to rein in development across the West. “Any step toward fixing the broken federal oil and gas leasing program is a step in the right direction," said Mark Allison, director of the group New Mexico Wild.In New Mexico, activists have been pushing to stop drilling outside the boundaries of Chaco Culture National Historical Park, saying there are culturally significant areas that could be damaged by unchecked development. The fight has spanned both Democrat and Republican presidential administrations.A coalition of groups on Thursday amended an ongoing federal lawsuit, seeking to overturn the sale of 42 leases that cover nearly 70 square miles (181 square kiometers) of public land in the area. The groups argue that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management rushed public comment on the leases.
WASHINGTON (AP) — New first lady Jill Biden took an unannounced detour to the U.S. Capitol on Friday to deliver baskets of chocolate chip cookies to National Guard members, thanking them “for keeping me and my family safe” during President Joe Biden's inauguration. “I just want to say thank you from President Biden and the whole, the entire Biden family,” she told a group of Guard members at the Capitol. “The White House baked you some chocolate chip cookies," she said, before joking that she couldn't say she had baked them herself.Joe Biden was sworn into office on Wednesday, exactly two weeks after Donald Trump supporters rioted at the Capitol in a futile attempt to keep Congress from certifying Biden as the winner of November's presidential election. Extensive security measures were then taken for the inauguration, which went off without any major incidents.Jill Biden told the group that her late son, Beau, was a Delaware Army National Guard member who spent a year deployed in Iraq in 2008-09. Beau Biden died of brain cancer in 2015 at the age of 46.“So I'm a National Guard mom,” she said, adding that the baskets were a “small thank you” for leaving their home states and coming to the nation's capital. President Biden offered his thanks to the chief of the National Guard Bureau in a phone call Friday.“I truly appreciate all that you do,” the first lady said. “The National Guard will always hold a special place in the heart of all the Bidens.” Jill Biden's unannounced troop visit came after her first public outing as first lady. She highlighted services for cancer patients at Whitman-Walker Health, a Washington institution with a history of serving HIV/AIDS patients and the LGBTQ community. The clinic receives federal money to help provide primary care services in underserved areas.Staff told the first lady that cancer screenings had fallen since last March because patients didn't want to come in because of the coronavirus pandemic. More and more patients are taking advantage of options to see a doctor online. When the issue of universal access to broadband internet was raised, Jill Biden, who is a teacher, said she hears from teachers around the country who can't get in touch with their students because of the spotty access in some areas.“We just have to work together and address some of these things," she said. “The first thing we have to do is address this pandemic and get everybody vaccinated and back to work and back to their schools and get things back to the new normal.”
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Butch Bowers is used to defending public officials in ethics cases. But he's never faced anything quite like this.It's up to Bowers, a South Carolina elections and ethics lawyer, to rise and defend Donald Trump as the Senate plunges next week into an impeachment trial unlike any other, centered on accusations that the former president incited the mob that rampaged through the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. For Trump, the first president twice impeached, the stakes are enormous: If convicted, he could be barred from holding public office again, ending any hopes of mounting another White House bid in 2024.Trump turned to Bowers, a familiar figure in Republican legal circles, after other legal allies passed on the case. That's a notable departure from his first impeachment trial in 2020, when he had a stable of prominent attorneys — including Alan Dershowitz, Jay Sekulow, who represented him in the Russia investigation, and Kenneth Starr — standing in his corner. The first impeachment trial turned on charges that Trump improperly solicited Ukraine’s help for his reelection campaign. The Senate acquitted him of those charges. The new trial could hinge on broader issues of law, including “whether the Constitution even allows a post-impeachment action in the Senate,” said Sekulow, who is not participating in Trump’s legal defense.Sekulow said he did not expect Bowers, who has years of experience representing elected officials and political candidates — including former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford against a failed impeachment effort that morphed into an ethics probe — to be hindered by having never defended a current or former president in a Senate trial. Sekulow noted that he, too, had never done it before.“He’s an excellent lawyer with a tremendous reputation who understands the law and politics,” Sekulow said Friday.Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham recommended Bowers to Trump and told Fox News he sees him as the “anchor tenant” of Trump’s team. Trump adviser Jason Miller, who also ran Sanford’s gubernatorial and congressional campaigns, said Bowers “will do an excellent job defending President Trump.”Bowers did not respond to a message seeking comment.His strategy for Trump's defense is unclear, though questioning the validity of the trial is a clear option. Many Republicans in the Senate — the jurors he'll need to persuade — have said they harbor doubts about whether an impeachment trial for an ex-official is constitutional, even though it has happened before.The nine House managers prosecuting the case, meanwhile, will almost certainly focus on linking Trump’s remarks to supporters at a rally before the riot — including encouraging them to “fight like hell” — to the chaos that soon followed. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will transmit the article of impeachment to the Senate on Monday, triggering the first phase of the trial.Though perhaps nothing compares to the legal and political swirl of a Senate impeachment trial, Bowers does have experience both in Washington and in steering elected leaders through the fray.He has served as counsel to Sanford and another former governor, Nikki Haley, guiding her through an investigation into whether she had violated state ethics law.An ethics panel ultimately cleared Haley. Rob Godfrey, a longtime Haley adviser who worked closely with Bowers during his representation of the governor, said the lawyer “works hard, has an eye for detail and knows the law.”Bowers worked for Sanford when state lawmakers mulled impeaching him after revelations Sanford had disappeared from the state, leaving no chain of command for five days, to see his lover in Argentina in 2009. The effort never made it out of committee. Ensuing investigations by The Associated Press into Sanford’s other trips showed he had traveled on commercial airlines in high-priced seats despite the state’s low-cost travel rules and had used state planes for personal and political trips.At the time, Bowers predicted that the governor would be cleared, saying the charges were non-criminal and “limited to minor, technical matters.” Sanford went on to pay the largest ethics fine in state history — $74,000 — as well as nearly $37,000 to cover the costs of the investigation.Joel Sawyer, Sanford’s longtime spokesman, said Bowers’ strengths lie in his calm demeanor and determination to examine legal arguments without concern for pomp and politics.“If Donald Trump lets Butch be Butch and doesn’t try to make him be someone he’s not, in terms of making nutty legal arguments and seeking out television cameras, this will be a great fit for Butch,” Sawyer said. “If Trump wants him to be Rudy Giuliani or Sidney Powell 2.0, that’s not going to turn out well for anyone.”Bowers represented Gov. Henry McMaster — a close ally of Trump — in a fight over excessive contributions, a 2016 case that ended with the then-lieutenant governor agreeing to pay more than $70,000 in fines and reimbursements. Bowers and McMaster, a longtime fixture in South Carolina’s GOP politics, also at one time shared office space.Bowers was also a lawyer for former North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory and the South Carolina Election Commission in litigation over voter ID laws, as well as a former South Carolina sheriff who pleaded guilty to embezzlement and misconduct in office. In 2018, he was attorney for University of South Carolina women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley in her successful defamation suit against Missouri’s athletics director.Bowers served as a special counsel on voting matters at the U.S. Department of Justice under President George W. Bush, was Florida legal counsel for John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign and chaired the South Carolina Election Commission from 2004 to 2007. With degrees from the University of South Carolina and College of Charleston, Bowers graduated from Tulane University School of Law in 1998. State Sen. Dick Harpootlian, a former South Carolina Democratic Party chairman and longtime friend of President Joe Biden who has several times faced Bowers in court, said he expected the “understated” Bowers — also a colonel in the South Carolina Air National Guard — to make decisions in the case based not on personality, what Harpootlian said was in contrast to Trump’s past lawyers.“Trump won't be able to make Butch someone that he’s not,” Harpootlian said. ___Meg Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP.
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden signed a pair of executive orders Friday aimed at offering a quick dose of relief to an economy still being hammered by the coronavirus. Both measures were largely stopgaps as Congress considers a $1.9 trillion stimulus plan from Biden. The orders aim to increase food aid, make it easier to claim government benefits, protect unemployed workers and point federal workers and contractors toward a $15 minimum wage.A look at the orders:NUTRITION AND GOVERNMENT AIDThis order aims to increase by 15% the amount of money going to the families of children who are missing meals because of school closures from the pandemic. For children who can no longer eat in schools, they receive payments to cover food costs at home equal to $5.70 per child per school day. The order asks the Agriculture Department to consider issuing new guidance that would more accurately reflect the cost of the missing meals and make it easier to claim benefits.Similarly, the Agriculture Department is asked to consider new guidance that would make all the lowest-income households eligible for emergency benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The Agricultural Department is also asked to update its formula for how much money a person needs to maintain a healthy diet.The order also requests that the Treasury Department establish tools to make it easier for people to claim direct payments from past COVID-19 aid packages that could also be applied to any future stimulus packages. The administration is creating a network of benefit delivery teams to ensure people can get their aid and any other support more quickly.The order also asks the Labor Department to clarify that workers can refuse jobs that could jeopardize their health during the pandemic and still maintain unemployment benefits.FEDERAL WORKERSThis order includes an effort to promote a $15 minimum wage for federal workers and to preserve civil service protections against political interference.The order revokes a trio of executive orders signed by President Donald Trump that limited the bargaining rights of unionized government workers. Trump’s orders made the employee discipline process stricter, restricted union representatives’ access to office space and cut the time for collective bargaining. Biden's order also eliminates “Schedule F,” a Trump action that stripped some federal policymaking jobs of their civil service protections such that agency heads could fire and replace people in those positions.The order directs agencies to identify which federal workers earn less than $15 per hour and craft policies to promote that wage level as a baseline. Biden also started the work to issue an executive order that requires federal contractors to pay a $15 minimum wage and provides emergency paid leave to workers.
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden has directed his intelligence community to study the threat of domestic extremism in the United States, an undertaking being launched weeks after a violent mob loyal to Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol.The disclosure Friday by White House press secretary Jen Psaki is a stark acknowledgment of the national security threat that officials see as posed by American extremists motivated to violence by extremist ideology. The involvement of the director of national intelligence, an office created after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to prevent international terrorism, suggests that American authorities are examining how to pivot to a more concerted focus on violence from radical extremists at home.FBI Director Chris Wray has said that, over the last year, the most lethal violence has come from anti-government activists, such as anarchists and militia-types.“The rise of domestic violent extremism is a serious and growing national security threat," Psaki said.