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Trump Impeachment Trial Begins In U.S. Senate

Gbemileke Ajayi

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The impeachment trial of U.S. President Donald Trump began in full Tuesday in the U.S. Senate, with a spirited debate over the rules governing the third such trial in U.S. history over whether a president should be ousted from the White House for allegedly violating his oath of office.

Trump’s chief lawyer, White House counsel Pat Cipollone, called Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s proposed timeline and parameters for the trial “a fair way to proceed,” one that will result in the president’s acquittal on two articles of impeachment because he has “done absolutely nothing wrong.”

As the trial started, McConnell backed off his plan for 12-hour sessions from Wednesday through Saturday this week that could have kept the Senate in session late into the evening for four straight days.

Instead, he cut his proposed sessions back to eight hours each, with House managers prosecuting the case against Trump over three days, and Trump’s lawyers defending him in another three days of eight-hour sessions.

The lead House manager, Congressman Adam Schiff, assailed McConnell’s plan at length because it delays votes until later in the trial on whether to subpoena White House documents related to Trump’s actions and call as witnesses key Trump aides familiar with his actions in pressing Ukraine to launch investigations that would benefit him politically.

Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said that not voting on witnesses or subpoenaing documents at the trial’s outset would make a “mockery” of the proceeding.

With no witnesses or new White House documents, Schiff said, “It’s not a fair trial, or even a trial at all. Why should this trial be different than any other trial?”

In this image from video, impeachment manager Rep. Adam Schiff speaks during the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, in the Senate, at the Capitol in Washington, Jan. 21, 2020.

Democrats are sharply contesting McConnell’s plan, denouncing it as a “coverup” and “national disgrace,” although McConnell says he has enough Republican votes to push through the schedule he wants.

McConnell, who is working with Trump’s lawyers on trial strategy in an effort to acquit him quickly, rebuffed claims his trial parameters are not fair, saying, “Here in the Senate, the president’s lawyers will finally receive a level playing field with the House Democrats, and will finally be able to present the president’s case.”

It is a plan that could lead to Trump’s acquittal as soon as next week. A two-thirds vote in the Senate would be needed to convict Trump and oust him from the White House, but no Senate Republican has called for his removal.

McConnell and the Republicans have made no secret of wanting the trial to be as quick as possible. His initial resolution would have given Democratic House impeachment managers and Trump’s legal team 24 hours each over two days to present their cases. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called McConnell’s plan a “blueprint for an impeachment trial on fast forward.”

McConnell also agreed that evidence collected by House impeachment investigators would be submitted to the Senate record, rather than leaving it an open question.

Fight to call witnesses

Schumer offered amendments during the Senate debate to subpoena White House documents and force testimony from Trump aides familiar with his efforts to press Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.

Trump made his requests to Zelenskiy in a late July phone call at the same time he was temporarily blocking the release of $391 million in military aid to Kyiv that it wanted to help fight pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.

After a 55-day delay, Trump released the assistance in September without Zelenskiy launching the Biden investigations. That was proof, Republicans say, that Trump did not engage in a reciprocal, quid pro quo deal — the Biden investigations in exchange for the military aid.

“Republican senators will face a choice of getting the facts or joining Leader McConnell and President Trump in covering them up,” Schumer said.

President derides process

Trump has almost daily assailed the impeachment effort against him, including in Davos, Switzerland, where he is attending the World Economic Forum.

“That whole thing is a hoax,” he told reporters. “It goes nowhere, because nothing happened. The only thing we’ve done is a great job. … That whole thing is a total hoax, so I’m sure it’s going to work out fine.”

Later, he said on Twitter, in all caps, “READ THE TRANSCRIPTS!” referring to a rough White House account of his July call with Zelenskiy, according to Donald J. Trump @realDonaldTrump.

In the hours ahead of the Tuesday session, House managers told Cipollone that he might be a material witness during the trial since his office played a role in handling some of the Ukraine-related issues as they emerged in the latter half of 2019. The Democratic lawmakers said Cipollone should disclose what role he played.

Trump’s lawyers are assailing the impeachment case against him as a “dangerous perversion of the Constitution,” asserting he did “absolutely nothing wrong” in pressing Ukraine to launch investigations to benefit himself politically.

The lawyers say Democrats pushing for Trump’s removal are not trying to find the truth about Trump’s Ukraine-related actions, but are looking to overturn his 2016 election and interfere with his 2020 reelection campaign.

The charges

The House of Representatives impeached Trump on two articles. One alleges he abused the presidency by pressing Zelenskiy for the Biden investigations. The other is that he allegedly obstructed Congress in its investigation of his Ukraine-related actions.

Democratic lawmakers had earlier said it was clear that the “evidence overwhelmingly establishes” that Trump is guilty of both charges.

The Trump lawyers, in their 110-page filing on Monday, said the president was conducting normal foreign policy affairs in dealing with Zelenskiy.

At least 20 of the 53 Senate Republicans would have to join all 47 Democrats to convict Trump. The trial could last much longer if Democrats succeed in persuading four Republicans to join them in calling for testimony from key Trump aides about the president’s Ukraine-related actions.

Democrats want to hear testimony from former national security adviser John Bolton, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and others.

Trump has said he wants to call the Bidens as witnesses, along with the still-unidentified whistleblower who first disclosed Trump’s July 2019 phone call with Zelenskiy. On Twitter Monday, he seemed averse to hearing testimony from Bolton, whom he ousted in September.

Democrats, Trump said, “didn’t want John Bolton and others in the House” to testify. “They were in too much of a rush. Now they want them all in the Senate. Not supposed to be that way!”

House Democrats had sought testimony from Bolton and others in Trump’s orbit. But the potential witnesses complied with the president’s edict to not cooperate with their investigation, although others ignored it and testified.

Democratic lawmakers abandoned efforts to subpoena some witnesses out of fear that the legal fights over their testimony would extend for months.

Bolton now says he is willing to testify at Trump’s impeachment trial if he is subpoenaed by the Senate.

Two other presidents — Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998 — were impeached by the House but acquitted in Senate trials, and remained in office.

U.S. President Richard Nixon faced almost certain impeachment in 1974 in the Watergate scandal but resigned before the House acted.

(VOA)

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No Going Back On Social Media Regulation —- FG

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The Federal Government has said there was no going back on its move to regulate social media in the country.

As proof of that, it has contacted the two major social media platforms — Facebook and Google — over the issue.

The government cited recent instances of fake news that made it resolve to go ahead with the plan to ensure that damages were not done to the country through social media.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, made these known at a news conference in Abuja yesterday.

He also explained why the ministry requires $500 million loan from and tendered an apology to air travellers for the diversion of Lagos-bound flights to neighbouring countries, especially Ghana.

Mohammed said: “We are pushing ahead with our plan to sanitize the social media, working with stakeholders. By March 2, 2020, we will inaugurate a stakeholders committee that will deliberate and recommend the way forward.

“We are also planning a major international conference that will bring together the tech companies, media practitioners, policymakers and others as part of efforts to tackle this growing canker-worm

“Last week, I met with representatives of Google and Facebook for the same purpose. The situation is dire, and no nation that values its peace, security and stability will allow an irresponsible use of social media.

“There has been a spike in the dissemination of fake news and the use of disinformation in recent times. This is not accidental: Fake news, disinformation and hate speech have become the weapons of choice to create tension in the polity and destabilise the country.

“And those behind them, the naysayers, are not about to relent. Those behind this campaign of fake news and disinformation have also deployed new tactics, top of which is the recycling old news items and videos.

“For some people, the 2019 elections are not over. They are stuck in the pre-election mode. And they must continue to use these weapons to put Nigeria on edge.”

He described report of plans by the government to float new ‘communication regulations’ aimed at recording all calls, monitoring WhatsApp, Twitter and Facebook as “fake.”

Mohammed added: “Another good example is the video of the over 400 young men suspected to be Boko Haram members who were intercepted in Abia State in 2014.

“About two weeks ago, the video came back into circulation, creating panic in the polity. The intention of those behind it is simple: to create tension and panic in the country.’

Other recent instances of fake news, according to the minister, are reports that President Buhari will be travelling to the United Kingdom for 20 days before proceeding to Saudi Arabia and Austria; that the Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, was attacked at Rigasa train station in Kaduna and that the Nigerian Air Force killed 250 Boko Haram insurgents.

The minister advised Nigerians “to be circumspect in believing or circulating fake news.”

He also clarified that the $500 million loan being sought from China is not for the Nigeria Television Authority (NTA) alone.

Mohammed explained that the loan was for three major projects contrary to the “hysteria” created over it in a section of the media.

A section of the media had reported that the minister while defending the loan before the National Assembly, said it was for the upgrade of facilities to enable NTA to compete with the likes of United State’s Cable News Network (CNN).

His words: “In an era of social media, the real news is usually sacrificed on the altar of sensationalism and disinformation.

“That’s how I will describe the hysteria, in a section of the media, over the reportage of the 500 million dollars loan being sought from China.”

The minister said the loan would be used to construct a headquarters complex and transmission network for Integrated Television Services (ITS), the Federal Government-owned signal distributor and a major component of the country’s Digital Switchover (DSO).

He said the loan would also be used to build an ultra-modern media city in Ikorodu to have, indoor/outdoor shooting area, animation production facility and digital media training centre.

Mohammed said other facilities in the city would include world class cinema, a four-star hotel, an amusement park and amphi-theatre.

The minister said the loan would also be used for the acquisition of digital movie production equipment for rental as well as power system

He disclosed that the media city training academy was only the second of its type in, the first being in Egypt.

Mohammed said the facilities would be used to train Nigerian broadcasters and filmmakers in the production of high-quality media content programmes and make Nigeria a hub for digital movie production in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The minister also disclosed that the loan would be used for digitisation of all NTA stations at the headquarters, 12 zonal stations, the 36 states and the FCT as well as 78 community stations.

He said the fund would also be used to upgrade, purchase and install relevant digital TV broadcasting equipment compatible with DSO products and accessories.

Mohammed stressed that the equipment were necessary for the production and broadcast of digital programme contents in addition to the provision of a power system and manpower training.

The Minister, who apologized to Nigerians on the disruption of international flights in Lagos in the last one week, gave insights into technical issues which accounted for the challenges.

He said the two runways at the airport in Lagos have now been calibrated for CAT III ILS and notice sent out to airlines.

The minister said: “Let me apologize to all our citizens and other travellers who have had to endure inconveniences resulting from the diversion of their flights. This is highly regretted.

“I will also like to quickly take us through what caused the problem. In its commitment to passenger safety and security, the Federal Government has recently taken the decision to upgrade the navigational facilities at some major airports across the country.”

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Randy UNILAG Lecturer Sentenced To 21 Years In Jail For Raping 18-Year-Old Admission Seeker

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An Ikeja High Court on Thursday sentenced a former part-time lecturer in the University of Lagos, Akin Baruwa, to 21 years’ imprisonment for raping an 18-year-old admission-seeker.

Justice Josephine Oyefeso while sentencing Baruwa, described his action as heinous.

Oyefeso held that the sentence should serve as a deterrent to others.

She said, “The offense committed against this young lady was a violation of her chastity which would have left huge emotional scars from which I pray and hope she will recover.

“I cannot begin to imagine the physical and mental trauma she has had to endure from the man who she considered her father’s friend, a community leader who should have known better. This is a shame.

“This is a crime that not only offends the survivor, it offends her family, it offends the society at large, it also offends God.

“I find you Baruwa Afeez Akin guilty of a one-count charge of rape contrary to Section 258(1) of the Criminal Law of Lagos, 2011, and I hereby convict you accordingly.

“In line with Section 258 of the Criminal Law of Lagos, 2011, Baruwa Afeez Akin is hereby sentenced to 21 years’ imprisonment.”

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JUST IN: SARS Officers Allegedly Shoot Two Hausa Traders While Chasing Yahoo Boy In Abeokuta

Peter Okunoren

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There was pandemonium on Thursday in the Olomore axis of Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital, when operatives of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad of the Nigeria Police Force allegedly shot two Hausa traders.

The SARS operatives were reported to have stormed Olomore Pepper Market while chasing an internet fraudster also known as Yahoo boy, who ran into the market.

Findings showed that stray bullets from the SARS officers’ gunshots hit two pepper sellers in the market during the chase.

An eye witness identified simply as Adamu said one of the victims was shot in the head and the other was shot in the leg.

Adamu said the victims had been rushed to a nearby hospital.

There has been no confirmation that the victim shot in the head died as of the time of filing this report but the other victim it was gathered is being treated at the undisclosed hospital.

The Police Public Relations Officer in the state, Abimbola Oyeyemi, had yet to reply a text message sent to his phone and several calls made to his phone were not answered as of the time of filing this report.

Details to follow….

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