- Former President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial will officially start Tuesday, making him the first president ever to be tried twice for impeachable offenses.
- Trump’s legal team filed a brief on Monday outlining their two main arguments: that Trump bears no responsibility for inciting the Jan. 6 insurrection, and that it is unconstitutional to try a president who has already left office.
- In a briefing filed last week, House impeachment managers argued Trump was “singularly responsible” for the insurrection, and that there was precedent for removing a former official from the 19th century trial of a former war secretary.
- Top leaders are still hashing out the final details of the trial’s structure and timeline, but the whole process could end as early as next week, making it the shortest impeachment trial in American history.
The second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump is set to start Tuesday, nearly a month after the House voted 232 to 197 to charge him with “incitement of insurrection” following the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
On Monday, Trump’s legal team filed their official pre-trial brief, where they condemned the case against him as “political theater” and outlined the two major arguments they will make in the former president’s defense.
First, they will claim that Trump “did not direct anyone to commit unlawful actions” in his speech before the attack and deserves zero blame for the conduct of a “small group of criminals.” Secondly, they will argue that the Senate “lacks jurisdiction” to try a president who has already left office and thus is a private citizen.
The filing responds to an 80-page brief filed last week by the House impeachment managers, which stated that Trump was “singularly responsible” for the insurrection and argued that he intentionally whipped his supporters into a frenzy that “endangered the life of every single member of Congress” as part of an intentional effort to cling to power.
“If provoking an insurrectionary riot against a joint session of Congress after losing an election is not an impeachable offense, it is hard to imagine what would be,” they wrote.
The House managers also attempted to preempt the constitutional argument in their brief. They noted that many legal scholars, including prominent conservatives, have argued that the founders never intended to exempt a president who was impeached while in office but left before senators could try him.
The Democrats also pointed to the fact that in the 19th century, the Senate voted to try a former war secretary, arguing that proved there was precedent for holding a trial for an official who had left office.
Additionally, others have noted that Trump’s power over his supporters has become a major theme in the federal criminal cases brought against more than 185 people involved in the insurrection so far.
According to The Washington Post, court documents show that more than two dozen people explicitly cited Trump and his calls to gather on Jan. 6. Dozens of other cases where he is not explicitly named also allege that the rioters were largely motivated by the false election claims he spent months spreading.
Structure and Timeline
As far as the structure of the trial, top leaders are still hashing out the final details, including how long the proceedings will take and whether or not witnesses will be called.
According to The New York Times, top Senators are closing in on a bipartisan agreement that would start off Tuesday’s proceedings with up to four hours of debate on the constitutionality question, followed by a vote on the matter.
A simple majority of senators must agree to move forward, which can be expected with Vice President Kamala Harris breaking the tie. After that, both sides will get up to 16 hours to present their cases starting at noon on Wednesday, meaning that the trial will be incredibly quick and likely wrap up as early as next week, making it the fastest in American history.
Still, the big question remains: will enough Republicans vote to convict Trump?
If all Democrats vote in favor, 17 GOP members would need to sign on. While Democrats have framed the decision as a referendum on whether or not Trump should ever hold public office, it is unclear if that incentive is big enough for many Republicans who view his supporters as key to their base, as well as those who do not want to be primaried by a far-right candidate.
Already, the party has signaled that it will not ultimately decide to convict, with all but five members voting in favor of a resolution to throw out the case on the grounds that it was unconstitutional in a key test case at the end of last month.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (NPR)
Judges Uphold North Carolina’s Congressional Map in Major GOP Win
The judges agreed that the congressional map was “a result of intentional, pro-Republican partisan redistricting” but said they did not have the power to intervene in legislative matters.
New Maps Upheld
A three-judge panel in North Carolina upheld the state’s new congressional and legislative maps on Tuesday, deciding it did not have the power to respond to arguments that Republicans had illegally gerrymandered it to benefit them.
Voting rights groups and Democrats sued over the new maps, which were drawn by the state’s Republican legislature following the 2020 census.
The maps left Democrats with just three of North Carolina’s 14 congressional seats in a battleground state that is more evenly split between Republicans and Democrats. Previously, Democrats held five of the 13 districts the state had before the last census, during which North Carolina was allocated an additional seat.
The challengers argued that the blatantly partisan maps had been drawn in a way that went against longstanding rules, violated the state’s Constitution, and intentionally disenfranchised Black voters.
In their unanimous ruling, the panel — composed of one Democrat and two Republicans — agreed that both the legislative and congressional maps were “a result of intentional, pro-Republican partisan redistricting.”
The judges added that they had “disdain for having to deal with issues that potentially lead to results incompatible with democratic principles and subject our state to ridicule.”
Despite their beliefs, the panel said they did not have a legal basis for intervening in political matters and constraining the legislature. They additionally ruled that the challengers did not prove their claims that the maps were discriminatory based on race.
Notably, the judges also stated that partisan gerrymandering does not actually violate the state’s Constitution.
The Path Ahead
While the decision marks a setback to the plaintiffs, the groups have already said they will appeal the decision to the North Carolina Supreme Court.
The state’s highest court has a slim Democratic majority and has already signaled they may be open to tossing the map.
There are also past precedents for voting maps to be thrown out in North Carolina. The state has an extensive history of legal battles over gerrymandering, and Republican leaders have been forced to redraw maps twice in recent years.
A forthcoming decision is highly anticipated, as North Carolina’s congressional map could play a major role in the control of the House in the 2022 midterm elections if they are as close as expected.
See what others are saying: (Politico) (The New York Times) (The Wall Street Journal)
Biden Administration Says Private Insurers Will Have to Cover 8 At-Home Tests a Month
The policy will apply to all the nearly 150 million Americans who have private insurance.
New At-Home Testing Policy
The Biden administration announced Monday that private health insurers will now be required to pay for up to eight at-home rapid tests per plan member each month.
Under the new policy, starting Saturday, private insurance holders will be able to purchase any at-home test approved by the FDA at a pharmacy or online. They will either not be asked to pay any upfront costs or be reimbursed for their purchase through their provider.
The move is expected to significantly expand access to rapid tests that other countries have been distributing to their citizens free of charge for months.
According to reports, nearly 150 million Americans — about 45% of the population — have private insurance.
Each dependent enrolled on the primary insurance holder’s account is counted as a member. That means a family of four enrolled on a single plan would be eligible for 32 free at-home rapid tests a month.
All tests may not be fully covered depending on where they are purchased.
In order to help offset costs, the Biden administration is incentivizing insurance providers to establish a network of “preferred” pharmacies and stores where people in the plan can get tests without paying out of pocket.
As a result, health plans that do create those networks will only be required to reimburse up to $12 per test if they are purchased out of that network, meaning people could be on the hook for the rest of the cost.
If an insurer does not set up a preferred network, they will have to cover all at-home tests in full regardless of the place of purchase.
During a briefing Monday, Press Secretary Jen Psaki said tests should be “out the door in the coming weeks.”
“The contracts [for testing companies] are structured in a way to require that significant amounts are delivered on an aggressive timeline, the first of which should be arriving early next week,” she added.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (NPR) (The Washington Post)
Biden Administration Unveils Plan To Replace All Lead Pipes
The effort builds on the $15 billion allocated under the bipartisan infrastructure bill for lead pipe replacement, but industry leaders say $60 billion will be needed for nationwide revitalization.
White House Outlines Actions on Lead Pipes and Paint
The Biden administration rolled out a sweeping plan on Thursday to remove all the nation’s lead pipes over the next decade and take other steps to prevent lead paint contamination.
Lead, which was commonly used in piping for municipal water systems all over the country until it was banned in 1978, is a dangerous neurotoxin that can cause serious nervous system damage, especially in children.
Contamination from lead pipes seeping into water supplies has caused multiple high-profile public health and environmental catastrophes over the last decade, including the notorious crisis in Flint, Michigan.
According to a White House factsheet, an estimated 10 million households are connected to water through lead pipes. Children and teenagers in 400,000 schools and child care facilities also risk exposure to lead-contaminated water.
“Because of inequitable infrastructure development and disinvestment, low-income communities and communities of color are disproportionately exposed to these risks,” the factsheet stated.
To address those disparities and revitalize water systems across the nation, the White House outlined 15 new action items the Biden administration is taking, including:
- Launching “a new regulatory process to protect communities from lead in drinking water” through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
- Clarifying that state, local, and Tribal governments can use the $350 billion aid allocated under the American Rescue Plan to replace lead service lines.
- Establishing federally-operated regional technical assistance hubs “to fast track lead service line removal projects in partnership with labor unions and local water agencies.”
- Awarding federal grants through the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to remove lead paint in low-income communities.
- Directing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to expand childhood lead testing.
- Establishing “a new Cabinet Level Partnership for Lead Remediation in Schools and Child Care Centers.”
The White House also said it will direct the EPA to allocate $3 billion for state, local, and Tribal governments to replace lead pipes through funding that was approved under the bipartisan infrastructure bill signed by President Joe Biden last month.
A Matter of Funding
In total, Congress provided $15 billion to revitalize the nation’s lead-pipe systems under the infrastructure bill.
However, industry experts have estimated that it will cost $60 billion to entirely overhaul all the remaining lead pipes in the U.S.
As a result, the Biden administration has proposed several additional funding mechanisms in the social safety net package, known as the Build Back Better Act, that is currently being negotiated by Congress.
Specifically, the legislation would set aside $9 billion for lead remediation grants to disadvantaged communities, $1 billion for rural water utilities to remove lead pipes, and $5 billion for mitigation efforts such as removing lead-based water fixtures in low-income households.
The Build Back Better Act would additionally provide $65 billion for public housing agencies and $5 billion for other federally-assisted housing organizations to improve housing quality, including by replacing lead pipes and service lines.
The status of that legislation, as well as what provisions will remain in the final version, remain in limbo. While Democratic leadership has pushed to pass the sweeping social bill before the new year, all 50 of the party’s members in the Senate will need to sign on, and moderate Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) has continued to withhold his support.