Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has blocked a quick impeachment trial for President Donald Trump but has not ruled out voting to convict him.
A spokesman for Mr McConnell said the leading Republican had informed Democrats that he would block their effort to quickly call the chamber back into an emergency session to put Mr Trump on trial.
The House of Representatives voted 232-197 to impeach Mr Trump, and Mr McConnell’s move means the Senate trial is all but certain to be delayed until after Joe Biden’s inauguration as president on January 20.
Yet in a letter to his Republican colleagues, Mr McConnell acknowledged he had not made up his mind about whether Mr Trump should be convicted of the House’s charge that he incited insurrection by exhorting supporters who violently attacked the Capitol last week, resulting in five deaths and a disruption of Congress.
“I have not made a final decision on how I will vote and I intend to listen to the legal arguments when they are presented to the Senate,” Mr McConnell wrote.
Mr McConnell’s statement was a stark contrast to the support – or at times, silence – he has shown for much of what Mr Trump has done or said during his presidency. Mr McConnell will be Washington’s most powerful Republican once the Democrat Mr Biden is inaugurated, and Mr McConnell’s increasingly chilly view of Mr Trump could make it easier for other Republicans to turn against him.
Earlier, a Republican strategist said Mr McConnell has told people he thinks Mr Trump perpetrated impeachable offences. Mr McConnell also saw House Democrats’ drive to impeach Mr Trump as an opportune moment to distance the Republican Party from the tumultuous, divisive outgoing president, according to the strategist.
Mr McConnell’s views were first reported by The New York Times.
Mr McConnell spoke to major Republican donors last weekend to assess their thinking about Mr Trump and was told that they believed Mr Trump had clearly crossed a line, the strategist said. Mr McConnell told them he was finished with Mr Trump, according to the consultant.
Mr McConnell’s alienation from Mr Trump, plus the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach him, underscored how the Republican Party’s long, reflexive support and condoning of Mr Trump’s actions is eroding.
The Senate is in recess and is not scheduled to hold a business session until January 19, the day before Mr Biden’s inauguration. By law, the Senate can be summoned to return for an emergency session if the two party leaders, Mr McConnell and minority leader Chuck Schumer, agree.
Mr Schumer has called for an emergency Senate meeting so it can remove Mr Trump from office before his term expires, citing potential, unpredictable problems that Mr Trump could cause.
A spokesman for Mr McConnell confirmed that his aides had told Mr Schumer’s office that he would not agree to an emergency session. The spokesman offered no explanation of Mr McConnell’s reasoning.
The Democratic-led House approved an impeachment article accusing Mr Trump of inciting insurrection, an unprecedented second impeachment of his presidency. Mr Trump exhorted a throng of his followers to march on the Capitol last Wednesday, where they disrupted Congress’ formal certification of Mr Biden’s win in a deadly riot that produced widespread damage.
Mr McConnell is looking out for his party’s long-term future, but in the short-term moving toward a political divorce from Mr Trump could mean that congressional Republicans will face challenges in primaries.
It is unclear how many Republicans would vote to convict Mr Trump in a Senate trial, but it appears plausible that several would. So far, senator Lisa Murkowski has said she wants Mr Trump to resign and senator Ben Sasse has said he would “definitely consider” House impeachment articles.
Complicating thinking about Mr Trump’s second impeachment is that Republicans will be defending 20 of the 34 Senate seats up for election in 2022. Thanks to Democratic victories this month in two Georgia run-off elections, Democrats are about to take control of the chamber by 50-50, with vice president-elect Kamala Harris casting tie-breaking votes.
Addressing a ceremony to launch Persian Gulf Bidboland Gas Refinery on Thursday, Zangeneh said the country would generate $1.5 billion/year by the project.
This is the 11th petrochemical project which has come online in Iran since last March.
Plans were underway to launch 17 petrochemical projects with 11.4 billion dollars of investment in the country during the current Iranian calendar year which began on March 21 of which 11 have so far come on stream.
Once fully operational, the 17 projects will add 25 million tons to the country’s annual production capacity.
He said the first Bidboland gas refinery is the source of Iran’s gas industry. “With the commissioning of this refinery and the daily refining capacity of about 25 million cubic meters and the operation of the first national pipeline in 1971, the gas industry in Iran was formed and born.”
The Minister of Petroleum stated that by March 2023, no gas will be flared in Iran and more than 95% of the collected associated gases will be consumed.
Zangeneh announced that the 3200 NGL project would come online next calendar year and by exploiting it, all the gases of the West Karun region will be sent to Bandar Imam after collection and processing.
He added that NGL 3100 plant would come online the following year along with a petrochemical plant with 1 million tons of annual production capacity in Dehloran.
Noting that the Persian Gulf Bidboland refinery has the capacity to produce 3.5 million tons of ethane, butane, propane and pentane plus, he said, adding the Persian Gulf Petrochemical Industries Company (PGPIC) has been entrusted with another project to collect associated gases with $1.1b of investment.
The US’s leading infectious-diseases expert has called it “liberating” to be backed by a science-friendly administration that has embraced his recommendations to battle Covid-19.
Dr Anthony Fauci’s highly visible schedule on Thursday, the first full day of President Joe Biden’s term, underscored the new administration’s confidence in the doctor but also the urgency of the moment.
His day began with a 4am virtual meeting with officials of the World Health Organisation (WHO), which is based in Switzerland, and stretched past a 4pm appearance at the lectern in the White House briefing room.
The breakneck pace showcased the urgent need to combat a pandemic that has killed more than 400,000 Americans and reached its deadliest phase just as the new president comes to office.
Dr Fauci made clear that he believed the new administration would not trade in the mixed messages that so often came from the Trump White House.
“The idea that you can get up here and talk about what you know and what the science is… it is something of a liberating feeling,” Dr Fauci told reporters.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki had invited Dr Fauci to take the podium first at her daily briefing.
While choosing his words carefully, Dr Fauci acknowledged that it had been difficult at times to work for Donald Trump, who repeatedly played down the severity of the pandemic, refused to consistently promote mask-wearing and often touted unproven scientific remedies, including a malaria drug and even injecting disinfectant.
“It was very clear that there were things that were said, be it regarding things like hydroxychloroquine and other things, that really was uncomfortable because they were not based in scientific fact,” Dr Fauci said.
He added that he took “no pleasure” in having to contradict the president, a move that often drew Mr Trump’s wrath.
Mr Biden, during his presidential campaign, pledged to make Dr Fauci his chief medical adviser when he took office, and the 80-year-old scientist was immediately in motion.
Dr Fauci was up well before dawn Thursday for the virtual meeting with WHO, which Mr Biden had rejoined the previous day after Mr Trump withdrew the US from the group out of anger over how it dealt with China in the early days of the pandemic.
Dr Fauci told the group that the United States would join its effort to deliver coronavirus vaccines to poor countries.
In the afternoon, the doctor stood alongside Mr Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris in the White House as they unveiled a series of executive orders aimed at slowing the spread of the virus, which is killing more than 4,000 Americans a day, as well as bolstering the nation’s sluggish vaccine distribution programme.
In his return to the briefing room, Dr Fauci joked with reporters, seemingly far more relaxed than at any point last year.
“One of the new things in this administration is, If you don’t know the answer, don’t guess,” Dr Fauci said in one pointed observation during the White House briefing.
“Just say you don’t know the answer.”
And as he stepped off the stage, Ms Psaki said she would soon have him back.
Armed Conflicts, Editors’ Choice, Featured, Global, Global Governance, Headlines, IPS UN: Inside the Glasshouse, Nuclear Energy – Nuclear Weapons, Peace, TerraViva United Nations Opinion
Ambassador Jan Eliasson is Chair of the Governing Board of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) and Dan Smith is Director, SIPRI
Rosemary DiCarlo, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, briefs the members of the UN Security Council. Iran and US are both accused of undermining the 2015 nuclear deal. Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas
STOCKHOLM, Jan 22 2021 (IPS) – A deadly pandemic to control. An urgent nationwide vaccination programme to roll out. An economic crisis to navigate. Political divisions and distrust deep enough to spark mob violence and terrorism.
The 46th President of the United States faces a barrage of critical domestic challenges from day one.
Nevertheless, one matter of foreign policy will need to be at the top of his agenda: there will be barely two weeks left to save the 2010 strategic nuclear arms control treaty with Russia, New START, from extinction.
New START is the last nuclear arms control treaty left standing between the USA and Russia. It sets caps on the deployment of the long-range portion of the world’s two biggest nuclear arsenals and is due to expire on 5 February.
Fortunately, both incoming president Joe Biden and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, have indicated their willingness to extend the treaty without conditions. So, it is likely to be a smooth process.
Amid the mistrust that colours today’s geopolitical landscape, far harder arms control challenges lie ahead.
The crisis in arms control
The past four years have seen major parts of the international arms control architecture weakened or dismantled. The 1987 Treaty on the Elimination of Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles (INF Treaty) collapsed in 2019.
In 2018, the USA unilaterally pulled out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)¬—the 2015 ‘nuclear deal’ with Iran signed up to by all five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council along with Germany and the European Union.
In November last year the USA formally withdrew from the 2002 Treaty on Open Skies, which allowed countries across the Euro-Atlantic space, from Anchorage to Vladivostok, to carry out unarmed surveillance flights over each other’s territory in order to monitor military activity.
The 1968 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) is also looking precarious. Much of the world is frustrated at the continued possession of nuclear weapons by the five nuclear weapon states recognized by the NPT—the USA, Russia, France, China and the United Kingdom—as well as Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea.
The 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), which will enter into force on 22 January, was born of this frustration.
While the US presidency of Donald J. Trump has been particularly detrimental to arms control, problems were growing long before, and are far from being resolved.
‘Arms control for a new era’
Joe Biden brings to the presidency an impressive depth and breadth of experience in the field of arms control and international negotiation.
He made a commitment to ‘arms control for a new era’ a prominent part of his electoral platform and characterized the extension of New START as ‘a foundation for new arms control arrangements’.
New arms control arrangements are certainly needed. Without them, there is a serious risk of the further spread, and potential use, of nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction.
It is also necessary to deal with an increasingly unpredictable, and expensive, arms race based on competition in technologies rather than numbers of weapons and characterized by the increasing entanglement of nuclear and non-nuclear technologies.
Several factors, such as missile defence, advanced conventional capabilities, hypersonic weapons, the accelerated militarization of outer space and the potential application of artificial intelligence to strategic weapons, are affecting the nuclear calculus and strategic stability.
It is unclear how these factors should be addressed in arms control negotiations. The task of designing a new approach to arms control is, in itself, dauntingly complex. And negotiations will take place in a far from ideal context.
Delivering a new, effective arms control architecture will demand creativity, cooperation and compromise on all sides. Joe Biden has said that the USA will lead the process. But his team will face severe constraints.
The challenges around returning to the JCPOA—something Joe Biden has said he hopes to achieve—are illustrative. The JCPOA was proving a successful non-proliferation tool until the US withdrawal.
But it was only entered into by the USA in the face of strong opposition from the Republican Party, which has not weakened in the interim. In addition, there are a number of other problems and external factors that could distract attention from urgent work on the JCPOA.
Even with control of both houses of the US Congress, it will be difficult for Joe Biden to obtain the support needed to approve future arms control treaties with Russia (or other states).
Thus, the incoming president may well be restricted to executive orders, which are limited in scope and can easily be revoked by future US administrations.
Congressional approval will also be necessary to terminate certain sanctions on Iran in 2023, as is required under the terms of the JCPOA.
Recent US actions have also damaged the USA’s international reputation in many quarters—among both adversaries and allies—which will further complicate arms control diplomacy.
A collective challenge
The world faces a range of potentially destabilizing realities in the coming decades, from climate change and other environmental crises to the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Part of the big picture is that the geopolitical order is shifting, with new regional powers and new alliances in which the USA is less influential.
In arms control, as in many other areas, the international community needs to find new ways of working to secure our common interest.
We should hope that the successful extension of New START will be the prelude to a gradual resurgence of arms control, non-proliferation, disarmament and risk reduction. But, as with the other big issues of our time, success will depend on all key actors stepping up.