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Trump impeachment vote under way after Capitol siege

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President Donald Trump is on the verge of being impeached for a second time just a week after a mob of his supporters stormed the US Capitol.

Voting on an article of impeachment for “incitement of insurrection” is under way.

During a debate in the House of Representatives, speaker Nancy Pelosi asked Republicans and Democrats to “search their souls” ahead of the historic vote. Mr Trump would be the first American president to be impeached twice.

Ms Pelosi called Mr Trump a “clear and present danger to the nation we all love”.

Actual removal seems unlikely before the January 20 inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden.

A spokesman for Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell said the Republican leader would not agree to bring the chamber back immediately, all but ensuring a Senate trial could not begin at least until January 19.

But Mr McConnell did not rule out voting to convict Mr Trump in the event of a trial. In a note to his fellow Republican senators just before the House was to begin voting, he said he is undecided.

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (AP/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

“While the press has been full of speculation, 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.

While Mr Trump’s first impeachment in 2019 brought no Republican votes in the House, several Republican leaders are breaking with the party to join Democrats this time, saying Mr Trump violated his oath to protect and defend US democracy.

However, most Republicans planned to vote “no” and representative Tom McClintock of California said during debate that impeaching Mr Trump a week before he leaves office is a “petty, vindictive and gratuitous act”.

As for threats of more trouble from intruders, security was exceptionally tight at the Capitol with shocking images of massed National Guard troops, secure perimeters around the complex and metal detector screenings required for representatives entering the House chamber.

Security is very tight at the Capitol (AP/Alex Brandon)

Though Mr McConnell is declining to hasten an impeachment trial, a Republican strategist told The Associated Press that he believes Mr Trump committed impeachable offences and considers the Democrats’ impeachment drive an opportunity to reduce the divisive, chaotic president’s hold on his party.

Mr McConnell called major Republican donors last weekend to gauge their thinking about Mr Trump and was told that the president had clearly crossed a line. Mr McConnell told them he was finished with Mr Trump, said the strategist.

The New York Times first reported Mr McConnell’s views on impeachment on Tuesday.

The stunning collapse of Mr Trump’s final days in office, along with warnings of more violence ahead, leaves the nation at an uneasy and unfamiliar juncture before Mr Biden takes office.

Mr Trump faces a single charge of “incitement of insurrection”.

The four-page impeachment resolution relies on Mr Trump’s own incendiary rhetoric and the falsehoods he spread about Mr Biden’s election victory, including at a White House rally on the day of the January 6 attack on the Capitol, in making its case for “high crimes and misdemeanours” as demanded in the Constitution.

Mr Trump took no responsibility for the riot, suggesting it was the drive to oust him rather than his actions around the bloody riot that was dividing the country.

“To continue on this path, I think it’s causing tremendous danger to our country, and it’s causing tremendous anger,” Mr Trump said on Tuesday, in his first remarks to reporters since last week’s violence.

A Capitol police officer died from injuries suffered in the riot, and police shot and killed a woman during the siege. Three other people died in what authorities said were medical emergencies.

The outgoing president offered no condolences for those dead or injured, only saying: “I want no violence.”

At least five Republican representatives, including third-ranking House Republican leader Liz Cheney of Wyoming, were unswayed by the president’s logic. These Republicans announced they would vote to impeach Mr Trump.

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Dustin Diamond undergoing chemotherapy treatments for cancer

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Original Saved By The Bell star Dustin Diamond has begun chemotherapy treatments after being diagnosed with cancer, according to his representative.

Diamond, best known for playing Screech on the hit 90s sitcom, was taken to hospital earlier this month in Florida.

Last week, his team disclosed he had cancer.

“Dustin has completed his first round of chemo and his next round is being scheduled. He will also begin his physical therapy soon,” the actor’s spokesman, Roger Paul, said in a statement.

“Dustin is looking forward to spending more time with his girlfriend, playing his bass guitar/video games, as well as making videos for his fans on social media,” Mr Paul added.

Saved By The Bell aired from 1989 to 1993, and its spinoffs included Saved By The Bell: The College Years and “Saved By The Bell: The New Class, both of which Diamond starred in.

A sequel was launched on Peacock this fall featuring many from the original cast, including Elizabeth Berkley, Mario Lopez, Tiffani Thiessen and Mark-Paul Gosselaar. Diamond was not included.

Diamond has been sued several times for delinquent taxes and in foreclosure proceedings for missing mortgage payments.

He has appeared on reality TV shows, made a sex tape and produced a tell-all documentary on Lifetime TV called The Unauthorized Saved By The Bell Story.

In 2015, he was sentenced to serve four months in jail for his part in a Wisconsin barroom stabbing.

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President Biden signs series of executive coronavirus orders

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With a burst of executive orders, President Joe Biden has served notice that the nation’s Covid-19 response is under new management and he is demanding progress to reduce infections and lift the siege Americans have endured for nearly a year.

The 10 orders signed by President Biden are aimed at jump starting his national Covid-19 strategy to increase vaccinations and testing, lay the groundwork for reopening schools and businesses, and immediately increase the use of masks — including a requirement that Americans mask up for travel.

One directive calls for addressing healthcare inequities in minority communities hard hit by the virus.

President Joe Biden signs executive orders (Alex Brandon/AP)

“We didn’t get into this mess overnight, and it will take months to turn this around,” President Biden said. “Despite the best intentions we’re going to face setbacks “

But he declared: “To a nation waiting for action, let me be clear on this point: Help is on the way.”

The new president has vowed to take far more aggressive measures to contain the virus than his predecessor, starting with stringent adherence to public health guidance.

He faces steep obstacles, with the virus actively spreading in most states, slow progress on the vaccine rollout and political uncertainty over whether congressional Republicans will help him pass a 1.9 trillion dollars economic relief and Covid response package.

“We need to ask average Americans to do their part,” said Jeff Zients, the White House official directing the national response. “Defeating the virus requires a coordinated nationwide effort.”

Biden officials say they are hampered by lack of cooperation from the Trump administration during the transition. They say they do not have a complete understanding of their predecessors’ actions on vaccine distribution.

And they face a litany of complaints from states that say they are not getting enough vaccine even as they are being asked to vaccinate more categories of people.

President Biden acknowledged the urgency of the mission in his inaugural address.

“We are entering what may well be the toughest and deadliest period of the virus,” he said before asking Americans to join him in a moment of silence in memory of the more than 400,000 people in the US who have died from Covid-19.

President Biden’s top medical adviser on Covid-19, Dr Anthony Fauci, also announced renewed US support for the World Health Organisation after the Trump administration had pulled out of the global body.

Dr Fauci said that the US will join the UN health agency’s efforts to bring vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics to people in need, whether in rich or poor countries and will resume full funding and staffing support for WHO.

The US mask order for travel being implemented by President Biden will apply to airports and planes, ships, intercity buses, trains and public transportation.

Travellers from abroad must furnish a negative Covid-19 test before departing for the US and quarantine upon arrival. President Biden has already mandated masks on federal property.

Although airlines, Amtrak and other transport providers now require masks, President Biden’s order makes it a federal mandate, leaving little wiggle room for passengers tempted to argue about their rights.

It marks a sharp break with the culture of President Donald Trump’s administration, under which masks were optional, and Mr Trump made a point of going maskless and hosting big gatherings of like-minded supporters.

Science has shown that masks, properly worn, cut down on coronavirus transmission.

President Biden also is seeking to expand testing and vaccine availability, with the goal of 100 million shots in his first 100 days in office.

Mr Zients called Biden’s goal “ambitious and achievable”.

The Democratic president has directed the Federal Emergency Management Agency to begin setting up vaccination centres, aiming to have 100 up and running in a month.

He is ordering the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention to begin a programme to make vaccines available through local pharmacies starting next month.

And he is mobilising the Public Health Service to deploy to assist localities in vaccinations.

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