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While no one is calling on McCarthy or Scalise to step aside from their posts — they were, afterall, just unanimously elected to serve another term in leadership — tensions are undoubtedly running high inside the conference.

“There’s a little bit of anger, but a lot of disappointment,” one GOP member said in an interview. “And what you saw on display with Steve and Kevin was, eh, we’re just gonna continue on with the narrative of the right and they did not catch the moment. That’s troublesome.”

“When you’re a leader, you have to look around the corner,” the lawmaker added.

The scrutiny, anonymous for now, offers a preview of the reckoning to come in the Republican Party, which had been unified and energized in the aftermath of winning back a net of 10 House seats in November. But since then, Trump’s brazen efforts to subvert the election have fiercely divided the GOP, which could put their efforts to win back the majority — and McCarthy’s dream of claiming the speaker’s gavel — at risk.

“We are on a bad path. Every member of Congress must understand what we say matters — what we say and how we say it matters,” Rep. Gary Palmer (R-Ala.), chairman of the Republican Policy Committee, said in an interview Friday.

Some lawmakers are even questioning whether this could hurt McCarthy’s long-term standing in the party. The California Republican has built his political brand around his close ties to Trump over the past four years — a political calculation that has put him in lockstep with the House GOP, which remains mostly pro-Trump.

Still, McCarthy appeared to do some damage control on Friday, putting out a statement acknowledging Joe Biden as the president-elect for the first time and saying he had reached out to Biden in the hopes of de-escalating the fiery rhetoric and working toward uniting the country.

The remarks represent the first outward sign of McCarthy offering Biden an olive branch — and turning the page on Trump.

“Our country is not just divided. We are deeply hurt,” McCarthy said in his statement. “The task ahead for the next Congress and incoming Biden Administration couldn’t be more momentous. But to deliver a better America for all, partisans of all stripes first must unite as Americans and show our country that a peaceful transition of power has occurred.”

Some rank-and-file members are also lashing out at one another. Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) said he was “embarrassed” by some of his colleagues.

And Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas), a Navy SEAL who was wounded in Afghanistan, told the Houston Chronicle: “All of the members who called for everyone to come and fight and make their last stand, all of those members were scattered like cowards while the Capitol Police had to do the fighting.”

McCarthy and Scalise — who survived an assassination attempt at a GOP baseball practice in 2017 — were quick to strongly condemn the outbursts of violence on Wednesday, though they steered clear of criticizing Trump. And as the rioters were breaching the Capitol, McCarthy said on ABC News that he had “begged” Trump to address the nation instead of just simply putting out a tweet.

But some GOP members wanted their top leaders to go further in distancing the party from Trump, whom Republicans from across the spectrum feel was responsible for sending protesters to the Capitol armed with anger and misunderstandings about Congress’s election certification process. Even some members of the hard-line Freedom Caucus said Trump was to blame for the mob attack.

“Fundamentally, where I disagreed with the White House and with most of my Republican colleagues… is that the Constitution is clear we count the electors and we should say so,” said Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas), a member of the House Freedom Caucus, who opposed the objecting to the election results in Congress.

“I think Republicans needed to be more responsible about explaining that reality, rather than putting forward a reality that was just not true.”

Some lawmakers were also upset that McCarthy and Scalise — along with over 120 House Republicans, easily a majority of the conference — still supported objecting to the electors from several states after the riots ensued.

“I disagreed with going forward and objecting to a second state,” said freshman Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.), who has been physically threatened since she came out against challenging the election results. “I just wish we had taken a moment and said this is not the time or place.”

Even before the outbreak of violence, one Republican lawmaker said they were “disgusted” with how McCarthy has handled Trump’s false claims of voter fraud, including counseling some of the freshmen members about which states had the strongest cases for objections.

Kinzinger, a vocal Trump critic who has called for Trump to be immediately removed from office, has not criticized any House GOP leaders by name. But he did say in one tweet: “Leaders that led this should all resign so the adults and truth-tellers can #RestoreOurGOP.

Other Republicans, however, put the blame squarely on Trump. And some GOP members came to McCarthy’s defense, arguing that behind the scenes, he has actually helped rein in some of Trump’s worst impulses over the years.

“I think McCarthy has been the single most moderating factor of Trump throughout his whole term,” one Republican member said. “I think it’s underappreciated how much sense Kevin talks into Trump, and I think Trump has listened to Kevin more or as much as anyone else.”

The approach from McCarthy and Scalise has put them directly at odds with Cheney, the No. 3 House Republican, who has been viewed as someone who may try to climb the leadership ranks one day.

She has repeatedly positioned herself against controversial Trump decisions, to the outrage of Trump loyalists. Some of them had even discussed recruiting someone to challenge her for conference chair.

But now she appears not only to be mostly forgiven by some of her critics for becoming a foil to Trump, but she is also seeing her standing rise as Freedom Caucus members split with Trump — and even one another. One Freedom Caucus member even chased Cheney down on Wednesday to thank her, said one GOP source.

“People are going to be looking at this moment when they look at who is going to lead the party,” said one GOP lawmaker. “[Cheney’s] political capital has risen significantly. She had the courage of her convictions.”

McCarthy has also taken a far different path than Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who actively discouraged Republican senators from joining the anti-certification effort, describing his vote to rubber-stamp Biden’s victory as “the most important vote I’ve ever cast.”

McCarthy’s allies, however, said he was trying to stay publicly neutral in order to maintain conference unity. He didn’t announce his position ahead of the certification vote, encouraged members not to attack each other over their positions, allowed members to debate the issue during a two-hour long conference meeting, and worked to make sure Republicans on both sides of the debate would have speaking time on the floor.

But any goodwill McCarthy created among the GOP lawmakers opposing the objection effort seems to have dissipated after pro-Trump rioters ransacked the Capitol.

“McCarthy hurt his brand,” another GOP member remarked, adding: “Scalise was to be expected.”

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Pelosi to move forward with impeachment if Pence doesn’t act to remove Trump

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“In protecting our Constitution and our Democracy, we will act with urgency, because this President represents an imminent threat to both,” Pelosi said in the letter to Democrats on Sunday night laying out next steps.

The House will try to pass a measure on Monday imploring Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment, through which he and the Cabinet declare Trump “incapable of executing the duties of his office, after which the Vice President would immediately exercise powers as acting president.” If Republicans object, as is virtually certain, Democrats will pass the bill via a roll call vote on Tuesday.

“We are calling on the Vice President to respond within 24 hours,” Pelosi wrote. “Next, we will proceed with bringing impeachment legislation to the Floor.”

But it’s not clear when exactly the Senate will take up the House’s measure. The Senate isn’t scheduled to return until Jan. 19, but will hold pro forma sessions on Tuesday and Friday. In theory, a senator could try to pass the House resolution by unanimous consent, but as of now it appears unlikely that it would pass.

On Monday, multiple House Democrats plan to introduce impeachment resolutions that would become the basis of any impeachment article considered by the House later this week.

Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), who will introduce an article of impeachment against Trump on Monday, said on Sunday that roughly 200 Democrats have co-sponsored the measure.

Currently, 211 voting members (plus three nonvoting members) support Cicilline’s legislation, and they are hoping to reach 217 voting members by Monday morning, enough for the House to impeach Trump, one Democratic source familiar with the matter told POLITICO.

A small number of Democrats have opted not to co-sign the bill, but privately say they will vote to support the resolution on the floor, the source added.

The impeachment effort in the House is likely to be bipartisan, with Democrats expecting at least one GOP lawmaker — Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois — to sign on. A handful of other House Republicans are seriously weighing it, according to several sources, though those lawmakers are waiting to see how Democrats proceed, and some are concerned about dividing the country even further.

Among the GOP members whom Democrats are keeping an eye on are Reps. John Katko of New York, Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, Fred Upton of Michigan, Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington.

Across the Capitol, at least two Republicans — Sens. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — have called on Trump to resign. On Saturday, Toomey told Fox News, “I do think the president committed impeachable offenses,” but told CNN the next day that he does not believe there is enough time to impeach.

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) has also said he would consider articles of impeachment.

Another option has emerged among some Republican and moderate Democratic circles — censuring Trump — though it remains highly unlikely to advance.

A censure resolution would gain far more support in the GOP than impeachment. Some Republicans have privately been pushing for that route and are trying to get Biden on board, according to GOP sources. That group of Republicans is also warning that impeachment could destroy Biden’s reputation with Republicans.

But censure is considered a nonstarter in an incensed House Democratic Caucus, where members see it as a slap on the wrist that gives Republicans an easy out.

The Democrats’ enormous step toward impeachment on Sunday comes after Pelosi and other top Democrats held a private call on Saturday night in which they discussed the potential ramifications that a lengthy impeachment trial could have on Biden’s presidency.

Democratic leaders discussed several options to limit the political effects on Biden’s first 100 days, with one option — floated by House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) — for the House to delay the start of an impeachment trial in the Senate by holding on to the article of impeachment.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has sent out a memo to senators explaining that the Senate could not take up impeachment until Jan. 19 at the earliest, absent unanimous consent.

A final decision has not been made, and House Democrats will discuss the matter on a 2 p.m. caucus call on Monday.

Lawmakers are already privately expressing concerns about returning to the Capitol for multiple days this week, worried about both a potential coronavirus outbreak and whether the building is secure, given how easily an armed pro-Trump mob invaded on Wednesday.

The Capitol physician urged House lawmakers and staff to get tested in a memo Sunday, saying they might have been exposed to someone who had the virus while huddling for safety in a large committee room for hours on Wednesday. During the hourslong lockdown, several Republican members refused to wear masks despite being offered them by Democrats worried about the spread of the deadly virus.

Melanie Zanona, Olivia Beavers and Marianne LeVine contributed to this report.

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Matt Hancock Scraps “Unnecessary Training Modules” Blamed For Slowing Vaccine Rollout

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Matt Hancock has agreed to remove some of the training modules required for volunteers to sign up to deliver the Covid-19 vaccine (PA)

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Matt Hancock said people will no longer need to undertake training including an anti-terrorism course to give the coronavirus jab after MPs said “bureaucratic rubbish” was delaying mass vaccination.

It comes as MPs called for the government to produce targets for the number of people given immunity before lockdown can be lifted.

The health secretary said a series of “unnecessary training modules” are being scrapped to speed up the process of getting people qualified to deliver the jab.

Speaking in the Commons, Sir Edward Leigh said he was shown by his fellow the Tory MP, a qualified GP, the “ridiculous form” he had filled out to start delivering the vaccine.

“When he’s inoculating an old lady, he’s not going to ask her if she’s come into contact with Jihadis or whatever, so the Secretary has got to cut through all this bureaucratic rubbish,” he said.

In response Mr Hancock said: “I am a man after Sir Edward’s heart and I can tell the House that we have removed a series of the unnecessary training modules that had been put in place, including fire safety, terrorism and others.

“I’ll write to him with the full panoply of the training that is not required and we have been able to remove, and we made this change as of this morning and I am glad to say it is enforced.

“I am a fan of busting bureaucracy and in this case I agree with him that it is not necessary to undertake anti-terrorism training in order to inject vaccines.”

Dr Fox had earlier challenged Boris Johnson to drop the “bureaucracy” and “political correctness” of the forms vaccine volunteers must fill out.

He told MPs: “As a qualified but non-practising doctor, I volunteered to help with the scheme and would urge others to do the same. 

“But, can I ask the Prime Minister why I’ve been required to complete courses on conflict resolution, equality, diversity and human rights, moving and handling loads and preventing radicalisation in order to give a simple Covid jab?”

Mr Johnson said he had been “assured by the Health Secretary that all such obstacles, all such pointless pettifoggery has been removed”.

The government has been attempting to recruit thousands of volunteers to help with a mass vaccination programme, and with the recent approval of the more easily deliverable Oxford/AstraZeneca version has today revealed the location of seven mass vaccination centres set to open next week.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman told journalists at a briefing they would be at Robertson House in Stevenage, the ExCel Centre in London, the Centre for Life in Newcastle, the Etihad Tennis Centre in Manchester, Epsom Downs Racecourse in Surrey, Ashton Gate Stadium in Bristol and Millennium Point in Birmingham, and it is expected they will be run with a combination of NHS staff and volunteers.

But so far the government has not said how many people need to be inoculated before it has an impact on the coronavirus restrictions.

Mr Hancock was asked by a number of MPs if the measures could be eased once the top few tiers in the vaccine priority list had been clear.

Former Conservative chief whip Mark Harper said once the top four groups, which includes care home residents and staff, frontline NHS workers, the clinically extremely vulnerable and everyone over 70 “we’ve taken care therefore of 80% of the risk of death”.

Adding: “What possible reason is there at that point for not rapidly relaxing the restrictions that are in place on the rest of our country?”

The health secretary replied: “We have to see the impact of that vaccination on the reduction in the number of deaths, which I very much hope that we will see at that point, and so that is why we will take this – an evidence-led move down through the tiers, when we’ve broken the link, I hope, between cases and hospitalisations and deaths.”

The ex-Tory minister and another doctor, Andrew Murrison, said: “The logic of anticipating what is going to happen in two or three or four weeks’ time from the number of cases we are getting at the moment is that we can do the same in reverse.

“That is to say, when we have a sufficient number of people vaccinated up we can anticipate in two or three or four weeks’ time how many deaths have been avoided. 

“That means, since it cuts both ways he will be able to make a decision on when we should end these restrictions.”

Mr Hancock replied: “The logic of the case that Dr Murrison makes is the right logic and we want to see that happen in empirical evidence on the ground.

“This hope for the weeks ahead doesn’t take away, though, from the serious and immediate threat posed now.”

The Cabinet minister said the challenge for the government is to increase the amount of doses available, claiming “the current rate-limiting factor on the vaccine rollout is the supply of approved, tested, safe vaccine”.

He added: ”We are working with both AstraZeneca and Pfizer to increase that supply as fast as possible and they’re doing a brilliant job.”

But Labour’s shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth called for the government to ramp up its vaccination programme to six million doses a week.

He told the Commons: “The Prime Minister has promised almost 14 million will be offered the vaccine by mid-Feb. That depends on around two million doses a week on average.

“Both [Mr Hancock] and the Prime Minister have reassured us in recent days that it’s doable based on orders.

“But in the past ministers have told us that they had agreements for 30 million AstraZeneca doses by September 2020 and 10 million of Pfizer doses by the end of 2020.

“So, I think people just want to understand the figures and want clarity. Can ministers tell us how many of the ordered doses have been manufactured?”

Mr Ashworth added: “Two million a week would be fantastic but it should be the limit of our ambitions, we should be aiming to scale up to three, then five, then six million jabs a week over the coming months.”

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How South African police are tackling pangolin smugglers


Quiet, solitary and nocturnal, the pangolin has few natural enemies, but researchers believe it is the most trafficked mammal in the world. The tough scales covering its body are sought after for use in Chinese medicine, in the erroneous belief that they have healing properties.

The animal has also been of interest to researchers during the coronavirus pandemic. Related viruses have been found in trafficked pangolins, though there is continued uncertainty around early theories that pangolins were involved in the transmission of the virus from animals to humans.

After South African police seized a pangolin from suspected smugglers, BBC Africa correspondent Andrew Harding witnessed how vets tried to save the animal’s life.

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