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The party’s dilemma is that while the vast majority of Democrats are prepared to vote next week to remove Trump from office, key parts of the caucus have also become acutely aware that impeachment would pose complications for Democrats’ agenda. But failing to take action is also not an option, with furious lawmakers eager to exact punishment for the president’s role in the attacks on the Capitol on Wednesday, which resulted in five deaths.

Pelosi told members in a letter Saturday night that they should prepare to return to Washington next week. But her missive made no mention of impeachment nor the push for the 25th Amendment, noting only that discussions were ongoing about how to proceed.

“It is absolutely essential that those who perpetrated the assault on our democracy be held accountable,” Pelosi wrote. “There must be a recognition that this desecration was instigated by the President.”

Democrats will likely need to make the decision within the next 24 hours, since members will require notice to return to Washington.

A group of Democrats, led by Reps. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) and Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), has drafted a formal impeachment resolution, which they plan to introduce Monday. The measure would impeach Trump for high crimes and misdemeanors “by willfully inciting violence against the government of the United States.”

That resolution had more than 185 cosponsors as of Saturday night — nearly the entire Democratic Caucus — but no Republicans.

Still, if Democrats did move to impeach, the effort isn’t expected to result in Trump’s ouster with just 11 days left in his term. The Senate likely wouldn’t even begin Trump’s impeachment trial until after Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20. Even then, it’s not clear if any Senate Republicans would join with Democrats to convict Trump.

Democrats began discussing the possibility of impeachment the same day that a pro-Trump mob invaded the Capitol on Wednesday, fatally injuring a police officer, terrorizing lawmakers and staff, and bringing an hourslong halt to Congress’ effort to certify Biden’s Electoral College victory. In an hourlong speech before the riots, Trump urged his supporters to march to the Capitol, saying “you’ll never take back our country with weakness” and declaring he would “never concede.”

“The president of the United States incited his supporters, these violent protesters, to storm the Capitol, disrupt that process to try to prevent it from happening, so he would remain in office,” Cicilline said Saturday.

If Pelosi moves ahead, the decision would set off an expedited legal and legislative process that Democrats are scrambling to finalize. But with less than two weeks until Biden takes the oath, Democrats will need to condense months of preparation, arguments and proceedings into a matter of days.

One of the House’s architects of the 2019 impeachment said the case against Trump is so strong — and so public — that the House could justify moving at lightning speed if it chooses.

“The president incited insurrection after working his followers into a frenzy with lies about the election. He sicced them on a coordinate branch of government. If that’s not a high crime and misdemeanor, I don’t know what is,” said Norm Eisen, who advised Pelosi and the House Judiciary Committee during the first Trump impeachment. “This is a case where Congress can move quickly, the House can move quickly if it chooses to.”

During the first impeachment, Eisen was among those who advocated ensuring Trump had ample opportunities to rebut evidence and present his own case. But this time, he says, Trump was so blatant in his incitement of violence, built on a monthslong campaign to mislead supporters the election was stolen, that a lengthy investigation is unnecessary.

“What more do you need?” he wondered.

With few exceptions, the House Democratic Caucus has been in lockstep behind the push to impeach Trump. Still, a growing number of Democrats began to privately raise concerns Friday and Saturday that impeaching Trump could undermine the start of Biden’s presidency, noting that the Democrats’ push now looked doomed in the Senate.

Other Democrats have raised concerns that impeaching Trump just before he leaves office could make him a martyr to his supporters and empower him further. And others still are wary of gathering at the Capitol for a highly charged impeachment process that could present another security risk days after this week’s riot.

“We would rather not be doing this. We’re on the eve of a new president. And we’re excited about that,” Cicilline said on CNN, acknowledging those concerns. “But we simply can’t say, you know what, just let the 12 days pass, let it go, it’s no big deal.”

The few Republicans who have indicated openness to impeachment, such as Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), said they first wanted to see what kind of process the House undertook. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) told Fox News on Saturday that he believed Trump “committed impeachable offenses” but said he doesn’t know if the process is “possible or practical” at this juncture. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) has called for Trump to resign but has not tipped her hand on impeachment yet.

Multiple House Democrats have spent the last 48 hours phoning their GOP colleagues, some of whom are personal friends, imploring them to consider voting to impeach Trump. But those pleas have been largely fruitless, several lawmakers and aides said.

Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) is considered likely to vote for it, though it is not certain, according to several people familiar with the conversations. Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) may also consider voting yes, according to one source.

Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D-Pa.), who belongs to the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, said she has tried and failed to persuade several Republicans that she “was hopeful would fall on the right side of all this.”

“The thing that most disappointed me about that was not that they didn’t see the point — not that they didn’t understand why this needed to happen. But that their default position was, we just don’t have time,” Houlahan said in an interview.

“That, to me, is inexcusable.”

The Democrats’ dayslong process would be a sharp break from every impeachment in history, including Democrats’ 2019 impeachment of Trump, which stretched more than three months in the House alone.

Democrats, at the time, emphasized how crucial it was to afford multiple opportunities for Trump to have due process and the ability to rebut charges against him. It’s unclear whether Trump will be given those same opportunities this time — and whether Democrats intend to engage any of the lawyers who represented him last time.

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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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