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Hawley, who was photographed fist pumping protesters before they raided the Capitol, declined to be interviewed for this story.

In questioning the election results, the senators aligned themselves with Trump and his most hard-core supporters’ baseless claims of widespread voter fraud. Some in Trumpworld are still cheering them on, and they may ultimately win support from the party’s base if they run for president. But after rioters stormed the Capitol in a bid to halt certification of Joe Biden’s election, Hawley and Cruz are facing immediate consequences.

Hawley’s political patron, former Sen. John Danforth (R-Mo.), turned on him, calling his support the “biggest mistake I’ve ever made.” His top donor, David Humphreys, said he should be censured. Hawley’s book publisher dropped him, interfering with a key element of many presidential campaigns. Cruz, meanwhile, is facing a redux of the backlash he received for egging on a shutdown in 2013 over a failed effort to defund Obamacare.

“Everyone can see through, and look: understand they’re running for president,” said former Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), a frequent Trump critic. “[They] think they’re getting a pass and they can be popular with the base. And there’s no harm done. There was harm done.”

Hawley and Cruz led separate efforts Wednesday to object to the certification of election results in Arizona and Pennsylvania, despite overwhelming opposition from Senate Republicans, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) Hawley was first to announce a challenge to Biden’s win. Cruz followed up with his own plan to object coupled with a call for the creation of a 10-day electoral commission that initially had the backing of 10 of his GOP colleagues but had no chance of being established.

Some Senate Republicans dropped their objections after the Capitol was ransacked, but Cruz and Hawley maintained their stances. Both Hawley and Cruz condemned Wednesday’s violence.

Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.) are all calling on both men to resign.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said in an interview that he lobbied Hawley, Cruz and Sens. James Lankford (R-Okla.) and Steve Daines (R-Mont.) to change their minds on objecting to Biden’s electoral votes when senators were holed up in a secure area following the attack. Lankford and Daines backed off “when they saw the danger of what happened,” Manchin said. He told Hawley to “please think of what you’re doing, please reconsider what you’re doing.”

Hours later, after rioters were finally cleared from the Capitol, Hawley still objected to Pennsylvania. And Cruz voted with Hawley against certifying the election in the Keystone State. Five other GOP senators joined them.

“There’s no way they cannot be complicit in this. That they think they can walk away and say, ‘I just exercised my right as a senator?’ Especially after we came back here and after they saw what happened,” Manchin said. “I don’t know how you can live with yourself right now knowing that people lost their lives.”

It’s possible even without Cruz and Hawley, a different Republican senator would have worked with the House to challenge the election. But both fought to become faces of the efforts and everyone in Washington thinks they have spent the last month positioning themselves for the next presidential race. They sent fundraising solicitations on Wednesday afternoon as the riot outside the Capitol spiraled out of control.

Cruz said that he told his staff on Wednesday to halt all fundraising immediately “because we had a terrorist attack on the Capitol.” But when they were fundraising off the issue in the days before, other GOP candidates’ money spigot dried up completely and was replaced by hundreds of angry emails from small-dollar donors asking why Republicans weren’t standing with Hawley and Cruz, according to an aide to a Republican senator.

Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) said if Cruz or Hawley win the 2024 GOP nomination, “I’ll be spending a lot of time making sure the people of Pennsylvania don’t forget.”

Senate Republicans sought to distance themselves from their efforts. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) called Hawley a “smart attorney” who must understand the courts tossed Trump’s election challenges. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) accused Cruz and Hawley of “directly” undermining peoples’ rights to elect their leaders.

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) said election objectors “will forever be seen as being complicit in an unprecedented attack against our democracy.” Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), also a potential presidential contender, said on Fox News that “these senators, as insurrectionists were literally storming the Capitol, were sending out fundraising emails.”

“Sen. Hawley was doing something that was really dumbass,” Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) told NPR Friday. “It was a terrible, terrible idea and you don’t lie to the American people.”

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) said that while he “strongly disagreed” with Cruz and Hawley’s decision to challenge the election results, “there is a difference between weighing in on a particular issue and inciting violence.” Daines, meanwhile, said that Cruz was “very clear that this was not about overturning the election.”

One GOP senator, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, predicted the caucus would face a reckoning over Hawley and Cruz.

“Their whole antic, if you will, is a lie. It’s built on a lie and both know that,” the senator said. “To the degree that perpetuating this lie helped incite the crowd, that’s a responsibility that Ted and Josh sort of own, along with Donald Trump.”

While the raiding of the U.S. Capitol drew widespread condemnation from members of both parties, the GOP grassroots is still devoted to Trump.

Hawley may also become a martyr for the conservative free speech movement after Simon and Schuster cancelled his book. And the anti-establishment Senate Conservatives Fund is giving backup to Hawley as he’s being abandoned by other allies.

“The junior senator from Missouri’s decision to object to the election results showed tremendous courage,” reads a fundraising email sent out Friday.

Some former Trump aides applauded the senators’ efforts.

“Sen. Hawley stood up for election integrity by objecting to the Keystone State’s Electoral College votes and should be commended,” said Greg Manz, an-ex Trump staffer who worked on his 2016 and 2020 campaigns. “President Trump’s supporters will not forget his bold efforts to defend the Constitution.”

But others said Trump supporters view Hawley and Cruz as inauthentic.

“They saw through his blind ambitious act and it just wasn’t viewed as genuine,” former 2016 Trump campaign aide Bryan Lanza said of Trump voters’ view of Hawley. “They don’t think he’s a real MAGA supporter. … He just comes across as insincere.”

Much of the recent outrage has centered on Hawley, currently the youngest senator, who is trying to channel Trump’s populism into tangible policy. He worked with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) to advance $2,000 stimulus checks, has called for federal subsidization of jobs during the pandemic and tanked his own party’s judicial nominees.

Cruz on Friday said that he viewed his effort as a middle ground to Hawley’s move and immediately certifying Biden’s win, because senators “were being given two choices both of which were really lousy choices.”

For Cruz, it’s a return to the old days of getting a cold shoulder from the establishment wing of the GOP. He helped lead the charge into the 2013 shutdown over defunding Obamacare and accused McConnell of lying in 2015, moves that cost him support from senators in his run against Trump.

Still, Cruz was Trump’s fiercest competitor by the end. And he eventually became one of Trump’s closest allies despite Trump attacking his wife on the trail and refusing to endorse Trump for weeks.

Cruz distanced himself from Trump Friday, but he’s not joining calls for his immediate resignation.

“The president’s language and rhetoric was reckless,” Cruz said. “And it was not helpful. That’s not what I was saying.”

Daniel Lippman contributed to this report.

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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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