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House races to oust Trump
  • Updated

WASHINGTON — The U.S. House rushed ahead Tuesday toward impeaching President Donald Trump for the deadly Capitol attack, taking time only to try to persuade his vice president to push him out first. Trump showed no remorse, blaming impeachment itself for the “tremendous anger” in America.

Already scheduled to leave office next week, Trump is on the verge of becoming the only president in history to be twice impeached. His incendiary rhetoric at a rally ahead of the Capitol uprising is now in the impeachment charge against him, even as the falsehoods he spread about election fraud are still being championed by some Republicans.

The House voted Tuesday night on a resolution urging Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment to the Constitution to remove Trump with a Cabinet vote and “declare what is obvious to a horrified Nation: That the President is unable to successfully discharge the duties and powers of his office.”

Pence said he would not do so in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

He said that it would not be in the best interest of the nation or consistent with the Constitution and that it was “time to unite our country as we prepare to inaugurate President-elect Joe Biden.”

With Pence’s agreement to invoke the 25th Amendment ruled out, the House will move swiftly to impeachment on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, four Republican lawmakers, including third-ranking House GOP leader Liz Cheney of Wyoming, announced they would vote to impeach Trump on Wednesday, cleaving the Republican leadership, and the party itself.

“The President of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack,” said Cheney in a statement. “There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.”

The New York Times reported Tuesday that influential Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell thinks Trump committed an impeachable offense and is glad Democrats are moving against him.

As lawmakers reconvened at the Capitol for the first time since the bloody siege, they were bracing for more violence ahead of Democratic President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, Jan. 20.

“All of us have to do some soul searching,” said Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, imploring other Republicans to join.

Trump, meanwhile, warned the lawmakers off impeachment and suggested it was the drive to oust him 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,” Trump said.

In his first remarks to reporters since last week’s violence, the outgoing president offered no condolences for those dead or injured, only saying, “I want no violence.”

Trump faces a single charge — “incitement of insurrection” — in the impeachment resolution after the most serious and deadly domestic incursion at the Capitol in the nation’s history.

A handful of other House Republicans could join in the impeachment vote, but it’s not clear there would be a two-thirds vote needed to convict from the narrowly divided Senate, though some Republicans say it’s time for Trump to resign.

The unprecedented events, with just over a week remaining in Trump’s term, are unfolding in a nation bracing for more unrest. The FBI has warned ominously of potential armed protests in Washington and many states by Trump loyalists ahead of Biden’s inauguration and Capitol Police warned lawmakers to be on alert. The inauguration ceremony on the west steps of the Capitol will be off limits to the public.

Lawmakers were required to pass through metal detectors to enter the House chamber, not far from where Capitol police, guns drawn, had barricaded the door against the rioters. Some Republican lawmakers complained about it.

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

In the Senate, Republican Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania joined GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska over the weekend in calling for Trump to “go away as soon as possible.”

Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, did not go that far, but on Tuesday called on Trump to address the nation and explicitly urge his supporters to refrain from further violence. If not, he said, Trump “will bear responsibility.”

No member of the Cabinet has publicly called for Trump to be removed from office through the 25th Amendment.

Biden has said it’s important to ensure that the “folks who engaged in sedition and threatening the lives, defacing public property, caused great damage — that they be held accountable.”

Fending off concerns that an impeachment trial would bog down Biden’s first days in office, the president-elect encouraged senators to divide their time between taking taking up his priorities of confirming his nominees and approving COVID relief while also conducting the trial.


Govt-and-politics
breaking top story
WATCH NOW: Reynolds proposal aims to improve social justice, defend law enforcement
  • Updated

DES MOINES — Gov. Kim Reynolds pledged to promote social justice while also protecting Iowa’s law enforcement officers during her Condition of the State address Tuesday.

In a change from the usual format, Reynolds delivered the annual address Tuesday night. Typically it is given during the day.

Her speech, delivered as usual from the House chamber at the State Capitol, was packed with content: In addition to praising Iowans’ responses during a trying year, the governor made multiple, significant policy and financial proposals.

Perhaps none was more significant than Reynolds’ pledge to introduce legislation that she said promotes social justice and protects law enforcement officials. Reynolds will propose a ban on racial profiling by police, and also define punishments for anyone who participates in a riot or attacks law enforcement officers.

“I’ll be introducing a bill that protects law enforcement and continues our march toward racial justice,” Reynolds said. “The bill will make clear that if you riot or attack our men and women in uniform, you will be punished. We won’t stand for it. The bill will also ban racial profiling and other forms of disparate treatment. Because no actions should ever be taken based upon the color of someone’s skin. As Martin Luther King Jr. recognized, ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’”

In 2020, Reynolds and state lawmakers approved social justice legislation shortly after the death of a Minnesota man who died in police custody, which sparked civil unrest and a national discussion about race and the use of police force.

That legislation banned the use of police choke holds, with some exceptions; required de-escalation and bias training for police; banned hiring officers who have been fired for misconduct or for using excessive force; and cleared the state attorney general to investigate cases when an officer’s actions resulted in a death.

But Reynolds said she will not participate in any efforts to cut law enforcement budgets, a reference to a rallying cry that emerged from some of last year’s protests.

“That’s not going to happen in Iowa. Not on my watch,” Reynolds said. “We should never be afraid to talk about ways to improve policing, but there will be no talk of defunding the police here. Our men and women in blue will always have my respect, and I will always have their back.”

Reynolds also made a nearly half-billion-dollar pledge when she called on state lawmakers to establish the goal of getting affordable, high-speed broadband internet access to all corners of Iowa over the next four years.

Reynolds proposed $450 million in state funding to achieve the goal. She predicted the state funding would attract “millions more” in private investment.

“I’m done taking small steps and hoping for big change. This is the time for bold action and leadership. Let’s plant a stake in the ground and declare that every part of Iowa will have affordable, high-speed broadband by 2025,” Reynolds said.

Reynolds said the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced many Iowans to work and learn from home, highlighted what was already widely acknowledged to be an area of need. She said roughly a third of Iowa’s 99 counties are classified as broadband deserts, where high-speed internet is rarely offered, and that Iowa has the second-lowest broadband speeds in the country. She also said that often when high-speed internet is available, it is expensive.

“As we’ve seen during the pandemic, high-speed internet is as vital to our communities as running water and electricity. If they don’t have it, they can’t grow,” Reynolds said.

Reynolds also made multiple proposals for K-12 education, including a requirement that districts give students and families the option for 100% in-person instruction; a requirement that all districts permit open enrollment; state funding families could use to pay for private school tuition; and the creation of charter public schools, which operate free of state education guidelines.

“Make no mistake, it’s imperative that we have a strong public school system — which is why we have and will continue to prioritize school funding while many other states are cutting their education budgets,” Reynolds said. “But school choice isn’t a zero sum game. It has the potential to raise the quality for all schools. And for those schools that do fall behind, it ensures our children don’t fall with them. Let’s work together to make sure every child receives a quality education, regardless of income, and no matter their zip code.”

Reynolds also proposed a $28 million investment in creating more access to affordable child care. Of that, $3 million would go to a program that supports public-private partnerships to create child care facilities, and $25 million would go to child care development block grants designed to promote child care start-ups.

“Let’s remove the obstacles to high-quality, affordable child care so that Iowa families can nurture their kids while parents maintain the maximum freedom to enter and remain in the workforce,” Reynolds said.

Reynolds began her remarks by chronicling the challenging year that was 2020. She noted the COVID-19 pandemic, social unrest, and natural disasters. And she highlighted stories of Iowans who helped others during those uncertain times.

“We’ve been beaten and battered in about every way imaginable and some unimaginable. But together, we’ve met every challenge with bravery and outright grit,” Reynolds said. “We’re told that tribulation produces perseverance and perseverance, character. From what I’ve seen, there’s no shortage of character in the people of Iowa. And despite what we’ve been through — or maybe because of it — the condition of our state has never been stronger.”

While she praised Iowans from many sectors, Reynolds was particularly effusive in her praise of the state’s health care workers.

“In 2020, you worked some of the longest hours, in the most uncertain conditions. Your actions saved lives. Your spirit inspired us,” Reynolds said. “And you didn’t just provide medical care. Your patients often couldn’t be with their loved ones, so you also provided them comfort and company. You sat with them when no one else could. You held their hand, facilitated calls to family, and in some cases stood by them while they took their last breath. While many of us were shielded from the worst of the pandemic, you were on the front lines every day. We cannot sufficiently express our gratitude, but we will try.”

At one point during her remarks, Reynolds called for a moment of silence for those who have lost their lives due to COVID-19.

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More than 4,200 Iowans have died during the global pandemic since March of 2020. Nearly 380,000 people in the United States have died from the disease.


Crime-and-courts
breaking top story
Waterloo police chief in the running for Albuquerque chief job
  • Updated

WATERLOO – The Waterloo police chief’s resume has surfaced again, this time in New Mexico.

Waterloo Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald Sr. is one of 25 people who are considered “qualified candidates” for the open police chief job in Albuquerque, according to the Albuquerque Journal newspaper.

Albuquerque’s chief announced his retirement in September, and the position was posted later that month.

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The department has about 1,500 employees and a $186 million budget, according to the city’s website. The police chief job pays $161,000.

The New Mexico city is also seeking someone to fill a new position as chief of public safety, which would oversee the police and fire chiefs and the emergency management department. That position was posted in December.

Fitzgerald, a longtime law enforcement veteran who holds a doctorate degree, started as Waterloo’s police chief in June after serving four years as police chief for Fort Worth, Texas, and a six-month stint as chief deputy for the Philadelphia County Sheriff’s Office in Pennsylvania. The Waterloo chief’s job has a $141,000 salary and oversees 137 employees.

This isn’t the first time Fitzgerald has applied for a job since starting his Waterloo assignment. In December, the Miami New Times reported he was one of 36 people who had applied for an opening as that city’s police chief.

In his Miami application, Fitzgerald included among his Waterloo accomplishments authoring policies on contemporary use of force, biased-based policing, transgender and racial profiling, and creating new diversity, de-escalation, cultural awareness and implicit bias-based training using private donor funding.


Kindergartner Quentin Williams works on an assignment during the first day of school at Lincoln Elementary in Waterloo on Aug. 24.


Barney


News
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Black Hawk County supervisors ask Gov. Reynolds for quicker COVID-19 vaccines
  • Updated

WATERLOO — Black Hawk County supervisors are asking Gov. Kim Reynolds for faster COVID-19 vaccine distribution and more information.

The five-person Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a letter outlining their concerns Tuesday. The letter says vaccines should “be distributed in a more expeditious manner” and asks to get “a timeline and amount of expected doses for the residents of Black Hawk County.” It calls on the state to make its COVID-19 vaccine distribution strategy “more fluid.”

Letter from Black Hawk County supervisors to Gov. Reynolds

Health Department County Director Nafissa Cisse Egbuonye said she heard from the state that a shortage of COVID-19 vaccines being allocated from the federal level could be causing delays. She said she heard Iowa is getting vaccines slower than some other states.

“Unfortunately, we haven’t been receiving vaccines as fast as we’d like,” Egbuonye said.

BRANDON POLLOCK, COURIER STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER 

County supervisors meet weekly at the Black Hawk County Courthouse in Waterloo.

Black Hawk County received 4,350 primary doses of the COVID-19 vaccine as of Tuesday, Egbuonye said. The county had 2,350 second doses of the vaccine. Both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines require people to get two doses a few weeks apart.

When the state provides Black Hawk County with COVID-19 vaccines, Egbuonye said her department has less than 24 hours to figure out who will receive them. The state typically allocates vaccines to counties on Mondays and Wednesdays, she said.

“Hopefully we’ll get more vaccines tomorrow,” Egbuonye said Tuesday. “Public health — I think across the state and nationally — it’s like we’re building a plane while flying it.”

Egbuonye said dental offices will be the “key group” for the county’s next round of vaccines. Others in the state’s first recommended priority group include pharmacists, paramedics, Waterloo and Cedar Falls firefighters and school nurses not already covered by MercyOne or UnityPoint health care systems.

State guidance about the next priority group was released Tuesday. It includes people 75 and older, correctional staff, inmates, people with disabilities receiving home care, school staff, first responders and workers in congregate settings where distancing is difficult, like the Tyson and John Deere plants in Waterloo. Egbuonye serves on the advisory council that is developing the guidelines.

Black Hawk County is not ready to give vaccines to the second priority group, Egbuonye said. The county still needs additional vaccines to offer doses to everyone in the first priority group.

County Supervisor Chris Schwartz called Black Hawk County a “medical hub” and said county officials “need to see the state take that into account for their planning.”

Dan Trelka, another county supervisor, said Black Hawk County appears to be “taking a back seat to some of the counties we’re typically compared to such as Linn, Johnson and Dubuque.”

A report from the Iowa Department of Public Health shows that Linn County has administered 6,797 doses of the vaccine to residents, Johnson County 9,411 doses and Dubuque County 3,073 doses. The same report said Black Hawk County administered 2,918 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to residents. The data was reported as of Sunday.

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