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House poised to impeach Trump; he blames accusers for US 'anger'

WASHINGTON — The U.S. House is set to start impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump Wednesday for the deadly Capitol attack, taking time only to try to persuade his vice president to push him out first.

Trump showed no remorse Tuesday, 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.

A few Republicans, however, announced Tuesday they now support impeachment, including Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, who ranks third in House GOP leadership.

Trump “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.”

Republican Reps. John Katko of New York and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois also said they would vote to impeach Trump.

U.S. Rep. Marjorie Greene, who represents Northwest Georgia, is among those continuing to deny Trump incited the attack. The posts on her Twitter page have recently ranged from denouncing the onslaught and praising Capitol Police to stating that anti fascist groups were involved — a claim rebutted by the FBI — as well as giving voice to conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones.

“Trump supporters could not have listened to President Trump’s speech at the WH and then been ‘incited’ by him to walk to and attack the Capitol,” she posted on Monday.

Calling impeachment proceedings a “sham” and a “witch hunt” she regularly tags the social media profiles of President-elect Joe Biden, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

“Democrats should take a good hard look in the mirror before they try to impeach President Trump, censure Republicans, and point fingers,” she posted on Monday. “What goes around, comes around.”

During a House rules debate, Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland pleaded for a change of heart by other Republicans. “All of us have to do some soul searching,” he said.

Bracing for more violence

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

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.”

Impeachment ahead, the House was first pressing Vice President Mike Pence and the Cabinet to remove Trump more quickly and surely, warning he is a threat to democracy in the few remaining days of his presidency.

Pence, who had a “good meeting” with Trump on Monday, their first since the vice president was among those sheltering from the attack, was not expected to invoke the 25th Amendment declaring the president unable to serve.

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. The legislation also details Trump’s pressure on state officials in Georgia to “find” him more votes.

During an emotional debate ahead of the House action, Rep. Norma Torres, D-Calif., urged her Republican colleagues to understand the stakes, recounting a phone call from her son as she fled during the siege.

“Sweetie, I’m OK,” she told him. “I’m running for my life.”

But Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, a top Trump ally just honored this week at the White House, refused to concede that Biden won the election outright.

Democratic Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., tied such talk to the Capitol attack, interjecting, “People came here because they believed the lie.”

A handful of other House Republicans could vote to impeach, but in the narrowly divided Senate there are not expected to be the two-thirds votes to convict him, 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.

Metal detectors were being installed at the entrance to the House chamber not far from where Capitol police, guns drawn, had barricaded the door against the rioters.

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.”

As Congress resumed, an uneasiness swept the halls. More lawmakers tested positive for COVID-19 after sheltering during the siege. Many lawmakers may choose to vote by proxy rather than come to Washington, a process that was put in place last year to limit the health risks of travel.

Even Republicans who have resisted the proxy system are now cleared to use it by House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy.

Among Trump’s closest allies in Congress, McCarthy was among those echoing the president, saying “impeachment at this time would have the opposite effect of bringing our country together.”

Democrats say they have the votes for impeachment. The impeachment bill from Reps. David Cicilline of Rhode Island, Ted Lieu of California, Raskin of Maryland and Jerrold Nadler of New York draws from Trump’s own false statements about his election defeat to Biden.

Judges across the country, including some nominated by Trump, have repeatedly dismissed cases challenging the election results, and former Attorney General William Barr, a Trump ally, has said there was no sign of widespread fraud.

The impeachment legislation refers to the Georgia vote pressure as well as his White House rally ahead of the Capitol siege, in which he encouraged thousands of supporters last Wednesday to “fight like hell” and march to the building.

The mob overpowered police, broke through security lines and windows and rampaged through the Capitol, forcing lawmakers to scatter as they were finalizing Biden’s victory over Trump in the Electoral College.

While some have questioned impeaching the president so close to the end of his term, there is precedent. In 1876, during the Ulysses Grant administration, War Secretary William Belknap was impeached by the House the day he resigned, and the Senate convened a trial months later. He was acquitted.


Local
Northwest Ga. senators keep chairs but state senate sees shuffle on second day of the 2021 session

Two Northwest Georgia state senators confirmed Tuesday they will keep their influential committee chairs for the new session of the Georgia General Assembly.

Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome, chairs the Senate Finance Committee. He was among the chamber’s power brokers singled out in an Atlanta Journal-Constitution pre-session report.

“An anesthetist, Hufstetler rose quickly after being elected in 2012 and runs the committee that considers tax legislation and is one of the most active late-session panels at the Capitol. He’s been involved in a wide range of issues, including health care and ethics, and he hasn’t been afraid to stand against his Republican colleagues on issues,” the report noted.

Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, maintains control of the Senate Rules Committee, which determines which pieces of legislation make it to the floor for a vote. Mullis also is listed in the AJC report on “Who’s Who At The Gold Dome.”

Lt. Governor Geoff Duncan and the Senate Committee on Assignments announced new standing committee chairs Tuesday, as the state capitol remained under tight security. State patrol troopers and a SWAT team walked the perimeter wearing fatigues and carrying rifles while lawmakers gathered inside.

“These committee chairs are uniquely qualified to develop real and lasting solutions aimed at building a better Georgia,” Duncan said in a release. “The Senate will continue to prioritize diligent committee work and sound public policy, and I look forward to working closely with each one of our chairs, and their committee members.”

While senators typically keep their committee assignments unless they request a change — Hufstetler sought and was given a seat on the Rules Committee this year — there were a few shake-ups.

Two of the members who launched the most vocal attacks on Georgia’s election security this winter lost their chairs.

Sens. Brandon Beach, R-Alpharetta, and Burt Jones, R-Jackson, were among the four who clamored for a special session to investigate President Donald Trump’s false claims of election fraud. Sens. William Ligon, R-Brunswick, and Greg Dolezal, R-Cumming, also continued the push after being rebuffed by Gov. Brian Kemp and Duncan.

The senators held special committee hearings in early December that featured Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani presenting testimony that had been rejected — or omitted from lawsuits he filed — in courts around the country.

Ligon did not run for reelection and Dolezal, who took office in 2019, had no leadership position to lose. Beach, however, was not reappointed to chair the Transportation Committee and Jones no longer heads the Insurance and Labor Committee.

Sen. Dean Burke, R-Bainbridge, was named chair of the Labor Committee. He previously served as vice chair of the Health and Human Services Committee.

Sen. Frank Ginn, R-Danielsville, is the new chair of the Transportation Committee. He had chaired the Economic Development and Tourism Committee.

That seat went to Sen. Bruce Thompson, R-White, who had chaired the Veterans Committee last session. Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick, R-Marietta, got that assignment going forward.

Kirkpatrick’s Ethics Committee gavel went to Sen. Max Burns, R-Sylvania., This is Burns’ first year in the State Senate but he is a former U.S. Representative who served in Congress from 2003 to 2005.

‘They gave oxygen to a lie’

Meanwhile, Capitol Beat News Service reported that Democratic lawmakers in the Georgia Senate have introduced a resolution condemning the riot by supporters of President Donald Trump at the U.S. Capitol last week.

Sponsored by five Democratic senators, the resolution slams “the disgraceful actions of right-wing violence and sedition” that saw Trump supporters break into and vandalize the Capitol building. The riots disrupted Congress’ vote to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s win in the Nov. 3 general election.

The resolution also criticized the Republican state senators for holding “sham hearings” in December that gave a platform to election fraud claims spread by Trump and his allies, “delegitimizing the Senate and giving credibility to these conspiracy theories,” the resolution said.

State Sen. Jen Jordan, D-Atlanta, called on Tuesday for them to be held accountable for acting to agitate Trump’s supporters, saying on the Senate floor they “aided and abetted the spread of disinformation.”

“They gave oxygen to a lie,” said Jordan, who faced death threats for challenging the fraud claims at the hearing. “To pretend like nothing happened, that this is just another day … that can’t be an option.”

The Republican state lawmakers on the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee released a report last month calling the Nov. 3 election “chaotic” and saying that “any reported results must be viewed as untrustworthy.”

Georgia election officials including Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger repeatedly dismissed the Nov. 3 fraud claims as unfounded while federal courts tossed several lawsuits seeking to reverse the election results.

Proposals to change Georgia election laws including tighter voter ID requirements and limits on who can cast mail-in ballots look to feature prominently in this year’s session after Biden became the first Democrat to carry Georgia since 1992 and Democrats flipped the state’s two Republican-held U.S. Senate seats last week.

The Senate resolution was cosponsored by Georgia Senate Minority Leader Gloria Butler, D-Stone Mountain; state Sens. Harold Jones II, D-Augusta; Elena Parent, D-Atlanta; Lester Jackson, D-Savannah; and Jordan.


Local
Rome MLK Day community clean-up, lunch set for Monday

The Martin Luther King Jr. Commission’s annual celebration weekend won’t be the same this year, but there are two virtual events planned for the weekend, as well as a free drive-through lunch on Monday.

MLK Commission chair Sundai Stevenson said they have canceled the Friday talent show and the Monday march, but the Family Prayer Breakfast and the ecumenical church service will both still go on, virtually.

“What King fought for is even more important right now than ever before,” Stevenson said.

The prayer breakfast will be livestreamed on the “6 Wills” Facebook page at 9 a.m. Saturday. People can tune in from their own homes as Pastor Steve Caldwell from Mount Olive Missionary Baptist Church delivers the message.

The ecumenical service will also be livestreamed at 5 p.m. on Sunday and can be viewed from the Thankful Missionary Baptist Church Facebook page and YouTube channel. Rev. Bernard Young will be the main speaker at that event.

On Monday, the MLK Commission invites anyone, especially those who are food insecure, to come and get a plate from the Rome Civic Center drive-through lunch. Starting at 11 a.m., members and volunteers will be handing out to-go boxes of chicken, green beans, mashed potatoes, rolls and desserts.

They’ll be serving lunch until 1 p.m. or until they run out of food.

While Stevenson said she is sad they can’t do the usual events this year, she said they must be respectful and responsible when it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We don’t want anyone getting sick,” she said.

She hopes that they can get back to their traditional celebrations by next year.

Keep Rome-Floyd Beautiful will also be hosting a community cleanup under the Turner McCall Bridge on Monday in honor of MLK Jr. Day. The cleanup will run from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. and participants can park in the Garner and Glover Co. lot at 135 E. Eighth Ave.


Wyatt Laughridge, a fifth-grader at East Central Elementary School


Business
Rome business owners briefed on COVID aid programs

There is still a significant pot of money available to assist small businesses in Rome that have been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Members of the Rome Floyd Chamber Small Business Action Council were briefed Tuesday on multiple opportunities for assistance by Richard Montanaro, director of the UGA Small Business Development Center’s Rome office.

They’ve pivoted their focus in the past year to help small businesses during the pandemic by piloting them toward financial assistance available from the government.

The office assisted more than 700 clients across the region last year — approximately a 60% increase from 2019.

The most recent federal assistance program, passed by Congress in late December, includes an extension of the Paycheck Protection Program.

Businesses that exhausted their first PPP funds and have also experienced a 25% reduction in revenue over the same period in 2019 can qualify for another full PPP loan.

“It can’t exceed $10 million and it can’t be for employers with more than 300 employees,” Montanaro said. “That’s not going to affect very many, but there will be a few businesses in Rome that get knocked out of that.”

Companies will still qualify for two and a half times their average monthly payroll in 2019. Montanaro explained that businesses in certain extremely hard hit sectors, such as food service and hospitality, may qualify for three and a half times their average payroll.

There is also a Small Business Administration debt relief program that is still available to companies with SBA loans in 2020.

“The SBA paid six months of payments, principal, interest and fees,” Montanaro said. “That is being extended. There is another three months available for most companies if they can demonstrate that they have been severely impacted by the crisis.”

The Economic Injury Disaster Loan advance program will continue to provide assistance to companies that can display a 30% economic loss of revenue.

With so much of the money tied to businesses that can display losses from the previous year, Chamber Director of Membership and Entrepreneurial Development Thomas Kislat asked what kind of assistance is available to new companies that don’t have year over year comparisons.

“If they borrowed money from the SBA 7A or 504 programs, or from a bank and have those (SBA) guarantees, those loans will get six months in interest and principal,” Montanaro said.

Businesses that were open by Jan. 31, 2020, will also be eligible for targeted COVID-19 EIDL advance program help.

“The second round of PPP even applies to companies that were in business by Feb. 15, 2020,” Montanaro said.


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