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London police commissioner rejects calls to resign following clashes at Sarah Everard vigil

London’s police commissioner on Sunday defended her officers’ actions and said she didn’t intend to resign, after coming under heavy criticism for the way police treated some protesters during a vigil for a woman whom one of the force’s own officers is accused of murdering.

Hundreds defied coronavirus restrictions to gather and protest violence against women, but the event ended with clashes between police and those attending and many questioned whether the police force was too heavy-handed.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said scenes from Saturday’s vigil in south London were “upsetting” and she is seeking a full report on what happened from the Metropolitan Police.

The capital’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, said the police response was “at times neither appropriate nor proportionate.”

Police were seen scuffling with some women at the event, and one woman was seen pinned to the ground by two officers. Video widely shared on social media showed a woman was pulled up from the ground by officers who then shoved her from the back. Several women were led away in handcuffs as other attendees chanted “Shame on you” at police. The force later said four people were arrested for violating public order and coronavirus regulations.

PHOTOS | Hundreds in the U.K. defy vigil ban to honour Sarah Everard:

On Sunday, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick, who is the first woman to head the force, said she was personally appalled by the attack on Everard and she was more determined than ever to lead the organization. She said she fully understood the strength of feeling in response to Everard’s case, but stressed that Saturday’s vigil was an unlawful gathering and officers had been put in a “very difficult position” trying to police a protest during a pandemic.

She said that as big crowds gathered, officers needed to act to counter the considerable risk to people’s health. She added that she welcomed a review into her force’s operations.

Many of those attending the vigil were already wary of police because a serving Metropolitan Police officer, Wayne Couzens, was charged with the kidnap and murder of Sarah Everard, a 33-year-old woman who vanished March 3 while walking home in London. Her body was found a week later.

The case has sparked a national outcry and a heated debate on women’s safety. Organizers had planned an official vigil at Clapham Common, a park near where Everard was last seen alive, but were forced to cancel the event because of COVID-19 restrictions. A huge crowd turned up Saturday nonetheless.

Khan, London’s mayor, said Sunday the police force had assured him the vigil would be “policed sensitively” but that this wasn’t the case. He added he is asking for a full and independent investigation into the force’s operation on Saturday as well as the actions of individual officers at the vigil.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, left, and Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick are seen in London in June 2017. (Isabel Infantes/AFP via Getty Images)

Jamie Klingler, who organized the cancelled “Reclaim These Streets” event, blamed police for denying women their right to have a silent vigil in the first place. The force got the angry reaction Saturday because they refused to facilitate a peaceful rally, she alleged.

“I think we were shocked and really, really sad and to see videos of policemen handling women at a vigil about violence against women by men … I think it was painful and pretty triggering to see,” Klingler said Sunday.

Patsy Stevenson, who was pictured pinned to the ground by two officers during Saturday’s clashes, said she was considering whether to challenge the 200-pound ($ 347 Cdn) fine she received.

Police detain a woman who was later identified in media reports and on social media as university student Patsy Stevenson. She said officers pinned her to the ground while arresting her at the memorial site on Saturday night. (Hannah McKay/Reuters)

“We were there to remember Sarah, we all felt deeply saddened and still do that it happened, so I brought a candle with me but unfortunately wasn’t even able to light it to put it down because the police turned up and barged their way through,” she told LBC radio.

Couzens, 48, appeared in court Saturday for the first time. He was remanded in custody and has another appearance scheduled Tuesday at London’s Central Criminal Court.

The Metropolitan Police has said it is “deeply disturbing” that one of its own is a suspect in the case. The force said Couzens joined its ranks in 2018 and most recently served in the parliamentary and diplomatic protection command, an armed unit responsible for guarding embassies in the capital and Parliament.

Everard was last seen walking home from a friend’s apartment in south London at about 10:30 p.m. on March 3. Her body was found hidden in an area of woodland in Kent, more than 50 miles southeast of London, on Wednesday. 

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CBC | World News

Head of Tokyo Olympics expected to resign over sexist comments: reports

The long saga of Yoshiro Mori appears to be near the end.

Japan’s Kyodo news agency and others reported on Thursday — citing unnamed sources — that Yoshiro Mori will step down on Friday as the president of the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee.

The move follows his sexist comments about women more than a week ago, and an ensuing and rare public debate in Japan about gender equality.

A decision is expected to be announced on Friday when the organizing committee’s executive board meets. The executive board of Tokyo 2020 is overwhelmingly male, as is the day-to-day leadership.

The 83-year-old Mori, in a meeting of the Japanese Olympic Committee more than a week ago, essentially said that women “talk too much” and are driven by a “strong sense of rivalry.” Mori, a former prime minister, gave a grudging apology a few days later after his opinions were reported, but declined to resign.

This is more than just another problem for the postponed Olympics, which have made the risky choice of trying to open on July 23 in the middle of a pandemic with 11,000 athletes — and later, 4,400 Paralympic athletes.

Country lags in gender equality

More than 80 per cent of the Japanese public in recent polls say the Olympics should be postponed or cancelled.

Mori’s remarks have drawn outrage from many quarters and have put the spotlight on how far Japan lags behind other prosperous countries in advancing women in politics or the boardrooms. Japan stands 121st out of 153 in the World Economic Forum’s gender equality rankings.

Though some on the street have called for him to resign — several hundred Olympic volunteers say they are withdrawing — most decision makers have stopped short of this and have simply condemned his remarks. Japan is a country that works largely on consensus with politicians — often elderly and male — acting behind the scenes and leaking trial balloons to sense public sentiment.

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CBC | Sports News

Tokyo Olympics chief apologizes, but won’t resign over sexist comments

Tokyo Olympics chief Yoshiro Mori on Thursday apologized for making sexist remarks about women, saying he retracted the comments and would not resign, despite calls for him to step down on social media.

The hashtag “Mori, please resign” was trending on Twitter in Japan on Thursday morning and some users on the platform were calling on sponsors to pressure the Tokyo organizing committee into dropping Mori from the top post.

The 83-year-old Mori, a former Japanese prime minister and head of the Tokyo organizing committee, acknowledged that his comments that women board members talked too much were “inappropriate” and against the Olympic spirit.

Mori made the sexist comments at a Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC) board of trustees meeting this week, according to a report in the Asahi newspaper.

“If we increase the number of female board members, we have to make sure their speaking time is restricted somewhat, they have difficulty finishing, which is annoying,” said Mori, according to the Asahi report.

WATCH | Understanding the Tokyo Olympics’ pandemic ‘playbook’:

With less than six months to go to the Tokyo Olympics, organizers have said the Games will go on no matter what. Now, they’ve released some preliminary guidelines explaining how that will happen. 1:37

“We have about seven women at the organizing committee but everyone understands their place.”

The JOC decided in 2019 to aim for more than 40 per cent female members on the board, but there are just five women among the board’s 24 members.

Japan persistently trails its peers on promoting gender equality, ranking 121 out of 153 nations surveyed in the 2020 global gender gap report of the World Economic Forum.

In a hastily called press briefing, Mori tried to explain himself, at first apologizing, then later saying that he did not necessarily think that fretting over the number of women in high-ranking positions was what was important.

“I don’t talk to women that much lately so I don’t know,” Mori said, when asked by a reporter whether he had any basis for saying that women board members talked too much during meetings.

Mori’s defiant response is unlikely to tamp down public criticism, and anger over his comments is likely to further alienate a Japanese public that has grown wary of Tokyo’s attempts to hold the Games during a pandemic.

Nearly 80 per cent of the Japanese public opposes holding the Games as scheduled in July, according to the most recent poll.

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CBC | World News

2nd Republican senator urges Trump to resign as impeachment looms

Two Republican senators now say U.S. President Donald Trump should resign in the wake of deadly riots at the Capitol, while support for the House drive to impeach him a second time is gaining momentum.

Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey on Sunday joined Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski in calling for Trump to “resign and go away as soon as possible” after a violent mob of his supporters broke into the Capitol building on Wednesday. Murkowski, who has long voiced her exasperation with Trump’s conduct in office, told the Anchorage Daily News on Friday that Trump simply “needs to get out.”

Toomey said even though he believes Trump committed impeachable offences in encouraging loyalists in the Capitol siege, he did not think there was enough time for the impeachment process to play out. Resignation, Toomey said, was the “best path forward, the best way to get this person in the rearview mirror for us.” The senator was not optimistic that Trump would step down before his term ends on Jan. 20.

House leaders, furious after the violent insurrection against them, appear determined to act despite the short timeline.

Late Saturday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, sent a letter to her colleagues reiterating that Trump must be held accountable. She told her caucus, now scattered across the country on a two-week recess, to “be prepared to return to Washington this week” but did not say outright that there would be a vote on impeachment.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told her caucus to ‘be prepared to return to Washington this week’ but did not say outright that there would be a vote on impeachment. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

“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.”

Rep. Jim Clyburn, the third-ranking House Democrat, said that “it may be Tuesday, Wednesday before the action is taken, but I think it will be taken this week.”

Clyburn, a Democrat from South Carolina and a close ally of president-elect Joe Biden, suggested that if the House of Representatives does vote to impeach, Pelosi might hold the charges — known as articles of impeachment — until after Biden’s first 100 days in office. Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, has said an impeachment trial could not begin before Inauguration Day, Jan. 20.

“Let’s give president-elect Biden the 100 days he needs to get his agenda off and running,” Clyburn said. “And maybe we will send the articles some time after that.”

Clyburn said lawmakers “will take the vote that we should take in the House” and that Pelosi “will make the determination as when is the best time” to send them to the Senate.

Republicans split

Another idea being considered is to have a separate vote that would prevent Trump from ever holding office again. That could potentially only need a simple majority vote of 51 senators, unlike impeachment, in which two-thirds of the 100-member Senate must support a conviction.

Toomey indicated that he might support such a vote: “I think the president has disqualified himself from ever certainly serving in office again,” he said. “I don’t think he is electable in any way.”

The Senate is set to be split evenly at 50-50 but under Democratic control once vice-president-elect Kamala Harris and the two Democrats who won in Georgia’s Senate run-off last week are sworn in. Harris will be the Senate’s tie-breaking vote.

WATCH | Trump and the future of the Republican Party:

CBC News speaks with Chris Galdieri, associate professor of politics at Saint Anselm College in New Hampshire, for his take on the state of the Republican Party. How divided is it, where does it go from here and how much influence will Trump and Trumpism have? 4:10

While many have criticized Trump, Republicans have said that impeachment would be divisive in a time of unity.

Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio said that instead of coming together, Democrats want to “talk about ridiculous things like `Let’s impeach a president’ who isn’t even going to be in office in about nine days.” Republican Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri said Trump’s actions “were clearly reckless,” but “my personal view is that the president touched the hot stove on Wednesday and is unlikely to touch it again.”

Still, some Republicans might be supportive.

WATCH | Former White House chief of staff says Trump should resign:

Former secretary of defense, director of CIA, and White House chief of staff, Leon Panetta, says Donald Trump should resign and allow Mike Pence to steer the final days of the administration. 8:21

Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse said he would take a look at any articles that the House sends over. Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger, a frequent Trump critic, said he will “vote the right way” if the matter is put in front of him. But, he said, “I honestly don’t think impeachment is the smart move because I think it victimizes Donald Trump again.”

The Democratic effort to stamp Trump’s presidential record — for the second time and just days before his term ends — with the indelible mark of impeachment once more has advanced rapidly since the riot at the Capitol.

Democratic Rep. David Cicilline of Rhode Island, a leader of the House effort to draft impeachment articles accusing Trump of inciting insurrection, said Saturday that his group had grown to include more than 200 co-sponsors.

Lawmakers planned to formally introduce the proposal on Monday in the House, where articles of impeachment must originate.

The articles, if passed by the House, could then be transmitted to the Senate for a trial, with senators acting as jurors who would ultimately vote on whether to acquit or convict Trump. If convicted, Trump would be removed from office and succeeded by the vice-president. It would be the first time a U.S. president has been impeached twice.

Potentially complicating Pelosi’s decision about impeachment is what it means for Biden and the beginning of his presidency. While reiterating that he has long viewed Trump as unfit for office, Biden on Friday sidestepped a question about impeachment, saying what Congress does “is for them to decide.”

Trump increasingly isolated

A violent and largely white mob of Trump supporters overpowered police, broke through security lines and windows and rampaged through the Capitol on Wednesday, forcing lawmakers to scatter as they were putting the final, formal touches on Biden’s victory over Trump in the electoral college.

The crowd surged to the domed symbol of American democracy following a rally near the White House, where Trump repeated his bogus claims that the election was stolen from him and urged his supporters to march in force toward the Capitol.

A Capitol Police officer died after he was hit in the head with a fire extinguisher as rioters descended on the building, and many other officers were injured. A woman from California was fatally shot by Capitol Police, and three other people died after medical emergencies during the chaos.

WATCH | Photojournalist recalls chaos at U.S. Capitol:

Andrew Harnik, a photojournalist with The Associated Press, recounts the moments when he sheltered in place with members of the U.S. Congress and shares some of the powerful images he took. 6:36

Outrage over the attack and Trump’s role in egging it on capped a divisive, chaotic presidency like few others in the nation’s history.

Trump has few fellow Republicans speaking out in his defence, and the White House declined to comment on the new Republican calls for resignation. He’s become increasingly isolated, holed up in the White House, as he has been abandoned in the aftermath of the riot by many aides, leading Republicans and, so far, two cabinet members — both women.

Toomey appeared on CNN’s State of the Union and NBC’s Meet the Press. Clyburn was on Fox News Sunday and CNN. Kinzinger was on ABC’s This Week, Blunt was on CBS’s Face the Nation and Rubio was on Fox News Channel’s Sunday Morning Futures.

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CBC | World News

Elaine Chao becomes 1st in Trump’s cabinet to resign

Members of Congress, police and current and former members of the Trump administration were responding Thursday to the events of the previous day, when pro-Trump rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol during a chaotic protest aimed at thwarting a peaceful transfer of power, forcing lawmakers to be rushed from the building.

Congress returned later Wednesday after the Capitol was cleared by law enforcement and formally certified Joe Biden’s victory in November’s presidential election.

Here are the latest developments, including a pledge from President Donald Trump promising an “orderly transition” on Jan. 20.

2:20 p.m. ET: Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called for the removal of President Donald Trump from office after he encouraged protesters to march on the Capitol to dispute a legislative session taking place to formally approve state electoral college results confirming Joe Biden as the president-elect.

“The president of the United States incited an armed insurrection against America,” she said of Trump in her weekly news conference.

She called on Vice-President Mike Pence to use the 25th Amendment, and said Democrats in Congress are prepared to act if he doesn’t, even though just under two weeks remain in Trump’s term. The amendment allows for the vice-president and a majority of the cabinet to declare the president unfit for office.  

“While it’s only 13 days, every day can be a horror show,” she said.

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer earlier in the day issued a similar call in a statement.

“If the vice-president and the cabinet refuse to stand up, Congress should reconvene to impeach the president,” said Schumer.

WATCH | Assessing the likelihood of impeachment or 25th Amendment use:

The few constitutional tools available to remove U.S. President Donald Trump from office are unlikely to work, says Lawrence Douglas, a professor of law at Amherst College in Massachusetts, citing the level of co-operation required to use such tools and the short time frame before Trump leaves office. 6:18

The Republican leadership, led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, has not commented on the possibility of reconvening for that purpose.

Several Democrats in the House said they were preparing articles of impeachment against Trump. The president was previously impeached by the House almost one year ago for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress in the Ukraine policy scandal, though he was acquitted in the Senate.

Trump has expressed interest in running for president again in 2024. According to the Constitution, “disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honour, trust or profit under the United States” is a possible penalty for an impeachable offence.

1:45 p.m. ET: Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao is resigning effective Monday, becoming the highest-ranking member of the Trump administration to resign in protest after the pro-Trump insurrection.

In a statement Thursday, Chao said the violent attack on the Capitol “has deeply troubled me in a way that I simply cannot set aside.”

Chao, who is married to McConnell, said her department will continue to co-operate with president-elect Joe Biden’s designated nominee to head the department, Pete Buttigieg.

Trump’s former acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, now a special envoy to Northern Ireland, earlier Thursday told CNBC in an interview he would be resigning.

Earlier resignations from Wednesday included Stephanie Grisham, the Melania Trump’s chief of staff and a former White House press secretary, as well as deputy national security adviser Matt Pottinger, said to be influential in shaping the administration’s policy toward China.

WATCH | See how the siege on the U.S. Capitol unfolded: 

CBC News’ David Common breaks down what happened on Capitol Hill on Wednesday and how U.S. President Donald Trump stoked discontent among his supporters before he lost the election. 3:44

11:15 a.m. ET: The chief of the U.S. Capitol Police says the mob that stormed the building wielded metal pipes, chemical irritants and other weapons against law enforcement.

Steven Sund issued a statement Thursday saying the rioting protesters “actively attacked” police officers and “were determined to enter into the Capitol building by causing great damage.”

A Capitol Police officer shot and killed one person, who Sund identified as Ashli Babbitt. Sund did not identify the officer but said they would be placed on administrative leave pending an investigation.

Sund defended his agency’s response from criticism that officers did not do enough to stop the incursion. He says his agency “had a robust plan” for what he anticipated would be peaceful protests but that what occurred Wednesday was “criminal, riotous behaviour.”

He said several Capitol Police officers were hospitalized with serious injuries, without specifying.

Several members of Congress, including Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, thanked the force for preventing members of the House and Senate from getting injured but also promised to inquire about how the compound was breached.

Pelosi thanked the brave actions of rank-and-file members but said: “There was a failure of leadership at the top.” She called for the resignation of the Sund, who she said hadn’t yet briefed members of Congress on Wednesday’s events.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser at a news conference also thanked all police agencies who responded while announcing a two-week state of emergency in order for the district to marshal for more resources during the transition between presidential administrations. She characterized the actions of those who stormed the Capitol as “textbook terrorism.”

Robert Contee, acting chief of the Metropolitan Police Department in D.C., had no further information on the three people who were said late Wednesday to have died of “medical emergencies” in the chaos.

D.C. police officials had earlier said that two pipe bombs were recovered, one outside the Democratic National Committee and one outside the Republican National Committee.

WATCH | What happens to Trumpism after Trump? 

Former CBC News chief political correspondent Keith Boag said what unfolded at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 was partly incited by Donald Trump, but the politics at its root were in place long before the current president. 8:30

Babbitt’s family described her as an Air Force veteran and avid supporter of Trump and his efforts to stay in office.

Ashli Babbitt’s husband, Aaron Babbitt, told KSWB-TV, a Fox affiliate in San Diego, that he and his wife, 35, live in that city and that she was in Washington on Wednesday to support Trump. Aaron Babbitt sent his wife a message about 30 minutes before the shooting and never heard back.

“She loved her country and she was doing what she thought was right to support her country, joining up with like-minded people that also love their president and their country,” he told the news station.

A Twitter account under Babbitt’s name identifies her as a veteran, Libertarian and vociferous supporter of the right to bear arms.

WATCH | Keith Boag: Trump exploited longstanding currents on the right: 

In the wee hours of Thursday morning, U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence announced the certification of the electoral college vote, confirming Joe Biden’s presidential election victory and Kamala Harris as vice-president. 0:49

10:30 a.m. ET: Former attorney general William Barr said Trump’s conduct before and during the storming of the U.S. Capitol was a “betrayal of his office and supporters.”

In a statement to The Associated Press, Barr said Thursday that “orchestrating a mob to pressure Congress is inexcusable.”

Barr was one of Trump’s most loyal and ardent defenders in the cabinet. He resigned last month, days after saying at a news conference that he saw no evidence of the widespread election fraud Trump was baselessly alleging.

Separately, acting attorney general Jeffrey Rosen released a statement Thursday condemning those who breached the Capitol as “a mob.”

“Our criminal prosecutors have been working throughout the night with special agents and investigators from the U.S. Capitol Police, FBI, ATF, Metropolitan Police Department and the public to gather the evidence, identify perpetrators and charge federal crimes where warranted,” said Rosen.

3:55 a.m. ET: Trump said there “will be an orderly transition on January 20th” after Congress concluded the electoral vote count certifying president-elect Joe Biden’s victory.

Trump said in a statement tweeted by his social media director Dan Scavino: “Even though I totally disagree with the outcome of the election, and the facts bear me out, nevertheless there will be an orderly transition on January 20th.”

He went on: “While this represents the end of the greatest first term in presidential history, it’s only the beginning of our fight to Make America Great Again.”

Trump’s accounts have been locked by social media outlets.

WATCH | U.S. Congress validates Biden-Harris win:

Front Burner32:17Pro-Trump extremists storm Capitol Hill

Supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump sowed chaos in and around the U.S. Capitol, forcing lawmakers to flee as they’d gathered to certify president-elect Joe Biden’s victory, after Trump himself encouraged them. CBC Washington correspondents Katie Simpson and Paul Hunter explain how pro-Trump extremists managed to breach Capitol security and storm the complex. 32:17

3:41 a.m. ET: The House and Senate certified Biden’s electoral college win early Thursday in a session interrupted for more than six hours by the violence outside their chambers.

Thirteen Republican senators and dozens of Republican representatives had planned to force debate and votes on perhaps six different states’ votes. The assault on the Capitol made some Republicans squeamish about trying to overturn Biden’s win, and challenges were lodged only against Arizona and Pennsylvania. 

Biden defeated Trump by 306-232 electoral votes and will be inaugurated on Jan. 20.

3:25 a.m. ET: Republican Sen. Ted Cruz defended his objection to the electoral college results as “the right thing to do.” The Texas senator condemned the violence that erupted as supporters of Trump stormed the Capitol.

Cruz led the first challenge to Biden’s defeat of Trump by objecting to Arizona’s results. He sought to have Congress launch a commission to investigate the election.

3:10 a.m. ET: The House joined the Senate in turning aside Republican objections to Pennsylvania’s electoral vote for president-elect Biden. Lawmakers in the House voted 282-138 against the objection as the counting of electoral college votes continued into the early hours of Thursday morning. 

LISTEN l Front Burner on Wednesday’s scene in D.C.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s term is almost over, but many expect his brash style of politics, which has come to be known as Trumpism, to be present in the Republican party long after he’s gone. 7:25

12:55 a.m. ET: The Senate quickly killed Republican objections to Pennsylvania’s electoral vote, by a 92-7 margin. Those objecting included Missouri Republican Josh Hawley, who is considered a potential 2024 presidential contender.

Biden won Pennsylvania by slightly more than 80,000 votes. Since the Nov. 3 election, Trump and his allies filed at least a half-dozen lawsuits challenging Biden’s win on various grounds, including that many or all of the state’s mail-in ballots were illegal.

The lawsuits failed as judge after judge found no violation of state law or constitutional rights, or no grounds to grant an immediate halt to certifying the election.

11:20 p.m. ET Wednesday: The House voted overwhelmingly to reject an objection to Biden’s win in Arizona, joining the Senate in upholding the results of the election there.

The objection failed 303-121, with only Republicans voting in support.

Have questions about what’s happening in U.S. politics? Send us an email at ask@cbc.ca

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CBC | World News

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai Will Resign on January 20th

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The federal government has started to adjust to the reality of Joe Biden’s inauguration as the 46th President on January 20th. A lot of things are going to change that day, including the leadership of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Current Chairman Ajit Pai has announced he will resign from the commission on that day. “It has been the honor of a lifetime to serve at the Federal Communications Commission, including as Chairman of the FCC over the past four years,” Pai said, announcing his departure. 

Ajit Pai began his career as a lawyer in the Department of Justice and at Verizon. In 2011, he joined the FCC under Obama as one of the commission’s Republican members. The FCC has a long tradition of balance with the party holding the presidency nominating three commissioners and the other party getting two. When Donald Trump took over in 2017, Pai was elevated to Chairman, and he did all the things people expected him to do. 

Within a year, Pai had led the new Republican majority of the commission to roll back the Title II reclassification enacted under Chairman Wheeler in 2015. That effectively killed net neutrality for the duration of the Trump administration. And this wasn’t a by-the-books policy change for the FCC. Pai gave interviews and wrote extensively on his rationale for the change — he even participated in a rather tasteless net neutrality parody video with The Daily Caller (see above). Despite a bomb threat during the December 2017 vote, Pai succeeded in reversing net neutrality. Subsequently, he and fellow Republican commissioner Brendan Carr advocated for FCC regulation of social media. 

pai fcc

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai does not usually dress like a discount mall Santa.

Pai also oversaw the merger of Sprint and T-Mobile, accepting the argument that this deal was necessary to accelerate 5G deployments in the US. Sprint is now being slowly digested by T-Mobile, which has access to a mountain of 2.5GHz spectrum that’s ideal for 5G. That’s a problem for Verizon and AT&T, both of which are lacking strong mid-band spectrum for 5G. 

Partisanship was a hallmark of Pai’s tenure running the FCC, but the commission also took action that everyone can get behind. The FCC supported efforts to roll out robocall blocking in 2018, and earlier this year it created a national 988 suicide prevention hotline. 

The President-Elect’s team has yet to talk about its plans for the FCC, but Pai’s departure makes things easier. On January 20th, President Biden can designate a new Chairperson, and the smart money is on long-time commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel.

Now read:

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ExtremeTechExtreme – ExtremeTech

Hong Kong’s pro-democracy lawmakers resign en masse

Hong Kong’s pro-democracy lawmakers said Wednesday that they were resigning en masse following a move by the semi-autonomous Chinese region’s government to disqualify four of their fellow pro-democracy legislators.

The 15 lawmakers announced the move in a news conference Wednesday, hours after the Hong Kong government said it was disqualifying the four legislators — Alvin Yeung, Dennis Kwok, Kwok Ka-ki and Kenneth Leung.

The disqualifications came after China’s National People’s Congress Standing Committee, which held meetings on Tuesday and Wednesday, passed a resolution stating that those who support Hong Kong’s independence or refuse to acknowledge China’s sovereignty over the region, or threaten national security or ask external forces to interfere in the city’s affairs, should be disqualified.

“Today we will resign from our positions, because our partners, our colleagues have been disqualified by the central government’s ruthless move,” Wu Chi-wai, convener of the pro-democracy camp, said at the news conference.

“Although we are facing a lot of difficulties in the coming future for the fight of democracy, we will never, ever give up,” he said.

Four lawmakers, from left, Dennis Kwok, Alvin Yeung, Kwok Ka-ki and Kenneth Leung, confirmed they were disqualified in a news conference Wednesday. (Vincent Yu/The Associated Press)

Wu said that the pro-democracy legislators would hand in their resignation letters on Thursday. During the news conference, pro-democracy lawmakers chanted, “Hong Kong add oil, together we stand,” while holding hands.

“This is an actual act by Beijing … to sound the death knell of Hong Kong’s democracy fight, because they would think that from now on anyone they found to be politically incorrect or unpatriotic or are simply not likable to look at, they could just oust you using any means,” said pro-democracy lawmaker Claudia Mo.

Clamping down

Beijing has in recent months moved to clamp down on opposition voices in Hong Kong with the imposition of a national security law, after months of anti-government protests last year rocked the city.

“In terms of legality and constitutionality, obviously from our point of view this is clearly in breach of the Basic Law and our rights to participate in public affairs, and a failure to observe due process,” said Kwok, one of the disqualified lawmakers, referring to Hong Kong’s mini-constitution.

Hong Kong’s leader, Carrie Lam, said in a news conference Wednesday that lawmakers must act properly, and that the city needs a legislature composed of patriots.

“We cannot allow members of the Legislative Council who have been judged in accordance with the law to be unable to fulfil the requirements and prerequisites for serving on the Legislative Council to continue to operate in the Legislative Council,” Lam said.

A mass resignation by the pro-democracy camp would leave Hong Kong’s legislature with only pro-Beijing lawmakers. The pro-Beijing camp already makes up a majority of the city’s legislature, but the resignations could allow lawmakers to pass bills favoured by Beijing without opposition.

Still, Lam said that the legislature would not become a rubber-stamp body, and that diverse opinion is welcomed.

“I clearly will say that it is unfair to the pro-establishment members that once the 19 members left the Legislative Council, then they will become a rubber stamp of the Hong Kong SAR government,” she said. “That certainly would not happen.”

Barred from elections

Earlier in the year, the four now-disqualified pro-democracy lawmakers were barred from running for legislative elections originally scheduled for September, prior to the government stating that it would postpone the elections by a year due to the coronavirus. They were disqualified over their calls for foreign governments to impose sanctions on Hong Kong and Beijing.

The four lawmakers later remained in their posts following the postponement of the elections.

The postponement was criticized by the pro-democracy camp as an attempt to block them from taking a majority of seats in the legislature, after they had held an unofficial pro-democracy primary participated in by over 600,000 voters to decide which candidates to field.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said that the move to disqualify the lawmakers was necessary to maintain rule of law and constitutional order in Hong Kong.

“We firmly support the [Hong Kong] government in performing its duties in accordance with the Standing Committee’s decision,” Wang said at a regular news conference.

Beijing’s imposition of the national security law on Hong Kong in June and the ensuing crackdown on opposition voices have brought condemnation from Western democracies. Several countries have suspended their extradition treaties with Hong Kong, and Washington has barred Lam and other leading figures from visiting the U.S. and ordered a block on any U.S. assets in their possession.

Beijing has rejected all such criticism and lashed out at what it calls gross foreign interference in Chinese politics.

“I want to emphasize that Hong Kong is a special administrative region of China,” Wang said, reiterating Beijing’s position. “The issue of qualification of Hong Kong Legislative Council members is purely China’s internal affairs. No countries have the right to make irresponsible remarks or intervene.”

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British PM’s top adviser called on to resign over 400-km trip to parents’ house during lockdown

The British government dug in Saturday to defend Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s top adviser, Dominic Cummings, for travelling more than 400 kilometres to his parents’ house during a nationwide lockdown at a time when he suspected he had the coronavirus.

Opponents demanded Cummings’ resignation after The Guardian and Mirror newspapers revealed he had driven from London to the property in Durham, northeast England, with his wife and son at the end of March. A lockdown that began March 23 stipulated that people should remain at their primary residence, leaving only for essential local errands and exercise, and not visit relatives. Anyone with symptoms was advised told to completely isolate themselves.

Johnson’s office said in a statement that Cummings made the trip because his wife was showing coronavirus symptoms, he correctly thought he was likely to also get sick, and relatives had offered to help look after the couple’s 4-year-old son. It said Cummings stayed in a house “near to but separate from” his extended family.

“The prime minister gives Mr. Cummings his full support,” said a visibly uncomfortable Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, who was peppered with questions about Cummings’ trip during the government’s daily coronavirus news conference.

Shapps said Cummings had followed lockdown rules by “staying in place with his family, which is the right thing to do.”

Britain’s Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, shown here on May 14, said Cummings has the full support of Prime Minister Boris Johnson. (Andrew Parsons/10 Downing Street via AP)

“This wasn’t visiting a holiday home or going to visit someone,” he said. “This was going to stay put for 14 days, to remain in isolation.”

The two newspapers later reported that Cummings was spotted again in the Durham area on April 19, after he had recovered from the virus and returned to work in London.

Critics of the government expressed outrage that Cummings had broken stringent rules that for two months have prevented Britons from visiting elderly relatives, comforting dying friends or even attending the funerals of loved ones.

The main opposition Labour Party wrote to the head of the civil service to call for an official investigation.

Cummings is seen with U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson as they leave 10 Downing Street in London in October 2019. (Matt Dunham/The Associated Press)

“The British people have made important and painful sacrifices to support the national effort, including being away from family in times of need,” Labour lawmaker Rachel Reeves wrote in the letter. “It is therefore vital that the government can reassure the public that its most senior figures have been adhering to the same rules as everyone else.”

Durham Police said that officers went to a house on March 31 and “explained to the family the guidelines around self-isolation and reiterated the appropriate advice around essential travel.” Police did not mention Cummings by name.

Asked about the trip by reporters outside his house in London on Saturday, Cummings said “I behaved reasonably and legally.”

“It’s a question of doing the right thing. It’s not about what you guys think.” said Cummings, who also berated the journalists for failing to keep 2 metres (6 1/2 feet) apart in line with social distancing rules.

Influence at 10 Downing

Cummings is a self-styled political disruptor who has expressed contempt for the civil service and much of the media. He was one of the architects of the successful campaign to take Britain out of the European Union, and later was appointed Johnson’s top aide.

He is one of a slew of senior British government figures to contract COVID-19, including the prime minister, who spent three nights in intensive care at a London hospital.

Britain’s official death toll among people with the coronavirus stands at 36,675 after 282 more deaths were reported Saturday. That is the second-highest confirmed total in the world after the United States.

A social distancing sign is seen in West Kirby, U.K., on Saturday. (Phil Noble/Reuters)

Several senior government ministers defended Cummings’s actions. Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove tweeted: “Caring for your wife and child is not a crime.” Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who was sick for a week with the coronavirus, said “it was entirely right for Dom Cummings to find childcare for his toddler, when both he and his wife were getting ill.”

Cummings, 48, is one of several senior U.K. officials who have been accused of flouting the lockdown rules that they advocated for the rest of the country.

Epidemiologist Neil Ferguson stepped down as government scientific adviser earlier this month after a newspaper disclosed that his girlfriend had crossed London to stay with him during the lockdown. In April, Catherine Calderwood resigned as Scotland’s chief medical officer after twice travelling from Edinburgh to her second home.

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More than 1,000 former DOJ officials call on U.S. Attorney General Barr to resign

More than 1,000 former U.S. Justice Department officials on Sunday called for Attorney General William Barr to resign over his handling of the trial of a longtime adviser of President Donald Trump.

The former officials, who served under both Republican and Democratic administrations, criticized Barr, the country’s top law enforcement officer, for overruling his own prosecutors in a case that has prompted accusations that the Trump administration is weakening the rule of law.

On Tuesday, the Justice Department abandoned prosecutors’ initial recommendation to give the veteran Republican operative Roger Stone seven to nine years in prison after he was found guilty in November of seven counts of lying to Congress, obstruction and witness tampering. That prompted all four prosecutors to quit the case.

“It is unheard of for the department’s top leaders to overrule line prosecutors, who are following established policies, in order to give preferential treatment to a close associate of the president, as Attorney General Barr did in the Stone case,” said the letter from former Justice Department officials, published on the website Medium.

“Those actions, and the damage they have done to the Department of Justice’s reputation for integrity and the rule of law, require Mr. Barr to resign,” the letter said.

The Justice Department’s decision backed off its original sentencing recommendation of seven to nine years for the Roger Stone, right, a former Trump adviser. Trump praised Barr for ‘taking charge of a case that was totally out of control and perhaps should not have even been brought.’ (Yuri Gripas, Joe Skipper/Reuters)

The Department of Justice did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Trump had heavily criticized the original sentencing request for Stone and the Justice Department subsequently abandoned it, instead deciding to make no formal sentencing recommendation.

Democrats blasted the department’s shift in the high-profile case involving Stone, whose friendship with Trump dates back decades. Stone’s trial arose from former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation that detailed extensive Russian interference in the 2016 election to benefit Trump’s candidacy.

Barr said on Thursday in an interview with broadcaster ABC that Trump’s criticism of those involved in the Stone case “make it impossible for me to do my job.”

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Malta PM says he’ll resign amid public pressure for truth on reporter’s slaying

Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said Sunday night that he would resign in January following pressure from citizens for the truth about the 2017 car bombing that killed a journalist.

In a televised message, Muscat said he has informed Malta’s president that he will quit as leader of the governing Labour Party on Jan. 12 and that “in the days after, I will resign as prime minister.”

Hours earlier, thousands of Maltese protested outside a courthouse in the capital, Valletta, demanding that he step down.

“As prime minister, I promised two years ago that justice would be done in the case of the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia,” Muscat said, beginning his speech, adding “today I am here to tell you that I kept my word.”

Muscat noted that in addition to three people arrested soon after the bombing for carrying out the actual attack, now there is “someone accused of being the principal person behind this killing.”

Muscat was referring to prominent Maltese businessman Yorgen Fenech, who on Saturday night, was arraigned on charges of alleged complicity in the murder and of allegedly organizing and financing the bombing. Fenech entered pleas of innocence.

Maltese businessman Yorgen Fenech leaves the Courts of Justice in Valletta on Friday. (Yara Nardi/Reuters)

Muscat’s former chief of staff Keith Schembri was linked to the killing. Schembri was among government members targeted by Caruana Galizia’s investigative reporting. Schembri, who resigned last week, was arrested in the probe but later released. He denies wrongdoing

The prime minister insisted that he will see to it that “justice is for everyone,” and said the investigation is still ongoing.

Labour has a comfortable majority in Parliament, indicating that a new party leader could become premier without the need for a national election.

Watch: Malta tycoon charged in journalist’s car bomb killing

Close to 20,000 Maltese citizens jammed Republic Street outside the courthouse in what was by far the largest turnout so far in weeks of public outpouring of anger and disgust aimed at Muscat’s government.

The slain reporter had written extensively about suspected corruption in political and business circles on the European Union nation, which is a financial haven for many investors.

Among her targets were those in Muscat’s political inner circle, including members of his Cabinet. Caruana Galizia was the subject of lawsuits by some of her subjects, including some in government. While many celebrated her as an anti-corruption champion, some on the island whose dealings she exposed scorned her work.

Close to 20,000 Maltese citizens protested outside the courthouse on Sunday. (Associated Press)

“I reiterate my deepest regret that a person, with all her positive and negative qualities and contribution toward the democracy of our country, was killed in such a brutal way,” Muscat said.

“The sensations of genuine sadness and anger for this murder are justified. And I will never accept that someone conveys a signal that in any way he or she is justifying this murder.”

European Parliament lawmakers are due to visit Malta in coming days, amid concerns about the functioning of rule of law on the Mediterranean island nation.

Muscat struck a defensive note.

“Our institutions are strong and they function. Shame on anyone who ridicules them as he or she is ridiculing our country.”

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