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Trump impeached after Capitol riot in historic second charge

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump was impeached by the U.S. House for a historic second time Wednesday, charged with “incitement of insurrection” over the deadly mob siege of the Capitol in a swift and stunning collapse of his final days in office.

With the Capitol secured by armed National Guard troops inside and out, the House voted 232-197 to impeach Trump. The proceedings moved at lightning speed, with lawmakers voting just one week after violent pro-Trump loyalists stormed the U.S. Capitol, egged on by the president’s calls for them to “fight like hell” against the election results.

Ten Republicans fled Trump, joining Democrats who said he needed to be held accountable and warned ominously of a “clear and present danger” if Congress should leave him unchecked before Democrat Joe Biden’s inauguration Jan. 20.

Trump is the only U.S. president to be twice impeached. It was the most bipartisan presidential impeachment in modern times, more so than against Bill Clinton in 1998.

The Capitol insurrection stunned and angered lawmakers, who were sent scrambling for safety as the mob descended, and it revealed the fragility of the nation’s history of peaceful transfers of power. The riot also forced a reckoning among some Republicans, who have stood by Trump throughout his presidency and largely allowed him to spread false attacks against the integrity of the 2020 election.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi invoked Abraham Lincoln and the Bible, imploring lawmakers to uphold their oath to defend the Constitution from all enemies, foreign “and domestic.”

She said of Trump: “He must go, he is a clear and present danger to the nation that we all love.”

Holed up at the White House, watching the proceedings on TV, Trump later released a video statement in which he made no mention at all of the impeachment but appealed to his supporters to refrain from any further violence or disruption of Biden’s inauguration.

“Like all of you, I was shocked and deeply saddened by the calamity at the Capitol last week,” he said, his first condemnation of the attack. He appealed for unity “to move forward” and said, “Mob violence goes against everything I believe in and everything our movement stands for. ... No true supporter of mine could ever disrespect law enforcement.”

Trump was first impeached by the House in 2019 over his dealings with Ukraine, but the Senate voted in 2020 acquit. He is the first president to be impeached twice. None has been convicted by the Senate, but Republicans said Wednesday that could change in the rapidly shifting political environment as officeholders, donors, big business and others peel away from the defeated president.

The soonest Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell would start an impeachment trial is next Tuesday, the day before Trump is already set to leave the White House, McConnell’s office said. The legislation is also intended to prevent Trump from ever running again.

McConnell believes Trump committed impeachable offenses and considers the Democrats’ impeachment drive an opportunity to reduce the divisive, chaotic president’s hold on the GOP, a Republican strategist told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

McConnell told major donors over the weekend that he was through with Trump, said the strategist, who demanded anonymity to describe McConnell’s conversations.

In a note to colleagues Wednesday, McConnell said he had “not made a final decision on how I will vote.”

Unlike his first time, Trump faces this impeachment as a weakened leader, having lost his own reelection as well as the Senate Republican majority.

Even Trump ally Kevin McCarthy, the House Republican leader, shifted his position and said Wednesday the president bears responsibility for the horrifying day at the Capitol.

In making a case for the “high crimes and misdemeanors” demanded in the Constitution, the four-page impeachment resolution approved Wednesday relies on Trump’s own incendiary rhetoric and the falsehoods he spread about Biden’s election victory, including at a rally near the White House on the day of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

A Capitol Police officer died from injuries suffered in the riot, and police shot and killed a woman during the siege. Three other people died in what authorities said were medical emergencies. The riot delayed the tally of Electoral College votes that was the last step in finalizing Biden’s victory.

Ten Republican lawmakers, including third-ranking House GOP leader Liz Cheney of Wyoming, voted to impeach Trump, cleaving the Republican leadership, and the party itself.

Cheney, whose father is the former Republican vice president, said of Trump’s actions summoning the mob that “there has never been a greater betrayal by a President” of his office.

Trump was said to be livid with perceived disloyalty from McConnell and Cheney.

With the team around Trump hollowed out and his Twitter account silenced by the social media company, the president was deeply frustrated that he could not hit back, according to White House officials and Republicans close to the West Wing who weren’t authorized to speak publicly about private conversations.

From the White House, Trump leaned on Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina to push Republican senators to resist, while chief of staff Mark Meadows called some of his former colleagues on Capitol Hill.

The president’s sturdy popularity with the GOP lawmakers’ constituents still had some sway, and most House Republicans voted not to impeach.

Security was exceptionally tight at the Capitol, with tall fences around the complex. Metal-detector screenings were required for lawmakers entering the House chamber, where a week earlier lawmakers huddled inside as police, guns drawn, barricade the door from rioters.

“We are debating this historic measure at a crime scene,” said Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass.

During the debate, some Republicans repeated the falsehoods spread by Trump about the election and argued that the president has been treated unfairly by Democrats from the day he took office.

Other Republicans argued the impeachment was a rushed sham and complained about a double standard applied to his supporters but not to the liberal left. Some simply appealed for the nation to move on.

Rep. Tom McClintock of California said, “Every movement has a lunatic fringe.”

Yet Democratic Rep. Jason Crow, D-Colo. and others recounted the harrowing day as rioters pounded on the chamber door trying to break in. Some called it a “coup” attempt.

Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., contended that Trump was “capable of starting a civil war.”

Conviction and removal of Trump would require a two-thirds vote in the Senate, which will be evenly divided. Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania joined Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska over the weekend in calling for Trump to “go away as soon as possible.”

Fending off concerns that an impeachment trial would bog down his first days in office, Biden is encouraging senators to divide their time between taking taking up his priorities of confirming his nominees and approving COVID-19 relief while also conducting the trial.

The impeachment bill 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 House had first tried to persuade Vice President Mike Pence and the Cabinet to invoke their authority under the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office. Pence declined to do so, but the House passed the resolution anyway.

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

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.

MCS board extends FFCRA leave, approves e-learning pay

The Marion Community Schools (MCS) board passed two measures at its regular meeting Tuesday aimed at taking care of employees through the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

The board approved a resolution extending the provisions of the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) regarding employee sick and family leave through June 30, 2021. The guidelines in the act had expired Dec. 31, 2020.

MCS CFO and Assistant Superintendent for Business Affairs Bob Schultz told the board employees will again be eligible for up to 10 days of paid leave if they meet the requirements laid out in the FFCRA. Eligible reasons for leave include quarantining, isolating or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms; caring for someone who is quarantining or isolating; or caring for a child whose school or place of child care is closed due to COVID-19.

Schultz noted the 10-day allowance starts over effective Jan. 1, so an employee cannot carry over any unused leave from 2020 into 2021. The district has developed a streamlined system where employees notify supervisors and supervisors communicate with HR and the business office to make sure the leave is applied correctly, he said.

The board also approved a measure that will allow certain employees to receive up to five days of pay when MCS has unscheduled e-learning days due to inclement weather or other emergencies that close in-person instruction. Schultz explained that previously snow days or other cancellations were made up at the end of the year, but now with full 1-to-1 devices going home with students, e-learning days will occur instead of a day off.

Certain workers like bus drivers, cafeteria workers, classroom aides, nurses and other support staff used to be paid for the days they missed when the days were made up in May, but since the days are no longer made up they would have potentially lost the opportunity to earn on those days through no fault of their own if the new policy had not been approved, officials say.

Schultz said the policy will not apply to the planned e-learning days the district has set up for every Friday right now due to COVID.

“What we’re doing on planned e-learning days is we try to find activities and give them the option to work,” he said. “I know many of our bus drivers have been used to help clean the buildings... If they want to do it, they can. If not, they don’t get paid for the day.”

The pay would only be given on days Superintendent Brad Lindsay cancels in-person school and would not apply to certified staff, administrators and others on 260-day contracts. Part-time employees who work less than eight hours a day would be eligible to receive the equivalent of what they earn in a typical day.

Employee supervisors do retain the right to determine who receives e-learning days and may call in employees to work even if it is an emergency e-learning day. Schultz said this provision was included to account for things like cafeteria workers needing to be at a school for a food shipment or nursing staff working on records from home if needed.

Schultz applauded the support from the Marion Teachers Association (MTA) on advocating for the two measures, noting the e-learning pay doesn’t even apply to union members.

“Some of it does help teachers, but a lot of it is just for other employees as well,” Schultz said. “So they’re looking out for everybody that works in our school, and I want to recognize the MTA for that.”

MTA President Scott Simpson commended the board for taking the actions that may end up costing the district money but shows support for all employees. He noted he was aware of another district in the state that had 12 e-learning days last year with no compensation set up for non-teaching employees, leaving those employees to lose one-fifteenth of their total pay for the year.

“It’s the right thing to do. It’s the right way to treat people,” he said. “The actions we’ve taken have treated employees with dignity and respect, and I really greatly appreciate being able to work at a place that does that.”

Vaccinations continue, county stays in red zone

More and more Grant County residents are receiving COVID-19 vaccinations every day, but the county still remains in the red zone of the state’s color-coded metrics.

According to Indiana Department of Health (IDOH) data, 1,754 individuals in Grant County have received a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, while 382 received both doses and are fully vaccinated. Statewide, 219,885 Hoosiers have received a first dose while 40,281 are fully vaccinated.

Health officer Dr. William David Moore said after some missteps in the initial rollout of the vaccine across the country, things are operating more smoothly now. Marion General Hospital and the Grant County Health Department continue to vaccinate eligible health care workers, first responders and county residents 70 and older daily.

“I’m very proud to be a part of this,” Moore said. “After some stumbles and other things of getting it off the ground, it’s come together well with committed people making a competent, conscientious job to take care of one another.”

Moore said the hospital has improved its efficiency and has begun to vaccinate more than 300 people per day, while the health department’s smaller operation is vaccinating approximately 40 people per day. He urged patience for those waiting to be eligible for the vaccine as supply and state guidelines continue to expand to greater numbers of people.

“As you move down by each five-year category, the number of people in those categories is going to explode,” Moore said. “[When] you get to 70 or 65 (years old), there’s I think something like 13,000 persons in Grant County who fit that category. ... I don’t want to overstate it, but we’ll be able to expand that I think pretty soon. It’s going pretty well.”

Eligible Hoosiers can schedule their first vaccination appointment by calling 211 or visiting www.ourshot.in.gov and should bring a valid ID and insurance card to the vaccination appointment. The second-dose vaccination appointment will be scheduled at the first appointment.

Moore stressed that vaccinations in Grant County are currently by appointment only, and neither MGH or the health department is a walk-in center.

“The health department, with our limited resources, does not have the capacity to manage that, but also the state has given some pretty strict guidelines for who is eligible to receive them and their prioritization,” Moore said. “And these come from the federal and state government to us at no cost. We have to handle that respectfully or we may lose access to it. So we really want to follow the rules and follow the directions we’ve been given by the state health department.”

Meanwhile, Grant County is one of 73 counties currently in the red zone representing the highest level of community spread through new cases and positivity rate of those tested. The remaining 19 Indiana counties are in the orange zone, the second-highest level.

Commissioner Mark Bardsley said it has now been more than 300 days since the county Emergency Operations Center was activated for COVID. While recent data has shown lower numbers of daily case counts, he said it is expected that the county will remain in the red for at least two to three more weeks.

“We’ve seen a small decline in the amount of positive cases,” he said. “But again I don’t want that to be a misleading kind of statement, because until we actually have lower statistics for a two-week period that gets us into the orange category we’re still going to be in the red category.”

Even as vaccinations continue, Bardsley stressed COVID-19 is not going away quickly and remains highly contagious and potentially deadly. He noted Grant County has 108 reported COVID deaths, while last year the whole state of Indiana reported 185 flu deaths.

“We want to reinforce that we’re not done with this. We’re talking weeks on weeks yet,” he said. “And really the state probably only has about 2 percent of the population that’s received vaccines so far, and we’re at 10 percent of herd immunity through sickness and being infected. So we still have to go 60-plus percent to get to the herd immunity that says we can handle it in our community.”

Individuals should continue to isolate or quarantine if infected or exposed to COVID-19, wear a mask in public, wash hands regularly, social distance at least 6 feet apart from others and follow all other health guidelines.

Hoosiers 70 and older now eligible for vaccine

Hoosiers 70 and older now eligible for vaccine

As of Wednesday, Hoosiers age 70 and older can now begin scheduling appointments to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

Appointments can be scheduled by visiting ourshot.in.gov. Those needing assistance with registration can call 211 or one of Indiana’s Area Agencies on Aging. A caregiver or loved one also may make an appointment on behalf of an eligible senior.

Grant County EMA Director Bob Jackson said 36 new COVID-19 cases were reported Wednesday, bringing the total number of county COVID cases to 6,320 since the start of the pandemic. No new deaths were reported, and the county has reported a total of 108 COVID-19 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

A total of 385 COVID-19 cases have been reported over the last seven days, representing an average of approximately 55 new cases per day, Jackson said. A total of 800 COVID-19 cases have been reported over the last 14 days, representing an average of approximately 57 new cases per day, Jackson said.

The Indiana Department of Health (IDOH) Wednesday announced that 3,686 additional Hoosiers have been diagnosed with COVID-19 through testing at state and private laboratories. That brings to 574,119 the number of Indiana residents now known to have had the novel coronavirus following corrections to the previous day’s dashboard.

A total of 8,790 Hoosiers are confirmed to have died from COVID-19, an increase of 59 from the previous day. Another 373 probable deaths have been reported based on clinical diagnoses in patients for whom no positive test is on record. Deaths are reported based on when data are received by the state and occurred over multiple days.

To date, 2,779,991 unique individuals have been tested in Indiana, up from 2,770,157 on Monday. A total of 6,220,087 tests, including repeat tests for unique individuals, have been reported to IDOH since Feb. 26.

To find testing sites around the state, visit www.coronavirus.in.gov and click on the COVID-19 testing information link.

Nearly 220,000 Hoosiers have received their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine, and more than 40,000 have received both doses and are fully vaccinated. IDOH has created a vaccine dashboard that will show the latest number of vaccines administered. The dashboard will be updated daily.

Infant's death ruled a homicide

Grant County Coroner Stephen Dorsey said he has ruled the Christmas Eve death of an infant as a homicide as the investigation continues.

Dorsey said 2-month-old Atlas Kirkland died Dec. 24, 2020 after Gas City Police Department officers responded to an apartment complex on the 200 block of West South J Street in Gas City at approximately 7:55 a.m. for a report of an infant who was not breathing.

The boy’s father told police he woke up and found the child was not breathing, and officers and Marion General Hospital personnel on-scene administered CPR before pronouncing the boy dead at 8:12 a.m.

Dorsey said Wednesday the investigation into Kirkland’s death is ongoing, and anyone with information is encouraged to call Indiana State Police Detective Joshua Maller at 765-475-8111.

The Gas City Police Department, Grant County Coroner, Indiana State Police and Department of Child Services are conducting the investigation, Dorsey said.