Morning Brief

Trump Impeachment Trial Heads For Finish Line

Trump’s defense team will provide a short rebuttal today before resting its case, with acquittal all but assured.

David Schoen, lawyer for former President Donald Trump, talks to reporters as he departs the U.S. Capitol on the third day of Trump's second impeachment trial on February 11, 2021 in Washington, D.C.
David Schoen, lawyer for former President Donald Trump, talks to reporters as he departs the U.S. Capitol on the third day of Trump's second impeachment trial on February 11, 2021 in Washington, D.C. Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: Trump’s impeachment defense team is expected to make and then rest its case today, China bars BBC World News, and Catalonia prepares for regional elections.

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Trump Defense To Wrap Up Today

Donald Trump’s impeachment defense team is expected to issue their rebuttal today before the U.S. Senate after Democratic House managers made their final arguments on Thursday.

Trump’s lawyers are expected to use only one of their allotted two days to make their case, bringing the Senate closer to a vote. David Schoen, one of Trump’s lawyers said they would likely rest their case after only three or four hours of arguments.

If each side declines to call witnesses in the case, the decision to convict or acquit the former president could be made by senators as soon as this weekend.

Acquittal still seems a foregone conclusion, even after a day of forceful arguments and presentations by House managers. Rep. Ted Lieu, a Democrat, summed up the urgency of the case. “I’m not afraid of Donald Trump running again in four years,” he said. “I’m afraid he’s going to run again and lose. Because he can do this again.”

Although a handful of Republican senators appear willing to vote to convict Trump, a majority remain unconvinced that Trump can be held responsible for the Jan. 6 riots. That sentiment was crystallized by Republican Sen. Rand Paul. “Everybody objects to that violence. Everybody is horrified by that violence. But the question is: Did the president incite that?,” he told Politico.

Democrats need 17 Republican senators to join them in order to achieve a conviction—so far only six appear willing to break ranks.

What We’re Following Today

China blocks BBC. Chinese authorities have blocked BBC’s World News channel from broadcasting in China, a retaliatory move after British authorities barred CGTN—the English language version of the Chinese state media giant CCTV—earlier this month. BBC World News was not widely available in China even before the ban, however, British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab still lamented the decision as “an unacceptable curtailing of media freedom.”

Mario’s moment. Mario Draghi, Italy’s prime minister-in-waiting, is one step closer to leading the country after he received the support of the members of the largest parliamentary party. The Five Star Movement’s members voted to back Draghi in a tight online ballot, suggesting a shaky coalition ahead—the motion to support the former European Central Bank leader garnered 59.3 percent of votes.

China and India pull back. China and India have begun pulling back troops along their disputed Himalayan border, months after a deadly clash between the two sides. On Thursday, Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh said troops would be removed in a “phased, coordinated and verified manner,” while China’s defense ministry said it had begun a “synchronized and organized” disengagement. Military officials from both countries have been in de-escalation talks for months following a June 15 skirmish that left 20 Indian soldiers dead, along with an unknown number of Chinese.

Keep an Eye On

Catalonia votes. Residents of the Spanish region of Catalonia go to the polls on Sunday for regional elections. In a sign of the waning strength of the region’s independence movement, the Socialist Party of Catalonia is favored in polls to take power for the first time in a decade. The party’s leader, Salvador Illa, has ruled out forming a coalition with any pro-independence parties ahead of the vote. Like most elections held during the coronavirus pandemic, the region is taking extra health precautions in its preparations—which include converting FC Barcelona’s almost 100,000-seat Camp Nou stadium into a polling station.

Ebola in Congo. A woman has died in Congo’s Kivu province after contracting the Ebola virus, the second death from Ebola recorded in less than a week. Despite the deaths, the World Health Organization has found no cause for alarm, saying sporadic cases often follow a major disease outbreak. Congo’s 11th Ebola outbreak was deemed officially over in November, after authorities observed 42 days without a new case.

Venezuela cooperation. The government of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro is in talks with the country’s opposition leaders over purchasing vaccines using U.S.-held funds, Reuters reports. Julio Castro, the medical adviser of opposition leader Juan Guaidó appeared to acknowledge the meeting on Twitter, mentioning the establishment of a national roundtable for access to COVAX. “We welcome the beginning of the construction of a joint strategy among all,” he wrote. Paolo Balladelli, Pan American Health Organization’s Chief of Mission in Venezuela, said between 1.4 million and 2.4 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine have been reserved for the country.

Odds and Ends

Google has threatened to leave Australia over proposed legislation that would force it to compensate news publishers for content displayed on its search engine. The bill is expected to be introduced into parliament next week.

Australia is heavily dependent on Google’s search capabilities, with 95 percent of searches going through the platform.

The uphill battle facing competitors in replacing the service was highlighted by some quick research by Bloomberg. Searching for “best beach Sydney,” brought up a beach 600 miles away on one rival search engine; another brought up the Bondi Beach post office.

That’s it for today.

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Colm Quinn is the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @colmfquinn

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