The Associated Press
Donald Trump's lawyers have a simple objective as they open their defense at the former president's impeachment trial: Don't lose any Republican votes.
Most Senate Republicans have indicated that they will vote to acquit Trump on the House charge of incitement of insurrection. They argue that the trial is unconstitutional and that Trump didn't incite supporters to lay siege on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 when he told them to "fight like hell" against the certification of President Joe Biden's victory. If Republicans hold the line, Democrats will fall well short of the two-thirds of the Senate needed for conviction.
Trump's two top lawyers, Bruce Castor and David Schoen, risked losing one Republican vote on Tuesday after Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy said they did a "terrible" job arguing that the trial is unconstitutional. Cassidy, who had voted with his party two weeks prior to stop the trial, switched his vote to side with Democrats.
Including Cassidy, six Republicans sided with Democrats on that vote that the trial is constitutional — far from the minimum of 17 Republican votes that would be needed to convict.
Here's what to watch for on Friday as the defense opens arguments in Trump's historic second impeachment:
Trump's lawyers plan to argue their client's innocence on multiple fronts. Their main arguments include that the trial is unconstitutional, that the insurrectionists who broke into the Capitol did so on their own accord and that Trump's rhetoric to supporters was common political speech protected under the First Amendment.
Hoping that brevity will appeal to their restless Senate audience, the lawyers are expected to keep their arguments short. A Trump adviser said Thursday that they are expected to wrap up their defense in less than a day.
Like the House prosecutors, Trump's lawyers have up to 16 hours over two days to plead their case. Once the defense's presentation is finished, senators will have time to submit written questions to both sides.
Taking a cue from their client, Trump's lawyers have injected searing criticism of Democrats into their arguments, hoping to convince not only GOP senators but also viewers of the trial around the country that Trump's second impeachment is fueled by "hatred" of the former president. They are expected to continue with that strategy on Friday, calling out Democrats they say similarly incited violence in cities around the country.
Schoen told reporters in the Capitol on Thursday that Democrats' recounting of the riots on Wednesday — almost 90 minutes of brutal footage that saw the rioters injuring law enforcement and calling for the death of the vice president and the speaker of the House — was "offensive."
He said he believed Democrats were effectively making the public relive the tragedy in a way that "tears at the American people" and impedes efforts at unity.
All eyes will be on Castor, who delivered a rambling argument on Tuesday that Republican senators criticized as perplexing, "disorganized" and "random." Trump, too, was furious over the performance of his defense team as he watched the proceedings from his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida, according to a person familiar with his thinking who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe a private conversation.
On Friday, Castor will get a second chance. After the Democrats' video presentation on Wednesday, he said the images "would have an emotional impact on any jury, but there are two sides of the coin and we haven't played ours."
At least one key senator had advice for the lawyers on Thursday.
Maine Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican who has been harshly critical of Trump's role in the riots, said she hopes Trump's lawyers will be "as specific as the House managers were — who went through the evidence, provided legal arguments and gave a very thorough presentation."
'I am a child!' Pepper spray reflects policing of Black kids
The 9-year-old Black girl sat handcuffed in the backseat of a police car, distraught and crying for her father as the white officers grew increasingly impatient while they tried to wrangle her fully into the vehicle.
"This is your last chance," one officer warned. "Otherwise pepper spray is going in your eyeballs."
Less than 90 seconds later, the girl had been sprayed and was screaming, "Please, wipe my eyes! Wipe my eyes, please!"
What started with a report of "family trouble" in Rochester, New York, and ended with police treating a fourth-grader like a crime suspect, has spurred outrage as the latest example of law enforcement mistreatment of Black people.
As the U.S. undergoes a new reckoning on police brutality and racial injustice in the wake of George Floyd's death last May, the girl's treatment illustrates how even young children are not exempt.
Over 9,000 virus patients sent into NY nursing homes
NEW YORK — More than 9,000 recovering coronavirus patients in New York state were released from hospitals into nursing homes early in the pandemic under a controversial directive that was scrapped amid criticism it accelerated outbreaks, according to new records obtained by The Associated Press.
The new number of 9,056 recovering patients sent to hundreds of nursing homes is more than 40% higher than what the state health department previously released. And it raises new questions as to whether a March 25 directive from Gov. Andrew Cuomo's administration helped spread sickness and death among residents, a charge the state disputes.
"The lack of transparency and the meting out of bits of important data has undermined our ability to both recognize the scope and severity of what's going on" and address it, said Richard Mollot, the executive director of the Long Term Care Community Coalition, a residents advocacy group.
The new figures come as the Cuomo administration has been forced in recent weeks to acknowledge i t has been underreporting the overall number of COVID-19 deaths among long-term care residents. It is now nearly 15,000 up from the 8,500 previously disclosed.
The Cuomo administration's March 25 directive barred nursing homes from refusing people just because they had COVID-19. It was intended to free up space in hospitals swamped in the early days of the pandemic. It came under criticism from advocates for nursing home residents and their relatives, who said it had the potential to spread the virus in a state that at the time already had the nation's highest nursing home death toll.
Melbourne begins 3rd lockdown due to cluster
MELBOURNE, Australia — Melbourne, Australia's second-largest city, will begin its third lockdown on Friday due to a rapidly spreading COVID-19 cluster centered on hotel quarantine.
The five-day lockdown will be enforced across Victoria state to prevent the virus spreading from the state capital, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said.
The Australian Open tennis tournament will be allowed to continue but without spectators, he said.
Only international flights that were already in the air when the lockdown was announced will be allowed to land at Melbourne Airport. Schools and many businesses will be closed. Residents are ordered to stay at home except to exercise and for essential purposes.
A population of 6.5 million will be locked down from 11:59 p.m. until the same time on Wednesday because of a contagious British variant of the virus first detected at a Melbourne Airport hotel that has infected 13 people.
Tokyo Olympics: Gender issues remain a challenge
TOKYO — Yoshiro Mori resigned Friday as the president of the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee following sexist comments implying women talk too much.
"As of today I will resign from the president's position," he said to open an executive board and council meeting. The board was expected to pick his successor later on Friday. Mori was appointed in 2014, just months after Tokyo won the bid to host the Olympics.
"My inappropriate comments have caused a lot of chaos,"he said. He repeated several times he had regret over the remarks, but also said he had "no intention of neglecting women."
Mori's departure comes after more than a week of non-stop criticism about his remarks earlier this month. He initially apologized but refused to step away, which was followed by relentless pressure from television pundits, sponsors, and an on-line petition that drew 150,000 signatures.
But it's not clear that his resignation will clear the air and return the focus to exactly how Tokyo can hold the Olympics in just over five months in the midst of a pandemic.
Chinese TV features blackface performers in New Year's gala
BEIJING — Chinese state TV included dancers in blackface portraying Africans during a national broadcast as Asia welcomed the lunar Year of the Ox with subdued festivities Friday amid travel curbs to contain renewed coronavirus outbreaks.
The "African Song and Dance" performance Thursday came at start of the Spring Festival Gala, one of the world's most-watched TV programs. It included Chinese dancers in African-style costumes and dark face makeup beating drums.
The five-hour annual program, which state TV has said in the past is seen by as many as 800 million viewers, also included tributes to nurses, doctors and others who fought the coronavirus pandemic that began in central China in late 2019.
Festivities for the holiday, normally East Asia's busiest tourism season, are muted after China, Vietnam, Taiwan and other governments tightened travel curbs and urged the public to avoid big gatherings following renewed virus outbreaks.
China's ruling Communist Party tries to promote an image of unity with African nations as fellow developing economies. But state broadcaster China Central Television has faced criticism over using blackface to depict African people in past New Year broadcasts.