A judge in Atlanta will at 12 pm eastern time convene a hearing to determine whether to release a special grand jury’s report into attempts by Donald Trump and his allies to meddle in the outcome of the 2020 presidential election in Georgia.
The jurors have recommended making the report public, and Fani Willis, the district attorney in Fulton county, which encompasses Georgia’s capital, is using its findings to determine whether to bring charges in the investigation, which has centered on the attempts by top Trump allies like attorney Rudy Giuliani and senator Lindsey Graham to convince state officials to overturn Joe Biden’s victory in the state. It’s unclear if Willis is considering charges against Trump in the case. Attorneys for the former president said yesterday they will not attend the hearing, and that Trump has not committed any crimes.
Follow this blog for the latest from the hearing.
The United States is leaning towards sending its Abrams M1 tank to Ukraine, both in a bid to bolster its government’s fight against Russia and to convince Germany to send its own Leopard 2 tanks, the Wall Street Journal reports.
The weapons delivery represents an attempt by Washington to resolve the question of sending tanks to Ukraine, one of the few issues splitting the coalition of western countries that came to Kyiv’s defense since Russia invaded last year. Despite pressure from its allies, Germany has yet to commit to send the Leopard 2, and so the Biden administration is considering sending the Abrams M1 tank in hopes of convincing them. The Pentagon has previously demurred on delivering the massive armored vehicle, arguing its needs for fuel and other logistics will hamper its effectiveness.
Here’s more from the Journal’s report:
The shift in the U.S. position follows a call on Jan. 17 between President Biden and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in which Mr. Biden agreed to look into providing the Abrams tanks against the judgment of the Pentagon. A senior German official said that the issue had been the subject of intense negotiation between Washington and Berlin for more than a week and appeared to be on the way to resolution.
Military officials have argued publicly that the Abrams tanks require a substantial amount of training and logistics support and therefore aren’t appropriate for this moment in the conflict.
In a contentious meeting last week at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, the U.S. and its allies failed to persuade Germany to allow other nations to send German-made tanks, exposing the first serious rift in the alliance that has supported Kyiv.
Previously, the Pentagon had ruled out providing the tanks to Ukraine, saying they were too complicated for the Ukrainians to maintain and operate. But White House and State Department officials were described as being more open to providing Abrams to break the diplomatic logjam holding up Leopard deliveries.
Live Nation’s chief financial officer apologized for the Taylor Swift ticket fiasco, which he blamed on bots:
Democratic senator Amy Klobuchar meanwhile cited her love for music as the reason she pushed for the hearing on the ticket companies’ business practices:
Free Britney America was formed to raise awareness about pop singer Britney Spears’ battle with her now-ended conservatorship. The group now has a new target: Ticketmaster.
Free Britney America will today be protesting outside the US Capitol as the Senate judiciary committee holds its hearing into Ticketmaster and its parents company Live Nation’s business practices.
“Britney Spears regained her freedom on November 12, 2021, yet the question remained: how could one of the world’s most famous artists be forced to perform for audiences of thousands of fans? Our research into Britney’s conservatorship found that Live Nation was a central player in monetizing her abusive conservatorship. Furthermore, we assert that the inordinate power that Live Nation has across the music industry secures a culture of silence around the abuse of Britney Spears and other artists,” the group said in a statement that announced today’s “Fans Unite to Fight Ticketmaster” protest.
The Senate judiciary committee has begun a hearing on the live event ticketing industry, after Ticketmaster last year bungled sales of tickets to megastar Taylor Swfit’s latest tour.
“The issues within America’s ticketing industry were made painfully obvious when Ticketmaster’s website failed hundreds of thousands of fans hoping to purchase tickets for Taylor Swift’s new tour, but these problems are not new,” Democratic senator Amy Klobuchar said in a statement last week announcing the hearing. “For too long, consumers have faced high fees, long waits, and website failures, and Ticketmaster’s dominant market position means the company faces inadequate pressure to innovate and improve.”
“American consumers deserve the benefit of competition in every market, from grocery chains to concert venues,” her Republican counterpart senator Mike Lee said.
When ticket’s for Swift’s first tour in five years went on sale in November, Ticketmaster’s website crashed, leaving customers for “presale” tickets stranded in line and forcing the cancellation of its public sale. The justice department is reportedly investigating the company in an inquiry that started before the problems with the Swift tour. Ticketmaster meanwhile spent nearly $1.3m on lobbying in 2021, targeting the justice department and Congress’s efforts to regulate its business.
You can watch the hearing live here.
Donald Trump’s foe today – and potentially for many months to come – is an Atlanta prosecutor with a history of taking on organized crime, the Guardian’s Carlisa N. Johnson reports:
An Atlanta prosecutor appears ready to use the same Georgia statute to prosecute Donald Trump that she used last year to charge dozens of gang members and well-known rappers who allegedly conspired to commit violent crime.
Fani Willis was elected Fulton county district attorney just days before the conclusion of the 2020 presidential election. But as she celebrated her promotion, Trump and his allies set in motion a flurry of unfounded claims of voter fraud in Georgia, the state long hailed as a Republican stronghold for local and national elections.
Willis assumed office on 1 January 2021, becoming the first Black woman in the position. The next day, according to reports, Trump called rad Raffensperger, the Georgia secretary of state, urging him to “find” the nearly 12,000 votes he needed to secure a victory and overturn the election results.
The following month, Willis launched an investigation into Trump’s interference in the state’s general election. Now, in a hearing on Tuesday, the special purpose grand jury and the presiding judge will decide whether to release to the public the final report and findings of the grand jury that was seated to investigate Trump and his allies.
Today may be a big day for Donald Trump, and not in a good way, the Guardian’s Chris McGreal reports:
A judge in Atlanta will hear legal arguments today to determine if he should make public a Georgia grand jury’s report into whether former president Donald Trump committed criminal offences when he tried to overturn the results of the 2020 election in the state.
Before the special purpose grand jury was dissolved two weeks ago after months of hearings, its members recommended releasing its findings while the Fulton county district attorney who launched the investigation, Fani Willis, decides whether to press charges against Trump.
Legal scholars have said they believe Trump is “at substantial risk of prosecution” in Georgia over his attempts to strong-arm officials into fixing the election in his favour when it looked as if the state might decide the outcome of the presidential election. At least 18 other people have been told they also potentially face prosecution, including Trump’s close ally and lawyer, the former New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani.
The Fulton county superior court judge who oversaw the grand jury, Robert McBurney, will hear from Willis but not lawyers for Trump, who said on Monday that they will not participate in the hearing. They said that Willis had not sought to interview the former president for the investigation.
“Therefore, we can assume that the grand jury did their job and looked at the facts and the law, as we have, and concluded there were no violations of the law by President Trump,” the lawyers said in a statement.
While mass shootings such as those that occurred over the past days in California may generate headlines and calls for action, the Guardian’s Oliver Holmes reports gun violence is distressingly common in the United States:
Two horrific killings separated by just a few days have shaken California, but such nightmarish mass shootings cannot be considered abnormal in the US. With a week still left in January, this year there have already been 39 mass shootings across the country, five of them in California.
Reports from the Gun Violence Archive, a not-for-profit research group, show the predictability of American mass shootings. Nearly 70 people have been shot dead in them so far in 2023, according to their data – which classifies a mass shooting as any armed attack in which at least four people are injured or killed, not including the perpetrator.
Broadened out to include all deaths from gun violence, not including suicides, 1,214 people have been killed before the end of the first month of this year, including 120 children. That is likely to increase to tens of thousands by the end of 2023 – the figure for 2022 is 20,200.
In comparison, the latest data from the UK showed that in the course of an entire year ending in March 2022, 31 people were killed by firearms. The UK’s population is 67 million to the US’s 333 million.
A familiar cycle occurs after American mass shootings, and by all appearances, it’s happening again after the twin massacres in California.
It goes something like this: multiple people are killed by a gunman, as happened in California’s Monterey Park on Saturday and Half Moon Bay on Monday. Joe Biden calls for new restrictions on gun ownership, arguing they could have prevented the killer from getting their hands on a weapon. He’s backed by most, if not all Democrats in Congress, but rejected by most, if not all, Republicans. The demand goes nowhere.
The one exception to that came after last year’s shootings at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, and at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York, when Democrats managed to win enough Republican votes to get a package of modest gun control measures through Congress. But the legislation was not the ban on assault weapons Biden called on Congress pass, a demand he repeated in the months since, as mass shootings continued. With Republicans now controlling the House of Representatives, it seems even less likely such a measure will get approved.
Good morning, US politics blog readers. Joe Biden has called for Congress to again pass a ban on assault weapons, after seven people were killed in a mass shooting on Monday on the outskirts of the California town of Half Moon Bay. That was just days after a separate shooter killed 11 people in Monterey Park, a suburb of Los Angeles. Congress passed an assault weapons ban in 1994 that expired 10 years later, and Biden has repeatedly called for renewing it, including after the massacre at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas last year. But many Republicans in Congress oppose such a measure, and just as in the aftermath of previous mass shootings, it seems unlikely to pass.
Here’s what we can expect to happen today:
A judge in Atlanta will at 12 pm eastern time convene a hearing to determine whether a special grand jury’s report into Donald Trump’s campaign to meddle in Georgia’s 2020 election outcome will be made public, upping the legal stakes for the former president.
Biden will hold a White House meeting with Democratic congressional leaders at 3 pm, and a reception for new lawmakers at 5:20 pm.
White House press secretary Karine Jean Pierre will brief reporters at 1:30 pm, who will likely ask her questions abut the Biden classified document scandal that she will not answer.