Lawyers told to find out which strain killed father in COVID-19 class action


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In Mr Markovic’s case, his lawyers allege failures by the security companies led to the spread of the virus.

Tim Tobin, SC, told the Supreme Court on Wednesday they were still unable to say which hotel the strain Nenad Markovic contracted came from.

“There’ll be no doubt it’ll have come out of one of the hotels,” Mr Tobin said.

“Once the cluster is identified in relation to Mr Markovic, we will then proceed in relation to his claim against the hotel from which the cluster came, and therefore the security company responsible for that hotel.”

Unified Security supplied guards to the Rydges – the site where 90 per cent of cases came from – while MSS provided security for the Stamford.

MSS Security’s lawyer Lachlan Armstrong, QC, said there was a slight chance Mr Markovic was infected with a strain that didn’t come from the hotels.

The hearing before Justice John Dixon heard the plaintiffs couldn’t directly use evidence put before Justice Jennifer Coate’s inquiry last year into the bungled program. The inquiry found there was a lack of training provided to workers and inadequate infection control processes among a litany of other failures.

Mr Tobin told the court that didn’t prevent them from independently accessing some of the inquiry’s evidence, such as calling the same witnesses who were before the inquiry.

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Justice Dixon adjourned the case for a date later in March.

The court also dealt with two other COVID-related class actions brought on the basis of the economic loss caused by the state government’s lockdowns.

In one, lead plaintiffs Keilor Park restaurant 5 Districts NY and its owner Anthony Ferrara, represented by lawyers from Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, allege the government’s bungling of the hotel quarantine program led to restrictions that devastated businesses throughout the state.

In the other, 21-year-old Jordan Roberts, who lost his job at a Tullamarine warehouse just after stage four restrictions came into force, and Carbone Lawyers allege his retrenchment was the result of mistakes by the government in hotel quarantine.

Rachel Doyle, SC, is defending the government in both class actions and the court heard on Wednesday that the defendants are applying to strike-out both cases in a hearing in May.

Other court action against the government’s COVID-19 policies has so far failed.

Restaurant owner Michelle Loielo lost her lawsuit last November in which she alleged the curfew during lockdown was unreasonable or disproportionate and infringed her human rights.

The High Court also dismissed a constitutional challenge from Sorrento hospitality figure Julian Gerner, who tried to argue the restrictions violated his freedom of movement.

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Tasmanian women lawyers call for end to ‘culture of secrecy’ around judicial sexual harassment and misconduct allegations


The organisation representing women lawyers in Tasmania has called for an end to the “culture of secrecy” surrounding how sexual misconduct is dealt with within the state’s legal system.

Last week, it was revealed Tasmanian Supreme Court Justice Gregory Geason had been counselled by the Chief Justice after he was photographed at a Hobart nightclub in an embrace with a junior court employee.

The photograph was taken at the Grand Poobah nightclub in Hobart on Friday, January 29 — the evening of the opening of the legal year.

A statement from a spokesman for Chief Justice Alan Blow said the Chief Justice had investigated the matter following concerns expressed by members of the legal profession.

The junior staff member involved had not made a complaint, had been provided with information as to her options, and offered support.

In a statement on Friday, the Tasmanian Women Lawyers (TWL) said it welcomed “the Supreme Court’s investigation of and response to this allegation.”

“Conduct such as that alleged raises issues around power imbalances in personal relationships, and the potential of workplace sexual harassment, which may bring the judiciary and the legal profession into disrepute, and in turn undermine the public’s confidence in the justice system,” it said.

Supreme Court Justice Gregory Geason has been counselled by the Chief Justice.(Supplied: Supreme Court of Tasmania)

Calls for a judicial commission

Tasmanian Women Lawyers said the incident was concerning and required a firm response.

“We note that the current counselling provided to the staff concerned is not transparent and it is not clear to the public or broader legal profession what it entails,” it said.

“We call upon Parliament and the judiciary to implement a judicial commission, similar to models used in other Australian states, which would allow a clear process for all complaints regarding judicial behaviour that is open and allows for procedural fairness for all parties.

“This would provide opportunity to restore public faith in the justice system by showing the willingness of the Judiciary to be held to the same standards and process for accountability as public servants.

The Tasmanian Women Lawyers said without that process being available in Tasmania, one of the few options available for the resolution of such allegations was to call for the judge concerned to resign.

“We understand that this option has not been taken in this case,” it said.

‘Inherent power imbalance’

In its statement, the Tasmanian Women Lawyers noted numerous reports into sexual harassment and misconduct in Australian legal workplaces identified “wherever there is an inherent power imbalance between the parties to such conduct, there is the risk of exploitation”.

“In this case, the conduct involved one of the highest officers of the law in this jurisdiction and a junior staff member.

“TWL recognises that the historically male-dominated and tight-knit nature of the legal profession has led to a culture in which sexual harassment and misconduct has been allowed to continue.

“We understand that members of the profession have been reluctant to discuss this matter publicly out of fear of recrimination.

“TWL reiterates that in situations where there is an inherent power imbalance between the parties, the person in a position of authority should always bear the consequences of their actions.

“Women and other subjects of such misconduct should be supported and made to feel safe by the profession.”

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Donald Trump's impeachment lawyers: Who is leading his defence team?




Donald Trump's impeachment lawyers: Who is leading his defence team?

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Trump lawyers expected to allege Dem hypocrisy Friday as defense gets its turn at impeachment trial


The legal team for former President Donald Trump makes their opening arguments in his second impeachment trial on Friday — and they are expected to allege that Democrats are being hypocritical by saying that Trump incited the Capitol mob by telling his followers they have to “fight” against a “stolen election.”

They’re likely to point out past instances when Democrats have used combative rhetoric, playing videos similar to how the House impeachment managers used video of Trump speaking to make their case against him. 

Trump’s attorneys are also expected to argue, as they previewed in briefs submitted to the Senate, that the House impeachment managers are taking Trump’s words out of context as they aim to get 67 senators to vote to convict him of inciting an insurrection. 

“I think you’ll at least be moved by what you see and get a much better picture of exactly what’s going on here and the hypocrisy in some of the positions taken by the House managers in this case,” Trump lawyer David Schoen said on “America Reports” Thursday. 

David Schoen, President Trump’s attorney, speaking at his impeachment trial on Feb. 9, 2021.

“They built a sort of a false dichotomy here. Either you condemn what he said and … find him guilty or there’s no middle ground. There’s no possibility of thinking what he said maybe was inappropriate,” Schoen added later Thursday evening after meeting with a handful of Republican senators. “But when you use the word ‘fight,’ most of the times during the case, it’s clear he’s talking about legislators fighting for our rights, people fighting to advocate. And, you know, everyone likes to overlook the word peacefully in there.”

SCHUMER LEAVES DOOR OPEN TO 14TH AMENDMENT MEASURE TO BAR TRUMP FROM OFFICE

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, along with Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Mike Lee, R-Utah, met with Trump’s lawyers on Thursday. Cruz alluded to a similar argument. 

“The House managers focused a great deal on the president, using words like ‘fight’ or ‘fight like hell,'” Cruz said. “Well, if that constitutes incitement, then every single political candidate in America is guilty of incitement, because I guarantee you all 100 senators in that chamber have stood on the stump and said we need to ‘fight’ or ‘fight like hell.'”

Democratic elected officials who’ve previously used objectionable rhetoric who are expected to be featured on Friday may include Reps. Maxine Waters, D-Calif.; Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass.; and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., among others. 

Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., leaves a leadership meeting as the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives begins a day of debate on the impeachment charges against President Donald Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2019. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., leaves a leadership meeting as the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives begins a day of debate on the impeachment charges against President Donald Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2019. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Meanwhile, speculation among those involved is that the impeachment trial could end sometime before the end of the weekend — potentially Saturday or even earlier. That would require the Trump lawyers to wrap up a brief presentation Friday and for the Senate to blow through the remaining procedural hurdles between them and the end of the trial. 

“We’re hoping they — the thing concludes by Saturday,” Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said Thursday. 

“We were talking earlier, maybe … three or four hours, something like that,” Schoen said of his planned Friday presentation when speaking to reporters Thursday.

TRUMP STEERS CLEAR OF IMPEACHMENT TRIAL RAPID RESPONSE WITHOUT TWITTER MEGAPHONE

One of those hurdles is whether there will be witnesses in the trial. The House impeachment managers have left the door open to asking the Senate to subpoena witnesses, but they have continued to refuse to confirm that they will bring witnesses.

“I’ll just say you’re going to see a devastating case against Trump in the managers’ presentation in the coming days,” a senior aide on the House impeachment managers team said Tuesday when asked about witnesses. 

“The American people with this … The senators witnessed this,” said impeachment manager Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-Pa., when asked about witnesses Thursday. 

This is a stark break from Democrats’ comments during Trump’s previous impeachment trial. Last year, they alleged that Senate Republicans were holding a sham trial because they refused to bring witnesses despite weeks of hearings and depositions in the House of Representatives that created a record on the Ukraine matter Trump was impeached over. 

“Whoever heard of a trial without witnesses and documents? It’s unprecedented,” now-Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said on Jan. 7, 2020. 

Supporters of President Donald Trump climb the west wall of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

Supporters of President Donald Trump climb the west wall of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

The Trump team lawyers on Friday will also be aiming to redeem themselves after a widely panned performance Tuesday. Attorney Bruce Castor gave a meandering speech as the Senate was considering the constitutionality of impeachment. Several GOP senators, including Graham and Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., said Castor’s performance was weak. Cassidy himself switched his vote from previously saying that the impeachment trial was unconstitutional to saying that it is constitutional due to the Tuesday arguments. 

“If anyone disagrees with my vote and would like an explanation, I ask them to listen to the arguments presented by the House Managers and former President Trump’s lawyers,” Cassidy said in a statement. “The House managers had much stronger constitutional arguments. The president’s team did not.” 

It’s also possible the Trump legal team could debut Philadelphia personal injury attorney Michael T. van der Veen, who joined the team in recent days, in a presenting role Friday. 

Trump’s lawyers will likely also revisit the constitutionality argument on Friday even though that issue was settled on a vote Tuesday. All they need is to prevent 17 GOP senators from voting to convict — only 6 of them voted on Tuesday that the trial is even allowed to happen. 

LEAD IMPEACHMENT MANAGER RASKIN REVEALS QUESTIONS HE WOULD HAVE ASKED TRUMP IF HE TESTIFIED

Democrats attempted to preempt this argument Thursday. House manager Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., implored senators to “focus like a laser beam on the facts and not return to the constitutional argument that’s already been decided by the Senate. Just as a defense lawyer who loses a motion to dismiss on a constitutional basis in a criminal case must let that go.”

Now-former President Donald Trump arrives to speak to supporters from The Ellipse near the White House on January 6, 2021, in Washington, DC. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

Now-former President Donald Trump arrives to speak to supporters from The Ellipse near the White House on January 6, 2021, in Washington, DC. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

The Trump team is also expected to explain that Trump’s speech on Jan. 6 was protected speech under the First Amendment and that the House did not provide Trump with sufficient due process. 

“The Senate, in reviewing the House actions, should immediately dismiss this case because the process was completely unfair and one-sided,” Schoen, Castor and van der Veen said in a brief. “Throughout this entire process Speaker Pelosi was never acting to apply her understanding of the laws of impeachment in any principled manner. The Speaker did not think it was necessary to call for an impeachment so long as she got her way, and twice told the Vice President, and the country, just that.”

“President Trump’s speech at the January 6, 2021 event fell well within the norms of political speech that is protected by the First Amendment,” the lawyers also said. “The Supreme Court of the United States has long held that the First Amendment’s right to freedom of speech protects elected officials such as Mr. Trump. The House Managers’ argument to the contrary both ignores well-established precedent and erodes the constitutional principles guiding this august body.”

Trump’s team is also expected to argue that the impeachment article alleges too many smaller offenses against the president and should have been broken up into several articles instead of just one. 

Former Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce Castor heads back into courtroom A after a break in a pre-trail hearing for entertainer Bill Cosby and his sexual assault case February 2, 2016 in Norristown, Pennsylvania. Castor is now a defense attorney for former President Donald Trump in his impeachment trial. (Photo by Clem Murray - Pool/Getty Images)

Former Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce Castor heads back into courtroom A after a break in a pre-trail hearing for entertainer Bill Cosby and his sexual assault case February 2, 2016 in Norristown, Pennsylvania. Castor is now a defense attorney for former President Donald Trump in his impeachment trial. (Photo by Clem Murray – Pool/Getty Images)

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“Because the Article at issue here alleges multiple wrongs in the single article, it would be impossible to know if two-thirds of the members agreed on the entire article, or just on parts, as the basis for vote to convict,” the Trump team’s pre-trial brief says. 

Trump’s current impeachment was spurred by the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol. Trump, after months of making false claims that he’d won the presidential election, held a rally in Washington, D.C., with his supporters on the same day Congress and then-Vice President Mike Pence were meeting in a joint session to certify the results of the election. That day, a mob of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol, forcing Pence and hundreds of lawmakers into hiding as they interrupted the election certification. 

Trump, at the rally, repeated his false election claims and he and advisers used pitched rhetoric, riling up the large crowd. Trump at one point during the rally told his followers to “peacefully and patriotically” march to the Capitol, a comment his defenders point to as part of the reason why he does not bear responsibility for the ransacking of the Capitol.

But House impeachment managers are arguing that one comment does not cancel out the balance of Trump’s other comments in that speech or in the proceeding months. They say the former president is fundamentally responsible for the Capitol riot and that it was foreseeable that his words and actions would have led to the Jan.6 violence. 

Fox News’ James Levinson, Jason Donner and Kelly Phares contributed to this report. 

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Trump ‘furious’ at his lawyers’ performance as 2nd impeachment trial begins: sources – National


Former U.S. President Donald Trump fumed that his attorneys’ performance on the opening day of his second impeachment trial was a disaster, as allies and Republican senators questioned the strategy and some called for yet another shakeup to his legal team.

Trump, who was watching the proceedings in Washington from his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida, was “furious” at what he saw, according to a person familiar with his thinking. Senators, too, balked at what they described as an unfocused and rambling performance as Trump’s team and Democratic House managers began to lay out their cases in front of the Senate jury.

Read more:
U.S. Senate says Trump’s 2nd impeachment trial is constitutional in 56-44 vote

While it remains unlikely that more than a handful of Republicans will join Democrats in convicting the former president at the end of the trial, the proceedings were a chance for Trump to try to repair some of the damage to his legacy incurred over the storming of the Capitol by a mob of his supporters. Trump has been charged with inciting the Jan. 6 insurrection, and last month he became the first president in history to be impeached by the House twice.

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But Trump’s team — which was announced little more than a week ago — appeared unprepared as they attempted a good cop, bad cop routine that veered from flattery to legalese, and stood in dramatic contrast to Democrats’ focused emotional appeals.










U.S. Senate votes Trump’s impeachment trial constitutional in 56-44 vote


U.S. Senate votes Trump’s impeachment trial constitutional in 56-44 vote

Trump — ever the showman — was impressed with the Democrats, who opened Tuesday’s session with powerful video that compiled scenes of the deadly attack on Congress. And he complained that his team — especially lead lawyer Bruce Castor — came off badly on television and looked weak in comparison, according to the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.

The anger was echoed by Trump allies, who blasted the lawyers both publicly and privately and with repeated profanities.

“There is no argument. I have no idea what he’s doing. I have no idea why he’s saying what he’s saying,” said Alan Dershowitz, an attorney who represented Trump in his first impeachment trial, as he weighed in on Castor during an appearance on Newsmax as the session was underway.

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The 6 Republicans who voted with Democrats on Trump impeachment trial’s constitutionality

Peter Navarro, a former Trump trade adviser, had already been urging the former president to ditch his legal team and hire Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz before the trial began, warning: “You gotta get rid of those guys. These people don’t understand. This is a political trial.”

Republican members of the Senate appeared equally baffled, especially at Castor, who spent much of his time buttering up senators with compliments, praising the case made by Democrats and going on tangents.

GOP Sen. John Cornyn of Texas said Castor “just rambled on and on and on and didn’t really address the constitutional argument.” He said that Trump attorney David Schoen, who spoke second, “got around to it” and “did an effective job. But I’ve seen a lot of lawyers and a lot of arguments and that was not one of the finest I’ve seen.”


Click to play video 'U.S. Senate agrees on rules on eve of Trump impeachment trial'







U.S. Senate agrees on rules on eve of Trump impeachment trial


U.S. Senate agrees on rules on eve of Trump impeachment trial

Before the criticism mounted, another Trump adviser described Castor’s presentation as part of a “very clear, deliberative strategy.”

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After the Democrats’ emotionally charged opening, Castor had set about “lowering the temperature” before “dropping the hammer on the unconstitutional nature of this impeachment witch hunt.”

The hammer did not appear to hit its nail.

Read more:
‘Grievous crime’ or ‘theatre’? Senate prepares for Trump’s 2nd impeachment trial

Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, who voted with Democrats on Tuesday to move forward with the trial, said that Trump’s team did a “terrible job” and was “disorganized,” “random” and “did everything they could but to talk about the question at hand.”

GOP Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who also voted with Democrats, said she was “perplexed” by Castor, “who did not seem to make any arguments at all, which was an unusual approach to take.”

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, one of Trump’s staunchest allies, said he didn’t think the lawyers had done “the most effective job,” while South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, another close ally to Trump. said he didn’t know where Castor was going with his arguments.


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Schumer says GOP vote to dismiss impeachment ‘deeply irresponsible,’ vows trial will go forward


Schumer says GOP vote to dismiss impeachment ‘deeply irresponsible,’ vows trial will go forward – Jan 27, 2021

Trump’s team did not respond to requests for comment on the day’s events or on whether they are planning any shakeups to the legal team.

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Asked for a response to the GOP criticism as he was leaving the trial, Castor — who had said during the trial that the team had “changed what we were going to do” at the last minute because the House managers had done a good job — would say only that “we had a good day.” Schoen told reporters that he hadn’t spoken yet to the president, but would “have to do better next time.”

“I mean, I always hope to improve. I hope I can do that,” he said.

Trump parted ways with his original impeachment team just over a week before the Senate trial was set to begin, in part because Trump wanted them to use a defence that relied on unfounded allegations of election fraud, and the lawyers were not willing to do so.

Associated Press writer Mary Clare Jalonick in Washington contributed to this report.




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Trump lawyers rail against impeachment trial as ‘political theater’ on eve of proceedings


Lawyers for former President Trump on Monday submitted a brief saying that Democrats’ effort to convict the president in an impeachment trial after he’s left office is “political theater,” and that the trial is outside of the Senate’s constitutional authority. 

“Instead of acting to heal the nation, or at the very least focusing on prosecuting the lawbreakers who stormed the Capitol, the Speaker of the House and her allies have tried to callously harness the chaos of the moment for their own political gain,” the brief says, according to the Associated Press. 

The brief also echoes arguments made in the Trump team’s initial answer to the impeachment article that Trump’s false claims that the election was stolen were within his First Amendment rights. 

President Donald Trump reacts after speaking near a section of the U.S.-Mexico border wall, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021, in Alamo, Texas. Trump is the only American president to ever be impeached twice. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

The brief comes the day before the trial is set to begin in earnest, with arguments over its constitutionality likely, and Senate President Pro Tempore Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., set to preside. 

TRUMP IMPEACHMENT CONVICTION? ‘ZERO CHANCE, REPUBLICANS SAY, AS DEMS MOVE FORWARD WITH CASE

House impeachment managers, led by Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., are also expected to file a brief of their own on Monday morning. 

The filings from both Trump’s team and the Democrats who aim to secure the former president’s conviction will provide a preview of the arguments they plan to make during the trial hearings.

The Senate has yet to officially agree to a framework for the trial. But a potential one is currently being circulated that would allow for four hours of debate Tuesday about whether the trial is constitutional, followed by a vote on “Constitutionality.”

There could also be debate and a vote on a call by impeachment managers for witnesses. And the trial may switch from the traditional six days per week with Sunday off model to six days per week with Saturday off. Trump lawyer David Schoen observes the Jewish Sabbath and asked that the trial pause Friday at 5 p.m. and resume Sunday. 

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates. 

Fox News’ Chad Pergram and The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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Trump lawyers quit before impeachment trial as Giuliani to be sued over Capitol riot claims


The New York Times

Which Covid Vaccine Should You Get? Experts Cite the Effect Against Severe Disease

At first glance, the results reported Friday from the long-awaited trial of Johnson & Johnson’s coronavirus vaccine might have seemed disappointing. Its overall efficacy — the ability to prevent moderate and severe disease — was reported at 72% in the United States, 66% in Latin American countries and 57% in South Africa. Those figures appear far below the high bar set by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, the first two vaccines authorized for emergency use in the United States, which reported overall efficacy from 94% to 95%. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert and now the lead medical adviser to President Joe Biden on the coronavirus pandemic, acknowledged the striking difference at a briefing Friday. Sign up for The Morning newsletter from the New York Times “If you woke up and you say, ‘Well, go to the door on the left and you get 94 or 95%, go to the door on the right and you get 72%,’ which door do you want to go to?” he asked. But Fauci said that the more crucial measure was the ability to prevent severe disease, which translates to keeping people out of the hospital and preventing deaths. And that result, for Johnson & Johnson, was 85% in all of the countries where it was tested, including South Africa, where a rapidly spreading variant of the virus had shown some ability to elude vaccines. More important than preventing “some aches and a sore throat,” Fauci said, is to fend off severe disease, especially in people with underlying conditions and in older adults, who are more likely to become seriously ill and to die from COVID-19. “If you can prevent severe disease in a high percentage of individuals, that will alleviate so much of the stress in human suffering and death in this epidemic that we’re seeing, particularly now,” Fauci said, “as we well know, over the last several weeks, our health care system has been stressed by the number of people that require hospitalization, as well as intensive care.” Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, compared the ability to prevent severe disease to the effects of flu shots, which do not always prevent influenza entirely but can make it less severe. “The same thing seems to be applying here, in a circumstance where this variant is clearly making it a little tougher to get the most vigorous response that you would want to have,” Collins said. “But still, for severe disease, it’s looking really good.” The Moderna vaccine also showed high efficacy, 100%, against severe disease. The Pfizer-BioNTech one appeared to as well, but the overall number of severe cases in the study was too small to be sure. But researchers warn that trying to compare effectiveness between new studies and earlier ones may be misleading, because the virus is evolving quickly and to some extent the trials have studied different pathogens. “You have to recognize that Pfizer and Moderna had an advantage,” Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University, said. “They did their clinical trials before the variant strains became very apparent. Johnson & Johnson was testing its vaccine not only against the standard strain but they had the variants.” The best way to stop the spread of mutants and to prevent more new ones from emerging is to vaccinate as many people as quickly as possible, Fauci and other researchers say. Viruses cannot mutate unless they are replicating, and they cannot replicate unless they can get into cells. Keeping them out by immunizing people can shut down the process. In addition to the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines already in use in the United States, three more may soon become available: those made by Novavax, Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca. AstraZeneca’s vaccine has already been authorized in Britain and other countries. Globally, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is expected to play an important role, especially in low and middle-income countries, because it works after just one shot, is relatively inexpensive, and is easier to store and distribute than the vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna because it does not share their stringent requirements for freezing and refrigerating. People waiting to be vaccinated may wonder if they will be able to pick and choose among vaccines, and if they should hold out and wait until the one that looks best to them becomes available. Dr. Paul Offit, a vaccine expert at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, told CNN that if there was an abundant supply of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, they would be his first choices because of their higher overall efficacy. But for now, there is not enough of those vaccines. If he could not get either the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine or the Moderna one, he would take the Johnson & Johnson shot, Offit said — as long as the data that the company will be presenting to the Food and Drug Administration looks as good as what the company reported Friday. He said Johnson & Johnson’s report of the reduction in severe disease was a powerful selling point. “That’s what you want,” Offit said. “You want to stay out of the hospital and stay out of the morgue.” He noted that the company was also studying a two-shot regimen, which might raise its efficacy. People who take the Johnson & Johnson vaccine should be able to safely receive a Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine later if a booster shot is needed, he said. Schaffner said he had just attended a meeting with other public health experts, and they had asked one another what they would tell their spouses or partners to do if they could get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine tomorrow or had to wait three weeks for Pfizer-BioNTech’s or Moderna’s. “All of us said, ‘Get the one tomorrow,’” Schaffner said. “The virus is bad. You’re risking three more weeks of exposure as opposed to getting protection tomorrow.” He said Johnson & Johnson’s 85% efficacy against severe disease was a bit lower than those reported by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech, “but it’s still pretty darn high.” It is not yet known whether it would be safe to take one type of vaccine now and then another later, Schaffner said, adding, “We haven’t studied this.” This article originally appeared in The New York Times. © 2021 The New York Times Company

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Trump loses lead impeachment lawyers a week before trial


Trump is set to stand trial on the week of February 8 on a charge that he incited the riot inside the US Capitol. Republicans and Trump aides have made clear that they intend to make a simple argument: The trial is unconstitutional because Trump is no longer in office.

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CNN was first to report the departure of the lawyers.

The decision comes days after Trump added two more former federal prosecutors from South Carolina, Greg Harris and Johnny Gasser, to his impeachment legal team.

Harris is a former county and federal prosecutor with expertise in white-collar cases. He’s currently in private practice with Gasser, who has also been a prosecutor at the local and federal levels, serving as South Carolina’s acting US Attorney for more than a year. He went into private practice with Harris.

Both attorneys have experience in public corruption cases, with both representing Republican state Representative Rick Quinn on charges of misconduct in office. Quinn ultimately resigned in a 2017 deal that resulted in the termination of conspiracy and illegal lobbying charges against his father, GOP consultant Richard Quinn — who had at times counted former President Ronald Reagan and senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham among his clients.

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It’s in part on the advice of US senator Lindsey Graham that Trump is turning to the South Carolina team after other legal allies passed on the case. It’s a notable departure from his 2020 impeachment trial, when Trump had a stable of nationally known attorneys, including Alan Dershowitz, Jay Sekulow and Kenneth Starr.

Bowers has years of experience representing elected officials and political candidates, including former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford. Bowers represented Sanford when state lawmakers mulled impeaching the governor after revelations Sanford had disappeared from the state, leaving no chain of command for five days, to see his lover in Argentina in 2009. The impeachment effort never made it out of committee.

Bowers also successfully guided another former governor, Nikki Haley, through an investigation into whether she had violated state ethics law.

Barbier spent more than a decade as a federal prosecutor and now, in private practice, specialises in white-collar defence. She also represented Richard Quinn in his illegal lobbying case.

The House officially transmitted the article of impeachment – accusing Trump of inciting the mob that rampaged through the US Capitol on January 6 – to the Senate on Monday. The trial could have officially begun Tuesday, but Republicans pushed to delay it to give Trump a chance to organise his legal team and prepare a defence.

If convicted, Trump could be barred from holding public office again, ending any hopes of mounting another White House bid in 2024.

AP

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Trump’s lawyers must get 72-hour warning if Treasury turns over president’s tax returns to Democrats: judge


The U.S. Treasury Department must grant former President Trump’s lawyers a 72-hour warning if it allows his tax returns to be released to Democrats, a judge ruled Friday, according to a report.

U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, is still seeking the returns after he was refused access to them in 2019 by then-Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who claimed Democrats didn’t have a “legitimate legislative purpose” for the request, Politico reported.

Neal had cited a law that requires the Treasury to turn over tax documents at the request of House tax committees.

Democrats sued in federal court in a case that is still pending a year and a half later.

NEW YORK TIMES AND TRUMP TAXES: WHY IT’S NOT A CAMPAIGN BOMBSHELL

Washington, D.C., District Court Judge Trevor McFadden, a Trump appointee, put the two-week order in place because the Treasury Department could reverse course under the new Biden administration.

He also ordered both sides to give a status report on Feb. 3.

The nomination of President Biden’s Treasury secretary pick, former Federal Reserve boss Janet Yellen, was unanimously approved by the Senate Finance Committee on Friday and now heads to the full Senate for a vote Monday. 

WHO IS JANET YELLEN, BIDEN’S PICK TO LEAD THE TREASURY? 

Douglas Letter, general counsel for the House, told McFadden in the hearing that Treasury has a “clear legal obligation” to turn over the documents that Democrats still want even though he’s out of office, according to Politico. “Our feeling is enough is enough. The statute is clear,” he said. 

It’s unclear if the Treasury Department under Biden will allow the House access to the returns.

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Democrats and the district attorney of New York City are also seeking his tax returns in separate cases.

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