Philippine Drug Raid Leaves 13 Dead


MANILA — Security forces killed 12 people during a drug raid in the southern Philippines on Saturday, officials said. It was the bloodiest episode in years in President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on narcotics.

A police officer was also killed in the gun battle, which took place in Sultan Kudarat, a small town in the province of Maguindanao. Two other officers were wounded, officials said.

Members of the national police, accompanied by Philippine Marines, had tried to serve a warrant before dawn at a residential compound tied to Pendatun Adsis Talusan, a former village chief who was suspected of involvement in the illegal drug trade, officials said.

“We were supposed to serve the search warrant, but upon arrival in the area the suspects fired upon the operating troops,” Maj. Esmael Madin of the Philippine National Police said.

The ensuing gun battle lasted for hours, and frightened villagers, roused by the gunfire, were taken to safety. Officials said Mr. Talusan was among those killed.

It was by far the bloodiest drug raid carried out by the Philippine police since 2017, when a town mayor, also in the south, was killed along with his wife and a dozen supporters. Mr. Duterte had accused the mayor of involvement with the drug trade.

According to the police, nearly 8,000 people have been killed since Mr. Duterte began his war on drugs after taking office in 2016. The police say that most of those suspects were killed by officers in self-defense, but rights groups say officers have routinely carried out extrajudicial killings.

Last month, the International Criminal Court in The Hague said there was “a reasonable basis” to believe that the Philippine security forces had committed crimes against humanity in the course of the drug war. It said it would decide in the coming months whether to carry out a full investigation.

Mr. Duterte has withdrawn the Philippines from the treaty that established the court, but Philippine rights groups welcomed its preliminary report last month as a way to hold his government to account. Two complaints accusing Mr. Duterte of murder have been filed with the court.

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US President Donald Trump leaves White House for farewell at Joint Base Andrews


Donald Trump has left the White House and boarded Marine One for the last time as the 45th President of the United States.

The presidential helicopter landed on the South Lawn just before 8:00am Wednesday (local time) to pick up Mr Trump.

Mr Trump and his wife Melania emerged from the building Wednesday morning and strode across the South Lawn to board Marine One before addressing members of the media.

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump stop to talk with the media as they leave the White House.(AP: Alex Brandon)

“It’s been a great honour, the honour of a lifetime,” Mr Trump said.

“We love the American people and … it has been something very special. And I just want to say goodbye, but hopefully it’s not a long-term goodbye. We’ll see each other again.”

Mr Trump landed shortly after at Joint Base Andrews in suburban Maryland, where he was honoured with a red carpet arrival, military band and a 21-gun salute.

The President made a short speech in Maryland as part of his final official engagement, describing America as the greatest country in the world.

“It is my greatest honour and privilege to have been your president,” he said, and added he wishes the incoming government “great success”.

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“I will always fight for you. I will be watching, I will be listening. I will tell you the future of this country has never been better.”

“They have the foundation to do something really spectacular, and we put it in [that] position.

“Have a good life, we will see you soon.”

Mr Trump not attending Joe Biden’s inauguration represents the first time in more than a century that a sitting president has rejected the tradition of attending his successor’s inauguration.

By the time Mr Biden is sworn in as the 46th US president, Mr Trump will already have landed at his private Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida.

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President leaves office with legacy of chaos


WASHINGTON (AP) — Donald Trump will walk out of the White House and board Marine One for the last time as president Wednesday morning, leaving behind a legacy of chaos and tumult and a nation bitterly divided.

Four years after standing on stage at his own inauguration and painting a dire picture of “American carnage,” Trump departs the office twice impeached, with millions more out of work and 400,000 dead from the coronavirus. Republicans under his watch lost the presidency and both chambers of Congress. He will be forever remembered for the final major act of his presidency: inciting an insurrection at the Capitol that left five dead, including a Capitol Police officer, and horrified the nation.

Trump will be the first president in modern history to boycott his successor’s inauguration as he continues to stew about his loss and privately maintains the election that President-elect Joe Biden fairly won was stolen from him. Republican officials in several critical states, members of his own administration and a wide swath of judges, including those appointed by Trump, have rejected those arguments.

Still, Trump has refused to participate in any of the symbolic passing-of-the-torch traditions surrounding the peaceful transition of power, including inviting the Bidens over for a get-to-know-you visit.

By the time Biden is sworn in, Trump will already have landed at his private Mar-a-Lago club in West Palm Beach, Florida, to face an uncertain future — but not before giving himself a grand military sendoff, complete with a red carpet, military band and 21-gun salute.

Guests have been invited, but it is unclear how many will attend. Even Vice President Mike Pence plans to skip the event, citing the logistical challenges of getting from the air base to the inauguration ceremonies. Washington has been transformed into a security fortress, with thousands of National Guard troops, fencing and checkpoints to try to stave off further violence.

Aides had urged Trump to spend his final days in office trying to salvage his legacy by highlighting his administration’s achievements — passing tax cuts, scaling back federal regulations, normalizing relations in the Middle East. But Trump largely refused, taking a single trip to the Texas border and releasing a video in which he pledged to his supporters that “the movement we started is only just beginning.”

Trump will retire to Florida with a small group of former White House aides as he charts a political future that looks very different now than just two weeks ago.

Before the Capitol riot, Trump had been expected to remain his party’s de facto leader, wielding enormous power as he served as a kingmaker and mulled a 2024 presidential run. But now he appears more powerless than ever — shunned by so many in his party, impeached twice, denied the Twitter bullhorn he had intended to use as his weapon and even facing the prospect that, if he is convicted in his Senate trial, he could be barred from seeking a second term.

For now, Trump remains angry and embarrassed, consumed with rage and grievance. He spent the week after the election sinking deeper and deeper into a world of conspiracy, and those who have spoken with him say he continues to believe he won in November. He continues to lash out at Republicans for perceived disloyalty and has threatened, both publicly and privately, to spend the coming years backing primary challenges against those he feel betrayed him.

Some expect him to eventually turn completely on the Republican Party, perhaps by flirting with a run as a third-party candidate as an act of revenge.

For all the chaos and drama and bending the world to his will, Trump ended his term as he began it: largely alone. The Republican Party he co-opted finally appeared to have had enough after Trump’s supporters violently stormed the Capitol, hunting for lawmakers who refused to go along with Trump’s unconstitutional efforts to overturn the results of a democratic election.

But although Washington may have had enough, Trump retains his grip on the Republican base, with the support of millions of loyal voters, along with allies still helming the Republican National Committee and many state party organizations.

The city he leaves will not miss him. Trump rarely left the confines of the White House, except to visit his own hotel. He and his wife never once ate dinner at any other local restaurant; never ventured out to shop in its stores or see the sites. When he did leave, it was almost always to one of his properties: his golf course in Virginia, his golf course in New Jersey, his private club and nearby golf course in Palm Beach, Florida.

The city overwhelmingly supported Biden, with 93% of the vote. Trump received just 5.4% of the vote — or fewer than 18,600 ballots — not enough to fill the Washington Capitals hockey arena.

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Transport bungle leaves Alex de Minaur unable to train as ATP ‘strongly request additional support’


Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman complained about his inability to train on Twitter. In a tweet which has been translated from Spaish to English, Schwartzman wrote: “Another day of confinement for no reason.” The tweet has since been deleted.

Australian Abbie Meyers echoed Schwartzman’s frustration. “Got excited to leave the room and hit… get to the court.. it’s been double booked. Get taken straight back to the room, not hitting today I guess,” Meyers wrote on Twitter.

The girlfriend of Bernard Tomic said in a video published on YouTube the controversial Australian’s training session had been cancelled.

Tennis Australia were forced to apologise on Monday afternoon, and released a statement explaining the reason for the delay.

“It’s been a challenging few days as we’ve worked with the relevant authorities managing the logistics to ensure everyone is safe as practice begins,” the statement read.

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“There was an initial delay as tests needed to be received, verified and cross-referenced so the practice schedule could be finalised. And then unfortunately there were some logistical problems with transport.

“Players staying close to Albert Reserve, and who did not require transport, started practice late yesterday, and practice at Melbourne Park got underway this afternoon.

“Our team is continuing to work with the authorities to help in any way we can. We understand this has been frustrating for the players and apologise.”

An email to coaches and player agents from ATP Player Relations also revealed some of the difficulties TA are experiencing.

“We wanted to reassure you that we are constantly trying to improve the player experience wherever possible,” the email reads. We understand there are significant challenges being posed at the moment for the players.

“Thus far, the information provided to us was that the government operated transport links are creating difficulties, affecting some practice sessions. TA are working all hours to solve this issue with the utmost urgency.”

The ATP are also requesting “additional support” for players who have been forced into hard lockdown.

“We are working hourly with TA to deliver essentials to players, including better quality food, gym equipment, snacks and drinks to make your stay more comfortable. We are trying our utmost hardest to improve things.”

Exercise bikes and bands were on Monday delivered to those affected by the 14 day hard quarantine and players continued to take to social media to post vision of themselves training in creative ways. But there are still complaints coming from the players.

“They are watching us so we don’t leave our rooms, even one step,” Russian veteran Svetlana Kuznetsova wrote on an Instagram story while collecting a meal. Looks really tasty but we are only aloud (sic) to eat with wood(en) cutlery.”

As the players in hard quarantine enter day four or five of their lockdown period, stars such as Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams – who are currently completing their soft quarantine in Adelaide – have been quietly urged by tournament organisers to not post lavish photos on social media in an attempt to cool tensions with players stuck in Melbourne.

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Transport bungle leaves Alex de Minaur unable to train as ATP ‘strongly request additional support’


Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman complained about his inability to train on Twitter. In a tweet which has been translated from Spaish to English, Schwartzman wrote: “Another day of confinement for no reason.” The tweet has since been deleted.

Australian Abbie Meyers echoed Schwartzman’s frustration. “Got excited to leave the room and hit… get to the court.. it’s been double booked. Get taken straight back to the room, not hitting today I guess,” Meyers wrote on Twitter.

The girlfriend of Bernard Tomic said in a video published on YouTube the controversial Australian’s training session had been cancelled.

Tennis Australia were forced to apologise on Monday afternoon, and released a statement explaining the reason for the delay.

“It’s been a challenging few days as we’ve worked with the relevant authorities managing the logistics to ensure everyone is safe as practice begins,” the statement read.

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“There was an initial delay as tests needed to be received, verified and cross-referenced so the practice schedule could be finalised. And then unfortunately there were some logistical problems with transport.

“Players staying close to Albert Reserve, and who did not require transport, started practice late yesterday, and practice at Melbourne Park got underway this afternoon.

“Our team is continuing to work with the authorities to help in any way we can. We understand this has been frustrating for the players and apologise.”

An email to coaches and player agents from ATP Player Relations also revealed some of the difficulties TA are experiencing.

“We wanted to reassure you that we are constantly trying to improve the player experience wherever possible,” the email reads. We understand there are significant challenges being posed at the moment for the players.

“Thus far, the information provided to us was that the government operated transport links are creating difficulties, affecting some practice sessions. TA are working all hours to solve this issue with the utmost urgency.”

The ATP are also requesting “additional support” for players who have been forced into hard lockdown.

“We are working hourly with TA to deliver essentials to players, including better quality food, gym equipment, snacks and drinks to make your stay more comfortable. We are trying our utmost hardest to improve things.”

Exercise bikes and bands were on Monday delivered to those affected by the 14 day hard quarantine and players continued to take to social media to post vision of themselves training in creative ways. But there are still complaints coming from the players.

“They are watching us so we don’t leave our rooms, even one step,” Russian veteran Svetlana Kuznetsova wrote on an Instagram story while collecting a meal. Looks really tasty but we are only aloud (sic) to eat with wood(en) cutlery.”

As the players in hard quarantine enter day four or five of their lockdown period, stars such as Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams – who are currently completing their soft quarantine in Adelaide – have been quietly urged by tournament organisers to not post lavish photos on social media in an attempt to cool tensions with players stuck in Melbourne.

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Adam Schiff demands Trump is stripped of ability to get intelligence briefings when he leaves office


Adam Schiff says Trump should be barred from post-presidency intelligence briefings because ‘he cannot be trusted’ with nation’s secrets

  • Adam Schiff said Sunday that Donald Trump should be stripped from receiving post-presidency intelligence briefings because he is a threat to national security 
  • ‘There’s no circumstance in which this president should get another intelligence briefing, not now, not in the future,’ the Intelligence Committee chairman said 
  • ‘I don’t think he can be trusted with it now and in the future,’ Schiff continued
  • Former FBI Director James Comey described that past presidents receive occasional briefings on the state of the world and if there are any direct threats

Adam Schiff said Sunday that Donald Trump should no longer receive intelligence briefing whether before or after his term ends as he cites national security concerns.

‘There’s no circumstance in which this president should get another intelligence briefing, not now, not in the future,’ the House Intelligence Committee chairman told CBS’ ‘Face the Nation’ on Sunday morning.

‘I don’t think he can be trusted with it now and in the future, he certainly can’t be trusted,’ Schiff continued. ‘Indeed, there were, I think, any number of intelligence partners of ours around the world who probably started withholding information from us because they didn’t trust the president would safeguard that information and protect their sources and methods. And that makes us less safe.’

Although there are only three days left of Trump’s presidency, former FBI director James Comey said that former presidents are sometimes given intelligence briefings about the state of the world and potential threats.

‘My understanding is,’ Comey said during an interview with ABC’s ‘The View’ on Friday, ‘former presidents are, not all the time but on a regular basis, given general intelligence briefings about the state of the world and threats to the country.’

Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said Sunday that Donald Trump should be stripped from receiving post-presidency intelligence briefings because he is a threat to national security

The House voted Wednesday to impeach Trump for 'inciting an insurrection' by riling up a crowd before they stormed the Capitol. They now claim he should be convicted and no longer receive any post-presidency benefits, like pension, Secret Service detail or briefings

The House voted Wednesday to impeach Trump for ‘inciting an insurrection’ by riling up a crowd before they stormed the Capitol. They now claim he should be convicted and no longer receive any post-presidency benefits, like pension, Secret Service detail or briefings

Comey revealed that the intelligence community wants to give former presidents ‘a picture of what’s going on in the world.’

‘They’re also given specific information if there’s a threat to them,’ he added.

Other than risking releasing future information, there are concerns from Democrats and from within the intelligence community that Trump could divulge sensitive information he learned as president to people who aren’t authorized to receive it.

Some have even raised the potential of him selling information to foreign adversaries.

‘We’ve seen this president politicize intelligence, and that’s another risk to the country,’ Schiff told CBS’ Margaret Brennen.

Schiff wants Joe Biden’s administration to ‘absolutely’ bar Trump from receiving any post-presidency briefings, claiming he is a security threat.

Post-presidential briefings, Comey said, are usually controlled by the director of national intelligence.

He said whoever fills that fole should ‘take a very hard look at whether Donald Trump should be given information, including any information that might be sensitive to the security of the United States.’

‘The guy’s a lying demagogue who you can’t trust,’ Comey said. ‘You want to be very, very careful about what you give him.’

Former FBI Director James Comey described Friday that past presidency do receive some briefings on the state of the world and, especially, if there are any direct threats to them

Former FBI Director James Comey described Friday that past presidency do receive some briefings on the state of the world and, especially, if there are any direct threats to them

‘I’m hoping that he will have been stripped of the perks of a former president by being convicted by the U.S. Senate and barred from further participation in public office,’ he said. ‘Maybe that will be a reason for them to cut him off entirely.’

The House impeached Trump on Wednesday for ‘incitement of insurrection’ after he riled up a crowd before they marched over to the Capitol and breached the building. Trump is now the only president to be impeached twice.

It is not clear if the Senate will vote to convict but all Democrats and 17 Republicans would need to vote in favor of the measure. If this were to happen, Trump would be stripped of his post-presidency benefits, like his pension and Secret Service detail, and would be barred from running for office again in the future.

Schiff served as lead manager for the first impeachment trial where the Senate did not vote to convict Trump on either of the two articles sent to the upper chamber from the House.

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Australia’s business-driven travel policy leaves thousands stranded


You’ll have no trouble coming in and out of Australia, and the world remains your oyster – if you’ve got heaps money and can say you are in business.

The figures, which don’t lie, say there is a huge imbalance in Australia’s travel rules right now, with inequality making the COVID-19 crisis worse.

There are always at least 30,000 said to be on the waiting list to get home, even though well over that many keep returning. How come they cannot make progress with the backlog? Because, with twice as many regularly flying out of Australia, as those stranded, many of those leavers then return to Australia again – and it is getting plain to see they can push their way to the front of the queue.

COVID-19: Australians must be prepared for the worst

From ruining social engagements to the inception of a temporary police state, the COVID-19 pandemic is making life difficult for Australians.

The figures

Recent figures from the Government, have more than 37,000 waiting to return home while the total number of Australians who have returned since mid-September is more than 71,000. The total number of Australians returning since March is 443,000.

An ABC investigation made some progress trying to sort out what is going on:

Trips back to Australia are rationed, with the Federal Government handing it to the states to accommodate arrivals in hotels, in restricted numbers, save for the one camp – Howard Springs near Darwin.

It got worse this month, when alarm about the new strain of COVID-19 in the UK led to the announcement of a temporary halving of the number of permitted arrivals. New South Wales will be taking only 1,505 passengers per week, Queensland 500 and Western Australia 512. Arrivals in Victoria and South Australia will stay at low levels and the Federal Government will itself continue to manage arrivals in the territories.

The tightening shows up how much of a bottomless pit it is, a leaking pot that cannot get filled. With the 37,000 stranded Australians set to come home, many other Australians also are set to come home; there are only 3,000 allowed in every week. And there are victims – those short of money, or the right contacts, or other resources needed to get a flight.

The devil is in the fine print

One clue to the reasons for this imbalance can be found in the regulations.

The rules are, if you are an Australian citizen you cannot leave the country, subject to exemptions that you can apply for, especially:

  • if your travel is for your business or employer;
  • or you are travelling outside Australia ‘for a compelling reason for three months or longer’.

You can apply also, to the Home Affairs Department on sundry other grounds: if doing work on the COVID-19 outbreak; compassionate or humanitarian reasons; urgent medical treatment; or travelling “in the national interest”.

That’s on top of automatic exit for non-Australians, aircrew, persons shifting freight, those on official government business including the defence forces.

Coronavirus, Chinese students and the university cash quagmire

Australia’s Chinese students are languishing in China due to the coronavirus travel ban and our universities are feeling the financial strain.

Who gets to go and return?

It stays unclear exactly which Australians are going and which of those get to turn around later and come back – but it is not difficult telling who cannot return.

The situation of many private travellers, or temporary expatriate Australians, has been well-publicised since it all started early last year, with little change: couples with young children selling up and putting their limited funds into air tickets and still getting bumped; back-packers or students faced with paying over four-times the fares they went over on; professionals turned out of an overseas job they’d held for years; migrant families divided by the crisis, some caught on a visit to the “old country”.

Being rich helps

Those people can ask the Foreign Affairs department for a loan or grant out of a $61 million Federal Government “hardship fund”, but that does not seem to be doing the trick. They could try getting rich quick, or get a job with a business employer with a great travel budget.

For the business traveller, or the well to do, one travel operative told the ABC about a few of the deals currently on offer:

“Better class” of travellers?

Some of the ‘better class’ of traveller these days who may come and go:

Morrison Government duck-shoving COVID-19 responsibilities onto states

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Morrison Government has pushed many of its legal responsibilities to state governments.

Business not households

The setting up of re-entries with a business and money bias is a sign of the policy stand on COVID-19 being taken by conservative interests world-wide: business not households.

It means a priority to keep industry going, keep up production, and profits – those given preference over lockdowns and health services. The pitch is: you avoid economic collapse and provide jobs. It is backed up with denial and bravado about the epidemic – tell the public it will go away soon. The risk is a resurgence of the disease and death.

The Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, started out in step with this global plan, pushing against any closures of schools, or state borders. And in keeping with the line on business before households, we have the business-first air travel regimen – and 37,000 Australians stranded overseas.

Changes forced through by COVID-19

After COVID-19, will we see the end of mass travel that began with jet airliners around 1960? Will it be back to the days of elegant first class-only travel for the few?

Some of this was already in the air, for example, start-up business class-only airlines. Singapore’s mass-travel Changi terminal is being duplicated with a business centre constructed on a different concept: business class shuttles into a luxury conferencing hub and playground – same profit and fewer travellers to bother with.

One aspect of mass travel has been a change in the migration experience. Many families have a version of grandfather’s story: as a young man, he said goodbye to his mother in England, Greece or Yugoslavia, both knowing they would never see each other again. In this Century and earlier, mass travel changed it; first or second-generation Australians making frequent, even annual visits “home”, often involving business.

That has contributed to the volume of demand for seats in the pandemic crisis, and to the pain of separation for many.

What about an air-lift and camps to get people home? Call on the air force with an air charter operation, to pick up the 37,000 (maybe 150 flights), and run a quarantine operation at camps outside of the cities.

Numerous left-over military buildings were used like that during the immigration influx following the Second World War. Would a country which now has a much stronger capacity away from the same kind of challenge now?

Dr Lee Duffield is a former ABC foreign correspondent, political journalist and academic.

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AFL 2021: Graham Wright, leaves Hawthorn Hawks, GM of football, head of footy, Collingwood Magpies, latest news


Long-time Hawthorn official Graham Wright, who led the club’s recruiting through its golden era and most recently headed up the footy department, has been poached by Collingwood.

The Hawks confirmed on Saturday evening Wright had resigned from his role as head of football “to explore other opportunities”.

Foxfooty.com.au understands Wright will join the Magpies and become their new general manager of football, replacing Geoff Walsh who retired last year.

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Wright played 201 games for Collingwood, many of them alongside coach Nathan Buckley.

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Senate Lacks Authority to Impeach After Trump Leaves Office



Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) announced Wednesday after the House voted to impeach President Donald Trump that he is against moving forward with the impeachment process in the Senate because the Senate “lacks the constitutional authority” to remove a former president.

Cotton expressed his opposition to impeachment proceedings in a statement Wednesday evening after the House voted that afternoon to impeach Trump a second time, passing one article of impeachment, 232–197, charging Trump with “incitement of insurrection” over last week’s riot in the U.S. Capitol.

“The Senate under its rules and precedents cannot start and conclude a fair trial before the president leaves office next week,” Cotton explained. “Under these circumstances, the Senate lacks constitutional authority to conduct impeachment proceedings against a former president”:

Cotton’s statement coincides with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) stating, after the impeachment article was passed, that it would not be feasible for the Senate to conduct an impeachment trial prior to Trump’s term ending on January 20.

McConnell has said the earliest date the Senate could receive the article to begin the process of a trial would be January 19, and even then, the proceedings would not begin until 1:00 p.m. the following day, after Trump has left office. “This is not a decision I am making; it is a fact,” McConnell stated Wednesday, reaffirming the schedule he outlined last week.

Cotton, in his statement, emphasized his priority on “fidelity to the Constitution,” explaining that “the Founders designed the impeachment process as a way to remove officeholders from public office—not an inquest against private citizens.”

“The Constitution presupposes an office from which an impeached officeholder can be removed,” he said.

Notably, Cotton was the first Republican senator supportive of Trump to come out against challenging the electoral college, again citing the Constitution and arguing that its intent was for the states to run the election, not Congress.

“Fidelity to the Constitution must always remain the lodestar for our nation,” Cotton said. “Last week, I opposed the effort to reject certified electoral votes for the same reason—fidelity to the Constitution—I now oppose impeachment proceedings against a former president.”

Write to Ashley Oliver at aoliver@breitbart.com.



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Ben Simmons’ Philadelphia 76ers out of running as James Harden leaves Houston Rockets for Brooklyn Nets


The Nets will reportedly send Rodion Kurucs, first-round picks in 2022, 2024 and 2026 and swaps in 2021, 2023, 2025 and 2027 to Houston. Brooklyn will also reportedly send centre Jarrett Allen and Taurean Prince to the Cleveland Cavaliers, who will send Dante Exum and a 2022 first-round pick to the Rockets.

The Rockets, meanwhile, will reportedly reroute LeVert to the Indiana Pacers for Victor Oladipo. ESPN.com first reported the framework of the Nets deal, while The Athletic first reported Indiana’s involvement.

Any move from Philadelphia for former NBA MVP Harden, right, was likely to result in Ben Simmons being traded.

After a pair of demoralising blowout losses to the Los Angeles Lakers, Harden candidly expressed his belief that the struggling Rockets were not salvageable, accelerating long-standing trade talks for the 2018 MVP.

“We’re just not good enough,” Harden said after the Rockets fell at home 117-100 to the defending champions. “I love this city. I literally have done everything that I can. The situation is crazy. It’s something that I don’t think can be fixed.”

The dire assessment from Harden, who has been the face of the Rockets since 2012, comes little more than one month after he reported to training camp late. Multiple reports at the time linked the Rockets with the Nets and 76ers in trade talks involving the three-time scoring champion, who has seen Houston’s roster and organisation change dramatically around him.

When the Lakers eliminated the Rockets from the 2020 play-offs, Harden said that he believed Houston was “a piece away” from title contention. Instead, the Rockets parted ways with Coach Mike D’Antoni, lost general manager Daryl Morey and traded Russell Westbrook to the Washington Wizards. Those sweeping, abrupt changes left Harden, 31, to adjust to first-time coach Stephen Silas, first-time general manager Rafael Stone and a new backcourt partner in John Wall.

James Harden is officially off to Brooklyn.

James Harden is officially off to Brooklyn.Credit:Getty Images

There has been little in the way of instant chemistry, as Harden’s effort has been spotty and his fit with Wall has yet to develop. After eight straight play-off trips, the Rockets have the West’s second-worst record at 3-6 and Harden is scoring 24.8 points per game, his lowest average since he arrived in Houston.

While Harden never issued a public trade request, he arrived at training camp late after partying in Atlanta and Las Vegas without a mask during the coronavirus pandemic. The NBA fined him $US50,000 (about $66,000) for violating the league’s health and safety protocols. Harden is earning $US40.8 million this season and is under contract through at least the 2021-22 season.

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The Rockets elected to keep Harden away from the team’s practice on Wednesday as trade talks with the Nets and 76ers unfolded, and centre DeMarcus Cousins was highly critical of Harden’s recent behaviour.

“The disrespect started way before any interview,” Cousins said Wednesday. “The approach to training camp, showing up the way he did, the antics off the court, the disrespect started way before. This isn’t something that all of a sudden happened last night. This is the nasty part of the business. It is what it is.”

The Rockets, who had their season opener postponed after several players were sidelined by positive or inconclusive coronavirus tests and contact tracing, weathered that early turbulence. Hopes that Harden’s trade value might increase or his personal investment in the Rockets might stabilise if he played well to start the season never came to fruition.

The Washington Post

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