Tabcorp says certainty trumps price in wagering decision


Tabcorp chairman Steven Gregg says a sale of its wagering arm hinges just as much on clearing regulatory hurdles and getting the racing industry onside as it does on bidders lifting their offers

The ASX-listed gambling group on Monday formally rejected a $3 billion offer from the British owner of rival outfit Ladbrokes for its wagering and media division, deeming it too low.

Tabcorp said the circa $3 billion offers for its wagering arm were too low. Credit:Dominic Lorrimer

US private equity group Apollo was also reportedly in pursuit of Tabcorp’s wagering business, while the Murdoch family’s Fox Corporation has also explored making an offer as it prepares to launch its own FoxBet brand in Australia.

However Tabcorp, valued at $10 billion, said it would now run a three-month strategic review that could open the door to either selling the wagering division or hiving it off from its booming lotteries division in a demerger.

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Mr Gregg, who took over as chair from Paula Dwyer in January, said he was “very happy” for suitors to come back with higher bids. Market sources say Tabcorp wants at least $3.5 billion for the wagering arm but the review would have to fully assess how difficult a sale would be.

“Its just as much about… deal certainty as it is value,” he said. “At the moment value is well under what it is worth, but also we need to get comfortable with completion risk.”

Hurdles to a sale would include the Australian Competition and Consumer Comission (ACCC) objecting to Ladbrokes’ owner Entain buying the Australian wagering market’s biggest player, Mr Gregg said. Meanwhile, any new owner would also need the blessing of state-based racing bodies that licence TAB’s monopoly retail operations.

“Everything is overcomable – it’s just a matter of time and money and disruption,” he said. “If we go down a path of selling the company, which would take 12 months to do, you want to be very clear that you’re going to sell the company at the price you agreed.”

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Biden and Dems criticised ‘Trump’s hard rhetoric’ but now face an ‘immigration crisis’



Joe Biden and the Democrats always criticised Donald Trump’s “hard rhetoric” on immigration – and opposed his border wall – but now President Biden is dealing with an “immigration crisis,” says Sky News host Chris Kenny.

President Biden is facing an unfolding crisis amid a surge in migrants flocking to the US-Mexico border.

Mr Kenny spoke to Gray TV White House Correspondent Jon Decker about the issue.

Mr Kenny said, “you can’t afford to be soft on borders”.

“Joe Biden will create a lot of pain for a lot of people, as well as a lot of political problems for himself if he doesn’t fix it”.

Mr Decker said he didn’t think there was a chance Joe Biden would look to Donald Trump’s policy idea and complete the building of the border wall.

“His party won’t let him do that,” Mr Decker said.

“That was actually a big issue in the presidential campaign”.

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Trump’s Protectionist Failure – WSJ


Donald Trump was America’s first post-Depression presidential nominee to make protectionism a major plank of his platform. During the 2016 campaign he presented it, along with tax cuts and deregulation, as an antidote to President Obama’s weak economic recovery—the weakest of the postwar period. In his first two years as president, Mr. Trump lifted regulatory burdens and pushed through a major tax cut, which triggered a broad-based rise in income and employment. He then turned to his protectionist agenda, which reduced economic growth and failed to deliver Michigan, Pennsylvania or Wisconsin in the 2020 election. Protectionism failed both as economic policy and political strategy.



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David Klein

Much of the allure of U.S. postwar protectionism comes from nostalgia for an enduring myth: the “golden age of American manufacturing.” There was a manufacturing bonanza in the 1950s and ’60s, but it wasn’t engineered by policy makers then and couldn’t be replicated now. It was an unsustainable anomaly created by World War II.

The U.S. emerged from the war with an almost totally new industrial base, a carry-over from a wartime role as “the great arsenal of democracy.” With much of the rest of the developed world in rubble, America enjoyed a virtual monopoly in heavy manufacturing for a quarter-century. In the 1950s, real average hourly earnings in manufacturing leapt 34.5%—seven times their growth in the 1970s.

By the mid-1970s, Europe and Japan had risen from the ashes of the war and South Korea and Taiwan had industrialized. By 1976, U.S. manufacturing exports had returned to prewar levels, as a percentage of global exports, and after 1979 U.S. manufacturing employment fell in absolute terms as a push was undertaken to automate, reduce labor costs and regain competitiveness. While manufacturing jobs declined from 32% of total employment in 1953 to 8.7% in 2015, manufacturing as a share of real gross domestic product has remained virtually constant due to increases in productivity.

As Mr. Trump found when he imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum, the resulting increase in jobs in those industries was small. This shouldn’t have come as a surprise: In 1980 it took 10.1 man-hours to produce a ton of steel. Thanks to automation, that was down to 1.5 man-hours a ton in 2017, with some steel makers achieving 0.5. Jobs gained in the steel and aluminum industries after the tariffs were dwarfed by jobs lost in industries that use steel and aluminum in their manufacturing process, not to mention the jobs lost due to foreign trade retaliation.

The uncertainty concerning which industry would be hurt next caused private investment to decline across the economy. GDP growth, which had been accelerating in 2017 and 2018, fell 20% in 2019, from 2.9% to 2.3%, in line with the Congressional Budget Office estimates of the negative effect of the protectionist policies.

Protectionism even hurt manufacturing in the states it was supposed to help. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, manufacturing employment in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, which had increased in 2017 and 2018, started to fall in 2019 as the trade war intensified.

The notion that protectionism could bring back millions of manufacturing jobs and attract a significant number of votes in the industrial states was outdated, as was the trade debate itself. For instance, trade deficits become meaningless when so much U.S. content is embedded in the value of imports such as tech products, and when most imports from Mexico, Canada and even China are produced by U.S. companies owned by U.S. pension funds—and therefore by U.S. workers.

Most Americans no longer see protectionism as helpful or feasible. In 2016, 72% of Americans viewed foreign trade as an opportunity for economic growth rather than a threat, the highest approval rating since Gallup started asking. By 2020, approval had risen to 79%.

If Mr. Trump’s trade message helped him in the 2016 election, it was because he was expressing concern about the plight of working people who had suffered disproportionately during the Obama “secular stagnation,” not because protectionism itself was popular. Even among Trump supporters, a post-2020 election poll by YouGov showed that 60% believed foreign trade helps the economy. The voting pattern of Lordstown, Ohio—where Mr. Trump promised in 2017 to save local factory jobs—suggests that it was the concern Mr. Trump expressed, not his ability to save the General Motors plant, that attracted their votes in the first place. The plant closed anyway, and the area voted for Mr. Trump in 2020 by an even bigger margin than in 2016.

As the pay premium for having a college degree relative to a high-school diploma almost doubled from 1967 to 2017, blue-collar America fell further behind. Over the same period, the explosion of transfer payments caused the labor-force participation rate of the bottom quintile of earners to collapse. By 2017, government transfer payments rose to constitute more than 91% of their $49,613 average income. Government payments to nonworkers approached the after-tax incomes of blue-collar workers, spawning resentment. Hillary Clinton’s expressions of contempt only heightened the sense that America had lost interest in and respect for its workers, and helped make Mr. Trump’s expression of concern resonate.

For these workers, the Trump tax cut and deregulatory effort delivered, as blue-collar wages grew faster than white-collar wages. In 2019 the poverty rate hit a record low. Real household income leapt by $4,379, 13 times the average annual postwar gain. If the growth surge of 2017-18 had continued through 2019, these landmark economic achievements would have been even stronger—perhaps strong enough to have overcome in 2020 the political effects of the coronavirus shutdown and voters’ personal aversion to Mr. Trump.

America is now so integrated into the global economy that jobs cannot be created or protected by protectionist policies. Innovation, technological development and the capacity of a market economy to adapt to change provide our only sure path to job creation and prosperity. This is a lesson all politicians, but especially Republicans, need to learn from the economic and political failure of protectionism in the Trump era.

Mr. Gramm is a former chairman of the Senate Banking Committee and a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. Mr. Toomey, a Republican, is a U.S. senator from Pennsylvania.

Mike Solon

contributed to this article.

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Trump’s War on America’s State-Funded Broadcasters


Among the visible remnants of Donald Trump’s presidency is a blank patch of wall along a hallway a short distance from Capitol Hill. Just eight months ago, that wall in the headquarters of the United States Agency for Global Media, the independent body charged with overseeing the country’s five federally funded international broadcasters, held a portrait of the agency’s first CEO, John Lansing, as well as a quote from him: “A set of unimpeachable facts, and the existence of a baseline of truth, is the foundation that undergirds our democracy … Since our country’s founding, journalists and journalism have stood watch over private and public officials in power to hold them accountable to what is factual and what is true.”

Within days of the Senate’s June 2020 confirmation of Michael Pack, a conservative filmmaker nominated by Trump to run the agency, the portrait was removed and the quotation painted over. Steve Capus, Lansing’s former senior adviser, told me it was “a petty move”—a precursor of the changes to come.

Over the course of his seven-month tenure, Pack undertook a near-complete overhaul of the agency: purging its senior leadership, undermining the editorial independence of its broadcasters, and entrenching its traditionally bipartisan governing boards with right-wing ideologues, in an apparent effort to assure a conservative hold on the agency well past Trump’s presidency.

Not all of those changes stuck. The first few weeks of Joe Biden’s term saw the swift dismissal of Pack and all the other Trump appointees installed at the five networks—the independently run Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia, and the Middle East Broadcasting Networks, as well as the federally run Voice of America and the Office of Cuba Broadcasting—and a public recommitment to the independence of their journalists.

At its core, the Trump administration’s takeover of USAGM threatened the delicate status quo that its broadcasters enjoyed as outlets financed, but not editorially controlled, by the state. For the staff at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, this threat bordered on existential: it was designed to serve parts of the world where independent journalism is heavily suppressed or nonexistent. Its presence as a source of unfettered news and information is what sets it apart in the countries it covers. Autocratic regimes such as the Kremlin have seized any opportunity to drive it out. By attempting to erode its editorial independence and sow doubt in its credibility, the Trump administration appears to have done much of their work for them.

To understand the Trump administration’s legacy at RFE/RL—and how that legacy extends to other parts of government, civil service, and foreign policy—I spoke with a dozen current and former staff members, many of whom asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation. In their telling, what was at stake was not just their safety and that of their colleagues, some of whom have been detained and killed over their work in the past year, but decades of trust with their audiences. Even if the institution survived an attempted takeover by one administration, what’s to prevent another from trying again?

“We seem to have been just lucky that they were incompetent,” one staffer told me. “Maybe the next ones won’t be.”

Most Americans have little reason to know much about USAGM or its broadcasters, having never been part of their target audience. The oldest, Voice of America, was established during the Second World War to reach listeners in Nazi Germany. Its goal was in its name: To relay American values and information as a means of combatting Nazi propaganda. In its first broadcast, in February 1942, the journalist William Harlan Hale told listeners, “We shall speak to you about America and the war. The news may be good or bad. We shall tell you the truth.”

Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty (then separate entities serving Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, respectively) were created during the Cold War, providing uncensored news and information to audiences that had access to neither behind the Iron Curtain. Though covertly funded by the U.S. government, the services weren’t designed to be a bullhorn for the State Department. RFE and RL’s utility was in their impartiality. Propaganda, the logic went, couldn’t be defeated with propaganda. To promote democratic values, RFE and RL simply had to embody them by showing the value that a free press could provide.

Even after the Soviet Union fell, that mission didn’t change; instead, it expanded. Today, RFE/RL reaches tens of millions of people worldwide, broadcasting in 27 languages across 23 countries. In many of these places, it’s one of the only independent news outlets available. Its focus is local, and so are many of the journalists who work for it, many at great personal risk. Their mission isn’t to be a mouthpiece for U.S. foreign policy. If that were the expectation, many staffers told me, it would do untold damage to their credibility.

One person who did have that expectation, though, was Pack. His role, as he saw it, was to ensure that all of the U.S.’s state-funded broadcasters were adhering to what he and the White House believed was, or certainly should have been, USAGM’s mission—to “tell America’s story” to the world. Trump, who in April accused Voice of America of amplifying Chinese propaganda over its failure to follow his pandemic narrative (a charge that was rejected by the broadcaster’s then-director), has long believed that the U.S. should have its own state-controlled media apparatus. Steve Bannon, Trump’s former chief strategist who recommended Pack for the job, told the Los Angeles Times in 2018 that he advised Trump to take over Voice of America, which Bannon considered to be “totally controlled by the deep-state apparatus.”

Because of Trump’s apparent fixation on Voice of America, some within RFE/RL presumed, perhaps naively, that Pack’s nomination wouldn’t necessarily affect them directly. Obama-era reforms, however, gave him huge control, shifting powers from a bipartisan governing body to the chief executive, an effort seen at the time as a necessary antidote to the agency’s dysfunctional inefficiency. (“To many observers,” Martha Bayles wrote in The American Interest last year, “this change was worrisome, because at no point in its history had this large, complex, diverse, globe-spanning media organization been under the direct control of a single individual, much less a political appointee in an era of intense partisanship.”)

Pack wasted little time using those new powers, firing all five network heads within two weeks of his confirmation, including RFE/RL President Jamie Fly, a former foreign-policy adviser to the Republican Senator Marco Rubio. (Fly was among a number of conservative voices who signed a letter opposing Trump’s nomination in 2016.) Pack also replaced RFE/RL’s traditionally bipartisan corporate board with a slate of conservative activists and Trump-administration officials, imposed a spending freeze, and scrapped federal regulations protecting the networks from political interference on the grounds that it was “harmful to the agency and the U.S. national interest.” For the role of RFE/RL president, Pack appointed Ted Lipien, a Voice of America veteran and the author of a blog known for its regular critiques of the agency and its coverage (some of which echoed Trump’s attacks on the Voice of America).

At no point did Pack ever meet or engage with RFE/RL journalists to explain these changes, multiple staffers told me. “He came in with this single-minded focus of ‘Everyone is supposed to tell America’s story; everyone should stick closer to the party line of whatever administration is in power,’” a former staffer said.

Perhaps the most consequential change Pack made was to push through a new grant agreement, the legal mechanism by which RFE/RL receives its federal funding, stipulating that those whom he appointed cannot be dismissed from their roles for at least two years, unless they are convicted of a crime—a move that many of the staff, including more than two dozen members of its senior management, viewed as tantamount to signing away their independence.

In a virtual town hall in January, Lipien said the agreement was necessary to ensure the organization’s financial stability, and insisted that the changes did not threaten the network’s editorial independence. “There is no threat to our independence because I intend to be independent,” Lipien said, according to an audio recording of the meeting obtained by The Atlantic, adding: “The only person in charge of RFE/RL is myself.”

These assurances rang hollow, however. “We come from countries where we have seen what happens when politicians step in media,” one staffer told me. Another said that although Lipien’s commitment to independence was welcome, “I believe more in institutional guarantees than in personal ones.”

For others, the claim that Lipien could be a sufficient replacement for editorial safeguards was simply disingenuous. “We’re branded in Russia as foreign agents who are constantly accused of being government operatives, of being partisan, of not being the journalists we say we are,” one staffer told me.

“When you look at some of the things the new people on our board write or say, it dovetails with what you’ll see on [the Russian, state-controlled network] RT,” the staffer added, in reference to one newly appointed board member’s recent defense of Russia’s annexation of Crimea. “It’s like some kind of dystopian nightmare.”

The fight over RFE/RL’s editorial independence was never limited to Washington or Prague. Around the world, the broadcaster faces a multitude of threats against its journalists and, in some places, its very existence.

In Afghanistan, the targeted killing in November of Mohammad Ilyas Dayee, a journalist for RFE/RL’s Dari- and Pashto-language service, marked the latest in a string of deadly attacks against its journalists in the country in recent years. The security situation has become so dire that the network has since pulled bylines from its Afghanistan coverage, in a bid to protect the identities of its reporters.

In Belarus, the situation is similarly alarming. At least half a dozen RFE/RL journalists have been detained in recent months. One of them, a social-media consultant to the network and one of Belarus’s most influential bloggers, went on a six-week hunger strike in protest of his months-long detention by authorities. Hanna Liubakova, a former RFE/RL journalist, told me that the Belarusian government’s targeting of the outlet’s staff was not accidental. Radio Svaboda, as it’s known in Belarus, is one of the most important sources of independent media in the country—a role that Liubakova said became particularly pronounced during the pandemic (it countered President Alexander Lukashenko’s claims that the crisis was being overblown) and the August 9 presidential election, which has since spurred the largest protest movement in the country’s history. In a demonstration outside one of the country’s state-run television stations, protesters could be heard chanting, “Radio Svaboda!”

“When Lukashenko saw these mass protests erupting … he got scared of bloggers and people who have influence,” Liubakova said. “It’s a sign that the authorities just consider RFE/RL [to be] something super important, because they are scared of it.”

The greatest threat facing the network, however, is in Russia, where the broadcaster faces millions of dollars in fines and possible criminal charges against its employees, whom the Kremlin has designated as “foreign agents.” Daisy Sindelar, RFE/RL’s editor in chief, told The New York Times that the situation could force the broadcaster out of Russia. If it does, it will mark the end of the RFE/RL’s three-decade presence in the country.

Though some of these challenges predate the Pack era, many people I spoke with said his changes made the situation worse. One senior staffer told me that having to worry about the developments in Washington while juggling crises around the world was simply overwhelming. Others noted how the situation could undermine the trust the broadcaster has with its local reporters, many of whom count on the broadcaster for their safety and protection. If RFE/RL can’t protect itself from its own government, the thinking goes, what hope should its journalists have that the broadcaster can protect them from theirs?

Of all the things Pack did that made the staff question his commitment to their safety, the most cited example was an interview he gave to The Federalist, a conservative commentary site, in which he suggested that being a journalist was “a great cover for a spy.” Though the remark was made in the context of his decision not to renew visas for dozens of foreign-national Voice of America journalists working in the U.S., who Pack alleged were not properly vetted, several people I spoke with said that the comment could easily be twisted by hostile regimes. “If you ask yourself, Cui bono?,” one staffer said, “it’s Putin.”

In June, my colleague Anne Applebaum noted that the oddest part of this whole saga is that no one knows why it all happened. What was the Trump’s administration’s endgame for USAGM and networks such as RFE/RL? Even now, the answer is unclear. Any hope Pack might have had of cementing his hold on the agency evaporated with Trump’s defeat in November. Biden announced his intention to fire Pack in the summer, and within hours of entering the Oval Office, he did just that. (Pack, who tendered his resignation at the new administration’s request, called it a “partisan act.”)

The predominant theory is that the Trump administration simply wanted to turn U.S. broadcasting into its own propaganda arm, akin to Russia’s RT or China’s CGTN. When I put this theory to Amanda Milius, a former State Department official and pro-Trump filmmaker whom Pack appointed to the RFE/RL board, she told me she didn’t buy it. “I don’t think anybody was like … ‘We’re going to turn it into [a] Rush Limbaugh broadcast all over the world,’” she said, adding that “it would be impossible” for the board to have a say in RFE/RL’s coverage in every country where it operates. “[Board membership] is an unpaid position. I’m extremely busy. I’m not interested in some kind of power grab.”

We may never know what Pack’s intentions were (he declined through a spokesperson to be interviewed for this story), but in many ways why it happened matters less than the fact that it could happen at all. In less than a year, the Trump administration managed to wrest control over one of the world’s largest media networks using tactics tested in places where democracy is under threat, such as Poland and Hungary. Had Trump won a second term, that takeover probably would have succeeded.

The Biden administration’s efforts to reverse the damage of the Pack era in some ways mirror how it all began: In addition to dismissing Pack, who has since been replaced by the longtime Voice of America journalist Kelu Chao, the administration fired all of the network presidents and board members whom he appointed—a move that paradoxically prompted some of those affected to accuse Biden of waging a partisan takeover of his own. Whether any of those dismissals will face legal challenges is unclear, given the two-year contracts that many of Pack’s appointees signed. Roger L. Simon, a columnist for the pro-Trump newspaper The Epoch Times who was appointed by Pack, wrote ahead of their dismissals that the RFE/RL board “intends to fight” any removals. Lipien, who did not respond to multiple requests for comment, suggested in a blog post that he would not.

Among those I spoke with at RFE/RL after Biden’s inauguration, many expressed relief. Their worst fears, after all, had mostly been averted: The firewall protecting the broadcaster’s editorial independence had been rescinded, but not breached; the norms and values underpinning its existence as a source of unfettered and independent journalism had been undermined, but not broken.

Personnel changes alone, however, can’t make up for some of what was lost during Pack’s reign, particularly when it came to addressing RFE/RL’s crises abroad. “On Belarus, we did not get a great deal of support or any support, and on Russia, we simply lost time,” Sindelar told me. “We were literally trying to protect ourselves against the oversight agency that is supposed to protect us, and that’s a waste of time. That’s time that is much better spent committing ourselves to the safety and security of our journalists in-country—and that’s time that we lost.”

Some institutional steps have been taken toward protecting RFE/RL and its sister networks in the future: Under a series of reforms inserted in the latest defense-spending bill, future USAGM executives will no longer be able to fire network heads unilaterally, nor will they or any other federal employees be permitted to serve on any of the broadcasters’ corporate boards. Chao, in a memo to the agency’s staff obtained by The Atlantic, confirmed that their editorial independence would be restored.

But some think that these reforms should be even more ambitious, arguing that RFE/RL should be spun off further from the federal government. Establishing the full independence of corporate boards from USAGM is one suggestion that Fly, who returned to RFE/RL as president last week, and four other former RFE/RL presidents have made to the Biden administration.

In some ways, Biden is particularly well suited to oversee these changes. When he was in the Senate in the 1990s, he played a crucial role in sparing RFE/RL from being absorbed into the federal government. “RFE/RL, Inc., have enjoyed credibility for four decades precisely because their analysts and broadcasters have not been employees of the U.S. government,” Biden wrote in a 1993 report, noting that if the network were to become an agency of the federal government, as was being considered at the time, it would “maintain neither the appearance nor the reality of journalistic independence.”

If the past eight months have proved anything, it’s that securing RFE/RL’s independence in both senses will require more than personnel changes, just as overcoming the past four years of Trump will require more than quick political corrections. The task for the current administration is to ensure that the norms and values underpinning America’s state-funded broadcasters—as well as its democracy—can’t be as easily erased as a quote on a wall.



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Trump’s suggestion of malaria drug for COVID-19 treatment has no benefit, study finds


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About 28 per cent who were given hydroxychloroquine plus usual care died, versus 11 per cent of those getting routine care alone. About 22 per cent of those getting the drug plus azithromycin died too, but the difference between that group and usual care was not considered large enough to rule out other factors that could have affected survival.

Hydroxychloroquine made no difference in the need for a breathing machine, either.

Researchers did not track side effects, but noted a hint that hydroxychloroquine might have damaged other organs. The drug has long been known to have potentially serious side effects, including altering the heartbeat in a way that could lead to sudden death.

In early April, Trump in a series of statements, argued that doctors should prescribe the drug, saying: “What do I know, I’m not a doctor. But I have common sense.”

In promoting hydroxychloroquine as a treatment, the President said, “What have you got to lose?”

Earlier this month, scientists in Brazil stopped part of a study testing chloroquine, an older drug similar to hydroxychloroquine, after heart rhythm problems developed in one-quarter of people given the higher of two doses being tested.

Many doctors have been leery of the drug.

At the University of Wisconsin, Madison, “I think we’re all rather underwhelmed” at what’s been seen among the few patients there who’ve tried it, said Dr Nasia Safdar, medical director of infection control and prevention.

Patients asked about it soon after Trump started promoting its use, “but now I think that people have realised we don’t know if it works or not” and needs more study, said Safdar, who had no role in the VA analysis.

The NIH and others have more rigorous tests underway.

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Trump’s lawyer vaporizes corporate media narrative in epic interview


by WorldTribune Staff, February 14, 2021 Game, set, match. In one epic interview, Donald Trump impeachment lawyer Michael van der Veen said to a smarmy, condescending media personality what some 75 million Americans would like to share with the entire  Trump Derangement Syndrome-suffering corporate media monolith. Van der Veen even finished off the master stroke […]

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Could Donald Trump’s impeachment trial make him a martyr? Here’s what we know about his plans


Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial has an audience far and wide.

The 100 senators who will decide the former president’s fate are the closest of observers.

They will eventually have to vote on whether or not to convict Trump on the sole charge of inciting an insurrection.

There are millions of Americans watching the wall-to-wall coverage on cable TV, most still horrified about what they saw at the US Capitol on January 6.

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Full video of Capitol riot played by prosecutors at Trump’s impeachment trial

But the person with the keenest interest in proceedings is Trump himself.

What happens during the course of the trial, and on the day of the verdict, will play an enormous role in determining whether Trump will continue to exert considerable political influence in the years ahead.

‘He was basically screaming at the TV’

The former president has, by all accounts, been a keen viewer of the live TV coverage at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, even to the point of winding back his golf.

And, so far, he’s been silent.

It’s a stark contrast to his first impeachment trial, when Trump, then ensconced in the Oval Office, was offering running commentary on Twitter during the opening arguments.

It’s a different story though behind the scenes, with multiple US media outlets reporting Trump has been distinctly unimpressed with the performance of his defence team, particularly the rambling opening statement by lawyer Bruce Castor.

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Play Video. Duration: 4 minutes 47 seconds

Bruce Castor’s address wasn’t particularly convincing.

CNN’s chief White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins says she’s been told Trump was “basically screaming” at his TV as Castor made a series of unconvincing points.

It’s unlikely to make much of a difference to the outcome.

Even if Trump’s team completely bombs, and despite all the fresh and harrowing videos of the mob baying for blood in January, nearly all of the 50 Republican senators seem determined to stick with their man.

Only six Republicans sided with the Democrats in an early vote on whether the trial was constitutional.

If that is an indicator of the final verdict, Trump can safely rely on 44 votes.

That’s more than enough to prevent the Democrats securing the two-thirds majority needed to convict him.

The experience of one of those six Republicans neatly summarises why the party is still haunted by the now private citizen in Palm Beach.

‘They are about to make him a martyr’

Louisiana senator Bill Cassidy was so unhappy with the Trump legal team’s arguments, he crossed the floor to vote with the Democrats to allow the trial to proceed.

The backlash has been immediate and furious.

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The local branch of the Republican Party in Senator Cassidy’s home town of Baton Rouge censured him, saying his actions were “a betrayal of the people of Louisiana and a rebuke to those who supported President Trump”.

Similar retribution has been meted out to other congressional Trump critics like Wyoming Republican congresswoman Liz Cheney.

It’s a sharp reminder of the role Trump and his many surrogates are likely to play in the lead-up to the 2022 midterm elections.

Liz Cheney, wearing dark blue rimmed glasses, stands in front of a US flag while speaking
Liz Cheney is an establishment Republican politician.(AP: J Scott Applewhite)

And that’s even before we get to the rampant speculation about Trump seeking a return to the White House in 2024.

He may be fuming among the palm trees in Florida, but some of Trump’s key supporters are telling him this second trial presents him with a golden political opportunity.

Brad Pascale, Trump’s former campaign manager, thinks multiple impeachments will work in his favour. He tweeted:

It could be a potent political sales pitch for a man who plays the role of victim very well, whether it’s at the hands of the “fake news” media, the “China virus”, or name any other confected enemy.

During Trump’s presidency, it was always someone else’s fault.

The 74 million Americans who voted for him are likely to lap it up.

‘He’s building anticipation’

There is also the danger of the Democrats overreaching.

Many in the party would like to keep pursuing Trump even after his expected acquittal by the Senate.

No matter how personally and politically fulfilling this would be for many Democrats, voters would be right in asking why their politicians aren’t exclusively focused on dealing with the many challenges facing the country and working to implement Joe Biden’s election campaign promises.

For now, Trump’s political intentions remain a mystery.

US President Donald Trump speaks next to an exit sign.
It’s exit stage right for Trump. But for how long?(AP: Evan Vucci)

America and the world have been living with an uncharacteristic silence from the 45th President ever since he left Washington DC ahead of Biden’s inauguration.

But those close to Trump say he’s already plotting his comeback, and not surprisingly, there’s a distinct TV theme in play.

“He’s compared it to that time in between seasons of The Apprentice, building anticipation and wonderment about what’s to come,” one advisor told Politico.

Trump enjoyed 14 seasons on The Apprentice. Is he coveting four more years in the White House?

American voters telling him, “You’re fired!” may not have been the political season finale we all thought it was.

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Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial starts with graphic video of deadly Capitol assault


The historic second impeachment trial of Donald Trump opened in the US Senate on Tuesday local time, with prosecutors vowing to win a conviction based on the “cold, hard facts” of the January storming of the US Capitol.

Kicking off with days of argument on whether Mr Trump incited insurrection on January 6 – the trial charges into unprecedented constitutional territory as the first of a former president.

House of Representatives Democrats serving as prosecutors opened their case by showing video of Trump supporters violently overwhelming police at the Capitol in the 6 January attack after he had encouraged people in a speech to “fight like hell” to overcome his 3 November election defeat.

The video showed Trump backers throwing down barriers, hitting police officers and at one point telling one: “We outnumber you a million to one out here.”

“Our case is based on cold, hard facts. It’s all about the facts,” lead House prosecutor Jamie Raskin told the trial.

Inside the ornate building, Democratic prosecutors will lay out a case heavily supported by video evidence that Mr Trump deliberately stoked rage over his November reelection loss to Joe Biden, fed the country lies that the vote was rigged, then incited the Capitol riot.

“It’s our solemn constitutional duty to conduct a fair and honest impeachment trial of the charges against former president Mr Trump – the gravest charges ever brought against a president of the United States in American history,” Democratic Majority leader Chuck Schumer declared as proceedings got underway.

The trial will make uncomfortable viewing for senators, including the many Republicans making clear they will not vote to convict Mr Trump, but who had to flee to safety when the violent crowd surged through the Capitol that day.

The United States Capitol Building was breached by thousands of protesters during a rally in support of Donald Trump.

STRMX via AAP

Outside, thousands of National Guard troops deployed in the aftermath of the debacle continue to patrol, while hastily thrown up fences barricade the area from ordinary Americans – visible proof that the aftershocks of the Mr Trump era continue to rumble.

Mr Trump becomes the first president ever to face two impeachment trials – he was acquitted in 2020 of abuse of power – as well as the first in history to be tried after leaving office.

Mr Trump’s legal team is basing its case largely on the procedural argument that a former president cannot be tried, calling the Senate trial “absurd.”

They also argue that whatever Mr Trump said during his 6 January rally is protected by the constitutional right to free speech and did not amount to ordering the assault on Congress.

A second acquittal is all but certain for Mr Trump, who is holed up in his luxury Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida and, after being barred from Twitter, has spent the weeks since leaving office in near silence.

Democrats hold 50 of the 100 Senate seats and Vice President Kamala Harris is able to cast a tie-breaking vote. But it would take a two-thirds majority for a conviction, meaning at least 17 Republican senators would have to join.

Polarised country

With the country at its most polarised in at least half a century, the impeachment trial risks becoming a new flashpoint.

Amped up on four years of Mr Trump’s populist claims to be fighting for ordinary people against the elites, huge numbers of Republican voters continue to support the ex-president, pushing their party ever further to the right.

However, Democrats are equally energised and polls show that a small majority of the country overall believes Mr Trump deserves conviction. An Ipsos/ABC News poll found 56 per cent back this, while a Gallup poll found 52 per cent support.

It’s not clear yet how long the trial will last but it will be shorter than the three-week marathon of Mr Trump’s first impeachment and could end as soon as next week.

First up will be up to four hours of debate, followed by a vote, on the constitutionality of trying an ex-president. This will almost certainly be just a formality as the Democrats have enough votes, but it will give early indication of how open Republicans are to the case at all.

The main part of the trial will start Wednesday, with each side having 16 hours to present oral arguments.

Senators, who are the jurors, will then question the opposing legal teams.

A majority vote will be needed if either side wants to call witnesses. Mr Trump, however, has already refused an invitation to testify.

Republican Senator Joni Ernst told AFP that he was ready to “listen,” but spoke for many others on his side when he added: “I don’t believe this to be constitutional. So we’re going through an exercise that I don’t believe meets the intent of our founders.”

Joe Biden above the fray

Mr Biden, who succeeded Mr Trump on 20 January, is attempting to stay above the fray.

Daily, the White House is sending a message that the Democrat is focused instead on the fragile economy and the desperate effort to vaccinate Americans against the still out-of-control COVID-19 pandemic.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki reiterated on Tuesday that Mr Biden is “going to wait for the Senate to determine the outcome of this.”

“He’s not going to comment on the back and forth arguments, nor is he watching them,” Ms Psaki told reporters.

If Mr Trump were convicted, the Senate would then hold a simple-majority vote on barring him from future public office.

But even if the impeachment trial ends in acquittal, calls to punish Mr Trump for his behavior will continue, including possibly a push for a bipartisan vote of censure.

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Trump’s second impeachment trial begins



The Senate opened its second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump with a debate on the constitutionality of hearing a case against a president who is no longer in office. The debate will conclude with a vote, and the Senate is expected to move forward with the trial.

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Joe Biden to hold talks with business leaders to make a public point of ignoring Trump’s impeachment


Joe Biden will hold talks with business leaders to make a very public point of ignoring Donald Trump’s impeachment trial after White House refused to even say how he would be updated on it

  • They will be joined by Treasury Secretary Yellen in confab on ‘the critical need for the American Rescue Plan to save our economy’
  • Meeting starts less than an hour after impeachment trial commences 
  • White House said Monday Trump won’t spend ‘too much time’ watching
  • Arguments Tuesday will be on constitutionality 
  • Meeting to focus on $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package 

President Joe Biden will continue his strategy Tuesday of making a public display of his focus on the coronavirus – rather than the historic impeachment trial set to consume political Washington.

The second impeachment of President Donald Trump on a charge of ‘incitement of insurrection’ begins in earnest Tuesday, as Democratic managers clash with the president’s team over whether it is constitutional to try a former president.

Biden, though, will be publicly showing his determination to boost the economy despite the pandemic that continues to ravage the nation. He will be joined by business leaders and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, at an event that kicks off less than an hour before the trial starts. 

President Joe Biden will meet with business leaders and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen Tuesday just as the Senate impeachment trial of President Trump begins in earnest

‘In the afternoon, the President, the Vice President, and the Secretary of the Treasury will meet with business leaders about the critical need for the American Rescue Plan to save our economy in the Oval Office,’ according to the White House schedule for Biden.

Joining will be Vice President Kamala Harris, whose vote could be needed to break ties on procedural votes during the trial. They will discuss the ‘critical need for the American Rescue Plan to save our economy’ – the president’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus package.

The move comes after White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Monday Biden was not planning to make C-Span appointment viewing a major part of his day. 

‘He will not spend too much time watching the proceedings at any time over the course of this week,’ she said.

‘He will remain closely in touch with Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi, Leader [Charles] Schumer – a range of officials on the Hill about his plan, and that’s exactly what they want to do is to remain focused on that,’ she added. 

She also sought to keep Biden out of the question of whether House Democratic managers should call witnesses in the trial, something they have yet to tip their hand on, and the question being argued Tuesday of whether a trial for a former president is constitutional.

‘He is going to leave it to the Senate to determine the path forward here,’ she said.

Biden has multiple reasons to try to lay low while his predecessor is put on trial even while remaining at Mar-a-Lago. He wants to keep momentum for his relief package that he campaigned on, one reason Democrats opted for a fast-track budget procedure rather than seeking potentially long talks with Republicans.

His own public approval has stayed relatively high as he has kept his focus away from the contentious days that preceded his term. And the impeachment fight, where an early test vote showed most Republicans were locked in to support Trump, has the potential to throw off other agenda items and nominations by soaking up floor time.

Even as Biden seeks to change the channel, Donald Trump will closely track his impeachment trial this week from the comfort of his Mar-a-Lago residence as he prepares for a guns blazing return to politics after his almost assured acquittal.

Trump is comparing the whole ordeal to his time as a TV personality, claiming the period between leaving Washington and waiting for the trial to conclude is like waiting for a new season of his show to start.

‘He’s compared it to that time in between seasons of ‘The Apprentice,’ building anticipation and wonderment for what’s to come,’ one adviser told Politico of his preparations for a ‘second act.’

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