Huawei’s U.S. suppliers try to reverse Trump’s late sales denials

(Reuters) – Semiconductor firms are seeking extra time to appeal last-minute Trump administration moves to block sales to Chinese telecoms company Huawei, hoping against the odds that the Biden administration will reverse course, five sources said.

Several company executives who declined to be identified by name said they ultimately do not think the Biden administration will significantly soften the hardline position. “Everyone is deflated,” said one company executive.

Billions of dollars of U.S. technology and chip sales to Huawei hinge on how the Biden administration applies export restrictions the Trump administration put in place.

The companies hope that with more time to make their cases before an interagency panel and a potential policy shift at least some of the rejected Huawei sales will be allowed.

The Commerce Department did not respond to requests for comment. A Huawei spokeswoman said the company does not have any insight into the licensing process at Commerce.

Days before former President Donald Trump left office on Jan. 20, the administration notified Huawei suppliers, including chipmaker Intel, that the government was revoking certain licenses to sell to Huawei and intended to reject dozens of applications for others, Reuters reported.

The surprise flurry of “intent to deny” notices were among last-minute, tough-on-China moves aimed at boxing President Joe Biden into hardline polices against Beijing and cementing Trump’s legacy.

Among the decisions, the Trump administration denied 116 license applications worth $119 billion and approved four worth $20 million, according to a Commerce Department document dated Jan. 13 and seen by Reuters. Another 300 applications with stated values of $296 billion were pending, the document said.

Some companies whose license applications were rejected asked the Commerce Department for more than the standard 20 days to appeal their denials, the sources said. The department has granted 90-day extensions to some of the companies, the people said.

Huawei was placed on a trade blacklist by Trump in May 2019 over national security concerns after it was accused of being capable of spying on customers, as well as intellectual property theft and sanctions violations. Huawei has denied wrongdoing.

Since Huawei was blacklisted, the U.S. government approved about $87 billion worth of applications for sales to Huawei and denied $11 billion, according to the Commerce document.

‘UNTRUSTED VENDOR’

The Biden White House has described Huawei as an “untrusted vendor” and a national security threat. Biden’s nominee for commerce secretary, Gina Raimondo, pledged to protect U.S. telecoms networks from Chinese firms but declined to commit to keeping Huawei on a trade blacklist.

To remove the company from the blacklist, the Commerce Department would have to certify to Congress that Huawei has mitigated the national security threat it poses and that the firm has resolved charges of sanctions violations under a 2019 law.

“I don’t think you will see a change in policy on Huawei,” said James Lewis of the security think tank CSIS. “I think (the Biden administration) is mainly signaling, ‘We are going to do the same thing, but try to do it in a more business friendly way.’”

The Biden administration is reviewing China policy, and sources say it is too early to know what path the president will take on Huawei.

Trump had an inconsistent approach to Huawei, opening the door to more sales when he was seeking a trade deal but then coming down harder as tensions began rising over the coronavirus and Beijing’s crackdown in Hong Kong last year.

But few companies expected the big batch of rejections in mid-January, including license requests for chips used in 4G phones.

Trump impeachment process: Who are the key players?

The US House of Representatives has voted to impeach President Donald Trump for a second time over his alleged role in the 6 January deadly assault on the Capitol.

Jamie Raskin speaks to members of the media after he came out from the office of Speaker of the House
image captionDemocrats, including Jamie Raskin (centre), voted to impeach President Donald Trump, as did 10 Republicans

His impeachment for “incitement to insurrection” was approved by 232 representatives including 10 Republicans. 

Democrats led the effort to charge Mr Trump with encouraging the riots. 

But some Republicans had backed calls for impeachment.

So, who are these key players, and what do we know about them?

Jamie Raskin, lead impeachment manager for the Democrats

When the impeachment charges go to the Senate for trial, the case for the prosecution will be made by a team of lawmakers, led by Mr Raskin, a Democratic representative from Maryland since 2017 and a former professor of constitutional law.

The impeachment of Mr Trump represents the continuation of an extremely challenging start to 2021 for Mr Raskin, 58.

Jamie Raskin and Liz Cheney in the US Capitol
image captionJamie Raskin (left) helped to draft the article of impeachment against President Trump

The congressman’s 25-year-old son, Tommy Bloom Raskin, took his own life on New Year’s Eve and was laid to rest in early January.

A day after the funeral, Mr Raskin found himself hunkering down with colleagues, shielding from a violent mob that rampaged through the Capitol where lawmakers were meeting to certify November’s presidential election result.

View original tweet on Twitter

On the day of the assault, Mr Raskin helped to draw up an article of impeachment against President Trump.

Speaking to the Washington Post, Mr Raskin said his son, who was studying law at Harvard University, would have considered last week’s violence “the absolute worst form of crime against democracy”.

“It really is Tommy Raskin, and his love and his values and his passion, that have kept me going,” Mr Raskin said.

Madeleine Dean, Democratic impeachment manager

In total, nine Democrats, including Mr Raskin, have been named as impeachment managers. One is Representative Madeleine Dean, from Pennsylvania, who is one of three women on the team.

Ms Dean started her career in law, opening her own three-woman practice in Pennsylvania before teaching English at a university.

Having been active in state politics for decades, she was elected to the House in 2018, using her seat to champion women’s reproductive rights, gun law reform, and healthcare for all, among other issues.

Democratic Representative Madeleine Dean
image captionMadeleine Dean has called for a quick trial of President Trump in the Senate

In an interview with MSNBC, Ms Dean, 68, said she favoured a “speedy trial” in the Senate if Mr Trump was impeached.

“This isn’t about a party. This isn’t about politics. This is about protection of our constitution, of our rule of law,” Ms Dean said.

Nancy Pelosi, Democratic Speaker of the House

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi walks to her office from the House floor
image captionNancy Pelosi has called President Trump “deranged, unhinged and dangerous”

As the Speaker of the House, Ms Pelosi has been in the spotlight since the riots in the Capitol.

Ms Pelosi leads the Democrats in the lower chamber of Congress, so the 80-year-old had a huge influence over the decision to introduce an article of impeachment against Mr Trump.

Ms Pelosi had the House proceed with impeachment after former Vice-President Mike Pence did not invoked constitutional powers to force out Mr Trump, who was then president.

Mr Pence said at the time he believed such a move was against the country’s interests.

“This president is guilty of inciting insurrection. He has to pay a price for that,” Ms Pelosi said.

Mitch McConnell, Republican Senate minority leader

Mr McConnell, a 78-year-old Republican senator for Kentucky, is one to watch in the Senate.

The upper chamber’s former majority leader remains the man at the helm of the upper chamber’s Republican caucus.

Dubbed the “Grim Reaper” by Democrats, Mr McConnell was a thorn in the side of former President Barack Obama, often manoeuvring to frustrate his legislative agenda and judicial appointments.

He was also the driving force behind Mr Trump’s acquittal in his first impeachment trial in 2019.

In his last few weeks as Senate leader, Mr McConnell also delayed Mr Trump’s trial until after the former president left office, saying there was no time for a “fair or serious trial” ahead of Mr Biden’s inauguration.

Mr McConnell has not publicly commented on whether he supports convicting or acquitting Mr Trump, but he has sent some mixed messages.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell
image captionMitch McConnell had been loyal to President Trump until the Capitol riots

Though he spent the last four years in the president’s corner, the minority leader said the rioters were “provoked by” Mr Trump and that he plans to hear out both sides in the trial.

But later on in January, he also joined the majority of Republican senators to vote for a motion to toss out the impeachment case as unconstitutional now that Mr Trump is no longer in the White House.

Mr McConnell may no longer have the final say on all things impeachment, but as Democrats need Republican support to convict Mr Trump with the required two-thirds majority, he still has a key role to play in the upcoming proceedings.

Liz Cheney, Republican House Representative for Wyoming

Ms Cheney, 54, is third-highest-ranking Republican leader in the House. As the daughter of former Republican Vice-President Dick Cheney, she has a high profile in the party.

So, her support for impeachment is particularly significant.

House Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney
image captionLiz Cheney has accused President Trump of inciting the attack on Congress

Mr Trump had “summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack”, Ms Cheney said of the Capitol riots.

“There has never been a greater betrayal by a president of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution,” the Wyoming representative said.

However, in a recent test of support for conviction on impeachment charges that Mr Trump incited his supporters to mount an insurrection at the US Capitol, 45 out of 50 Senate Republicans voted last week to consider stopping the trial before it even starts.

Ms Cheney survived a House Republican vote – 145-61 – to oust her from her leadership position after breaking ranks with other GOP lawmakers last month to impeach the former president.

She is also now facing a primary challenger for her Wyoming congressional seat after voting to impeach Mr Trump.

Ben Sasse, Republican Senator for Nebraska

Blocking Mr Trump from ever running for office again is one rationale that may motivate some Republicans to impeach the president.

That reasoning could be attractive to Republican senators like Mr Sasse, who is seen as a possible contender for the presidency in 2024.

Elected to the Senate in 2014, the 48-year-old has been an ardent critic of Mr Trump.

Ben Sasse
image captionBen Sasse refused to overturn the results of November’s presidential election in Congress

Mr Sasse was firmly opposed to a Republican effort – cheered on by Mr Trump – to overturn the certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s election victory in Congress.

On the question of impeachment, Mr Sasse said he would “definitely consider whatever articles they might move” in the House.

A two-thirds majority would be needed to convict Mr Trump in the Senate, meaning at least 17 Republicans – including Mr Sasse – would have to vote for it.

Patrick Leahy, Democratic Senator for Vermont

In Mr Trump’s first impeachment trial in 2020, it was Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts who presided over the proceedings.

This time, he declined to participate, handing the job over to the 80-year-old Vermont Democrat, who will take the gavel in this second impeachment trial.

Sen Patrick Leahy questions Former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing

Mr Leahy was first elected to the Senate in 1974, and is the longest serving lawmaker in the upper chamber.

He will be presiding in his role as the Senate’s president pro tempore – a constitutional officer, responsible for presiding over the Senate in the absence of the vice-president.

In a statement, he said “the president pro tempore takes an additional special oath to do impartial justice according to the Constitution and the laws” when presiding over an impeachment trial. 

“It is an oath that I take extraordinarily seriously.”

David Schoen and Bruce Castor Jr, attorneys for Trump 

With just over a week to go before the trial, Mr Trump parted ways with his legal team, including attorneys Butch Bowers and Deborah Barbier.

They were quickly replaced by David Schoen, a trial lawyer, and Bruce Castor, a former district attorney, who will lead the defence efforts for the former president. 

In a statement, both attorneys said they didn’t believe the push to impeach Mr Trump is constitutional. 

Mr Castor added: “The strength of our Constitution is about to be tested like never before in our history.

“It is strong and resilient. A document written for the ages, and it will triumph over partisanship yet again, and always.”

Mr Schoen has previously represented Roger Stone, former adviser to Mr Trump. Stone received a presidential pardon in December. 

The lawyer also made headlines in the past for meeting with Jeffrey Epstein in his final days to discuss possible representation, and for later saying he did not believe the death of the US financier and sex offender was suicide. 

Mr Castor, a former Pennsylvania district attorney, is known for declining to prosecute Bill Cosby for sexual assault in 2005. The comedian was eventually convicted on three counts of sexual assault in a 2018 retrial of his case.

The plot (and spoilers) of Impeachment II

The rule of thumb in the cinema is that the original is invariably better than the sequel.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer

But then you get The Dark Knight getting far more acclaim than Batman Begins. Or Godfather 2 being better than the first movie – and personally I thought Toy Story 3 was the best. And don’t get me started on Star Wars. 

So, what should we expect from Impeachment 2, Incitement of Insurrection, coming to a TV screen near you this week?

Some very general and obvious observations.

The plotlines in this second impeachment will be much easier to follow than the original. 

A presidential call to his Ukrainian counterpart asking questions about an obscure energy company on which Joe Biden’s son had served as a director, does not have the immediacy of the events of 6 January when a Trump supporting mob stormed Congress after listening to a speech delivered by the president. 

What is not in question is that the MAGA-mob tried to stop the certification of the 2020 presidential election. Five people died following the mayhem. There will not be an American who doesn’t have a view on what unfolded.

The other quick observation I would make is this – the chamber where the Senate trial will unfold is also the crime-scene; the epicentre of this assault on America’s most sacred democratic sanctum. And the corollary of that is that some of the people who will be ‘trying’ the former president will have felt themselves to be victims of the crime that unfolded.

So what chance is there that Donald Trump will get a fair trial?

Well, the first thing I would say about that is though the language of impeachment is replete with quasi-judicial terminology, the jurors are the 100 Senators – Republican and Democrat. This is political. 

Supporters of US President Donald Trump protest inside the US Capitol on January 6, 2021

How many of those who will weigh the evidence for and against Donald Trump will be swayed by the evidence presented? I find it hard to imagine there will be a single one.

Democrats, I would guess, will vote as a block to convict. Republicans are split three ways – and this is a political split, not a schism based on the evidence. 

There are those Republicans who remain firmly behind Donald Trump, and will not now, not ever, vote to find him guilty of “incitement of insurrection”, the three words on the article of impeachment.

There are those who would love nothing more to see the former president slip away from the national consciousness, and feel that he has been a corrosive force on the democratic norms and values of US democracy – but don’t want to pick a fight with him for fear of the consequences. Their worst nightmare is Trump rallying support behind a Republican rival the next time they’re up for election.

And there is a smaller number of Republicans who are ready to very publicly say they believe that the party of Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and Reagan needs to be rid of the Trump legacy, that it is a cancer that needs to be cut out.

In other words, this will all be about political calculation. And the second order calculation will be how these senators will explain the decision to their voters.https://emp.bbc.com/emp/SMPj/2.39.15/iframe.htmlmedia captionDonald Trump’s second impeachment trial opens on Tuesday – but what’s it all about?

Which brings us to this next question, how will this play itself out?

Democrats will make a case that evokes the drama of the day and the fears some of them had – they thought their lives were in danger as they cowered in offices while the mob went room to room. The blame for that will be laid squarely at the defendant’s door.

The Trump defence will take two forms. 

On the substance of the “incitement of insurrection” charge, his lawyers will argue that he was exercising his free speech, First Amendment rights – and they will point out that in that address on 6 January, the president told his supporters to march on Congress “peacefully and patriotically”. 

But the speech was notable for all its “We fight like hell and if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.” And telling his supporters that they have to be tough and not weak.

The US Capitol is seen in Washington, DC on January 22, 2018

And his case is not helped by the tweets and messaging around this time – urging his supporters to come to Washington on 6 January because it was “going to be wild”. 

In a video released on the night of the riots, Donald Trump told the mob that had descended on Congress that he loved them and they were special people. He tweeted that evening – seemingly to justify the actions of the insurgents – that this is what happens when you steal the result of the election.

He repeatedly claimed he had won the election by a landslide. There is no evidence for that.

He repeatedly claimed that the election had been stolen. Judge after judge – many appointed by Donald Trump – rejected those legal arguments put by his campaign lawyers. 

And the charges of fraud – again promoted by Mr Trump – were dismissed by the president’s own Attorney General William Barr; the head of election security – another Trump appointee – also said the election had been fair.

So don’t expect the president’s words to be the backbone of the defence.

Instead it will focus on the constitutionality of impeaching a president once he’s left office. The lawyers will argue that the weapon of impeachment is only to be used for a serving politician, not a private citizen (as Donald Trump now is).

How can you use the sanction of removing someone from office when they’ve already left office? And this is I suspect the justification (fig-leaf, I feel sure Democrats will insist) that Republicans will reach for as their justification for acquitting Donald Trump.

Former US President Donal Trump

Of course, Democrats will point out the offence took place while he was president, and you don’t get a free pass just because you’ve left office. Or as James Corden put it on his Late, Late Show, it’s like being pulled over by a traffic cop for speeding, and saying to the officer “I might well have been going at 50mph back then, but now as I speak to you I am stationary, so you can’t charge me now…”

Impeachment II will get big, big TV audiences – though they’d have been far greater if the president had testified, as Democrat impeachment managers had wanted.

But the outcome – and here I feel the need to issue a spoiler alert – is almost certainly going to be the same as Impeachment I. 

He will be acquitted.

Jon Sopel
North America editor

Biden: ‘Erratic’ Trump should not get intelligence briefings

President Joe Biden has said his predecessor Donald Trump should not be given access to intelligence briefings because of his “erratic behaviour”.

The US has a tradition of allowing former presidents to be briefed on the nation’s security issues – as a courtesy extended by the incumbent.

But when asked by CBS News if Mr Trump would receive the same courtesy, President Biden said “I think not”.

He cited Mr Trump’s “erratic behaviour” as his reason for refusing access.

“I don’t think there’s any need for him to have an intelligence briefing,” Mr Biden said in his first sit-down interview since becoming president.

He declined to speculate on what his worst fears would be if Mr Trump were allowed to see classified reports, but he suggested the former president could not be trusted to keep confidential information to himself.

“What value is giving him an intelligence briefing? What value is there at all, other than that he might slip and say something?” Mr Biden said.

The move is the first time a former president has been excluded from the tradition of being granted continued access to the briefings, according to the New York Times.

Mr Trump feuded with the intelligence community throughout his four-year presidency and went through six national intelligence directors.

He questioned reports by US agencies that Russia interfered in the 2016 election, and assailed intelligence chiefs for being “extremely passive and naive” over Iran.

In 2017, he disclosed highly-classified information to Russia’s foreign minister about an Islamic State operation in what was seen as a breach of trust by many in the US intelligence community.

During his CBS interview, President Biden was asked about the impeachment trial Mr Trump is facing in the US Senate for his role in the riot at the Capitol on 6 January.

Mr Biden said he “ran like hell to defeat” Mr Trump in the election “because I thought he was unfit to be president”, but he would leave the Senate to decide whether the Republican should be barred from ever holding public office again.

Democrats try to expel conspiracy theorist lawmaker

Democrats have introduced a resolution to strip a pro-Trump Republican lawmaker of her committee assignments over her past posts on social media.

Marjorie Taylor Greene has embraced conspiracy theories, including that school shootings were staged.

The group of Democrats that filed the resolution called it a “line-in-the-sand moment for the Republican Party”.

The Georgia congresswoman last month introduced a measure attempting to impeach US President Joe Biden.

Elected to Congress in November, Mrs Greene was assigned to the Education and Labour Committee and the Budget Committee by House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy.

But Democrats contend that, because of her past remarks, she has “forfeited her right” to join these panels, particularly the education committee.

Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Florida Democrat who is leading the resolution, said: “Reducing the future harm that she can cause in Congress, and denying her a seat at committee tables where fact-based policies will be drafted, is both a suitable punishment and a proper restraint of her influence.”

She added: “If Republicans won’t police their own, the House must step in.”

The resolution was co-sponsored by two other Democrats: Ted Deutch of Florida and Jahana Hayes of Connecticut.

In 2019, Mr McCarthy removed Iowa congressman Steve King from two committees he sat on after an interview in which he questioned why white supremacy was considered offensive.

However, he has not indicated whether he will do so again in the case of Mrs Greene, instead saying – through a spokesperson – that he “plans to have a conversation with her” about the social media posts.

It is unclear if Republicans will take any action against their colleague for comments she made as a private citizen.

On Monday, House Democratic Majority Leader Steny Hoyer delivered an ultimatum to Mr McCarthy, calling on him to remove Mrs Greene from the two committees within 72 hours or Democrats would bring the issue to the House floor.

In addition, California Democrat Jimmy Gomez now has 61 of his colleagues co-sponsoring a resolution to expel Mrs Greene from Congress itself.

Mrs Greene is not the only lawmaker to have made incendiary remarks. 

On the other side of the political spectrum, left-wing Minnesota congresswoman Ilhan Omar caused uproar in 2019 with tweets that were widely construed as anti-Semitic.

Democrats in the House voted to condemn anti-Semitism, though their resolution did not name Ms Omar. She apologised for having implied US lawmakers only support Israel because of lobby money, and no action was taken against her.

Who is Marjorie Taylor Greene?

Her sympathies for the fringe group Q-Anon were public knowledge when she first ran for a congressional seat in north-west Georgia last year.

A staunch supporter of former US President Donald Trump, she has previously suggested that 2016 Democratic White House nominee Hillary Clinton was involved in a child mutilation and paedophilia ring.

Her social media accounts have “liked” comments calling for the murder of Democratic politicians and she has claimed that several high-profile school shootings were staged.

In 2018, she theorised baselessly that California wildfires might have been ignited by a space laser controlled by a cabal, including the Rothschild banking firm.

She once said black people “are held slaves to the Democratic Party”, and that white males are the most repressed group in the US.

In a recently unearthed video recorded a few weeks after the February 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, Mrs Greene followed gun-control activist David Hogg, a survivor of the attack, as he visited senators at the US Capitol, peppering him with questions about why he wanted to confiscate her firearms.

A high-stakes showdown 

Analysis box by Anthony Zurcher, North America reporter

The Republican Party’s strategy for handling Marjorie Taylor Greene appears to hope that she eventually fades into the back benches of the House of Representatives, where most junior members of Congress languish for years.

The Democrats, however, seem unwilling to let that happen.

Their threat to strip Mrs Greene of her committee assignments is just the latest attempt by the Democratic House majority to force Republican minority leader Kevin McCarthy’s hand. The strategy is clear – either make Republicans own Mrs ,Greene’s extremist conspiracy theories to their political detriment, or distance themselves from her, risking a rift with the party’s Trumpist base.

Some Democrats may be uneasy with the vote to sanction Greene, though, given the precedent it would set. A future Republican majority in the House could very easily try a similar move against Democrats it believes deserve punishment.

The anger among Democrats over Mrs Greene’s conspiracy-mongering – particularly around high-profile school shootings – is very real, however.

It will be difficult for Mr McCarthy to act now and appear to give in to Democratic demands, particularly if Mrs Greene has former President Donald Trump’s backing.

It sets up a high-stakes showdown in the House at a time when partisan tensions in the chamber are already high.

Do Americans support President Biden on immigration?

President Joe Biden has made reforming US immigration policy one of his top priorities. On Friday he will flesh out his plan.

It comes after four years in which his predecessor Donald Trump pushed hard to curb the flow of illegal immigration into the country.

Mr Biden is already reversing and rolling back several Trump-era policies, including freezing construction of the border wall and revoking the policy to separate migrant families crossing the border.

He also plans to offer an eight-year pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently in the country.

We asked members of our BBC voter panel to weigh in on these actions. Here’s what they said:

Amira Landeros, 19, Texas

Amira lives in the border town of El Paso. Like many of her friends, she has felt the direct impact of recent US immigration policy: in 2016, her father was deported back to Mexico. 

Do you approve of President Biden halting construction of the border wall?

Finally! When Trump disclosed his plans for the border wall, I thought it was pointless. It stood for a system of white supremacy. It was a statue for Trump. I’m glad that Biden is stopping construction. I know what it’s like to grow up in a border city, with Juarez, Mexico, a few feet away. We are a proud Mexican city and we try to exemplify that in our culture and customs. The rhetoric divided people. There’s a fence, but there was no need for a wall. A lot of my friends – Mexicans and Mexican Americans – said they’d just get a ladder and climb over it. A wall wasn’t going to stop people looking for better opportunities.

Do you approve of the Biden administration retracting the ‘zero tolerance’ separation policy?

I’m glad that’s finally halted and it was much needed. Here in El Paso, a lot of us protested against the separation of families. Travelling to a different country and being forcibly separated has to be the worst experience. I can’t even imagine what these migrants are dealing with. I have a couple of friends who were born in the United States but whose families were deported, so I’ve seen firsthand their struggle of waking up every morning and crossing the border to go to school.

Do you approve of the Biden proposal that creates a pathway to citizenship for the undocumented?

I did not know he was going to do that, but I think it’s great. I have friends who aren’t able to go to school because of their citizenship and it takes years to get a green card or student visa. It took my grandmother 11 or 12 years to get her green card. So it is fantastic that the process is now going to be sped up. 

Gabriel Montalvo, 21, New York, Republican

Gabriel is a second-generation Ecuadorian American and a ‘Latino for Trump’. He is not a fan of President Biden’s proposals on immigration and fears there is an ulterior motive behind them.

Do you approve of President Biden halting construction of the border wall?

I’m not a fan of that. We were working towards having stronger border security and ensuring sovereignty for the US and our neighbours. When you deter people from coming, they’ll find better approaches rather than paying out to coyotes [smugglers]. When I was a Democrat, I was a strong believer in open borders, but looking at the legality of things, it isn’t fair. People have been waiting for years to get in legally, so they can prosper without fear of deportation or being sent away. It’s put in place so that you don’t have to rely on people that can potentially ruin your life, like the traffickers and the cartels. People are still coming here because they see opportunity. I find it very important that we not only recognise that but ensure that, when we send people back, they understand what they did wrong. They can’t fix their country of origin by coming here and sending money back because it will just encourage more people to do the same.

Do you approve of the Biden administration retracting the ‘zero tolerance’ separation policy?

From an altruistic and strictly human perspective, I can understand and feel for people who are nervous, worried or scared. From a legal perspective, people know they run that risk every day when they don’t take the necessary steps. Those rules are our rules. It’s a very sad thing to know you can leave your family to make a new life and – in the blink of an eye – you can be caught and separated from those people, in a completely strange place, potentially not speaking the language and not knowing what’ll happen to you. Do I think that it is necessarily the right thing? No, I would like to see the families at least have each other. I’m not a fan of the separation, but I can also understand why it was a deterrent.

Do you approve of the Biden proposal that creates a pathway to citizenship for the undocumented?

There certainly needs to be a thorough vetting process. As much as I can be upset about it, I think it’ll pass through the House and potentially the Senate, but I cannot emphasise enough how much people need to be vetted for what ties they might have and to whom. It’s not wrong to want to know who you have in your country and in your neighbourhood. The people who live around somebody I know are MS-13 gang members and they were going to kill a person in her front yard, and they were not illegal. This is not indicative of all immigrants by any means, but I’ve seen what people do when they do not have their papers. There needs to be measures taken against people who are trying to make a decent life here versus people who are actively breaking the law and taking advantage of our system. 

Bessy Clarke, 28, Louisiana, Democrat

Bessy was born in Honduras but migrated to the US legally as a child. She feels fortunate to be here but sympathises with the plight of the millions denied entry at the border.

Do you approve of President Biden halting construction of the border wall?

I’m happy to hear it. I always thought the border project was one of those promises Trump made just to appease his base. I never thought there was any real purpose considering that most people in the US illegally overstayed visas. With so many other issues, it was stupid for them to be funnelling so much money into a racist vanity project. I always said, if I wasn’t in the US now, I could see myself being young and willing to cross the border. I was just lucky.

Do you approve of the Biden administration retracting the ‘zero tolerance’ separation policy?

I’m happy Biden did that. I thought it was one of the cruellest and darkest chapters of the Trump administration. For people that prided themselves on being so pro-life to rejoice over literally separating children from their parents was so barbaric. Those detention centres were borderline concentration camps. I had a cousin in one of them and he said it was awful. He was sick for weeks and got no medical attention. He was crammed in a room with 20 men. It took ages for us to even track him down and we only found him by sheer luck. If we spent weeks trying to find him – a man in his 20s – I can’t imagine what it must be like to be alone as a child. 

Do you approve of the Biden proposal that creates a pathway to citizenship for the undocumented?

I think it’s great. A lot of these undocumented immigrants are already paying taxes, so I really don’t see a problem with giving them papers and allowing them to to work and contribute to the economy. A lot of people have been here for years, they haven’t done anything wrong and they’ve been honest, hard-working people. Undocumented immigrants are doing jobs like harvesting food and cleaning houses, jobs that no one wants to do. My mother came to this country – although legally – and did not speak any English, but 25 years later, she owns a massive housekeeping company. That’s the American Dream. Immigrants make this country great. And I would imagine there’s some kind of due process. If someone’s committed a crime or some kind of felony, they shouldn’t be allowed, but if someone has no criminal record other than illegally crossing the border, I think they deserve to stay.

Rom Solene, 59, Arizona, Republican

An Iranian migrant, Rom was a strong supporter of the Trump administration’s immigration policies. He says the policy changes under Biden will only encourage more illegal immigration.

Do you approve of President Biden halting construction of the border wall?

I’m against President Biden doing that. I think a wall is effective and I was all for President Trump building it. I forget what the budget estimate was for the wall, but it was a spit in the ocean when you look at the trillions in federal budget outlays. I was disappointed in the lack of progress but that’s only because Democrats were trying to hobble that effort every step of the way. There’s talk of high-tech alarms and drones, but at the end of the day, a physical wall stops people or slows them down. The classic example is politicians like Nancy Pelosi, who’s got this wall around her compound in the middle of San Francisco. If walls didn’t work, why do they have walls built around their homes?

Do you approve of the Biden administration retracting the ‘zero tolerance’ separation policy?

I viewed family separation as being unfortunate, but my personal perspective is that parents who bring their kids across the border put them at risk. Because they are dependent on coyotes [smugglers]. When the US government separates them for whatever reason, somehow the US is the bad guy. Where’s the parents’ responsibility in all of this? I understand the need to provide a better life for their children. I get it, but I don’t have a lot of empathy or sympathy for that situation. At least they should be thankful they’re being well fed and cared for, it’s not like the kids are being tossed out into the wild. To be honest, I wasn’t even aware of it under President Obama; I don’t remember hearing about it and he got a free pass. 

Do you approve of the Biden proposal that creates a pathway to citizenship for the undocumented?

If I knew this was going to be the last bite at the apple, I would support it, to lay this issue to rest once and for all. However, I know from past history that this will not be the last bite. A similar amnesty-type program was issued around 1986 when President Reagan was in office and I remember all the politicians who signed on said let’s clear the air and be done with it. And then it just built up again over the next 30-35 years, and here we are again. Where’s the end of the line? If President Biden would say this is absolutely the last time we’re doing it and we’re going to make sure this can’t be done again, I’d be all for it. But it’s not going to happen and my fear is we are going to end up in a situation where we have open borders.

China takes new foreign investment top spot from US

China has overtaken the US as the world’s top destination for new foreign direct investment, according to UN figures released on Sunday.

New investments into America from overseas companies fell by almost half last year, leading to the loss of its number one status.

In contrast, UN figures show direct investment into Chinese firms climbed 4%, putting it number one globally.

The top ranking shows China’s growing influence on the world economic stage.

China had $163bn (£119bn) in inflows last year, compared to $134bn attracted by the US, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) said in its report 

In 2019, the US received $251bn in new foreign direct investment while China received $140bn.

While China may be number one for new foreign investment, the US still dominates when it comes to total foreign investments. 

This reflects the decades it has spent as the most attractive location for foreign businesses looking to expand overseas.

But experts say the figures underline China’s move toward the centre of the global economy which has long been dominated by the US, the world’s biggest economy. 

China, currently involved in a trade war with the US, has been predicted to leapfrog it to the number one position by 2028, according to the UK-based Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR).

Trump slump

Foreign investment in the US peaked in 2016 at $472bn, when foreign investment in China was $134 billion.

Since then, investment in China has continued to rise, while in the US it has fallen each year since 2017.

The Trump administration encouraged American companies to leave China and re-establish operations in the US.

It also warned Chinese companies and investors that they would face new scrutiny when investing in America, based on national security grounds

While the US economy has been struggling since the Covid-19 outbreak last year, China’s economy has picked up speed.

China’s economic growth, measured in gross domestic product (GDP), grew 2.3% in 2020, official data showed this month. 

This makes China the only major economy in the world to avoid a contraction last year. Many economists have been surprised with the speed of its recovery, especially as it navigated tense relations with the US.

Overall, global foreign direct investment (FDI) dropped dramatically in 2020, falling by 42%, according to the UNCTAD report. FDI normally involves one company taking control of an overseas one, typically through a merger or acquisition.

The UK saw a fall of more than 100% in new foreign direct investment last year from $45bn in 2019 down to -$1.3bn.

What next for Trump and “Trumpism”?: Stripped of Presidential powers and silent online

Donald Trump boarded Air Force One for the last time on Wednesday with a wave. As Frank Sinatra’s My Way blared over the loudspeakers at Joint Base Andrews, the soon-to-be-ex-president took off for his new home in Florida.

Although he had just finished promising a small gathering of supporters that he would be back “in some form”, the future for Trump – and the political movement he rode to victory in 2016 – is murky.

Just two months ago, he seemed poised to be a powerful force in American politics even after his November defeat. He was still beloved by Republicans, feared and respected by the party’s politicians and viewed positively by nearly half of Americans, according to public opinion surveys.

Then Trump spent two months trafficking in unsubstantiated allegations of electoral fraud, feuded with party officials in battleground states, unsuccessfully campaigned for two Republican incumbent senators in Georgia’s run-off elections and instigated a crowd of supporters that would turn into a mob that attacked the US Capitol.

He’s been impeached (again) by a bipartisan vote in the House of Representatives and could, if convicted in the Senate, be permanently banned from running for public office.

Over his five-year career in politics, Trump has wriggled free from political predicaments that would sink most others. He has been declared dead more times than Freddy Krueger. Yet he always seemed unsinkable; a submarine in a world of rowing boats.

Until now.

Stripped of his presidential powers and silenced by social media, he faces daunting challenges, both legal and financial. Can he still plot a successful political comeback? Will a Mar-a-Lago exile be his Elba or St Helena? And who might the tens of millions of Americans who supported him turn to instead?

A solid Maga base

In the days following the US Capitol riot, Trump’s overall public approval rating precipitously dropped to the mid-30s – some of the lowest of his entire presidency. At first blush, the numbers would indicate that his future political prospects have been mortally wounded.

Trump speaks before boarding Air Force One for the last time

A deeper dive, however, paints a less dire picture for the ex-president. While Democrats, independents and some moderate Republicans are against him, his Republican base appears to be intact.

“I don’t think what we’re seeing suggests he loses political relevance and resonance,” says Clifford Young, president of US public affairs at the public opinion company Ipsos. “Anyone who says that is kidding themselves. He still has a significant base.”

Many Trump supporters fully believe Trump’s assertion that the election was stolen by Democrats, and Republicans, across multiple states. They’ve seen reports in fringe conservative media that the attack on the Capitol was instigated by antifa leftists and dismiss the preponderance of evidence that has led to the arrest of numerous right-wing militants and pro-Trump activists.

Gary Keiffer is a 67-year-old former Democrat from Beckley, West Virginia, who voted for Trump in 2016 and 2020. He says the ex-president was right to raise questions about the election, he suspects left-wing activists were behind the Capitol attack, he still fully supports the ex-president, and he hopes he’ll run again in four years.

“He did so much for our country,” Keiffer says. “I’ve never seen a president do as much as he has done and lose an election – and he didn’t lose an election.”

Trump may have a lot of problems, but the loyalty of his base – the folks who go to the rallies and buy Maga flags and signs – isn’t one.

The party divides

Donald Trump ran for president as an outsider challenging the Republican establishment. His own party’s leaders and rivals for the presidential nomination were as much a part of what he derisively referred to as “the swamp” as the Democrats.

With his victory, he became the Republican establishment – and all but the most recalcitrant never-Trumpers eventually bent to his will.

They bent, according to Liam Donovan, a Republican lobbyist and former Senate campaign strategist, because that’s where the party membership took them. Trump appointed top party officials, like Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel. And at the state and local level, Republican Party officials are Trump true believers.

“The state party leaders are the activists, not the elite,” says Donovan. “The rank and file are hardcore Republicans, and hardcore Republicans are hardcore Trump people. He has absolutely converted them.”

When controversies came – the violence following a white nationalist march in Virginia, recordings of immigrant children crying because of the administration’s family separation policy, the use of teargas and brute force on Black Lives Matter protesters near the White House, the impeachment over pressuring Ukraine’s president for political help and any number of intemperate tweets – the standard response from Republican politicians was to hunker down and wait for the storm to pass.

In the final weeks of Trump’s presidency, however, cracks have begun to show.

President Donald Trump speaks with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (left)
image captionPresident Donald Trump speaks with Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (left)

Before a pro-Trump mob stormed the US Capitol on 6 January, then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell warned the president’s efforts to undermine confidence in the 2020 presidential election results threatened to put American democracy into a “death spiral”. After the violence, his aides indicated that he was “pleased” with efforts in the House of Representatives to impeach the president for inciting the insurrection – a vote that 10 Republicans, including a member of the Republican leadership, broke party ranks to support.

Earlier this week McConnell made his most direct comments on the riot, saying that the mob was “fed lies” and “provoked” by Trump and other powerful people.

McConnell’s moves are the clearest sign that at least some Republicans are looking to put daylight between the party and Trump.

Others, however – such as the 138 House Republicans who voted to challenge the results of Pennsylvania’s presidential vote after the Capitol Hill riot or the 197 who voted against Trump’s impeachment – are sticking with the ex-president.

“President Trump is still the leader of the Republican Party and the America First movement,” Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz of Florida, a loyal Trump supporter, tweeted on Thursday.

If anything, Donovan says, Republicans in the House better reflect the party’s centre of gravity given that, unlike the Senate, they have to stand for election every two years. If McConnell and the Republican top leadership want to make a clean break with Trump, it could tear the party apart.

A corporate revolt

For decades, the Republican Party has operated as a fusion between social conservatives and business interests. The latter appreciated the party’s advocacy of lower taxes and reduced regulation, and tolerated the former’s support for abortion bans, religious freedom initiatives, gun rights and other hot-button cultural issues.

Trump’s presidency, and his efforts to expand the Republican coalition to include working-class whites through anti-immigration and anti-trade policies, have put pressure on this alliance. In 2018, suburbanites – the kind of people who work at and run those pro-Republican businesses – trended toward the Democrats.

Then, after the Capitol Hill riot, the dam broke. A slew of big companies – including Walmart, JPMorganChase, AT&T, Comcast and Amazon – announced they were either suspending their political donations or withdrawing support specifically from Republican politicians who supported Trump’s challenge to the presidential election results.

Presentational grey line

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Big business could, once the political waters calm, return to its normal giving patterns, says Donovan, or it could decide that their interests no longer clearly align with a Republican Party beholden to Trump.

“This has been a long time coming,” Donovan says. “We’re past the point where business is going to cast their lot exclusively with Republicans.”

Corporate contributions make up only part of the Republican Party’s funding, but the speed and severity of the move caught many conservatives off-guard. And the latest moves might instigate further efforts by the party leaders – the ones who pay attention to the dollars and where they come from – to reject Trump’s policies and his style of politics.

The evangelical bargain

If the corporate wing of the Republican Party is contemplating a break with Trumpism, social conservatives may not be far behind. The strong evangelical backing for a man with two divorces, multiple affair allegations and intemperate personality always seemed counterintuitive, but religious conservatives stuck by the president in 2020 even when the moderate suburbanites peeled off.

Part of it can be explained by Trump’s ability to fill more than 200 federal court vacancies, including three Supreme Court seats, over the course of his four years. His selection of one of their own, Mike Pence, as vice-president also helped. Policy wise, the Trump administration advanced a social agenda that was also popular with Christian conservatives. It fought against religious limitations in courts and adjusted regulations, such as contraceptive care mandates in federal healthcare law, in their favour. 

Attendees pray together before President Donald Trump addresses the crowd at the King Jesus International Ministry during a "Evangelicals for Trump" rally in Miami
image captionAttendees pray at a January 2020 Evangelicals for Trump rally in Florida

With Trump out of power, however, some evangelicals may be rethinking their support of Trump and his political agenda.

“We worship the magi, not Maga,” headlined a piece in Christianity Today by Anglican minister Tish Harrison Warren.

“The violence wrought by Trump supporters storming the Capitol is anti-epiphany,” she writes. “It is dark and based in untruth. The symbols of faith – Jesus’ name, cross, and message – have been co-opted to serve the cultish end of Trumpism.”

She goes on to blame religious leaders in the US for allowing their desire for political power to cloud their moral compass – and said a reckoning within the religious community is near.

Deeana Lusk, a legal assistant from Derby, Kansas, says faith is important in her voting and Trump wasn’t her first pick in the 2016 Republican primaries. Still, she voted for him in the general election that year and in 2020.

She says she won’t give a lot of weight to Trump’s endorsements and advocacy going forward, however, and if Trump decides to run again she’ll definitely shop around for other possibilities.

“The truth of the matter is no one’s perfect,” she says. “However, there are thousands of candidates out there who would support religious freedom, and I think ultimately we are going to be looking for that candidate.”

Life without Trump

There is, of course, the possibility that Trump – despite his protestations and promises – fades from the political scene. Talk of new political parties, new media empires and new presidential campaigns could subside.

Or, perhaps at least 17 Republicans in the Senate could join the 50 Democrats in convicting the ex-president of his insurrection impeachment charges and banning him from public office. Such an outcome is not outside the realm of possibility.

Even if he survives impeachment, Trump faces some very real legal challenges. New York prosecutors are investigating his payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels. Georgia is looking into his phone call pressuring Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find votes” in the November election. And federal prosecutors might review his words and actions prior to the attack on the Capitol.

He also will have his hands full keeping his business empire afloat, as it faces declining revenue due to the coronavirus pandemic and a tarnished brand. Trump’s company owes hundreds of thousands of dollars in loans due in the next few years and Deutsche Bank, his most reliable lender, recently dropped him as a client.

Trump International hotel in DC

A political revival, in other words, could be a low priority in the days ahead. At that point, Trump the man, would become separated from Trumpism as a movement.

“I think it would relegate him again to the status of a celebrity and media elite with opinions on politics,” says Lauren Wright, a political scientist at Princeton University.

She adds that it might be difficult for another Republican to pick up Trump’s political mantle and carry it forward.

“I think what makes Trump distinct is not the policy message, it’s the way it’s packaged, and that comes from an entertainment skill set, and that comes from a showbusiness background,” she says. “A traditional politician cannot perform in the same way.”

For Trumpism to be a success, Republicans will have to find another celebrity – or go back to the traditional Republican values of earlier candidates like Mitt Romney and John McCain.

Donovan isn’t so sure Republicans can – or even will want to – turn back the clock.

“What Trump proved is being a slave to whatever conservative orthodoxy says is not necessary or even necessarily advantageous,” he says.

Trump speaks at rally

Trump ran against free trade, open immigration and an aggressive foreign policy, and was an ardent critic of cutting Social Security. Other Republican politicians might decide Trump has proven that heterodoxy isn’t so risky.

“A lot of people are playing with different things Trump has done,” he says, “but I don’t think anyone has figured it out yet.”

They may not have to figure it out, however. Even after all the events of recent days, Donald Trump may not be done yet.

Biden gets to work on reversing Trump policies with executive orders

US President Joe Biden has begun to undo some of Donald Trump’s key policies, hours after being sworn in.

“There is no time to waste when it comes to tackling the crises we face,” he tweeted as he headed to the White House following his inauguration.

President Biden signed executive orders aimed at boosting the federal response to the coronavirus crisis.

Other moves will reverse the previous administration’s stance on climate change, immigration and race relations.

President Biden “will take action – not just to reverse the gravest damages of the Trump administration – but also to start moving our country forward,” a statement detailing the orders said. 

So, what are some of the standout orders?

Coronavirus pandemic

Mr Biden is to enact a range of measures to help tackle Covid-19, which has claimed more than 400,000 lives in the US. The president’s executive orders will:

  • Cease action to withdraw from the World Health Organization (WHO). Virus expert Dr Anthony Fauci is set to participate in a WHO international executive board meeting this week on behalf of the US
  • Centralise the national Covid-19 response in a move to co-ordinate the distribution of protective equipment, vaccines and tests
  • Require masks and distancing on all federal property
  • Launch a “100 Days Masking Challenge” asking people to mask up for 100 days

The climate crisis

File image of nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania

Mr Biden seeks to undo some of his predecessor’s controversial orders relating to environmental policy by:

  • Rejoining the 2015 Paris climate agreement, from which Mr Trump formally withdrew the US last year
  • Cancelling the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline, which environmentalists and Native American groups have fought for more than a decade.

Immigration

The president has vowed to:

  • Revoke Mr Trump’s so-called Muslim ban, that restricted entry into the country from some primarily Muslim countries
  • Stop the construction of the Mexican border wall
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This is the (relatively) easy part

Joe Biden and his presidential team have had nearly three months to plan out his first actions upon taking the oath of office. Donald Trump had used his executive authority broadly, to advance large swaths of his political agenda, so how – and when – Biden would begin undoing those actions would have particular importance.

Analysis box by Anthony Zurcher, North America reporter

It didn’t take long for the newly inaugurated president to show his hand. He targeted, in particular, some of the most controversial portions of Trump’s agenda. The Biden administration also will freeze all of Trump’s last-minute regulations pending further review. 

Executive action is the (relatively) easy part, however. For Biden to make lasting change – policies that can’t be undone by future presidents – he will have to work with Congress to pass legislation on issues like pandemic relief, citizenship for undocumented migrants, healthcare reform and voting-rights protections.

He also declined, for now, to take other executive actions, like cancelling student loan debt, lifting Mr Trump’s trade restrictions or enacting new criminal justice measures.

With Democrats in control in the House of Representatives and Senate, Biden has a window for accomplishments, although it will require surmounting Republican procedural obstacles and keeping his party in line. The president’s decades of experience as a legislator could come in useful.

Big Tech: The role of social media in US Capitol riots

Social network executives have been grilled by MPs on the role their platforms played in recent events in Washington which saw a mob break into Congress.

US Elections protest: Jacob Chansley (C) with other Pro-Trump supporters, as they demonstrate ouside Senate Chamber at the U.S. Capitol after breaching security, January 6th 2021
image captionJacob Chansley (C), also known as the QAnon Shaman, has been charged over the US Capitol riots

All said that they needed to do more to monitor extremist groups and content such as conspiracy theories.

But none had any radical new policies to offer.

The government has recently set out tough new rules for how social media firms moderate content.

Facebook said it had removed 30,000 pages, events and groups related to what it called “militarised social movements” since last summer.

“We have a 24-hour operation centre where we are looking for content from groups… of citizens who might use militia-style language,” said Facebook’s vice president of global policy management, Monika Bickert.

She added: “We had teams that in the weeks leading up to the [events in Washington] were focused on understanding what was being planned and if it could be something that would turn into violence. We were in touch with law enforcement.”

Despite its efforts, half of all designated white supremacist groups had a presence on Facebook last year according to a study from the watchdog Tech Transparency Project.

Julian Knight MP, who chairs the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee, which is also scrutinising the big tech firms, asked Google’s global director of information policy Derek Slater what it was doing to fight conspiracy theories.

“Do you think that it would be wise for you to adopt a new policy where you kept money on your platforms in escrow prior to its distribution so that any cause in which disinformation to found to have taken place… you could perhaps withhold that money?” he asked.

Mr Slater replied that it was an “interesting idea” and that Google was always “re-evaluating its policies”, but he made no commitment to the idea.

trump shhh

MPs also quizzed Twitter on its decision to permanently ban President Donald Trump.

The firm’s head of public policy strategy Nick Pickles was asked if doing so undermined its insistence that it was a platform rather than a publisher.

It was, he said, time to “move beyond” that debate to a conversation about whether social networks were enforcing their own rules correctly.

Questioned why it had banned Mr Trump while still allowing other politicians to “sabre-rattle” on its platform, Mr Pickles added: “This is the complexity and challenge of these issues but generally content moderation is not a good way to hold governments to account.”

Mr Trump’s tweets were inciting violence “in real-time”, he added.

TikTok’s director of government relations Theo Bertram said that the video-streaming app had played less of a role in the violence in Washington and hosted fewer banned groups.

But that view was challenged by Yvette Cooper, the chair of the Home Affairs Committee.

It was, she said, in contrast to the Anti-Defamation League which found a significant amount of anti-Semitic content on the platform when it studied it last summer.