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US judge blocks federal agents from arresting Portland observers | News

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A federal judge specifically blocked United States federalagents from arresting or using physical force against journalists and legal observers at protests in Oregon’s largest city where President Donald Trump is testing the limits of federal power.

Federal agents appeared to deploy tear gas early on Friday to force thousands of demonstrators from crowding around the federal court building.

Protesters had projected lasers on the building and attempted to take down a security fence that had been reinforced to keep demonstrators at a distance. The protesters moved away as clouds of gas rose from the area and flash grenades could be heard.

US Judge Michael Simon made his ruling late on Thursday, a day after Portland’s mayor was tear-gassed by federal agents while making an appearance outside a federal court during raucous demonstrations. Protesters have been kept up in the city for nearly two months since George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis.

Feds Attempt To Intervene After Weeks Of Violent Protests In Portland

Protesters using umbrellas to block pepper balls while clashing with federal officers outside the Mark O Hatfield Courthouse in Portland, Oregon [Nathan Howard/Getty Images/AFP]

Simon had previously ruled that journalists and legal observers are exempt from police orders requiring protesters to disperse once an unlawful assembly has been declared. Federal lawyers intervened, saying journalists should have to leave when ordered.

“This order is a victory for the rule of law,” Jann Carson, ACLU of Oregon’s interim executive director, said in a statement.

The judge said objections by law enforcement were outweighed by First Amendment concerns.

“None of the government’s proffered interests outweigh the public’s interest in accurate and timely information about how law enforcement is treating” protesters, he wrote.

Simon’s order is in effect for 14 days. Journalists and observers must wear clear identification, he said. A freelance photographer covering the protests for The Associated Press news agency submitted an affidavit that he was beaten with batons and hit with chemical irritants and rubber bullets this week.

The ACLU lawsuit is one of several filed in response to law enforcement actions during the protests. The state of Oregon is seeking an order limiting federal agents’ arrest powers during the demonstrations.

On Wednesday, Mayor Ted Wheeler and hundreds of others were objecting to the presence of federal police sent by Trump, who labelled the demonstrators as “agitators & anarchists” after Wheeler was tear-gassed.

Wheeler, a Democrat, appeared slightly dazed and coughed and said it was the first time he had been tear-gassed.

He put on a pair of goggles someone handed him and drank water but did not leave his spot at the front of the raging demonstration – with protesters lighting a large fire between protective fencing and the Mark O Hatfield Federal Courthouse amid the sounds of the federal agents deploying tear gas and stun grenades into the crowd.

Ted Wheeler

Portland’s Mayor Ted Wheeler taking part in a protest against racial inequality and police violence in Portland, Oregon, US [Caitlin Ochs/Reuters]

It was not immediately clear if the agents knew that Wheeler, a 57-year-old sixth-generation Oregonian and longtime politician, was in the crowd when they used the tear gas.

Wheeler has opposed the federal agents’ presence but has also faced harsh criticism from the protesters, who yelled and swore at him.

Earlier in the night, Wheeler was mostly jeered by protesters as he tried to rally the demonstrators who have clashed nightly with federal agents. But they briefly applauded when he shouted “Black Lives Matter” and pumped his fist in the air.

Trump in his tweet attempted to ridicule Wheeler, calling him the “Radical Left Mayor of Portland, who last night was booed & shouted out of existence by the agitators & anarchists”.

The Justice Department’s inspector general said on Thursday it will review the conduct of federal agents who responded to unrest in Portland and in Washington, DC after concerns emerged from members of Congress and the public.

City council members accused Wheeler of not reining in the police who used tear gas multiple times on protesters before federal agents arrived. And city business leaders have condemned the mayor for not bringing the situation under control before the agents showed up.

Department of Homeland Security acting Secretary Chad Wolf denied that federal agents were inflaming the situation. He told CBS This Morning Wheeler legitimised criminality by going to the front of the crowd of demonstrators where the fires were lit and where people were trying to pull down a security fence.

Wheeler did not participate in lighting any of the fires or attempting to tear down the fence and was surrounded by his security team when he was tear-gassed.

Police said the crowd threw Molotov cocktails, lit fires in a park and in rubbish bins and released hundreds of gallons of water from fire hydrants.

Wheeler’s appearance in the protest zone came hours after state attorneys for Oregon urged another judge to issue a restraining order against the federal agents. Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum’s lawsuit accuses federal agents of arresting protesters without probable cause, whisking them away in unmarked cars and using excessive force. Federal authorities have disputed those allegations.

The hearing in US District Judge Michael Mosman’s court focused on the actions of the more than 100 federal agents responding to protests outside the Portland court.

The state’s motion asks Mosman to command agents from the Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection, Federal Protective Service and US Marshals Service to immediately stop detaining protesters without probable cause, to identify themselves and their agency before arresting anyone, and to explain why an arrest is taking place.



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US House delivers Trump impeachment article to Senate | Politics News

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The US House of Representatives has presented its article of impeachment against Donald Trump to the Senate, a step that formally sets in motion the Senate trial against the former United States president.

Walking from one side of the US Capitol to the other, nine House managers appointed by Speaker Nancy Pelosi hand-delivered the impeachment document to the Senate on Monday evening.

The article charged Trump with “incitement of insurrection” in relation to the deadly storming on January 6 of the US Capitol building in Washington, DC by a mob of his supporters.

The House impeached Trump on January 13 on the same charge – making him the first president in US history to be impeached twice.

Monday’s formal step kickstarts the trial phase of the impeachment process, in which all 100 senators will sit as jurors to hear evidence and legal arguments from House managers, who act as prosecutors in the case, and the former president’s defence team.

To be convicted, the Senate must secure a two-thirds majority on the impeachment charge.

If that happens, a subsequent vote could bar Trump from running for public office again in the future.

Trial to start in February

Senate Democratic and Republican leaders have agreed on a timeline for the trial, which is expected to begin during the week of February 8.

“Both the House managers and the former president’s counsel will have a period of time to draft their legal briefs, just as they did in previous trials,” Senate leader Chuck Schumer said in remarks to the chamber on Monday.

“Once the briefs are drafted, presentations by the parties will commence the week of February 8th,” he said.

Senators will be sworn in as jurors on Wednesday and a summons will be sent by the Senate to the former president, requiring him to answer the article of impeachment.

Trump has been initially defiant amid accusations he incited the Capitol mob in a speech he gave before the breach and in repeated false claims that the presidential election had been stolen from him.

Before the House vote to impeach him, Trump had said his speech to the January 6 rally of his supporters was “totally appropriate”.

Senator Patrick Leahy, the president pro tempore of the Senate, will preside over former President Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial [Joshua Roberts/Reuters]

Senator Patrick Leahy, a senior Democrat who holds the title of president pro tempore of the Senate, will preside over the trial instead of Supreme Court Justice John Roberts.

“When presiding over an impeachment trial, the president pro tem takes an additional oath to do impartial justice according to the Constitution and the laws,” Leahy said in a statement.

“It is an oath I take extraordinarily seriously,” he said.

Republicans divided

Republicans are divided over the impeachment, with some senators saying Trump should be held accountable for the Capitol riot and others fearing a conviction of the former Republican president could be damaging for the party.

Some Republican legislators have argued that holding an impeachment trial after Trump has left office is unconstitutional – a claim that has been rejected by Democrats and some US experts.

Al Jazeera’s Heidi Zhou-Castro, reporting from Washington, DC, said on Monday that some Republicans have also said the trial could further divide the country.

“Democrats, to counter that, have said that in order to get to unity, as everyone is calling for, first there must be accountability,” Zhou-Castro said.

“And they’re saying that if Trump were to indeed be guilty of inciting insurrection and simply leave office and not be held accountable, then that would set a dangerous precedent.”

Democrats will need to get more than a dozen Republicans to vote in favour of impeachment to get a conviction, as Democrats only have a slim majority in the chamber.

Trial timeline, procedure

House managers and Trump’s defence team will exchange legal briefs in the days leading up to the start of the trial.

The nine House managers will be led in the trial by Representative Jamie Raskin, a constitutional scholar and leading advocate in the House for charging Trump with insurrection after the January 6 attacks.

The House managers have retained lawyers Barry Berke and Joshua Matz to help support their prosecution of the case.

Both Berke and Matz participated in the first Senate impeachment trial against Trump in 2020, which involved charges of abuse of power and obstruction of justice for his attempts to pressure the government of Ukraine.

Pro-Trump protesters stormed the US Capitol on January 6 [File: Shannon Stapleton/Reuters]

For his part, Trump has retained Butch Bowers of South Carolina, an experienced trial lawyer who has previously represented politicians.

House managers will have until February 2 to file their pre-trial brief laying out the case for conviction. Trump’s defence counsel will have the same deadline to respond to the charge, the Reuters news agency reported.

February 8 is the next deadline for Trump’s legal team to file a response to the House brief, and for the House managers to file a response to the president’s answer to the article of impeachment.



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