Trump rings in 2023 facing headwinds in his White House run
WASHINGTON (AP) — Donald Trump began 2022 on a high. Primary candidates were flocking to Florida to court the former president for a coveted endorsement. His rallies were drawing thousands. A bevy of investigations remained largely under the radar.
One year later, Trump is facing a very different reality.
He is mired in criminal investigations that could end with indictments. He has been blamed for Republicans’ disappointing performance in the November elections. And while he is now a declared presidential candidate, the six weeks since he announced have been marked by self-inflicted crises. Trump has not held a single campaign event and he barely leaves the confines of his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida.
Instead of staving off challengers, his potential 2024 rivals appear ever more emboldened. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, fresh off a resounding reelection victory, increasingly is seen as Trump’s most formidable competition.
Trump’s subdued campaign announcement has left even former stalwarts wondering whether he is serious about another run for the White House.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI body lying in state at Vatican
VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI ‘s body, his head resting on a pair of crimson pillows, lay in state in St. Peter’s Basilica on Monday as thousands of people filed by to pay tribute to the pontiff who shocked the world by retiring a decade ago.
As daylight broke, 10 white-gloved Papal Gentlemen — lay assistants to pontiffs and papal households — carried the body on a cloth-covered wooden stretcher after its arrival at the basilica to its resting place in front of the main altar under Bernini’s towering bronze canopy.
A Swiss Guard had saluted as the body was brought in via a side door after Benedict’s remains, placed in a van, were transferred from the chapel of the monastery grounds where the increasingly frail, 95-year-old former pontiff had passed away on Saturday morning.
His longtime secretary, Archbishop Georg Gaenswein, and a handful of consecrated laywomen who served in Benedict’s household, followed the van by foot in a silent procession toward the basilica. Some of the women stretched out a hand to touch the body with respect.
Before the rank-and-file faithful were allowed into the basilica, prayers were intoned and a small cloud of incense was released near the body, its hands clasped on its chest.
Benedict’s 2013 resignation shook a routine Vatican ceremony
VATICAN CITY (AP) — Veteran reporter Giovanna Chirri was starting to doze off in the Vatican press room on a slow holiday when all of a sudden the Latin she learned in high school made her perk up — and gave her the scoop of a lifetime.
It was Feb. 11, 2013, and Chirri was watching closed-circuit television coverage of Pope Benedict XVI presiding over a pro-forma meeting of cardinals to set dates for three upcoming canonizations.
But at the end of the ceremony, rather than stand up and leave the Consistory Hall of the Apostolic Palace, Benedict remained seated, took out a single sheet of paper and began to read.
“I have convoked you to this consistory, not only for the three canonizations, but also to communicate to you a decision of great importance for the life of the Church,” Benedict said quietly in his German-clipped Latin.
Chirri followed along but only began to realize the import of what was unfolding when she heard Benedict then utter the words “ingravescente aetate.” The term is Latin for “advanced age,” and is the title of a 1970 Vatican regulation requiring bishops to retire when they turn 75.
Russia presses its Ukraine strategy, fires 40 drones at Kyiv
KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russia deployed multiple exploding drones in another nighttime attack on Ukraine, officials said Monday, as the Kremlin signaled no letup in its strategy of using bombardments to target civilian infrastructure and wear down Ukrainian resistance to its invasion.
The barrage was the latest in a series of relentless year-end attacks, including one that killed three civilians on New Year’s Eve.
Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said Monday that 40 drones “headed for Kyiv” overnight. All of them were destroyed, according to air defense forces.
Klitschko said 22 drones were destroyed over Kyiv, three in the outlying Kyiv region and 15 over neighboring provinces.
Energy infrastructure facilities were damaged as the result of the attack and an explosion occurred in one city district, the mayor said. It wasn’t immediately clear whether that was caused by drones or other munitions. A wounded 19-year-old man was hospitalized, Klitschko added, and emergency power outages were underway in the capital.
Santos should consider resigning, veteran GOP lawmaker says
WASHINGTON (AP) — Even as the House GOP leadership keeps silent, a veteran Republican lawmaker said Sunday that George Santos should consider resigning after the congressman-elect from New York admitted to lying about his heritage, education and professional career.
Texas Rep. Kevin Brady, a former House Ways and Means chairman who has served in Congress for 25 years, told “Fox News Sunday” that Santos would have “to take some huge steps” to regain trust and respect in his district. Santos is set to be sworn in Tuesday when the new Congress begins.
“This is troubling in so many ways. Certainly, he’s lied repeatedly,” said Brady, who is retiring from the House. “He certainly is going to have to consider resigning.” Brady said a decision about whether Santos steps down is one “to be made between he and the voters who elected him.”
In November, Santos, 34, was elected in the 3rd Congressional District, which includes some Long Island suburbs and a small part of the New York City borough of Queens. He became the first non-incumbent, openly gay Republican to win a seat to Congress. But weeks after helping Republicans secure their razor-thin House majority, Santos is now under investigation for fabricating large swaths of his biography. His campaign spending is also being scrutinized.
He has shown no signs of stepping aside. Last week, Santos was asked on Fox News about the “blatant lies” and responded that he had “made a mistake.”
Biden’s new year pitch focuses on benefits of bipartisanship
CHRISTIANSTED, U.S. Virgin Islands (AP) — President Joe Biden and top administration officials will open a new year of divided government by fanning out across the country to talk about how the economy is benefiting from his work with Democrats and Republicans.
As part of the pitch, Biden and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell will make a rare joint appearance in McConnell’s home state of Kentucky on Wednesday to highlight nearly $1 trillion in infrastructure spending that lawmakers approved on a bipartisan basis in 2021.
The Democratic president will also be joined by a bipartisan group of elected officials when he visits the Kentucky side of the Cincinnati area, including Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear of Kentucky and Republican Gov. Mike DeWine of Ohio, the White House said.
Biden’s bipartisanship blitz was announced two days before Republicans retake control of the House from Democrats on Tuesday following GOP gains in the November elections. The shift ends unified political control of Congress by Democrats and complicates Biden’s future legislative agenda. Democrats will remain in charge in the Senate.
Before he departed Washington for vacation at the end of last year, Biden appealed for less partisanship, saying he hoped everyone will see each other “not as Democrats or Republicans, not as members of ‘Team Red’ or ‘Team Blue,’ but as who we really are, fellow Americans.”
Brazil’s Lula sworn in, vows accountability and rebuilding
BRASILIA, Brazil (AP) — Brazil’s Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was sworn in as president on Sunday, and in his first address expressed optimism about plans to rebuild while pledging that members of outgoing Jair Bolsonaro’s administration will be held to account.
Lula is assuming office for the third time after thwarting far-right incumbent Bolsonaro’s reelection bid. His return to power marks the culmination of a political comeback that is thrilling supporters and enraging opponents in a fiercely polarized nation.
“Our message to Brazil is one of hope and reconstruction,” Lula said in a speech in Congress’ Lower House after signing the document that formally instates him as president. “The great edifice of rights, sovereignty and development that this nation built has been systematically demolished in recent years. To re-erect this edifice, we are going to direct all our efforts.”
Sunday afternoon in Brasilia’s main esplanade, the party was on. Tens of thousands of supporters decked out in the red of Lula’s Workers’ Party cheered after his swearing in.
They celebrated when the president said he would send a report about the prior administration to all lawmakers and judicial authorities, revoke Bolsonaro’s “criminal decrees” that loosened gun control, and hold the prior administration responsible for its denialism in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Macao eases COVID rules, but tourism, casinos yet to rebound
MACAO (AP) — Only a few tourists crisscrossed the wavy black and white paving of Macao’s historic Senado Square on a recent weekday and many of the shops were shuttered.
The gaming hub on China’s south coast near Hong Kong has endured some of the world’s strictest anti-virus controls for nearly three years, and a loosening of border restrictions after China rolled back its “zero-COVID” strategy in early December is widely expected to boost its tourism-driven economy.
But for now, China’s worst wave of infections so far is keeping away the hoards of high rollers who usually fill its casinos. From Dec. 23-27, the city saw a daily average of only 8,300 arrivals, according to police data. That’s just 68% of November’s level. The scene improved on New Year’s Eve with 28,100 visitors entering the city that day, but that’s only 66% of the level a year ago. The daily average was 108,000 in 2019, before the pandemic.
Last week, China announced it would resume issuing passports for tourism, potentially setting up a flood of Chinese going abroad, but also spicing up competition for Macao.
Businesses are hoping the Lunar New Year holidays in late January will bring better luck for the territory of 672,000 people, a former Portuguese colony and the only place in China where casinos are legal.
Democrat Katie Hobbs to take office as Arizona governor
PHOENIX (AP) — Katie Hobbs takes the oath of office Monday to become Arizona’s 24th governor and the first Democrat to hold the office since 2009.
Power will transfer in a private ceremony at the state Capitol as Hobbs formally takes over from Republican Doug Ducey. A public inauguration for Hobbs and others taking statewide offices is scheduled for Thursday.
Hobbs is the outgoing secretary of state and was previously a state legislator who rose to be the top Democrat in the Senate. As governor, she’ll have to work with a House and Senate narrowly controlled by Republicans. The new Legislature convenes for the first time next week.
Hobbs assumes control of a state with a strong economy and a solid financial position, with a large budget surplus forecast for the next fiscal year.
But there are headwinds on the horizon. Phoenix has some of the nation’s highest inflation levels and housing costs have soared as rapid population growth has outpaced home construction, belying the state’s reputation for affordability. And the water supply is constrained by drought.
Evacuation warnings amid flooding after California storm
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Residents of a Northern California community were ordered to evacuate ahead of imminent flooding, and evacuation warnings were in place elsewhere in rural parts of the region on New Year’s Day after a powerful storm brought drenching rain or heavy snowfall to much of the state, breaching levees, snarling traffic and closing major highways.
Even after the storm moved through, major flooding occurred in agricultural areas about 20 miles (32 kilometers) south of Sacramento, where rivers swelled beyond their banks and inundated dozens of cars along State Route 99.
Emergency crews rescued motorists on New Year’s Eve into Sunday morning and the highway remained closed. Crews on Sunday found one person dead inside a submerged vehicle near Route 99, Dan Quiggle, deputy fire chief for operations for Cosumnes Community Service District Fire Department, told The Sacramento Bee.
Sacramento County authorities issued an evacuation order late Sunday for residents of the low-lying community of Point Pleasant near Interstate 5, citing imminent and dangerous flooding. Residents of the nearby communities of Glanville Tract and Franklin Pond were told to prepare to leave before more roadways are cut off by rising water and evacuation becomes impossible.
“It is expected that the flooding from the Cosumnes River and the Mokelumne River is moving southwest toward I-5 and could reach these areas in the middle of the night,” the Sacramento County Office of Emergency Services said earlier on Twitter Sunday afternoon. “Livestock in the affected areas should be moved to higher ground.”