Jan. 6 panel refers Trump for criminal prosecution
The House committee investigating the attack on the Capitol accused Donald Trump of inciting insurrection, conspiracy to defraud the U.S. and two other federal crimes. The panel recommended that he face criminal charges — the first time in U.S. history that Congress has referred a former president for criminal prosecution.
The committee’s referrals do not carry legal weight or compel the Justice Department to take any action. The charges would carry lengthy prison sentences, if federal prosecutors chose to pursue them and he were convicted. The panel also referred five of Trump’s allies to the Justice Department for prosecution, including Mark Meadows, his final chief of staff, and Rudy Giuliani, one of his lawyers.
In an executive summary from its final report into the Capitol attack, the committee singled out Trump as the primary cause of the mob violence. “None of the events of January 6th would have happened without him,” the the bipartisan panel wrote. It detailed his relentless drive to remain in power after he had lost the 2020 election, and it identified co-conspirators. The full report is expected tomorrow.
More headaches: For Trump, the coming week will be among the most consequential of his political career. Another House committee will meet today to discuss whether to release Trump’s tax returns. The events shine a spotlight on Trump’s refusal to cede power and on a subject he has guarded for decades: the actual size of his personal wealth and his sources of income.
China’s pandemic U-turn
After micromanaging the coronavirus strategy for nearly three years, China’s leader, Xi Jinping, has suddenly left a bewildered populace to improvise after the abrupt abandoning of the “zero Covid” policy this month. Now China faces a surge of infections, and Xi has left officials scrambling to manage the disarray and uncertainty.
China’s party-run media has cast the shift as a stressful but well-considered exit, possible only because of the mildness of the Omicron variant and opening the way back to good economic times.
In reality, an examination of how the shift unfolded in the city of Chongqing and elsewhere reveals a government overtaken by a cascade of Covid outbreaks, confusion over directives, economic woes and then rare political protests. The government is racing to approve vaccines and to obtain Western medicines after shunning them, and infections have exploded.
Analysis: “It’s overall been quite chaotic, and of course part of that is the number coming down positive — about one-third of people, to judge from my friends,” said Tan Gangqiang, a psychological counselor in Chongqing who has helped people manage the stresses of lockdowns, and now, of sudden opening.
Twitter bots: Bots pushing adult content drowned out posts from people protesting Covid restrictions in China, a Times investigation found.
Putin visits Belarus
Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, made a rare visit to Belarus yesterday to strengthen his bond with the country’s president, Aleksandr Lukashenko, who has been under growing pressure from Moscow to provide more support for the war in Ukraine. The visit came as Russia’s nighttime bombardment campaign against Ukraine’s infrastructure continued.
Appearing together after their talks, both leaders spoke about the need to withstand Western economic pressure. Putin said that the two had also discussed a “unified defense space,” without describing what that would entail, and that they would continue joint military exercises. Defense ministers from Russia and Belarus signed an agreement this month to strengthen their ties.
The trip is likely to heighten concerns in Ukraine about the possibility of a fresh ground offensive that could use Belarus as a launching pad, and particularly one aimed at trying to seize the capital, Kyiv, which is only about 55 miles from the Belarusian border, or at disrupting the flow of Western arms and aid into Ukraine from Poland.
In other news from the war:
The Ukrainian military is now using drones to guide Russian soldiers who want to surrender.
Diane Foley, an American whose son was killed by members of ISIS, has become a vocal advocate for Americans held overseas and has pressured the White House under three presidents to put such cases at the top of the national priority list.
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A long-awaited sequel
When “Avatar” came out in 2009, it was a bona fide blockbuster, bringing in more than $2.8 billion in ticket sales worldwide and becoming the highest-grossing movie of all time. Now, more than a decade later, the first of several long-awaited sequels is out in theaters around the globe.
“Avatar: The Way of Water” hits some familiar beats but once again dazzles with inventive visuals, A.O. Scott writes his review. The whole thing carries an air of nostalgia, he writes, adding, “Even the anticipation of seeing something genuinely new at the multiplex feels like an artifact of an earlier time, before streaming and the Marvel Universe took over.”
The film represents a milestone for visual effects with its use of a technique called underwater performance capture. Only two shots in the entire film contain no visual effects.
In international markets, “The Way of Water” had a healthy opening total of $300.5 million, but in North America, opening-weekend ticket sales fell short of expectations; the film collected about $134 million over the first three days. Still, audiences were extremely positive about the movie, which runs more than three hours, giving it an A grade in exit polls.
For more: Though the first “Avatar” was a huge commercial hit, its most oft-cited claim to fame is a surprising lack of cultural impact. For The Times Magazine, Jamie Lauren Keiles explores the mystery of the vanishing blockbuster.
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