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Majority of U.S. House members vote to impeach Trump a second time

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A majority of the U.S. House has voted to impeach President Donald Trump for a second time, just a week after he encouraged loyalists to “fight like hell” against election results—a speech that was followed by a mob of his supporters storming the U.S. Capitol. The House vote on an article of impeachment for “incitement of insurrection” was still underway Wednesday afternoon.

During debate before the vote, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi asked Republicans and Democrats to “search their souls.” Trump would be the first American president to be impeached twice.

Trump “must go,” Pelosi said. “He is a clear and present danger to the nation we all love.”

Actual removal seems unlikely before the Jan. 20 inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden. A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the Republican leader would not agree to bring the chamber back immediately, all but ensuring a Senate trial could not begin at least until Jan. 19.

Still, McConnell did not rule out voting to convict Trump in the event of a trial. In a note to his fellow Republican senators just before the House was to begin voting, he said he is undecided.

“While the press has been full of speculation, I have not made a final decision on how I will vote and I intend to listen to the legal arguments when they are presented to the Senate,” McConnell wrote.

In the House, the momentum for action has been unstoppable.

The impeachment proceedings came one week after a violent, pro-Trump mob breached the U.S. Capitol, sending lawmakers into hiding and revealing the fragility of the nation’s history of peaceful transfers of power. The riot has also forced a reckoning among some Republicans, who have stood by Trump throughout his presidency and largely allowed him to spread false attacks against the integrity of the 2020 election.

While Trump’s first impeachment in 2019 brought no Republican votes in the House, at least eight House Republicans announced that they would break with the party to join Democrats this time, saying Trump violated his oath to protect and defend U.S. democracy. Among them was Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, the third-ranking Republican in the House and the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney.

As two Republican lawmakers—Washington Reps. Dan Newhouse and Jaime Herrera Beutler—announced on the floor they would vote to impeach, Trump issued a new statement urging “NO violence, NO lawbreaking and NO vandalism of any kind.” But he has repeatedly declined to take any responsibility for last week’s riots.

House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy said for the first time that Trump does bear responsibility, acknowledging on the House floor before the vote that Biden is the next president and that radical liberal groups were not responsible for the riots, as some conservatives have falsely claimed.

But McCarthy said he opposed impeachment, instead favoring a “fact finding commission” and censure.

As for threats of more trouble from intruders, security was exceptionally tight at the Capitol with shocking images of massed National Guard troops, secure perimeters around the complex and metal-detector screenings required for lawmakers entering the House chamber.

“We are debating this historic measure at a crime scene,” said Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass.

Though McConnell is declining to hasten an impeachment trial, a Republican strategist told The Associated Press the GOP leader believes Trump committed impeachable offenses and considers the Democrats’ impeachment drive an opportunity to reduce the divisive, chaotic president’s hold on the GOP.

McConnell called major Republican donors last weekend to gauge their thinking about Trump and was told that Trump had clearly crossed a line. McConnell told them he was through with Trump, said the strategist, who demanded anonymity to describe McConnell’s conversations.

The New York Times first reported McConnell’s views on impeachment on Tuesday.

The stunning collapse of Trump’s final days in office, along with warnings of more violence ahead, leaves the nation at an uneasy and unfamiliar juncture before Biden takes office.

Trump faces the single charge of “incitement of insurrection.”

The four-page impeachment resolution relies on Trump’s own incendiary rhetoric and the falsehoods he spread about Biden’s election victory, including at a White House rally on the day of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, in making its case for “high crimes and misdemeanors” as demanded in the Constitution.

Trump took no responsibility for the riot, suggesting it was the drive to oust him rather than his actions around the bloody riot that was dividing the country.

“To continue on this path, I think it’s causing tremendous danger to our country, and it’s causing tremendous anger,” Trump said Tuesday, his first remarks to reporters since last week’s violence.

A Capitol police officer died from injuries suffered in the riot, and police shot and killed a woman during the siege. Three other people died in what authorities said were medical emergencies. Lawmakers scrambled for safety and hid as rioters took control of the Capitol, delaying by hours the tally of Electoral College votes that was the last step in finalizing Biden’s victory.

The Republican lawmakers who chose to vote yes, including Cheney, were unswayed by the president’s logic. Their support of impeachment cleaved the Republican leadership, and the party itself.

“The President of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack,” said Cheney in a statement. “There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.”

Unlike a year ago, Trump faces impeachment as a weakened leader, having lost his own reelection as well as the Senate Republican majority.

The president was said to be livid with perceived disloyalty from McConnell and Cheney, as calls mounted for her ouster. He was also deeply frustrated that he could not hit back with his shuttered Twitter account, the fear of which has kept most Republicans in line for years, according to White House officials and Republicans close to the West Wing who weren’t authorized to speak publicly about private conversations.

The team around Trump has hollowed out, without any plan for combating the impeachment effort. Trump leaned on Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina to push Republican senators, while chief of staff Mark Meadows called some of his former colleagues on the Hill.

Trump was expected to watch much of Wednesday’s proceedings on TV from the White House residence and his private dining area off the Oval Office.

The House tried first to push Vice President Mike Pence and the Cabinet to intervene, passing a resolution Tuesday night calling on them to invoke the 25th Amendment to the Constitution to remove Trump from office.

Pence made it clear he would not do so, saying in a letter to Pelosi, that it was “time to unite our country as we prepare to inaugurate President-elect Joe Biden.”

It’s far from clear there will be the two-thirds vote in the evenly divided Senate needed to convict Trump, though at least two Republicans have called for him to “go away as soon as possible.”

The FBI warned ominously of potential armed protests by Trump loyalists ahead of Biden’s inauguration. Capitol Police urged lawmakers to be on alert. Charges of sedition are being considered for rioters.

Biden has said it’s important to ensure that the “folks who engaged in sedition and threatening the lives, defacing public property, caused great damage—that they be held accountable.”

Fending off concerns that an impeachment trial would bog down his first days in office, the president-elect is encouraging senators to divide their time between taking taking up his priorities of confirming his nominees and approving COVID-19 relief while also conducting the trial.

The impeachment bill draws from Trump’s own false statements about his election defeat to Biden. Judges across the country, including some nominated by Trump, have repeatedly dismissed cases challenging the election results, and former Attorney General William Barr, a Trump ally, has said there was no sign of widespread fraud.

While some have questioned impeaching the president so close to the end of his term, there is precedent. In 1876, during the Ulysses Grant administration, War Secretary William Belknap was impeached by the House the day he resigned, and the Senate convened a trial months later. He was acquitted.

Trump was impeached in 2019 over his dealings with Ukraine but acquitted by the Senate in 2020.

Associated Press writers Kevin Freking, Andrew Taylor and Zeke Miller contributed to this report.

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Bitcoin bombs lower, touching the dreaded $30,000 range

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This is the web version of the Bull Sheet, Fortune’s no-BS daily newsletter on the markets. Sign up to receive it in your inbox here.

Happy Friday, Bull Sheeters. A risk-off mood has descended over markets as COVID worries intensify. From Tokyo to Frankfurt, there’s red on the screens, and U.S. futures aren’t doing much better. Meanwhile, the Bitcoin bears are out in force; the digital currency is having another rough session.

Below, in the weekly “By the Numbers” section, I get more into the wild ride of the crypto trade, and whether this is a mere blip, or the sign of more pain to come.

In Postscript, I make good on my promise from earlier in the week. You have homework this weekend, dear reader.

But first, let’s see what’s moving markets.

Markets update

Asia

  • The major Asia indexes are closing out the week with a whimper, with the Hang Seng down 1.6%.
  • The much anticipated Ant Group IPO could be worth less than 700 billion yuan ($108 billion)—or, half the size of what underwriters were expecting just a few months ago.
  • The China-Australia trade spat has cost the latter about $3 billion—not a huge sum, but it’s putting the pinch on Australian winemakers and other exporters.

Europe

  • The European bourses stumbled out of the gates with the Stoxx Europe 600 down 0.4% at the open.
  • The COVID numbers out of the U.K. are truly frightening, and now PM Boris Johnson is signaling the current lockdown measures could extend into the summer. The pound is lower this morning.
  • The deadly winter coronavirus surge knows no borders. France announced that any visitors from aboard—including EU nations—will have to present a negative COVID-19 test to get into the country. And Portugal has suspended all flights to and from the U.K.

U.S.

  • The U.S. futures point to a weak open after a mixed trading session on Thursday. Still, all three major exchanges look as if they’ll finish the week in the green.
  • The Nasdaq closed at a fresh all-time high yesterday, helped by big gains from Intel. Alas, the chipmaker is down 4.6% in pre-market trade this morning after disclosing mixed results—record sales, but a bottom-line miss.

Elsewhere

  • Gold is lower, trading around $1,860/ounce.
  • The dollar is up as equities falter.
  • Crude is down, with Brent steady around $55/barrel.
  • Bitcoin has had a brutal week. It’s down a further 8.7%, trading below $31,000. At one point, it had broken $30k.

***

By the numbers

26.2%

Bitcoin bulls, I’ll give you the good news first. The notoriously volatile digital currency, is up 6.3% so far in 2021. Before you get out the cigars, take a peek at the past two weeks. Since hitting its all-time high of $41,940 on Jan. 8, it’s down 26.2%. That’s solidly in bear market territory. The rapid plunge has triggered all kinds of warnings about how low it could go. But cryptocurrency investors aren’t sweating it—they’ve lived through wild swings in the past. Some even see the swoon as a perfectly understandable and necessary correction. With all this in mind, Fortune‘s Robert Hackett answers the question on a lot of investors’ minds these days: Should you add Bitcoin to your portfolio in 2021?

97,528,800

Tomorrow marks the one-year anniversary of the Wuhan lockdown, a news headline that shocked the world at the time. Now stay-at-home orders, border closures and travel restrictions are commonplace the world over. According to the New York Times COVID-19 tracker, official reports show 97,528,800 people have been sickened around the world with at least 2,090,500 deaths. The numbers are worse than anybody thought in those early days. And the near future doesn’t look much better, with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warning of a further 100,000 deaths over the next few weeks. The stock market rally aside, it’s been a brutal year.

44.4%

There’s another recent milestone that means a lot to me. Jan. 21, 2020 was the launch date of the Bull Sheet. The Nasdaq closed that day at 9,370.21, which means the tech-heavy index is up 44.4% since I’ve been writing this newsletter. Had you put 10 grand on QQQ that day, you’d be looking at a pretty impressive return… I want to thank you all for your support in year one. I’m looking forward to the ride in 2021.

***

Postscript

As I mentioned earlier this week, my inbox filled up with requests for our ribollita recipe. I’m a man of my word.

Before I share the ribollita recipe, I should explain a bit about its origin. It falls squarely in the cibo povero, or peasant food, category. And it’s Tuscan through and through. You may find something similar across the border in Umbria or here in Lazio, but the Tuscans perfected it.

We pay homage to all those nonne toscane in strictly sticking to the Tuscan version. Our recipe was inspired by the version you find in and around Pienza (I can smell the pecorino cheese whenever I think of that gem of a hill town).

Here goes:

First, a warning… this is a recipe that may trip up kitchen novices. But don’t get discouraged. You’ll earn serious points with loved ones for the effort. And once you’ve perfected it, you’ll be the envy of your investing club.

Ingredients: jar of passata di pomodoro (tomato paste) 400g, white beans (dry) 350-400g, leeks 250g, carrots 80g, 2-3 potatoes, green cabbage 250g, chard 300g, Italian black cabbage 300g, pig bone, laurel leaf, sprigs of fresh rosemary+sage+marjoram, salt.

Step one: the night before you decide to cook the ribollita, soak your white beans overnight.

Step two: You’ll need two big pots. Put your soaked white beans + pig bone + laurel leaf in one of the two big pots. Let’s call this Pot 1. Fill with 2 liters of water and cook over medium heat. Skim off the muck that floats to the top every now and then.

Step two: about 45 minutes later, you can start on your second pot. Let’s call this Pot 2. You start here with your sofrito. Pour in olive oil and cubes of your leeks, carrots and potatoes, plus salt. Let them cook for a bit, then pour in the jar of passata del pomodoro. A good five minutes later, your mix will have thickened.

Step 3: Ladle the boiled broth from the Pot 1 into Pot 2. Add the rest of your cabbages, diced, into Pot 2. Add the sprigs of fresh rosemary+sage+marjoram at the end. We usually tie the sprigs together on a thin string that we can then fish out of the cooking broth at the end. I usually sprinkle a bit more salt in Pot 2 at this point.

Step 4: After you’ve ladled out all the broth from Pot 1, you’ll be left with the pig bone and the white beans. Discard the bone. Scoop out the remainder of the white beans and blend half of those white beans into a paste. Add the white bean paste and the remainder of the whole white beans into Pot 2.

Step 5: At this point, you’re down to a single pot, Pot 2. Let Pot 2 cook for another 45-60 minutes under medium heat.

Serve: Place into your bowl a big slice of toast or, even better, a piece of stale bread; then pour your soup on top. Add a bit of pecorino romano shavings, and a dollop of olive oil.

Pair with Sangiovese or Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, a big-bodied Italian red. You won’t find me drinking a Pino with this dish.

Please share your ribollita photos with me!

***

Have a nice weekend, everyone… But first, there’s more news below.

Bernhard Warner
@BernhardWarner
Bernhard.Warner@Fortune.com

As always, you can write to bullsheet@fortune.com or reply to this email with suggestions and feedback.

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Friday feedback: Tax and PACs

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Good morning.

It’s Friday, so some feedback. Former IRS Commissioner Charles Rossotti weighed in after my Wednesday post suggesting President Biden’s spending plans will have to be financed by debt or new taxes. There’s another way, he says—collecting taxes already owed:

“Our plan gets at the heart of the tax gapupper income people who don’t pay what they legally owe. At $574 billion in 2019 alone, the tax gap is equal to what the lower 90% of all individuals pay in federal income taxes annually. This is manifestly unfair.”

You can find more on Rossotti’s proposal here.

And lots of folks commented on my suggestion that companies not pull out of the political contribution game—because they can be a force for pragmatic compromise on important issues. A sampling of the comments:

“I believe buying access, or the NEED to buy access (even if the money goes to both sides of the aisle) is the root of the problem…We have to… restore some sanity to representative government and unwind myriad ways in which special interests control the narrative.”
—J.S.

“How much did the parties just spend in this campaign? Was it 11 billion? (AM: Actually, $14 billion.) How many people can we feed, clothe, shelter and provide job training with even a portion of that ridiculous sum?
—B.T.

“At its heart…the primary objective (of corporate campaign contributions) is stability…Businesses want to know what to expect. With that knowledge, they can plan their strategies and tactics for the future.”
—P.A.

A.H. wrote in to remind me that corporations don’t make contributions directly. They do so through political action committees, which their employees contribute to. And for the record, I’m not a fan of the current campaign finance system. I’m just saying big companies are among the more responsible and pragmatic players in that system, and if they alone pull out, it will get worse.

Finally, my friend Shiva Rajgopal, who teaches at Columbia Business School, sent a paper that he says shows corporate lobbying pays off 10 times better than R&D spending, in terms of its effect on the bottom line. Given that finding, “the bigger question is why do we observe so little as opposed to too much lobbying.” His paper is here.

More news below. And check out Susie Gharib’s new interview with Delta CEO Ed Bastian, who is counting on a “big surge in demand” from business travelers in the second half of this year as the vaccine gets rolled out. “People are tired of Zoom meetings.”

Alan Murray
@alansmurray

alan.murray@fortune.com

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Biden to sign executive orders to boost food benefits, workers’ rights as part of Covid relief push

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Biden has signed executive orders to offer coronavirus relief as he tries to pass a $1.9 trillion aid package in Congress.

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