MARK MEADOWS PART OF TRUMP TEAM TO DISCREDIT IMPEACHMENT ARTICLES: The White House also announced Monday night that it had assembled a team of eight House Republicans to serve as part of the president’s defense team, including some of his fiercest defenders, like Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, Mark Meadows of North Carolina and John Ratcliffe of Texas. McConnell’s trial rules, which limited each side’s arguments to 24 hours over two days, gave the White House a helping hand at the outset and drew swift anger from Democrats. The rules left open the possibility that the Senate could not only decline to hear new evidence not uncovered in the House impeachment inquiry, but could also sidestep considering the House case against Trump altogether — although such a vote is considered unlikely. “Under this resolution, Sen. McConnell is saying he doesn’t want to hear any of the existing evidence, and he doesn’t want to hear any new evidence,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., the minority leader. “It’s a cover-up, and the American people will see it for exactly what it is.”
CONSUMERISM TRUMPS U.S. HISTORY IN NEW CURRICULUM CHANGE: North Carolina is overhauling what students will learn in social studies classes, putting more emphasis on managing credit cards and spending less time on U.S. history. Newly approved changes mean high school students will have to take a course on personal finance before they graduate. But squeezing in the financial literacy course means other changes to the social studies curriculum, such as eliminating one of the two U.S. history courses now required in high school. The state Department of Public Instruction is taking public comment on new K-12 social studies standards (https://bit.ly/2NqEqEB) that call for having high school World History classes start with history in the year 1200. The new required U.S. history high school course will cover the past 257 years in one semester. “The Personal Financial Literacy Class was added by legislators who have no understanding of education, despite strong opposition by social studies teachers across the state,” said LeAnna Delph, a Buncombe County middle school social studies teacher.
RARE WETLAND NEAR ASHEVILLE COULD GET BETTER PROTECTION: It’s such unique and imperiled wildlife habitat that the N.C. Division of Water Resources is proposing to offer Sandy Bottom greater protection. The state agency will host a public hearing Jan. 21 at UNC Asheville to accept comments on reclassifying Sandy Bottom wetlands from “freshwater wetland” to “unique wetland,” also known as UWL. This new classification offers additional protection to wetlands of exceptional or national ecological significance, said Adriene Weaver, environmental senior specialist with the Division of Water Resources. The Sandy Bottom wetlands, about 5 miles south of Asheville in the French Broad River floodplain, is home to rare and threatened wildlife species. It represents a rare natural wetland community known as the montane floodplain slough forest, which is rated as critically impaired and also provides habitat for the significantly rare lax manna-grass population.
TRUMP STINKS UP DAVOS WITH HIS BRAGGING: “America is thriving; America is flourishing, and, yes, America is winning again like never before,” Trump told an audience of billionaires, world leaders and figures from academia, media and the kind of international organizations and think tanks for whom Trump’s “America First” nationalism is anathema. Trump is making his second visit to the World Economic Forum, which for its 50th anniversary this year is focusing on climate change and sustainability. A sign at the entrance to the press center notes that paint for this year’s installation was made from seaweed, and carpets from recycled fishing nets. Trump, who has called climate change a hoax, did not directly address the theme during his 30-minute address here, although he did call for rejecting “the perennial prophets of doom and their predictions of the apocalypse” and later called himself a big believer in the environment. He also made no mention of impeachment or U.S. politics, although he took a swipe at “radical socialism,” his term for Democratic ideas about health care, education and other issues. The Senate impeachment trial was set to open hours after Trump spoke.
CONSTITUTIONAL SCHOLARS RIP APART TRUMP'S LEGAL ARGUMENT ON IMPEACHMENT: As President Trump’s impeachment trial opens, his lawyers have increasingly emphasized a striking argument: Even if he did abuse his powers in an attempt to bully Ukraine into interfering in the 2020 election on his behalf, it would not matter because the House never accused him of committing an ordinary crime. Their argument is widely disputed. It cuts against the consensus among scholars that impeachment exists to remove officials who abuse power. The phrase “high crimes and misdemeanors” means a serious violation of public trust that need not also be an ordinary crime, said Frank O. Bowman III, a University of Missouri law professor and the author of a recent book on the topic. “This argument is constitutional nonsense,” Mr. Bowman said. “The almost universal consensus — in Great Britain, in the colonies, in the American states between 1776 and 1787, at the Constitutional Convention and since — has been that criminal conduct is not required for impeachment.” Scholars pointed to other major landmarks. In 1788, as supporters of the Constitution were urging states to ratify the document, Alexander Hamilton described impeachable conduct in one of the Federalist Papers as “those offenses which proceed from the misconduct of public men, or, in other words, from the abuse or violation of some public trust,” and “political” offenses that injure society. Mr. Hamilton also wrote that impeachments would differ from common trials in part because prosecutors and judges would not be as limited “in delineation of the offense.”