Trump recorded pressuring Georgia official to 'find' votes | First Thing

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Donald Trump has been recorded pressing a senior official in Georgia to overturn Joe Biden’s election victory in the state. In the recording, obtained by the Washington Post and released in full on Sunday, Trump tells Georgia’s secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, that “I just want to find 11,780 votes”, and that “there’s nothing wrong with saying … that you’ve recalculated”. Trump also tries to intimidate Raffensperger by suggesting he could face criminal charges. Helen Sullivan has six key takeaways from the astonishing recording.

The recording has triggered widespread outrage among lawyers and political opponents, with some calling for a second impeachment and others warning Trump may be in legal trouble when he leaves the White House on 20 January.

Listen to excerpts from the call between Donald Trump and Georgia’s secretary of state– video

All 10 of the living former US defence secretaries, including two who worked for Trump, have called on the president and his supporters to accept that he lost the election. In an unprecedented joint letter they warned that Trump could try to trigger military intervention in a last-ditch attempt to hold on to power. The former secretaries said such a move would “take us into dangerous, unlawful and unconstitutional territory”.

  • There are still 12 Republican senators who will not ratify the electoral college results this week, but not one agreed to defend their decision on television, according to a CNN host.

  • A new Congress was sworn in on Sunday at its 117th session, with Nancy Pelosi re-elected House speaker. All eyes are currently on Georgia and the runoff races, where a Democratic win in both seats would give them control of the Senate.

Fauci has contradicted Trump’s coronavirus claims, yet again

‘The numbers are real’: Fauci hits back at Trump on US Covid deaths – video

The leading public health expert Dr Anthony Fauci was again forced to rebuff Trump’s claims about coronavirus this weekend. Trump tweeted on Sunday morning that the death toll was “far exaggerated”, but Fauci said coronavirus skeptics should “go into the trenches” to see what was happening, insisting they are “real numbers, real people, and real deaths”.

Fauci also said there were “no excuses” for the poor distribution of the coronavirus vaccine in the US. The Trump administration had promised that 20 million Americans would have received their first dose of the vaccine by the start of January, but two days into 2021, just over 4 million have been administered. However, according to Fauci, the pace is picking up, with an average number of 500,000 people receiving a vaccination each day.

  • Mitch McConnell and Nancy Pelosi’s homes were vandalized this weekend, seemingly over the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. McConnell appears to have been targeted over his refusal to increase stimulus payments from $600 to $2,000, while Pelosi’s home was vandalized with a pig’s head and messages including “cancel rent”.

  • College campuses are to reopen in-person despite surging cases of coronavirus across the US, although a lack of national instruction means they will be operating in different ways. At least 85 colleges across the country have reported over 1,000 cases.

Tensions are escalating between Iran and the US

The aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (front) and the guided-missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea in the Strait of Hormuz transit on 18 September 2020.

The aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (front) and the guided-missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea in the Strait of Hormuz transit on 18 September 2020. Photograph: Elliot Schaudt/US Navy/AFP/Getty Images

The US has reversed a decision to bring one of its aircraft carriers back from the Persian Gulf due to “recent threats” by Iran. On New Year’s Eve, the acting US defence secretary, Christopher C Miller, announced that the USS Nimitz would be returning home, with reports saying the move aimed to de-escalate tensions with Iran. However, the Pentagon said on Sunday that as a result of threats from Iranian leaders to Trump, its routine deployment would be halted. “No one should doubt the resolve of the United States of America,” Miller warned.

  • How will world politics change in 2021? From the climate crisis to global relations with China, and the future of the EU to the rise of young voices in Africa, our correspondents look at what this year holds for global politics.

In other news …

Greta Thunberg said the best birthday gift she could hope for would be a “promise from everyone that they will do everything they can” for the planet.

Greta Thunberg said the best birthday gift she could hope for would be a ‘promise from everyone that they will do everything they can’ for the planet. Photograph: A Gripping Films Production
  • Greta Thunberg is “not telling anyone else what to do”, she has said in an interview for her 18th birthday. The youth climate activist is vegan, does not buy new clothes, and stopped flying years ago, but said she does not judge others whose lifestyles are less environmentally friendly.

  • Illegal squatters have invaded the ruins of the Americas’ oldest city and made death threats against the Peruvian archaeologist who discovered them. The group allegedly killed one site worker’s dog as a warning.

  • Families of detainees in Syrian prisons are routinely forced to bribe officials to be allowed to visit or secure their release, with sums as high as $2.7m, a report has said. Around a quarter of those surveyed said they had been asked for extortion money.

Stat of the day: authorities still can’t find the parents of 628 children separated at the US border

Records suggest that more than 5,500 children have been separated from their parents at the US border since 2017, hundreds of whom were under the age of five. While groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union have helped to reunite thousands of families, a court-appointed committee is still unable to locate the parents of 628 children. Sam Levin writes about the continued impact of Trump’s globally-condemned migration policy.

Don’t miss this: how the pandemic in the US disproportionately impacted women – and what needs to be done to recover

The US is in a “shecession”, an economic recession in which job and income losses are being suffered more by women than men. The term was coined by C Nicole Mason, president and chief executive of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. She spoke to Amanda Holpuch about how the US can recover and build gender equality.

Last Thing: a giant sculpture of a vagina has sparked debate in Brazil

The sculpture, entitled Diva, is at a rural art park in Pernambuco, Brazil.

The sculpture, entitled Diva, is at a rural art park in Pernambuco, Brazil. Photograph: Juliana Notari

A 33-metre concrete vagina has sparked a backlash in Brazil, with supporters of the country’s far-right president criticising the sculpture and many leftwing figures embracing it. Juliana Notari, the visual artist behind the piece, said it was intended to stimulate debate over “the problematisation of gender”, but a Facebook post explaining the art was flooded with thousands of angry comments.

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