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Trump defiant as White House becomes a ghost town

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As he becomes the first president to be impeached twice, Trump lacks a robust response for the first time.

President Donald Trump was impeached again on Wednesday, but this time he lacks the megaphone of Twitter to respond and will be without a robust and aggressive defense from his White House and allies.

Stripped of the ability to fire off real-time responses, Trump must rely on a White House staff that has largely been replaced with moving boxes as aides head for the exits and allies fail to offer a defense of him in public.

The House voted 232 to 197 Wednesday afternoon to impeach Trump for a second time, with 10 Republicans breaking ranks to support impeaching the president for his role in inciting a deadly riot by his supporters at the Capitol.

An administration official told NBC News to expect a White House reaction to the impeachment vote soon. That reaction could come in the form of a video from the president, this official said.

As impeachment proceedings were underway, the president was taking part in a ceremony awarding the National Medal of Arts to country musicians Toby Keith and Ricky Skaggs, an administration official told NBC News. Earlier, Trump issued a press release on Wednesday urging calm amid reports of more violent protests being planned in the next week.

“In light of reports of more demonstrations, I urge that there must be NO violence, NO lawbreaking and NO vandalism of any kind. That is not what I stand for, and it is not what America stands for. I call on ALL Americans to help ease tensions and calm tempers. Thank You.”

But the relative silence from the president shouldn’t be interpreted as submission, those close to him say. Instead, Trump continues to cling to his false assertion that he won the election and is refusing pleas that he leave office days before his term expires because of his role in the deadly attack.

‘No coordinated strategy’ to defend Trump’s actions as he faces his second impeachment

Trump, who became the first president to be impeached twice, remains both defiant and sullen, said one former White House official who is familiar with his current discussions. Trump monitored the impeachment proceedings Wednesday mostly from the Oval Office, according to an administration official.

Trump has refused calls to resign, including those from a growing number of Republicans, according to people close to the president.

“He is not the resigning type,” said one person familiar with Trump’s thinking. Instead, the person said, “I think he’d rather go out fighting.”

The staff in White House normally thins in the final days of an administration as people secure new jobs, but Trump’s West Wing has become a ghost town after resignations following last week’s riot. Some aides have opted to just avoid the building, which has been a Covid-19 hot spot for months.

Meanwhile, outside allies say they have grown deeply concerned that there are so few people left at the White House to do the critical jobs in the final days when White House staff would typically be focused on handing off operations to the incoming administration.

“As much as we can, we are focusing on the transition, highlighting success of the last four years, and continuing the work of government until the next administration takes over,” said an administration official.

Trump has remained focused on issuing a wave of pardons in the coming days, including to family members, according to sources familiar with his plans. He has continued this week to discuss a pardon for himself, even though he has been advised against it, according to people familiar with the conversations.

Trump aides continue to discuss having him deliver one or two speeches in a final attempt to promote what he sees as his key accomplishments and criticize social media companies for banning him, according to sources. The speech team has started working on draft sections but no final decisions have been made.

Unlike his previous impeachment, Trump has few public defenders and the White House hasn’t been making efforts to marshal them. There have been no White House talking points distributed to surrogates to respond to the Capitol riot.

Trump has also not assembled a defense team for a possible impeachment trial. The team would likely feature Rudy Giuliani, Alan Dershowitz and possibly others, said a person familiar with the matter. Dershowitz said he hasn’t yet been contacted by anyone in the Trump administration.

An administration official said there hasn’t been a clear legal and communications strategy this time around because the proceedings developed much more quickly. When asked if the White House is worried the Senate could actually convict the president, the official said they have “minor concerns,” but still feel that scenario is unlikely.

With less than a week left in the White House, it is still unclear where Trump will be on Inauguration Day. Trump said he will not attend Biden’s swearing-in ceremony and some advisers have said they expect him to leave the White House before Inauguration Day.

Trump’s daughter and senior adviser Ivanka Trump is not expected to attend President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration next week, according to a White House official. Ivanka Trump is the first adult child of a president to serve as a White House advisor in modern history. The officials said that while she respects his transition to power, children of outgoing presidents do not traditionally attend.

However, the adult daughters of George W. Bush attended the Inauguration of Barack Obama and Chelsea Clinton attended Bush’s inauguration when her father was leaving office.

There is a growing sense among advisers that Trump has accepted the fact that he will be leaving the White House, said a person familiar with the president’s thinking.

“I think everyone thinks he’s becoming a lot more accepting of that,” the person said.

-NBC News

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400 suspected Boko Haram, bandits’ sponsors arrested

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Security agents have arrested about 400 businessmen for allegedly funding operations of Boko Haram and bandits in the country.

Daily Trust reported that the businessmen were arrested in an operation coordinated by the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA), and in collaboration with the Department of State Services (DSS), Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

President Muhammadu Buhari was said to have approved the operation in 2020.

The newspaper reported that an initial list of 957 suspects comprising bureau de change (BDC) operators, gold miners and sellers, and other businessmen is being acted upon.

A source told the newspaper that about 400 persons were arrested in Kano, Borno, Abuja, Lagos, Sokoto, Adamawa, Kaduna and Zamfara.

Names of the BDC operators arrested were given as Baba Usaini, Abubakar Yellow (Amfani), Yusuf Ali Yusuf (Babangida), Ibrahim Shani, Auwal Fagge, and Muhammad Lawan Sani, a gold dealer.

Those arrested are reportedly being kept in military and the DSS facilities in Abuja and other places.

“Because this is economic warfare against the insurgents and other militant groups, the president, when approving the operation directed that the NFIU take the lead as the country’s financial intelligence powerhouse,” Daily Trust quoted a source to have said.

The source added that “with the presidential approval, a task team was composed of personally selected senior officers who were deployed under the DIA to carry out the special assignment”.

“The main person coordinating the funding ring for Boko Haram is in our custody, he and his closest ally in the business,” he said.

Another source was quoted to have said about 19 BDCs owned by persons with “direct connection with Boko Haram” were uncovered, while over N300 billion was found to have been used in funding terrorism.

Apart from one person in Borno and another in Zaria, Kaduna state, the source said over N50 billion were traced in funding to the armed groups.

“A number of those arrested have divulged vital information including operational details of bandits and Boko Haram insurgents. But they are being kept to aid further arrests,” the source was quoted to have said.

Family members of those arrested, the newspaper reported, have been calling on the government for their release.

In 2020, six Nigerians were also jailed in the United Arab Emirates for allegedly funding Boko Haram.

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Former Ondo deputy governor agrees to return vehicles

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Former Ondo Deputy Governor Agboola Ajayi has finally agreed to return the two vehicles in his possession to the Ondo State Government.

The state government last week said it would embarrass Agboola if he failed to return the four vehicles.

But Agboola, who said he had only two vehicles, insisted they were part of his benefits.

The state government also petitioned the Ondo State Police Command to help recover the vehicles.

In a statement on Sunday, the former deputy governor said he was not the problem of Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu’s administration.

Agboola stated it was in the interest of everybody that Governor Akeredolu demonstrated good governance, transparent policy making and effective change.

He said it was unfortunate some members of the inner circle of Akeredolu have prioritised harassing him on a number of issues most especially the return of vehicles

Agboola said he hoped “these petty interactions would have ceased after the recent inauguration.

“To be clear – if the return of these two vehicles will make the administration focus more on the avalanche of pressing needs, challenges and predicaments facing the state most especially insecurity, the absence of governance and unpaid salaries across the entirety the Ondo public sector – then I’m ready to make the sacrifice and return the two vehicles which they so desperately need.

“I am not the problem of the present administration. I have moved on.”

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Pensioners demand payment of N35bn arrears

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Nigeria pensioners who retired from the electricity sector have urged President Muhammadu Buhari, to come to their aide in order to resolve the lingering issue of their owed N35billion pension arrears.

The pensioners under the aegis of Electricity Sector Retiree Welfare Association (ESREWA), led by its  President, Elder Benjamin Amako, asked President Buhari to save countless dying pensioners whose fate are tied to the delayed payment of their pension arrears.

Rising from its National Executive Council (NEC) meeting in Abuja, Amako said every Nigerian, including President Buhari, knows the pathetic situation of pensioners in the country.

Amako said: “First we thank God that Mr President returned from his medical trip healthier, stronger and successfully. The news of his return gave us pensioners so much joy because we know  he will not sit quiet and watch more pensioners lose their lives because of humanly inaction. So far, his administration has ensured that pensioners gets their rights and this arrears we are asking for is our right.

“Interestingly, President Buhari had already directed that this same arrears (N35billion) be paid to us, but for over five years ago he issued the directive, the relevant authorities who it is their responsibilities to ensure we get this arrears for our dying members seems to be working contrarily.

“So for the past five years, these arrears have always been part of the National Budget under Nigeria Electricity Liability Management Company (NELMCO) budget and accordingly transferred to Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate (PTAD). But sadly, we have not been paid a dime even as I speak, for reasons that are totally and obviously human making.

“So we are pleading with President Buhari, the SGF, Minister of Finance, Chairman Senate Committee on Power, Accountant General of the Federation, PTAD and other relevant authorities to save our lives by paying us this money without further delay.”

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