Reason Roundup

4 Key Republican Senators To Watch as Trump's Trial Rolls Into the Weekend

Plus: China takes campus free speech issues to a new level, Bloomberg wants to take away your vape, and more...


It's Friday, but not for members of the U.S. Senate, who will remain in D.C. through the weekend (though they do get Sunday off) for President Donald Trump's impeachment trial. The House Democrats' impeachment managers will likely finish making their case against the president today, and Trump's attorneys will start their defense on Saturday.

As Reason's Peter Suderman wrote yesterday, there's really not much question about the facts of the case at this point. The first article of impeachment says Trump tried to get a foreign government to conduct an investigation of one of the president's chief political rivals—something that clearly happened, since Trump literally did it while standing in front of TV cameras on the White House driveway. As for the second article of impeachment—the one about obstructing Congress' investigation—Trump seemed to concede the gist of it while he was summing up how things have been going so far:

If the facts aren't really in dispute, then one of the few big remaining questions before the almost inevitable acquittal is whether the Senate will take testimony from new witnesses. Removing Trump from office would require a two-thirds majority, but a simple majority could approve additional witnesses—meaning that only four, rather than 20, Republicans would have to switch sides to allow it.

The Senate won't decide whether to have more witness testimony until after both sides finish their opening arguments, likely in the middle of next week. Already, three Republicans have expressed an interest in hearing from additional witnesses: Sens. Susan Collins (R–Maine), Lisa Murkowski (R–Alaska), and Mitt Romney (R–Utah). The key swing vote could end up being Sen. Lamar Alexander (R–Tenn.), who is retiring from politics at the end his current term and is therefore something of a wild card in the impeachment process. Alexander has opposed Trump's border wall and has been critical of the president's trade policies, The Wall Street Journal notes, so he isn't a typical Trump lackey.

Would additional testimony change the course of the impeachment trial? Probably not. But it might at least cause some senators to put down their crossword puzzles and fidget-spinners for a few minutes to pay attention. It would also drag the impeachment trial out for significantly longer—White House attorneys say it could add weeks or months to the process, according to Politico—which is probably the best reason to believe it won't happen.


The Chinese government took campus free speech issues to a whole new level this week by detaining Luo Daiqing, a University of Minnesota student, in his hometown of Wuhan. Luo has been sentenced to six months in prison, Axios reports, for the crime of "provocation." Specifically, he made social media posts "denigrating a national leader's image." More specifically, he shared memes comparing Chinese President Xi Jinping to Winnie the Pooh.

Here's the kicker: He posted those tweets while he was living in the United States, where Winnie the Pooh memes—like many other things—are protected speech.

Writing for the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, Sarah McLaughlin notes that, unfortunately, international students cannot enjoy the full benefits of the First Amendment because expression protected in the United States could be punished when they return home. "International students should not have to self-censor in the United States, an outcome that harms those students and academic communities that would benefit from a vocal and diverse student body," she says.


But who will build the roads deliver the beer? The Democratic Republic of Congo has one of the world's most corrupt governments, has been embroiled in a decades-long civil war, and has virtually no national infrastructure. What it does have, as The Economist reports, is a population that loves drinking beer—a hangover from the brutally oppressive colonial rule of the Belgians.

Only four of the country's 26 provincial capitals are connected to the national capital by road, yet beer is everywhere in Congo. Thank a makeshift supply chain that involves weeks of travel on crocodile-infested waters, plus bartenders who literally go the extra mile:

After a week Mr. Barcat's barge reaches Bandundu. From here, as in Mbandaka, smaller vessels carry the beers to tiny villages on the banks of the river. At the port in Mbandaka, Christine, a 40-year-old bar owner, picks up 70 crates of beer from the Bracongo depot. She travels to the city twice a month on one of these smaller vessels to collect beers for her bar and to sell to other bartenders. The trips are tough: she has to sleep out on deck in the rain and the muggy heat. "We are exposed to all the elements," she sighs….

Christine's travails are passed on to her customers. Her beers cost a third more than those in Kinshasa, at $1.80. She has to factor in her $60 boat ticket and the money she pays a friend to run her bar when she is away. Her profits are slim. She does not make enough money to save, she says, but enough to survive.


Is any candidate having more fun on the campaign trail than Andrew Yang?

And is there any candidate who wants to stop you from having fun more than former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg?

Bloomberg isn't just a killjoy; he's wrong about the facts. A growing body of research shows that people can and do use e-cigarettes to help quit smoking. Unnecessary panic (and, worse, panicky public policy) that drives people away from vaping and back to cigarettes is not helping public health.

In other election news, Foreign Policy published a lengthy essay by Joe Biden yesterday. In it, the former vice president and current presidential candidate outlines his views on, well, foreign policy. Conspicuously absent: a single mention of Iraq or explanation for Biden's 2002 vote to take the United States to war there.

And Joe Rogan says he will probably vote for…Bernie?


    • China has locked down 12 cities populated by an estimated 35 million people, in an attempt to contain the spread of the deadly Coronavirus. Meanwhile, Texas A&M is monitoring an unidentified student who showed signs of the disease after returning from a trip to Wuhan, China, the city where the outbreak started. But don't panic, say world health officials.
    • When Pennsylvania State Police data showed that officers were far more likely to search cars driven by black or Hispanic drivers than when the driver was white, the state police stopped providing the relevant data to researchers. Problem solved!
    • Speaking of difficult booze logistics, here's the R Street Institute's Marc Hyden on a silly Georgia law that allows home delivery of wine but not any of other alcoholic beverages.
    • The Atlantic wonders whether America has too many bathrooms.
    • I don't know what sport this is, but I'll appreciate excellence in any human endeavor:
    • And in case you're wondering what usual Reason Roundup editor Elizabeth Nolan Brown is doing right now instead of writing this newsletter….