Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., left, and Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., stand with President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., as Trump speaks on Capitol Hill in 2019 in Washington.

Trump slams McConnell as GOP divide deepens post-impeachment

WASHINGTON | In the most caustic sign yet of deepening GOP divisions, former President Donald Trump blistered Mitch McConnell as a “political hack” on Tuesday, days after the Senate’s top Republican denounced him as the inciter of U.S. Capitol attack.

“The Republican Party can never again be respected or strong with political ‘leaders’ like Sen. Mitch McConnell at its helm,” Trump said in a statement released by his political action committee.

He went on to write: “Mitch is a dour, sullen, and unsmiling political hack, and if Republican Senators are going to stay with him, they will not win again.”

A McConnell spokesperson did not immediately return requests for comment.

The deeply personal attack follows McConnell’s speech over over the weekend saying that Trump was responsible for the deadly insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6. But McConnell said that only after he joined other Republicans in voting against the former president’s conviction during a Senate impeachment trial that accused Trump of inciting the mob.

U.S.-led coalition: Rocket attack in Iraq killed contractor

BAGHDAD | A U.S.-led coalition contractor was killed and an unspecified number of other civilians were wounded when a barrage of rockets struck outside an airport near where U.S. forces are based in northern Iraq, Iraqi security and coalition officials said.

More than a dozen rockets hit late Monday in areas between the civilian international airport in the city of Irbil in Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish-run region and the nearby base hosting U.S. troops.

A little-known Shiite militant group calling itself Saraya Awliya al-Dam, Arabic for Guardians of Blood Brigade, claimed responsibility for the attack.

U.S. Army Col. Wayne Marotto said Tuesday a civilian contractor with the coalition who was not a U.S. citizen was killed. He did not provide further details about the citizenship of the dead contractor.

Marotto also said a U.S. military serviceman and eight civilian contractors were wounded in the assault. An unspecified number of Iraqi and Kurdish civilians were wounded as rockets hit busy residential areas close to the airport.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said U.S. officials were working with Iraq to determine exactly who was responsible. “I will convey that we are outraged” by the attack, she said.

California reopenings on way as virus numbers improve

LOS ANGELES | Rapid declines in new coronavirus cases and hospitalizations in California have the nation’s most populous state on a path to loosening business restrictions imposed when the deadliest surge of the pandemic was gaining momentum.

“The good news: Parts of the state are already beginning to open back up,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said Tuesday, adding he expects to allow more counties to reopen more next week.

He spoke at the site of a new federally supported mass vaccination site in Los Angeles, which opened Tuesday along with a similar site in Oakland. The two sites are expected to get about 6,000 doses of vaccine a day, and are intended to vaccinate people in communities hit hard by the pandemic.

The openings of the mass vaccination sites, heralded by a number of state and federal officials, came as California’s virus numbers continue to improve even as demand for vaccine far exceeds capacity.

About 3.5% of people being tested for coronavirus are getting back positive results, Newsom said, a rate that’s dropped precipitously in recent weeks.