Reuters US Domestic News Summary

Following is a summary of current US domestic news briefs.

Explainer: Why is President Donald Trump on trial in the Senate?

The impeachment trial of President Donald Trump begins in earnest in the U.S. Senate on Tuesday, after he was formally charged by the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives on Dec. 18 with "high crimes and misdemeanors." The Republican president, who is expected to be acquitted by the Republican-controlled Senate, says he is innocent of the charges.

Democratic presidential candidates enjoy moment of harmony to mark King birthday

Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren marched arm-in-arm on Monday, as a group of often feuding U.S. presidential candidates set aside their differences long enough to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Other Democratic White House hopefuls, including Pete Buttigieg, shook up multi-state campaign schedules to seek the support of black voters in Columbia, South Carolina, who will be crucial to victory in a tight race for their party's nomination.

Children go missing as Central American migrants clash with Mexican forces

Mexican security forces fired tear gas at rock-hurling Central American migrants who waded across a river into Mexico earlier on Monday, in a chaotic scramble that saw mothers separated from their young children. The clashes between hundreds of U.S.-bound Central Americans and the Mexican National Guard underscores the challenge President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador faces to contain migration at the bidding of his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump.

U.S. Census Bureau launches once-a-decade head count in rural Alaska

The U.S. Census Bureau was due to launch its latest once-in-a decade head count of Americans on Tuesday in one of the most remote corners of the country: a tiny, rural Alaska Native settlement on the Bering Sea coast. The population tally was scheduled to officially get under way with a ceremonial visit of Census Bureau chief Steven Dillingham to the home of a tribal elder in Toksook Bay, a Yup'ik village about 500 miles west of Anchorage.

Thousands of armed U.S. gun rights activists join peaceful Virginia rally

More than 22,000 armed gun-rights activists peacefully filled the streets around Virginia's capitol building on Monday to protest gun-control legislation making its way through the newly Democratic-controlled state legislature. Despite fears that neo-Nazis or other extremists would piggyback on the Richmond rally to stoke unrest like the violence at a 2017 demonstration by white nationalists in Charlottesville that killed a counter-protester, the Capitol Police reported just one arrest, a 21-year-old woman taken into custody for wearing a bandana over her face after twice being warned that masks were not allowed.

Weinstein must tread carefully in rape trial defense, experts say

Former Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein will face the challenge of defending himself in his rape trial as he tries to undermine his accusers' credibility without appearing callous to jurors, according to several legal experts. Still, if Weinstein's defense team can persuade the jury that the accusers engaged in consensual sexual activity to gain an edge in the entertainment industry, that could result in an acquittal or hung jury, other experts said. All 12 jurors must agree in order for prosecutors to secure a conviction.

Supreme Court religious rights case has big implications for U.S. schools

Despite wondering every autumn whether she can afford it, Kendra Espinoza has worked hard to keep her two daughters in a small private Christian school in Kalispell, Montana, costing about $15,000 annually for them to attend. Even with some financial support from the school Espinoza, a single mother, still has a sizable tuition bill to pay. She decided against sending the girls, ages 14 and 11, to local public schools that would be free to attend. On top of her full-time office manager job, Espinoza has worked nights as a janitor in an office building to help pay for tuition, taking her daughters along to instill in them a strong work ethic.

Trump's Senate trial begins as a polarized America looks on

Donald Trump's impeachment trial begins in earnest in the Senate on Tuesday in a rare use of the constitutional mechanism for ousting a president that has only deepened the polarization of U.S. voters ahead of presidential elections in November. Democrats have called on the Senate to remove the Republican president from office, describing him as a danger to American democracy and national security. Trump and his lawyers have decried his impeachment, saying he has done nothing wrong and that Democrats are simply trying to stop him from being re-elected.

Vows of peace, fears of violence at Virginia gun rally

The top Republican in Virginia's lower house said that any group planning to incite violence at a large gun rights rally on Monday in Richmond should stay home, while far-right leaders of militias planning to attend swore they were coming in peace. Richmond was braced on Sunday for the rally, aimed at showing gun enthusiasts' disdain for swift moves the newly Democrat-controlled legislature is making to pass stiffer gun laws - and many residents feared a repeat of violence seen at a white supremacist rally in nearby Charlottesville in 2017.

U.S. judge dismisses assault case against British retailer Philip Green: Arcadia

Prosecutors in the United States have dropped a case against British retailer Philip Green that had alleged assault, his Arcadia company said on Monday, citing court documents. Last May Green, 67, was charged with four counts of misdemeanor assault in the United States after an Arizona pilates instructor accused him of repeatedly touching her inappropriately.