BREAKING: Florida has reported 21,683 new cases of COVID-19, the state’s highest one-day total since the start of the pandemic, according to new federal health data. The state has become the new national epicenter for the virus. https://t.co/j5RVccwMPA
Defrocked Cardinal Theodore McCarrick has been charged with sexual assault in Massachusetts, officials say, making him the highest US clergyman accused in the abuse scandal that's rocked the Catholic Church. https://t.co/va8F9efYz1
Just in: The DOJ has concluded Rep. Brooks' participation in the 1/6 rally amounted to a campaign event not within the scope of his employment and that instigating an attack on the Capitol would not be within the scope of a lawmaker's employment. https://t.co/UED51dJX15
The House Select Committee investigating the January 6 insurrection begins this morning by interviewing police officers who fought the invading Trump army in the Capitol. I’d like to watch as much of the testimony as I can, so I’ll get right to it. Here’s the latest news and commentary I’ve come across so far.
Committee Chairman Bennie G. Thompson at The Washington Post: Opinion: We have started investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. Nothing will be off-limits.
I had hoped that such an investigation would be carried out by an independent commission composed of national security experts, like the panel created by Congress after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. However, once the House Republican leadership rejected — and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell filibustered — bipartisan legislation to establish such a commission, we in the House believed we had no choice but to establish a select committee. In a recent poll, 72 percent of Americans agree there is more we must learn about that day.
Many of the Jan. 6 rioters have stated in their court pleadings that they stormed the Capitol believing they were acting on behalf of, or even at the behest of, then-President Donald Trump. The protection of our democracy demands that we comprehensively investigate what drove Americans to riot and violently assault Capitol Police, Metropolitan Police and other law enforcement officers to access the inner sanctum of Congress and private offices of top congressional leaders, including the speaker of the House.
Jan. 6 was supposed to be about the peaceful transfer of power after an election, a hallmark of democracy and our American tradition. The rioters went to the Capitol that day to obstruct this solemn action — and nearly succeeded while defacing and looting the halls of the Capitol in the process. The committee will provide the definitive accounting of one of the darkest days in our history. Armed with answers, we hope to identify actions that Congress and the executive branch can take to help ensure that it never happens again.
The bipartisan members of the committee believe strongly it is important to begin our work by hearing from law enforcement officers who defended the Capitol on Jan. 6. On Tuesday, we will be joined by Capitol Police officers Aquilino Gonell and Harry Dunn and Metropolitan Police officers Daniel Hodges and Michael Fanone. These officers will provide firsthand accounts of the chaos of that day and the violence perpetrated by the rioters.
The House’s select committee probing the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol by supporters of former President Donald Trump won’t hesitate to subpoena members of Congress or Mr. Trump and will try to enforce the subpoenas in court if necessary, said the panel’s chairman.
“Anybody who had a conversation with the White House and officials in the White House while the invasion of the Capitol was going on is directly in the investigative sights of the committee,” said Rep. Bennie Thompson (D., Miss.) in an interview ahead of the panel’s first public hearing on Tuesday. He said that could include subpoenas to compel testimony, as well as records related to phone calls and other communications.
Pressed on whether the Democratic-led committee would subpoena Mr. Trump, Mr. Thompson said nobody was off limits. “I don’t want to name him, but what I will say is that in the conversations we’ve had as a committee, there’s been no reluctance whatsoever to go where the facts lead us,” he said.
Unlike the bipartisan Senate investigation into Jan. 6, which published findings and recommendations in June, the House’s select committee will go beyond security failures to look at communications between Congress and the executive branch and examine the role of individuals—including Mr. Trump—“who may or may not have contributed willingly or unwillingly to the events of Jan. 6,” Mr. Thompson said.
The Justice Department notified former Trump administration officials this week that they could testify to the various committees investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, according to a letter obtained by The New York Times.
Witnesses can give “unrestricted testimony” to the House Oversight and Reform Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee, the department said in a letter this week. Both panels are scrutinizing the Trump administration’s efforts to overturn the election in its final days and the events leading up to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
The decision runs counter to the views of former President Donald J. Trump, who has argued that his decisions and deliberations are protected by executive privilege. It also sets up a potential court battle if Mr. Trump sues in a bid to block any testimony.
In that case, the courts could be forced to decide the extent to which a former president can be protected by privilege. Mr. Trump’s supporters have argued that a president cannot function if privilege can be taken away by a successor, exposing sensitive decision-making and opening up the previous administration to scrutiny.
But others say that the matter is settled law, and that privilege does not apply to extraordinary circumstances.
The officers are expected to recount the harrowing attacks they faced on January 6, including being beaten with a flagpole, getting crushed in a doorway, being the target of racial slurs and facing rioters who tased them. The committee also is expected to show never-before-seen videos depicting the violence from that day, just as House impeachment managers did during the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump.
The emotional testimony kicks off the committee’s investigation into the circumstances surrounding the January 6 attack as Democratic leaders look to set the tone for a panel that congressional Republicans have dismissed as a political sideshow created merely to discredit the legacy of the former President.
The goal Tuesday, according to select committee member Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff of California, is to portray what it was like “to be on the front lines for the brave police officers” and to push back on efforts to whitewash the events of that day.
“I’m hoping that the hearing will give the American people an even more vivid sense of what went on that day, the horror of that day, how these brave police officers saved so many lives,” Schiff told CNN.
On Dec. 19, President Donald Trump blasted out a tweet to his 88 million followers, inviting supporters to Washington for a “wild” protest.
Earlier that week, one of his senior advisers had released a 36-page report alleging significant evidence of election fraud that could reverse Joe Biden’s victory. “A great report,” Trump wrote. “Statistically impossible to have lost the 2020 Election. Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!”
The tweet worked like a starter’s pistol, with two pro-Trump factions competing to take control of the “big protest.”
On one side stood Women for America First, led by Amy Kremer, a Republican operative who helped found the tea party movement. The group initially wanted to hold a kind of extended oral argument, with multiple speakers making their case for how the election had been stolen.
On the other was Stop the Steal, a new, more radical group that had recruited avowed racists to swell its ranks and wanted the President to share the podium with Alex Jones, the radio host banned from the world’s major social media platforms for hate speech, misinformation and glorifying violence. Stop the Steal organizers say their plan was to march on the Capitol and demand that lawmakers give Trump a second term.
ProPublica has obtained new details about the Trump White House’s knowledge of the gathering storm, after interviewing more than 50 people involved in the events of Jan. 6 and reviewing months of private correspondence. Taken together, these accounts suggest that senior Trump aides had been warned the Jan. 6 events could turn chaotic, with tens of thousands of people potentially overwhelming ill-prepared law enforcement officials.
Rather than trying to halt the march, Trump and his allies accommodated its leaders, according to text messages and interviews with Republican operatives and officials.
Katrina Pierson, a former Trump campaign official assigned by the White House to take charge of the rally planning, helped arrange a deal where those organizers deemed too extreme to speak at the Ellipse could do so on the night of Jan. 5. That event ended up including incendiary speeches from Jones and Ali Alexander, the leader of Stop the Steal, who fired up his followers with a chant of “Victory or death!”
Read more at ProPublica. It’s quite long and detailed.
…[I]n contrast to Republican claims, there is much for the select committee to uncover.
Top of the list is precisely what then-President Donald Trump did before, during and after the attack. How did he prepare his speech preceding the insurrection, in which he told the crowd to fight? What did he anticipate his audience’s reaction would be? When did he know the pro-Trump mob was threatening the Capitol? Why did he offer only mild statements long after the danger was clear? Did Trump-affiliated rally organizers coordinate with extremist groups? Answering such questions calls for subpoenaing former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows; Mr. Trump’s daughter Ivanka and her husband, White House senior adviser Jared Kushner; and other White House aides with useful information.
Also relevant is what members of Congress reported to Mr. Trump and other members of his administration as the riot unfolded. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who spoke with the president and Mr. Kushner on Jan. 6, must testify, along with any other lawmakers who interacted with the Trump administration in the run-up to, during and after that day. The list includes Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.), Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) and possibly Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio). For that matter, the committee must examine whether any lawmakers themselves maintained connections with or even abetted the rioters.
Investigators should hear from extremist-group leaders at the center of the violence. How did they prepare? What was their goal? The committee should hear also from Justice Department and Capitol Police officials who failed to anticipate the riot. Why did intelligence officials across the government seem unaware of warnings that were all over social media? To what extent did law enforcement discount or ignore warning signs about right-wing extremists because federal and local officers did not want to cross Mr. Trump and other Republicans? Why did the National Guard take so long to arrive?
Finally, the investigation should lead to recommendations to forestall a repeat of such political violence, with a particular focus on how the government monitors domestic extremism.
If you’re watching the hearings, please let us know what you think. As always, feel free to comment on any topic. This is an open thread.
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📍NEAR VERTICAL—The South is now seeing #DeltaVariant in its true vertical exponential form. So many not vaxxed. Short of lockdowns, it now all comes down to masks, ventilation & air disinfection—but if Delta has R0=6, it’s hard to bend curve; if R0=8, it’s almost impossible.🧵 pic.twitter.com/73PpjRxcuH
It’s going to be interesting to see what happens with the case against Trump ally Tom Barrack, who was arrested on Tuesday and charged with acting as an agent of a foreign power. Politico:
Tom Barrack, a longtime supporter of and adviser to former President Donald Trump, was arrested Tuesday on charges he secretly acted in the U.S. as an agent for the United Arab Emirates.
Barrack, 74, is accused of failing to register as a foreign agent, conspiracy, obstruction of justice and four counts of making false statements to the FBI.
A federal indictment issued by a grand jury in Brooklyn, N.Y., charged that Barrack put pro-UAE language into a Trump campaign speech in May 2016, took direction from UAE officials about what to say in media appearances and an op-ed piece he published just before the 2016 election, and agreed to promote a candidate for ambassador to UAE backed by UAE officials.
Prosecutors say Barrack used his insider access to White House officials that he gained through roles like his position as chair of Trump’s inaugural committee to give the UAE “non-public information about the views and reactions of senior U.S. government officials following a White House meeting between senior U.S. officials and senior UAE officials.”
Also charged in the case were an aide to Barrack at his investment firm Colony Capital, Matthew Grimes, and a businessman from UAE, Rashid Al-Malik.
Prosecutors allege that early in the Trump administration, Barrack sought to be appointed to a high-profile role in Middle East policy, while telling his allies in UAE that such an appointment would be good for them.
“In his communications with Al Malik, the defendant framed his efforts to obtain an official position within the Administration as one that would enable him to further advance the interests of the UAE, rather than the interests of the United States,” prosecutors wrote in a court filing.
A federal magistrate judge on Friday ordered Tom Barrack, a longtime associate of former President Donald Trump who was indicted earlier this week on charges of illegal foreign lobbying, released from jail pending trial, freeing him on a bail package that includes a $250 million bond secured by $5 million in cash.
The judge also ordered Barrack to wear a GPS location monitoring bracelet, barred him from transferring any funds overseas and restricted his travel to parts of Southern California and New York. He will have a curfew to be determined by pretrial services.
He must appear in federal court in Brooklyn on Monday, where he will be arraigned. A spokesman has said he intends to plead not guilty.
Barrack and co-defendant Matthew Grimes were released from custody later Friday, a source familiar with the matter told CNN.
The judge on Friday had also ordered Grimes on a $5 million bond. Grimes will be subject to GPS location monitoring with an electronic bracelet and travel restriction.
As a number of experts have pointed out, Barrack is not simply charged with failing to register as a foreign agent; he is accused of actually helping a foreign power influence U.S. policy. He’s charged under the same statute used to prosecute Russian spy Maria Butina. Emptywheel has been covering this story if you want to go deeper into the details.
As I noted in my deep dive of the Tom Barrack indictment, he was ****NOT**** charged under FARA. https://t.co/XzGabx586h
…[W]hen the billionaire real estate investor Tom Barrack, one of Trump’s biggest fund-raisers, was arrested on Tuesday and charged with acting as an unregistered agent of the United Arab Emirates along with other felonies, it might have seemed like a dog-bites-man story. Barrack was once described by longtime Trump strategist Roger Stone — a felon, naturally — as the ex-president’s best friend. If you knew nothing else about Barrack but that, you might have guessed he’d end up in handcuffs.
Nevertheless, Barrack’s arrest is important. Trump’s dealings with the Emirates and Saudi Arabia deserve to be investigated as thoroughly as his administration’s relationship with Russia. So far, that hasn’t happened. When Robert Mueller, the former special counsel, testified before Congress, Adam Schiff, chair of the House Intelligence Committee, said to him, “We did not bother to ask whether financial inducements from any Gulf nations were influencing U.S. policy, since it is outside the four corners of your report, and so we must find out.” But we have not found out.
A Barrack trial, if the case goes that far, is unlikely to answer all the outstanding questions about how Gulf money shaped Trump policy. But it could answer some.
Portrait of Edward Gorey by Sam Kalda
Let’s recall that Russia was not the only nation to send emissaries to Trump Tower during the presidential campaign offering election help. The bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee Report on Russian election interference discusses an August 2016 Trump Tower meeting whose attendees included Donald Trump Jr., George Nader, then an adviser to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, the Emirates’ de facto ruler, and Joel Zamel, owner of an Israeli private intelligence company, Psy-Group. (Nader is currently in prison for child sex trafficking and possession of child pornography.)
“Zamel asked Trump Jr. whether Psy-Group’s conducting a social media campaign paid for by Nader would present a conflict for the Trump campaign,” said the Senate report. “According to Zamel, Trump Jr. indicated that this would not present a conflict.”
Zamel told the committee that his company never actually performed such work. “Nonetheless, as described below, Zamel engaged in work on behalf of Nader, for which he was paid in excess of $1 million,” said the report. Zamel claimed the payment was for a postelection social media analysis, all copies of which were ostensibly deleted.
If the allegations in the Barrack indictment are true, it means that while an adviser to the Emirates was offering the Trump campaign election help, an Emirati agent was also shaping Trump’s foreign policy, even inserting the country’s preferred language into one of the candidate’s speeches. Prosecutors say that Barrack told a high-level figure they call “Emirati Official 2” that he had staffed the Trump campaign. (It was Barrack who recommended Paul Manafort, later to be convicted of multiple felonies, to Trump.) When an Emirati official asked Barrack if he had information about senior Trump appointees, Barrack allegedly replied, “I do” and said they should talk by phone. He is said to have traveled to the Emirates to strategize with its leadership about what they wanted from the administration during its first 100 days, first six months, first year and first term.
Read more at the NYT.
Yesterday Dakinikat focused on the latest pandemic news as well as the growing anger against the idiots who are refusing to be vaccinated. I want to follow up on a some of the stories she posted. First, in the comment thread, she posted a horrifying story about an anti-mask demonstration at a cancer clinic.
A breast cancer patient says she was sprayed with bear mace, physically assaulted, and verbally abused outside a cancer treatment center in West Hollywood, Los Angeles by far-right activists who were angry over the clinic’s mandatory mask policy.
Andrea Kowch, Queen’s Court, 2019
Dozens of anti-maskers holding signs with anti-vaxx and QAnon-adjacent conspiracy theories amassed on the sidewalk by the Cedars-Sinai Breast Health Services building on Thursday afternoon, and harassed patients and doctors.
In one exchange captured by local videographer Vishal Singh, a woman who has since publicly identified herself as Kate Burns, a cancer patient, approached the protesters and told them to leave.
“I get treated here, get the fuck away,” Burns said.
One protester, who was filming the scene on his phone, asked her why she was so angry, as a man holding a cardboard sign saying “End the Censorship of Vaccine Risks” smirked.
“Because I’ve just gone through fucking breast cancer,” Burns said. “And you motherfuckers are here.”
After a few more exchanges, the a “protester” actually punched Burns in the chest.
Tensions continued to rise as more far-right, anti-maskers arrived on the scene. A small group of anti-fascists also arrived, and got into altercations with the far-right. A woman holding a megaphone shoved Burns, and then punched her several times. Burns said, on social media, that the woman hit her in the chest and struck her scars….
Thursday was the second time that anti-maskers had targeted that particular breast cancer clinic over its mask policy. The ugly scenes and casual political violence that unfolded there on both occasions have become troublingly common across the U.S.
That information was culled from the health histories that 567 of the athletes filled out before they departed for Japan, said Dr. Jonathan Finnoff, who estimated that 83 percent of those competitors were fully vaccinated.
“Eighty-three percent is actually a substantial number, and we’re quite happy with it,” Finnoff, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee’s medical chief, said.
That’s higher than the national rate, with about 56 percent of Americans having received at least one dose of a vaccine. But it still means that about 100 of the total contingent of 613 U.S. athletes have not yet been vaccinated.
Seven months after the first coronavirus shots were rolled out, vaccinated Americans — including government, business and health leaders — are growing frustrated that tens of millions of people are still refusing to get them, endangering themselves and their communities and fueling the virus’s spread.
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) on Thursday lashed out amid a surge of cases in her state, telling a reporter it’s “time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks.” The National Football League this week imposed new rules that put pressure on unvaccinated players, warning their teams could face fines or be forced to forfeit games if those players were linked to outbreaks.
“I think for a lot of leaders, both in government and in business, patience has worn thin,” said Matt Gorman, a Republican strategist. “There is an urgency that might not have been there a month ago.”
Meanwhile, exhausted health providers say they are bracing for casespikes that are largely preventable, driven by the hyper-transmissible delta variant. “We are frustrated, tired and worried for this next surge — and saddened by the state we find ourselves in,” said Jason Yaun, a Memphis-based pediatrician, who said his colleagues are grappling with an “accumulation of fatigue” since the outbreak exploded in March 2020.
Biden administration officials increasingly frame the current outbreak as a “pandemic of the unvaccinated,” seeking to persuade and perhaps even frighten some holdouts to get the shots.
But after months of careful cajoling, a growing number of Democrats and Republicans are venting about the sheer number of Americans who remain unvaccinated, particularly as hospitals are becoming overwhelmed in states with low vaccination rates.
Read the rest at the WaPo. These people need to grow up!
That’s all I have for you today. What’s on your mind?
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The Sky Dancing banner headline uses a snippet from a work by artist Tashi Mannox called 'Rainbow Study'. The work is described as a" study of typical Tibetan rainbow clouds, that feature in Thanka painting, temple decoration and silk brocades". dakinikat was immediately drawn to the image when trying to find stylized Tibetan Clouds to represent Sky Dancing. It is probably because Tashi's practice is similar to her own. His updated take on the clouds that fill the collection of traditional thankas is quite special.
You can find his work at his website by clicking on his logo below. He is also a calligraphy artist that uses important vajrayana syllables. We encourage you to visit his on line studio.