Thursday Reads

Good Afternoon!!

Today I’m going to focus on the FBI’s epic mishandling of sexual abuse in the USA Gymnastics/Larry Nassar case as well as the accusations against now Supreme Court Justice Bret Kavanaugh.

Yesterday some of the country’s most accomplished women gymnasts gave shocking and damning testimony to before the Senate Judiciary Committee. For background, here is the statement of DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz on his report:  “Dereliction of Duty: Examining the Inspector General’s Report on the FBI’s Handling of the Larry Nassar Investigation.” This is a huge story, and all I can do is try to give you a sense of what happened to these women. Here are parts of their testimony.

Vice News: Gymnasts Slam FBI for Failing to Protect Them From Sexual Abuse.

Four of the top gymnasts in the United States told Congress that the FBI, USA Gymnastics, and the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee had failed them, for years, in a Senate hearing Wednesday—and they want answers and accountability.

The Senate Judiciary Committee hearing centered on a Justice Department report, released this summer, that found the FBI had botched its investigation into Larry Nassar, a once-celebrated doctor who has since been jailed and accused of abusing hundreds of gymnasts while pretending he was providing medical treatment. The four gymnasts who testified Wednesday—Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney, Maggie Nichols, and Aly Raisman—have all said that they were abused by Nassar.

“They had legal, legitimate evidence of child abuse and did nothing,” Maroney, an Olympic gold medalist, told the senators of the FBI. “If they’re not going to protect me, I want to know: Who are they trying to protect?”

Maroney, who is not named in the report, spoke with a FBI agent about her experience with Nassar, but that agent didn’t properly follow up, according to the report. More than a year after speaking with Maroney, the agent drafted a summary of her interview that included statements she did not make, per the report. 

The FBI’s inaction, Maroney said, was beyond devastating. She recalled sitting on her bedroom floor and spending nearly three hours telling the agent about the abuse she endured. After recounting one particularly horrific memory, she began to cry; the agent, she said, only asked her, “Is that all?”

“By not taking immediate action from my report, they allowed a child molester to go free for more than a year and this inaction directly allowed Nassar’s abuse to continue,” Maroney said. “I am tired of waiting for people to do the right thing, because my abuse was enough.”

AP: Biles: FBI turned ‘blind eye’ to reports of gymnasts’ abuse.

Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles told Congress in forceful testimony Wednesday that federal law enforcement and gymnastics officials turned a “blind eye” to USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar’s sexual abuse of her and hundreds of other women.

Biles told the Senate Judiciary Committee that “enough is enough” as she and three other U.S. gymnasts spoke in stark emotional terms about the lasting toll Nassar’s crimes have taken on their lives….

The four-time Olympic gold medalist and five-time world champion — widely considered to be the greatest gymnast of all time — said she “can imagine no place that I would be less comfortable right now than sitting here in front of you.” She declared herself a survivor of sexual abuse.

“I blame Larry Nassar and I also blame an entire system that enabled and perpetrated his abuse,” Biles said through tears. In addition to failures of the FBI, she said USA Gymnastics and the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee “knew that I was abused by their official team doctor long before I was ever made aware of their knowledge.”

Biles said a message needs to be sent: “If you allow a predator to harm children, the consequences will be swift and severe. Enough is enough.”

The hearing is part of a congressional effort to hold the FBI accountable after multiple missteps in investigating the case, including the delays that allowed the now-imprisoned Nassar to abuse other young gymnasts. All four witnesses said they knew girls or women who were molested by Nassar after the FBI had been made aware of allegations against him in 2015.

Yahoo News: Aly Raisman described the profound physical and mental impact Larry Nassar’s abuse has had on her health.

 

Aly Raisman has been extremely transparent about the significant emotional burden of Larry Nassar’s sexual abuse.

On Wednesday, the two-time Olympian detailed the profound physical impact the trauma has had on her health.

During a Senate Judiciary hearing about the FBI’s failings in the Nassar case, Raisman explained that she’d been sapped of all of her energy due to post-traumatic stress disorder and the lasting impact of Nassar’s abuse.

“Experiencing a type of abuse is not something one just suffers in the moment; it carries on with them sometimes for the rest of their lives,” Raisman said. “For example, being here today is taking everything I have.”

“I hope I have the energy even to just walk out of here,” she added.

She described feeling completely depleted after sharing her story publicly for the first time. She said she remembered struggling to find the energy to stand up in the shower and that she would have to sit on the floor to wash her hair.

She “couldn’t even go for a 10-minute walk outside” despite having been in the peak physical condition to compete in two Olympic Games just a few years prior. She often feels that her memory is impacted, too, and that her “mind isn’t working” adequately and that she has “no energy at all.”

The Oklahoman: At Larry Nassar hearing, former OU athlete Maggie Nichols says FBI, USA Gymnastics ‘betrayed’ her.

Nichols was the first to report Nassar’s abuse to USA Gymnastics in 2015. She was known for a time only as “Athlete A,” but before Congress she was quick to make clear that Nassar’s abuse “didn’t happen to Athlete A. It happened to me.”

“I reported my abuse to USA Gymnastics over six years ago and still, my family and I received few answers and have even more questions about how this was allowed to occur and why dozens of other little girls and women at Michigan State had to be abused after I reported,” Nichols said in an opening statement before Congress Wednesday.

Nassar served as team doctor for the 2016 US Olympic Gymnastics teams and continued his role at Michigan State University until later that year after an Indianapolis Star investigation was first published.

Nichols became an OU gymnast that same year, earning All-American status during her time with the Sooners. She later served as a student assistant coach, too. On Wednesday, she said that USAG, the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee and the FBI have “betrayed her and those who have reported Larry Nassar.” She said the lack of action was a “coverup.”

“After I reported my abuse to USAG, my family and I were told by their former president, Steve Penny, to keep quiet and not say anything that could hurt the FBI investigation,” Nichols said. “We now know there was no real FBI investigation occurring.”

More articles to check out:

Sally Jenkins at The Washington Post: Larry Nassar is in jail. Why isn’t everyone who ignored his crimes?

The Washington Post: FBI fires agent who failed to pursue tips about sex abuse by USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar.

Nancy Armour at USA Today Sports: Opinion: Gymnasts bare their souls in describing Larry Nassar abuse, but are lawmakers listening?

Dan Wetzel at Yahoo News: Pathetic lack of response to Larry Nassar’s reign of terror hits U.S. Senate.

The non-investigation of Larry Nassar’s abuse of young girls sheds light on what happened during the Senate confirmation hearings on Bret Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court. 

The Guardian: FBI director faces new scrutiny over investigation of Brett Kavanaugh.

The FBI director, Chris Wray, is facing new scrutiny of the bureau’s handling of its 2018 background investigation of Brett Kavanaugh, including its claim that the FBI lacked the authority to conduct a further investigation into the then supreme court nominee.

At the heart of the new questions that Wray will face later this week, when he testifies before the Senate judiciary committee, is a 2010 Memorandum of Understanding that the FBI has recently said constrained the agency’s ability to conduct any further investigations of allegations of misconduct.

It is not clear whether that claim is accurate, based on a close reading of the MOU, which was released in court records following a Freedom of Information Act request.

The FBI was called to investigate allegations of sexual misconduct against Kavanaugh during his Senate confirmation process in 2018, after he was accused of assault by Christine Blasey Ford, a professor who knew Kavanaugh when they were both in high school. He also faced other accusations, including that he had exposed himself to a classmate at Yale called Deborah Ramirez. Kavanaugh denied both accusations.

The FBI closed its extended background check of Kavanaugh after four days and did not interview either Blasey Ford or Kavanaugh. The FBI also disclosed to the Senate this June – two years after questions were initially asked – that it had received 4,500 tips from the public during the background check and that it had shared all “relevant tips” with the White House counsel at that time. It is not clear whether those tips were ever investigated.

The FBI said in its letter to two senators – Sheldon Whitehouse and Christopher Coons – that the FBI did not have the authority under the 2010 MOU at the time to “unilaterally conduct further investigative activity absent instructions from the requesting entity”. In other words, the FBI has said it would have required explicit instructions from the Trump White House to conduct further investigation under the existing 2010 guidelines on how such investigations ought to be conducted.

But an examination by the Guardian of the 2010 MOU, which was signed by the then attorney general, Eric Holder, and then White House counsel, Robert Bauer, does not make explicitly clear that the FBI was restricted in terms of how it would conduct its investigation.

Read the rest at The Guardian.

Alternet: ‘Just as flawed’: Sen. Whitehouse questions FBI probe of Kavanaugh after failed Larry Nassar investigation.

Talk about perfect timing. During a hearing on the FBI’s mishandling of allegations against Larry Nassar, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse raised questions about whether the Nassar investigation was the only FBI case that was bungled. Whitehouse used the investigation of former USA Gymnastics team doctor and convicted pedophile Nassar to question the legitimacy of the FBI’s 2018 background check into Brett Kavanaugh, wondering if that investigation might have been “just as flawed.”

“It strikes me very strongly as we sit here today, and as we heard the powerful testimony earlier this morning, that the last time a woman came forward in this committee to testify to her allegations of sexual assault in her childhood, the witness was Christine Blasey Ford,” Whitehouse said.

“It appeared to me then, and it appears to me now that her testimony was swept under the rug in a confirmation stampede,” he added. “It is very possible that the FBI investigation of her allegations was just as flawed, just as constrained, just as inappropriate, as the investigation in this case.”

Whitehouse demanded answers regarding the non-investigation of then-Supreme Court nominee Kavanaugh and called out FBI Director Christopher Wray over the bureau’s investigation of Ford’s allegation that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were teenagers.

Whitehouse noted that he repeatedly requested more information about the FBI’s investigation into Ford’s allegations but had been ignored for two years before finally receiving a response yesterday.

“Not coincidentally, I suspect, on the eve of your appearance today,” Whitehouse said to Wray.

I know there is much more news out there today, but in my opinion the stories about the FBI failing women are vitally important. It’s obvious that the FBI is far too white and far too male. And don’t forget the non-investigation of Nassar happened under the leadership of James Comey. 

Now a new white male FBI Director–Chris Wray–is similarly accused of failing to adequately investigation allegations of sexual abuse of women.

As always, this is an open thread.


Thursday Reads: Matt Gaetz’s Wild and Crazy Scandal

Saad Yagan, 2017

Saad Yagan, 2017

Good Afternoon!!

What on Earth is going on with Matt Gaetz? The story just keeps growing stranger by the day. It all began with this New York Times story published on Tuesday: Matt Gaetz Is Said to Face Justice Dept. Inquiry Over Sex With an Underage Girl.

Representative Matt Gaetz, Republican of Florida and a close ally of former President Donald J. Trump, is being investigated by the Justice Department over whether he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old and paid for her to travel with him, according to three people briefed on the matter.

Investigators are examining whether Mr. Gaetz violated federal sex trafficking laws, the people said. A variety of federal statutes make it illegal to induce someone under 18 to travel over state lines to engage in sex in exchange for money or something of value. The Justice Department regularly prosecutes such cases, and offenders often receive severe sentences.

It was not clear how Mr. Gaetz met the girl, believed to be 17 at the time of encounters about two years ago that investigators are scrutinizing, according to two of the people.

The investigation was opened in the final months of the Trump administration under Attorney General William P. Barr, the two people said. Given Mr. Gaetz’s national profile, senior Justice Department officials in Washington — including some appointed by Mr. Trump — were notified of the investigation, the people said.

Then Gaetz appeared on Tucker Carlson’s show on Fox and made everything worse for himself.

Aaron Rupar at Vox: Matt Gaetz’s disastrous Tucker Carlson interview, explained.

Hours after the New York Times broke the news that Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) is under federal investigation for alleged sex trafficking, he was given a platform by Fox News host Tucker Carlson to tell his side of the story. But Gaetz ended up botching the softball interview so thoroughly that Carlson ended up telling his millions of viewers it was “one of the weirdest interviews I’ve ever conducted.”

Pablo Picasso, 1939

Pablo Picasso, 1939

At various points during the interview, Gaetz — who denies the allegations — volunteered the existence of criminal allegations against him that aren’t yet part of the public record, brought up sexual misconduct allegations against Carlson that most of his viewers probably weren’t aware of, and went out of his way to involve Carlson in stories about his personal life.

“I can say that actually you and I went to dinner about two years ago, your wife was there, and I brought a friend of mine — you’ll remember her — and she was actually threatened by the FBI, told that if she wouldn’t cop to the fact that somehow I was involved in some pay-for-play scheme, that could face trouble,” Gaetz said. “So I do believe there are people at the Department of Justice that are trying to smear me. Providing for flights and hotel rooms for people that you’re dating who are of legal age is not a crime.”

It sounds like he’s admitting he paid for travel and hotel rooms for a person he was dating, doesn’t it?

…more importantly than the bizarreness of the interview is the fact that Gaetz didn’t do a very convincing job trying to refute the very serious criminal allegations underpinning the federal investigation. His defense basically amounts to claims that he’s the victim of a vast conspiracy….

During the interview with Carlson, Gaetz denied improper conduct, but he did so in a very limited and specific way, using language that raised more questions than it answered.

Butterflies and Poppies, Vincent Van Gogh

Butterflies and Poppies, Vincent Van Gogh

“The New York Times is running a story that I have traveled with a 17-year-old woman, and that is verifiably false; people can look at my travel records and see that that is not the case,” Gaetz said — even though a 17-year-old is not a “woman,” the allegations go beyond mere “traveling,” and it’s unclear how “travel records” could disprove any of them.

Gaetz went on to allege that word of the investigation was leaked as part of an extortion plot, saying “what is happening is an extortion of me and my family involving a former Department of Justice official” who demanded $25 million in exchange for making the sex trafficking allegations go away.

But during an MSNBC interview a short time later, one of the Times reporters bylined on the Gaetz story, Katie Benner, debunked one of Gaetz’s central claims, saying unequivocally that the former official Gaetz accused by name of being part of an extortion plot isn’t even involved in the investigation.

I’m still very confused.

Washington Post fact checker Salvador Rizzo explains why travel records could not prove the allegations against Gaetz are false. Basically, these records aren’t available to the public.

Here’s the bottom line: House members’ personal travel and expenses are not subject to disclosure, so there would be no public records to check regarding Gaetz’s private life.“If this was just personal travel, and he wasn’t using campaign or official funds, there’s no disclosure,” said Jordan Libowitz, communications director for the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

Airline flight manifests and personal credit card or bank statements would chart who went where with whom at what times and at whose expense, but those sensitive records are not public. Only law enforcement investigators could look through them by getting subpoenas.

Philip Bump at The Washington Post: The Matt Gaetz allegation, explained.

“The Justice Department is investigating Rep. Matt Gaetz — a Florida Republican considered a close political ally of former president Donald Trump — over an alleged sexual relationship with an underage girl,” The Washington Post’s Matt Zapotosky and Devlin Barrett explain. That relationship allegedly included paying for the girl to travel, potentially across state lines, adding the complexity of potential federal charges related to sex trafficking, according to the Times. Both the Post and Times stories are constrained for fairly obvious reasons, including the limits of available information and the need to accurately convey the potential risk Gaetz faces.

landscape with butterflies, 1956, Salvidor Dali

Landscape with Butterflies, 1956, by Salvador Dali

The investigation apparently spun out of another sex-trafficking probe in Florida. That one focused on a former county official named Joel Greenberg, who was charged in the summer with a number of federal offenses, including sex trafficking of a minor.

“According to an indictment in the case, Greenberg abused his access to a statewide database, using it to look up the personal information of people with whom he was in ‘sugar daddy’ relationships, including the minor, and to help produce fake identification documents to ‘facilitate his efforts to engage in commercial sex acts,’ ” Zapotosky and Barrett report. “He was also accused of seeking to undermine a political opponent by surfacing fabricated evidence of racism and misconduct.”

It’s worth noting that questions about Gaetz’s relationships have emerged in the past. A Mother Jones article from 2019 documents concerns raised by a former member of Gaetz’s staff about a 21-year-old he was then dating and who was apparently posting photos of the two of them on Instagram alongside other photos showing not-conservative-politician-friendly activities.

There’s more explanation and confusion at the link. What is clear is that there are two different investigations that Gaetz is trying to combine in his defense. Other than that, I’m still confused.

Gaetz’s father chimed in at Politico yesterday: Matt Gaetz’s dad says he wore a wire for FBI probe into DOJ extortion claims.

Rep. Matt Gaetz’s father, Don, a former Florida Senate president, said he is working with the FBI, including wearing a wire on more than one occasion as part of an investigation into an alleged extortion plot that the pair said was organized by former federal prosecutor David McGee.

Herons and Lilies, 1862 by Frank W. Benson

Herons and Lilies, 1934, by Frank W. Benson

“The FBI asked me to try and get that information for Matt and an indication we would transfer money to Mr. David McGee,” Don Gaetz said in an interview late Tuesday, without specifying what information he was referring to.

McGee, who is now in private practice with a Pensacola, Fla.-based law firm, did not respond to a POLITICO request seeking comment, but told other media outlets there is no truth to the alleged extortion plot.

Don Gaetz said in the interview he wore a wire during a meeting earlier this month with McGee and said he was set to meet Wednesday with Stephen Alford, a local developer who he said is also part of the alleged extortion scheme. During that meeting, Don Gaetz said, he was again set to wear a wire and try to get Alford to talk about payments he allegedly was to make to McGee, but the meeting fell apart when news broke that his son was being investigated by the Justice Department. Alford did not respond to text messages seeking comment.

In separate interviews, Don and Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) acknowledged a Justice Department probe involving the younger Gaetz, 38, into whether he had improper involvement with a 17-year-old girl. The Gaetzes say they are the target of an extortion plot seeking money to keep the DOJ investigation quiet.

Today The Washington Post reported that the scandal involves Robert Levinson, a former FBI agent who went missing in Iran and is believed to be dead. Here’s a summary at The Week: The Matt Gaetz case now involves a missing FBI agent last seen in Iran.

When Rep. Matt Gaetz’s (R-Fla.) father received a message that referred to a Justice Department investigation into his son and asked for help funding the search for Robert Levinson, a former FBI agent who went missing in Iran 14 years ago, he thought the request was suspicious and went to the FBI, people familiar with the matter told The Washington Post on Wednesday.

On Tuesday night, The New York Times reported that in the waning months of the Trump administration, the DOJ launched an investigation into whether Gaetz had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl and paid for her to travel with him out of state. Gaetz, who denied any wrongdoing and has not been charged with any crimes, released a statement saying his family had been targeted by extortionists, and his father wore a wire at the insistence of the FBI.

Boy with butterfly net Henri Mattisse, 1907

Boy with butterfly net, by Henri Mattisse, 1907

People familiar with the matter told the Post that Gaetz’s wealthy father, Don Gaetz, received a text message and document from two men who said if he gave them money to help with the search for Levinson, Matt Gaetz would be seen as a hero and his legal troubles would likely go away. Levinson disappeared from Iran’s Kish Island in 2007 while trying to get information on the country’s nuclear program, and was last seen alive in a 2010 hostage video. His family has said the U.S. government told them they believe Levinson is dead.

When Don Gaetz received these messages, the DOJ investigation into his son was not known publicly. It isn’t clear how the men learned about the investigation, and they do not appear to have any direct connection with the investigation. People with knowledge of the matter told the Post it will be hard to prove this was an extortion attempt because the men did not threaten to expose Gaetz’s DOJ investigation if the family did not give them money.

Matt Gaetz appeared on Fox News Tuesday night and accused a lawyer named David McGee of being involved in this effort. McGee has represented the Levinson family for years, and on Tuesday night he said Don Gaetz called him and they had a “pleasant conversation” about “the trouble his son was in.” McGee denied being involved in any extortion attempt, and his law firm on Wednesday called the allegation “false and defamatory.” Catherine Garcia

One more Gaetz story from ABC News: In investigation of Rep. Gaetz’s alleged sexual relationship with minor, feds looking beyond Florida, sources say.

Sources told ABC News the investigation has been going on for months and began during the Trump administration. Former Attorney General Bill Barr was briefed on the investigation’s progress several times, the sources said.

One source told ABC News that federal authorities have already interviewed multiple witnesses as part of their probe.

Morning Bird Dance, Edvard Munch

Morning Bird Dance, Edvard Munch

Gaetz has reportedly told confidants he is considering retiring from Congress and possibly joining the right-wing media outlet Newsmax, according to an Axios report earlier Tuesday.

Yet within the last several weeks Gaetz started reaching out to prominent attorneys, according to one source. The source said that one of the attorneys Gaetz asked to represent him was Washington attorney Bill Burck, who represented Steve Bannon, Reince Priebus and Don McGahn during the Mueller probe. Burck turned down the case, according to a person familiar with the decision.

So this story keeps getting curiouser and curiouser. One interesting point is that apparently Gaetz is very unpopular with Republicans and they are rooting for him to go down in flames. A few more links to check out:

Jeff Stein at Spy Talk: Gaetz ‘Extortion’ Figure’s Levinson Obsession.

The Daily Beast: The Creepy, Disturbing Case That Ensnared Matt Gaetz.

Ben Jacobs at New York Magazine: Matt Gaetz Gets a Scandal As Wild As Him.

Raw Story: Here are 7 new bombshell details from the complex and unraveling Matt Gaetz investigation story.

The Daily Beast: Republicans Have Been Waiting for a Matt Gaetz Scandal to Break.

The Hill: Fox has no interest in hiring Matt Gaetz.

I’ll be keeping an eye on this story, because it’s still so confusing to me. I guess we’ll be learning more soon. So what’s on your mind today? As always, this is an open thread.


Lazy Caturday Reads

dona i gat_Myrtille Henrion-Picco

Dona i gat, Myrtille Henrion-Pico

Good Morning!!

It looks like the Covid relief bill could finally pass the Senate after an all-nighter in which Biden himself was finally brought in to get Joe Manchin on board. 

Politico: Senate reaches unemployment benefits deal, ending logjam on Covid aid bill.

Senate Democrats clinched a deal on Friday night over unemployment benefits that will smooth the upper chamber’s passage of President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill this weekend.

After about a nine-hour delay following Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-W.Va.) resistance to an earlier agreement on jobless payments, party leaders announced a new accord with Manchin. The latest deal would provide $300 a week in extra unemployment benefits through Sept. 6, and up to $10,200 in tax relief for unemployed workers.

Democratic leaders also agreed to limit eligibility for that tax relief, restricting the tax-free status of the benefits to households with incomes under $150,000 a year.

Ophelia Redpath, 1965

By Ophelia Redpath, 1965

The White House quickly announced its support after endorsing the earlier compromise.

“The President supports the compromise agreement, and is grateful to all the senators who worked so hard to reach this outcome,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement on Friday night.

With Manchin’s objections eased, Democrats plowed forward with a marathon “vote-a-rama” — an all-night ordeal in which any senator can offer an amendment to Biden’s bill. The Senate is now on track to pass the package on Saturday….

After Senate passage, the bill will go back to the House, where lawmakers must approve the changes before it reaches Biden’s desk.

At The New York Times, Glenn Thrush reports:  More Democrats join the effort to kill the filibuster as a way of saving Biden’s agenda.

A growing number of Senate Democrats are warming to the idea of eliminating the filibuster as they encounter Republican resistance to President Biden’s legislative agenda, forcing the White House to cut deals on issues like the minimum wage and pandemic relief payments.

If the founders envisioned the upper chamber as a “cooling bowl” to moderate more extreme bills passed by the House, the filibuster has often been a deep freezer, infamously deployed by Southern racists to quash reforms during the civil rights era….

Two Senate Democrats — Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona — have said they will oppose any effort to do away with the rule, making any rollback a long shot. Mr. Biden and Senator Chuck Schumer, the majority leader, have been noncommittal about eliminating the filibuster.

Two Senate Democrats — Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona — have said they will oppose any effort to do away with the rule, making any rollback a long shot. Mr. Biden and Senator Chuck Schumer, the majority leader, have been noncommittal about eliminating the filibuster….

Tatyana Struchkova

By Tatyana Struchkova

On Thursday, Senator Tina Smith of Minnesota took to Twitter to declare her support for ending the filibuster. “The Senate needs to abolish the filibuster. It’s undemocratic,” she wrote, adding, “We need to move this country forward.”

A day earlier, Senator Amy Klobuchar, the state’s senior senator and a standard-bearer for her party’s moderate wing in 2020, said the likely demise in the Senate of a House voting rights bill had flipped her from a “maybe” to a “yes.” [….]

Another centrist, Jon Tester of Montana, has taken a wait-and-see approach, but signaled recently that he too might be open to killing the rule.

The investigations into the January 6 insurrection continue. Recent news:

The New York Times: F.B.I. Finds Contact Between Proud Boys Member and Trump Associate Before Riot.

A member of the far-right nationalist Proud Boys was in communication with a person associated with the White House in the days just before the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol, according to a law enforcement official briefed on the investigation.

Location, cellular and call record data revealed a call tying a Proud Boys member to the Trump White House, the official said. The F.B.I. has not determined what they discussed, and the official would not reveal the names of either party.

The connection revealed by the communications data comes as the F.B.I. intensifies its investigation of contacts among far-right extremists, Trump White House associates and conservative members of Congress in the days before the attack….

Christilla Germain

By Christilla Germain

Separately, Enrique Tarrio, a leader of the far-right nationalist Proud Boys, told The New York Times on Friday that he called Roger J. Stone Jr., a close associate of former President Donald J. Trump’s, while at a protest in front of the home of Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida. During the protest, which occurred in the days before the Capitol assault, he put Mr. Stone on speaker phone to address the gathering.

A law enforcement official said that it was not Mr. Tarrio’s communication with Mr. Stone that was being scrutinized, and that the call made in front of Mr. Rubio’s home was a different matter. That two members of the group were in communication with people associated with the White House underscores the access that violent extremist groups like the Proud Boys had to the White House and to people close to the former president.

In response to this story, attorney Luppe B. Luppen (@Southpaw on Twitter) was reminded of an interesting January 6 tweet by CNN’s Jim Acosta:

This is interesting, from CNN: Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren quietly releases massive social media report on GOP colleagues who voted to overturn the election.

Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren has quietly posted a nearly 2,000-page report documenting social media posts by her Republican colleagues who voted against certifying results of the presidential election on January 6. The information compiled isn’t secret, but the report is another sign of the deep distrust that has settled into the US Capitol in the weeks since the insurrection.

The report chronicles the social media activity of members on public forums immediately before the November election and right after the January 6 riot. The report has been online for a week.

CNN reported earlier Thursday that federal investigators are examining records of communications between members of Congress and the pro-Trump mob that attacked the Capitol, as the investigation moves closer to exploring whether lawmakers wittingly or unwittingly helped the insurrectionists….

Catriona Millar2

By Catriona Millar

“Any appropriate disciplinary action is a matter not only of the Constitution and law, but also of fact,” the California Democrat wrote. “Many of former President Trump’s false statements were made in very public settings. Had Members made similar public statements in the weeks and months before the January 6th attack? Statements which are readily available in the public arena may be part of any consideration of Congress’ constitutional prerogatives and responsibilities.” [….]

“Like former President Trump, any elected Member of Congress who aided and abetted the insurrection or incited the attack seriously threatened our democratic government. They would have betrayed their oath of office and would be implicated in the same constitutional provision cited in the Article of Impeachment,” Lofgren wrote in her foreword to the report. “That provision prohibits any person who has previously taken an oath as a member of Congress to support the Constitution but subsequently engaged in insurrection or rebellion from serving in Congress.”

Communications from Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona are heavily represented in the report:

The report features a collection of social media posts and tweets that span dozens of pages from Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar where he urges supporters to “hold the line,” days before what would become the Capitol insurrection. In another social media post included in the report, Gosar wrote that “sedition and treason for stealing votes is appropriate.”

The report also captures numerous tweets where Gosar invoked @ali on Twitter, which was formerly the account used by Ali Alexander, a leader of the “Stop the Steal” group, who said in several Periscope livestream videos that he planned the rally that preceded the riot in conjunction with Gosar and two other congressional Republicans, Mo Brooks of Alabama and Andy Biggs of Arizona.

HuffPost reports that the FBI still haven’t arrested this guy who attacked police with a fire extinguisher: Revealed: The Star-Spangled Trumper Filmed Attacking Cops At The Capitol.

With bright red and white stripes across his body and stars down his sleeves, the man in the American flag jacket and “FLORIDA FOR TRUMP” hat wielded a fire extinguisher while charging the U.S. Capitol on the afternoon of Jan. 6. He shoved his way through the crowd of rioters to the police line, then sprayed officers at close range before chucking the emptied canister at them. By nightfall he himself had been lightly harmed, apparently by a police crowd control munition. He held up his shirt to show off his bruised gut during an interview with a female journalist filming him live as cops pushed the mob back from Capitol grounds. Then he looked straight into her livestreaming device and identified himself as Robert Palmer from Clearwater, Florida.

Adrie Martens

By Andrie Martens

At this point, the man had not only assaulted federal officers before a sea of smartphones while wearing highly distinctive attire, he’d also willingly revealed his own name and hometown on video at the scene of the crime — while still in the same outfit.

This isn’t your typical “Florida Man” story, despite its absurdity. This is the story of a violent insurrectionist who’s still at large — nearly two months later — and one woman who joined the online sleuthing communities crowdsourcing their efforts to bring a Capitol attacker to justice.

Robert Scott Palmer is a white 53-year-old husband and father who runs Son Bright Systems, a cleaning and restoration business. His criminal record includes being sentenced on charges of battery and felony fraud.

HuffPost verified his identity through a search of public records and social media accounts associated with Palmer, after receiving a tip from Amy, a woman living in a rural area out west who in her free time joined the #SeditionHunters network, an online sleuthing community seeking to identify the hundreds of Trump supporters who rioted at the Capitol. (Amy is a pseudonym she chose to protect her privacy.)

Reached by phone late Thursday afternoon, Palmer confirmed he was at the Capitol on Jan. 6 and gave the livestream interview. He claimed that he’d done nothing to justify being struck with the police munition, and that the Biden administration was trying to “vilify the patriots” who were involved in the riot. 

Read more about Palmer at the HuffPo link. I wonder why he’s still at large?

More stories to check out today:

Sandra Bierman-yin-yang

Sandra Bierman, Yin Yang

Politico: Prominent retired generals aided Honoré review of Capitol security.

Raw Story: WATCH: QAnon-loving Capitol rioter thought JFK Jr would be ‘sworn in’ as Trump’s vice president on Jan 6

NBC News: Federico Klein, former Trump appointee charged in Capitol riot, wants jail cell without cockroaches.

Politico: Capitol riot shaman’s TV interview irks judge.

Newsweek: Rachel Powell, Capitol Rioter Known as ‘Bullhorn Lady,’ Indicted by Grand Jury.

The New York Times: Cuomo Is Told to Preserve Records at Issue in Sexual Harassment Inquiry.

CBS Evening News: Cuomo accuser alleges a staffer took sexual harassment training for the governor.

Jonathan Chait at New York Magazine: How Never Trumpers Are Becoming Pro-Democracy Republicans.

Madison.com: Ron Johnson: No decision on 2022 run, but leaving office is ‘probably my preference now.’

The New York Times: Democrats Want a Stronger Edge in the Senate. Ohio Could Be Crucial.

Have a great weekend, Sky Dancers!! This is an open thread.


Wednesday Reads: Dry Heaves

Aren’t we all getting physically ill lately over the tRumpian attempts to overthrow the election results. I’m so sick of hearing the word “overturn” in the news media…you know, call it what it is, a fucking coup. Repeated attempted coups…to overthrow the country’s election.

I’ve got some news to share:

tRump only got 18% of the vote but…damn this is not the kind of support you want to see when there are other articles at Politco discussing things like this:

In other news:

This little incident made the local news…. but even in my own town, the lack of mask wearing is so blatant. It is disgusting.

 A girlfriend of the man who the authorities say set off a bomb in downtown Nashville on Christmas had called police officers to his home last year, claiming that he had been making bombs in the R.V. parked there, according to a police incident report.

A lawyer for the girlfriend, according to the document filed with the Metro Nashville Police Department, told police officers that her boyfriend, Anthony Warner, “frequently talks about the military and bomb making.” The call to the police was reported on Tuesday by The Tennessean and WTVF-TV, a Nashville station.

The girlfriend met with the officers at her home on Aug. 21, 2019, according to the report and a later statement from the police. Officers then went to Mr. Warner’s home, a two-bedroom duplex in the Antioch area of Nashville.

The officers knocked on the door but “did not receive an answer,” according to the report, which was obtained by The New York Times. The R.V., which has been identified by state and federal officials as the one that exploded in downtown Nashville, injuring three and disrupting telecommunications in the region, was parked behind a fence. Officers wrote that they observed “several security cameras and wires attached to an alarm sign on the front door.”

A spokesman for the Police Department, Don Aaron, said in a statement that the police “saw no evidence of a crime and had no authority to enter his home or fenced property.” The girlfriend’s lawyer also represented Mr. Warner, according to the police, and told officers later that he would “not allow his client to permit a visual inspection of the R.V.”

According to the article, the FBI was also involved…I think there is more to this than what is being released. A terrorist doesn’t build a bomb to blow up a city block in a vacuum.

In the aftermath, The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said Warner was “not on our radar”prior to the bombing. But a Metro Nashville Police Department report from August 2019 shows that local and federal authorities were aware of alleged threats he had made.

No actions appear to have been taken to stop Warner, a slender 5-foot-8, 135-pound man who died in the explosion, which injured three others.

On Aug. 21, 2019, the girlfriend told Nashville police that Warner “was building bombs in the RV trailer at his residence,” the MNPD report states. Nashville police then forwarded the information to the FBI.

[…] Throckmorton, who served as the woman’s attorney, told officers Warner “frequently talks about the military and bomb making,” the document said.

Warner “knows what he is doing and is capable of making a bomb,” the attorney said to the officers, according to the report.

The attorney urged police to look into her claim, saying he feared for her safety. Police did go to Warner’s home, but he didn’t answer the door after they knocked.

He was making threats to his girlfriend, he was reportedly making bombs — and they let it go after he didn’t answer the door.

Now, just imagine his name was Breonna Taylor.

Now for some cartoons:

Here’s to 2021… stay safe, and wear your fucking masks!


Tuesday Art and Reads

Good Morning!!

The paintings in today’s post are by Do Fournier, a contemporary French painter. Here’s a little information about her:

Do Fournier (French, b.1951) is a Contemporary painter, originally from Guerande, Brittany, France. She began her career as a successful illustrator, and, in 1984, changed her focus to the creation of her own paintings. Her works were well received, and numerous prestigious exhibitions of her artworks have been mounted in France. In addition, she has frequently been invited to exhibit at the Salon d’Automne in Paris.

Fournier creates fantastic, colorful, and intimate works inspired by her home in France, which overlooks the sea. Her family and pets, as well as her collection of objects d’art, rugs, and textiles, are her primary subjects.

As the noted French critic Gerard Xuriguera has observed: “Her approach in an uneasy society is not to describe it’s pain but the potential it still has for joy, it’s fragile moments of charm and peacefulness stolen from a routine existence. To do this she expresses reality in its most intimate, sensual, peaceful and carnal form. Not as imitation but as a vision filtered through her observations and cast in the exuberance of her blazing colours. What she is trying to capture is fleeting emotion, to immobilize it and express it as simply as possible.

 

Breaking News

Right now I’m watching a press conference by House Leader Nancy Pelosi and the chairs of the five House committees involved in the impeachment investigation.

In yesterday’s impeachment hearing, Rep Eric Swalwell spelled out the case against Trump in no uncertain terms.

Today’s Reads

The New York Times: Another Inquiry Doesn’t Back Up Trump’s Charges. So, on to the Next.

President Trump and his allies spent months promising that a report on the origins of the F.B.I.’s Russia investigation would be a kind of Rosetta Stone for Trump-era conspiracy enthusiasts — the key to unlocking the secrets of a government plot to keep Mr. Trump from being elected in 2016.

On that point, the report by the Justice Department’s inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz, did not deliver, even as it found serious problems with how F.B.I. officials justified the surveillance of a Trump campaign aide to a federal court.

But by the time it was released, the president, his attorney general, his supporters in Congress and the conservative news media had already declared victory and decamped for the next battle in the wider war to convince Americans of the enemies at home and abroad arrayed against the Trump presidency.

They followed a script they have used for nearly three years: Engage in a choreographed campaign of presidential tweets, Fox News appearances and fiery congressional testimony to create expectations about finding proof of a “deep state” campaign against Mr. Trump. And then, when the proof does not emerge, skew the results and prepare for the next opportunity to execute the playbook.

That opportunity has arrived in the form of an investigation by aRea Connecticut prosecutor ordered this year by Attorney General William P. Barr — and the president and his allies are now predicting it will be the one to deliver damning evidence that the F.B.I., C.I.A. and even close American allies conspired against Mr. Trump in the 2016 election.

Read the rest at the NYT.

One startling revelation from the IG report was that Ivanka Trump has been friends with Christopher Steele for years.

ABC News: ‘Dossier’ author Chris Steele met Ivanka Trump years before Russia scandal, source says.

Nearly a decade before the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka met a British intelligence officer who ran the Russia desk — and when the agent left his covert service and moved into private practice in 2010, she stayed in touch, ABC News has learned.

Artist Do Fournier

The two exchanged emails but never worked together, and the man, Christopher Steele, would one day re-emerge in a most unexpected way, taking a central role in the Russia scandal that consumed the early years of her father’s presidency, according to a source familiar with their past contacts.

The prior relationship came to light as investigators with the Department of Justice Inspector General’s office was looking into allegations of political bias at the origins of the Russia investigation since May 2018….

In 2007, Ivanka Trump met Steele at a dinner and they began corresponding about the possibility of future work together, the source said. The following year, the two exchanged emails about meeting up near Trump Tower, according to several emails seen by ABC News. And the two did meet at Trump Tower according to the source. The inspector general’s report mentions a meeting with a “Trump family member” there. They suggest Ivanka Trump and Steele stayed in touch via emails over the next several years. In one 2008 exchange they discussed dining together in New York at a restaurant just blocks from Trump Tower.

Ivanka Trump worked as an executive vice president at the Trump Organization, managing a range of foreign real estate projects, including in parts of the world where Steele’s firm, Orbis Business Intelligence touted expertise. She and Steele discussed services Orbis could offer to the Trump Organization regarding its planned expansion into foreign markets, according to two sources familiar with the meetings.

Read more at ABC News.

Also from ABC News: FBI Director Chris Wray reacts to DOJ watchdog report on Russia investigation: Exclusive.

FBI Director Christopher Wray offered mixed reactions to a Justice Department watchdog report that uncovered “serious performance failures” on the part of agents involved in the Russia investigation but ultimately determined the bureau was justified in launching its probe.

Artist Do Fournier

In an exclusive broadcast interview with ABC News, Wray lamented “actions described in this report that [he] considered unacceptable and unrepresentative of who we are as an institution.” But, he said it was “important that the inspector general found that, in this particular instance, the investigation was opened with appropriate predication and authorization.” [….]

But the president and his allies have called it “a major SPY scandal” and accused those involved of working on behalf of the “Deep State.”

Wray did not respond directly to the president, but pushed back on the “Deep State” characterization of the bureau’s work.

“I think that’s the kind of label that’s a disservice to the men and women who work at the FBI who I think tackle their jobs with professionalism, with rigor, with objectivity, with courage,” Wray said. “So that’s not a term I would ever use to describe our work force and I think it’s an affront to them.”

Naturally, Trump is enraged at Wray’s remarks. Will he fire another FBI Director?

The Washington Post: Trump lashes out at FBI director in wake of Justice Department inspector general’s report.

President Trump lashed out Tuesday morning at FBI Director Christopher A. Wray, suggesting that “he will never be able to fix the FBI” based on his reaction to a Justice Department inspector general’s report examining the bureau’s investigation of Trump’s 2016 campaign.

“I don’t know what report current Director of the FBI Christopher Wray was reading, but it sure wasn’t the one given to me,” Trump tweeted. “With that kind of attitude, he will never be able to fix the FBI, which is badly broken despite having some of the greatest men & women working there!”

Artist Do Fournier

The 434-page report rebutted conservatives’ accusations that top FBI officials were driven by political bias to illegally spy on Trump advisers as part of the probe into Russian election interference, but it also found broad and “serious performance failures” requiring major changes.

In a statement Monday, Wray, a Trump appointee, said he had ordered more than 40 corrective steps to address the report’s recommendations,” adding that he would not hesitate to take “appropriate disciplinary action if warranted.”

Cover-up General Bill Barr is also attacking the report by his own independent Inspector General.

Talking Points Memo: How The DOJ Watchdog Forced Barr To Scramble To Undermine Trump-Russia Probe.

Attorney General Bill Barr scrambled on Monday to keep a main anti-DOJ conspiracy theory going, after Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz released a 476-page report finding that the FBI was justified in opening its Trump-Russia investigation.

Horowitz found that there was unanimous support within the Justice Department and FBI in July 2016 for opening an investigation into potential contacts between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, and found no evidence that anti-Trump bias played a role in the investigation’s start.

Horowitz opened his probe amid allegations from right-wing talking heads and politicos that partisan bias had propelled FBI officials into investigating the Trump campaign….

The result of the whirlpool of allegations arrived in the form of the Horowitz report, which substantively rebutted the accusations and affirmatively found that FBI officials were justified in opening an investigation into Russia and the Trump campaign.

Artist Do Fournier

So, upon the report’s release, both Barr and Connecticut U.S. Attorney John Durham issued statements disagreeing with Horowitz’s finding.

“Based on the evidence collected to date, and while our investigation is ongoing, last month we advised the Inspector General that we do not agree with some of the report’s conclusions as to predication and how the FBI case was opened,” Durham said in his statement, adding that he was relying on evidence beyond the “component parts of the Justice Department.”

More details at the TPM link.

Vanity Fair: “It Is Not What The Department of Justice Does”: Barr and Durham Go Rogue On The Inspector General’s Report.

…what was truly surprising to some veterans of the Robert F. Kennedy building and the DC bar was the reaction from Attorney General William Barr and U.S. Attorney for Connecticut John Durham, who Barr tapped to run a parallel investigation of Crossfire Hurricane and related investigations. Both issued statements throwing significant shade at Horowitz’s report, though, technically, Barr is Horowitz’s boss. “I’ve never seen such an internal DOJ effort to challenge and undermine the IG’s findings,” Harry Litman, a former U.S. attorney, told me Monday. “It is not what the Department of Justice does.” [….]

“The Inspector General’s report now makes clear that the FBI launched an intrusive investigation of a U.S. presidential campaign on the thinnest of suspicions that, in my view, were insufficient to justify the steps taken,” Barr wrote in a statement. “It is also clear that, from its inception, the evidence produced by the investigation was consistently exculpatory. Nevertheless, the investigation and surveillance was pushed forward for the duration of the campaign and deep into President Trump’s administration.”

Barr’s decision to publicly distance himself from Horowitz’s findings was met with some astonishment. “No law enforcement purpose is served by the Attorney General announcing that he disagrees with the inspector general’s conclusion that the FBI had an adequate predicate for its investigation of Russia’s contacts with the Trump campaign,” William Jeffress, a white-collar defense attorney who worked on the Valerie Plame leak case, told me. Barr’s missive was reminiscent of the now infamous four-page summary of Robert Mueller’s report, respinning the results of an exhaustive investigation in ways favorable to the president. “The statement by Barr will only deepen the sense that he is a Trump partisan who lacks the independence to lead the Department of Justice,” Jeffress added.

What else is happening? What stories have you been following?