Posted: May 14, 2022 Filed under: Afternoon Reads | Tags: abortion rights, cats relaxing, caturday, Clarence Thomas, January 6 Committee, Mitch McConnell, Rand Paul, Republicans, Roe v. Wade, SCOTUS, Ukraine, women's rights
Liquid Cat, photo by Karen Slagle
My stress level is sky high lately. If only I could relax like a cat, blissfully unaware of the daily shocks we humans have to deal with these days. At least it’s the weekend, so maybe we’ll get a break–or maybe even some good news? Here’s the latest:
The Guardian: Demonstrators across the US protest expected reversal of Roe v Wade.
With the US supreme court apparently poised to overturn the 1973 landmark decision which made abortion legal, hundreds of thousands of people across America are planning to take to the streets to protest the looming decision.
A coalition of groups such as Planned Parenthood, UltraViolet, MoveOn and the Women’s March are organizing Saturday’s demonstrations, whose rallying cry is “Bans Off Our Bodies”. More than 370 protests are planned, including in Washington DC, New York, Los Angeles and Chicago….
The “Bans Off Our Bodies” gatherings will take place three days after Democrats in the US Senate on Wednesday made a largely symbolic effort to advance legislation that would codify the right to an abortion into federal law. All 50 Republicans and one conservative-aligned Democrat – West Virginia’s Joe Manchin – voted against the measure, leaving it well short of the 60 votes necessary for it to advance.
Also from The Guardian: Protesters rally outside US supreme court justices’ homes ahead of pro-choice marches.
Pro-choice demonstrators continue to turn up outside the homes of supreme court justices, with the latest target being conservative Amy Coney Barrett, who signed on to a majority draft opinion that was leaked to reveal an intention to overturn the constitutional right to seek an abortion in the US.
“The right to your own body – to do what you want with your own body – is the most personal freedom you can have,” one protester said from among a group wearing long red “handmaid” capes and white bonnets earlier this week to symbolize forced childbearing, as members of the Virginia state police watched nearby….
Several organizations, led by Planned Parenthood and the Women’s March, are preparing for a nationwide day of pro-choice marches on Saturday….
Protesters have so far gathered outside the residences in the Washington DC area of Samuel Alito, who wrote the scorching draft opinion, and Brett Kavanaugh, as well as Barrett and the chief justice, John Roberts, who did not sign on to the draft opinion, unlike the other three and Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch.
Yesterday, British medical journal The Lancet released a scathing editorial warning the U.S. Supreme Court that if they overturn Roe v. Wade, they will have women’s “blood on their hands.”
The Lancet: Why Roe v. Wade Must Be Defended.
“Abortion presents a profound moral issue on which Americans hold sharply conflicting views.” So begins a draft opinion by Associate Justice Samuel Alito, leaked from the US Supreme Court on May 2, 2022. If confirmed, this judgement would overrule the Court’s past decisions to establish the right to access abortion. In Alito’s words, “the authority to regulate abortion must be returned to the people and their elected representatives”. The Court’s opinion rests on a strictly historical interpretation of the US Constitution: “The Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision.” His extraordinary text repeatedly equates abortion with murder.
The Due Process clause of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution has been the main foundation underpinning the right of American women to an abortion. That 1868 Amendment was passed during the period of American Reconstruction, when states’ powers were being subjected to certain limitations. The goal of the Amendment was to prevent states from unduly restricting the freedoms of their citizens. That guarantee of personal liberty, so the Supreme Court had previously held, extended to pregnant women, with qualifications, who decided to seek an abortion. Alito rejected that reasoning. He argued that for any right not mentioned in the Constitution to be protected, it must be shown to have had deep roots in the nation’s history and tradition. Abortion does not fulfil that test. Worse, Roe was an exercise in “raw judicial power”, it “short-circuited the democratic process”, and it was “egregiously wrong” from the very beginning. It was now time, according to Alito, “to set the record straight”.
What is so shocking, inhuman, and irrational about this draft opinion is that the Court is basing its decision on an 18th century document ignorant of 21st century realities for women. History and tradition can be respected, but they must only be partial guides. The law should be able to adapt to new and previously unanticipated challenges and predicaments. Although Alito gives an exhaustive legal history of abortion, he utterly fails to consider the health of women today who seek abortion. Unintended pregnancy and abortion are universal phenomena. Worldwide, around 120 million unintended pregnancies occur annually. Of these, three-fifths end in abortion. And of these, some 55% are estimated to be safe—that is, completed using a medically recommended method and performed by a trained provider. This leaves 33 million women undergoing unsafe abortions, their lives put at risk because laws restrict access to safe abortion services.
Read the rest at the link.
At The Washington Post, Dana Millbank writes: Roe’s impending reversal is a 9/11 attack on America’s social fabric.
Washington’s reaction to the leaked Supreme Court draft opinion overturning Roe v. Wade has been typically myopic.
Republicans first tried to make people believe that the issue wasn’t the opinion itself but the leak. Now they’re absurdly trying to portray Democrats as supporters of infanticide. Democrats, in turn, squabbled among themselves before a show vote on a doomed abortion rights bill. And the news media have reverted to our usual horse-race speculation about how it will affect the midterms.
This small-bore response misses the radical change to society that Justice Samuel Alito and his co-conspirators are poised to ram down the throats of Americans. Their stunning action might well change the course of the midterms — but more importantly, it is upending who we are as a people.
Assuming little changes from the draft, overturning Roe would be a shock to our way of life, the social equivalent of the 9/11 attacks (which shattered our sense of physical security) or the crash of 2008 (which undid our sense of financial security). As epoch-making decisions go, this is Brown v. Board of Education, but in reverse: taking away an entrenched right Americans have relied upon for half a century. We remember Brown because it changed us forever, not because it altered the 1954 midterms.
Read more at the WaPo.
Clarence Thomas, husband of Ginni Thomas, who supported a coup against the U.S. government, is still whining about the SCOTUS link, which most likely came from a right wing source. Adam Liptak at The New York Times: Justice Thomas Says Leaked Opinion Destroyed Trust at the Supreme Court.
The leak of a draft opinion has done irreparable damage to the Supreme Court, Justice Clarence Thomas said at a conference in Dallas on Friday night, adding that it had destroyed trust among its members.
“What happened at the court is tremendously bad,” Justice Thomas said. “I wonder how long we’re going to have these institutions at the rate we’re undermining them.”
The leak of the opinion, which would overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that established a constitutional right to abortion, was “like kind of an infidelity,” Justice Thomas said.
“Look where we are, where that trust or that belief is gone forever,” he said. “And when you lose that trust, especially in the institution that I’m in, it changes the institution fundamentally. You begin to look over your shoulder.”
Tough shit. My trust in SCOTUS was gone after Thomas was confirmed by lying about his sexual harassment of Anita HIll.
I won’t quote from this one, but if you want to read an argument by a constitutional scholar who is a Democrat who supports abortion rights but opposes Roe, check out this article at The Wall Street Journal by Akhil Reed Amar: The End of Roe v. Wade. I found it interesting but not that helpful for women who are facing a disastrous and traumatic future around pregnancy and childbirth. The article wasn’t behind the paywall when I opened it.
In other news, Republican Senators refused to visit Ukraine with Democrats, but then they organized their own trip. Please note that one of their GOP colleagues, Rand Paul, is currently blocking a bill to provide more aid to help Ukraine defend itself against Russia. The New York Times: McConnell and other Republican senators make a secret visit to Ukraine.
Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader, visited Ukraine on Saturday to meet with President Volodymyr Zelensky, leading the latest delegation of American lawmakers to the country as the United States deepens its commitment to Kyiv’s fight against the Russian invasion.
The surprise visit by Mr. McConnell, who was accompanied by three other Republican senators, comes as the Senate is working to pass a $40 billion emergency military and humanitarian aid package for Ukraine. It follows a string of other clandestine visits, including by the first lady, Jill Biden, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi….
“Helping Ukraine is not an instance of mere philanthropy — it bears directly on America’s national security and vital interests that Russia’s naked aggression not succeed and carries significant costs,” Mr. McConnell said this week. “If Ukraine fails to repel Russian aggression, there is no question that the threat to American and European security will grow.”
The trip was disclosed by Mr. Zelensky’s office. Details were not yet available from the lawmakers.
Mr. McConnell was joined by Senators John Barrasso of Wyoming, a member of his leadership team and the Foreign Relations Committee; John Cornyn of Texas, a member of the Intelligence Committee; and Susan Collins of Maine, who sits on both the Intelligence Committee and the Appropriations Committee, which oversees government funding.
In the photos I’ve seen, Zelensky doesn’t look as happy as he did when Jill Biden and Nancy Pelosi visited him.
The New York Times’s Luke Broadwater and Emily Cochrane on the subpoenas of members of Congress by the January 6th committee: Subpoenas for Republicans Raise New Questions for Jan. 6 Panel.
The decision by the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol to issue subpoenas to five Republican members of Congress, including Representative Kevin McCarthy, the minority leader, has sent a shock wave through Capitol Hill, heightening tensions in an already hostile environment and raising questions about the future of the inquiry and the institution itself.
The move by the Democratic-led panel set up a showdown with Republicans that could result in the threat of jail time against sitting members of Congress — including Mr. McCarthy, who is in line to be speaker if his party wins control of the House in November. It also had major implications for the investigation, and whether the country will ever get full answers about the deadly mob attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, that disrupted the peaceful transfer of power and left more than 150 police officers injured.
Some Democrats immediately began clamoring for Mr. McCarthy and other lawmakers to be held in criminal contempt if they fail to appear at their scheduled depositions in late May, while Republicans warned of retaliation if they take control of the House after the midterm elections.
“I wouldn’t be for it, but turnabout is fair play,” Representative Thomas Massie, Republican of Kentucky, said of retaliatory subpoenas. He called the Jan. 6 committee’s subpoenas a “horrible precedent for the institution,” adding: “It’s a race to the bottom.”
I’d say the refusal of Republicans and Trump associates to honor Congressional subpoenas looks bad for Republicans, especially if they try to investigate Democrats in the future; but for the NYT, it’s always about how everything that happens is bad for Democrats.
Meanwhile at Axios: More bombshells for Jan. 6 committee before June hearings.
The Jan. 6 committee may seek testimony from additional lawmakers as soon as next week, ahead of blockbuster TV hearings that kick off next month, Axios has learned.
Driving the news: Chiefs of staff and other aides to members of the House select committee were told Friday on their weekly call with committee staff to brace for more bombshells ahead of the June 9 start to public hearings, according to two sources on the call….
The big picture: The committee created a major stir with post-election implications when on Thursday it issued subpoenas to five House Republicans, including two of the GOP’s top brass — House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and the Judiciary Committee’s ranking member Jim Jordan (R-Ohio).
— Members haven’t said how they would enforce those subpoenas.
— Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), a member of the committee, told Axios on Thursday that “the fact-gathering process will continue through the hearings.”
What we’re hearing: A U.S. Capitol Police security briefing for members and their chiefs of staff, to prepare for the June hearings, is scheduled for May 20.
That’s what’s happening so far today, as I see it. What’s on your mind?
Posted: April 14, 2022 Filed under: Afternoon Reads | Tags: biological males in women's prisons, Diane Feinstein, Elderly U.S. lawmakers, Elon Musk, January 6 Committee, police killings, Putin's war on Ukraine, Twitter
Peach Trees in Blossom, by Vincent Van Gogh
There are some unusual stories in the news today. Suddenly the advanced age of many U.S. lawmakers may finally be a subject for public debate. Elon Musk is trying to buy Twitter after declining to join the board because of a background check. It seems that there are quite a few biological males being housed in women’s prisons, and now two woman inmates in New Jersey are pregnant. Another killing of a Black man by police is in the the news. And of course Putin’s war on Ukraine continues as does the January 6 Committee investigation.
The San Francisco Chronicle has a disturbing article about Diane Feinstein: Colleagues worry Dianne Feinstein is now mentally unfit to serve, citing recent interactions.
When a California Democrat in Congress recently engaged in an extended conversation with Sen. Dianne Feinstein, they prepared for a rigorous policy discussion like those they’d had with her many times over the last 15 years.
Instead, the lawmaker said, they had to reintroduce themselves to Feinstein multiple times during an interaction that lasted several hours.
Rather than delve into policy, Feinstein, 88, repeated the same small-talk questions, like asking the lawmaker what mattered to voters in their district, they said, with no apparent recognition the two had already had a similar conversation.
The episode was so unnerving that the lawmaker — who spoke to The Chronicle on condition they not be identified because of the sensitivity of the topic — began raising concerns with colleagues to see if some kind of intervention to persuade Feinstein to retire was possible. Feinstein’s term runs through the end of 2024. The conversation occurred several weeks before the death of her husband in February.
“I have worked with her for a long time and long enough to know what she was like just a few years ago: always in command, always in charge, on top of the details, basically couldn’t resist a conversation where she was driving some bill or some idea. All of that is gone,” the lawmaker said. “She was an intellectual and political force not that long ago, and that’s why my encounter with her was so jarring. Because there was just no trace of that.”
Four U.S. senators, including three Democrats, as well as three former Feinstein staffers and the California Democratic member of Congress told The Chronicle in recent interviews that her memory is rapidly deteriorating. They said it appears she can no longer fulfill her job duties without her staff doing much of the work required to represent the nearly 40 million people of California….
Adding urgency to the recent concerns: If Democrats retain control of the Senate next year, Feinstein will succeed retiring Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy as the Senate’s president pro tem — putting her third in line for the presidency. Feinstein has filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission that would allow her to run in 2024, a formality that lets her keep her fundraising accounts active, though she has not yet declared whether she intends to run.
Emphasis added. Read more details at the link.
Early Spring, by Gustav Klimt
Now can we ask questions about Chuck Grassley, James Inhofe, and Richard Shelby? It’s not just age that is the problem though. Nancy Pelosi at 82 still seems sharp. Patrick Leahy is also 82, and he has decided to retire. I think this is an important topic for public discussion. Should there be an age limit for members of Congress?
Bloomberg on the Musk offer to buy Twitter: Elon Musk Makes $43 Billion Unsolicited Bid to Take Twitter Private.
Elon Musk has made a controversial offer to buy Twitter Inc., saying the company has extraordinary potential and he is the person to unlock it.
The world’s richest person will offer $54.20 per share in cash, valuing Twitter at about $43 billion. The social media company’s shares rose just 5.3% to $48.27 at the market open in New York as investors began to assess how one of the platform’s most outspoken users will succeed in his takeover attempt.
Musk, 50, announced the potential deal in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Thursday, after turning down a potential board seat at the company. The billionaire, who also controls Tesla Inc., first disclosed a stake of about 9% on April 4. Tesla shares fell about 1.8% on the news.
Twitter said that its board would review the proposal and any response would be in the best interests of “all Twitter stockholders.”
The bid is the most high-stakes clash yet between Musk and the social media platform. The executive is one of Twitter’s most-watched firebrands, often tweeting out memes and taunts to @elonmusk’s more than 80 million followers. He has been vociferous about changes he’d like to consider imposing at the social media platform…
Here’s The Daily Beast take by Allison Quinn: Top Shitposter Elon Musk Escalates Twitter Feud With $43B Takeover Bid.
“I am not playing the back-and-forth game. I have moved straight to the end. It’s a high price and your shareholders will love it,” Musk is said to have told the social media giant, according to documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Thursday.
Musk, whose fortune is estimated at about $260 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaire’s Index, said Twitter “needs to be transformed as a private company,” and vowed to “unlock” its “extraordinary potential” if the bid is successful.
“If the deal doesn’t work, given that I don’t have confidence in management nor do I believe I can drive the necessary change in the public market, I would need to reconsider my position as a shareholder,” he said in the filing….
The move comes after the Tesla CEO disclosed a stake of about 9 percent in Twitter last week. That disclosure is reportedly already at the center of a lawsuit filed this week by another Twitter shareholder who alleges Musk made “materially false and misleading statements and omissions by failing to disclose to investors” that he owned a stake in the company.
His delay in disclosing the stake, the lawsuit claims, led to “artificially deflated prices.”
With more than 80 million followers on the platform, Musk has sparked speculation in recent weeks with frequent tweets calling for drastic changes in the company and questioning whether it is really a “free speech” site. Earlier this week, he floated the idea of turning Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters into a homeless shelter, calling it a “great idea.”
Musk, who last week took to the platform to ask, “Is Twitter dying?” wrote in the filing that he believes it can “neither thrive nor serve” its purpose of promoting free speech if it remains as it is now.
About that New Jersey “women’s” prison from Yahoo News: NJ inmates at women’s only prison pregnant after sex with ‘another incarcerated person.’
Two inmates at New Jersey’s only women’s prison are pregnant after reportedly having sex with a transgender inmate.
It appears the women became pregnant from “consensual sexual relationships with another incarcerated person,” Dan Sperrazza, the Department of Corrections’s external affairs executive director, told NJ.com.
The prisoners are held at the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility in Clinton, which has faced a long string of sex assault scandals….
There are 27 inmates who identify as transgender currently housed at the facility, according to NJ.com. New Jersey’s policy does not require trans women inmates to undergo gender-reassignment surgery to be held in the facility.
“While DOC cannot comment on any specific disciplinary or housing decisions that may be considered in light of these events, the Department always reserves all options to ensure the health and safety of the individuals in its custody,” Sperrazza told the Daily Mail.
Two Edna Mahan prisoners filed a lawsuit last year seeking to end New Jersey’s gender identity policy for prisons, claiming they were harassed by trans inmates and that transgender inmates were having sex with female prisoners.
ACLU legal director Jeanne LoCicero defended the policy of allowing transgender inmates in a women’s prison as one that protects the rights of transgender women.
Apparently the rights of women (“people with vaginas”) are secondary, as usual.
The vegetable garden with trees in blossom Spring Pontoise, 1877, by Camille Pissarro
Another killing of a Black man by police has been revealed in Michigan. Detroit Free Press: Grand Rapids police release video of officer fatally shooting Patrick Lyoya.
A Black man facedown on the ground was fatally shot in the back of the head by a Grand Rapids police officer, the violent climax of a traffic stop, brief foot chase and struggle over a stun gun, according to videos of the April 4 incident released Wednesday.
The release by Grand Rapids police sparked renewed protests and calls for justice Wednesday, and state officials promised a full investigation.
It comes in the wake of other police-involved shootings in Grand Rapids.
The video released Wednesday includes footage from the unnamed officer’s body camera, which was deactivated shortly after the officer told the suspect, 26-year-old Congolese refugee Patrick Lyoya, to “let go of the Taser.”
The video, a collection of dashcam footage, body cam footage, a home security camera, and a cellphone video, shows the unnamed officer pulling over Lyoya and a passenger for a “license plate that doesn’t match the car.”
Was the deactivation of the body cam deliberate?
Lyoya gets out of the car, and the officer gets out and tells him to get back in the car. The officer asks for his driver’s license and then asks whether Lyoya speaks English.
Lyoya then appears to run around the car, and the officer chases and tackles him to the ground on the front lawn of a house.
They struggle, and the officer can be heard telling Lyoya to “stop” and to “let go of the Taser.”
After about 90 seconds, the officer is lying on top of Lyoya, who is facedown on the ground. The officer, still yelling for Lyoya to “let go of the Taser,” proceeds to shoot him.
Lyoya was shot in the head, police Chief Eric Winstrom confirmed.
A traffic stop should not be a death sentence. Driving without a license shouldn’t lead to death either.
Updates on Putin’s war:
Reuters: Russia warns of nuclear, hypersonic deployment if Sweden and Finland join NATO.
One of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s closest allies warned NATO on Thursday that if Sweden and Finland joined the U.S.-led military alliance then Russia would deploy nuclear weapons and hypersonic missiles in an exclave in the heart of Europe.
Bluebonnets and Mesquite, Early Spring, by Texas artist Julian-Onderdonk
Finland, which shares a 1,300-km (810-mile) border with Russia, and Sweden are considering joining the NATO alliance. Finland will decide in the next few weeks, Prime Minister Sanna Marin said on Wednesday.
Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council, said that should Sweden and Finland join NATO then Russia would have to strengthen its land, naval and air forces in the Baltic Sea.
Medvedev also explicitly raised the nuclear threat by saying that there could be no more talk of a “nuclear free” Baltic – where Russia has its Kaliningrad exclave sandwiched between Poland and Lithuania….
Medvedev said he hoped Finland and Sweden would see sense. If not, he said, they would have to live with nuclear weapons and hypersonic missiles close to home.
NBC News: Russia evacuates flagship after it suffers major damage in Black Sea blast.
Ukrainian officials said their forces launched a successful missile attack on the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea fleet, forcing the crew to evacuate the vessel.
The Russian defense ministry said the Moskva warship had been “seriously damaged,” but blamed the incident on a fire. NBC News has been unable to verify what happened on the ship, but its loss could prove a significant setback in Russian forces’ efforts in Ukraine’s south and east, where a fierce battle for Mariupol is ongoing….
Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said the damaged Russian flagship is the same one that infamously demanded the surrender of Ukrainian forces on Snake Island early in the invasion.
January 6 investigation updates:
The January 6 Committee heard from Trump WH lawyers Pat A. Cipollone, the former White House counsel, and his deputy Patrick F. Philbin, yesterday; today they will question Dr. Evil, Stephen Miller: AP sources: Trump aide Stephen Miller to speak to 1/6 panel.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Stephen Miller, who served as a top aide to President Donald Trump, will appear Thursday before the congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection, according to two people familiar with the matter.
Miller was a senior adviser for policy during the Trump administration and a central figure in many of the Republican’s policy decisions. He had resisted previous efforts by the committee, filing a lawsuit last month seeking to quash a committee subpoena for his phone records.
The people familiar with the matter spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private testimony. It’s unclear whether Miller will appear in person or virtually. A spokesperson for the committee said the panel had no comment, and Miller did not immediately return a message seeking comment.
Dans la prairie, Claude Monet
The Washington Post: Biden White House waives executive privilege for more Trump records.
President Biden has authorized the National Archives and Records Administration to hand over a new tranche of Trump White House documents to the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.
In a letter released Wednesday by the archives, Biden declined to assert executive privilege over the records — the latest batch sought by the committee after the Supreme Court rejected Trump’s bid to block such releases.
The new letter is in line with the Biden administration’s decision to err on the side of disclosure, given the gravity of the events in the Jan. 6 attack. The archives has already turned over hundreds of pages of documents to the committee.
“As to the remaining prioritized records, President Biden has considered the former President’s claims, and I have engaged in consultations with the Office of Legal Counsel at the Department of Justice,” White House counsel Dana Remus writes. “The President has determined that an assertion of executive privilege is not in the best interests of the United States, and therefore is not justified.”
That’s what’s happening in the news today, as I see it. What about you? What stories have caught your attention?
Posted: March 28, 2022 Filed under: Afternoon Reads, U.S. Politics | Tags: attempted coup, Clarence Thomas, Donald Trump, felony obstruction, Ginni Thomas, January 6 Committee, January 6 insurrection, John Eastman, Judge David Carter, Roman Abramovich, Ted Cruz, Ukraine
Daknikat has a cell phone emergency, so I’m filling in and starting really late–just beginning to look at the news. There’s quite a bit happening.
The Washington Post’s Michael Kranish has a big story about Ted Cruz and January 6: Inside Ted Cruz’s last-ditch battle to keep Trump in power. It turns out that Cruz and John Eastman, the lawyer who wrote a memo explaining how Pence could supposedly refuse to certify the election, have known each other for 27 years. Not only that, Trump asked Cruz if he would argue the case to overturn the election if they could get the Supreme Court to hear it. From the article:
An examination by The Washington Post of Cruz’s actions between Election Day and Jan. 6, 2021, shows just how deeply he was involved, working directly with Trump to concoct a plan that came closer than widely realized to keeping him in power. As Cruz went to extraordinary lengths to court Trump’s base and lay the groundwork for his own potential 2024 presidential bid, he also alienated close allies and longtime friends who accused him of abandoning his principles.
Now, Cruz’s efforts are of interest to the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, in particular whether Cruz was in contact with Trump lawyerJohn Eastman, a conservative attorney who has been his friend for decades and who wrote key legal memos aimed at denying Biden’s victory.
As Eastman outlined a scenario in which Vice President Mike Pence could denycertifying Biden’s election, Cruz crafted a complementary plan in the Senate. He proposedobjecting to the results in six swing states and delayingaccepting the electoral college results on Jan. 6 in favor of a 10-day “audit” — thus potentiallyenabling GOP state legislatures to overturn the result. Ten other senators backed hisproposal, which Cruz continued to advocate on the day rioters attacked the Capitol.
The committee’s interest in Cruz is notable as investigators zero in on how closely Trump’s allies coordinated with members of Congress in the attempt to block or delay certifying Biden’s victory. If Cruz’s plan worked, it could have created enough chaos for Trump to remain in power.
“It was a very dangerous proposal, and, you know, could very easily have put us into territory where we got to the inauguration and there was not a president,” Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), a Jan. 6 committee member, said earlier this year on the podcast “Honestly.” “And I think that Senator Cruz knew exactly what he was doing. I think that Senator Cruz is somebody who knows what the Constitution calls for, knows what his duties and obligations are, and was willing, frankly, to set that aside.”
Eastman and Cruz both worked for Michael Luttig, who was then on the U.S. Appeals Court. Here’s what Luttig has to say about Cruz’s actions:
Luttig told The Post that he believes that Cruz — who once said that Luttig was “like a father to me” — played a paramount role in the events leading to Jan. 6.
“Once Ted Cruz promised to object, January 6 was all but foreordained, because Cruz was the most influential figure in the Congress willing to force a vote on Trump’s claim that the election was stolen,” Luttig said in a statement to The Post. “He was also the most knowledgeable of the intricacies of both the Electoral Count Act and the Constitution, and the ways to exploit the two.”
The story also says that Eastman took the Fifth when the Committee asked him about communications with Cruz.
Also from The Washington Post: Jan. 6 committee to seek interview with Ginni Thomas.
The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection will seek an interview with Virginia Thomas, a conservative activist and wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, according a source familiar with the investigation.
Virginia Thomas, who goes by Ginni, has drawn scrutiny for her text messages to White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows in which she repeatedly pressed Meadows to work aggressively to overturn the election and keep President Donald Trump in power in a series of urgent exchanges in the critical weeks after the vote, according to copies of the messages obtained by The Washington Post and CBS News.
The messages — 29 in all — reveal an extraordinary pipeline between Thomas, a conservative activist, and Trump’s top aide during a period when Trump and his allies were vowing to go to the Supreme Court in an effort to negate the election results.
The committee’s plans to ask Thomas for an interview were first reported by CNN. A source familiar with the investigation who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal committee plans confirmed the report.
Amanda Carpenter at The Bulwark: Is Ginni Thomas’s Story Believable?
Virginia Thomas wants people to believe that her husband, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, had no idea about her activities challenging the results of the 2020 election.
“Clarence doesn’t discuss his work with me, and I don’t involve him in my work,” she told a friendly outlet earlier this month. Therefore, no one need worry about his ability to be an impartial judge on the highest court in the land. Everything is hunky-dory….
Her story, as well as her election theories, don’t survive even the most basic common-sense tests.
Justice Thomas cannot plausibly plead ignorance of his wife’s Jan. 6th-related activities. Her texts were the subject of a blockbuster Washington Post-CBS story, carried by numerous other outlets such as CNN and the New York Times. Multiple outlets asked the Thomases for comment multiple times. A CNN reporter staked out the couple in their parking garage. Maybe the Thomases talked about it, maybe they didn’t—it’s impossible for outsiders to know what happens inside a marriage—but the notion that Clarence Thomas is unaware of what Ginni was up to? Not plausible.
Second, beyond the text messages revealed last week, many of Ginni’s political activities relating to Jan. 6th were already a matter of public record. Her promotion of election conspiracies was well known; she posted them on her Facebook page. On the morning of Jan. 6th, just hours before the attack on the Capitol, she lavished praise on the Trump rallygoers who wanted to overturn the election. In the weeks after the riot, Ginni apologized to a listserv of her husband’s former clerks because her election-related activities and her “lifetime passions” caused a rift in the close-knit group of Thomas alumni.* Although this was a minor controversy, her husband could reasonably be expected to know about it, since it directly involved his wife and former clerks—and the Washington Post reported on it.
To believe that Justice Thomas is unaware of Mrs. Thomas’s Jan. 6th-related activities, one would also have to believe that Ginni’s co-signed public letter to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy demanding that he remove Republicans Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger from the GOP conference for serving as members of the Jan. 6th Committee never crossed Justice Thomas’s radar.
More at the link.
Here’s another breaking story from Katelyn Polantz at CNN: Judge: ‘More likely than not’ that Trump ‘corruptly attempted’ to block Congress from counting votes on January 6.
A federal judge said Monday that former President Donald Trump and right-wing attorney John Eastman may have been planning a crime as they sought to disrupt the January 6 congressional certification of the presidential election.
“Based on the evidence, the Court finds it more likely than not that President Trump corruptly attempted to obstruct the Joint Session of Congress on January 6, 2021,” Judge David Carter wrote Monday.
Attorney John Eastman gestures as he speaks next to Rudy Giuliani on January 6, 2021. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
Carter, a federal judge in California, ordered Eastman to turn over 101 emails from around January 6, 2021, that he has tried to keep secret from the House select committee investigating the US Capitol attack.
Carter’s reasoning is a startling acknowledgment by a federal court that Trump’s interest in overturning the election could be considered criminal.
“The illegality of the plan was obvious,” Carter wrote. “Our nation was founded on the peaceful transition of power, epitomized by George Washington laying down his sword to make way for democratic elections. Ignoring this history, President Trump vigorously campaigned for the Vice President to single-handedly determine the results of the 2020 election … Every American — and certainly the President of the United States — knows that in a democracy, leaders are elected, not installed.”
Judge Carter had even more to say:
In his order, Carter made an unusually bold statement wishing for accountability so that history does not repeat itself.
“If the country does not commit to investigating and pursuing accountability for those responsible, the Court fears January 6 will repeat itself,” the judge wrote.
“More than a year after the attack on our Capitol, the public is still searching for accountability. This case cannot provide it. The Court is tasked only with deciding a dispute over a handful of emails. This is not a criminal prosecution; this is not even a civil liability suit,” he wrote.
“At most, this case is a warning about the dangers of ‘legal theories’ gone wrong, the powerful abusing public platforms, and desperation to win at all costs,” Carter added. “If Dr. Eastman and President Trump’s plan had worked, it would have permanently ended the peaceful transition of power, undermining American democracy and the Constitution.”
I hope Merrick Garland is paying attention.
Another big story from The Wall Street Journal: Roman Abramovich and Ukrainian Peace Negotiators Suffer Suspected Poisoning.
Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich and Ukrainian peace negotiators suffered symptoms of suspected poisoning after a meeting in Kyiv earlier this month, people familiar with the matter said.
Following the meeting in the Ukrainian capital, Mr. Abramovich, who has shuttled between Moscow, Lviv and other negotiating venues, as well as at least two senior members of the Ukrainian team developed symptoms that included red eyes, constant and painful tearing, and peeling skin on their faces and hands, the people said.
They blamed the suspected attack on hard-liners in Moscow who they said wanted to sabotage talks to end the war. A person close to Mr. Abramovich said it wasn’t clear who had targeted the group.
Mr. Abramovich and the Ukrainian negotiators, who include Crimean Tatar lawmaker Rustem Umerov, have since improved and their lives aren’t in danger, the people said. Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, who has met with Mr. Abramovich, wasn’t affected, they said. Mr. Zelensky’s spokesman said he had no information about any suspected poisoning.
\Western experts who looked into the incident said it was hard to determine whether the symptoms were caused by a chemical or biological agent or by some sort of electromagnetic-radiation attack, the people familiar with the matter said.
Read more at the WSJ. There was no paywall when I opened the link.
I’m going to end there so I can get this posted. What do you think about all this? What other stories are you following?
Posted: December 14, 2021 Filed under: Afternoon Reads, just because | Tags: January 6 Committee, January 6 insurrection, Jungle art, Mark Meadows
Cat, by Gabriel Alix, Haitian artist, 1979
The paintings in this post are examples of “jungle art” by Haitian artists. Dakinikat posted a couple of these yesterday and I really like them. They have a similar quality to “folk art.”
Last night the House January 6 committee met to vote on whether to refer Mark Meadows to the Justice Department for criminal contempt of Congress. The session was televised and generated quite a bit of news and commentary. The committee plans to hold televised meetings “in the first quarter” of 2022. When that happens, we could see more interest from the general public. I only hope the hearings start sooner rather than later.
Here’s the latest news on the hearing:
The Washington Post: House Jan. 6 committee votes to hold Meadows in contempt, details texts from Trump allies who wanted him to call off rioters.
The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol voted Monday night to hold former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows in criminal contempt for defying a subpoena, while also releasing a series of texts from Fox News hosts and Donald Trump Jr. urging Meadows to implore President Donald Trump to call off the violent mob.
The seven Democrats and two Republicans tasked with investigating the insurrection all supported the resolution that could be taken up by the full House as soon as Tuesday.
Last week, Meadows backed away from cooperating with the committee just days after saying he would, arguing that the panel was pressuring him to discuss issues that the former president said are protected by executive privilege. However, he had already produced thousands of documents for the panel, including text messages and emails related to the events of the day.
At a public meeting ahead of the vote Monday, members of the committee used information already provided by Meadows to make the case that he is a key figure in understanding Trump’s efforts to overturn the election results, what role the White House played in planning the rally that preceded the attack, and why Trump did not immediately come out and forcefully call on his supporters to stop their assault on the Capitol once it was underway.
By Jean Claude Paul, Haitian artist
“History will not look upon you as a victim. History will not dwell on your long list of privilege claims or your legal sleight of hand,” the committee chairman, Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.), said of Meadows and others who are refusing to cooperate. “History will record that in a critical moment in our democracy, most people were on the side of finding the truth, of providing accountability, of strengthening our system for future generations. And history will also record, in this critical moment, that some people were not.”
Read about the hearing in detail at the WaPo. This article covers everything this happened in the meeting.
The New York Times: Fox News Hosts Sent Texts to Meadows Urging Trump to Act as Jan. 6 Attack Unfolded.
Three prominent Fox News anchors sent concerned text messages on Jan. 6 to Mark Meadows, the last chief of staff for President Donald J. Trump, urging him to persuade the president to take the riot seriously and to make an effort to stop it.
The texts were made public on Monday, shortly before the House committee scrutinizing the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol voted 9-0 in favor of recommending that Mr. Meadows be charged with contempt of Congress. Representative Liz Cheney, Republican of Wyoming, read the text messages aloud.
The texts, part of a trove of 9,000 documents that Mr. Meadows had turned over before he stopped cooperating with the inquiry, were sent to the former White House chief of staff by Laura Ingraham, the host of the nighttime show “The Ingraham Angle”; Sean Hannity, a longtime prime-time host who once appeared onstage with Mr. Trump at a campaign rally; and Brian Kilmeade, a host of the morning show “Fox & Friends.”
By Gabriel Alix
“Mark, the president needs to tell people in the Capitol to go home,” Ms. Ingraham wrote. “This is hurting all of us. He is destroying his legacy.”
Mr. Kilmeade echoed that concern, texting Mr. Meadows: “Please, get him on TV. Destroying everything you have accomplished.”
Sean Hannity texted: “Can he make a statement? Ask people to leave the Capitol.”
Ms. Ingraham’s text came in contrast with what she said on her Fox News program in the hours after the attack, when she promoted the false theory that members of antifa were involved.
Yesterday Fox News ignored the January 6 committee hearing.
The committee also met yesterday with the former commander of the DC National Guard, who has accused defense department officials of refusing to deploy the guard during the violent insurrection. CNN: Former DC National Guard commander meets with January 6 committee
Commentary on recent revelations about Mark Meadows and others about January 6
Jennifer Rubin at The Washington Post: Opinion: Mark Meadows has already established a coup plot. Do we care enough to save the republic?
Multiple pieces of evidence have emerged pointing to a deliberate effort to overthrow our democracy. And it is former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows who is key to piecing them all together.
Now, we just need to see if the country cares enough to hold all those involved accountable.
Start with the two memos from John Eastman, President Donald Trump’s lawyer, who sketched out a plan for Vice President Mike Pence to block Joe Biden from assuming the presidency. After making false accusations of election fraud, Eastman suggested Pence could simply refuse to accept electoral college votes when Congress met on Jan. 6 to certify the results, making Trump the “winner” or throwing it to the House where Republicans on a unit vote (one per each state delegation) might have crowned Trump president.
Two additional memos from Trump campaign counsel Jenna Ellis, one on Dec. 31 and one on Jan. 5, have also surfaced. Politico reports: “In the Jan. 5 memo, Ellis argued that key provisions of the Electoral Count Act — limiting Pence’s authority to affirm or reject certain electors — were likely unconstitutional. She concluded that Pence, while presiding over lawmakers’ counting of electors, should simply halt the process when their alphabetical proceeding reached Arizona.” This, of course, would be patently illegal. (Has her state bar been contacted?)
We also know of Trump’s efforts to force the Justice Department to declare the election was corrupt and “leave the rest to me” and Republicans in Congress. And we have seen the mind-boggling 38-page PowerPoint plan to conduct a coup, including a declaration of “national security emergency” that could halt the voting, if needed. As bizarre as the document was, even more bizarre are the alleged meetings that Meadows and lawmakers had with the plan’s author, none of whom had the common sense and loyalty to report it to the FBI.
The House select committee on the Jan. 6 insurrection, in its document release in advance of the contempt vote for Meadows’s failure to appear for his deposition, sets out a list of questions it would have asked Meadows. In doing so, they provided the outline of the coup plot:
Click the link to read the rest.
SV Date at HuffPost: Meadows’ ‘Protect Pro Trump People’ Email May Explain Military Reluctance To Deploy Troops.
An email authored by Donald Trump’s chief of staff in the run-up to the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol may help explain military leaders’ reluctance to deploy troops that day: Doing so could have forced troops to choose between following the orders of their direct commanders or obeying the commander in chief of the United States armed forces.
Mark Meadows wrote that the National Guard would be deployed to “‘protect pro Trump people’ and that many more would be available on standby,” according to the resolution by the House committee investigating Jan. 6 that recommends referring criminal contempt of Congress charges against Meadows to the Department of Justice.
The resolution did not specify the recipient of that note or when it was sent.
Top military officials in the Trump administration’s final days have previously said they were concerned that Trump would try to use the military to remain in power. At the time, describing his goals through the end of Trump’s term, acting Secretary of Defense Chris Miller told associates “No military coup, no major war, and no troops in the streets,” according to the book “Betrayal,” by ABC’s Jon Karl.
Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley also worried about a coup, and told colleagues that Trump had become “the classic authoritarian leader with nothing to lose,” according to the book “I Alone Can Fix It,” by Washington Post reporters Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker.
One source familiar with the Jan. 6 committee’s work said the worry about troops potentially receiving “conflicting orders” ― one set via the non-political military chain of command, to protect the constitutional process, and the other from Trump himself, designed to let him retain power ― was a real concern in early January.
Read the rest at HuffPo.
Tigre, by Gabriel Aliz
Aaron Rupar at Public Notice: Unpacking the pro-coup PowerPoint that wound up in Mark Meadows’s emails.
Thanks to the work of the January 6 committee, the gaps in our knowledge of what happened in the weeks leading up to the insurrection are finally being filled. In fact, as I write this newsletter late Sunday, a major story just broke about a January 5 email from then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows advising an unnamed person that the National Guard was on standby to “protect pro Trump people.”
That obviously sounds bad, but the extent to which then-President Trump tried to subvert the military to help him overturn his election loss (and thereby essentially end democracy in the US) remains somewhat shrouded in mystery. A White House document that surfaced as a result of the committee’s subpoena of Meadows, however, indicates the National Guard comment was more than idle chatter.
The document I’m referring to is a PowerPoint presentation that circulated around Trumpworld ahead of January 6 and was part of the emails Meadows turned over to the committee. And unlike the often dull PowerPoints you are I are familiar with from offices or academic settings, this one was basically a blueprint to a coup.
Some key details remain unknown — such as who authored the presentation and to what extent it embodied the White House’s thinking — but the man who circulated it around the White House, a retired US Army colonel named Phil Waldron, was influential enough to reportedly work alongside Rudy Giuliani, be in meetings with Trump, and brief multiple members of Congress about the contents of the PowerPoint ahead of January 6.
On Sunday I put together a Twitter thread sharing notable details from the 36-page document. You can check out the whole thing starting here. But to boil it down, it outlines a fantastical, fact-free, debunked conspiracy theory about China being behind a global conspiracy to get Donald Trump out of the White House, then cites that conspiracy as a pretext for Trump to throw out the election results….
The details of the conspiracy aren’t really important. A flood of official investigations and lawsuits (not to mention a number of former Trump administration officials) have affirmed time and time again that Biden’s win was fair, and nothing in the PowerPoint will persuade anyone who isn’t already guzzling the MAGA Kool-aid. All that matters is it provided a cover story for then-Vice President Mike Pence to take extraordinary steps to prevent the election from being certified.
Read the rest at the link and do check out Rupar’s twitter thread.
By Fritz Philemon
Finally, check out Hunter Walker’s new piece at Rolling Stone: Two Jan. 6 Organizers Are Coming Forward and Naming Names: ‘We’re Turning It All Over’
Two key organizers of the main Jan. 6 rally in Washington, D.C. are coming in from the cold.
Dustin Stockton and Jennifer Lynn Lawrence are set to testify next week before the House select committee investigating the attack on the U.S. Capitol. The pair will deliver testimony and turn over documents, including text messages, that indicate the extensive involvement members of Congress and the Trump administration had in planning the House challenge to certifying Biden’s election and rally near the White House where Donald Trump spoke — efforts that ultimately contributed to a massive and violent attack on the Capitol.
Among the documents the couple is providing are conversations they had with staffers and members of Congress as they planned the main rally that took place on the White House Ellipse that day. Stockton described these discussions as largely logistical and focused on planning the members’ participation in objections to the electoral certification on the House floor and various events that were staged to protest against the election. They include Instagram messages Lawrence exchanged with Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.) as she tried to get him to speak at the Ellipse rally. Cawthorn, whose office did not immediately respond to a request for comment, ultimately appeared onstage at that event.
“We’re turning it all over and we’ll let the cards fall where they may,” Stockton says.
It’s the latest revelation from the couple, veteran activists who have spent the better part of a decade specializing in staging political stunts while working for conservative activist groups, Republican campaigns, and Trump’s on-again-off-again strategist Steve Bannon. Stockton and Lawrence were members of the team that led the nationwide “March for Trump” bus tour, which ended with the Jan. 6 rally at the White House Ellipse. In recent weeks, Stockton and Lawrence have participated in an extensive series of interviews with Rolling Stone revealing what they knew about the day.
The pair were the sources for a story that was published in late October, when they said members of Congress were involved in planning Trump’s efforts to overturn the election and the Jan. 6 Ellipse rally. They claimed one of these lawmakers, Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), suggested the possibility Trump could get them a “blanket pardon” in an unrelated ongoing investigation if they helped protest the election. (Gosar later suggested that story was “categorically false and defamatory.”) Stockton and Lawrence also say they were told that Trump’s former chief of staff, Mark Meadows, had communicated with the organizers and was warned about concerns of potential violence.
Nothing in the documents viewed by Rolling Stone or the couple’s statements revealed any planning for, or coordination with, the violent attack on the Capitol by Trump supporters.
I’ll post a few more stories in the comment thread and I hope you will too.
Posted: November 13, 2021 Filed under: morning reads | Tags: coronavirus pandemic, Department of Justice, Donald Trump, Fulton County DA Fani Willis, Georgia, January 6 Committee, Jeffrey Clark, Mark Meadows, Merrick Garland, Steve Bannon, violent threats against public officials
Reading Sociology, by Kurt Solmssen
I know this isn’t breaking news to any Sky Dancers, but it’s still the best news in a long time. Steve Bannon has been indicted for contempt of Congress. More good news: it appears that Merrick Garland actually is taking the insurrection seriously. From the DOJ statement issued yesterday:
Stephen K. Bannon was indicted today by a federal grand jury on two counts of contempt of Congress stemming from his failure to comply with a subpoena issued by the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 breach of the U.S. Capitol.
Bannon, 67, is charged with one contempt count involving his refusal to appear for a deposition and another involving his refusal to produce documents, despite a subpoena from the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6 Attack on the U.S. Capitol. An arraignment date has not yet been set in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
“Since my first day in office, I have promised Justice Department employees that together we would show the American people by word and deed that the department adheres to the rule of law, follows the facts and the law and pursues equal justice under the law,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “Today’s charges reflect the department’s steadfast commitment to these principles.”
Katie Benner and Luke Broadwater at The New York Times: Bannon Indicted on Contempt Charges Over House’s Capitol Riot Inquiry.
A Justice Department spokesman said Mr. Bannon was expected to turn himself in to authorities on Monday, and make his first appearance in Federal District Court in Washington later that day.
A lawyer for Mr. Bannon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The politically and legally complex case was widely seen as a litmus test for whether the Justice Department would take an aggressive stance against one of Mr. Trump’s top allies as the House seeks to develop a fuller picture of the actions of the former president and his aides and advisers before and during the attack on the Capitol.
At a time of deep political polarization, the Biden Justice Department now finds itself prosecuting a top adviser to the previous president of another party in relation to an extraordinary attack by Mr. Trump’s supporters on a fundamental element of democracy, the peaceful transfer of power….
After the referral from the House in Mr. Bannon’s case, F.B.I. agents in the Washington field office investigated the matter. Career prosecutors in the public integrity unit of the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington determined that it would be appropriate to charge Mr. Bannon with two counts of contempt, and a person familiar with the deliberations said they received the full support of Attorney General Merrick B. Garland.
White cat at an open window’, 1855 – Jacobus van Looy
The indictment of Bannon serves as a warning to other Trump goons who have refused to testify before the House January 6 committee.
The charges against Mr. Bannon come as the committee is considering criminal contempt referrals against two other allies of Mr. Trump who have refused to comply with its subpoenas: Mr. Meadows and Jeffrey Clark, a Justice Department official who participated in Mr. Trump’s effort to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
“Steve Bannon’s indictment should send a clear message to anyone who thinks they can ignore the select committee or try to stonewall our investigation: No one is above the law,” the leaders of the panel, Representative Bennie Thompson, Democrat of Mississippi, and Representative Liz Cheney, Republican of Wyoming, said in a statement. “We will not hesitate to use the tools at our disposal to get the information we need.”
Earlier they had released another blistering statement after Mr. Meadows failed to appear to answer questions at a scheduled deposition. Mr. Meadows’s lawyer, George J. Terwilliger III, informed the committee that his client felt “duty bound” to follow Mr. Trump’s instructions to defy the committee, citing executive privilege.
“Mr. Meadows’s actions today — choosing to defy the law — will force the select committee to consider pursuing contempt or other proceedings to enforce the subpoena,” Mr. Thompson and Ms. Cheney said.
They said Mr. Meadows refused to answer even basic questions, such as whether he was using a private cellphone to communicate on Jan. 6, and the location of his text messages from that day.
Aaron Blake at The Washington Post: The big warning signal Stephen Bannon’s indictment sends.
For more than two years, the Democratic-controlled House struggled to obtain crucial testimony from Trump White House counsel Donald McGahn in its Russia investigation. When he declined to submit to a subpoena, they fought it out in court. By the time an agreement was reached for McGahn to testify this year, Donald Trump was no longer in the White House, and the Russia issue had faded in both import and memories. McGahn said frequently in his testimony that he no longer fully recalled important episodes….
This time, though, the House and its select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by a pro-Trump mob took a very different tack. And it resulted in both a legally and practically significant result.
Rather than try to get a court to make former White House adviser Stephen K. Bannon testify, the Jan. 6 committee instead moved quickly to recommend he be held in contempt of Congress. That put the decision into the hands of the Justice Department, which would need to decide whether to file criminal charges. But it would at least be quicker.
On Friday, this approach — an extraordinary gambit necessitated by an extraordinary effort to stymie investigators for most of the past five years — led to an extraordinary outcome: Bannon has been indicted by a federal grand jury, making him the first person charged with contempt of Congress since 1983.
Black cat on the front porch, by Bonnie Mason
While an indictment is significant — it’s actually the second time Bannon has been indicted in fewer than 15 months, with the first earning a preemptive Trump pardon — the move is less punitive than it is precedent-setting.
Other witnesses, including former Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, who are also resisting cooperation with the inquiry, now have to contend with the prospect of potential criminal charges….an indictment is a bell that can’t be un-rung. Those like Meadows might defy the subpoenas in the hope of some kind of accommodation — perhaps allowing them to withhold a certain part of their testimony or documents that have been requested. Bannon’s indictment serves notice that the Jan. 6 committee can threaten to play hardball, with plenty to back it up….
Bannon and Meadows are among the first against whom this could even be deployed. Theirs were among the first batch of subpoenas, along with White House communications aide Dan Scavino and national security aide Kashyap Patel. In other words, plenty of others will now have very important decisions to make. Another big one will be Trump DOJ official Jeffrey Clark, who spearheaded the effort to get his department to legitimize Trump’s false stolen-election claims.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is likely to impanel a special grand jury to support her probe of former President Donald Trump, a move that could aid prosecutors in what’s expected to be a complicated and drawn-out investigative process.
A person with direct knowledge of the discussions confirmed the development to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, saying the move could be imminent.
Some legal observers viewed the news, first reported by the New York Times, as a sign that the probe is entering a new phase.
“My interpretation is that she’s gotten as far as she can interviewing witnesses and dealing with people who are cooperating by producing documents voluntarily,” former Gwinnett County DA Danny Porter said of Willis. “She needs the muscle. She needs the subpoena power.”
Deborah Dewit, Birdwatching
Special grand juries are rarely used but could be a valuable tool for Willis as she takes the unprecedented step of investigating the conduct of a former president while he was in office.
Her probe, launched in February, is centered on the Jan. 2 phone call Trump placed to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, in which he urged the Republican to “find” the votes to reverse Joe Biden’s win in Georgia last November. The veteran prosecutor previously told Gov. Brian Kemp, Raffensperger and other state officials that her office would be probing potential violations of Georgia law prohibiting criminal solicitation to commit election fraud, intentional interference with the performance of election duties, conspiracy and racketeering, among others.
The investigation could also include Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, who promoted lies about election fraud in a state legislative hearing; and U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who was accused by Raffensperger of urging him to toss mail-in ballots in certain counties. Both men have denied wrongdoing.
In other news, another Congressional committee is investigating efforts by the Trump administration to downplay the coronavirus pandemic. The Washington Post: Messonnier, Birx detail political interference in last year’s coronavirus response.
The Trump administration repeatedly interfered with efforts by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last year to issue warnings and guidance about the evolving coronavirus pandemic, six current and former health officials told congressional investigators in recent interviews.
One of those officials, former CDC senior health expert Nancy Messonnier, warned in a Feb. 25, 2020, news briefing that the virus’s spread in the United States was inevitable — a statement that prompted anger from President Donald Trump and led to the agency’s media appearances being curtailed, according to interview excerpts and other documents released Friday by the House select subcommittee on the pandemic.
The new information, including statements from former White House coronavirus coordinator Deborah Birx, confirms prior reporting and offers additional detail on how the pandemic response unfolded at the highest levels of government.
“Our intention was certainly to get the public’s attention about the likelihood … that it was going to spread and that we thought that there was a high risk that it would be disruptive,” Messonnier told the panel in an Oct. 8 interview. But her public warning led to private reprimands, including from then-Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, she said….
Anne Schuchat, who served as the CDC’s No. 2 official before retiring this year, also depicted chaotic efforts to control the government’s messages in those early months, telling the panel that Trump officials scrambled to schedule a briefing several hours after Messonnier’s public warning, even though “there was nothing new to report.”
Cat’s Siesta, Ksenia Yarovaya
Schuchat joined Trump and other officials for a briefing the very next day,where Trump insisted that the pandemic’s spreadto the United States was not “inevitable,” even as Schuchat tried to warn Americans to prepare for “more cases.” [….]
Other officials detailed why the CDC held no news briefings between March 9 and May 29, 2020, in the earliest days of the pandemic, effectively muzzling the scientific agency as the coronavirus spread rapidly across the United States.
Kate Galatas, a senior CDC communications official, told the panel that the White House repeatedly blocked the agency’s media requests, including a planned April 2020 briefing that she said would have addressed the importance of wearing face coverings to contain the virus’s spread.
Read the rest at the WaPo.
I’ll end with this article at The New York Times addresses the alarming number of violent threats against public figures we are seeing in U.S.: Menace Enters the Republican Mainstream.
At a conservative rally in western Idaho last month, a young man stepped up to a microphone to ask when he could start killing Democrats.
“When do we get to use the guns?” he said as the audience applauded. “How many elections are they going to steal before we kill these people?” The local state representative, a Republican, later called it a “fair” question.
In Ohio, the leading candidate in the Republican primary for Senate blasted out a video urging Republicans to resist the “tyranny” of a federal government that pushed them to wear masks and take F.D.A.-authorized vaccines.
“When the Gestapo show up at your front door,” the candidate, Josh Mandel, a grandson of Holocaust survivors, said in the video in September, “you know what to do.”
And in Congress, violent threats against lawmakers are on track to double this year. Republicans who break party ranks and defy former President Donald J. Trump have come to expect insults, invective and death threats — often stoked by their own colleagues and conservative activists, who have denounced them as traitors.
From congressional offices to community meeting rooms, threats of violence are becoming commonplace among a significant segment of the Republican Party. Ten months after rioters attacked the United States Capitol on Jan. 6, and after four years of a president who often spoke in violent terms about his adversaries, right-wing Republicans are talking more openly and frequently about the use of force as justifiable in opposition to those who dislodged him from power.
Click the link to read the rest.
What do you think? What stories are you following today?