Putin’s genocidal war on Ukraine continues, and the horror of what he’s doing is almost unbearable to see or even think about. Here at home, we are in day two of the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson. And of course we continue to deal with the aftermath of Trump’s four-year attempt to bring down U.S. democracy.
Just one outstanding article and a relevant work of art; that’s all I can handle today.
The artwork is from the Maiden revolution of 2014, but people are posting it now in response to Putin’s current war on Ukraine. Read more about the artist at Artnet.
This story at the AP is beyond horrifying, but IMHO, it is absolutely essential reading: 20 Days in Mariupol: The team that documented the city’s agony, by Mstyslav Chernov. (Mstyslav Chernov is a video journalist for The Associated Press. This is his account of the siege of Mariupol, as documented with photographer Evgeniy Maloletka and told to correspondent Lori Hinnant.)
MARIUPOL, Ukraine (AP) — The Russians were hunting us down. They had a list of names, including ours, and they were closing in.
We were the only international journalists left in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol, and we had been documenting its siege by Russian troops for more than two weeks. We were reporting inside the hospital when gunmen began stalking the corridors. Surgeons gave us white scrubs to wear as camouflage.
Suddenly at dawn, a dozen soldiers burst in: “Where are the journalists, for fuck’s sake?”
I looked at their armbands, blue for Ukraine, and tried to calculate the odds that they were Russians in disguise. I stepped forward to identify myself. “We’re here to get you out,” they said.
The walls of the surgery shook from artillery and machine gun fire outside, and it seemed safer to stay inside. But the Ukrainian soldiers were under orders to take us with them.
We ran into the street, abandoning the doctors who had sheltered us, the pregnant women who had been shelled and the people who slept in the hallways because they had nowhere else to go. I felt terrible leaving them all behind.
Nine minutes, maybe 10, an eternity through roads and bombed-out apartment buildings. As shells crashed nearby, we dropped to the ground. Time was measured from one shell to the next, our bodies tense and breath held. Shockwave after shockwave jolted my chest, and my hands went cold.
We reached an entryway, and armored cars whisked us to a darkened basement. Only then did we learn from a policeman why the Ukrainians had risked the lives of soldiers to extract us from the hospital.
“If they catch you, they will get you on camera and they will make you say that everything you filmed is a lie,” he said. “All your efforts and everything you have done in Mariupol will be in vain.”
The officer, who had once begged us to show the world his dying city, now pleaded with us to go. He nudged us toward the thousands of battered cars preparing to leave Mariupol.
This is the end of the story. These courageous journalists reached safety after their 20 days of documenting events in Mariupol while the city was cut off from the outside world and under constant attack by Putin’s army. I hope you will go read the rest of this brilliant article.
Ketanji Brown Jackson confirmation hearings
I was watching the hearings until Lindsay Graham began his questioning of Judge Jackson, and his angry presentation and inappropriate questions got to be too much for me. He spent much of his time whining about the treatment of conservative candidates for SCOTUS :and other courts. One example of his questions when he finally got to them.
At CNN, Clare Foran wrote about today’s hearing as of about 11AM: Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson faces intense questioning on second day of confirmation hearings.
Democrats have so far used the hearings to praise Brown — who would be the first Black woman to serve as a Supreme Court justice — as an exceptionally qualified, trail-blazing nominee whose depth and breadth of experience, including as a federal public defender, would add a valuable and unique perspective to the bench.
In contrast, Republicans have attempted to portray her as weak on crime by zeroing in on some of her past defense work as well as by broadly attempting to connect her to criminal justice policies they argue have fueled a rise in crime. Republicans have raised questions over what constitutes Jackson’s judicial philosophy as they warn against activism, and prescribing policy outcomes, from the bench. And they have also criticized support for the nomination from left-wing groups….
On Tuesday, senators may ask questions of the nominee for 30 minutes each, according to the schedule outlined by the committee. There are 11 Democrats and 11 Republicans on the panel and the questioning is likely to stretch late into the evening.
So we’ll all have plenty of time to watch how Jackson handles the Republican Senators. So far they haven’t laid a glove on her.
Jackson said on Tuesday that she approaches her work in such a way so as to ensure impartiality and does not impose personal opinions or policy preferences, an assertion that comes as Republican senators have expressed concerns over judicial activism.
“I have developed a methodology that I use in order to ensure that I am ruling impartially and that I am adhering to the limits on my judicial authority,” Jackson said.
“When I get a case, I ensure that I am proceeding from a position of neutrality,” she said.
“I am not importing my personal views or policy preferences,” she added….
As the Senate vets the nomination, Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri has raised concerns about Jackson’s record on sentencing in child pornography cases.
Jackson forcefully rebutted the accusations on Tuesday and referred to the issue as a “sickening and egregious crime.”
“As a mother, and a judge who has had to deal with these cases, I was thinking that nothing could be further from the truth,” the nominee said when asked Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, to react to the charges.
Read the rest at CNN. It’s a good summary.
The Trump/MAGA hangover
Tim Dickenson at Rolling Stone: Amid War Crimes in Ukraine, American Right Wingers Are Applauding Russia.
Vladimir Putin is ramping up his brutal assault on Ukraine, shelling civilians from Odessa to Kharkiv, and leveling the port city of Mariupol — leading President Joe Biden to denounce the Russian dictator as a “war criminal.” But if the initial days of the war were marked by some conservatives muting their admiration for the Russian state, a spate of notorious right-wing figures are now dropping the mask to defend Putin, and even claim his fight as their own.
Over the weekend, former Trump adviser Roger Stone, MAGA media maven Cassandra MacDonald (née Fairbanks), and former Staind rocker Aaron Lewis all spoke out to praise Putin, denounce Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky — or both….
In an interview aired on the far-right network Real America’s Voice, former Trump adviser Roger Stone defended Putin’s horrific war against Ukraine. “Putin is acting defensively,” Stone insisted against all evidence. “He’s not acting offensively. But you won’t read that in the mainstream media.” Stone rattled off a winning BINGO card’s worth of Kremlin-friendly talking points and conspiracies. He denounced Zelensky as undemocratic for having “shut down three television stations that were critical of the government.” (That decision rightfully inspires debate, but context here is also important. Stone failed to mention that those stations had broadcast Russian propaganda, and were run by mogul Viktor Medvedchuk, who is so tight with the Kremlin that Putin is literally his daughter’s godfather. Mevedchuk was hit with U.S. sanctions in 2014, described as Putin’s “long-time proxy and close personal friend.”) Stone then rehearsed the MAGA canard that concern over Ukrainian borders is misplaced as long as America’s are overrun by “millions of illegals … bringing disease.”
Stone kept twisting and twisting the facts until he snapped into Putin’s paranoid worldview — that Ukraine is a dangerous aggressor that must be stopped: “Ukraine is not even remotely [about] what they’re telling us it’s about,” Stone claimed. “The Ukrainians have used their soil to place dual-launch missile pads, missiles that will be aimed at the Soviet Union [sic].” Stone closed out his pro-Putin rant by citing the latest right-wing conspiracy theory about U.S.-funded biolabs. “There are in fact biolabs that are funded by our tax dollars, cooking up who knows what pestilence to dump on the Russian people,” Stone claimed.
Read about the other MAGA Putin fans at the RS link.
Read about the other MAGA Putin fans at the RS link.
Martin Pengelly at The Guardian: Kid Rock says Donald Trump sought his advice on North Korea and Islamic State.
The rapper Kid Rock said Donald Trump once asked him for advice about US policy on Islamic State and North Korea.
In an interview with the Fox News host Tucker Carlson broadcast on Monday night, the musician also discussed “cancel culture” – claiming to be “uncancelable” – and the coronavirus pandemic….
In a friendly interview timed for the release of a new album – Kid Rock wearing a “We the People” cap, Carlson in V-neck sweater and khakis – the subject turned to the musician’s friendship with Trump.
In a famous picture from 2017, the rapper was shown in the Oval Office, behind the Resolute Desk, with Trump, the rock musician Ted Nugent and Sarah Palin, the former governor of Alaska and vice-presidential nominee. Palin said she invited the rightwing rockers “because Jesus was booked”.
“I was there with [Trump] one day when he ended the caliphate,” Kid Rock, 51 and born Robert Ritchie, told Carlson in reference to US efforts against the Islamic State.
“He wanted to put out a tweet … I don’t like to speak out of school. I hope I’m not. But … the tweet was, and I’m paraphrasing, but it’s like, you know, ‘If you ever joined the caliphate, you know, trying to do this, you’re going to be dead.’
“He goes, ‘What do you think?’ [I said] ‘Awesome. I can’t add any better.’ But then it comes out and it’s … reworded and more political, to look politically correct. And just, ‘be afraid’.”
He also said he and Trump were once “looking at maps. I’m like, you know, like, ‘Am I supposed to be in on this shit?’ Like I make dirty records sometimes. I do.
“‘What do you think we should do about North Korea?’ I’m like, ‘What? I don’t think I’m qualified to answer this.’” [….]
Some online critics wondered whether Trump really asked Kid Rock what to do about North Korea.
But after Kid Rock’s White House visit with Nugent and Palin in 2017, Nugent told the New York Times the group discussed “‘health, fitness, food, rock’n’roll, Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley, secure borders, the history of the United States, guns, bullets, bows and arrows, North Korea, Russia and a half-dozen other issues”.
All I can say to that is that I’m very glad that Joe Biden is president right now.
So . . . what are you focusing on today? Please share your thoughts and links in the comment thread.
There was so much breaking news yesterday, and the flood of information continues this morning. I’ve been focused on the crisis in Ukraine lately, but yesterday the January 6 investigation came back into prominence.
Before I get to the latest news from Ukraine, I want to share an article from Vice about Maria Prymachenko, a Ukrainian folk artist whose work Dakinikat and I have been using for our recent posts: Russian Forces Destroyed the Wild and Beautiful Art of Maria Prymachenko.
Amid the intense battles that broke out approximately 50 miles northwest of Kyiv on February 25 during the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Ivankiv Historical and Local History Museum was burned, according toThe Kyiv Independent. “Another one of the irreparable losses of the historical-cultural authority of Ukraine is the destruction of the Ivankiv Historical-Cultural Museum by the aggressor in these hellish days for our country,” wrote the museum’s director in a message on Facebook. As a result, the Ukrainian Minister of Culture, Olexandr Tkachenko, requested that Russia lose its UNESCO membership.
It is not yet confirmed how many pieces in the museum’s holdings survive, but the destroyed artifacts reportedly include roughly 25 works by the celebrated Ukrainian artist Maria Prymachenko, who died in 1997 at the age of 88. Beloved for her saturated gouaches and watercolors on paper, Prymachenko was known to transform cultural motifs (yellow suns and graphic, stencil-like flowers) into vivid and wildly imagined narratives, in which elephants longed to be sailors, horses traveled to outer space, and villagers hijacked giant serpents.Today, nearly 650 of her works, dating from 1936 to 1987, are also held by the National Museum of Ukrainian Folk Applied Art, in nearby Kyiv. Whether or not the Ivankiv museum was targeted intentionally, its loss is pointedly a blow to Ukraine’s cultural history, its collective spirit, its artistic soul.
Maria Prymachenko was born in 1908 close to Ivaniv, in the village of Bolotyna. Her father was a craftsman and carpenter; from her mother and grandmother, she learned Ukrainian arts of embroidery and hand-painting Easter eggs. From an early age, with no formal fine art training, Prymachenko began to create a way of working that stemmed from her encounters in forests and wildflower fields, surrounded by animals….
Around 1936, Tetiana Floru, an artist from Kyiv, saw Prymachenko’s embroideries for sale in the Ivankiv market and invited her to join the Central Experimental Workshop of the Kyiv Museum of Ukrainian Art, an assembly of folk artists from all over the country. It was life-changing for Prymachenko, who in Kyiv underwent surgeries for complications from childhood polio that finally allowed her to walk. In 1936, her works were included in the First Republican Folk Art Exhibition in Kyiv, which later traveled to Moscow and Leningrad, and the following year some of her drawings were presented in the International Exhibition in Paris, where she received a gold medal and the blurb of a lifetime from Pablo Picasso….
“I bow down before the artistic miracle of this brilliant Ukrainian,” Picasso reportedly said, visiting her exhibit in the same year he painted Guernica. Another admirer, Marc Chagall, also fell under the spell of her paintings: When he began to paint animals into his own magic realist scenes in his native Belarus, he called his creatures “the cousins of the strange beasts of Maria Prymachenko.” Other relatives in this imaginary zoo: the animal renderings of Henri Rousseau, Niki de Saint Phalle.
If you’re interested, read the rest at Vice.com.
Here’s the latest on what’s happening in Ukraine:
A top Russian military figure has been killed in the war in Ukraine according to local news outlets citing a social media post by his colleague.
Ukrainian news outlets were reporting that Andrei Sukhovetsky, deputy commander of the 41st Combined Arms Army of the Central Military District, had been killed on Wednesday.
Media outlets cited a post on VKontakte announcing the death, written by Sergei Chipilev, a deputy of the Russian veterans group, Combat Brotherhood.
“It is with great sorrow that we learned of the tragic news about the death of our friend, Major General Andrei Aleksandrovich Sukhovetsky, on the territory of Ukraine during a special operation,” his post said, without specifying the circumstances.
Christo Grozev, executive director of fact-checking website Bellingcat, tweeted news of the death, adding that if confirmed it would be a “major demotivator” for Russian forces….
News of the death was also reported by Russian media outlets. Lenta.ru carried the story, while Alexander Kots, a correspondent for the mass circulation tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda, described the death in a post on social network Telegram.
A 40-mile column of Russian invaders has stalled on the way to Kyiv, opening itself to attack by Ukrainians, a senior defense official told reporters Wednesday.
“We believe that the convoy is stalled,” the official said. “They are not moving at any rate that would lead one to believe that they’ve solved their problems,” which still include a lack of food, fuel, and spare parts.
Some Ukrainian troops have also targeted the convoy, although in limited fashion, the official said.
On Wednesday, Ukraine’s security service posted a video of a captured Russian soldier who says he and his unit were sent across the border with only three days’ food.
“Putin expected to capture Ukraine in three days,” Ukraine’s security service wrote above the video, which could not be independently verified. “By the order of the top Russian leadership, the phones and documents were taken from the fire brigades, removed food and water for three days and sent to war with Ukraine,” the agency said, according to the English translation of the post.
Insufficient food is among the missteps that have slowed the Russian advance, and perhaps edged Russia into more ferocious and indiscriminate use of missiles and airstrikes. As of Wednesday, Pentagon officials had counted roughly 450 such strikes on Ukrainian targets.
The senior defense official said Pentagon leaders expect the invasion to accelerate as Russia adjusts and gets provisions to its forces inside Ukraine.
As soon as the curfew was lifted in Kyiv, I drove around to understand what had happened to our capital overnight. For two full days residents had not been allowed to go out, even during the daytime. Russian saboteur groups were identified, and random street fights took place.
I did not recognise my city, with checkpoints in the old town, with people digging trenches, bridges being fortified and the subway turned into a bomb shelter.
“Do you enrol everybody who shows up?” we asked a young guy in charge. “Almost all, but I do not accept those under 18,” he said. “And there are a lot of them. I wouldn’t be able to look their mothers in the eyes. I fought in 2014-2015 in Donbas, so I know what the war is.”
It’s a predominantly male group but there are three women. The youngest is a lawyer. “What Russia has already done to the civilians has made us act,” she said. She had not told her family of her decision to fight. They live in a small town on the Ukrainian-Russian border, which has been partially destroyed. Another woman, in her 60s, said she was a nurse. Her husband had joined the defence units and she felt she needed to be with him. The last was a retired officer. She enrolled because her son had already joined the Ukrainian army. “When our grandparents, who remember the second world war, were wishing for peace, we didn’t understand why,” she said. “But now I know.”
The figures say one thing, experience another. The official toll of civilian deaths is 350, but after seven days’ fighting, there cannot be a single Ukrainian who doesn’t know somebody who has been touched by tragedy. There are more than 1,600 wounded….
“Those of you who have come to ‘rescue us’, just go away,” cries a woman holding a baby at Kyiv’s main station. “We were all right before you came. Just leave. All I have is some cash and a backpack.” Like thousands of people here, her mission is to go somewhere else, anywhere. The Ukrainian railway allows everybody to ride without tickets, including foreign citizens, and is running extra trains to the west.
We count the hours: seven, 20, 70, 100, 144: hours of the Ukrainian army on its own, its citizens holding off one of the mightiest armies in the world, which is now being bolstered by support from Belarus. The count becomes symbolic. For those under bombardment, each hour seems like a year.
Read more at the Guardian link.
KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russian forces captured a strategic Ukrainian port and besieged another Thursday in a bid to cut the country off from the sea, as the two sides met for another round of talks aimed at stopping the fighting that has set off an exodus of over 1 million refugees.
Moscow’s advance on Ukraine’s capital has apparently stalled over the past few days, with a huge armored column north of Kyiv at a standstill, but the military has made significant gains in the south as part of an effort to sever the country’s connection to the Black and Azov seas.
The Russian military said it had control of Kherson, and local Ukrainian officials confirmed that forces have taken over local government headquarters in the Black Sea port of 280,000, making it the first major city to fall since the invasion began a week ago.
Heavy fighting continued on the outskirts of another strategic port, Mariupol, on the Azov Sea, plunging it into darkness, isolation and fear. Electricity and phone service were largely down, and homes and shops faced food and water shortages.
Without phone connections, medics did not know where to take the wounded.
More Ukraine reads:
The New York Times: A War the Kremlin Tried to Disguise Becomes a Hard Reality for Russians.
The New York Times: Anxiety Grows in Odessa as Russians Advance in Southern Ukraine.
January 6 prosecutions
This is huge: yesterday a January 6 defendant w ho worked closely with Oath Keepers leader Stuart Rhodes has agreed to cooperate with investigators. Law and Crime: Oath Keepers Member Pleads Guilty to Seditious Conspiracy and Obstruction in Jan. 6 Capitol Attack, Will ‘Fully Cooperate’ with Feds.
A member of the Oath Keepers right-wing militia group charged in the Jan. 6 siege at the U.S. Capitol has pleaded guilty to seditious conspiracy and obstruction of an official proceeding of Congress. He vowed to “fully cooperate” with the federal investigation into the attack.
Joshua James, 34, is the first member of the militia group charged with seditious conspiracy to plead guilty to that charge. At a hearing Wednesday, he confirmed that under the plea agreement, he will “fully cooperate” with the government’s prosecution and testify before a grand jury and at trial.
The seditious conspiracy and obstruction charges, both felonies, carry potential jail sentences of 20 years each. The seditious conspiracy charge is the most serious charge yet in the federal government’s sprawling prosecution of those who participated in the Jan. 6 siege.
James was named in a 17-count indictment that also charged Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes. According to prosecutors, James and the other Oath Keepers made plans to bring a variety of weapons to support the mob of Donald Trump supporters who violently overran police to swarm the Capitol building in an attempt to stop Congress from certifying Joe Biden‘s win in the 2020 presidential election.
At Wednesday’s hearing before U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta, James confirmed the Statement of Offense submitted in connection with his plea, which outlines the actions James took in support of the plan to overturn the election and keep Trump in office…
Here are a couple of things James admitted to:
In advance of and on January 6, 2021, James and others agreed to take part in the plan developed by Rhodes to use any means necessary, up to and including the use of force, to stop the lawful transfer of presidential power….
In the weeks leading up to January 6, 2021, Rhodes instructed James and other coconspirators to be prepared, if called upon, to report to the White House grounds to secure the perimeter and use lethal force if necessary against anyone who tried to remove President Trump from the White House, including the National Guard or other government actors who might be sent to remove President Trump as a result of the Presidential Election.
Read the rest at Law and Crime.
James is also close to Roger Stone and was communicating with him the morning of January 6, 2021.
House January 6 Committee investigation:
The New York Times: Jan. 6 Committee Lays Out Potential Criminal Charges Against Trump.
The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol said on Wednesday that there was enough evidence to conclude that former President Donald J. Trump and some of his allies might have conspired to commit fraud and obstruction by misleading Americans about the outcome of the 2020 election and attempting to overturn the result.
In a court filing in a civil case in California, the committee’s lawyers for the first time laid out their theory of a potential criminal case against the former president. They said they had accumulated evidence demonstrating that Mr. Trump, the conservative lawyer John Eastman and other allies could potentially be charged with criminal violations including obstructing an official proceeding of Congress and conspiracy to defraud the American people.
The filing also said there was evidence that Mr. Trump’s repeated lies that the election had been stolen amounted to common law fraud.
The filing disclosed only limited new evidence, and the committee asked the judge in the civil case to review the relevant material behind closed doors. In asserting the potential for criminality, the committee largely relied on the extensive and detailed accounts already made public of the actions Mr. Trump and his allies took to keep him in office after his defeat.
The committee added information from its more than 550 interviews with state officials, Justice Department officials and top aides to Mr. Trump, among others.
It said, for example, that Jason Miller, Mr. Trump’s senior campaign adviser, had told the committee in a deposition that Mr. Trump had been told soon after Election Day by a campaign data expert “in pretty blunt terms” that he was going to lose, suggesting that Mr. Trump was well aware that his months of assertions about a stolen election were false. (Mr. Trump subsequently said he disagreed with the data expert’s analysis, Mr. Miller said, because he thought he could win in court.)
The evidence gathered by the committee “provides, at minimum, a good-faith basis for concluding that President Trump has violated” the obstruction count, the filing, written by Douglas N. Letter, the general counsel of the House, said, adding: “The select committee also has a good-faith basis for concluding that the president and members of his campaign engaged in a criminal conspiracy to defraud the United States.”
The filing said that a “review of the materials may reveal that the president and members of his campaign engaged in common law fraud in connection with their efforts to overturn the 2020 election results.”
This post is way too long, but so much is happening! Have a great Thursday, Sky Dancers, and please share your thoughts a recommended reads with us.
We’ve reached the end of another week in the post-Trump era, and we continue to deal with crises that developed and worsened during the monster’s regime. It’s clear that it will take a long time to recover–if recovery is even possible. On the plus side, it’s great to have a normal president again–a person with empathy and compassion–and a caring, engaged first lady, and White House pets!
Biden’s Covid relief package appears to be on track for passage, despite the efforts of Republicans in Congress. The New York Times: Republicans Struggle to Derail Increasingly Popular Stimulus Package.
Republicans are struggling to persuade voters to oppose President Biden’s $1.9 trillion economic rescue plan, which enjoys strong, bipartisan support nationwide even as it is moving through Congress with just Democratic backing.
Democrats who control the House are preparing to approve the package by the end of next week, with the Senate aiming to soon follow with its own party-line vote before unemployment benefits are set to lapse in mid-March. On Friday, the House Budget Committee unveiled the nearly 600-page text for the proposal, which includes billions of dollars for unemployment benefits, small businesses and stimulus checks.
Republican leaders, searching for a way to derail the proposal, on Friday led a final attempt to tarnish the package, labeling it a “payoff to progressives.” The bill, they said, spends too much and includes a liberal wish list of programs like aid to state and local governments — which they call a “blue state bailout,” though many states facing shortfalls are controlled by Republicans — and increased benefits for the unemployed, which they argued would discourage people from looking for work.
Out in the real world, even Republican voters support the relief bill.
More than 7 in 10 Americans now back Mr. Biden’s aid package, according to new polling from the online research firm SurveyMonkey for The New York Times. That includes support from three-quarters of independent voters, 2 in 5 Republicans and nearly all Democrats. The overall support for the bill is even larger than the substantial majority of voters who said in January that they favored an end-of-year economic aid bill signed into law by President Donald J. Trump.
While Mr. Biden has encouraged Republican lawmakers to get on board with his package, Democrats are moving their bill through Congress using a parliamentary process that will allow them to pass it with only Democratic votes.
“Critics say my plan is too big, that it cost $1.9 trillion dollars; that’s too much,” Mr. Biden said at an event on Friday. “Let me ask them, what would they have me cut?”
House Republican leaders on Friday urged their rank-and-file members to vote against the plan, billing it as Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California’s “Payoff to Progressives Act.” They detailed more than a dozen objections to the bill, including “a third round of stimulus checks costing more than $422 billion, which will include households that have experienced little or no financial loss during the pandemic.” Ms. Pelosi’s office issued its own rebuttal soon after, declaring “Americans need help. House Republicans don’t care.”
The Manhattan District Attorney’s office is moving forward with it’s investigation of Trump’s finances. Reuters: Exclusive: New York City tax agency subpoenaed in Trump criminal probe.
The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office has subpoenaed a New York City property tax agency as part of a criminal investigation into Donald Trump’s company, the agency confirmed on Friday, suggesting prosecutors are examining the former president’s efforts to reduce his commercial real-estate taxes for possible evidence of fraud.
The subpoena issued to the New York City Tax Commission is the latest indication that Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance Jr. is looking at the values Trump assigned to some commercial properties in tax filings and loan documents.
Along with information already subpoenaed from creditors, the tax agency documents would help investigators determine whether Trump’s business inflated the value of his properties to secure favorable terms on loans while deflating those values to lower tax bills for those same properties….
The subpoena likely would compel the agency to provide detailed income and expense statements the Trump Organization would have filed as part of an effort to lower tax assessments on some of its commercial properties, according to people familiar with the commission’s operations. Trump’s holdings include Trump Tower and Trump Plaza.
Those filings typically would include valuations submitted by the company to challenge the market values assigned to Trump’s property by the city’s tax assessors, they added.
Subpoenas also have been issued to at least two creditors that helped finance Trump’s real-estate holdings, Deutsche Bank AG and Ladder Capital Finance LLC, Reuters has previously reported.
The Federal investigation into the January 6 insurrection is continuing to heat up.
The Washington Post: U.S. investigating possible ties between Roger Stone, Alex Jones and Capitol rioters.
As you can probably guess from the images, it is snowing here. It snowed Tuesday night into Wednesday and we might get a bigger snowfall over the weekend. It has been a snow-free January so far, but no longer.
As Congressional Republicans once again circle the wagons around Trump, the death and injury toll from the January 6 attempted coup is growing. A second policeman committed suicide and many more cops were injured than preciously known.
Acting Metropolitan Police Chief Robert J. Contee told the House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday that two police officers have died by suicide since responding to the riot at the Capitol on January 6, according to Contee’s opening statement before the committee, which was obtained by CNN.
This is the first time the force has confirmed that two officers took their own lives after the attack.
“Tragically, two officers who were at the Capitol on January 6th, one each from the Capitol Police and MPD, took their own lives in the aftermath of that battle,” Contee said in his statement.
Another Capitol Police officer, Brian D. Sicknick, died the day after the riot “due to injuries sustained while on-duty,” the Capitol Police said in a statement earlier this month.
And don’t forget that one of the rioters also died by suicide.
The New York Times: The Capitol Police union says nearly 140 officers were injured during the riot.
Nearly 140 police officers from two departments were injured during the Jan. 6 pro-Trump mob attack on the Capitol, including officers who suffered brain injuries, smashed spinal discs and one who is likely to lose his eye, the Capitol Police union said on Wednesday.
In a statement, the union’s chairman, Gus Papathanasiou, faulted leadership of the Capitol Police for failing to equip officers with proper equipment ahead of the attack.
He was responding to the closed-door testimony on Tuesday of Yogananda D. Pittman, the acting chief of the Capitol Police, who acknowledged that the department had known there was a “strong potential for violence” that day but failed to take necessary steps to prevent what she described as a “terrorist attack.”
Chief Pittman took the reins of the agency after the siege, replacing Steven Sund, who resigned as police chief under pressure.
“We have one officer who lost his life as a direct result of the insurrection,” Mr. Papathanasiou said. “Another officer has tragically taken his own life. Between U.S.C.P. and our colleagues at the Metropolitan Police Department, we have almost 140 officers injured. I have officers who were not issued helmets prior to the attack who have sustained brain injuries. One officer has two cracked ribs and two smashed spinal discs. One officer is going to lose his eye, and another was stabbed with a metal fence stake.”
Chief Pittman testified via videoconference before a meeting of the House Appropriations Committee that officers were outmanned during the riot, that internal communications were poor, and that officers lacked sufficient equipment and struggled to carry out orders like locking down the building.
Nevertheless, Congressional Republicans are mostly back in the Trump cult.
Stephen Collinson at CNN: In the Republican Party, the post-Trump era lasted a week.
While pundits ponder the GOP’s future — and traditionalists hope to change course out of the wreckage left by Trump’s insurrection — Washington’s power players and state activists have already made their choice.
Highlighting the former President’s lightning fast rehabilitation, the House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy will visit Trump in Florida on Thursday after repudiating his own criticism of the incitement of the US Capitol riot.
Only a week after Trump left the White House, it’s clear that his party is not ready to let him go. Extremists and Trumpists are on the rise, while lawmakers who condemned his aberrant conduct fight for their political careers. The anti-Trump wing — represented by members of Congress such as Sens. Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Mitt Romney of Utah and Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger — look like a small and outmaneuvered force.
This week’s sorting will have significant implications for the GOP’s positioning as it heads into the 2022 midterm elections, and for President Joe Biden’s hopes of draining the poison from Washington in the name of national unity.
But it will also pose a fundamental question for the Grand Old Party itself. Is yet another doubling down on grassroots fury and the Trump base the best way to win back Americans? Especially those in suburban areas who rejected the ex-President who lost the House, the Senate and the White House in a single four-year term?
Asawin Suebsaeng at The Daily Beast: Republicans Come Crawling Back to Trump Three Weeks After Capitol Riot.
Immediately following the deadly Jan. 6 riot on Capitol Hill, several leaders and prominent figures in his own party wanted to ditch President Donald Trump, blame him for inciting the mob, or at least move on from him. It took less than a month for almost all of the official GOP to start crawling back to him.
GOP bigwigs who were, very briefly, prepared to throw Trump onto the ash heap of history following his primary role in sparking the MAGA riot and for helping the Republican Party lose the presidency and both houses of Congress are now beginning to shield the ex-president, once again, from his liberal foes. Top Republican lawmakers are increasingly signaling that they are ready to let Trump off the hook yet another time, and the former president has been working the phones from his new home base in Florida in an effort to make sure GOP senators vote to acquit him in an upcoming impeachment trial.
Of course Lindsey Graham is leading the pack in their rush back into the Trump orbit.
“He’s very interested in the outcome of the trial and I talked to him yesterday, and I told him the vote yesterday is a sign of things to come,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), a close Trump ally, told The Daily Beast on Wednesday.
Graham was referring to a Tuesday vote for which Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) sided with Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) on a measure declaring Senate impeachment proceedings against an ex-president to be unconstitutional. Earlier this month, McConnell had publicly blamed Trump for “provok[ing]” the anti-democratic rioting, and had left open the possibility of voting to convict him in a potential trial.
Minority leader Kevin McCarthy is not far behind.
McCarthy is making nice with the former president—and his family, too. Days after his argument with Donald Trump, McCarthy got on the phone with Donald Trump Jr. Both sides of the conversation walked away believing that they remained on great terms with the other. Trump Jr. is currently planning to do whatever he can to help the GOP take back the House in 2022, according to a person familiar with the matter. “Don wants to see Kevin as speaker of the House,” this source said.
Moreover, multiple news outlets reported on Wednesday that former President Trump and McCarthy are scheduled to meet in person in Florida on Thursday.
Just a short time ago, both of these assholes were denouncing Trump for his attempted coup.
Yesterday, JJ posted a links to Seth Abraham’s reporting on a suspected planning meeting held on January 5, the day before the Capitol riot. Other news outlets are now reporting on the meeting.
Here’s Abramson’s summary of what is known so far. More Revelations About Secretive January 5 War Council at Trump International Hotel.
Reporting in the Omaha World-Herald, as well as social media screenshots and videos, confirm a January 5 pre-insurrection war council at DC’s Trump International Hotel. Also confirmed by the evidence is a list of the gathering’s (minimum) fifteen attendees.
The first Proof article on this subject can be found here.
The secretive January 5 meeting—which one attendee, Senator Tommy Tuberville, has already been caught lying about, and which another, Nebraska gubernatorial candidate Charles Herbster, has attempted to scrub his social media to conceal—included eight different components of Trump’s political machine:
Family members: Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump, and Kimberly Guilfoyle (current girlfriend of Trump Jr., and a former on-air Fox News personality).
Trump’s legal team: Rudy Giuliani.
United States senators: Tuberville and at least two other senators (see below).
Administration officials: Peter Navarro and Charles Herbster.
January 6 organizers: Ali Alexander, Adam Piper, and Michael Flynn.
Trump campaign officials: Corey Lewandowski (former), David Bossie (former).
Cyberintelligence specialists: Flynn (information operations) and possibly Phil Waldron (self-described—see more below—as skilled in “intelligence analysis”).
Trump donors: Mike Lindell, Daniel Beck, and Herbster.
Due to minimal ongoing coverage of this extraordinary pre-January 6 strategy meeting, questions about the Trump International Hotel gathering remain. This article outlines key questions and reveals the answers to several—all uncovered over the last 24 hours.
Read the rest at the Substack link.
From The Alabama Political Reporter: Trump appointee says Tuberville met with Trump family, advisers on eve of Capitol attack.
Alabama Republican Senator Tommy Tuberville through a spokeswoman Tuesday denied meeting with the then-director of the Republican Attorneys General Association and others inside Trump’s private residence at the Trump International Hotel on Jan. 5 — on the eve of the deadly U.S. Capitol attack.
But a photo posted to social media appears to show Tuberville in the hotel’s lobby that day, and a company CEO in a separate post describes meeting with Tuberville and others at the hotel that day and discussing “illegal votes.”
Charles W. Herbster, who was then the national chairman of the Agriculture and Rural Advisory Committee in Trump’s administration, in a Facebook post at 8:33 p.m. on Jan. 5 said that he was standing “in the private residence of the President at Trump International with the following patriots who are joining me in a battle for justice and truth.”
Among the attendees, according to Herbster’s post, were Tuberville, former RAGA director Adam Piper, Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump, Trump’s former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, adviser Peter Navarro, Trump’s 2016 campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and 2016 deputy campaign manager David Bossie.
A photo posted to an Instagram user’s account appears to show Tuberville standing in the lobby of the Trump International Hotel on Jan. 5. The user captioned the photo “Newly elected Senator Tommy Tuberville.” In two other separate photos, the person posted images of Flynn and Donald Trump Jr. inside the hotel on Jan. 5. Attempts to reach the person who posted that photo were unsuccessful Tuesday.
Daniel Beck, CEO of an Idaho technology company, in a Facebook post at 10:27 p.m. on Jan. 5 wrote that he’d spent the evening with Tuberville, Trump Jr. and girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle, Michael J. Lindell, Navarro and Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani.
And Mother Jones has info on Roger Stone’s long-term involvement in preparations for the coup:
In the weeks before riled-up Trump supporters looking to overturn the election assembled in Washington, DC, Stone worked to raise money for “private security” and equipment for events there on January 5 and 6 that preceded the storming of the Capitol. But the “Stop the Steal” website where Stone solicited funds was subsequently taken down. Though he now claims to have merely encouraged “peaceful” protests of Congress, he struck a fiery and apocalyptic tone in speeches leading up to the Capitol attack. At a DC rally on December 12, he exhorted his rightwing fans to “fight until the bitter end” to prevent Joe Biden from taking office. Speaking at a rally in Freedom Plaza the night before the Capitol riot, Stone urged the crowd to join an “epic struggle.”
At that event, Stone appeared to be receiving protection from a security detail composed of members of the Oath Keepers, a far-right militia group. And Stone for years has maintained close ties to members of the Proud Boys, whose leaders treat him as a mentor. Members of both groups face criminal charges for their role in the assault on Congress.
There’s much more on Stone’s role at Mother Jones.
A clip from a video recorded by the CEO of a text messaging company is going viral after well-known attorney and activist Seth Abramson posted it to Twitter late Tuesday night.
In the original Facebook live video, posted at 11:32 PM the night before the January 6 insurrection, Txtwire CEO Daniel Beck claims to have just finished a meeting with “about 15” people at the Trump Hotel in Washington, D.C., including, he says, Rudy Giuliani, Kimberly Guilfoyle, Donald Trump Jr., My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell, and “several Senators.”
It appears at least one of those Senators has now been identified.
The video itself would be interesting to those investigating the insurrection and Donald Trump’s attempts to overturn the election, but it’s far more interesting given an article in the Omaha World Herald published January 6, that reports a Republican exploring a run for governor of Nebraska, Charles Herbster, appears to have attended that same January 5 meeting.
Read more at Raw Story.
So this could get very interesting. I hope big media will pick up on this story soon. It sure seems significant.
That’s it for me today, but there’s lots more happening. I’ll post more links in the comment thread and I hope you will too.
We have to survive 57 more days of Trump insanity–along with the out-of-control coronavirus pandemic–between now and January 20, 2021. At least Trump finally agreed to let the official presidential transition begin–but he’s still refusing to give Joe Biden access to the government’s vaccine plans.
The New York Times: Trump Administration Approves Start of Formal Transition to Biden.
President Trump’s government on Monday authorized President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. to begin a formal transition process after Michigan certified Mr. Biden as its winner, a strong sign that the president’s last-ditch bid to overturn the results of the election was coming to an end.
Mr. Trump did not concede, and vowed to persist with efforts to change the vote, which have so far proved fruitless. But the president said on Twitter on Monday night that he accepted the decision by Emily W. Murphy, the administrator of the General Services Administration, to allow a transition to proceed.
In his tweet, Mr. Trump said that he had told his officials to begin “initial protocols” involving the handoff to Mr. Biden “in the best interest of our country,” even though he had spent weeks trying to subvert a free and fair election with false claims of fraud. Hours later, he tried to play down the significance of Ms. Murphy’s action, tweeting that it was simply “preliminarily work with the Dems” that would not stop efforts to change the election results.
Still, Ms. Murphy’s designation of Mr. Biden as the apparent victor provides the incoming administration with federal funds and resources and clears the way for the president-elect’s advisers to coordinate with Trump administration officials.
Trump had to be talked into allowing the transition to begin.
Mr. Trump had been resisting any move toward a transition. But in conversations in recent days that intensified Monday morning, top aides — including Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff; Pat A. Cipollone, the White House counsel; and Jay Sekulow, the president’s personal lawyer — told the president the transition needed to begin. He did not need to say the word “concede,” they told him, according to multiple people briefed on the discussions….
Some of the advisers drafted a statement for the president to issue. In the end, Mr. Trump did not put one out, but aides said the tone was similar to his tweets in the evening, in which he appeared to take credit for Ms. Murphy’s decision to allow the transition to begin.
“Our case STRONGLY continues, we will keep up the good fight, and I believe we will prevail!” he wrote. “Nevertheless, in the best interest of our Country, I am recommending that Emily and her team do what needs to be done with regard to initial protocols, and have told my team to do the same.”
This morning, NBC News published an op-ed by Sen. Chris Murphy: As Trump’s GSA begins election transition, Biden needs access to Covid-19 vaccine plans.
At the very moment President-elect Joe Biden will take the reins of government, the federal government will be in the early stages of implementing the most complicated, most expensive and most important mass vaccination program in our nation’s history. On Monday, General Services Administration signaled that it is ready to begin the formal transition process. There is not a moment to lose….
…vaccines don’t protect people; vaccinations do. And the effort to make sure that every person in America, as soon as possible, gets vaccinated, is a logistical project on par with than anything the American health care system has ever accomplished. Trump’s teams at Health and Human Services, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health have begun to develop and implement this system, but it will be barely up and running by Jan. 20. That means that there must be an errorless transition of responsibility from Trump’s team to Biden’s team. And yet for weeks, Trump’s team refused to allow Biden’s transition team access to the plan. Hopefully, the GSA’s announcement means this will change. But we cannot just assume it will happen.
As leaders of Operation Warp Speed, the coalition of federal agencies overseeing the plan for vaccine distribution, told the Senate last week, Trump had been blocking them from communicating at all with the Biden-Harris transition team. Why? Because of Trump’s petulant crusade against reality. Indeed, Trump is still refusing to accept the election results, hoping that desperate lawsuits and the bullying of local elections officials will somehow allow him to remain in office despite the fact that he lost the election convincingly.
Murphy believes the Trump plans are inadequate and Biden will need to make changes. Read Murphy’s detailed recommendations at NBC News.
Trump may have been talked into allowing the formal transition to begin, but he’s still obsessed with proving the election was fraudulent. Now that his many lawsuits have been thrown out of court for lack of evidence, he is becoming concerned that his crazy legal team is making him look bad. As if he hadn’t already done that to himself.
While President Donald Trump has publicly praised his legal team’s efforts, he has privately expressed frustration with the slapdash nature of his election defense fight, according to several people familiar with the discussions.
The president has been complaining to aides and allies about his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and recently-removed lawyer Sidney Powell’s over-the-top performances at a news conference at the Republican National Committee headquarters last week, these people said. Both Giuliani and Powell have continued to make conspiratorial and baseless claims about widespread voter fraud, for which they have provided no evidence.
The president is concerned his team is comprised of “fools that are making him look bad,” said one source familiar with the thinking. Asked why he would not fire them, this person replied, in essence, who knows?
The president grew less impressed with Powell over the weekend, as she continued to make outlandish comments, including falsely accusing Georgia’s Republican governor and its secretary of state of being part of a scheme to alter votes.
That ultimately led to the terse statement the Trump campaign put out Sunday night on behalf of Giuliani and senior legal adviser Jenna Ellis: “Sidney Powell is practicing law on her own. She is not a member of the Trump legal team. She is also not a lawyer for the President in his personal capacity,” it read.
Trump was also not pleased with the optics of the brown substance, presumed to be hair dye or a makeup product, dripping down Giuliani’s face during the nearly two-hour news conference Thursday, according to one of the sources familiar with the president’s reaction.
Even Rush Limbaugh is complaining about the “legal team.” Earth to Trump: you chose these morons. Only the best people, right?
Elie Honig at CNN: Trump’s bizarro-world ‘elite strike force’ legal challenge is about to implode.
Just moments after a federal judge issued a blistering rebuke of their evidence-free, legally-confused effort to contest President-elect Joe Biden’s win in Pennsylvania, President Donald Trump’s legal team flailed to spin the crushing loss as some sort of bizarro-world victory. Trump campaign attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Jenna Ellis claimed in a statement that the dismissal “turns out to help us in our strategy to get expeditiously to the US Supreme Court.”
But if the Trump campaign’s legal team is counting on the Supreme Court to save them, they’re delusional. In this case, and in the larger effort to contest the outcome of the 2020 election, Trump’s team is just about out of runway.
In a news conference laden with false statements and incomprehensible legal claims, Ellis labeled Trump’s legal team an “elite strike force.” But their utter failure to uncover evidence of widespread voter fraud, or to articulate a coherent legal theory, suggests otherwise. Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie — a staunch Trump political ally — more aptly called Trump’s legal team a “national embarrassment.” The Trump team later distanced itself from Sidney Powell, an attorney on Trump’s legal team, after she spread conspiracy theories about the election.
Indeed, Saturday’s ruling by federal judge Matthew Brann — an appointee of President Barack Obama who previously held various positions in Pennsylvania’s Republican party — is one of the harshest rebukes I’ve ever seen from any judge. Brann heaped scorn on the Trump campaign’s “strained legal arguments” which, he noted, are “without merit … and unsupported by evidence.” He ridiculed one of the Trump team’s primary constitutional claims as a “Frankenstein monster.” And Brann noted that the Trump campaign position, if adopted, would “disenfranchise almost seven million voters.”
There’s much more at the CNN link. I seriously doubt that even the most extreme SCOTUS justices are going to want to touch the Trump cases with a ten-foot pole.
And then there’s Trump’s crazy pal Roger Stone. The Daily Beast: Roger Stone-Tied Group Threatens GOP: If Trump Goes Down, So Does Your Senate Majority.
Conservative operatives and a super PAC with ties to infamous GOP dirty trickster Roger Stone are calling for Trump supporters to punish Republicans by sitting out Georgia’s crucial Senate runoffs or writing in Trump’s name instead. And though their efforts remains on the party’s fringes, the trajectory of the movement has Republicans fearful that it could cost the GOP control of the Senate.
The most aggressive call to boycott or cast protest ballots in the two runoff races has, so far, come from a dormant pro-Trump super PAC with ties to Stone, which unveiled a new initiative to retaliate against the Republican Party’s supposed turncoats by handing Democrats control of the U.S. Senate.
The group, dubbed the Committee for American Sovereignty, unveiled a new website encouraging Georgia Republicans to write in Trump’s name in both of the upcoming Senate runoff elections, which could determine the party that controls the upper chamber during President-elect Joe Biden’s first two years in office. The PAC argued that doing so will show support for the president in addition to forcing Republicans to address the wild election-fraud conspiracy theories floated by Trump supporters and members of his own legal team.
“If we can do this, we have a real chance at getting these RINO senators to act on the illegitimate and corrupt election presided over by a Democrat party that is invested in the Communist takeover of Our Great Nation,” the group wrote on its new website, writeintrumpforgeorgiasenate.com. “We will not stop fighting for you, the American Patriot, against the evils of Socialism and inferior Religions.”
The effort is representative of a broader push among some of President Trump’s most devoted supporters to withhold support for the two Georgia Republican senators facing competitive runoff challenges, Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, in the hope of leveraging the party’s fear of losing the U.S. Senate to get more establishment backing for their drive to change the result of the election. The goal, those operatives say, is to expose a supposed vast election fraud conspiracy abetted by high-level Republicans in Georgia’s state government, including Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.
Can we survive 57 more days of this insanity? I guess if we got through four years of it, we can hang on a bit longer–but it won’t be easy.
Take care, Sky Dancers! Enjoy your Tuesday in whatever way works best for you. I plan to read a novel and take a nap this afternoon. Please check in with us in the comments if you have the time and inclination.