March 2021 News


 

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Editor's Choice: Scroll below for our monthly blend of mainstream and alternative March 2021 news and views

Note: This February has seen lots of news, which is divided into two parts on this site to ease reader uploads.

 

March 8

Top Headlines

joe biden fist in air

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

U.S. Jan. 6 Capitol Riot, Insurrection

 

World News

 
 

Top Stories

joe biden fist in air

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden’s $1.9 trillion relief plan reflects seismic shifts in U.S. politics, Jeff Stein, March 8, 2021 (print ed.). The disparity between the reception to President Obama’s 2009 stimulus plan and President Biden’s is the result of major shifts in politics.

A new Democratic administration facing down a massive economic crisis pushes a $800 billion stimulus package. A bloc of centrist Democrats balk at the price-tag, and Republicans are thrown into a frenzy warning about the impact to the federal deficit.

A little more than a decade later, another new Democratic administration takes office facing a different economic crisis. This time, it proposes spending an additional $1.9 trillion in spending, even though the federal deficit last year was $3.1 trillion — much larger than during the last crisis. Centrist Democrats unify behind passing the measure, and the GOP rejects it but in a more muted fashion.

us senate logoThe disparity between the reception to President Barack Obama’s 2009 stimulus plan and President Biden’s is the result of several seismic shifts in American politics — the most dramatic of which may be the apparent impact of the pandemic on attitudes about the role of government in helping the economy.

Since the outset of the coronavirus, polling has found substantial support among Americans for providing more government aid for those in need. That is partially due to the nature of the current crisis, which for a time opened a deeper economic hole than even the Great Recession. But the shift is also the result of a reorientation on economic policy — both on the left and on the right — that has transformed the political landscape.

On the right, congressional Republican lawmakers may still fret about higher deficits — but the most popular politician among their voters does not. Both as a candidate and as president, Donald Trump blew past Republican concerns about the deficit, pushing for trillions in additional spending and tax cuts and running unprecedented peacetime debt levels.

washington post logoWashington Post, The business winners in Biden’s relief package: Restaurants, concert venues and more, Tory Newmyer, March 8, 2021 (print ed.). A restaurant group pushed for the expansion of a tax credit and lobbied against a minimum wage increase.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. proposes power-sharing plan to Afghan and Taliban leaders, Karen DeYoung, March 8, 2021 (print ed.). Along with the proposal for an interim power-sharing arrangement, Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned Afghan President Ashraf Ghani that a U.S. departure remains under active consideration and could lead to “rapid territorial gains” by the Taliban.

Worried that Afghan peace talks are going nowhere, and facing a May 1 deadline for the possible withdrawal of all U.S. troops, the Biden administration has proposed sweeping plans for an interim power-sharing government between the Taliban and Afghan leaders, and stepped-up involvement by Afghanistan’s neighbors — including Iran — in the peace process.

Along with the proposal, shared with both sides over the past week by U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned Afghan President Ashraf Ghani that a U.S. departure remains under active consideration and could lead to “rapid territorial gains” by the Taliban.

“I am making this clear to you so that you understand the urgency of my tone,” Blinken wrote in a three-page letter to Ghani sent to coincide with the proposal.

Biden administration officials refused to confirm or deny the specifics of the interim plan or the Blinken letter. “As a general matter, we do not comment on alleged correspondence with foreign leaders,” a State Department spokesperson said.

The letter and the eight-page plan for an interim government were published Sunday by Afghanistan’s Tolo News.

Britain's Prince Harry, his wife Meghan, center, interviewed by Oprah Winfrey for a broadcast airing on March 7, 2021 (screenshot).

Britain's Prince Harry, his wife Meghan, center, interviewed by Oprah Winfrey for a broadcast airing on March 7, 2021 (screenshot).

washington post logoWashington Post, Meghan tells Oprah Winfrey she had suicidal thoughts as part of the royal family: ‘I just didn’t want to be alive anymore,’ Emily Yahr, March 8, 2021 (print ed.). Takeaways from Prince Harry and Meghan's interview with Oprah Winfrey.

In the days leading up to Oprah Winfrey’s highly-anticipated primetime interview Sunday night with Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, CBS released a clip that showed Winfrey telling the couple, "You’ve said some pretty shocking things here.”

United Kingdom flagThat may have been an understatement. Here are some of the biggest takeaways from the interview:

1) Meghan said she had suicidal thoughts as a member of the royal family.

Winfrey noted that Meghan had once said “the daily onslaught of vitriol and condemnation from the U.K. press was “almost unsurvivable.” (Meghan, who is biracial, in particular faced racist and sexist coverage in the tabloids not long after she and Harry started dating.) When Winfrey asked if there was a breaking point, Meghan said that at one point after they got married, “I just didn’t want to be alive anymore.”

“That was a very clear and real and frightening constant thought,” she said. Meghan said that she went to several people in the “institution” (apparently meaning the palace and royal family, though she didn’t name names) and said that, "I’ve never felt this way before, and I need to go somewhere.” She also went to royal Human Resources.

In response, Meghan said, while they were sympathetic, she was told, "There’s nothing we can do to protect you, because you’re not a paid employee of the institution.”

“Did you ever think about going to a hospital?” Winfrey asked. “Or is that possible, that you can check yourself in someplace?”

"That’s what I was asking to do ... I couldn’t, you know, call an Uber to the palace,” Meghan said. “You have to understand, as well, when I joined that family, that was the last time ... that I saw my passport, my driver’s license, my keys. All that gets turned over.”

Winfrey said it sounded like, “you were trapped and couldn’t get help, even though you were on the verge of suicide."

“That’s the truth,” Meghan said. She added that Harry was very supportive, and didn’t want her to be home alone after she told him all of this.

2) Meghan said someone at the palace expressed concern about Archie’s skin color.

Meghan also revealed when she was pregnant with her now nearly 2-year-old son Archie, there were “concerns and conversations" about how dark his skin would be when he was born — and that race may have played a role in why she and Harry were told why he would not be given the title of prince, nor would the baby be given security after he was born.

Winfrey, upon hearing this, was stunned. “That’s a conversation with you?” she asked. “About how dark your baby is going to be?” When Meghan didn’t respond, she followed up: “You’re not going to tell me who had the conversation?"

“I think that would be very damaging to them,” Meghan said.

Later, Winfrey asked Harry to reveal more details. "That conversation I’m never going to share,” he said, and declined to say any more on the topic, or specify who had talked to him about this.

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Biden is rolling back the culture war. The country should thank him, E.J. Dionne Jr., right, March 8, 2021 (print ed.). The president ej dionne w open neckand his team have exercised enormous discipline in keeping the national conversation focused on bread-and-butter assistance to the vast majority of Americans.

It’s one reason his $1.9 trillion aid package that cleared the House and then passed the Senate on Saturday with only Democratic votes polls so well. (The House is expected to ratify the Senate version this week.)

ny times logoNew York Times, In the Stimulus Bill, a Policy Revolution in Aid for Children, Jason DeParle, March 8, 2021 (print ed.). The $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package moving through Congress advances an idea that Democrats have been nurturing for decades: establishing a guaranteed income for families with children.

The package moving through Congress advances an idea Democrats have nurtured for decades: a guaranteed income for families with children. The plan establishes the benefit for a year. But if it becomes permanent, it will greatly enlarge the safety net for the poor and the middle class.

A year ago, Anique Houpe, a single mother in suburban Atlanta, was working as a letter carrier, running a side business catering picnics and settling into a rent-to-own home in Stone Mountain, Ga., where she thought her boys would flourish in class and excel on the football field.

Then the pandemic closed the schools, the boys’ grades collapsed with distance learning, and she quit work to stay home in hopes of breaking their fall. Expecting unemployment aid that never came, she lost her utilities, ran short of food and was recovering from an immobilizing bout of Covid when a knock brought marshals with eviction papers.

Depending on when the snapshot is dated, Ms. Houpe might appear as a striving emblem of upward mobility or a mother on the verge of homelessness. But in either guise, she is among the people Democrats seek to help with a mold-breaking plan, on the verge of congressional passage, to provide most parents a monthly check of up to $300 per child.

ny times logoNew York Times, Rescue Package Includes $86 Billion Bailout for Failing Pensions, Mary Williams Walsh and Alan Rappeport March 8, 2021 (print ed.). Democrats pushed through an aid measure for multiemployer pensions that are close to collapse — and whose problems predate the pandemic.

Roll Call, Missouri GOP Sen. Roy Blunt not running for reelection, Bridget Bowman, March 8, 2021. Blunt is the fifth GOP senator to announce his retirement. Republican Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri announced Monday that he would not run for a third term in 2022. “After 14 General Election victories — three to county office, seven to the United States House of Representatives, and four statewide elections — I won’t be a candidate for reelection to the United States Senate next year,” Blunt said in a video announcing his decision.

roy blunt official SmallBlunt, right, is the fifth Republican senator to announce he is not running for reelection in this cycle. Former President Donald Trump carried Missouri by 15 points in November.

republican elephant logoFormer GOP Gov. Eric Greitens has said he was considering primarying Blunt for not sufficiently backing Trump. Greitens left office in 2018 amid multiple scandals.

Former Democratic state Sen. Scott Sifton jumped into the race against Blunt last month. Two other Democrats have already filed statements of candidacy with the Federal Election Commission: Marine veteran Lucas Kunce and activist Tim Shepard.

Blunt was first elected to the Senate in 2010 after serving in the House. He has been close with GOP leadership and serves as a deputy whip.

bob wood south alabama

washington post logoWashington Post, South Alabama professors wore Confederate gear, posed with a whip and noose. Now, they’re under investigation, Katie Shepherd, March 8, 2021. When Bob G. Wood, above center, then the business school dean at the University of South Alabama, showed up for a Halloween party in 2014, he came attired in a Confederate soldier outfit. One of his colleagues (shown above at left in the photo via Facebook), meanwhile, arrived in a powdered wig, wielding a whip and a noose.

More than six years later, the professors, and a third colleague who posed with the noose, have now been placed on leave after photos of the outfits resurfaced last week in a news report by WKRG.

“These photos depict three members of our faculty wearing and holding symbols that are offensive and are contrary to our core principles of diversity [and] inclusion,” university President Tony Waldrop said in a statement Friday.

 

The late George Floyd is shown at left and at right, dying under the knee of Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin.

The late George Floyd is shown at left and at right, dying under the knee of Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin.

washington post logoWashington Post, Boarded up and lined with barbed wire, Minneapolis braces for murder trial in George Floyd’s death, Holly Bailey, March 8, 2021 (print ed.). Jury selection in the trial of former officer Derek Chauvin begins Monday.

Jury selection is set to begin Monday in the case, which is poised to be a defining moment in the history of a nation that is grappling with a racial reckoning.

However, the judge is considering a last-minute addition of a third-degree murder charge that would give prosecutors another avenue for conviction, but with a shorter prison term. The addition — or a decision to not add the charge — could trigger an appeal from either side. The judge’s decision, which might not come until Monday morning, has injected even more uncertainty into the case, heightening tension in a city already on edge.

ny times logoNew York Times, Top State Leader Says ‘Cuomo Must Resign.’ Governor Says ‘No Way,’ Jesse McKinley and J. David Goodman, March 8, 2021 (print ed.). Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that honoring calls for his resignation because of unproven allegations would be “anti-democratic.” In a potentially crippling defection in Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s efforts to maintain control amid a sexual harassment scandal, the powerful Democratic leader of the New York State Senate declared on Sunday that the governor should resign “for the good of the state.”

andrew cuomoThe stinging rebuke from the Senate leader, Andrea Stewart-Cousins — along with a similar sentiment from the Assembly speaker, Carl E. Heastie, who questioned the “governor’s ability to continue to lead this state” — suggested that Mr. Cuomo, a third-term Democrat, had lost his party’s support in the State Capitol, and cast doubt on his ability to withstand the political fallout.

Once hailed as a pandemic hero and potential presidential contender, the governor has seen his political future spiral downward over eight perilous days in the wake of a New York Times report about Charlotte Bennett, a former aide to Mr. Cuomo, right.

In a series of interviews with The Times, Ms. Bennett, 25, said that Mr. Cuomo, 63, had asked her invasive personal questions last spring about her sex life, including whether she had slept with older men, and whether she thought age made a difference in relationships.

Ms. Bennett is one of five women who have come forward in recent days with allegations of sexual harassment or inappropriate behavior against Mr. Cuomo, with one predating his tenure as governor.

andrew cuomo djt

Palmer Report, Fact check: if Andrew Cuomo is ousted, will it lead to Donald Trump being pardoned in New York? Bill Palmer, right, March 8, 2021. New York bill palmerGovernor Andrew Cuomo, above left, is facing allegations of inappropriate workplace behavior from multiple women, and is facing increasing pressure to resign. New York Attorney General Tish James is investigating the scandal. While that important process plays out, numerous people have suggested on social media that if Cuomo is ousted, it could lead to Donald Trump being pardoned on state charges in New York. In this fact check, we explore this specific question.

bill palmer report logo headerFirst, the facts: the Manhattan District Attorney is widely reported to be aggressively pursuing a criminal case against Donald Trump on state charges. If the grand jury in that case does criminally indict Trump, the only person who could pardon him is the Governor of New York. That is currently Andrew Cuomo. If Cuomo were to resign, his current term would be finished by Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul.

Now, the context: Kathy Hochul is a Democrat with a history of sharply criticizing Donald Trump, so there is no reason to expect that she would have any interest in pardoning Trump if she becomes Governor. Whether Cuomo or Hochul finishes the current term, it run through the end of 2022. The election will take place in November 2022, and the winner will be sworn in at the start of January 2023. If the Democrats win, it’s nearly a given that Trump will not be pardoned. If the Republicans win, the odds of Trump being pardoned would ostensibly go up, but would still not be a given.

The key detail here is that Cuomo’s resignation would not trigger a special election, and would not give a Republican a shot at becoming Governor any sooner. The Republicans won’t get a shot at the race for Governor until the November 2022 election either way.

So it’s false that Andrew Cuomo’s ouster could directly lead to Donald Trump being pardoned. It’s true that Cuomo’s ouster could hypothetically indirectly increase the odds of Trump being pardoned, but only if you believe that Cuomo would have a better chance of winning in 2022 than Hochul or another Democratic candidate – and while that’s possible, there’s no specific basis for presuming that to be the case.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden directs fresh review of Title IX rule on campus sexual assault, Laura Meckler,  The effort is the first step toward unraveling a new system put in place by former education secretary Betsy DeVos.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Biden grasped what the media did not, Jennifer Rubin, right, March 8, 2021. The president pushed aside repeated media chiding jennifer rubin new headshotthat he was not being bipartisan enough. In fact, as he observed in a victory lap speech on Saturday, “without the overwhelming bipartisan support of the American people, this would not have happened.”

He continued, “Overwhelming public support — every public opinion poll shows overwhelming support for this plan. And for the last weeks, it’s shown that. Every public opinion poll shows the people want this, they believe it’s needed, and they believe it’s urgent.”

Bipartisanship, the administration maintained, was not found in capitulating to Republicans whose paltry $650 billion plan failed to grasp the magnitude of the dual economic and health threats. Bipartisanship was achieved in meeting the needs of Americans who are eager for active government.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: March 8), with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2World Cases: 117,516,212, Deaths: 2,606,833
U.S. Cases:     29,697,072, Deaths:    537,841

washington post logoWashington Post, 58.9 million vaccinated, as of March 8, 2021: The number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, covering 48.3% of the prioritized population and 17.7 % of the total U.S. population. This includes more than 30 million people who have been fully vaccinated. See about your state.

washington post logorepublican elephant logoWashington Post, GOP voters may decide whether U.S. reaches herd immunity, Dan Diamond, March 8, 2021. Almost one-third of Republicans tell pollsters they “definitely won’t” get the coronavirus vaccine, which could leave millions unvaccinated, a potential roadblock to efforts to achieve the high levels of immunity needed to stop the virus.

Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad and his wife, Asma Assad, in a 2016 photo by the state news service SANA.

Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad and his wife, Asma Assad, in a 2016 photo by SANA, the state news service.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Advice Is on the Way for Americans Who Are Vaccinated, Staff Reports, March 8, 2021. With more than 30 million in the U.S. fully immunized, the C.D.C. will offer guidance for life after the shot. Here’s the latest pandemic news.

  • You’ve been vaccinated against Covid-19. Now what?
  • Syria’s leader, Bashar al-Assad, and his wife have tested positive for the virus.
  • Alaska races against time and history to fight the virus in the most remote villages.
  • Students are returning to school in England.

 

U.S. Jan. 6 Capitol Riot, Insurrection

U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley poses with a clenched fist salute to pro-Trump demonstators in front of the U.S. Capitol as they gathered for what became a riot and insurrection leaving multiple dead and scores of police wounded as members of Congress and Vice President Mike Pence fled for their lives on Jan. 6, 2021 (Photo by Francis Chung).

U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) poses with a clenched fist salute to pro-Trump demonstators in front of the U.S. Capitol as they gathered for what became a riot and insurrection leaving multiple dead and scores of police wounded as members of Congress and Vice President Mike Pence fled for their lives on Jan. 6, 2021 (Photo by Francis Chung).

ny times logoNew York Times, Josh Hawley Is ‘Not Going Anywhere.’ How Did He Get Here? Elaina Plott and Danny Hakim, March 8, 2021 (print ed.). The senator’s objection to the election results surprised some supporters. But interviews with dozens of people close to him show his growing comfort with doing what it takes to hold on to power.

Most Republicans who spoke at the recent Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Fla., avoided acknowledging the events of Jan. 6. But less than 30 seconds into his speech, Senator Josh Hawley confronted them head on.

That day, Mr. Hawley said, had underscored the “great crisis moment” in which Americans currently found themselves. That day, he explained, the mob had come for him.

The “woke mob,” that is. In the weeks since, they had “tried to cancel me, censor me, expel me, shut me down.” To “stop me,” Mr. Hawley said, “from representing you.”

“And guess what?” he went on, his tempo building, the audience applauding: “I’m here today, I’m not going anywhere, and I’m not backing down.”

The appeal from Missouri’s junior senator reflected what has become standard fare in a Republican Party still in thrall to Donald J. Trump. As Mr. Hawley’s audience seemed to agree, his amplification of the former president’s false claims of a stolen election was not incitement for the mob of rioters who stormed the Capitol on Jan 6; it was a principled stand against the “radical left.”

Yet to some of the senator’s earliest supporters, it was precisely for its ordinariness that the speech stood out, the latest reminder of the distance between the Josh Hawley they thought they had voted for and the Josh Hawley who now appeared regularly on Fox News.

 

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, Preparing for Retaliation Against Russia, U.S. Confronts Hacking by China, David E. Sanger, Julian E. Barnes and Nicole Perlroth, March 8, 2021 (print ed.). The proliferation of cyberattacks is presenting a challenge to the Biden administration as it seeks to deter intrusions on government and corporate systems.

washington post logoWashington Post, Massive explosions rock Equatorial Guinea’s largest city; at least 17 dead, hundreds injured, Max Bearak, March 8, 2021 (print ed.).  President Teodoro Obiang Nguema called the incident an “accident” and blamed it on the “negligence” of those tasked with guarding stores of dynamite and munitions.

At least 17 people were killed and hundreds injured Sunday as four massive explosions at a military camp shook Equatorial Guinea’s largest city, authorities said.

The blasts Sunday afternoon in the port city of Bata sent giant plumes of smoke into the air and destroyed dozens of buildings. Images broadcast on state-run television showed injured residents fleeing. Some seemed to be carrying bodies.

The Health Ministry said it had confirmed 17 dead and 420 injured. A doctor in Bata, a former capital, told the state-run TVGE television network that at least 20 were dead.

In a statement read by TVGE’s broadcasters, President Teodoro Obiang Nguema called the incident an “accident” and blamed it on the “negligence” of those tasked with guarding stores of dynamite and munitions. He ordered an investigation and asked the international community for help in rebuilding parts of the city that had been destroyed.

 

March 7

Top Headlines

 

U.S. Voting Rights, Suppression, Reform:

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

Jan. 6 Capitol Riot, Insurrection

 

World News

 

U.S. Law, Protest, Courts

 

Biden Transition

 

U.S. Government, Politics

 

U.S. Media News


Top Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: What you need to do to get the third stimulus payment of up to $1,400, Michelle Singletary, March 7, 2021 (print ed.). Payments could go out in a matter of days. Here's what you need to know.

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: N.Y. Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s behavior created ‘hostile, toxic’ workplace culture for decades, former aides say, Amy Brittain, Josh Dawsey, Hannah Knowles and Tracy Jan, March 7, 2021 (print ed.). What Cuomo (D) has touted as an “aggressive” style goes far beyond that behind the scenes, according to more than 20 people who have worked with him from the 1990s to the present day.

 

U.S. Voting Rights, Suppression:

ny times logoNew York Times, In Georgia, Republicans Take Aim at Role of Black Churches in Elections, Nick Corasaniti and Jim Rutenberg, March 7, 2021 (print ed.). New proposals by the G.O.P.-republican elephant logocontrolled Legislature have targeted Sunday voting, part of a raft of measures that could reduce the impact of Black voters.

Georgia Republicans are proposing new restrictions on weekend voting that could severely curtail one of the Black church’s central roles in civic engagement and elections. Stung by losses in the presidential race and two Senate contests, the state party is moving quickly to push through these limits and a raft of other measures aimed directly at suppressing the Black turnout that helped Democrats prevail in the critical battleground state.

georgia map“The only reason you have these bills is because they lost,” said Bishop Reginald T. Jackson, who oversees all 534 A.M.E. churches in Georgia. “What makes it even more troubling than that is there is no other way you can describe this other than racism, and we just need to call it what it is.’’

The push for new restrictions in Georgia comes amid a national effort by Republican-controlled state legislatures to impose harsh restrictions on voting access, in states like Iowa, Arizona and Texas.

But the targeting of Sunday voting in new bills that are moving through Georgia’s Legislature has stirred the most passionate reaction, with critics saying it recalls some of the racist voting laws from the state’s past.

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden to Sign Order Meant to Make Voting Easier, Michael D. Shear, March 7, 2021. The executive order is relatively limited in scope. It calls upon officials at federal agencies to study and potentially expand access to voter registration materials.

President Biden is expected to sign an executive order on Sunday that directs the government to take steps to make voting easier, marking the 56th anniversary of the Bloody Sunday march in Selma, Ala., which swiftly turned voting rights into a national cause.

omb logo management and budget seal CustomThe multipart order is aimed at using the far-flung reach of federal agencies to help people register to vote and to encourage Americans to go to the polls on Election Day. In a prepared speech for the Martin and Coretta King Unity Breakfast on Sunday, Mr. Biden will argue that such actions are still necessary despite the progress of the last half-century.

“The legacy of the march in Selma is that while nothing can stop a free people from exercising their most sacred power as citizens, there are those who will do everything they can to take that power away,” Mr. Biden will say, according to the prepared remarks.

“Every eligible voter should be able to vote and have it counted,” he plans to say. “If you have the best ideas, you have nothing to hide. Let more people vote.”

The president’s actions come in the wake of his predecessor’s monthslong assault on the voting process during the 2020 election and the Jan. 6 riot that erupted at the U.S. Capitol after that predecessor, Donald J. Trump, repeatedly sought to overturn the election results.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis, Will Democrats scrap the filibuster to pass big election package? Dan Balz, March 7, 2021 (print ed.). President Biden and Democratic lawmakers will face many challenges this year as they attempt to dramatically redirect policy after four years of Donald Trump’s presidency. None will be as consequential for the future of elections and the shape of democracy as the coming battle in the Senate over a comprehensive election revision bill.

In its simplest description, the legislation is designed to make it easier for people to vote, make elections more transparent and shore up some of the infrastructure of election operations. Democratic-Republican Campaign logosSuch a description, however, belies the breadth of what is included in the nearly 800-page bill, which carries the biggest proposed changes for elections in decades.

The contents cover major changes to campaign finance law, including rules to expose dark-money contributions and the creation of a small-donor federal matching system for House elections. The bill would shift control over how congressional districts are drawn, taking power from politicians and giving it to independent commissions, as some states already have done. The bill also would tighten ethics and lobbying rules, deal with foreign interference in elections and set a code of conduct for federal judges.

The proposed changes to how people vote touch on many of the issues that became flash points in the 2020 election. The bill would provide for automatic voter registration, require use of amy klobucher button croppedpaper ballots, allow no-excuse mail-in voting, set standards for the number of days for early in-person voting and require states to begin processing mail-in ballots well ahead of Election Day to lessen post-election counting controversies.

Last week, House Democrats pushed through this year’s version of H.R. 1, again along strict party lines. The bill’s future is brighter this year due to Democratic control of the Senate, but passing it will be a monumental task, a battle that could be decided by whether Democrats are prepared — or able — to end the filibuster.

The bill, labeled S.1 to show its priority status, now sits in the Rules and Administration Committee, chaired by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) (shown on a button for her unsuccessful presidency campaign that ended a year ago). The committee members include Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). The first hearing is set March 24. Klobuchar said she hopes to start marking up the measure sometime in April, with the prospect for floor action later this spring.

djt march 2020 Custom

Palmer Report, Opinion: The race to finish off Donald Trump is now fully underway, Bill Palmer, right, March 7, 2021.  Now that Donald Trump is out of office and eligible for arrest, the question bill palmereveryone keeps asking is why he hasn’t been arrested yet. That answer keeps coming in the form of news reports every few days about how the criminal cases against Trump are expanding and becoming more comprehensive. But now it appears a race between prosecutors is fully underway to finish Trump off.

bill palmer report logo headerFirst we saw the Manhattan District Attorney in New York hire an outside prosecutor, who is an expert in white collar criminal cases, to help take Donald Trump down. Now the Fulton County District Attorney in Georgia has also hired an outside attorney, with an expertise in racketeering charges, to take Trump down. (See: Reuters, Exclusive: Georgia prosecutor probing Trump taps leading racketeering attorney.)

fani willis resizedIn other words, the DAs appear to be trying to one-up each other in terms of the comprehensiveness of the criminal cases they’re putting together against Trump.

It’s also highly notable that the Fulton County DA (shown at right) put her case in front of the grand jury this past week, which is a lot quicker than we would have expected for a criminal case that just recently came together. It feels like the Fulton County DA is perhaps looking to indict and arrest Trump before the Manhattan DA can do so. This in turn could put pressure on the Manhattan DA to move more quickly. It appears the race is on.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: How One Firm Dominated the Troubled U.S. Emergency Medical Stockpile, Chris Hamby and Sheryl Gay Stolberg, March 7, 2021 (print ed.). The shortage of lifesaving medical equipment last year was a searing example of the government’s failed coronavirus response. As health workers resorted to wearing trash bags, Emergent BioSolutions profited by selling anthrax vaccines to the country’s medical equipment reserve.

Explanations about what went wrong have devolved into partisan finger pointing, with Mr. Trump blaming the Obama administration for leaving the cupboard bare, and Democrats in Congress accusing Mr. Trump of negligence.

An investigation by The New York Times found a hidden explanation: Government purchases for the Strategic National Stockpile, the country’s emergency medical reserve where such equipment is kept, have largely been driven by the demands and financial interests of a handful of biotech firms that have specialized in products that address terrorist threats rather than infectious disease.

Chief among them is Emergent BioSolutions, a Maryland-based company now manufacturing Covid-19 vaccines for AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson. Last year, as the pandemic raced across the country, the government paid Emergent $626 million for products that included vaccines to fight an entirely different threat: a terrorist attack using anthrax.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: March 7), with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2World Cases: 117,173,904, Deaths: 2,601,532
U.S. Cases:    29,653,891, Deaths:    537,119

washington post logoWashington Post, 58.9 million vaccinated, as of March 6, 2021: The number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, covering 48.3% of the prioritized population and 17.7 % of the total U.S. population. This includes more than 30 million people who have been fully vaccinated. See about your state.

 

Jan. 6 Capitol Riot, Insurrection

washington post logoWashington Post, Georgia family sues grocery clerk for posting about their alleged involvement in Jan 6. insurrection, Kim Bellware, March 7, 2021 (print ed.). From her Washington hotel on Jan. 6, Katheryn Cagle asked for prayers and assured friends and family via Facebook that she and her mother were safe. “Yes, Mama and I are in Washington, D.C.,” Cagle allegedly posted the day a mob stormed the U.S. Capitol.

Cagle’s followers reacted with thumbs-up and heart emoji. But not everyone was feeling the love.

“I thought Kate Cagle [was] on the planning committee, I hope she doesn’t plan to make a career out of planning riots,” Rayven Goolsby later wrote on Facebook. In a separate post, she addressed Cagle’s mother, Thelma Cagle. “Didn’t you attend the insurrection? I am pretty sure you did.”

In late February, the exchange jumped from social media to a superior court in Pickens County, Ga., when the Cagles sued Goolsby for defamation and libel.

Katheryn, William and Thelma Cagle allege in their filing that, since January, Goolsby has “disparaged and defamed” the family with repeated and unprovoked online harassment that harms their reputations and unfairly associates them with “patently criminal conduct.”

The social media posts at the heart of the dispute, including deleted ones referring to the Jan. 6 protest, are preserved as screenshots in legal filings. None of the parties deny making the remarks cited in the dueling lawsuits.

Goolsby’s remarks focused on Katheryn and Thelma Cagle for their alleged “central roles” in organizing busloads of attendees through the “Women for America First” tour; they also touched on William Cagle, husband of Thelma and father to Katheryn, calling him a homophobic “loser.”

Goolsby’s attorney, Andrew Fleischman, characterized the Cagles’ suit as an example of a prominent family active in local politics using the heft of the courts to intimidate his client, who works at a local grocery store, into silence. Fleischman said the defamation suit against Goolsby is a way of making it expensive to criticize the Cagles — “even if the criticism is true.”

On Friday, Goolsby filed a suit under a Georgia law that grants protection from what’s known as strategic lawsuits against public participation, or SLAPP suits.

The Cagles are public figures to varying degrees, Goolsby’s suit argues. William Cagle served a term on the Pickens County Planning Commission that ended in December, while Katheryn Cagle is the former chairwoman of the Pickens County Georgia Republican Party. Thelma Cagle, who goes by “Bay” in online postings, sang the national anthem at various rallies in support of Donald Trump. Both women are credited in a third-party post as part of the “core team” that organized busloads of Georgians headed for Washington on Jan. 6.

Fleischman, in the suit, argues that while the Cagles’ roles and actions qualify them as people of public interest, Goolsby’s statements fall into protected categories of speech, including opinion, hyperbole and sarcasm.

 

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘It was like hell’: ISIS once used this church as a jail. Now, the pope has visited, Chico Harlan and Louisa Loveluck, March 7, 2021. Pope Francis is in the middle of a pope francis south korea 2014 wfour-day trip to Iraq, the first-ever papal visit to the country. Here is what we’re watching:

● Francis is in northern Iraq on the third day of the first ever papal visit to the country. He visited Christian communities devastated by decades of war and persecution.

● “Hope is more powerful than hatred,” Francis told worshippers from a sunlit stage amid the ruins of a church once used by ISIS as a jail.

● There is a heavy security cordon around all areas the pope visits, a reminder that Iraq still faces militant threats.

In the rubble of a ruined church, Pope Francis led prayers for victims of war in Iraq's battle-scarred city of Mosul on Sunday, as part of a historic visit intended to bring solace to a Christian community that the Islamic State tried to wipe out.

Dressed in his white cassock and a golden sash, Francis addressed congregants against a backdrop of destruction: the church from which he spoke was once used as a jail by ISIS militants, and later destroyed in a U.S.-led coalition airstrike. As the pope arrived Sunday, the sound of a choir echoed up above its bullet-pocked walls.

“Today we raise our voices in prayer to Almighty God for all the victims of war and armed conflict. Here in Mosul, the tragic consequences of war and hostility are all too evident,” Francis read aloud in a soft voice.

Francis’s visit creates a stunning contrast — the leader of the Roman Catholic Church coming to an area that, only four years earlier, was controlled by a terrorist group that killed religious minorities and vowed in its propaganda to “conquer Rome,” symbolic of the Christian West.

In his first two stops of the day, both in territory formerly controlled by ISIS, the pope was welcomed by jubilant crowds.

“Our gathering here today shows that terrorism and death never have the last word,” Francis said at midday, speaking to a church community in Qaraqosh. “Even amid the ravages of terrorism and war, we can see, with the eyes of faith, the triumph of life over death.”

The same cathedral hosting Francis in Qaraqosh had been used by ISIS until 2016 as a shooting range. A priest at the church, Petros Sheto, said that church members, returning after ISIS’s defeat, found “everything destroyed — no sign of life at all.”

“You cannot picture,” he said. “It was just buildings without people. It was like hell.”

 

U.S. Law, Protest, Courts

washington post logoWashington Post, Perspective: The Ali-Frazier 1971 ‘Fight of the Century’ provided cover for a mission to expose the FBI, Kevin B. Blackistone, March 7, 2021. Fifty years ago, muhammad ali dont count the daysMuhammad Ali, right, and Joe Frazier captivated the country and provided the perfect cover for a mission to expose the FBI.

As the glitterati sashayed into the Garden half a century ago, the commission members, wearing secondhand clothes, assembled at a motel about a 30-minute drive west of Media, Pa. Its members included the late John Raines, a Temple University religion professor and former Freedom Rider; his wife, Bonnie, who had been inspired by the civil rights movement; and Forsyth, who hitchhiked to Philadelphia in 1970 after leaving the College of Wooster early to join demonstrations against the Vietnam War. “I was a fan of Ali,” Forsyth said, “when he said no Vietnamese ever called me a you-know-what.”

Davidon, a physicist who had worked at the Enrico Fermi Institute and the Argonne National Lab and became increasingly opposed to nuclear proliferation and the war, was the group’s strategist. There were four more, including two whose names have remained secret. As former Washington Post reporter Betty Medsger chronicled in her 2014 book, The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover’s Secret FBI — and Johanna Hamilton documented in her film 1971 — the members planned to commit a felony by breaking into an FBI office on a downtown corner of Media. They would put themselves at risk of imprisonment or worse.

FBI logoIt wasn’t unusual at the time for protesters to burglarize government offices that were seen as cogs in the war effort, particularly draft boards, where they could destroy files and at least temporarily impede the effort to snatch young men into the military. But the commission’s aim was different. It sought to expose what many in the antiwar movement thought was the government’s fight against those opposed to the war.

“Citizens who are serious about protecting our democracy are going to be activists, hopefully,” Bonnie Raines told me last week. “That’s why we had to do that extreme action. Because no one in Washington was going to hold Hoover accountable. No one. So then it’s the job of the ordinary citizen to take action.”

“The four who went into the office said they could hear [the fight] on peoples’ radios in the apartments in that building,” Bonnie Raines told me. “They said it was a good thing that the fight was later. Because it was right at the right time to be in the office.”

Then it was off to a farmhouse outside Media to sort through the papers.

They copied the documents on a Xerox machine and mailed them to a senator, a congressman and major newspapers.

The most startling revelation was of a 15-year-old program called COINTELPRO, short for Counter Intelligence Program. It spied on civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr., anonymously threatening to expose his extramarital affairs if he did not kill himself. It spied on Ali as early as 1966.

All of it was laid bare in a mid-1970s Senate hearing and investigation. COINTELPRO was shut down, and an FBI spokesman told the New York Times when Medsger’s book was published that “a number of events during that era, including the Media burglary, contributed to changes to how the FBI identified and addressed domestic security threats, leading to reform of the FBI’s intelligence policies and practices and the creation of investigative guidelines by the Department of Justice.”

 

Biden TransitionPresident Obama and aide Lisa Monaco in the White House Oval Office on Sept. 16, 2013 (White House Photo).

President Obama and aide Lisa Monaco in the White House Oval Office on Sept. 16, 2013 (White House Photo).

washington post logoWashington Post, Lisa Monaco will seek to restore Justice Department norms attacked by Trump, Devlin Barrett, March 7, 2021 (print ed.). President Biden’s pick for deputy attorney general faces her Senate confirmation hearing Tuesday. Monaco’s ties to Biden go back to the 1990s, when she was a junior staffer on the Senate Judiciary Committee he led. From there, she went to law school and became a federal prosecutor, rising quickly in the Justice Department and eventually joining the team that prosecuted Enron executives over that firm’s self-destructive financial trickery. That group of lawyers would later hold some of the most important posts inside the agency.

Justice Department log circularAndrew Weissmann, a former prosecutor who was part of the Enron team, said Monaco has always shown “the same rigorous and dispassionate examination of the law and facts, unafraid of making the tough calls necessary to serve the public interest.” She was, he said, “the truly ideal choice” to become deputy attorney general, a job law enforcement professionals call “the DAG.”

Boston bombings a test for new counterterrorism adviser Lisa Monaco

Historically, the DAG is a critical but low-profile position — a kind of bureaucratic traffic cop overseeing the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Marshals Service, the Bureau of Prisons and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Often, the deputy attorney general tackles the problems and disagreements that cannot be solved by lower-level officials.

In recent years, however, the job has been anything but low profile. The Trump administration’s first deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, oversaw Robert S. Mueller III’s special counsel investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and the Trump campaign, and he frequently faced the fury of President Donald Trump and Republican lawmakers for various developments in that case. His successor, Jeffrey Rosen, was running the Justice Department in January of this year when Trump supporters launched a short-lived insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, in what many current and former government officials consider a major security and intelligence failure.

If confirmed, Monaco would be second-in-command to Merrick Garland, whose nomination to be attorney general is scheduled to be voted on by the full Senate in coming days. Biden has said Garland, Monaco and the rest of his Justice Department picks are tasked with restoring the Justice Department’s independence from partisan politics and adherence to the rule of law after the Trump years, when the president regularly demanded the department investigate his political opponents and exonerate his friends and allies.

 

U.S. Government, Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, Chamber of Commerce declines to rebuke members of Congress who voted to overturn 2020 election, Aaron Gregg, March 7, 2021 (print ed.). The announcement comes several months after a mob of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol in a deadly riot. The business lobby is taking the position that lawmakers should not be judged solely on their vote to overturn a legitimate democratic election.

America’s largest business lobby says it will not pull support for members of Congress based solely on whether they voted against certifying President Biden’s election win in Arizona and Pennsylvania, providing cover for 147 Republican lawmakers who supported former president Donald Trump’s false claims of widespread voter fraud.

In a memo released Friday, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said that the organization would continue to evaluate the actions of individual members of Congress but would not withhold funds based solely on their vote.

“There is a meaningful difference between a member of Congress who voted no on the question of certifying the votes of certain states and those who engaged and continue to engage in repeated actions that undermine the legitimacy of our elections and institutions,” wrote Ashlee Rich Stephenson, a senior political strategist at the chamber.

Lawmakers who objected to election results have been cut off from 20 of their 30 biggest corporate PAC donors

She later drew a distinction between members of Congress who voted to overturn the election and those whose actions might have been more overt.

“Casting a vote is different than organizing the rally of January 6 or continuing to push debunked conspiracy theories,” Stephenson said. “We will take into consideration actions such as these and future conduct that erodes our Democratic institutions.”

The Chamber’s approach ― it waited months to take a position condemning “debunked conspiracy theories,” while declining to rebuke those who propagated them while Trump was president ― hints at a larger tension within the Republican Party and the business lobby.

Business leaders expressed shock and outrage when a mob of self-described Trump supporters stormed the Capitol building in a violent riot that killed five people including a police officer. Some of the Republican Party’s most generous donors, including AT&T, Comcast and Lockheed Martin, announced they would suspend donations to lawmakers who objected to the election results.

But few of them were willing to say how long the freeze in donations would last or whether it would play into the next election cycle when such a move would be most impactful. And some others declined to single out Republicans, opting to halt donations to both parties.

Longtime Chamber President Tom Donohue, who stepped down last month, was among numerous CEOs who broke with Trump in mid-November, encouraging a transition to the next administration.

In a 24-year tenure as the Chamber’s president, Donohue built the business lobby into a political powerhouse aligned closely with the GOP. But Donohue parted ways with Trump on issues like immigration and international trade, in which the president ran counter to long-standing GOP and corporate sector policies.

 

U.S. Media News

Hollywood PoliTrivia, Film Commentary: Movie Nights at the White House, Wayne Madsen, March 7, 2021. The White House has had its own movie theater since 1942, when President franklin d rooseveltFranklin D. Roosevelt ordered a seldom-used cloakroom, called the "Hat Box," converted into what has since been known as the White House Family Theater.

Long before FDR, right, commissioned the White House theater, which is located in the private quarters of the White House, President Woodrow Wilson was the first to hold a movie screening in the Executive Mansion. In 1915, Wilson, a son of the South who harbored Confederate sympathies, screened the film "Birth of a Nation" on February 18, 1915.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: In Democrats’ progressive paradise, borrowing is free, spending pays for itself, and interest rates never rise, Steven Pearlstein, March 7, 2021 (print ed.). A warning — and a farewell — from our longtime economic columnist

To hear it from liberal economists, progressive activists and Democratic politicians, there is no longer any limit to how much money government can borrow and spend and print.

In this new economy, we no longer have to worry that stock prices might climb so high, or companies take on so much debt, that a financial crisis might ensue. In this world without trade-offs, we can shut down the fossil fuel industry and transition to a zero-carbon economy without any risk to employment and economic growth. Nor is there any amount of infrastructure investment that could possibly exceed the capacity of the construction industry to absorb it.

Rest assured that the economy won’t miss a beat no matter how high or fast the minimum wage is raised. And whatever benefits are required by the always-struggling middle class can be financed by raising taxes on big corporations and the undeserving rich.

So party on, progressive dudes. Worries about debt and inflation are just so 20th-century, the figments of a now-discredited neoliberal imagination. We have entered a magical world where borrowing is costless, spending pays for itself, stocks only rise and the dollar never falls. In this economic paradise, government mandarins can fine-tune the economy to prevent inflation and unemployment, while economic, racial, environmental and social justice can be achieved without any painful trade-offs.

Okay, I exaggerate — but only slightly.

These days my journalistic metabolism is better suited to a weekly magazine than the 24-7 news cycle, while my natural instinct to avoid writing about topics everyone else is writing about ignores the demanding realities of digital publishing. And in a polarized political and media environment, I am a reliable champion for neither tribe. It’s time to hang it up.

So this will be the last of my irregular columns for The Post. After 33 years, I’ve managed to outlast four executive editors, five managing editors and six business editors, and been lucky enough to work alongside hundreds of incredibly talented colleagues in a truly remarkable newsroom.

Most of all, it has been an honor and privilege to write for knowledgeable, discerning and appreciative readers who’ve never shied away from letting me know when I’ve gotten it wrong.

 

March 6

Top Headlines


Virus Victims, Responses

 

U.S. Capitol Riots, Insurrection, Election Fraud

 

U.S. Law, Crime, Race

 

Biden Transition

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

 

World News

 

Top Stories

ny times logoNew York Times, Divided Senate Passes Biden’s Pandemic Aid Plan, Emily Cochrane, March 6, 2021. President Biden’s sweeping $1.9 trillion stimulus bill passed a deeply divided Senate on Saturday over unanimous Republican opposition, as Democrats pushed through a pandemic aid plan that includes the largest antipoverty effort in a generation.

The package, which still must pass the House before it heads to Mr. Biden’s desk to be signed into law, is the first major legislative initiative of his presidency. It would inject vast amounts of federal resources into the economy, including direct payments of up to $1,400 for hundreds of millions of Americans, jobless aid of $300 a week to last through the summer, money for distributing coronavirus vaccines and relief for states, cities, schools and small businesses struggling during the pandemic.

Beyond the immediate aid, the measure, titled the American Rescue Plan, would also have a huge effect in combating poverty in the United States. It would potentially cut child poverty in half, through a generous expansion of tax credits for low-income Americans with children, increases in subsidies for child care, a broadening of eligibility under the Affordable Care Act and an expansion of food stamps and rental assistance.

Its eye-popping cost is just shy of the $2.2 trillion stimulus measure that became law last March, just as the devastating public health and economic impact of the coronavirus crisis was coming into view. It is the sixth in a series of substantial spending bills Congress has enacted since then, and the only one to pass without bipartisan support, although it is broadly popular with members of both parties outside Washington.

us senate logoYet with Democrats newly in control of both houses of Congress and Mr. Biden embarking on his first major legislative push, the party-line vote was an early indicator of the Republican opposition that threatens the new president’s agenda in a 50-50 Senate.

As leading Democrats raced to avoid a lapse in unemployment benefits set to begin on March 14, a groggy and bleary-eyed Senate approved the package 50 to 49, with one Republican absent. Final passage came after a grueling 27-hour session in which Democrats beat back dozens of Republican efforts to change the bill, and scaled back the jobless aid to placate moderates in their own ranks who were concerned that an overly generous federal payment would keep Americans from returning to work, stifling the recovery.

The marathon session featured the longest vote in modern Senate history, as Democratic leaders stalled for time amid last-ditch negotiations with Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, a moderate holdout, to trim the unemployment benefits so the measure could proceed.

The chamber approved the package after a grueling marathon of amendment votes and last-ditch negotiations. The measure must now clear the House a second time.

Tarpley.net, Opinion: First Landmark Legislative Success of Biden’s One Hundred Days! Webster G. Tarpley, right, March 6, 2021. In Decisive Defeat for Republican webster tarpley 2007Sabotage Strategy, Senate Passes American Rescue Act by 50-49 Vote, with Sullivan of Alaska not Voting.

Not One GOP Vote for America’s Welfare and Progress; Way Now Clear to Defeat Pandemic and Restore Economic Activity; Schumer Delivers all Democratic Factions, from Bernie to Manchin;

  • Compromise Yields $300 per Week Extra Jobless Benefit for Six Months Through September 6; Provides $1,400 per Taxpayer up to $75,000 in Income and $2,800 for Married Filing Jointly Up to $150,000; First $10,200 of Jobless Benefits Made Tax-Free; 100% Subsidy of COBRA Health Insurance Premiums for Displaced Workers Through September 30;
  • $350 Billion for State and Local Governments to Provide Police, Fire, Health, and Other Services; $130 Billion for K-12 Schools, Including Hiring Nurses and Other Personnel; $40 Billion for Colleges and Universities, Including Food, Housing, and Computer Equipment for Needy Students;
  • $14 Billion for Airlines and $8 Billion for Anti-Virus Measures in Airports; Future Student Loan Forgiveness Made Tax-Free; $10 Billion for Rural Broad-Band Internet; $8.5 for Rural Hospitals;
  • $25 Billion for Restaurants and Bars; $7.25 Billion for Paycheck Protection Program; Eviction and Foreclosure Freeze Extended through September where Federal Financing is Involved;
  • $46 Billion for Covid Testing, $14 Billion for Vaccine Distribution and Immunization, with Community Centers and Mobile Units; Financial Assistance to Subsidize Obamacare Premiums;
  • Money to Induce a Dozen Red States to Join ACA Medicare Expansion;
  • Increases Child Tax Credit from $2,000 to a Fully Refundable $3,600, Helping to Cut Childhood Poverty by Some 50%; $30 Billion for Rent and Utilities to Low-Income Households; Door Opened for Paid Leave; Unfinished Business Includes Urgently Needed $15 Minimum Wage, Rejected by 8 Dems;

Measure Now Goes Back to House for Final Approval Slated for Tuesday, then to Biden; Time for House Ultra-Lefts to Show Great Realism and not Make the Perfect the Enemy of the Good!

 washington post logoWashington Post, Unemployed workers get another shock: Many owe the government money for health insurance, Heather Long, March 6, 2021 (print ed.). Congress is trying to remedy the surprise tax bills that millions of Americans are getting because their unemployment income means they qualify for a less-generous health insurance subsidy.

Preschool teacher Michele Ryan was nearly in tears when she filled out her 2020 taxes and learned that she owes the government more than $3,100 despite being unemployed for a significant portion of last year. She owes about $1,000 in taxes on unemployment income, but the bulk of her bill — $2,100 — is to repay some of the subsidy she received to buy health insurance last year.

According to the federal government, Ryan earned too much money on unemployment. It was more money than she would have made working as a preschool teacher, and it bumped her into a different income bracket that reduced her Affordable Care Act insurance subsidy. She’s desperate to keep health insurance in the middle of the pandemic and is trying to figure out how to pay the hefty bill.

“Where do I come up with all of this money to pay them back during the pandemic?” said Ryan, 50, who lives in Bergen County, N.J. “What did they expect us to do? Drop Obamacare during the pandemic?”

washington post logoWashington Post, What’s in the Senate’s $1.9 trillion covid bill: Checks, unemployment insurance and more, Rachel Siegel, March 6, 2021 (print ed.). The Senate’s version is slightly different from the House bill approved on Saturday. And some key provisions were still in flux into Friday night.

Palmer Report, Opinion: We did it! Bill Palmer, right, March 6, 2021. The COVID stimulus relief bill passed the Senate today, with every Democrat voting for it, and not a single Republican voting for bill palmerit. There were some minor changes along the way, but in the end, the original $1.9 trillion total remained intact.

Yes, raising the minimum wage will have to wait until later, but there will be ways to make that happen that are far more nuanced than merely yelling around about the filibuster. And yes, this COVID bill now has to go back to the House for another vote so that the minor changes can be approved, but that’s a formality. So is President Biden’s signature. This a done deal. It’ll be law within a few days, and hundreds of millions of struggling Americans will see immediate relief.

bill palmer report logo headerThere’s always a tendency to whine and complain because you didn’t get 100% of what we were trying to get. But the reality is that we won, and we helped a whole lot of Americans in the process. Yes, there are those will lament that we didn’t get 100% of what we wanted, even though our party is in the majority.

But the factual reality is that even when Trump and the Republicans were in the majority, they only managed to pull off a fraction of their desired agenda. They didn’t get to kill Obamacare. They didn’t get their wall. They didn’t get to kick out nearly as many immigrants as they aimed to, or curtail civil rights nearly as severely as they wanted to.

Having a majority is not the same thing as having a magic wand, whether you’re the good guys or the bad guys. Being the majority means you get to make a fraction of your agenda happen, and you just have to work hard to make sure it’s a large fraction and not a small one. Being the minority means you get to make precisely none of your agenda happen, which is where we’d be right now if Stacey Abrams hadn’t led us to victory in the Georgia runoffs.

So let’s take this for the big win that it is, and keep fighting for even more of our agenda. The minute you succumb to whining and lamenting, it means you’ve taken your eye off the ball, and it means you’re not going to win any more battles going forward. We did it. We got our $1.9 trillion relief package. We’re going to have a whole lot more wins going forward, if we focus on winning and not whining.

Politico Playbook, Trump sends legal notice to GOP to stop using his name, Rachel Bade and Tara Palmeri,  Lawyers for former President DONALD TRUMP sent out cease-and-desist letters politico CustomFriday to the three largest fundraising entities for the Republican Party — the RNC, NRCC and NRSC — for using his name and likeness on fundraising emails and merchandise, a Trump adviser tells Playbook.

President Donald Trump officialWe reported yesterday that Trump was furious that his name has been bandied about by organizations that help Republicans who voted to impeach him — without his permission. Trump, who made his fortune in licensing, has always been sensitive to how his name has been used to fundraise and support members, even while in office.

rnc logoOn Friday, the RNC sent out two emails asking supporters to donate as a way to add their name to a “thank you” card for Trump. “President Trump will ALWAYS stand up for the American People, and I just thought of the perfect way for you to show that you support him!” the email states. “As one of President Trump’s MOST LOYAL supporters, I think that YOU, deserve the great honor of adding your name to the Official Trump ‘Thank You’ Card.” A follow-up email was sent hours later to “President Trump’s TOP supporters” warning of a deadline of 10 hours to get their names on the card.

None of the committees returned a request for comment. But privately GOP campaign types say it’s impossible not to use Trump’s name, as his policies are so popular with the base. If Trump really wants to help flip Congress, they argue he should be more generous. His team, however, sees this differently.

“President Trump remains committed to the Republican Party and electing America First conservatives, but that doesn’t give anyone - friend or foe - permission to use his likeness without explicit approval,” said a Trump adviser.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: March 6), with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2World Cases: 116,775,412, Deaths: 2,593,937
U.S. Cases:     29,593,704, Deaths:   535,563

washington post logoWashington Post, 57.4 million vaccinated, as of March 6, 2021: The number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, covering 47.1% of the prioritized population and 17.3 % of the total U.S. population. This includes more than 29.8 million people who have been fully vaccinated. 116.4 million doses have been distributed. See about your state.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: More U.S. States Lift Restrictions Despite Health Officials’ Warnings, Staff Reports, March 6, 2021 (print ed.). As three more states have begun reopening, Dr. Anthony Fauci said another spike in cases could come. Here’s the latest on the pandemic.

Arizona, California and South Carolina join Texas and other states in reopening, but still urge or require masking. Brazil, seeing record deaths, tries an unproven treatment: a nasal spray in development in Israel.

ny times logoNew York Times, Private Insurance Wins in Democrats’ First Try at Expanding Health Coverage, Sarah Kliff, March 6, 2021 (print ed.). ‘Medicare for all’ and the public option were hot topics during primary season, but the politics of passing those “gets tricky really fast.” The stimulus bill seeks to expand private coverage, leaving debates over a public option for another day.

 

U.S. Capitol Riots, Insurrection

 capitol noose shay horse nurphoto via getty

A crowd of Trump supporters surrounded a newly erected set of wooden gallows outside the Capitol Building on Jan. 6. "Hang Mike Pence!" members of the crowd shouted at times about the Republican Vice President who had announced that he could not comply with the president's call to block election certification that day. The wooden gallows was near the Capitol Reflecting Pool. Below is a separate photo by a suspect described in the story below.

seth abramson proof logoProof via Substack, Investigative Commentary: Brazil's Murky Connection to Trump's Secretive January 5 War Council Is Getting Clearer—and It Raises New Questions, Seth Abramson, March 6, 2021.Previously unknown details of the January 5 Lindell-Bolsonaro meeting may establish links between Trump's inner circle and the January 6 insurrection and Capitol assault.

 

federico klein fbi poster

washington post logoWashington Post, State Department aide appointed by Trump stormed the Capitol, beat police with a riot shield, FBI says, Katie Shepherd, March 6, 2021 (print ed.). The FBI arrested Trump appointee Federico G. Klein, a former State Department aide, on charges related to the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, the agency said.

FBI logoOn Thursday, the FBI arrested a political appointee of former president Donald Trump on charges that he stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, according to a criminal complaint, marking the first member of the administration arrested in connection with the insurrection.

Federal agents arrested Federico G. Klein, 42, a former State Department aide, on multiple felony charges related to the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, according to a criminal complaint published by the New York Times. (Politico first reported the arrest.) The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment early Friday.

Klein (shown above circled and also at left), who is also a former Trump campaign employee, did not immediately respond to a request for comment early federico klein been cansFriday. It is unclear if he has hired a lawyer.

Klein was still employed at the State Department as a staff assistant on Jan. 6 when he joined a mob in a tunnel leading into the U.S. Capitol, the FBI said. Then he allegedly “physically and verbally engaged with the officers holding the line” at the building’s entrance, according to the complaint. After ignoring officers’ orders to move back, he assaulted officers with a riot shield that had been stolen from police, the complaint said, and then used the shield to wedge open a door into the Capitol.

At one point, Klein was caught on video shouting for more insurrectionists to come to the front lines, where officers were struggling to hold back the mob.

“We need fresh people, need fresh people,” he said, according to the complaint.

Donald Trump and Mike Pence logoKlein’s arrest is the most direct link yet between the Trump administration and the rioters, despite attempts by some conservatives to dissociate the insurrection from the former president. Many of the 300-plus people who have been charged in connection with the insurrection have described themselves as Trump supporters, while some have ties to extremist groups like the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers.

Klein had a top-secret security clearance that was renewed in 2019, the FBI said.

A LinkedIn profile the FBI identified as Klein’s also lists a top-secret security clearance and shows that Klein has been politically active in the Republican Party since at least 2008, when he began volunteering for political campaigns. Before joining the State Department in 2017, Klein worked for the Trump campaign, which paid him a $15,000 salary.

djt march 2020 Custom

Reuters, Exclusive: Georgia prosecutor probing Trump taps leading racketeering attorney, Linda So, March 6, 2021. Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis has enlisted the help of Atlanta fani willis resizedlawyer John Floyd, who wrote a national guide on prosecuting state racketeering cases. Floyd was hired recently to “provide help as needed” on matters involving racketeering, including the Trump investigation and other cases, said the source, who has direct knowledge of the situation.

The move bolsters the team investigating Trump as Willis prepares to issue subpoenas for evidence on whether the former president and his allies broke the law in their campaign to pressure state officials to reverse his Georgia election loss. Willis has said that her office would examine potential charges including “solicitation of election fraud, the making of false statements to state and local governmental bodies, conspiracy, racketeering” among other possible violations.

A representative for Trump did not respond to requests for comment.

Floyd’s appointment signals that racketeering could feature prominently in the investigation. It’s an area of law where Willis has extensive experience -- including a high-profile Atlanta case where she won racketeering convictions of 11 public educators for a scheme to cheat on standardized tests.

The investigation of Trump focuses in part on his phone call to Georgia’s secretary of state, asking the secretary to “find” the votes needed to overturn Trump’s election loss, based on false voter-fraud claims.

john floydWillis - a Democrat who in January became the county’s first Black woman district attorney - will have to navigate a fraught political landscape. She faces pressure from Democrats in Atlanta and nationally to pursue an aggressive prosecution, along with scrutiny from Republicans in a state historically dominated by that party.

Floyd, left, declined to comment when asked about the appointment but spoke to Reuters about his past experiences working with Willis.

In 2014, when Willis was an assistant district attorney in Atlanta, Floyd was brought in as a special prosecutor for the racketeering case that grew out of the schools cheating scandal.

“It was very much a team effort,” Floyd said of working with Willis.

georgia mapThe cheating case could provide clues to her strategy for investigating Trump, legal experts say, while stressing that the probe is still in its early stages.

If she pursues racketeering charges, Willis will need to prove a pattern of corruption by Trump, alone or with his allies, aimed at overturning the election results to stay in power. While racketeering is typically pursued by prosecutors in cases involving such crimes as murder, kidnapping, and bribery, the Georgia statute defines racketeering more broadly to include false statements made to state officials.

The federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) was originally passed in 1970 to help tie Mafia bosses to the crimes of their underlings by allowing prosecutors to argue they conspired together in a “criminal enterprise.” Over the years, however, its reach has grown to include businesses and other organizations as enterprises subject to the law.

Willis specifically listed racketeering and lying to public officials in detailing the possible crimes her office intended to investigate in a Feb. 10 letter to four Republican state officials, asking them to preserve records related to the case.

“That letter was really a signal to the public that she was going after a number of possibilities,” said Clark Cunningham, a Georgia State University law professor.

Georgia lawyers familiar with the state RICO law said Willis may be considering whether it would apply to alleged false statements made by Trump and his allies as they sought to influence state officials to reverse his election loss.

“It’s not a stretch to see where she’s taking this,” said Cathy Cox, the dean of Mercer University’s law school in Macon, Georgia and a former Georgia secretary of state. “If Donald Trump engaged in two or more acts that involve false statements - that were made knowingly and willfully in an attempt to falsify material fact, like the election results - then you can piece together a violation of the racketeering act.”

Racketeering, a felony in Georgia, can carry stiff penalties including up to 20 years in prison and a hefty fine. “There are not a lot of people who avoid serving prison time on a racketeering offense,” said Cox.

In a Jan. 2 phone call, Trump urged Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a fellow Republican, to “find” just enough votes to allow him to win. In the hour-long call, Trump repeated false voter-fraud claims, insisting he won Georgia by a landslide and that Democrat Joe Biden received thousands of votes from people who were out-of-state, unregistered, or dead. Trump made another phone call in late December to Georgia’s chief elections investigator, urging the official to “find the fraud.”

brian kemp CustomOn Dec. 5, Trump called the state’s Republican governor, Brian Kemp, left, to urge him to hold a special session of the legislature to overturn the election results. Three days later, Trump called Georgia’s Republican attorney general, Chris Carr, warning him not to interfere with a Texas lawsuit that challenged the election results in Georgia and other states.

Carr stated publicly that he opposed the Texas lawsuit. The offices of Kemp and Carr did not respond to requests for comment for this story.

Willis’ office has indicated it is also examining efforts to influence the election by Trump’s allies, including a November phone call made by Republican Senator Lindsey Graham to Raffensperger to discuss mail-in ballots; false election fraud claims made by Trump’s then personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, in testimony at state legislative hearings; and the abrupt removal of Byung J. “BJay” Pak, a U.S. attorney in Georgia who angered Trump by not doing enough to investigate his unfounded fraud claims.

Legal experts say prosecutors could use the pattern of false statements in a pressure campaign to build a RICO case, but that Willis would face the burden of proving Trump knew his fraud allegations were false. In a trial, Trump could argue that he did not deliberately break the law because he truly believed he had been cheated, said Kurt Kastorf, an Atlanta attorney and former U.S. Justice Department prosecutor.

“Trump’s lawyers could reasonably point to portions of the call with the Secretary of State where Trump seems to be making clear that the reason they need to do something is because there is fraud in the election,” he said. “Prosecutors would need to respond with evidence that this asserted reason is insincere.”
CONSPIRACY TO CHEAT

As an assistant district attorney in Atlanta, Willis employed the state’s racketeering statute in the complex test-cheating case - leading to a six-month trial, the longest in Georgia history.

Willis led a team of prosecutors in laying out the case that educators had operated a criminal enterprise within the public school system in a conspiracy to cheat, winning convictions in April 2015. Willis and her team walked jurors through months of testimony in the intricate case, which accused 12 former teachers, principals and administrators of inflating scores on standardized tests to secure promotions and cash bonuses. Eleven were convicted; some got prison time.

“I’ve worked on some pretty intense cases over the years,” said Floyd, the RICO expert. “But as far as duration and complexity, that would be hard to match.”

As a private attorney, Floyd is widely respected in legal circles for his expertise and experience litigating complex RICO cases. In addition to the cheating case, he helped convict a former sheriff of Georgia’s DeKalb County for ordering the murder of his elected successor. Floyd successfully defended the conviction, which included racketeering offenses, all the way to Georgia’s Supreme Court.

Anti-racketeering laws are a powerful tool for prosecutors, but building a successful case requires meeting a complex set of legal requirements, according to Floyd, who wrote the book, “RICO State by State: A Guide to Litigation Under the State Racketeering Statutes.”

In 1985, he joined the Atlanta law firm Bondurant Mixson & Elmore LLP, where he still works. Prior to joining the firm, Floyd clerked for a federal judge where he was introduced to RICO cases. “I worked on a few of them there, and my interest grew,” Floyd said

 

capitol mob-jacob-charnsley

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. judge scolds ‘QAnon Shaman’ for appearing on ‘60 Minutes Plus’ without permission, Emily Davies, March 6, 2021 (print ed.). Jacob Chansley (shown above at center) to remain in jail pending trial as a judge considers his release. The judge said in a detention hearing that Chansley appeared in an interview without proper authorization.

A federal judge chided the self-identified “QAnon Shaman,” who was part of the Jan. 6 Capitol riots, for appearing in a “60 Minutes Plus” interview without permission.

During a detention hearing Friday, Judge Royce C. Lamberth of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia questioned whether Jacob Chansley appeared in the interview that aired Thursday without the required clearance from the U.S. Marshals Service, the detention facility or the judge. The judge also questioned whether Chansley’s attorney, Albert Watkins, was deceitful in skirting proper authorization to appear on the show.

In what was billed as Chansley’s first interview since his arrest, he said that his actions were “not an attack on this country” and that he does not regret being loyal to former president Donald Trump. Chansley became one of the most distinct individuals arrested in the riot, photographed flexing near the vice president’s chair in the Senate while shirtless and wearing a headdress and face paint.

Watkins said he did make “independent arrangements” with “60 Minutes Plus” but denied conducting “subterfuge.” He said he assumed his client would be allowed to be captured on camera from his office.

A decision about Chansley’s detention is still pending.

Chansley has been behind bars since he was arrested in his hometown of Phoenix on Jan 9. Chansley has been charged with violent entry and disorderly conduct in a Capitol building among other federal felony charges. He is among more than 300 charged in the Capitol riots that resulted in five deaths.

In a previous interview with the Washington Post, he said he danced, sang and prayed in the Capitol, drumming on the floor with his pole to “reclaim our nation.” He also said he left a note for Vice President Mike Pence that said: “It’s only a matter of time, justice is coming.”

On Friday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Kimberly Paschall argued that Chansley is a danger to the community and should therefore remain jailed until trial. She said there was “ample evidence” that Chansley was carrying a spear while facing off with an officer inside the Senate chambers. She pointed to Chansley’s “60 Minutes Plus” interview as evidence of his still-standing belief “that the current government is not a legitimate government and that the 2020 presidential election was stolen.”

She argued that Chansley would not be capable of following conditions of release.

Watkins, meanwhile, painted his client as a nonviolent man misled and let down by Trump, whom he greatly admired. He highlighted Chansley’s lack of criminal history and said his client simply walked into the Capitol after police let him in. The judge and prosecutor pushed back.

“I am not belittling my client . . . but my client was wearing horns,” he said. “He had tattoos around his nipples. He wasn’t leading anywhere. He was a follower.”

Watkins also said that Chansley believes in ahimsa, a form of nonviolence toward living things, and denied that the flagpole he carried was a spear.

Chansley apologized last month for storming the Capitol, saying he regrets entering the building and that Trump “let a lot of peaceful people down.”

Chansley publicly requested — but did not receive — a pardon from Trump, an outcome with which he expressed disappointment in the “60 Minutes Plus” interview. At one point, Chansley had offered to testify against Trump during his impeachment trial.

On Friday, Watkins cast the absence of a pardon as a turning point for Chansley.

“My client went from that point to expressing deep disappointment in the former president,” he said.

washington post logoWashington Post, Impact of Capitol riot looms over efforts to overhaul policing in the District, Peter Hermann, March 6, 2021. The acting police chief says he needs a larger force to help combat new threat of domestic terrorism.

Amid months of protests for social justice, the D.C. Council moved quickly last year with emergency legislation to make sweeping overhauls to the police force, including cutting its budget and making it smaller.

Then came the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol, when hundreds of D.C. officers rushed to help defend the building. Now the mayor’s pick for her new police leader says any further reimagining of the force must take into account what he calls a growing and persistent threat of domestic terrorism.

The coming weeks will be a pivotal moment for the future of law enforcement in the District as the city wrestles over that balance. Acting D.C. police chief Robert J. Contee III says his department needs to grow, not shrink, to confront both rising crime and extremism.

Contee, who faces a confirmation hearing later this month from a Council that last year cut the police budget, forcing it to shed nearly 200 officers, said he must prepare for “a high probability for violent confrontations that will require a significant police response.”

Last year’s budget cuts brought the District’s police force down to about 3,650 officers, below a threshold officials once considered the bare minimum. Contee said he believes 4,000 officers — a number the mayor aspired to in 2019, when the department counted 3,850 officers — are needed “to get to where we need to be in light of the things we need to contend with now.” Similarly, the Capitol Police wants to increase its force and budget following its failure to properly mobilize ahead of the deadly riot.

But Contee could face pushback from members of the D.C. Council, a progressive group of lawmakers who want police to adapt a public health approach to combating crime that de-emphasizes arrests and redirects resources into programs that attack the root causes of criminal behavior.

Council member Charles Allen (D-Ward 6), who chairs the public safety committee, said last year’s budget cuts — opposed at the time by the mayor — and other laws enacted to make police more transparent and accountable, could be just a start.

“That wasn’t a one-year budget, pat yourself on the back and call it a day,” said Allen, who will oversee hearings this month on the state of the police department and Contee’s confirmation. “We’re in the midst of a conversation on the nature of policing.”

Allen credited D.C. police with helping the overwhelmed Capitol police end the Jan. 6 riot, but he said, “I don’t think we need to be planning our force size based on an armed insurrection. We hope to never see such an event again.”

Contee will face Allen and other lawmakers at an oversight hearing on Thursday, where he is likely to field questions over rising homicides, the insurrection that involved 850 D.C. officers sent to the Capitol and his commitment to making further changes in the force to reflect new ideas born out of the protests that started with the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis.

That will be followed by the expected release of an independent audit of fatal shootings and a deadly use of force incidents by D.C. police, and then Contee’s confirmation hearing, where lawmakers will decided whether to make him the permanent chief.

 

U.S. Law, Crime, Prisons

Amanda Gorman delivering a poem at President Biden's Inauguration on Jan. 20, 2021 (Associated Press pool photo by Patrick Semansky).

Amanda Gorman delivering a poem at President Biden's Inauguration on Jan. 20, 2021 (Associated Press pool photo by Patrick Semansky).

ny times logoNew York Times, Amanda Gorman Says Security Guard Confronted Her for Looking ‘Suspicious,’ Michael Levenson March 6, 2021 (print ed.). Ms. Gorman, who recited a stirring poem at President Biden’s inauguration, said the guard had followed her as she walked home.

“A security guard tailed me on my walk home tonight,” Ms. Gorman wrote on Twitter. “He demanded if I lived there because ‘you look suspicious.’ I showed my keys & buzzed myself into my building. He left, no apology. This is the reality of black girls: One day you’re called an icon, the next day, a threat.”

Ms. Gorman said in another tweet: “In a sense, he was right. I AM A THREAT: a threat to injustice, to inequality, to ignorance. Anyone who speaks the truth and walks with hope is an obvious and fatal danger to the powers that be.”

Los Angeles 'superlawyer' Tom Girardi and his then-wife Erika Girardi, a

Los Angeles 'superlawyer' Tom Girardi and his then-wife Erika Girardi, a "Real Housewives" star (Associated Press photo by Steve Eichner).

Los Angeles Times, ‘Real Housewives’ attorney Tom Girardi used cash and clout to forge powerful political connections, Matt Hamilton and Harriet Ryan, March 6, 2021. When Joe Biden came to Los Angeles to raise money for his presidential campaign, Tom Girardi filled a dining room at the Jonathan Club with wealthy attorneys.

“Obviously everyone thinks the world of you — and they should,” Girardi told Biden as his then-wife, “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” star Erika Jayne, looked on in a stylish blue dress.

The 2019 breakfast fundraiser at the private downtown club was in many ways the end of an era. By the time Biden was elected last fall, Girardi’s life and legal empire were unraveling. His wealth, once estimated north of $250 million, has vanished and with it his reputation as one of the nation’s most connected and respected lawyers. With Girardi facing bankruptcy, divorce and a criminal investigation, his days as a political insider and power broker appear over.

For decades, though, politicians were happy to take his money and put up with his requests for something in return. Along with his family and employees, Girardi contributed more than $7.3 million to candidates.

He could get Govs. Gavin Newsom and Jerry Brown on the phone with ease, associates said. He and Jayne regularly traveled to Washington, D.C., where then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid appointed him to a Library of Congress board. Former Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy spoke at the 2002 dedication of a Loyola Law School building named for Girardi’s father.

The couple went to political events or dinners constantly, Jayne recalled in her autobiography, “Pretty Mess,” sharing a table with Barbra Streisand at a Clinton fundraiser or discussing L.A.’s homeless problem at an intimate dinner with the mayor and his wife.

“We would have drinks with a U.S. senator, and she’d confide in us the problem the senators were having with the current administration,” Jayne wrote in the 2018 book. “These were some great experiences.”

From the winning candidates he supported, Girardi sometimes expected favors, whether it was an appearance on his weekly radio show, a say in judicial appointments or a backroom deal that would help his law practice, according to interviews with longtime associates, state bar litigation records and an unpublished memoir.

Former state Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer, for whom Girardi raised hundreds of thousands of dollars, said in an interview that their friendship fell apart over requests for favors that he felt were unethical.

Back in 2005, Girardi wanted Lockyer’s permission to let him resolve government antitrust claims against Sempra Energy as part of a separate, private settlement agreement he was negotiating, Lockyer said.

“My impression was [he thought] Sempra might be more generous on their settlement side if mine went away,” he recalled. Lockyer refused.

In the same period, he said, Girardi lobbied him not to pursue charges against Hewlett-Packard chair Patricia Dunn, who was under investigation for allegedly directing a boardroom spying program, and instead to go after a young, low-level participant, Lockyer said.

“I remember at the time saying to Tom, ‘I can’t do that. Will you think about justice?’,” Lockyer said. Girardi ended their friendship with a letter that stated, “I never want to talk to you again.”

At the time, Lockyer recalled, “I considered him one of my best friends.”

Girardi’s most consistent request of politicians was a say in which lawyers got seats on the bench.

“I make no bones about influencing judicial appointments. Awful, you say? Unethical? Well, who better to recommend a man to the bench than someone who works with him every day,” he wrote in the memoir entitled May It Please The Court. His ghostwriter, Dennis McDougal, shared a copy with The Times.

While some judges are elected in California, governors fill vacancies and nominate appellate and Supreme Court posts. Girardi’s connections with governors dated to the early 1970s, when he worked to get Brown elected. It’s not unusual for an attorney to offer an opinion on a prospective judge’s fitness, but Girardi’s role went well beyond that. He often told stories of how he and other legal insiders met in the back of a private club to decide which of their L.A. peers were deserving of judgeships.

Girardi described in the memoir how he would then surprise the aspiring judge by having Brown swear the new jurist in during a dinner party at his Pasadena home. The former governor did not respond to questions about Girardi’s account or their relationship.

washington post logoWashington Post, Judge frees men imprisoned for 24 years, saying prosecutors withheld evidence, Shayna Jacobs, March 6, 2021 (print ed.). Three men convicted of murdering an off-duty police officer and a business owner nearly 25 years ago were released from prison Friday after a judge declared they were wrongfully convicted because evidence that may have exonerated them was "deliberately withheld" from their lawyers.

The arrests in 1996 of George Bell, Rohan Bolt and Gary Johnson were heralded by then-New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, who had vowed days before their apprehension that justice would be served swiftly, lawyers for the men say. But on Friday, Queens County Supreme Court Judge Joseph Zayas said the prosecutors who secured their convictions had suppressed information “that others may have committed these crimes.”

Speaking via video from Green Haven Correctional Facility, a maximum-security prison north of New York City, the three men thanked those who worked to earn their freedom.

“After I was convicted for capital murder, I couldn’t fathom or wrap my mind around how God would allow the justice system I believed in to fail me in such a tragic fashion,” said Bell, who confessed to authorities in connection with the shooting deaths of New York police officer Charles Davis and another man, Ira Epstein, whose check-cashing store in Queens was robbed the morning of Dec. 21, 1996.

Although Bell and Johnson, then 19 and 22 years old, respectively, both confessed, they had been “subject to coercive interrogations” and their statements “bear all the hallmarks of the false confessions that resulted in wrongful convictions in the past,” according to a motion filed earlier Friday by private attorneys and public defenders involved in the effort to overturn their convictions.

 

Biden TransitionPresident Obama and aide Lisa Monaco in the White House Oval Office on Sept. 16, 2013 (White House Photo).

President Obama and aide Lisa Monaco in the White House Oval Office on Sept. 16, 2013 (White House Photo).

washington post logoWashington Post, Lisa Monaco will seek to restore Justice Department norms attacked by Trump, Devlin Barrett, March 6, 2021. President Biden’s pick for deputy attorney general faces her Senate confirmation hearing Tuesday. Monaco’s ties to Biden go back to the 1990s, when she was a junior staffer on the Senate Judiciary Committee he led. From there, she went to law school and became a federal prosecutor, rising quickly in the Justice Department and eventually joining the team that prosecuted Enron executives over that firm’s self-destructive financial trickery. That group of lawyers would later hold some of the most important posts inside the agency.

Justice Department log circularAndrew Weissmann, a former prosecutor who was part of the Enron team, said Monaco has always shown “the same rigorous and dispassionate examination of the law and facts, unafraid of making the tough calls necessary to serve the public interest.” She was, he said, “the truly ideal choice” to become deputy attorney general, a job law enforcement professionals call “the DAG.”

Boston bombings a test for new counterterrorism adviser Lisa Monaco

Historically, the DAG is a critical but low-profile position — a kind of bureaucratic traffic cop overseeing the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Marshals Service, the Bureau of Prisons and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Often, the deputy attorney general tackles the problems and disagreements that cannot be solved by lower-level officials.

In recent years, however, the job has been anything but low profile. The Trump administration’s first deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, oversaw Robert S. Mueller III’s special counsel investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and the Trump campaign, and he frequently faced the fury of President Donald Trump and Republican lawmakers for various developments in that case. His successor, Jeffrey Rosen, was running the Justice Department in January of this year when Trump supporters launched a short-lived insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, in what many current and former government officials consider a major security and intelligence failure.

If confirmed, Monaco would be second-in-command to Merrick Garland, whose nomination to be attorney general is scheduled to be voted on by the full Senate in coming days. Biden has said Garland, Monaco and the rest of his Justice Department picks are tasked with restoring the Justice Department’s independence from partisan politics and adherence to the rule of law after the Trump years, when the president regularly demanded the department investigate his political opponents and exonerate his friends and allies.

washington post logoWashington Post, Shalanda Young embraced as potential nominee for budget director, in place of Neera Tanden, Rachel Siegel, March 6, 2021.  Biden hesitates at nominating Young despite strong bipartisan support. In 2019, during the longest government shutdown in U.S. history, Shalanda Young was behind the scenes crafting proposals House Democrats would use to successfully reopen parts of the government.

Just over a year later, the staff director for the House Appropriations Committee was in the thick of compiling and managing some of the early relief packages at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Now, Young has emerged as a top candidate to lead the Office of Management and Budget after President Biden’s initial pick, Neera Tanden, withdrew her nomination. Young is already going through the confirmation process to become OMB’s deputy director.

washington post logoWashington Post, White House fires Trump EEOC official after she refuses to step down, Eli Rosenberg, March 6, 2021. The move is part of a push to oust controversial Trump us labor department logoappointees who were seen by some Democrats as hostile to the mission of the agencies they served.

Sharon Gustafson, who as the commission’s general counsel was in charge of its high-stakes litigation over workplace discrimination on issues like race, religion and sex, was dismissed by the White House by letter on Friday afternoon after refusing to resign, according to Gustafson’s farewell letter, obtained by The Washington Post, as well as a source familiar with the White House letter who was not authorized to speak about it.

The move was quickly denounced by Republican EEOC Commissioner Andrea R. Lucas, who was appointed by former president Donald Trump last year.

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

washington post logoWashington Post, Seeking to flex new political muscle, centrist Democrats push early changes to stimulus bill, Tony Romm and Jeff Stein, March 6, 2021 (print ed.). The changes shed light on what the role of the Senate moderates, and Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) in particular, might be in the months to come.

washington post logoirs logoWashington Post, Millions of employees won’t get a tax break for working from home during pandemic. Companies with empty offices do, Todd C. Frankel, March 6, 2021 (print ed.). Trump’s 2017 tax overhaul killed off the deduction for an employee’s home office.

washington post logoWashington Post, Amid debate over stimulus package and turmoil over the pandemic, Republicans focus on cultural issues, Matt Viser, March 6, 2021 (print ed.). If you listened to the Republican Party over the past week, it might have been easy to think that the core planks of its platform were defending a deceased children’s author, a decades-old children’s toy — and a subspecies of human that went extinct 40,000 years ago.

republican elephant logoThat’s because GOP leaders have been vociferously protesting a decision to stop publishing Dr. Seuss books that include racially stereotyped images; the removal of “Mr.” from the Mr. Potato Head brand; and President Biden’s characterization of ending mask mandates as “Neanderthal thinking.”

Amid debate over one of the most expensive stimulus packages in American history and turmoil over the global pandemic, many Republicans have been focused on what they view as “cancel culture” run amok.

In some ways the furor illustrates a party still attempting to find its post-Trump way, a fractured GOP in search of something to unite around. Biden’s top priority — a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package — remains broadly popular. Meanwhile, former president Donald Trump is going after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and criticizing his party for opposing the $1,400 stimulus checks that are now in Biden’s package.

washington post logoWashington Post, GOP governors scorn pandemic restrictions as they compete in pro-Trump party, Isaac Stanley-Becker, March 6, 2021 (print ed.). Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s move this week to end the state’s mask mandate channeled the party’s rage against government restrictions.

Greg Abbott CustomThe decision this week by Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas, right, to end his state’s mask mandate and lift all restrictions on business reflects a broader move by politically ambitious Republican governors to channel the rising anger of conservative constituents over government efforts to curb the coronavirus.

The strategy conflicts with efforts by the Biden administration to urge caution as new variants of the virus spread throughout the country, threatening to undo progress in controlling the disease at the very moment that immunizations are beginning to accelerate.

kristi noemAbbott’s announcement came just days after two fellow governors seen as potential rivals for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination took victory laps at the Conservative Political Action Conference by boasting of their efforts to resist the sort of restrictions that the Texas governor had imposed.

Gov. Kristi L. Noem of South Dakota, left, said her hands-off approach had given her national name recognition. Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida greeted activists at the Orlando gathering with this overture: “Welcome to our oasis of freedom!”

washington post logoWashington Post, Dozens of Texas power plants that failed last month also failed in 2011 storm, review shows, Neena Satija and Aaron Gregg, March 6, 2021. Facilities owned by Fortune 500 energy giants NRG, Calpine Corporation and Vistra Corporation, all headquartered in Texas, and the Chicago-based Exelon, experienced shutdowns during last month’s winter storm as well as during the state’s last historic cold snap a decade ago, according to a review by The Washington Post.

The corporate and municipal owners of more than 30 power-generation plants in Texas appear to have failed to adequately heed a decade of warnings to better prepare for deadly winter weather, contributing to their malfunctions or shutdowns during last month’s historic winter freeze that led to statewide power outages and a humanitarian crisis.

Facilities owned by Fortune 500 energy giants NRG, Calpine Corporation and Vistra Corporation, all headquartered in Texas, and the Chicago-based Exelon, experienced shutdowns during last month’s winter storm as well as during the state’s last historic cold snap a decade ago, according to a review by The Washington Post.

New Texas confronts the old with debates about mask mandates and winter storm response

In testimony to state lawmakers, documents for shareholders and statements to The Post, the companies have said that last month’s problems occurred at least in part due to a failure to properly winterize equipment — in other words, to implement certain upgrades designed to protect power infrastructure from the cold. The same issue contributed to their shutdowns back in 2011.

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Presses Stimulus Plan, Rejecting Fears of Overheating the Economy, Jim Tankersley and Jeanna Smialek, Updated March 6, 2021. Despite a better-than-expected jobs report, President Biden stressed that millions of workers still needed help from a proposed $1.9 trillion relief bill.

With a $1.9 trillion economic aid package on the brink of passing Congress and the pace of vaccinations picking up, some economists, Republican lawmakers and Wall Street traders are increasingly raising a counterintuitive concern: that the economy, still emerging from its precipitous pandemic-induced drop, could be on a path toward overheating.

joe biden oThe Biden administration rejected that argument again on Friday. Despite a stronger-than-expected jobs report, the president and his aides said there was still a long way to go to ensure the benefits of the recovery flow to workers hardest hit by the pandemic, who are predominantly men of color and women.

Passing President Biden’s recovery plan, they said, remains essential to a full and equitable recovery.

“Black workers are still facing an economic crisis,” Janelle Jones, the chief economist at the Labor Department, said in an interview. “We cannot talk about recovery and taking our foot off the gas while these workers are still facing economic devastation.”

For those workers, Ms. Jones said, “It really matters what we do in the next two weeks.”

But some Republicans, saying the economy no longer needs an injection of nearly $2 trillion in borrowed money, continued to urge Democrats to pare back the stimulus package, which Senate Democrats have modified slightly in recent days.

On Wall Street, there were signs this week that investors are beginning to believe that such a large package could spur some resurgence in inflation, though there is little to suggest that markets anticipate a return to the dangerous levels of the 1970s, as a few prominent economists have warned.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Meanwhile back in the real world, Bill Palmer, right, March 6, 2021. To hear Fox News tell it, President Biden is being swallowed by bill palmerscandals and failing on every level.

bill palmer report logo headerTo hear CNN and MSNBC tell it, Biden and the Democrats are succumbing to internal turmoil and now stand “no chance” in 2022 or 2024. On social media, you hear similar proclamations from the right that Biden and the Democrats are doomed, along with proclamations from the far left that Biden and the Democrats are, well, doomed.

If this was all you paid attention to, you’d think everything was falling apart for Biden and his agenda. But here’s the thing. The latest polling, which takes a representative sample of all Americans and not just the niche who watch politics on TV and tweet about politics online, shows that Biden has a whopping 60% approval rating. When it comes to handling the CNNpandemic crisis in particular, Biden has a 70% approval rating.

But wait, isn’t this the same guy who’s already “doomed” by the fake scandals coming from the right, and the impossible expectations coming from the far left? Apparently not. When you look at how favorably the nation at large is viewing Biden and his progress, you realize that these cable news and social media niches simply don’t reflect what’s going on in the real world at large.

washington post logoWashington Post, Senate grinds toward passage of $1.9 trillion Biden pandemic relief plan, Jeff Stein, Erica Werner and Tony Romm, March 6, 2021. In a session that has lasted all night, groggy senators are debating GOP-backed amendments to the major economic and public health relief package.

The Senate inched toward approving President Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan Saturday, as Democrats voted down one GOP amendment after another en route to delivering the new president his first major legislative win.

us senate logoSome senators appeared sleepy and tripped over their words on the floor of the Senate as the debate that had begun Friday morning stretched toward 7 a.m. Saturday. Democrats pushed ahead with the sweeping economic and public health measure after resolving an approximately nine-hour standoff on Friday with Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) that resulted in significant changes to enhanced unemployment insurance benefits in the bill.

Having cleared that hurdle, Democrats stood within reach of passing the sweeping legislation that would send out a new round of $1,400 stimulus checks, $350 billion to cities and states, $130 billion to schools, and provide billions more for food assistance, rental relief, a national vaccine program and more. The Senate was plowing through dozens of amendments in a chaotic process known as a “vote-a-rama” that threatened to drag into late Saturday morning.

The vote incorporated a provision to provide tax relief on up to $10,200 in unemployment benefits for households making under $150,000, a measure Democrats pushed to prevent families from facing surprise year-end tax bills.

robert portmanThe unemployment provisions sparked a back-and-forth on the Senate floor between Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), right, and Senate Finance Chair Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), with Portman citing the reopening of many sectors in states across the country to argue the benefits were unnecessary.

“Suddenly, if you’re on unemployment insurance you don’t have to pay taxes. But if you’re working, you do have to pay taxes. How does that work?” Portman said.

Wyden responded that the tax forgiveness only included modest relief for jobless Americans, adding of the GOP’s opposition: “The party that claims to want to help workers on their taxes won’t lift a finger.”

TheHill.com, Greene sounds off on GOP after Hill story, Celine Castronuovo,  GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.) on Saturday fired back at her Republican colleagues who told The Hill that they were growing increasingly frustrated with her efforts to delay congressional business by forcing procedural votes to adjourn the House each day.

Greene in a lengthy Twitter thread Saturday shared The Hill's article that detailed criticisms from fellow GOP House members, including Reps. Ann Wagner (Mo.), David Joyce (Ohio) and Tim Walberg (Mich.).

The lawmakers said Green's futile procedural votes, which require members to walk to the House floor, are disrupting committee hearings and virtual constituent meetings, making them less effective at representing their own constituents.

In response to the article, Greene tweeted, “I dedicate this thread to my GOP Colleagues” and “The headline of this article should read, ‘Marjorie Cares About The People Not The Politicians And Refuses To Join The Swamp.’”

“I didn’t get voted into office by politicians, I serve The People,” she added before launching into a series of rebukes against her GOP colleagues who she said “don’t share the outrage that Republican voters feel about the Democrat’s radical agenda!”

 

World News

ny times logopope francis south korea 2014 wNew York Times, Live Updates: Pope Francis, in Iraq, Calls for Interfaith Unity, Staff Reports, March 6, 2021. On his second day of a three-day trip, Francis, right, met Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, a spiritual authority for many Shiite Muslims. He also toured the ruins of the ancient city of Ur, traditionally held to be the birthplace of Abraham. Here’s the latest on his historic visit.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: ‘There Is Actually a Majority in Israel That Wants What We Are Offering,’ Michelle Goldberg, right, March 6, 2021 (print ed.). michelle goldberg thumbCan Merav Michaeli rescue Israel’s Labor Party?

When Merav Michaeli, a pathbreaking feminist, was elected head of Israel’s Labor Party in January, some people offered her condolences. Labor was once Israel’s governing party, the home of many of the country’s iconic leaders: David Ben-Gurion, Golda Meir, Yitzhak Rabin. It ruled continuously from Israel’s founding in 1948 until 1977, and then a few more times after that.

Israel FlagBut since the second Palestinian intifada in 2000, which for many Israelis discredited the country’s peace camp, the Israeli left has collapsed. Because of its politicians’ inability to form a stable government, the country is about to hold its fourth elections in two years, and in January polls showed that, for the first time, Labor might fail to meet the threshold to win any seats at all in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament. For a party that once seemed to define Israel itself — especially to liberal diaspora Jews — it’s been an almost inconceivable fall.

There’s a phenomenon in business and politics called the glass cliff, in which organizations in crisis turn to female leaders. That seems to be how Michaeli, a former journalist who once gave a talk titled “Cancel Marriage” at an Israeli TEDx conference, became Labor’s leader.

“Welcome to the Worst Job in Israeli Politics, Merav Michaeli,” said a headline in the left-leaning Israeli newspaper Haaretz. Her victory, wrote Anshel Pfeffer, doesn’t “so much reflect Michaeli’s popularity — she ran against six virtually unknown candidates — but the fact that no other politician wants to be remembered as the leader under whose watch Labor failed to get into the Knesset altogether.”

But after Michaeli won, something unexpected happened. Labor’s poll numbers ticked up, and it’s now expected to capture six or seven seats when the country votes on March 23.

washington post logoWashington Post, Why Germany is becoming a go-to destination for trials on the world’s crimes, Loveday Morris, March 6, 2021. The Saudi crown prince faces possible crimes against humanity charges as the German justice system considers some crimes so grave — such as genocide and war crimes — that impunity and normal territorial restraints on prosecutions should not apply.

german flagFrom the genocide of Iraq's Yazidis to Syrian state-sponsored torture and the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul, the German legal system is increasingly a place to seek justice for crimes committed far outside Germany's borders.

Germany is one of scores of countries with laws that include aspects of universal jurisdiction, a legal principle that some crimes are so grave — such as genocide and war crimes — that mohammed bin salman al saudimpunity and normal territorial restraints on prosecutions should not apply.

The latest case came Tuesday as the media protection group Reporters Without Borders filed a complaint with the federal public prosecutor’s office in Karlsruhe accusing Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of crimes against humanity in the 2018 murder of Khashoggi — a Washington Post contributor — and the detentions of dozens of other journalists.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. sanctions Ihor Kolomoisky, one of Ukraine’s most powerful tycoons, Paul Sonne, Matt Zapotosky and David L. Stern, March 6, 2021. The State Department sanctioned one of Ukraine’s most powerful tycoons, Ihor Kolomoisky, as U.S. authorities also pursue a civil case alleging he stole billions of dollars from a Ukrainian bank he once owned and laundered the funds into the United States and other places.

Kolomoisky, below left, and members of his family were sanctioned under a U.S. law that allows the State Department to designate officials of foreign governments involved in human ihor kolomoyskyi wrights violations and corruption. Designation under the law prevents individuals from entering the United States, but doesn’t result in the imposition of financial sanctions, according to a State Department official.

The tycoon was involved in “significant corruption” during his stint as governor of Ukraine’s Dnipropetrovsk region from 2014 to 2015, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement Friday, alleging that the tycoon’s acts while in office “undermined rule of law and the Ukrainian public’s faith in their government’s democratic institutions and public processes.”

Neither Kolomoisky nor a lawyer representing him in the United States responded to requests for comment.

In the civil case, Kolomoisky has denied the allegations the Justice Department has made against him, saying the real estate he held in the United States was purchased using personal funds he received through a deal he made with a mining company.

 

March 5

Top Headlines

 

U.S. Capitol Riots, Insurrection

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

World News

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

 

U.S. Law, Crime, Regulation

 

Media News

 

Top Stories

cnn logoCNN, A deal on a way forward will be announced soon, source says, Manu Raju, March 5, 2021. A source tells CNN that a deal about the path forward on the Covid-19 stimulus bill is coming soon.

Under a final agreement accepted by Sen. Joe Manchin, Senate Democrats will now offer an amendment to extend the enhanced Unemployment Insurance program through September 6 at $300 a week, according to a Democratic aide with knowledge of the negotiations.

democratic donkey logoThe House-passed bill would have provided the benefit through August 29.

The Senate has been at a standstill for hours after Manchin, right, a moderate Democrat, signaled he could back a GOP plan on jobless benefits.

joe manchin headshotThis agreement also provides tax relief to workers who received unemployment insurance compensation by making the first $10,200 of unemployment benefits non-taxable for the first time to prevent surprise bills for the unemployed at end of year, which was not in the House-passed legislation. This provision applies only to households with incomes under $150k.

The agreement also extends tax rules regarding excess business loss limitations for one additional year, through 2026.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live: Democrats Plan to Extend Unemployment Payments but Forgo Increase, Emily Cochrane, March 5, 2021. In an effort to hold onto the support of moderate senators, Democrats are eliminating a push to raise the federal supplement from $300 a week to $400. However, they plan to extend the benefit for an additional month, until early October. Here’s the latest from Washington.

Senate Democrats, working to preserve moderate support for President Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus package, plan to drop their effort to increase a federal unemployment payment from $300 a week to $400, but extend it for an additional month, through Oct. 4, making another key concession to keep the pandemic aid plan on track.

With the existing $300-a-week payments set to lapse on March 14, Mr. Biden’s stimulus proposal and the House bill that passed last weekend to implement it would increase the jobless aid to $400 weekly and extend it through the end of August.

But some moderate Senate Democrats are opposed to raising the amount, while other Democrats were concerned about the possibility that the benefits could lapse when the chamber is typically on recess and out of Washington. The revision under discussion would address both issues, as well as adding a provision to make a large portion of 2020 jobless benefits tax-free.

ron wydenIn a brief interview, Senator Ron Wyden, right, Democrat of Oregon and the chairman of the Finance Committee, said the change “avoids the August cliff, secures tax forgiveness — preventing what I call the unexpected unemployment tax surprise — and keeps the caucus together.”

It was aimed at appeasing centrist Democrats who might otherwise have been tempted to vote for a Republican amendment to cut the unemployment benefit to $300 per week — without extending it or including any tax sweeteners — thus sapping support for the bill among other Democrats. But there appeared to be issues with the proposal on Friday afternoon, as Democrats delayed a vote to haggle over the details.

The White House had signaled support for the alternative, with Ron Klain, the chief of staff, tweeting, “This compromise is a great result.”

The proposal, introduced by Senator Tom Carper of Delaware, was just one of dozens of amendments the Senate was set to consider on Friday as it made its way through a marathon session of rapid-fire votes. The vote-a-rama, as it is known, could stretch long past midnight as Republicans battle against the bill, paving the way for a Senate vote to pass the stimulus plan as early as Saturday.

The unemployment provision would forgive up to $10,200 in taxes on unemployment benefits received through in 2020. Mr. Wyden, who was among those pushing to increase the unemployment payment to $400, said on the Senate floor that he was “really hoping this brings all sides of the Senate together.”

Democrats are racing against the clock, as some Americans have already begun to file their taxes and unemployment benefits are set to begin lapsing next weekend. The agreement would also extend tax rules regarding excess business loss limitations for one additional year, through 2026.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Republicans’ most self-destructive political move yet, Jennifer Rubin, right, March 5, 2021. The latest poll on the Biden jennifer rubin new headshotadministration’s pandemic rescue plan underscores the inanity of congressional Republicans’ unified opposition. The Associated Press/NORC poll finds that "at a moment of deep political polarization in America, support for [President] Biden’s pandemic response extends across party lines. Overall, 70% of Americans back the Democratic president’s handling of the virus response, including 44% of Republicans.”

The covid relief bill is among the most popular pieces of legislation in decades. The Economist reports the bill is more popular than the Affordable Care Act, George W. Bush’s tax cuts, the 2017 Trump tax cuts, the Dodd-Frank reform bill and a slew of other measures. (It’s not as popular, however, as the 2007 minimum-wage hike, so it is a pity certain Democratic senators abandoned the $15 minimum wage proposal.)

democratic donkey logoAfter suffering through an administration with neither the will nor the competency to address the pandemic and its attendant economic recession, Americans are increasingly optimistic.

And with all of this, Republicans in the House and Senate nevertheless unanimously oppose the covid relief plan, a legislative proposal that has in fact unified the country.

Republicans’ argument is that we are spending too much. Support for a bill that takes away nothing and gives Americans what they want should be a no-brainer. And yet Republicans remain in a funk about lack of “bipartisanship” — meaning the president has chosen to embrace the support of 70 percent of the public rather than dismantle a bill to suit obstructionist Republicans in Congress.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Bernie Sanders has made a mess of things for Senate Democrats today, Bill Palmer, right, March 5, 2021.  Once the Senate bill palmerparliamentarian ruled that the minimum wage cannot be included in the COVID relief bill, Senate Democrats were all set to pass the relief package now, and find a way to raise the minimum wage separately later. There was reason to believe this was going to work, evidenced by the increasing discussion of finding ways to eventually work around the filibuster without having to abolish it.

bill palmer report logo headerBut then Bernie Sanders decided to force a vote today on an amendment that would have added a minimum wage increase to the COVID relief bill. If this amendment had passed, it would have sank the entire relief package, and no one would have gotten anything. So eight Senate Democrats took the heat by voting down Bernie’s amendment, thus allowing the COVID bill to survive.

Unfortunately, because so many liberal (and particularly “progressive”) activists don’t understand how any of this stuff works, they’ve come away with the mistaken impression that Senate Democrats don’t want to raise the minimum wage, and that Bernie Sanders, right, is somehow the only Senator who’s on their side. Funny how that works.

Bernie SandersThe real kicker is that because Sanders’ amendment forced the Democrats to vote against today’s minimum wage amendment, it’ll probably make it harder to increase the minimum wage later this year, because now those eight Democrats will have to be afraid of looking like they flip flopped – which always gets used against them by their Republican opponents, come reelection time. In other words, Sanders’ amendment decreased the odds that the minimum wage will increase this year.

This isn’t the first, the second, or the tenth time that Bernie Sanders has done something like this over the years. It was Bernie who refused to help pass Clinton-era health care reform, because he didn’t think it was pure enough. That’s right, some of you had to wait an extra twenty years before Obamacare finally came along, because of Bernie. And it was Bernie who blocked President Obama’s postal board appointees because they weren’t pure enough, which directly allowed Donald Trump to install Louis DeJoy. That’s right, the Post Office sabotage during and since the election is because of Bernie.

democratic donkey logoThis brings us back to the decades-long debate as to whether Bernie Sanders pulls this destructive crap because he’s too naive to understand how politics really works and he doesn’t realize the damage he’s causing to his own side, or if Sanders pulls this crap precisely because he understands how this stuff works and he wants to make himself look good even if it means sabotaging the liberal agenda.

In any case, it’s more crucial than ever that we don’t allow Bernie’s antics to turn us against the Democratic Party. If we turn against the Democrats, nothing will get done these next two years, and the Republicans will take control of the House and Senate in 2022. It’s bad enough we’ve got to work around Joe Manchin’s centrist nonsense. We also have to work around Bernie Sanders’ never ending efforts to turn us against our own party. Foot stomping and grandstanding never delivers progress – ever. Sanders’ forty years of never delivering any tangible change should be proof enough of that.

washington post logoWashington Post, Senate opens debate on $1.9 trillion pandemic relief bill, Erica Werner, Jeff Stein and Tony Romm, March 5, 2021. Marathon amendment process could lead to hours of action on Senate floor as Democrats try to complete Biden’s first big effort. Democrats moved forward with no GOP support after failing to win over a single Republican senator on President Biden’s first major legislative initiative.

joe biden twitterThe Senate will convene Friday with a plan to debate President Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus, a process that will include wide-ranging discussion over amendments as Democrats rush to enact a massive public health and economic relief bill.

Senate clerks concluded reading the entire 628-page bill at around 2:05 a.m. in the early-morning hours of Friday, a measure required by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) in an attempt to slow down passage of the legislation. The Senate on Thursday voted 50-50 on party lines to proceed to debate on the bill, a likely sign of the partisan divisions on the package overall, with Vice President Kamala Harris (D) breaking the tie on the Senate floor.

Still, Democrats appeared likely to have the votes to approve Biden’s first major legislative initiative — one of the largest bills ever enacted in congressional history. The package would devote $400 billion to a new round of $1,400 stimulus payments; $250 billion to extend enhanced unemployment insurance through August; and $350 billion for states, cities, tribal governments and U.S. territories; among other large measures, including significant public health funding for vaccine distribution and coronavirus testing.

us senate logoDebate on the Senate floor is expected to begin around noon on Friday. The process could be hectic as well as consequential for significant portions of the relief bill. Senators will have the opportunity to offer amendments through a series of roll-call votes — a procedure known as “vote-a-rama” — that would allow any group of 51 senators to change the structure of the bill. It took the Senate about 15 hours to complete vote-a-rama last month when it first took up Biden’s relief plan.

Senate Republicans and some Democrats have prepared extensive lists of amendments to try to shape the bill as it speeds toward passage. Democrats have been united that they must pass the legislation to avert the expiration in unemployment benefits for tens of millions of Americans starting March 14.

The first amendment is expected to be offered by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who along with Democratic leadership will push for the inclusion of a $15 an hour minimum wage in the legislation. The Senate parliamentarian found last month that the minimum wage hike was not permissible within the rules of budget reconciliation, the procedure Democrats are using to pass the stimulus with a narrow majority rather than 60 votes. Democrats could overrule the parliamentarian, but White House officials have publicly ruled out that approach. It is unclear whether Sanders or other congressional Democrats will seek to find some sort of compromise on the minimum wage hike, given that numerous Senate Republicans have expressed support for doing so.

 

U.S. Capitol Riots, Insurrection

 capitol noose shay horse nurphoto via getty

A crowd of Trump supporters surrounded a newly erected set of wooden gallows outside the Capitol Building on Jan. 6. "Hang Mike Pence!" members of the crowd shouted at times about the Republican Vice President who had announced that he could not comply with the president's call to block election certification that day. The wooden gallows was near the Capitol Reflecting Pool. Below is a separate photo by a suspect described in the story below.

federico klein fbi poster

washington post logoWashington Post, State Department aide appointed by Trump stormed the Capitol, beat police with a riot shield, FBI says, Katie Shepherd, March 5, 2021. The FBI arrested Trump appointee Federico G. Klein, a former State Department aide, on charges related to the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, the agency said.

FBI logoOn Thursday, the FBI arrested a political appointee of former president Donald Trump on charges that he stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, according to a criminal complaint, marking the first member of the administration arrested in connection with the insurrection.

Federal agents arrested Federico G. Klein, 42, a former State Department aide, on multiple felony charges related to the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, according to a criminal complaint published by the New York Times. (Politico first reported the arrest.) The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment early Friday.

Klein (shown above circled and also at left), who is also a former Trump campaign employee, did not immediately respond to a request for comment early federico klein been cansFriday. It is unclear if he has hired a lawyer.

Klein was still employed at the State Department as a staff assistant on Jan. 6 when he joined a mob in a tunnel leading into the U.S. Capitol, the FBI said. Then he allegedly “physically and verbally engaged with the officers holding the line” at the building’s entrance, according to the complaint. After ignoring officers’ orders to move back, he assaulted officers with a riot shield that had been stolen from police, the complaint said, and then used the shield to wedge open a door into the Capitol.

At one point, Klein was caught on video shouting for more insurrectionists to come to the front lines, where officers were struggling to hold back the mob.

“We need fresh people, need fresh people,” he said, according to the complaint.

Donald Trump and Mike Pence logoKlein’s arrest is the most direct link yet between the Trump administration and the rioters, despite attempts by some conservatives to dissociate the insurrection from the former president. Many of the 300-plus people who have been charged in connection with the insurrection have described themselves as Trump supporters, while some have ties to extremist groups like the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers.

Klein had a top-secret security clearance that was renewed in 2019, the FBI said.

A LinkedIn profile the FBI identified as Klein’s also lists a top-secret security clearance and shows that Klein has been politically active in the Republican Party since at least 2008, when he began volunteering for political campaigns. Before joining the State Department in 2017, Klein worked for the Trump campaign, which paid him a $15,000 salary.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Rachel Maddow sounds the alarm about the Department of Justice, Bill Palmer, March 5, 2021. We all just spent the past four years bill palmerwatching Donald Trump and his underlings shred the Department of Justice, its infrastructure, and its integrity. At this point we’re all just hoping there’s enough left of the DOJ for it to be rebuilt during the President Biden era.

rachel maddow headshotWe’re seeing some evidence that the DOJ is still functioning on a basic level, as evidenced by the fact that hundreds of January 6th Capitol attackers have already been charged and/or arrested. But as Rachel Maddow, left, pointed out during the MSNBC show tonight, something is still off.

For instance, thanks to the FBI’s social media requests for help in tracking down additional Capitol attackers, the violent “fire extinguisher guy” has been identified as a guy named Robert Palmer in Florida. Yet all that the Feds have done thus far is to call the guy on the phone and discuss things with him. Why hasn’t he been arrested yet? The Feds clearly know where and how to find him. And as Maddow pointed out, no one in the DOJ is even bothering to brief the public on how any of this is playing out.

bill palmer report logo headerHere at Palmer Report, our belief is that these holdups are all taking place because the DOJ is currently gutted, and because Biden’s Attorney General Merrick Garland hasn’t yet been confirmed. Garland is a no nonsense guy, and we suspect that he’ll decisively take Justice Department log circularthe reins quickly.

This could also explain why Senate Republicans have been dragging out Merrick Garland’s confirmation process for as long as possible. They’re nearly out of procedural delays, and he’ll be confirmed within days. But it sure makes you wonder if the Republicans have been stalling because they’re afraid of the DOJ becoming functional enough to investigate their corruption.

ny times logoNew York Times, F.B.I. Says Proud Boys Member and Trump Associate Had Contact Before Riot, Katie Benner, Alan Feuer and Adam Goldman, March 5, 2021. A leader of the far-right group separately said he had been in touch with Roger Stone, but an official said it was not the same contact investigators found.

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

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

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

The same data has revealed no evidence of communications between the rioters and members of Congress during the deadly attack, the official said. That undercuts Democratic allegations that some Republican lawmakers were active participants that day.

roger stone hands waving no credit from stone cold CustomSeparately, Enrique Tarrio, a leader of the far-right nationalist Proud Boys, told The New York Times on Friday that he called Roger J. Stone Jr., left, a close associate of former President Donald J. Trump’s, while at a protest in front of the home of Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida. During the protest, which occurred in the days before the Capitol assault, he put Mr. Stone on speaker phone to address the gathering.

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

Mr. Stone denied “any involvement or knowledge of the attack on the Capitol” in a statement last month to The Times.

Mr. Tarrio was arrested in Washington on Jan. 4 on charges of destruction of property for his role in the burning of a Black Lives Matter banner that had been torn from a historic Black church during a protest in Washington in December. He was asked to leave the city, and was not present when the Capitol was attacked. His case is pending.

The Justice Department has charged more than a dozen members of the Proud Boys with crimes related to the attack, including conspiracy to obstruct the final certification of President Biden’s electoral victory and to attack law enforcement officers.

In court papers, federal prosecutors have said groups of Proud Boys also coordinated travel to Washington and shared lodging near the city, with the intent of disrupting Congress and advancing Mr. Trump’s efforts to unlawfully maintain his grip on the presidency.

The communication between the person associated with the White House and the member of the Proud Boys was discovered in part through data that the F.B.I. obtained from technology and telecommunications companies immediately after the assault.

Court documents show F.B.I. warrants for a list of all the phones associated with the cell towers serving the Capitol, and that it received information from the major cellphone carriers on the numbers called by everyone on the Capitol’s cell towers during the riot, three officials familiar with the investigation said.

The F.B.I. also obtained a “geofence” warrant for all the Android devices that Google recorded within the building during the assault, the officials said. A geofence warrant legally gives law enforcement a list of mobile devices that are able to be identified in a particular geographic area. Jill Sanborn, the head of counterterrorism at the F.B.I., testified before a Senate panel on Wednesday that all the data the F.B.I. had gathered in its investigation into the riot was obtained legally through subpoenas and search warrants.

Although investigators have found no contact between the rioters and members of Congress during the attack, those records have shown evidence in the days leading up to Jan. 6 of communications between far-right extremists and lawmakers who were planning to appear at the rally featuring Mr. Trump that occurred just before the assault, according to one of the officials.

The Justice Department is examining those communications, but it has not opened investigations into any members, the official said. A department spokesman declined to comment.

washington post logoWashington Post, Rep. Eric Swalwell sues Trump over Jan. 6 riot, alleging he poses risk of ‘inciting future political violence,’ Spencer S. Hsu, March 5, 2021. A House impeachment manager and intelligence subcommittee chairman filed a federal lawsuit Friday against former president Donald Trump, Donald Trump Jr., Rudolph W. Giuliani and Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.), claiming they should be held liable for injuries and destruction caused by their incitement of the Jan. 6 mob assault on the Capitol.

Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), right, who also sits on the judiciary and homeland security committees, alleged Trump and his fellow speakers at a rally near the White House that day were directly responsible for mobilizing a crowd of tens of thousands of pro-Trump supporters to march on the Capitol and priming them for violence.

Trump’s actions before and during the assault — in which at least 800 people broke into the Capitol, attacked police and delayed Congress’s confirmation of the presidential election results — “made clear he poses a risk of inciting future political violence,” the complaint alleged.

Read the lawsuit here

“As a direct and foreseeable consequence of the Defendants’ false and incendiary allegations of fraud and theft, and in direct response to the Defendants’ express calls for violence at the rally, a violent mob attacked the U.S. Capitol,” the 65-page suit asserted. “Many participants in the attack have since revealed that they were acting on what they believed to be former president Trump’s orders in service of their country.”

The lawsuit claims the four speakers violated the Reconstruction-era Ku Klux Klan Act by conspiring to violently interfere in Congress’s constitutional duties and failing to act to stop the mob. It also accuses them of multiple counts of negligence under both federal and D.C. law, aiding and abetting, and infliction of emotional distress.

Trump spokesman Jason Miller said in a statement, “Eric Swalwell is a low-life with no credibility.” Miller then repeated allegations in an Axios report from December that an alleged Chinese spy, Christine Fang, cozied up to Swalwell from 2012 to 2015 before he was briefed by U.S. intelligence officials about their concerns and cut off ties. Miller said “after failing miserably with two impeachment hoaxes,” Swalwell is engaging on witch hunt on behalf of the Chinese.

Justice Integrity Project Editor's Note: Miller's claim makes innuendoes from little or no evidence of any improper behavior by Swalwell, who posed in a routine photo with a Chinese-American student leader from a college in his district who had invited him to speak. She later volunteered for one of his campaigns and returned to her native China, with Republicans floating claims of inappropriate conduct.

The suit is the latest claim against Trump and top allies to assert they had a role in the storming of the Capitol through their actions that day and weeks of baseless allegations that November’s presidential election was stolen from him.

House Homeland Security chairman sues Trump and Giuliani, accusing them of inciting Capitol riot

The NAACP last month sued Trump, Giuliani and two extremist groups whose members have been accused of leading the violence at the Capitol — the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers — on behalf of Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.). Guiliani, Trump’s campaign and others also face defamation claims related to their groundless post-election criticism of a former U.S. election cyber security official and vote counting machine maker.

Thursday’s lawsuit paints a fuller picture of Trump’s actions before and after the event, drawing on the House impeachment manager’s case against the former president, suing under a wider theory of negligence. The suit does not focus on extremists who planned for violence but the “many more [who] were there for a political rally” before the defendants and others alleged “whipp[ed] them into a frenzy and turn[ed] them into a violent mob that participated in the attack.”

ny times logoNew York Times, The secretive Capitol Police Board is poised for an overhaul, if not elimination, after the Jan. 6 riot, Carl Hulse, March 5, 2021. The congressional inquiry into the security failures surrounding the Jan. 6 Capitol assault has barely begun, but one outcome already seems certain: The Capitol Police Board, the secretive three-member panel that oversees protection of the complex where Congress meets, is headed for major changes, if not outright elimination.

Lawmakers of both parties in the House and the Senate, some previously unfamiliar with the sweeping authority of the board, have expressed astonishment at its lack of accountability and its inability to rapidly respond to the riot at the Capitol.

“It seems nonfunctioning to me,” said Representative Rosa DeLauro, Democrat of Connecticut and chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee, which controls money for Capitol security. “Nobody is in charge. When something goes wrong, no one has the ultimate responsibility.”

yogananda pittmanNew tension over the board’s power emerged on Thursday as Yogananda D. Pittman, right, the acting chief of the Capitol Police, appealed to House and Senate leaders to intercede to persuade the panel to grant her department’s emergency request to extend the deployment of National Guard troops at the Capitol. After her letter to the leaders became public, the board gave its approval. But the episode was reminiscent of events in the run-up to Jan. 6, when the panel rebuffed a request from the Capitol Police for National Guard reinforcements to counter a threat that had been identified by intelligence, with disastrous consequences.

Like many things on Capitol Hill, the board is a remnant of the past that has survived in large part because it suits those who hold power in Congress. A long line of House and Senate leaders in both parties have favored its existence because they handpick two of its three voting members, giving them tremendous influence over security operations with little public scrutiny.

At House and Senate hearings in recent days, lawmakers have been struck by the fact that two days before the attack, members of the board dismissed the Capitol Police request for troops to be on hand on Jan. 6. They acted with no vote, little discussion or consultation with other authorities, and no involvement by the architect of the Capitol. Then on the day of the riot, board members struggled to connect and agree to declare an emergency so that roy blunt official Smalltroops who were standing by to assist could be summoned to the Capitol.

Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri, left, the senior Republican on the Rules Committee, said the assault underscored longstanding problems with the police board that necessitate major changes.

“I don’t think it works well in the best of circumstances and I think it’s almost totally unworkable in crisis, and Jan. 6 was a great example of that,” Mr. Blunt said.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: March 5), with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):

World Cases: 116,341,505, Deaths: 2,583,675
U.S. Cases:     29,527,245, Deaths    533,641

  • Washington Post, 55.5 million vaccinated: The number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, covering 45.6% of the prioritized population and 16.7 % of the total population. This includes more than 28.7 million people who have been fully vaccinated. 114.1 million doses have been distributed. See about your state.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. adds 379,000 jobs as labor market shows signs of improvement, Eli Rosenberg, March 5, 2021. Reflecting an economy that is still very much bogged down by us labor department logothe pandemic, the job growth surpassed analysts’ estimates but remains below the rate needed to regain the more than 9 million jobs lost since last year.

The unemployment rate dropped a tenth of a percentage point to 6.2 percent.

The gains were driven by big increases the leisure and hospitality sector, which added 355,000 jobs, as coronavirus related restrictions eased over the course of the month in many jurisdictions. Most of that was from gains of about 286,000 at restaurants, bars and other food service establishments. Employment in the sector is still down 3.5 million positions from where it was one year ago.

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: Neanderthals and Covid-19, Wayne Madsen (left, columnist, author of 18 books and former Chief Scientist for wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallComputer Sciences Corp.), March 5, 2021. When WMR first reported on October 5 last year about a scientific study linking Covid-19 to the genes of Neanderthal humans, little did we know that the Neanderthals would become the subject of a pitched political battle between the President of the United States and Republican politicians over public health measures designed to abate the Covid pandemic.

wayne madesen report logomarsha blackburn epaWe are not sure what prompted President Biden, in criticizing two Southern Republican governors -- Greg Abbott of Texas and Tate Reeves of Mississippi -- to call their lifting of mandatory mask orders "Neanderthal thinking," but Neanderthals quickly entered the mainstream news cycle.

Tennessee Republican Senator Marsha Blackburn, left, said, "Neanderthals are hunter-gatherers. They're protectors of their family. They are resilient. They're resourceful. They tend to their own. So I think Joe Biden needs to rethink what he is saying."

It might come as a shock to Blackburn but Neanderthals went extinct some 40,000 years ago. They are not hunting or gathering anything.


World News

washington post logopope francis south korea 2014 wWashington Post, Pope Francis lands in Baghdad, beginning the first-ever papal trip to Iraq, Chico Harlan and Louisa Loveluck, March 5, 2021. The pontiff’s first international trip since the start of the pandemic brings him to a country with an extraordinary biblical history but that is also experiencing a serious coronavirus outbreak and ongoing political turmoil.

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

Future of Freedom Foundation, Conference Agenda: The National-Security State and the Kennedy Assassination, Jacob G. Hornberger, left, March 5, 2021. jacob hornberger newAdmission: FREE. Register at conference website

The national-security establishment’s assassination of President John F. Kennedy was one of the pivotal events in our lifetime, and it continues to have an adverse impact on American life today. This conference will be oriented toward people who are not well-versed in the assassination and who wish to gain a deeper understanding of it.

The conference will present an easy-to-understand introduction to what happened and why. Consider it a primer on the Kennedy assassination.

john_f_kennedy_smilingAttendees will learn about President Kennedy’s foreign policy and how it was so different from that of both his predecessors and successors — and why the Pentagon and the CIA considered it to be such a grave threat to national security. Attendees will also learn about the fraudulent nature of the autopsy that the future of freedom foundation logo squarenational-security establishment performed on the president’s body on the evening of the assassination and how it leads to an understanding of the assassination itself.

The conference will consist of a weekly series of online presentations by various speakers, beginning Wednesday evening, March 3, and continue every Wednesday evening through April 21. By the time it is over, participants will have a good grasp of what happened on that fateful day in November 1963 and why it is so critically important today.

Date Speaker(s) Time Topic

3/3/21 Jim DiEugenio 7:00 PM Eastern Time President Kennedy and the Third World
3/10/21 Mike Swanson 7:00 PM Eastern Time JFK, the Vietnam War, and the War State
3/17/21 John Newman 7:00 PM Eastern Time JFK and the Cold War: Deception, Treachery, and the Struggle for Power
douglas horne 20213/24/21 Jefferson Morley 7:00 PM Eastern Time Morley v. the CIA [Part 1]
3/31/21 Jefferson Morley 7:00 PM Eastern Time Morley v. the CIA [Part 2]
4/7/21 Douglas Horne (right) 7:00 PM Eastern Time The JFK Medical Coverup
4/14/21 Douglas Horne 7:00 PM Eastern Time JFK’s War with the National Security Establishment
4/21/21 Jacob Hornberger 7:00 PM Eastern Time Regime Change: The JFK Assassination

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Here’s what H.R. 1, the House-passed voting rights bill, would do, Peter W. Stevenson, March 5, 2021. Democrats are moving forward with their bill at the national level to fight Republican efforts in states across the country to restrict ballot access.

House Democrats passed a comprehensive voting, elections and ethics bill on Wednesday, part of what they say is an urgent effort to fight Republican efforts in states across the country to restrict ballot access. If passed, the bill would mark a huge expansion of voting rights, and a major overhaul of campaign finance and redistricting laws. Republicans say they want to stop it in the Senate.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosRepublicans at the state level across the country have proposed a wide range of measures, many in response to allowances that were made for voting during the coronavirus pandemic in 2020.

The measures include curtailing eligibility to vote by mail, prohibiting the use of ballot drop boxes, and in the case of Georgia — where the GOP lost two Senate seats and which voted for a Democratic president for the first time since Bill Clinton’s 1992 win — blocking early voting on Sundays.

That particular measure has been called a flagrant and obvious attempt to disenfranchise Black voters in the state. The chairman of Georgia’s new House Special Committee on Election Integrity, state Rep. Barry Fleming (R), said his committee’s mission is to “restore the confidence of our public in our elections system,” an allusion to the false claims spread by former president Donald Trump about voter fraud in the 2020 election.

GOP officials in Arizona, Florida, Texas, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin — all states that could have an impact on future presidential elections — are also considering legislation that would restrict voting.

That’s why Democrats are moving forward with their bill at the national level, and while it might not pass in the Senate, they want to put pressure on Republicans, who have called it a political power grab.

washington post logoWashington Post, GOP governors scorn pandemic restrictions as they compete in pro-Trump party, Isaac Stanley-Becker, March 5, 2021. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s move this week to end the state’s mask mandate channeled the party’s rage against government restrictions.

Greg Abbott CustomThe decision this week by Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas, right, to end his state’s mask mandate and lift all restrictions on business reflects a broader move by politically ambitious Republican governors to channel the rising anger of conservative constituents over government efforts to curb the coronavirus.

The strategy conflicts with efforts by the Biden administration to urge caution as new variants of the virus spread throughout the country, threatening to undo progress in controlling the disease at the very moment that immunizations are beginning to accelerate.

kristi noemAbbott’s announcement came just days after two fellow governors seen as potential rivals for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination took victory laps at the Conservative Political Action Conference by boasting of their efforts to resist the sort of restrictions that the Texas governor had imposed.

Gov. Kristi L. Noem of South Dakota, left, said her hands-off approach had given her national name recognition. Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida greeted activists at the Orlando gathering with this overture: “Welcome to our oasis of freedom!”

washington post logoWashington Post, North Dakota’s House expelled a member for the first time. Women accused him of ‘disturbing’ harassment, Andrea Salcedo and Tim Elfrink, March 5, 2021. The litany of complaints that female colleagues had filed against North Dakota state Rep. Luke Simons (R) filled out a 14-page report released last week: Constant unwanted advances. Requests to run his hand through an intern’s hair. Harassing a pregnant Republican House member so often that she covertly changed desks.

In response, the state’s House of Representatives took the unprecedented step on Thursday of expelling Simons — the first time in its history the procedure has ever been used, the Bismark Tribune reported.

Reuters via Yahoo, A day after forcing marathon bill reading, Johnson says 'preference' to leave Senate, David Morgan and Makini Brice, March 5, 2021. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Rules and Administration hearing to examine the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

ron johnson oThe day after he single-handedly delayed the U.S. Senate's debate on President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill for 11 hours, Republican Senator Ron Johnson said on Friday that he could retire from office when his term expires.

The two-term Republican told Wisconsin media outlets that he has not decided whether to run for reelection in 2022 but added that not seeking another term is "probably my preference now."

wisconsin map with largest cities CustomJohnson, a Trump ally, recently drew widespread criticism by peddling a debunked conspiracy theory that leftists posing as Trump supporters played a role in the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Political analysts say his seat could be vulnerable to Democrats next year.

The 65-year-old Republican, who was first elected to the Senate during the Tea Party surge in 2010, had pledged to spend only two terms in the Senate.

"That pledge is on my mind, it was my preference then, I would say it's probably my preference now," Johnson told reporters. "I'm happy to go home."

But he added a caveat. "I think that pledge was based on the assumption we wouldn't have Democrats in total control of government and we're seeing what I would consider the devastating and harmful effects of Democrats' total control just ramming things through," the Wisconsin State Journal quoted him as saying.

washington post logoWashington Post, Federal advisory board votes to drop controversial for-profit college accreditor, Danielle Douglas-Gabriel, March 5, 2021. The vote brings the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools a step closer to losing its authority to be a gatekeeper between colleges and billions of dollars of federal financial aid.

An independent advisory board voted Friday to prevent a controversial accreditation agency from being a gatekeeper between colleges and billions of dollars of federal financial aid, bringing the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools a step closer to losing its authority.

In an 11-to-1 vote, the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity recommended the accrediting agency lose the recognition it needs to operate, citing the agency’s lax oversight of troubled for-profit colleges.

A senior official in the Education Department must make a final decision within the next 90 days, and the accreditation agency can appeal the result to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona. If the council loses recognition, it would force about 60 schools to find another accreditor.

Accrediting agencies are little-known but powerful organizations the Education Department relies on to determine if colleges are worthy to participate in the federal student aid program. If a college lacks an accreditor’s seal of approval, its students cannot obtain the federal education loans that are the lifeblood of many schools.

ACICS was once one of the nation’s largest accreditors, with nearly 300 schools under its watch.

But the council has faced years of criticism for its supervision of institutions with poor track records of serving students. It lost the recognition to operate in 2016 — causing many colleges to flee ACICS — but was given another chance by the Trump administration with the understanding that it would rectify outstanding problems.

 

U.S. Law, Crime, Regulation

Palmer Report, Opinion: The odds on Donald Trump’s criminal indictment, Lorraine Evanoff, March 5, 2021. After Googling Vegas odds on new Trump indictments, I was surprised to find none. As a seasoned criminal mentored by con men like Fred Trump, Roy Cohn, and Vladimir Putin, Trump obliterated all precedents as POTUS opening the door for corruption. Now with an ethical Department of Justice under Biden, we can better predict the odds for his indictments. Here is my cheat sheet.

bill palmer report logo headerEmoluments Clause violations are rarely tested because Presidents avoid even the appearance of impropriety. Trump violated the Constitution by accepting payments from foreign governments through Trump International Hotel, and by not using a blind trust but instead retaining an interest his businesses. But the Supreme Court dismissed two cases and wiped away appeals in court because Trump was no longer in office. Trump ran out the clock, leaving zero odds of indictment.

The greatest lapse in the Mueller investigation was failure to follow the money even after Deutsche Bank’s anti-money-laundering specialists recommended alerting the U.S. Treasury about Trump and Kushner. Manhattan D.A. Vance who picked up where Mueller left off investigating Trump for tax fraud and falsification of businesses is now in possession of eight years of Trump’s tax returns. Also, Trump’s longtime banker, Rosemary Vrablic, who arranged hundreds of millions of dollars in loans at Deutsche Bank over the years, recently resigned. If she flips on Trump, odds are very good for indictment.

Trump tax records show that he reduced his tax bills from 2010 to 2018 by writing off $26 million in consulting fees. A payment of $747,633 to an unnamed Trump Org. consultant was the exact amount Ivanka declared on her own public filings when she joined the White House in 2017, suggesting she was hired as a consultant on the same hotel deals she helped manage while on Trump Org. payroll. Another investigation is a $2.1 million tax deduction for Trump’s Seven Springs property valuation to claim a conservation easement in 2015 that may have been grossly inflated. Manhattan D.A. is looking to flip Trump Organization CFO, increasing odds of indictment.

Trump campaign finance laws violationsf are corroborated by witness testimony from Michael Cohen and a paper trail of Trump paying hush money to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal before the 2016 presidential election. The payments may have never been discovered had Trump not properly accounted for them in its financials. Odds are good this will be one of the indictments.

Although Trump was impeached a first time for extortion in his Ukraine scandal, but acquitted by the Senate, Trump threatened Georgia Secretary of State merrick garlandRaffensperger with “a criminal offense” to extort him into election fraud if he didn’t come up with 11,000 votes to overturn the Georgia election. Now that Fulton County D.A. in Georgia put her criminal case against Trump before a grand jury, odds are good for a criminal felony indictment.

The Senate acquitted Trump of his second impeachment for “incitement and insurrection” on January 6th, but soon-to-be U.S. A.G. Merrick Garland vowed to prosecute, noting that prosecutors had successfully convicted domestic terrorists McVeigh and Nichols under existing laws. Odds are good for indictment.

washington post logoWashington Post, Dallas hitmen kidnapped and killed two people, authorities said. A police officer allegedly hired them to do it, Andrea Salcedo, March 5, 2021. In 2017, kayakers paddling along a river south of downtown Dallas found the body of a woman with multiple gunshot wounds. Authorities months later arrested three men in the case, but one of the suspects came forward with a disturbing claim: A Dallas police officer had actually hired them to do the killing.

What’s more, he added, they had also kidnapped and murdered another man under orders from Dallas police officer Bryan Riser.

On Thursday, the Dallas police arrested Riser, a 13-year veteran, charging him with two counts of capital murder for allegedly ordering the killings of the 31-year-old woman and a 61-year-old man. The man who incriminated Riser said the officer promised to pay nearly $10,000 once both bodies were dumped in the Trinity River.

Riser, 36, has since been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of an Internal Affairs investigation, Dallas police Chief Eddie García said at a Thursday news conference.

“This individual has no business wearing this uniform,” García said, adding that the department is expediting the investigation to terminate Riser. “I can’t be clearer than that.”

García added Riser had a relationship with at least one of the victims but did not elaborate.

 

Media News

ny times logoNew York TImes, Film Criticism: Why My Teenage Self Gave Woody Allen a Pass, Ginia Bellafante, March 5, 2021. The urbane paradise of “Manhattan” looks a lot different through the lens of the new HBO documentary “Allen v. Farrow.” A comedy about a 42-year-old man sleeping with a 17-year-old girl is not a love story.

woody allen tribeca festival 2009 david shankboneBetween the years 1979, when it opened in theaters, and 1984, I saw “Manhattan” 11 times, after which I stopped keeping count. The early 1980s marked both the period of my adolescent hunger for an urbane, grown-up life in New York and the dawn of VHS, enabling the obsessive consumption of movies, which in my case meant the obsessive consumption of movies by Woody Allen.

In them, I found a vision of the future I wanted, a series of aspirations — to have opinions, to write, to go to book parties but also to make fun of people who approached those things too seriously. The hope was to inhabit the world the way Woody Allen (shown at a 2009 film festival in a David Shankbone photo) did, as both conspirator and judge.

 

March 4

Top Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

More On U.S. Capitol Riot, Insurrection

 

U.S. Elections, Politics, Governance

 

U.S. Law, Crime, Regulation

 

Biden Transition

 

U.S. Foreign Policy

 

World News

 

Historical Transitions

 

Top Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, D.C. Guard chief says ‘unusual’ restrictions slowed deployment of backup during Capitol riot, Paul Sonne, Matt Zapotosky and Devlin Barrett, March 4, 2021 (print ed.). The commanding general of the D.C. National Guard told lawmakers Wednesday how restrictions the Pentagon placed on him in the run-up to the Capitol riot prevented him from more quickly sending forces to help quell the violence.

william walker resized proofMaj. Gen. William J. Walker, right, said he did not receive approval to change the D.C. Guard’s mission and send his forces to the Capitol on Jan. 6 until three hours and 19 minutes after he first received an emotional call from the Capitol Police chief requesting urgent backup.

Walker described the Pentagon’s restrictions as “unusual,” noting that he did not have such limitations last summer, when the D.C. Guard was tasked with responding to local racial-justice protests after the killing of George Floyd.

Walker, who previously detailed the restrictions placed on him ahead of Jan. 6 in an interview with The Washington Post, told lawmakers that had he not been operating under those limitations, he could have sent about 150 soldiers to the Capitol hours earlier — and got them there within 20 minutes of being asked.

“I believe that number could have made a difference,” Walker said during Wednesday’s hearing before the Senate’s Rules Committee and its Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. “We could have helped extend the perimeter and helped push back the crowd.”

In addition to Walker, city officials and Capitol Police leaders have asserted that they were frustrated by a slow Defense Department response as the Capitol was breached. Defense officials have countered that the city requested only minimal assistance from the Guard in the run-up to the Jan. 6 riot event and tried to limit the military presence in the city, while the Capitol Police requested no military assistance ahead of the event, even though the Pentagon specifically asked whether it was necessary.

Robert G. Salesses, the Pentagon’s acting assistant secretary for homeland defense and global security, testified that defense officials’ tight control over the response to the Capitol — and reluctance to issue quick approvals — was shaped by controversy they faced in responding to civil unrest surrounding racial-justice protests last year.

“There was a lot of things that happened in the spring that the department was criticized for,” he said.

Much of the hearing focused on how long it took the Pentagon to give the members of the D.C. Guard who were already deployed that day a new mission and send them to the Capitol.

Though the acting defense secretary called up the full D.C. Guard shortly after 3 p.m. in response to the riot, he did not give the members of the D.C. Guard who were already deployed that day a new mission and send them to the Capitol until 4:32 p.m., Salesses said. He acknowledged, however, that the D.C. Guard did not receive that change in assignment until 5:08 p.m., more than half an hour later.

roy blunt official Small“How is that possible?” Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), right, asked incredulously, noting the time gap.

“I think that’s an issue,” Salesses said, offering no explanation.

The Guard arrived at the premises at 5:20 p.m.

The absence of Pentagon officials responsible for making decisions on Jan. 6 at Wednesday’s hearing irritated committee members, including some who expressed concern that the Department of Defense sent Salesses to testify even though he was not one of the key decision-makers that day.

 william walker resized proof

Proof via Substack, Commentary: Annotated Testimony of William J. Walker (shown above), Commanding General of the D.C. National Guard, Seth Abramson, left, March 3, 2021. Before the Senate Homeland seth abramson headshotSecurity and Governmental Affairs and Senate Rules and Administration Committees, opening statement—focused on the January 6 insurrection.

I was sickened by the violence and destruction I witnessed that fateful day and the physical and mental harm that came to the U.S. Capitol Police officers and MPD [the Metropolitan Police Department of D.C.], some of whom I met with later that evening and I could see the injuries they sustained. It is my hope that my recollection of events and presentation of the facts as I know them will help your Committees in its investigation and prevent such tragic events from ever occurring again.

seth abramson proof logoFirst, I think it is critical to understand what the D.C. National Guard’s mission was on January 6, to include what civilian agency we were supporting and how requests for support of other civilian authorities were handled.

On December 31, 2020, the D.C. National Guard [PROOF annotation: later “DCNG”] received written requests from District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser and her Director of D.C. Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency Dr. Christopher Rodriguez. The requests sought D.C. National Guard support for traffic control and crowd management for planned demonstrations in DC from January 5 through [January] 6.

After conducting mission analysis to support the District request, I sent a letter to then Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy, dated January 1, requesting approval. I received approval in a letter dated January 5 from Secretary McCarthy granting support of the MPD with 340 total personnel to include 40 personnel assigned to a Quick Reaction Force.

{PROOF annotation: Note that it took four days before Trump’s Pentagon to respond to the Democratic leadership of D.C., meaning that the District got “approval” for National Guard assistance on one of the very two days it had urgently asked for help on—January 5. Not only did this approval come too late for January 5 aid, it left under 24 hours for aid for January 6 to be readied.}

The DCNG provides support to MPD, the U.S. Park Police, U.S. Secret Service and other District and federal law enforcement agencies in response to planned rallies, marches, protests and other large scale first amendment activity on a routine basis.

A standard component of such support is the stand up of an offsite Quick Reaction Force (QRF), an element of guardsmen held in reserve equipped with civil disturbance response equipment (helmets, shields, batons, etc.) and postured to quickly respond to an urgent and immediate need for assistance by civilian authorities. The Secretary of the Army’s Jan. 5th letter withheld authority for me to employ the Quick Reaction Force....

{PROOF annotation: It is now clear that when Capitol Police issued an urgent request for help on January 6, there was absolutely no chance help would be forthcoming in any timely fashion—not because of delays on January 6, though there were many—but primarily because of the actions Trump’s Pentagon had taken prior to January 6 in taking so long to respond to Democratic officials in the District and then denying them the sort of aid those officials had every reason to expect. Media’s exclusive focus on January 6 itself continues to be misplaced; so much of what happened on January 6 was inevitable based on what had happened prior to January 6. In particular, the fact that Trump had installed loyalists Kash Patel and Ezra-Cohen Watnick immediately after learning he’d lost the November 2020 election, and that these two men were essentially controlling Trump defense secretary Chris Miller in the days before the insurrection, according to Vanity Fair, have produced a significant concern that Trump and his agents coordinated the Pentagon’s refusal of Democratic officials’ urgent pleas both before and during the insurrection.}

steve sund recroppedImmediately after the 1:49PM call with Chief [Steven] Sund (right), I alerted the Army Senior Leadership of the request. The approval for Chief Sund’s request would eventually come from the Acting Secretary of Defense and be relayed to me by Army Senior Leaders at 5:08PM—3 hours and 19 minutes later. We already had Guardsmen on buses ready to move to the Capitol. Consequently, at 5:20PM—in under 20 minutes—the District of Columbia National Guard arrived at the Capitol. We helped to re-establish the security perimeter at the east side of the Capitol to facilitate the resumption of the Joint Session of Congress.

{PROOF annotation: This is stunning. Commander Walker is saying that had he received approval from the Pentagon at 1:49PM on January 6, he could have had Guardsmen at the Capitol by somewhere between 2:05PM and 2:08PM—in time to quell the worst of the insurrection—but instead he heard nothing from Miller, Patel, and Cohen-Watnick, the Trump Pentagon power center, until 5:08PM. Meanwhile, the boss of Mssrs. Miller, Patel, and Cohen-Watnick, was gleefully watching events from the White House and refusing to contact his men at the Pentagon. There is no chance that Miller, Patel, and Cohen-Watnick would have missed the clear signal from (at the very least) Trump’s silence, if not some White House communication we don’t yet know about: don’t do anything until I tell you. By the time the Pentagon acted, Trump had issued public statements about wanting the insurrectionists to leave the Capitol grounds. It was only then that his men at the Pentagon responded to the urgent pleas for aid from the Capitol.}

Seth Abramson, shown above and at right, is founder of Proof and is a former criminal defense attorney and criminal investigator who teaches digital journalism, seth abramson resized4 proof of collusionlegal advocacy, and cultural theory at the University of New Hampshire. A regular political and legal analyst on CNN and the BBC during the Trump presidency, he is a best-selling author who has published eight books and edited five anthologies.

Abramson is a graduate of Dartmouth College, Harvard Law School, the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and the Ph.D. program in English at University of Wisconsin-Madison. His books include a Trump trilogy: Proof of Corruption: Bribery, Impeachment, and Pandemic in the Age of Trump (2020); Proof of Conspiracy: How Trump's International Collusion Is Threatening American Democracy (2019); and Proof of Collusion: How Trump Betrayed America (2018).

seth abramson headshotProof via Substack, Subject: Adventures in Metajournalism Commentary, Seth Abramson, left, March 4, 2021 (podcast, Episode 2, 59 mins.). The most significant event in the insurrection timeline besides the assault on the U.S. Capitol—a January 5 “war council” at Donald Trump’s private residence in Trump International Hotel—remains almost entirely uncovered by the major media, despite three eyewitnesses confirming the secretive meeting and its attendees.

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Agrees to Narrow Eligibility for Stimulus Payments, March 4, 2021 (print ed.). The proposed change, part of an effort to secure enough support for the $1.9 trillion relief plan to pass the Senate, could mean that some people who got a check during the Trump administration would not get one under President Biden.

President Biden agreed to further limit stimulus checks based on income, a concession to moderate Democrats, those familiar with the deal said. The proposal would disqualify those earning $80,000 or more — and households exceeding $160,000 — from receiving payments of up to $1,400. Here's the latest.

  • Top House Democrats recommend Shalanda Young to lead the budget office after Tanden’s nomination failed.
  • In first major speech, Blinken says U.S. priorities abroad directly affect Americans at home.
  • Visiting schools, Dr. Biden and the Education Secretary push for reopenings and shots for teachers.
  • LeBron James leads a charge to promote voting rights at the N.B.A. All-Star Game.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Reports: Biden Calls States’ Moves to Ease Virus Rules ‘Neanderthal Thinking,’ March 4, 2021 (print ed.). President Biden lashed out at Texas and other states that have relaxed restrictions, insisting it was a “big mistake” for people to stop wearing masks. Visiting schools in two states, Dr. Jill Biden and the education secretary pushed for in-person classes and vaccines for educators. Here’s the latest.

President Biden lashed out on Wednesday at the governor of Texas and others who have relaxed Covid-19 restrictions, describing their actions as “Neanderthal thinking” and insisting that it was a “big mistake” for people to stop wearing masks.

The president, who has urged Americans to remain vigilant in the fight against the coronavirus, said it was critical for public officials to follow the guidance of medical doctors and public health leaders as the U.S. vaccination campaign progresses.

“The last thing we need is Neanderthal thinking that in the meantime, everything’s fine, take off your mask and forget it,” Mr. Biden told reporters at the White House. “It’s critical, critical, critical, critical that they follow the science. Wash your hands, hot water. Do it frequently, wear a mask and stay socially distanced. And I know you all know that. I wish the heck some of our elected officials knew it.”

Earlier in the day, the White House press secretary, Jennifer Psaki, called on Texans and others to follow the guidance of the country’s top medical officials, who have warned mayors and governors not to recklessly abandon restrictions.

“This entire country has paid the price for political leaders who ignored the science when it comes to the pandemic,” Ms. Psaki said.

 washington post logoWashington Post, As Senate rushes $1.9 trillion bill through Congress, Biden faces doubts over whether it’s still the right package, Jeff Stein, Heather Long and Erica Werner, March 4, 2021.  The pandemic was exacting a brutal toll when, six days before his inauguration, President-elect Joe Biden first released his $1.9 trillion relief proposal. The economic recovery was backsliding, coronavirus cases were surging, and vaccines were just starting to get out.

Nearly two months later, as the Senate plans to begin voting Thursday on a nearly identical package, the economic and public health outlook appear to have changed. The economy is doing better, coronavirus cases have plateaued at a high but much-reduced level, and Biden has said there would be vaccines for every American adult by the end of May.

For policy experts and even members of Biden’s own party, the improving picture is raising questions about whether the stimulus bill is mismatched to the needs of the current moment.

Some economists say it’s too focused on providing funding to states, cities and schools — some of which, they argue, could be used instead for long-term economic investments or simply reduced altogether. Other critics question whether Democrats are squandering a unique opportunity to enact more lasting programs to reduce poverty, given how much in new funding they are approving as part of the legislation.

washington post logoWashington Post, House Democrats pass sweeping elections bill as GOP legislatures push to restrict voting, Mike DeBonis, March 4, 2021 (print ed.). The House late Wednesday night passed expansive legislation to create uniform national voting standards, overhaul campaign finance laws and outlaw partisan redistricting, advancing a centerpiece of the Democratic voting rights agenda amid fierce Republican attacks that threaten to stop it cold in the Senate.

The bill, titled the “For the People Act,” was given the symbolic designation of H.R. 1 by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), and it largely mirrors a bill passed two years ago in the early weeks of the House Democratic majority.

republican elephant logoThis year, however, the bill has taken on additional significance because of the new Democratic majority in the Senate and President Biden’s November win, as well as the efforts underway in dozens of Republican-controlled state legislatures to roll back voting access in reaction to former president Donald Trump’s loss and his subsequent campaign to question the election results.

Democrat after Democrat said this week that the GOP’s state-level efforts made it more important than ever to act at the federal level to preserve expansive voting laws. Many invoked the gains won in the 1960s civil rights movement by activists including John Lewis, the Georgia Democrat who died of cancer last year.Washington Post, As Senate rushes stimulus bill, Biden faces doubts over plan’s contents, Jeff Stein, Heather Long and Erica Werner, March 4, 2021. The nation's improving situation is raising questions about whether the stimulus bill is mismatched to the needs of the current moment.

washington post logoWashington Post, Texas family detention centers to become rapid-processing hubs, Maria Sacchetti, Nick Miroff and Silvia Foster-Frau, March 4, 2021. The Biden administration is preparing to convert the facilities in South Texas into hubs that will screen migrant parents and children with a goal of releasing them into the United States within 72 hours.

Law&Crime, 'It Is a Direct Challenge to Roe v. Wade': Arkansas Lawmakers Send Bill Banning All Elective Abortions to Governor’s Desk, Jerry Lambe, March 4, 2021. The state of Arkansas lawcrime logois one signature away from enacting the strictest anti-abortion law in the United States. Lawmakers in the state House of Representatives on Wednesday overwhelmingly voted to approve Senate Bill 6 (SB6), a measure that would ban all abortions except in cases of a medical emergency where the procedure is required to save the life of the mother.

The bill, which has already been approved by the Senate, passed the House by a vote of 76-19. It does not allow for any exceptions in cases of rape or incest.

Under current U.S. Supreme Court precedent, the anti-abortion law is patently unconstitutional, violating the holdings of both Roe v. Wade and Casey v. Planned Parenthood. It would immediately face vehement legal challenges—something Arkansas lawmakers are counting on in hopes that the high court’s new conservative majority will upend decades-old reproductive rights decisions.

“Arkansas is asking and pleading that the U.S. Supreme Court take a look at this and make a decision that once again allows the states to protect human life,” the bill’s sponsor, Republican Sen. Jason Rapert, said prior before the measure passed the state Senate late last month.

That sentiment was reiterated Wednesday by another co-sponsor of the bill, Rep. Mary Bentley.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Unmasked: When Identity Politics Turns Deadly, Paul Krugman, right, March 4, 2021. Will Republican politicians kill some Texans to own the libs? Texas and paul krugmanMississippi have just ended their statewide mask requirements.

So what’s motivating the rush to unmask? It’s not economics. The costs of mask-wearing are trivial. Furthermore, a resurgent pandemic would do more to damage growth and job creation, in Texas and elsewhere, than almost anything else I can think of.

Of course, we know what’s actually going on here: politics. Refusing to wear a mask has become a badge of political identity, a barefaced declaration that you reject liberal values like civic responsibility and belief in science.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Virus Updates: U.S. Vaccination Pace Increases to 2 Million Doses a Day, Staff Reports, March 4, 2021. The milestone was a sign of momentum in the nation’s covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2effort to vaccinate every willing adult, even as state and city governments face several challenges. More mass vaccination sites are opening up or increasing capacity, in part because of the new influx from Johnson & Johnson. Here’s the latest on Covid-19.

  • Texas and Mississippi’s steps to ease restrictions raised worries, and drew criticism from the president, that they were taken too soon, while Alabama extended its mask mandate.
  • Italy halted a vaccine export shipment from being flown to Australia. European regulators began a formal review of the Russian vaccine, Sputnik V.
  • A reporter and a photographer documented the inner workings of Continental Funeral Home in Los Angeles, and the heartache of funeral after funeral.
    Mothers Are Regaining Jobs While Shouldering Pandemic Burdens at Home
  • There are similarities between the recession’s effect on men and women’s employment, but also crucial differences.
  • India’s Covaxin vaccine, which is already in use, showed promise in interim clinical trial results.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: Major retailers keep mask mandates despite Texas’s move to lift restrictions, Erin Cunningham, Paulina Firozi and Hamza Shaban, March 4, 2021.

  • Questions arise in Florida over whether vaccine doses are being directed to wealthy political contributors
  • Global authorities have seized thousands of fake vaccine doses. Interpol warns that’s just the ‘tip of the iceberg.’
  • Most coronavirus deaths occurred in countries where majority of adults are overweight

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: March 4), with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):

World Cases: 115,912,685, Deaths: 2,574,051
U.S. Cases:     29,457,916, Deaths:   531,679

  • Washington Post, 54 million vaccinated: The number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, covering 44.4% of the prioritized population and 16.3 % of the total population. See about your state.

ny times logoNew York Times, Brazil’s Covid Crisis Is a Warning to the Whole World, Scientists Say, Manuela Andreoni, Ernesto Londoño and Letícia Casado, March 4, 2021 (print ed.). Communities could quickly lose ground as a more contagious variant spreads, and once again, leaders may be lifting restrictions too soon, experts say.

 

 More On U.S. Capitol Riot, Insurrection

 capitol noose shay horse nurphoto via getty

A crowd of Trump supporters surrounded a newly erected set of wooden gallows outside the Capitol Building on Jan. 6. "Hang Mike Pence!" members of the crowd shouted at times about the Republican Vice President who had announced that he could not comply with the president's call to block election certification that day. The wooden gallows was near the Capitol Reflecting Pool.

dana milbank Customwashington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Did the Pentagon wait for Trump’s approval before defending the Capitol? Dana Milbank, March 4, 2021 (print ed.). Three hours and 19 minutes.

That’s how long it took from the first, desperate pleas for help from the Capitol Police to the Trump Pentagon on Jan. 6 until the D.C. National Guard finally received permission to help put down the bloody insurrection.

During those 199 minutes, the mob sacked the Capitol. People died. Overwhelmed Capitol and D.C. police were beaten. Lawmakers’ lives were jeopardized. And violent extremists defiled the seat of government, temporarily halting the certification of Joe Biden’s victory.

“At 1:49 p.m., I received a frantic call from then-chief of United States Capitol Police, Steven Sund, where he informed me that the security perimeter of the United States Capitol had been breached by hostile rioters,” Maj. Gen. William J. Walker, commander of the D.C. Guard, testified Wednesday to a joint Senate committee investigating the attack on the Capitol. “Chief Sund, his voice cracking with emotion, indicated that there was a dire emergency at the Capitol, and he requested the immediate assistance of as many available national guardsmen that I could muster.”

Walker immediately alerted senior Army leadership — and then waited. And waited. Approval to mobilize the guard wouldn’t be received until 5:08 p.m.

Department of Defense SealAt best, this was a catastrophic failure of government. At worst, political appointees and Trump loyalists at the Defense Department deliberately prevented the National Guard from defending the Capitol against a seditious mob.

The man ultimately responsible for the delay, Christopher Miller, left, had been a White House aide before Donald Trump installed him as acting defense secretary in christopher miller official.jpgNovember, as the president began his attempt to overturn his election defeat. Miller did Trump’s political bidding at another point during his 10-week tenure, forcing the National Security Agency to install a Republican political operative as chief counsel.

Also involved in the Pentagon delay was Lt. Gen. Charles Flynn, brother of disgraced former Trump adviser Michael Flynn, convicted (and pardoned) for lying to the FBI. Michael Flynn had suggested Trump declare martial law, and he helped to rile Trump supporters in Washington the day before the Capitol attack. The Pentagon had falsely denied to Post journalists that Charles Flynn was involved in the pivotal call on Jan. 6.

Representing the Pentagon on Wednesday fell to Robert Salesses, who haplessly tried to explain the delay. An hour and six minutes of the holdup was because then-Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy “was asking a lot of questions” about the mission. Another piece of the delay: The 36 minutes between when the Pentagon claims Miller authorized the action and when the D.C. Guard was informed of the decision. “That’s an issue,” Salesses allowed.

Curiously, the Pentagon claims Miller’s authorization came at 4:32 — 15 minutes after Trump told his “very special” insurrectionists to “go home in peace.” Was Miller waiting for Trump’s blessing before defending the Capitol?

The Pentagon’s 199-minute delay looks worse in light of a Jan. 4 memo Miller issued saying that without his “personal authorization” the D.C. Guard couldn’t “be issued weapons, ammunition, bayonets, batons or ballistic protection equipment such as helmets and body armor.”

The Army secretary added more restrictions the next day, saying in a memo that he would “withhold authority” for the D.C. Guard to deploy a “quick reaction force” and that he would “require a concept of operation” before allowing a quick reaction force to react. McCarthy even blocked the D.C. Guard in advance from redeploying to the Capitol guardsmen assigned to help the D.C. police elsewhere in Washington.

Without such restrictions, Walker, the D.C. Guard commander, could have dispatched nearly 200 guardsmen soon after the Capitol Police mayday call. “That number could have made a difference,” Walker testified.

robert portmanSen. Rob Portman, left, an Ohio Republican, was incredulous. “There are three unarmed national guardsmen who are helping with traffic control … and they were not permitted to move a block away without getting permission from the secretary of the Army?”

“That’s correct,” Walker replied.

Miller “required the personal approval of the secretary of defense for the National Guard to be issued riot gear?” Portman asked.

“That’s correct,” Walker replied. “Normally for a safety and force-protection matter, a commander would be able to authorize his guardsmen to protect themselves.”

But this was not normal. The Pentagon claims the restrictions were in response to criticism of the heavy-handed deployment of the National Guard in Washington during racial justice protests last summer. Maybe so. But Walker testified that when the police chiefs “passionately pleaded” for the Guard’s help on Jan. 6, senior Army officials on the call said it wouldn’t be “a good optic.” They thought “it could incite the crowd” and advised against it.

During this moment of crisis — an attempted coup in the Capitol — the defense secretary and the Army secretary were “not available,” Walker testified.

The nation deserves to know why.

washington post logoWashington Post, At the Capitol, a March 4 threat from militant Trump supporters proves a mirage, Katie Mettler, Emily Davies and John Woodrow Cox, March 4, 2021. Trump’s most delusional supporters swore he would return to power today. That, of course, didn’t happen

National Guard members armed with M4 rifles braced for rebellion that never came. Razor wire lined miles of steel fencing that went unbreached. Trump remained in Florida, where it was 70 degrees and sunny.

Capitol Police say intelligence shows militia group may be plotting to breach the Capitol

The angst stemmed from another misguided belief within QAnon, the extremist ideology that claims Trump has been working in secret to overthrow a cabal of blood-drinking, Satan-worshipping Democratic pedophiles. After repeated unfulfilled prophecies, the group’s supporters declared in recent weeks that Trump would retake office on March 4, the country’s original Inauguration Day.

  • Washington Post, Retropolis: Why did QAnon zero in on March 4 for Trump’s comeback? March 4, 2021.

ethan nordean WSJ

washington post logoWashington Post, Judge releases Proud Boys leader after prosecutors withdraw several allegations, Spencer S. Hsu, March 4, 2021. The government has cast the Washington state Proud Boys leader as a key figure in the Jan. 6 breach.

A federal judge on Wednesday released a Washington state leader of the Proud Boys from jail pending trial, chiding prosecutors for withdrawing some of the more sensational allegations against him in the Jan. 6 breach of the Capitol.

Chief U.S. District Judge Beryl A. Howell of Washington upheld a lower court’s Feb. 8 release order for Ethan Nordean (shown above), 30, of Seattle. She found that although Nordean appeared to be a key leader in raising money, gear and assembling Proud Boys to Washington before leading them to breach police lines in a “1776”-style revolt against the presidential election results, the government had not supplied evidence to date that he directly ordered individuals to break into the Capitol.

Nordean “was a leader of a march to the Capitol. But once he got there it is not clear what leadership role this individual took at all for the people who went inside,” Howell said. “Evidence that he directed other defendants to break into or enter the Capitol is weak, to say the least.”

Nordean’s release marked a stumble for prosecutors, who have cast him as a key figure based on what Howell agreed were “ominous” communications before Jan. 6 that they said indicated he and other Proud Boys were planning “violent action” to overwhelm police and force entry to the Capitol. The judge’s decision sets back for now the government’s efforts to establish that there was a wider plot to that end.

Howell ruled after a hearing in which prosecutors said they stood by their claim that Nordean led Proud Boys members in a plan to break into the Capitol from as many different points as possible, but withdrew it from the detention argument because it was disputed.

  •  Washington Post, Opinion: Did the Pentagon wait for Trump’s approval before defending the Capitol? March 4, 2021.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Mike Pence’s remarkable op-ed highlights the GOP’s choice on voting rights — and where it will probably land, Aaron Blake, March 4, 2021 (print ed.). In an mike pence oop-ed for the Daily Signal, Pence details his opposition to a voting rights bill spearheaded by House Democrats. He begins, “After an election marked by significant voting irregularities and numerous instances of officials setting aside state election law, I share the concerns of millions of Americans about the integrity of the 2020 election.”

It’s a remarkable entry from Pence, given how disinformation about the election jeopardized his own safety. It’s also emblematic of the GOP’s pivot from Trump’s effort to question the election results, which divided the party in some high-profile ways, to a post-election effort to increase voting restrictions, which seems to be something that more of the Republicans can agree upon.

Palmer Report, Opinion: The big March 4th dud, Bill Palmer, right, March 4, 2021. It’s March 4th. Has Trump magically been installed as president, as his QAnon goons predicted? Have his goons bill palmertaken over the government? No, because they’re the kind of cowards who run and hide when faced with superior force, which is what they would have been facing today if they’d tried anything – just as nothing happened on Inauguration day, because the proper troops were in place. If proper troops had been in place, January 6th wouldn’t have happened either.

bill palmer report logo headerThe above is super easy to understand. Even the average kindergartner understands that it’s only worth trying to sneak into the toy box if the teacher isn’t looking. But that’s the easy part. The harder questions are precisely how to put superior forces in place, how long to leave them there, how to strike a balance between vigilance and freedom when it comes to having troops deployed in Washington DC, and so on.

But it’s more important than ever to keep in mind that these would-be insurrectionists aren’t evil geniuses. They don’t have a magic wand for doing whatever they want to us, whenever they want. They’re inept cowards who got lucky once due to inside help, and still managed to accomplish zero percent of their stated agenda on that day. We will not be held hostage by these bottom feeding idiots, their conspiracy theories, and their largely toothless threats.

Law&Crime, Defendant Flips Out in Federal Court, Says ‘It’s Not Fair’ He’s Been Locked Up ‘For a Whole Month’ After Putting His Feet on Desk in Pelosi’s Office, Aaron Keller, March 4, lawcrime logo2021. A defendant facing charges after allegedly carrying a stun gun while kicking his feet up on a desk in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office melted like a snowflake Thursday before a federal judge.

Richard “Bigo” Barnett, 60, of Gravette, Arkansas, a self-described “white nationalist” who posted on Facebook under the name “George Reincarnated Patton,” once said that he “[c]ame into this world kicking and screaming, covered in someone else’s blood” and was “not afraid to go out the same way.”

Barnett turned himself in to authorities after images of his activities spread widely both during and after the deadly riots.

Court documents say Barnett subsequently bragged about his exploits in Pelosi’s office.“I got blood on her office,” he is quoted as saying. “I put a quarter on her desk even though she ain’t fucking worth it. And I left her a note on her desk that says ‘Nancy, Bigo was here, you Bitch.'”

Barnett said he left the quarter after taking an envelope because he was not a thief. Such exploits should not, in his view, keep him behind bars pending trial. He belligerently said Thursday that “its not fair” that others were being released from custody on bail while he remains locked up.

He referred to the proceedings and the decision to keep him detained as “a bunch of crap.”

“Everyone else who did things much worse are already home,” he exclaimed.

The judge, not wanting to further listen to the outbursts, called a five-minute recess. When court resumed, Barnett’s attorneys said they were planning to file a new bond motion; the judge ended the hearing.

According the court docket, Judge Christopher R. Cooper set a new status conference the case for May 4th at 11:00 a.m. “The Court finds it in the interest of justice to toll the speedy trial clock from 3/4/2021 through 5/4/2021,” the docket continues. In other words, Barnett’s outburst, either directly or indirectly, resulted in his trial being pushed back two months — and he remain in custody, the docket says.

washington post logoWashington Post, House scraps plans for Thursday session after security officials warn of possible plot to breach Capitol, Jacqueline Alemany, March 4, 2021 (print ed.). Security detail for House impeachment managers extended through the week. The House scrapped plans for a Thursday session and moved up action on legislation to Wednesday night, when it will hold its last votes for the week. The Senate plans to be in session Thursday, with a handful of committees scheduled to meet.

The security detail assigned to the House’s Democratic impeachment managers has been extended through this week, according to two officials familiar with the assignments. The detail may last until next week, depending on the guidance from the sergeant-at-arms, said the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss security for lawmakers.

The extended protection comes as security officials warned of credible threats of violence circulated by right-wing extremists claiming that March 4 will be the “true Inauguration Day” for former president Donald Trump. Some congressional offices are asking staffers to stay home for the day after Capitol security officials warned of a possible plot by an unnamed militant group to breach the Capitol. Three offices have confirmed to The Washington Post that they will give staffers the option of working virtually or encourage them to work from home.

The Democratic managers argued the case against Trump last month on the impeachment charge of inciting an insurrection after a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, an assault that resulted in the death of a Capitol Police officer and four other people. The Senate acquitted Trump.

wayne madesen report logo

Wayne Madsen Report, Opinion: Destroying a subversive terrorist organization -- the RepubliQan Party, Wayne Madsen (left, commentator, author of 18 books and former Navy intelligence officer), March wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Small4, 2021. Today, the Congress [House] stands adjourned due to a far-right terrorist threat. The elected representatives of the American people are unable to act on important pandemic and voting rights measures due to a Qanon-inspired threat to repeat the actions of January 6.

Due to crackpot theories spread by Qanon and other far-right groups, March 4 has been declared the date on which Donald Trump will be inaugurated for a second presidential term.

republican elephant logoThere is only one way to halt the perpetuation of threats on Congress and federal and state government. For the first time since the end of World War II, the German government has declared its main opposition political party, the Alternative for Germany (AfD) under legal surveillance for the party's promotion of neo-Nazi causes. Donald Trump political adviser Steve Bannon has a close relationship with AfD leader Jörg Meuthen.

Based on the RepubliQan Party now being no different than Qanon, neo-Nazi groups, and the Ku Klux Klan, the Biden administration should follow the example of Germany and place the Republican Party, its elected members, and the party leadership, including the Trump family, under court-authorized surveillance and asset freezes for constituting major threats to the U.S. Constitution and national security.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Turns out the insurrectionist members of Congress may be seeing their worst fears come true after all, Bill Palmer, right, March 4, 2021. During congressional hearings bill palmerthis week, a couple of Republican Senators made a point of grilling FBI Director Chris Wray on what evidence had been collected of cellphone communications in relation to the January 6th Capitol attack. It couldn’t have been more obvious that they were fishing to see if the FBI had evidence linking them to the Capitol attackers.

bill palmer report logo headerNow it sounds like their worst fears may indeed be real. CNN is reporting that the Feds are investigating “communications between members of Congress and the pro-Trump mob that attacked the US Capitol,” in an attempt at determining whether members of Congress aided the attackers with the information they provided. No members of Congress have been specifically named, and we’ll have to let the investigation play out. But it sounds like some members of Congress really need to be worried right about now.

Interestingly, the overly defensive Senators who grilled Wray this week seem to have given away a key angle that they’ll use for mounting a political and criminal defense if they do end up getting charged: they’ll argue that the cellphone records were obtained illegally. In other words, they’ll try to blame their own domestic terrorism on the “deep state.”

 

U.S. Elections, Politics, Governance

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Biden Is the Anti-Trump, and It’s Working, Ezra Klein, right, March 4, 2021. If you can dial down the conflict, you can dial up the policy. American politics feels ezra klein twitterquieter with Joe Biden in the White House. The president’s Twitter feed hasn’t gone dark, but it’s gone dull. Biden doesn’t pick needless fights or insert himself into cultural conflicts. It’s easy to go days without hearing anything the president has said, unless you go looking.

But the relative quiet is deceptive: Policy is moving at a breakneck pace. The first weeks of the Biden administration were consumed by a flurry of far-reaching executive orders that reopened America to refugees, rejoined the Paris climate accords and killed the Keystone XL oil pipeline, to name just a few. Now the House has passed, and the Senate is considering, the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, a truly sweeping piece of legislation that includes more than a half-dozen policies — like a child tax credit expansion that could cut child poverty by 50 percent — that would be presidency-defining accomplishments on their own.

This is roughly the opposite of how Donald Trump approached his presidency. Trump combined an always-on, say-anything, fight-anyone communications strategy with a curious void of legislative ambition.

ny times logoNew York Times, Republicans Won Blue-Collar Votes. They’re Not Offering Much in Return, Trip Gabriel, March 4, 2021. Two major opportunities for party leaders to showcase their priorities have unfolded recently without a nod to working Americans. As the election returns rolled in showing President Donald J. Trump winning strong support from blue-collar voters in republican elephant logoNovember while suffering historic losses in suburbs across the country, Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri, a Republican, declared on Twitter: “We are a working class party now. That’s the future.”

And with further results revealing that Mr. Trump had carried 40 percent of union households and made unexpected inroads with Latinos, other Republican leaders, including Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, trumpeted a political realignment. Republicans, they said, were accelerating their transformation into the party of Sam’s Club rather than the country club.

But since then, Republicans have offered very little to advance the economic interests of blue-collar workers.

 washington post logoWashington Post, DeJoy’s latest USPS restructuring plan could increase bureaucracy and slow delivery, experts warn, Jacob Bogage, March 4, 2021 (print ed.). The Postal Service, under Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, below at left, will further divide the agency’s operations and offer early retirements to thousands of workers.

us mail logoThe U.S. Postal Service‘s controversial new restructuring plan includes a revamp of the way the agency functions both operationally and geographically — worrying some experts that the nation’s mail service could be split into bureaucratic silos and further slow mail delivery.

The Postal Service has three main operational units: retail and delivery, responsible for post offices and letter carrying; logistics, which transports mail across the louis dejoy Customcountry; and mail processing, which sorts the items. Those departments previously were more integrated, sharing reporting structures and strategies.

Under the new plan, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post, each of those categories will receive a redrawn map of the agency’s new 50 mailing districts, tracts of Zip codes for which local post offices are responsible. That’s down from 67 districts previously. But not all of the geographic divisions align among the new maps distributed to the operations departments, which has led to worries among postal experts and mailing industry officials of a new level of red tape.

washington post logoWashington Post, N.C. Republicans censured their senior senator for voting against Trump. But they are silent on Rep. Madison Cawthorn, March 4, 2021. The contrasting approach to Sen. Richard Burr and Cawthorn, a pro-Trump freshman, starkly illustrates the dichotomy within the Republican Party.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: N.Y. Gov. Cuomo seeks to buy time amid scandals, taking a lesson from Bill Clinton of ‘never quit,’ Dan Balz, March 4, 2021. From the top of the political world a year ago to besieged incumbent today, the New York governor’s descent has been humbling.

Quinnipiac Poll, Cuomo’s position post-scandal is not disastrous, Staff Report, March 4, 2021. New York voters say 55-40% that Cuomo should *not* resign. 59-36% say they would *not* like to see Andrew Cuomo run for reelection in 2022.-45-46% Cuomo job approval rating, with Democrats *approving* 65-27%
washington post logoWashington Post, Biden push for transgender rights unites the GOP, Matt Viser, Marianna Sotomayor and Samantha Schmidt, March 4, 2021 (print ed.). President Biden on his first day in office signed an executive order expanding protections for transgender students. On his sixth day, he repealed the ban on transgender members of the military. On his 16th day, he threatened sanctions against countries that suppress transgender rights.

And on his 37th day, his nominee for assistant secretary of health sat for a confirmation hearing to become the first openly transgender federal official confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

Biden is pursuing a little-noticed but sweeping effort to remake transgender rights in America, which in turn has sparked a conservative backlash and fed into Republicans’ efforts to portray Democrats as extreme on social issues. Among other arguments, conservatives are increasingly seizing on the much-disputed notion that embracing transgender rights threatens women’s sports.

New York Magazine, How Dems Can Turn Filibuster Reform Into the ‘Moderate’ Option, Eric Levitz, March 4, 2021. Barring a medical emergency or sudden outbreak of austerity fever, Joe Biden’s nearly $2 trillion COVID relief bill will be law by mid-March. After that, congressional Democrats plan to turn their attention to a climate-friendly infrastructure package. Like the president’s “relief” bill, this “recovery” program will consist primarily of spending measures, and almost certainly be passed via a budget-reconciliation bill — a special category of legislation that can pass the Senate on a party-line vote, so long as all its provisions primarily impact the federal budget.

But once reconciliation is done, acrimony may follow.

Through the opening weeks of the Biden presidency, Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema have held the line against altering the legislative filibuster. To progressives’ dismay, these Democratic senators have forced their party to advance relief through a byzantine process that has delayed the bill’s passage and narrowed its scope. Nevertheless, since the bulk of Biden’s first big bill was reconciliation eligible, the moderates’ fetishization of the filibuster has condemned their party to headaches — but not yet to paralysis. Soon, that will change.

On Wednesday, House Democrats passed the “For the People Act,” the package of anti-corruption and voting-rights reforms that Nancy Pelosi’s caucus has treated as its top priority since taking control of the House in 2019. Among the 800-page bill’s myriad provisions are a national system for automatic voter registration, a ban on partisan redistricting, and the establishment of public financing for federal campaigns. Congressional Democrats are nearly unanimous in their support for the legislation, and a supermajority of the U.S. public has endorsed its core provisions in opinion polls. More critically, since the House map already has a roughly three-point bias toward Republicans — and since the GOP controls 30 state legislatures to the Democrats 18, and will therefore dominate the redistricting process after the 2020 census — if Democrats don’t ban partisan redistricting in the next few months, their odds of retaining the House in 2020 will fall swiftly toward zero.

Meanwhile, in states across the country, Republicans are doing their darndest to lend further urgency to the cause of federal voting reform. At least 33 states have introduced, prefiled, or extended bills to make voting harder since the start of this year. In Georgia — ground zero for Donald Trump’s “stop the steal” campaign — Republicans have taken direct aim at the Black electorate by proposing a law against early voting on Sundays, when African-American churches have historically led their congregations to the ballot box, in a tradition known as “souls to the polls.”

None of this is lost on the Democratic leadership.

One way to restore the filibuster’s original intent would be requiring at least two-fifths of the full Senate, or 40 senators, to keep debating instead requiring 60 to end debate. The burden would fall to the minority, who’d have to be prepared for several votes, potentially over several days and nights, including weekends and all-night sessions, and if only once they couldn’t muster 40 — the equivalent of cloture — debate would end, making way for a vote on final passage of the bill in question.

Alternatively, Democrats could bring back the “present and voting” standard, which would similarly require the minority party to maintain constant vigilance in order to obstruct pending legislation. Under such a standard, three-fifths of the senators present in the chamber at any given time can vote to end debate and proceed to a vote on a given bill (once debate is ended, only a majority is required to pass a bill). In concrete terms, this means that if Democrats keep their caucus united and in the building, if Republicans ever let 17 of their members go home at the same time, then Chuck Schumer’s caucus would suddenly comprise a three-fifths majority and be able to end debate.

Georgia senator Raphael Warnock has floated a less elaborate path forward: If the Senate has a special filibuster exemption for budgetary bills, why shouldn’t it also have one for democracy reforms?
Protecting the rights of the Senate minority might be a worthy aim, but surely, protecting the voting rights of America’s racial minorities is even worthier. Could Joe Manchin really deny that allowing a group of lawmakers who represent a small (overwhelmingly white) minority of U.S. voters to fortify their own party’s overrepresentation, by safeguarding its power to gerrymander the House and suppress the vote, is a greater affront to our republic’s highest ideals than ending a tradition that was born this century?

Maybe. But even if so, a basic fact remains: Within the next few months, prioritizing the filibuster over the Democratic agenda is going to become a lot more uncomfortable for Manchin and Sinema than it is today. It is one thing to defend the filibuster when doing so makes your party’s current legislative priority more arduous to pass; it’s another when doing so makes that priority impossible to advance. Notably, voting-rights and democracy-reform bills aren’t the only forthcoming legislative fights that could test the moderates’ resolve.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: How the Trump scam could deliver another big GOP victory, Greg Sargent, right, March 4, 2021. The Trump scam is alive and well in the GOP. And it’s perfectly greg sargentplausible that it might keep on delivering for Republicans — perhaps spectacularly so.

All signs are that Democrats are close to passing a massive $1.9 trillion rescue package. Despite last-minute haggling, we’ll soon likely see large stimulus checks for republican elephant logomost Americans, extended unemployment insurance and big public expenditures to smooth the reopening of schools and speed vaccination distribution, which is already outpacing expectations.

All signs also are that just about every single Republican in Congress — if not every single one of them — will oppose the whole thing.

In a sense, this opposition represents a repurposing of former president Donald Trump’s playbook — the Trump scam. Even as they’re opposing President Biden’s rescue package — offering little economic assistance to working Americans at a time of crisis, just as Trump failed to do — Republicans are increasingly casting the GOP as the working-class party, in Trump’s empty image.

How the scam might work

First, as the Times piece notes, the GOP base might not actually punish Republican lawmakers for voting against the rescue package, because Republican voters will benefit from it anyway.

ny times logoNew York Times, Inspector General’s Report Cites Elaine Chao for Misuse of Office, Eric Lipton and Michael Forsythe, March 4, 2021 (print ed.). The Justice Department declined to investigate her promotion of her family’s business while she was the Trump administration’s transportation chief.

transportation dept logoThe Transportation Department’s inspector general asked the Justice Department in December to consider a criminal investigation into what it said was Elaine Chao’s misuse of her office as transportation secretary in the Trump administration to help promote her family’s shipping business, which is run by her sister and has extensive business ties with China.

In a report made public on Wednesday, the inspector general said the Justice Department’s criminal and public integrity divisions both declined to take up the matter in the closing weeks of the Trump administration, even after the inspector general found repeated examples of Ms. Chao using her staff and her office to help benefit her family and their business operations and revealed that staff members at the agency had raised ethics concerns.

“A formal investigation into potential misuses of position was warranted,” Mitch Behm, the department’s deputy inspector general, said on Tuesday in a letter to House lawmakers, accompanying a 44-page report detailing the investigation and the findings of wrongdoing.

elaine chao headshotMs. Chao, right, the wife of Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, announced her resignation on Jan. 7, the day after the Capitol riot. At the time of her departure, an aide to Ms. Chao said her resignation was unrelated to the forthcoming release of the investigation.

The investigation of Ms. Chao came after a 2019 report in The New York Times that detailed Ms. Chao’s interactions with her family while serving as transportation secretary, including a trip she had planned to take to China in 2017 with her father and sister. The inspector general’s report confirmed that planning for the trip, which was canceled, raised ethics concerns among other government officials.

The inspector general’s investigation detailed a series of instances where Ms. Chao directed her staff to spend federal government time and resources to help with matters related to the shipbuilding company and her father.

The Chao family company, Foremost Group, was responsible as of 2019 for a large portion of orders at one of China’s biggest state-funded shipyards, and has secured long-term charters with a Chinese state-owned steel maker, The Times reported. Foremost’s ships carry bulk cargo such as iron ore and coal, focusing on shipping those commodities to China.

ronny jackson resized civilian palmer

ny times logoNew York Times, Rep. Ronny Jackson harassed staff and recklessly drank while serving as White House physician, a watchdog found, Catie Edmondson, March 4, 2021 (print ed.). Ronny Jackson, the White House doctor who rhapsodized about Donald J. Trump’s “incredible genes” and went on to win a Texas congressional seat with Mr. Trump’s help, cursed and belittled his subordinates, drank and took sleeping pills on the job, and sexually harassed a woman, according to a detailed report released Wednesday by the Pentagon’s inspector general.

Dr. Jackson, above, a rear admiral in the Navy when he served as White House physician, became infamous for his rosy assessment of Mr. Trump’s “excellent health” in early 2018, when he said that had the commander in chief, 71 at the time, simply adhered to a better diet over the previous two decades, he could have lived to be 200.

His effusive praise of Mr. Trump helped win him a nomination to become the secretary of veterans affairs. But Mr. Trump abandoned the nomination several weeks later after numerous news accounts reported that Dr. Jackson was a bully to his staff, kept sloppy medical records, drank too much, and loosely dispensed strong drugs on Air Force One and in the White House to curry favor with top officials.

With the endorsement of Mr. Trump, who tweeted that “Ronny is strong on Crime and Borders, GREAT for our Military and Vets,” Dr. Jackson went on to win a Republican primary in Texas and was elected to Congress in 2020.

On Wednesday, Dr. Jackson vehemently disputed the findings of the report. In a statement released by his congressional office, he accused the Pentagon’s investigators, who are nonpartisan, of seeking to punish him for his support of Mr. Trump.

Roll Call, Young may serve as acting budget director, White House says, Jennifer Shutt, March 4, 2021. Top House Democrats have endorsed Young to lead the White House budget office.
Shalanda Young will serve as the acting director of the Office of Management and Budget if Congress confirms her as deputy director, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday.

Psaki stopped short of saying that President Joe Biden would nominate Young for the top budget director role. That post opened up on Tuesday when Neera Tanden withdrew her nomination amid mounting opposition from moderate Democrats and nearly all Senate Republicans.

The Biden administration is “certainly hopeful Congress will move forward” soon to approve Young for deputy director, Psaki said. “Then she would be in a place to be the acting head, while we go through the process of nominating a replacement for Neera."

[Neera Tanden out, ending lengthy stalemate over divisive OMB nominee]

Young, who began working for the House Appropriations Committee in 2007 before being promoted to staff director in 2017, has won strong bipartisan backing since her nomination was made.

That support has only grown in the last 48 hours, as top House Democrats endorsed Young to lead the White House budget office. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn, House Appropriations Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro, the Congressional Black Caucus and the New Democrat Coalition all threw their considerable influence behind Young.

 

U.S. Law, Crime, Regulation

cy vance resized djt

washington post logoWashington Post, In Trump probe, Manhattan district attorney puts pressure on longtime chief financial officer, David A. Fahrenthold, Jonathan O'Connell, Shayna Jacobs and Tom Hamburger, March 4, 2021. The Manhattan district attorney is delving deeply into the personal and financial affairs of the chief financial officer for former president Donald Trump’s company, probing the extent of Allen Weisselberg’s loyalty to Trump and scrutinizing a Trump-owned apartment once occupied by Weisselberg’s son, according to people familiar with the investigation.

This questioning is now led by a former mob prosecutor, and one person familiar with the investigation said it is aimed at “flipping” Weisselberg — attempting to turn one of Trump’s longest-serving and most important aides into a witness against him.

Cyrus R. Vance Jr. (D) (shown above at right), Manhattan’s top prosecutor, has not formally accused anyone of wrongdoing, including Trump, Weisselberg or the latter’s family. But the focus on Weisselberg underscores the depth and ambition of Vance’s inquiry, a criminal investigation broader than any Trump’s company is known to have faced before.

Vance’s focus on Weisselberg has included questions related to two of his adult children, a tactic that could be an effort to increase pressure on the elder Weisselberg. One of Weisselberg’s sons also works for the Trump Organization, where he manages the company’s Central Park ice rinks. Another Weisselberg son works for a company that has extended loans to the Trump Organization.

Future of Freedom Foundation, Kennedy’s Policy Toward Third World Nations, Jacob G. Hornberger, right, March 4, 2021. Last night, we had the first presentation in jacob hornberger newour online conference “The National Security State and the Kennedy Assassination.” Our first speaker was James DiEugenio, below at left, who has been the leading figure in the JFK assassination research community highlighting how President Kennedy’s policy toward independence movements in Third World countries was contrary to the policy held by the U.S. national-security establishment, namely the Pentagon and the CIA.

After World War II, the federal government was converted from a limited-government republic to a national-security state. This was when the U.S. government, specifically the CIA, acquired the powers of assassination and regime change.

The justification for this monumental change in America’s governmental structure, which was accomplished without a constitutional amendment, was a supposed grave threat to the United States from a supposed international communist conspiracy to take over the world that was supposedly based in Moscow, Russia.

Americans barely had time to celebrate their victory in World War II when they began to be told that they were now facing an even more dangerous enemy than Nazi Germany. That enemy was the Soviet Union (i.e., Russia), which, ironically, had been America’s partner and ally in World War II.

Public officials, from the president down to the local public school teacher, inculcated Americans with a deep fear of communism and communists. Everyone was told that the communists were coming to get us. And supposedly the Reds were everywhere. The State Department. Congress. The army. Hollywood. The public schools. Some people even claimed that President Eisenhower was a communist agent. And by 1959, they were only 90 miles away from American shores, in Cuba.

jim dieugenio PhotoIt is impossible to overstate the deep fear of communism and communists that was inculcated into the American people. This is why so few people objected when U.S. officials intervened in Korea’s and Vietnam’s civil wars. The notion was that if we don’t stop the Reds there, it won’t be long before they are on American shores.

As Jim (shown at left) pointed out in his talk last night, in the late 1950s and early 1960s, there were independence movements in Third World nations that were trying to cast off the shackles of colonial rule by such imperialist powers as Great Britain, France, and Belgium. Colonial rule, more often than not, had turned out to be brutal for the people living in those nations. They had had enough and were now agitating and fighting for independence.

Taking the position that these independence movements were communist-inspired, the Pentagon and the CIA sided with the colonial powers. Pentagon and CIA officials supported their efforts to brutally put down these revolts to ensure that these Third World nations remained as part of the “free world.”

While he was a U.S. Senator and before he was running for president, Kennedy took an opposite position. He came out publicly in favor of these independent movements, arguing that the United States should be siding with the rebels rather than with the imperial powers.

As Jim related in his talk, knowing that Kennedy sympathized with Congo leader Patrice Lumumba and his independence movement, the CIA decided to act fast, before Kennedy could interfere with its plans to rid the world of Lumumba through assassination. The CIA succeeded in its goal. Lumumba, who was an innocent man, was assassinated just a few days before Kennedy assumed the presidency. The CIA then waited three weeks to inform Kennedy that Lumumba was dead. As Jim pointed out, Kennedy’s anguish upon learning of Lumumba’s death through a telephone call was captured by a photographer. You can see Kennedy’s reaction to Lumumba’s death here.

Thus, in the eyes of the national-security establishment, which had already been opposing the supposed international communist threat for some 20 years, Kennedy was beginning his presidency in a very auspicious way, given his support for what the Pentagon and the CIA were certain was a grave threat to U.S. national security. As we will see as their conference proceeds, things would only go from bad to worse as Kennedy term in office proceeded.

Over the years, people have sometimes asked me what the relevance is of the JFK assassination given the long passage of time since it occurred. The relevance is this: It’s a straight line from that assassination to what we are living under today — a system of state-sponsored assassinations, including against American citizens, anti-democratic coups, installation of dictatorial regimes, alliances with dictatorial regimes, support of dictatorial regimes, wars of aggression, perpetual wars, the war on terrorism (and Muslims and communists), fear of Russia, fear of China, denial of due process, torture, indefinite detention, prosecution of people who reveal the dark-side secrets of the deep state, and much more. Understanding the who and the why of the Kennedy assassination enables one to gain a deeper understanding of the way of life we live under today — and what we need to do to extricate ourselves and our nation from this deadly, destructive, and immoral morass.

The Q&A after Jim’s talk was lively. We started the evening at 7 p.m. Eastern Time. When we finally wrapped up, it was 9:30 pm. And there were still lots of questions from the audience pending.

We recorded the talk and it will be on our website shortly. If you missed it, I recommend watching it before the next talk by Mike Swanson about the origins of the war state and the Vietnam War. Mike’s talk will be Wednesday, March 10. at 7 pm Eastern. Register at our conference website. Registration is free.

washington post logoWashington Post, A precious metal that costs 15 times more than gold is driving a surge in thefts of catalytic converters, Lesley Wroughton and Max Bearak, March 4, 2021 (print ed.). A troy ounce of rhodium now costs more than a brand new Toyota Prius.

washington post logoWashington Post, At Golf Channel, women say, sexism fuels a ‘boys club’ culture, Ben Strauss, March 4, 2021. Harassing emails. Demeaning comments. A struggle to climb the corporate ladder. In interviews with The Post, 17 former and two current employees of Golf Channel describe sexism and misogyny they endured at the network.

Washington Post, An officer took a 14-year-old girl to get a rape kit. Then, he groomed her and raped her, lawsuit says, Andrea Salcedo, March 4, 2021. New Orleanwashington post logos police officer Rodney Vicknair was in the emergency room last May with a 14-year-old girl he had driven in for a rape kit exam when he began showing her pictures on his cellphone. The images of a teenage girl in bikinis and lingerie, Vicknair allegedly said, were his daughter’s modeling pictures.

That’s how Vicknair first started grooming the girl for months of inappropriate calls, texts and meetings that eventually led to him sexually assaulting and raping her, the girl’s family alleges in a lawsuit.

Vicknair was arrested in September and charged with sexual battery, indecent behavior with a juvenile and malfeasance in office over his conduct with the girl, and swiftly fired from the police department. Now, her family is alleging the department didn’t do enough to stop Vicknair, who had a history of complaints for predatory behavior toward women.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Boy Scouts Will Sell Nearly 60 Norman Rockwell Works to Pay Sex-Abuse Claims, Neil Vigdor, March 4, 2021 (print ed.). The Boy Scouts of America, which is facing more than 82,000 sex-abuse claims, said in a court filing that it would establish a settlement fund of at least $300 million.

The association between the Boy Scouts of America and Norman Rockwell spanned more than six decades, yielding dozens of commissioned coming-of-age portraits that evoke virtue, bravery and Americana.

But now faced with tens of thousands of sex-abuse claims, the debt-saddled organization is poised to do the unthinkable: Sell its collection of Rockwell’s art.

boy scouts logo customIn a reorganization plan filed in federal bankruptcy court in Delaware this week, the Boy Scouts listed nearly 60 pieces of art by Rockwell whose sale would help raise money for a settlement fund of at least $300 million for sexual abuse victims.

The names of the paintings include “The Right Way,” “On My Honor” and “I Will Do My Best.” The years that they were completed range from 1916 to a lithograph in 1976, two years before Rockwell’s death in 1978.

Last February, the organization, facing an avalanche of sex-abuse claims that now exceeds 82,000 cases, filed for bankruptcy protection.

It was not immediately clear whether the collection had been appraised and for how much. The 379-page court filing on Monday did not include values for each piece of artwork, and the Boy Scouts did not elaborate on how much the organization would seek for the collection.

Many of the paintings are oil on canvas and were commissioned over the decades by the Boy Scouts, which first hired Rockwell to illustrate “The Boy Scout’s Hike Book” in 1912. He soon became art editor of Boys’ Life, as the organization’s monthly magazine was called at the time.

Law&Crime, Justices Gorsuch and Breyer Just Took Turns Accusing Each Other of Judicial Activism in Immigration Decision, Elura Nanos, The Supreme Court handed down a 5-3 decision lawcrime logoThursday in Pereida v. Barr, a case addressing a legal issue that occurs at the messy intersection of federal immigration law and state criminal law. SCOTUS ruled against Clemente Pereida, who entered the United States without authorization 25 years ago.

Pereida is a father of three children (including one U.S. citizen and one DACA-recipient). The U.S. government wishes to deport Pereida, and has obtained an official removal order to do so. Under Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), Pereida is entitled to request that an immigration judge consider the hardship that his deportation would have on his child, who is a U.S. citizen. Judges have some discretionary power to halt removals, and Pereida seeks to make his case.

The INA, however, does not allow all subjects of removal orders to present hardship claims; to be eligible, the person must prove that they have not been convicted of any “crime involving moral turpitude.” The problem arises for Pereida and others similarly-situated: how do we know when someone has been convicted of a “crime involving moral turpitude” if their criminal records don’t specify the exact statutory basis for their conviction?

Pereida’s story is not particularly unique. He was allegedly caught attempting to use a fake Social Security card when applying for a job in Nebraska. He was prosecuted and convicted for attempting a misdemeanor called “criminal impersonation,” paid a $100 fine, and served no jail time. Problematically, though, the Nebraska statute involved actually covers four separate crimes (also including identity theft and carrying on a business or occupation without a license). The criminal records say nothing about which of the four offenses Pereida was convicted of attempting. Because some of the included crimes do involve deceit (and therefore, “moral turpitude) and others do not, it’s impossible to tell whether Pereida has satisfied the rule required to plead his removal hardship.

Pereida argues that the ambiguity means that he’s still eligible to plead his hardship. The Supreme Court, however, disagreed. The crux of the SCOTUS decision was that it is Pereida’s burden to prove he is qualified to raise a hardship argument, and any difficulties doing so are his problem.

Law&Crime, Breaking Away from Norms and Traditions, Justice Breyer Does Not ‘Respectfully’ Dissent Against Justice Barrett’s First Majority Opinion, Colin Kalmbacher, March 4, 2021. The lawcrime logoU.S. Supreme Court on Thursday ruled in favor of government secrecy by stopping an environmental nonprofit group from obtaining internal documents prepared by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The case was the first heard by nascent Justice Amy Coney Barrett, right, and is also, coincidentally, her first majority opinion.

amy coney barrett headshot notre dame photoThe ultimate decision in the long-running case, which began as an anti-transparency effort under the Barack Obama administration, is also notable for two separate reasons that have to do with Supreme Court norms and traditions—or, rather, a divergence from them.

First, the opinion was not unanimous. Traditionally, a new justice authors their first majority opinion with the full backing from the court. Thursday’s 7-2 decision in favor of the government upends that unspoken agreement—perhaps auguring tense relations ahead.

Second, the dissent by Justice Stephen Breyer (which was joined by Justice Sonia Sotomayor), foregoes the staid closing salutation of “I respectfully dissent” in favor of the terse “I dissent,” which is decidedly a sign that the disagreement here is exceptionally sharp.

Stylized as U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service v. Sierra Club, the case concerns whether internal decision-making documents termed “draft opinions” by the EPA are or are not part of a formal process under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). If they are formal processes, then they must be made available to the public under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). If they are not part of a formal process, then it’s a matter of agency discretion as to whether or not such drafts can ever be accessed by the public.

The Obama administration—and then the Donald Trump administration—claimed that the documents were not formal processes because those opinions, the government claimed, were ultimately shelved. The Sierra Club and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) argued the opposite. They claimed the documents were simply labeled drafts in order to keep them secret and noted that the documents were forwarded to multiple staff, separate agencies and that various real world actions were taken based on the analysis contained therein. The high court ruled in favor of the government.

The facts of the case concern rules governing the regulation of cooling water intake structures that are harmful to endangered marine animals. The Sierra Club sought information on the process leading up to the creation of the rule in question but was denied access by Obama’s EPA. The activists sued and won in both district and appellate court but the conservative majority—with a not atypical assist from Justice Elena Kagan—overturned those decisions.

 

Biden Transition

washington post logoWashington Post and Partnership for Public Service, Biden Political Appointee Tracker, Harry Stevens and Madison Walls, March 4, 2021. Joe Biden has picked 58 nominees to fill key roles in his administration so far. We are tracking 791 government positions among about 1,250 that require Senate confirmation. 484 positions have no nominee yet. Additionally, we have identified 249 appointees so far who are serving in termed positions or who were held over from previous administrations.

Presidents are required to fill roughly 4,000 politically appointed positions in the executive branch and independent agencies, including more than 1,250 that require Senate confirmation. The Washington Post and the Partnership for Public Service are tracking nominees, including Cabinet secretaries, chief financial officers, general counsels, ambassadors and other critical leadership positions.

President Biden’s government transition, beset by delays stemming from the late flip of Senate control to Democrats, has lagged in comparison with his predecessors’ transitions.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Chart: Who Joe Biden is picking to fill his White House and Cabinet, Staff reports, Feb. 15, 2020. One of President-elect Joe Biden’s very first tasks will be filling the top positions in his White House and Cabinet. In contrast to President Trump’s notably White and male Cabinet, Biden has joe biden kamala harris campaign shotpromised to be “a president for all Americans” and build a Cabinet that reflects its diversity.

In making his selections Biden is looking to appease factions of the Democratic Party from moderates to progressives and longtime allies to newer faces. Cabinet positions — with the exception of the vice president and White House chief of staff — will also require approval from a Republican Senate, unless Democrats can win two Senate race runoffs in early January.

Once confirmed, they will be instrumental in carrying out his goals and setting the tenor his presidency. We’re tracking the people who Biden has already named and the top contenders for unfilled roles.

White House, Biden-Harris Cabinet, The Cabinet’s role is to advise the President on any subject he or she may require relating to the duties of each member’s joe biden orespective office. President Joe Biden’s Cabinet includes Vice President Kamala Harris and the heads of the 15 executive departments — the Secretaries of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, Treasury, and Veterans Affairs, and the Attorney General.

Additionally, the Cabinet includes the White House Chief of Staff, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, the Director of National Intelligence, and the US Trade Representative, as well as the heads of the Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Management and Budget, Council of Economic Advisers, Office of Science and Technology Policy, and Small Business Administration.

 

U.S. Foreign Policy

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Secretly Limits Counterterrorism Drone Strikes Away From War Zones, Charlie Savage and Eric Schmitt, March 4, 2021 (print ed.). Requiring higher-level approval is a stopgap measure as officials review whether to tighten Trump-era targeting rules and civilian safeguards.

The Biden administration has quietly imposed temporary limits on counterterrorism drone strikes and commando raids outside conventional battlefield zones like Afghanistan and Syria, and it has begun a broad review of whether to tighten Trump-era rules for such operations, according to officials.

The military and the C.I.A. must now obtain White House permission to attack terrorism suspects in poorly governed places where there are scant American ground troops, like Somalia and Yemen. Under the Trump administration, they had been allowed to decide for themselves whether circumstances on the ground met certain conditions and an attack was justified.

Officials characterized the tighter controls as a stopgap while the Biden administration reviewed how targeting worked — both on paper and in practice — under former President Donald J. Trump and developed its own policy and procedures for counterterrorism kill-or-capture operations outside war zones, including how to minimize the risk of civilian casualties.

The Biden administration did not announce the new limits. But the national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, issued the order on Jan. 20, the day of President Biden’s inauguration, said the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

 

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, U.N. Says 38 Killed in Myanmar in ‘Bloodiest Day’ Since Coup Began, Rick Gladstone, March 4, 2021 (print ed.). As the military’s crackdown grows more deadly, the U.N.’s special representative for the country said the junta had rejected her requests to visit.

myanmar flagAt least 38 people were killed in Myanmar on Wednesday, the biggest one-day toll in a worsening repression of anti-coup protests, the United Nations special representative for the country said.

The representative, Christine Schraner Burgener, reported the deaths as news emerged that the junta’s own choice for U.N. envoy had abruptly resigned.

Wednesday’s developments came as the United States, which is president of the United Nations Security Council for March, scheduled a meeting on Friday to deal with the crisis in Myanmar, diplomats said.

Myanmar has been thrown into turmoil since a military junta seized control on Feb. 1 and arrested the civilian leaders whose party, the National League for Democracy, had won an overwhelming victory in national elections. Security forces have used increasingly brutal means to crush the anti-coup protests.

washington post logoWashington Post, After marathon bail hearings, Hong Kong pro-democracy activists find themselves back in detention, Shibani Mahtani and Theodora Yu, March 4, 2021. A judge granted bail to 15 of the 47 opposition leaders arrested under the national security law, but an immediate appeal sent the whole group back to detention.

washington post logoUnited Kingdom flagWashington Post, Meghan accuses royal family of ‘perpetuating falsehoods’ against her and Prince Harry, Karla Adam and William Booth, March 4, 2021. Palace to investigate accusations that Meghan bullied her staff.

A short video clip of Meghan making the comments to Oprah Winfrey was released early Thursday morning ahead of the airing of their interview.

 

Historical Transitions

ap logoAssociated Press, Widow of Dallas officer slain by Lee Harvey Oswald dies, Jamie Stengle, March 4, 2021. Marie Tippit, the widow of the Dallas police officer killed by Lee Harvey jd tippit 1952Oswald about 45 minutes after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, has died. She was 92. (Justice Integrity Project Editor's Note: Major disputes exist about whether Oswald in fact killed the police officer J.D. Tippit, shown at right, as the Associated Press and most other news organizations report in this story and elsewhere.)

Tippit died Tuesday at a hospital in the East Texas city of Sulphur Springs after being diagnosed with pneumonia following a positive test for COVID-19, said her son, Curtis Tippit, 62. He said his mother also suffered from congestive heart failure.

Stephen Fagin, curator of the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, which tells the story of Kennedy’s assassination in downtown Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963, said Tippit was “one of our last direct links to the personal pain and tragedy of the assassination.”

“She was this quiet reminder that the assassination, the pain of that memory, can still be felt right up to the present day,” Fagin said.

David Talbot Show, Commentary: Woodward & Bernstein and the Myth of the Media Heroes, David Talbot, March 4, 2021. We like to think that the crusaders of the free press will always save us from the dragons that try to kill democracy. This was the Watergate myth that inspired so many students in my generation to become journalists.

We tried our best (some of us) but as I near 70, American democracy seems more in peril than ever. Mark Dowie, whom I had the pleasure of working with as a fellow Mother Jones editor in the 1980s, is one of the few to make my best modern muckrakers list. Mark broke stories about the exploding Ford Pinto, the dangerous contraceptive devices foisted on women and many other big exposes about corporate malice. He has now authored a provocative history of investigative journalism titled When Truth Mattered, and I’m publishing an excerpt from the forthcoming book below.

In it, Mark examines the hollowness of the persistent Watergate myth. Even though they helped inspire me to become a journalist, I came to dismiss Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein as captives of the Beltway culture — more adept at catching leaks from aggrieved government officials than exposing the true mechanisms of power in America. Read Mark Dowie’s viewpoint here:

There is no better place to start the rebirth of investigative reporting than with Watergate, regarded variously as “the most significant work of political reporting in history” .... “the standard for modern investigative journalism”... “the single most spectacular act of serious journalism of the 20th century” .... "maybe the single greatest reporting effort of all time” .... “a milestone” ... “a triumph.” But because there is so much detailed media history about Watergate, it can also be a case study used to examine the true impact and consequence of a single investigative effort.

The convenient and oft repeated trope on the Watergate investigation is that two investigative reporters, with the support of a brilliant editor and a courageous publisher, changed the course of American history by ending the political career of Richard Nixon.

In his book, Watergate in American Memory, Columbia University Professor of Journalism Michael Schudson describes "a mythology of the press in Watergate [that] developed into a significant national myth, a story that independently carries on a memory of Watergate even as details about what Nixon did or did not do fade away. At its broadest, the myth of journalism in Watergate asserts that two young Washington Post reporters At its broadest, the myth of journalism in Watergate asserts that two young Washington Post reporters brought down the president of the United States. This is the myth of David and Goliath, of powerless individuals overturning an institution of overwhelming might. It is high noon in Washington, with two white-hatted young reporters at one end of the street and the black-hatted president at the other, protected by his minions. And the good guys win. The press, truth its only weapon, saves the day.”

Historian Stanley Kutler, author of The Wars of Watergate agrees. There is mythology at work here. “As more documentary materials are released," he writes, "the media's role in uncovering Watergate diminishes in scope and importance. Television and newspapers publicized the story and, perhaps, even encouraged more diligent investigation. But it is clear that as Watergate unfolded from 1972 to 1974, media revelations of crimes and political misdeeds repeated what was already known to properly constituted investigative authorities. In short, carefully timed leaks, not media investigations, provided the first news of Watergate.” It was more like what Columbia University Professor Shiela Coronel calls “leak journalism” than traditional investigative reporting.

"At best," according to investigative historian and Harvard political science professor Edward Jay Epstein, "Woodward and Bernstein, only leaked elements of the prosecutor's case to the public" — details that would have surfaced in a day or two. “Re-leaked” might be a better word. It was the FBI, Epstein argues, “not reporters, that linked the burglars to the White House and traced their money to the Nixon campaign. Reporters covering the case for every paper that covered Watergate systematically ignored or minimized the work of law enforcement officials to focus on those parts of the story that were leaked to them," Epstein charged.

Watergate prosecutor Seymour Glanzer seems to agree with that assessment. ”Woodward and Bernstein followed in our wake,” he says.”The idea that they were this great investigative team was a bunch of baloney."

That didn’t stop Simon and Schuster from sexing up the second draft of All The President’s Men, Woodward and Bernstein’s personal account of their investigation, to make the authors more heroic, their plot more David-and-Goliath, and give a nickname to “Deep Throat” that never existed before. Nor did it stop Warner Brothers from hyping their the movie of the same name, or casting two of the hottest, handsomest men in Hollywood, as "the story of the two young reporters who cracked the Watergate conspiracy...[and] solved the greatest detective story in American history. At times, it looked as if it might cost them their jobs, their reputations, perhaps even their lives.” The myth lived on.

Bob Woodward’s opinion on the matter is modest and should really close the case. “To say that the press brought down Nixon, that's horseshit," he says. "The press always plays a role, whether by being passive or by being aggressive, but it's a mistake to overemphasize the role of media in any outcome.” Carl Bernstein concurs, acknowledging that the "role of Bob and myself has been mythologized .... In great events people look for villains and heroes.” Both authors and their various hagiographers are aware, of course, that Richard Nixon was re-elected in 1974, by a landslide, after the story broke, and was forced out of office, not by their expose, but by congressional investigations that followed it by a year or more.

But heroes Woodward and Bernstein will remain for generations. Despite the debate over the true role their work played in the outcome, it was their prodding of politicians and federal agents that kept the government’s investigation alive, and that is what lead to the ultimate demise of Richard Nixon, a man who died with very good reasons to despise the media, whatever its true role in his demise.

"Who cares if journalism in Watergate was generally lazy?” asks Michael Schudson, “or if Judge Sirica or some FBI agents were as vital to Nixon's undoing as were Woodward and Bernstein? It does not matter, because the Watergate media myth is sustaining. It survives to a large extent impervious to critique. It offers journalism a charter, an inspiration, a reason for being large enough to justify the constitutional protections that journalism enjoys ... not to tell us who we are but what we may have been once, what we might again become, what we would be like ‘if.’"

Northwestern journalism professor Jon Marshall contends that “the full extent of the White House’s criminal conspiracy probably never would have been exposed without the Post’s efforts” and the patient persistence of Woodward and Bernstein, who continued chasing Watergate in spite of skepticism elsewhere in the press, including some within their own newsroom. More over, Marshall writes, “their stories strongly influenced the people who took the actions that eventually led to Nixon’s resignation and the prosecution of his top aides.”

“Watergate solidified the critical importance of investigative reporting," according to former Investigative Reporters and Editors Executive Director Brant Houston. “All the President's Men popularized and humanized investigative reporting," Houston observes, “and provided the inspiration for thousands of young people to become journalists who wanted to make a difference."

Woodward and Bernstein shared a Pulitzer Prize in 1973. By 1974 investigative reporting was back in full swing. That year four Pulitzer’s were awarded to investigative stories. Time declared it “The Year of the Muckrakers.”

In retrospect the ultimate value of the Watergate story was not in the questionable assertion that it brought down a president, but that the lasting image of two hard working, deeply committed reporters working tirelessly for weeks to produce an insightful expo- sure of national power, inspired an entire generation of young men and women around the world to become investigative journalists. More than half the investigative reporters I interviewed for this book attribute Watergate as the story that prompted them to stop doing whatever they were doing and become muckrakers. Say what you want about the reporters and their role in the project, the story itself definitely inspired what has since become known as the “Watergate Era” of investigative reporting.

 

March 3

Top Headlines

 

More On U.S. Capitol Riot, Insurrection

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

 U.S. Elections, Politics, Governance

 

U.S. Law, Regulation, Disasters

 

Biden Transition

 

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washington post logoWashington Post, FBI Director Wray says bureau is pursuing about 2,000 extremism cases, Devlin Barrett and Matt Zapotosky, March 3, 2021 (print ed.). Wray also defended the bureau’s handling of intelligence in advance of the attack on the Capitol.

FBI Director Christopher A. Wray, right, said Tuesday that his agents are pursuing roughly 2,000 domestic terrorism cases — a huge spike as the FBI tries to show it is taking the threat of such attacks seriously in the wake of January’s pro-Trump riot at the U.S. Capitol.

christopher wray o“We have significantly grown the number of investigations and arrests,” Wray told the Senate Judiciary Committee, noting that the number of such cases has more than doubled since he became the FBI director in 2017. He had testified in September that the number of such cases was about 1,000. By the end of 2020, there were about 1,400 such cases, and after Jan. 6 the figure ballooned again, the director said.

Wray also defended the bureau’s handling of intelligence in advance of the attack on the Capitol, asserting that agents rapidly shared what they were learning with other law enforcement agencies, but conceding that FBI officials will review internal practices because Jan. 6, was not an “acceptable result.”

Wray’s appearance on Capitol Hill marks the latest in a series of high-profile congressional hearings examining security and intelligence failures leading up to the Jan. 6 riot, and what the federal government will do to counter the growing threat of violence from domestic extremists. On Wednesday, FBI and military officials are slated to testify before another panel looking into the events of that day.

Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), the committee chairman, pressed Wray on how the bureau shared a situation report, prepared by the FBI’s Norfolk field office a day before the riot, which warned of specific appeals for violence — including a call for “war” at the Capitol. At a hearing last week, the D.C. police chief and the former Capitol Police chief conceded their agencies had received the warning, but suggested the FBI should have more aggressively sounded the alarm.

“I would certainly think that something as violent as an insurrection at the Capitol would warrant a phone call or something,” D.C. police chief Robert J. Contee III told lawmakers.

Wray said the report was shared in three ways — sent by email to the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, which includes the D.C. and Capitol Police; posted on a law enforcement web portal; and mentioned in a command center briefing in D.C.

“It was unverified,” said Wray. “In a perfect world, we would have taken longer to be able to figure out whether it was reliable. But we made the judgment, our folks made the judgment, to get that information to the relevant people as quickly as possible.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Wray delivers a big blow to Jan. 6 conspiracy theories, but the GOP keeps feeding them, Aaron Blake, March 3, 2021 (print ed.). Two months ago, supporters of then-President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to overturn the 2020 election. Ever since then, Trump’s allies have sought — in multiple ways and without real evidence — to poke holes in or call into question the idea that those rioters were truly inspired by Trump or acting on his behalf. They’ve suggested the rioters were provocateurs or antifa, or that evidence of preplanning efforts precludes pointing the finger at Trump.

Those narratives suffered significant blows Tuesday, even as Republicans continued to try to muddy the waters and plant seeds of doubt.

FBI Director Christopher A. Wray testified repeatedly to the Senate Judiciary Committee that there was no evidence that antifa, anarchists or provocateurs who didn’t support Trump were involved in the Capitol siege.

“We have not, to date, seen any evidence of anarchist violent extremists or people subscribing to antifa in connection with the 6th,” Wray said at one point.

Asked at another point whether the people involved were fake Trump supporters, Wray said flatly, “We have not seen evidence of that at this stage.” And again: “We have not seen any evidence of that.”

That’s pretty significant, given about 280 people have been arrested.

Even as he was saying these things, though — and even as there is real work to be done in drilling down on Jan. 6 — Republicans sought to refocus the Charles Grassley R-IOhearing and question the idea that these were people inspired by Trump and his bogus claims of voter fraud.

The committee’s ranking Republican, Sen. Charles E. Grassley (Iowa), left, began his opening statement by assuring the events of Jan. 6 were horrible. But he then spent most of his statement and round of questioning on the threat of antifa and extremist groups associated with the left.

Grassley didn’t go as far as Sen. Ron Johnson did last week, when the Wisconsin Republican used a similar hearing to float conspiracy theories about Jan. 6 provocateurs based on a single, speculative account from a witness at a right-wing think tank. Grassley instead essentially set Jan. 6 aside and suggested the FBI might be giving left-leaning extremists and anarchists comparatively short shrift by not equally investigating last summer’s protests against police violence.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Politics Live Updates: Biden Agrees to Narrow Eligibility for Stimulus Payments, March 3, 2021. The proposed change, part of an effort to secure enough support for the $1.9 trillion relief plan to pass the Senate, could mean that some people who got a check during the Trump administration would not get one under President Biden.

President Biden agreed to further limit stimulus checks based on income, a concession to moderate Democrats, those familiar with the deal said. The proposal would disqualify those earning $80,000 or more — and households exceeding $160,000 — from receiving payments of up to $1,400. Here's the latest.

  • Top House Democrats recommend Shalanda Young to lead the budget office after Tanden’s nomination failed.
  • In first major speech, Blinken says U.S. priorities abroad directly affect Americans at home.
  • Visiting schools, Dr. Biden and the Education Secretary push for reopenings and shots for teachers.
  • LeBron James leads a charge to promote voting rights at the N.B.A. All-Star Game.

greg abbott screengrab

ny times logoNew York Times, Texas Drops Virus Restrictions Amid a Wave of U.S. Reopenings, Julie Bosman and Lucy Tompkins,March 3, 2021 (print ed.). As virus cases fall, states are rescinding mask mandates and reopening businesses and schools despite uncertainty about the pandemic’s future.

texas mapTexas said Tuesday that it was lifting its mask requirement and would allow businesses to fully reopen, the most expansive step by any state to remove coronavirus restrictions as Americans across the country are eager to emerge after a year of isolation in the pandemic.

The move by Texas, with its 29 million residents, goes further than similar actions in other states and cities that are rushing to ease as many limits as they can.

“It is now time to open Texas 100 percent,” Gov. Greg Abbott said, adding that “Covid has not suddenly disappeared,” but state mandates are no longer needed.

All around the country, governors and mayors are calibrating what is feasible, what is safe and what is politically practical.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Reports: Biden Calls States’ Moves to Ease Virus Rules ‘Neanderthal Thinking,’ March 3, 2021. President Biden lashed out at Texas and other states that have relaxed restrictions, insisting it was a “big mistake” for people to stop wearing masks. Visiting schools in two states, Dr. Jill Biden and the education secretary pushed for in-person classes and vaccines for educators. Here’s the latest.

President Biden lashed out on Wednesday at the governor of Texas and others who have relaxed Covid-19 restrictions, describing their actions as “Neanderthal thinking” and insisting that it was a “big mistake” for people to stop wearing masks.

The president, who has urged Americans to remain vigilant in the fight against the coronavirus, said it was critical for public officials to follow the guidance of medical doctors and public health leaders as the U.S. vaccination campaign progresses.

“The last thing we need is Neanderthal thinking that in the meantime, everything’s fine, take off your mask and forget it,” Mr. Biden told reporters at the White House. “It’s critical, critical, critical, critical that they follow the science. Wash your hands, hot water. Do it frequently, wear a mask and stay socially distanced. And I know you all know that. I wish the heck some of our elected officials knew it.”

Earlier in the day, the White House press secretary, Jennifer Psaki, called on Texans and others to follow the guidance of the country’s top medical officials, who have warned mayors and governors not to recklessly abandon restrictions.

“This entire country has paid the price for political leaders who ignored the science when it comes to the pandemic,” Ms. Psaki said.

washington post logoWashington Post, Democrats eye an overhaul of elections as GOP moves to restrict polling access, Mike DeBonis and Amy Gardner, March 3, 2021 (print ed.). The turbulent debate over the nation’s elections reached Congress’s doorstep this week, with House Democrats poised to pass sweeping nationwide standards for voter access Wednesday just as Republican lawmakers in dozens of states move to restrict polling access after Donald Trump’s November loss.

Both parties have mobilized for the fight in unprecedented ways, reflecting the immense public attention on election issues — thanks to Trump’s months-long campaign of falsehoods and the subsequent attack on the Capitol, as well as the stakes for the 2022 midterm elections.

But it appears unlikely that the matter will be quickly settled at the federal level, with the narrow Democratic Senate majority and firm GOP opposition spelling apparent doom for any type of new voting rights legislation in the near term.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: As crucial pandemic vote approaches, Democrats guard their slim Senate majority, Paul Kane, March 3, 2021. If one Democrat has a fever, breaks an ankle or takes a bad fall, the legislative process would come to a stop. Worse, Democrats are fully aware that a death could end their majority at any moment.

In late January, Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), left, fell ill and was briefly hospitalized. A day later, Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) went into quarantine for a few days after coming in close pat leahy hscontact with someone who tested positive for the coronavirus.

Both senators returned to work quickly, but their brief absence served as a stark reminder of just how perilous the Democratic majority is in a 50-50 Senate, particularly as they plan to push through a $1.9 trillion pandemic rescue package later this week.

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) intends to have Vice President Harris cast the tiebreaking vote, but first he needs to make sure all 50 members of his caucus are on hand to vote yes.

If one Democrat has a fever, breaks an ankle or takes a bad fall, the legislative process would come to a stop until all 50 were able to vote for President Biden’s first critical legislative agenda item.

Worse, Democrats are fully aware that a death could end their majority at any moment, particularly given the increasingly old nature of today’s Senate.

“We are one heartbeat away, and I remind myself every day: I’m not putting off anything until June that I can do today,” Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin (Ill.), the top Democratic vote counter, told reporters Tuesday. “And I want to get as much done as possible.”

Durbin, 76, is one of 18 members of the caucus who are at least 70 years old, six of whom come from states with laws allowing Republican governors to appoint a GOP successor. Two more 70-something Democrats come from states where laws would leave the seat vacant until a special election is held to replace them.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden promises enough coronavirus vaccine for ‘every adult in America’ by the end of May, William Wan, Brittany Shammas, Ashley Parker and Laura Meckler, March 3, 2021 (print ed.). But federal officials worry pandemic progress might stall as states nationwide lift restrictions

joe biden oPresident Biden, facing mounting pressure on various fronts to gain control of the coronavirus pandemic, placed even more of his administration’s hopes in a “stepped-up” vaccine process, promising Tuesday that there will be enough coronavirus vaccine doses for “every adult in America” by the end of May — a two-month acceleration of his previous projection of July.

Biden said pharmaceutical giant Merck will help make Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot coronavirus vaccine, adding that at the administration’s urging, Johnson & Johnson’s manufacturing facilities will now “operate 24/7.” In the same remarks, the president also said he would use federal authority to offer vaccinations to K-12 teachers and child-care workers, with the aim of getting at least the first shot administered to all educators by the end of March.

Ending the pandemic has been Biden’s top priority since before he took office, and his announcements Tuesday came as his administration is facing myriad setbacks and challenges in combating the virus — and the U.S. pandemic is at an inflection point.

Cases and deaths have steadily and dramatically fallen since January, but the nation’s numbers are now stalled at a worrisome level as more-transmissible variants spread. Federal officials have warned that Americans should remain cautious as the rate of vaccinations continues to rapidly increase.

washington post logoWashington Post, Merck will help make Johnson & Johnson vaccine, boosting supply, Laurie McGinley and Christopher Rowland, March 3, 2021 (print ed.). The arrangement, which was brokered by the White House, was reached amid concerns about Johnson & Johnson production delays.

President Biden will announce Tuesday that pharmaceutical giant Merck will help make Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot coronavirus vaccine — an unusual pact between fierce merck logocompetitors that could sharply boost the supply of the newly authorized vaccine, according to senior administration officials.

johnson johnson logoThe officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a matter that has not been announced, said they began scouring the country for additional manufacturing capacity after they realized in the first days of the administration that Johnson & Johnson had fallen behind in vaccine production. They soon sought to broker a deal with Merck, one of the world’s largest vaccine makers, which had failed to develop its own coronavirus vaccine.

Under the arrangement, Merck will dedicate two facilities in the United States to Johnson & Johnson’s shots. One will provide “fill-finish” services, the last stage of the production process during which the vaccine substance is placed in vials and packaged for distribution. The other will make the vaccine, and has the potential to vastly increase supply, perhaps even doubling what Johnson & Johnson could make on its own, the officials said.

 

More On U.S. Capitol Riot, Insurrection

 capitol noose shay horse nurphoto via getty

A crowd of Trump supporters surrounded a newly erected set of wooden gallows outside the Capitol Building on Jan. 6. "Hang Mike Pence!" members of the crowd shouted at times about the Republican Vice President who had announced that he could not comply with the president's call to block election certification that day. The wooden gallows was near the Capitol Reflecting Pool. Below is a separate photo by a suspect described in the story below.

 

ethan nordean WSJ

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. alleges Proud Boys planned to break into Capitol on Jan. 6 from many different points, Spencer S. Hsu, March 3, 2021 (print ed.). U.S. prosecutors alleged for the first time that a Washington state leader of the Proud Boys was nominated by members of the group to take charge of the U.S. Capitol breach on Jan. 6 and carried out a plan to split into groups to break into the building from as many points as possible.

In a 24-page filing Monday, U.S. prosecutors asked a federal judge in Washington, D.C., to keep Ethan Nordean, 30, of Seattle, in jail pending trial, appealing a lower court’s Feb. 8 release order.

Nordean was “nominated from within to have ‘war powers’ ” to lead activities at the Capitol after the group’s chairman, Henry “Enrique” Tarrio, was arrested by D.C. police upon arriving in the city two days earlier, Assistant U.S. Attorneys James B. Nelson and Jason B.A. McCullough alleged. They do not state whether Nordean and/or others were formally selected to lead events that day.

The prosecutors also asserted that Nordean led the group by positioning Proud Boys members — carrying encrypted two-way Chinese-made Baofeng radios and wearing military-style gear — at an entrance to the Capitol grounds that was guarded by only a handful of Capitol Police officers and spreading out others to different locations to avoid triggering police interest.

“By blending in and spreading out, Defendant and those following him on January 6 made it more likely that either a Proud Boy — or a suitably-inspired ‘normie’ [nonmilitant Trump supporter] — would be able to storm the Capitol and its ground in such a way that would interrupt [Congress’s] Certification of the Electoral College vote,” prosecutors said.

Nordean was scheduled for a detention hearing on Tuesday.

Nordean, also known as Rufio Panman online, was arrested Feb. 3 on charges of aiding and abetting the destruction of government property, obstructing an official proceeding, trespassing and disorderly conduct on restricted Capitol grounds. The charges include an offense of violence and a charge defined as a federal crime of terrorism — destroying property to intimidate or coerce the government — punishable by up to 10 years in prison, prosecutors said.

washington post logoWashington Post, A Capitol rioter said he posed as antifa, feds say, then boasted he beat police who ‘got exactly what they deserved,’ Katie Shepherd, March 3, 2021 (print ed.). The day before a pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol, William Robert Norwood III texted a group of friends and family to boast he had traveled to D.C. with a plan to fool the police.

william norwood“I’m dressing in all black,” Norwood, right, texted a group chat on Jan. 5, according to images included in a federal criminal complaint filed last week. “I’ll look just like ANTIFA. I’ll get away with anything.”

Then, after joining in the mob, assaulting police officers and storming the Capitol rotunda, federal agents said, Norwood texted the group again to boast that his ploy had been a success.

william norwood mug“It worked,” Norwood texted, along with photos of himself wearing a police officer’s vest that he allegedly took from the Capitol. “I got away with things that others were shot or arrested for.”

Norwood, shown at left in a mug shot, was arrested in Greer, S.C., on Feb. 25 and charged with violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds, obstruction of justice and Congress, theft of government property and other charges. He does not yet have an attorney listed in court records.

Federal agents buttressed the criminal complaint against Norwood with text messages he allegedly sent about joining in the riot — including contradictory messages taking credit for attacking police, while also blaming the violence on antifascists.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: 'I’ll get away with anything’: What Capitol rioters said before their arrests, Aaron Blake, March 3, 2021. Former president Donald Trump’s culpability for the Jan. 6 Capitol riot is a question that’s now for the history books (and potentially courts of law). But to the extent Trump did send supporters into the Capitol that day, court documents increasingly show, much like Trump said of Mexico in 2015, he wasn’t sending his best.

The Washington Post’s Katie Shepherd on Tuesday detailed the story of William Robert Norwood III, right. According to a criminal complaint, Norwood texted a group of friends and family that william norwood mughe was going to attend the day’s events and fool police by dressing in all black. “I’ll look just like ANTIFA,” he said. “I’ll get away with anything.” He allegedly followed up later with a photo showing him holding a police vest, apparently acquired during the riot. “It worked,” Norwood said. “I got away with things that others were shot or arrested for.”

He was arrested last week.

Another story revealed in recent days deals with Richard Michetti, a Pennsylvania man who allegedly texted with his ex-girlfriend about being in the Capitol. At one point, he told her she was a “moron” if she didn’t understand the election was stolen. She later turned him in.

The pace of arrests stemming from the Capitol riot has slowed in recent weeks. That’s both to be expected and also a reflection of how many people made it rather easy to identify them — in many cases taking selfies or appearing in videos of the siege helpfully captured by themselves or others. The Post’s Travis M. Andrews wrote in mid-January about some of the most brazen and ultimately foolhardy participants at that point.

Now that the number of arrests has grown to about 280, the examples have grown. And nearly two months later, it’s worth a look back at some of those whose alleged actions — apart from, you know, trying to overturn a democratic vote based on falsehoods — cast them in a particularly dim light. Below are 13 of them, in ascending order, that stand out.

washington post logoWashington Post, Internal DHS documents warned of potential for violence at Jan. 6 rally, Shane Harris, Aaron C. Davis, Nick Miroff and Nate Jones, March 3, 2021. Internal reports and emails from the Homeland Security Department show that federal law enforcement authorities were alert to the potential for violence by extremist groups attending a pro-Trump rally in Washington on Jan. 6, which preceded the attack on the Capitol.

us dhs big eagle logo4A security bulletin, along with other reports on protests, was compiled by the department’s Federal Protective Service (FPS) a day before the attack and warned that anti-government and racially motivated extremists were likely to participate in the rally near the White House and “use the activities as an opportunity to promote their ideologies and motivate followers to promote violence.”

President Donald Trump spoke at the rally and encouraged his followers to march to the Capitol, where lawmakers were meeting to certify electoral college votes confirming Joe Biden’s victory.

Republicans push false and misleading accounts of Capitol riot

The documents, which were obtained by The Washington Post under the Freedom of Information Act, made no predictions about specific violent acts or an attack on the Capitol, and they don’t indicate any response from other law enforcement agencies about what intelligence the government may have possessed ahead of the Jan. 6 attack.

The bulletin indicates that it was shared with other DHS security teams. It’s not clear whether it was provided to the FBI, D.C. police or Capitol Police.

Wayne Madsen Report, Opinion:, U.S.-Saudi alliance: Cui bono? Wayne Madsen (left, author of 18 books and former Navy intelligence officer), March 3, 2021.  In rejecting a mohammed bin salman al saudwayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallfreeze on MbS's sizable assets in the United States -- the result of MbS detaining and shaking down several Saudi princes and businessmen for their wealth -- and a ban on a U.S. visa, [Joe] Biden and Secretary of State Anthony Blinken placed a higher priority on the U.S.-Saudi-Israeli alliance against Iran than on human rights and the rule of international law.

The question remains about the U.S. relationship with an arcane monarchy, the laws of which are based on the 13th century dogma. In fact, neither Saudi Arabia nor Israel are fully-functioning democracies. They are both theocratic regimes that discriminate as a matter of government policy against religious minorities, be they Christians, Shi'a wayne madesen report logoMuslims, or Druze.

The U.S. alliance with the Saudis against Iran has never made much sense. It is one thing to blame the relationship on the heavy influence of the Israel Lobby on U.S. foreign policy, but America's love fest with Saudi Arabia belies Washington's constant refrain about the importance of human rights around the world. There are some fundamental differences between Saudi Arabia and Iran that should serve as a basis for a friendly U.S.-Iranian relationship.

washington post logoWashington Post, Senate hearings to focus on failures ahead of Capitol riot, Matt Zapotosky and Devlin Barrett, March 3, 2021. Two Senate committees are scheduled to take testimony from four FBI and military officials.

Lawmakers are scheduled to take testimony Wednesday from several U.S. defense and law enforcement officials, as Congress continues to investigate the intelligence and other failures that precipitated the Jan. 6 attack at the Capitol.

It’s the second such hearing before the Senate’s Rules and Administration Committee and Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which together have been probing the attack and questioning those who responded to it. Starting at 10 a.m., the event could shed more light on the discussions between defense and law enforcement agencies, both us senate logobefore the riot and during it.

Last week, current and former officials responsible for security that day — including acting D.C. police chief Robert J. Contee III, former Capitol Police chief Steven A. Sund, former House sergeant-at-arms Paul D. Irving and former Senate sergeant-at-arms Michael C. Stenger — sought to explain why they did not respond more aggressively to intelligence that anticipated possible violence, such as a Jan. 5 FBI report warning of “war” at the Capitol.

“An online thread discussed specific calls for violence to include stating ‘Be ready to fight. Congress needs to hear glass breaking, doors being kicked in, and blood from their BLM and Pantifa slave soldiers being spilled,’ ” the report stated. “‘Get violent. Stop calling this a march, or rally, or a protest. Go there ready for war. We get our President or we die. NOTHING else will achieve this goal.’ ”

BLM is a common reference to the Black Lives Matter movement for racial justice. Pantifa is a derogatory term for antifa, a loosely knit group of far-left anti-fascist activists whose adherents sometimes engage in violent clashes with right-wing extremists.

Former Capitol security officials blame intelligence lapses for deadly Jan. 6 riot

The hearing Wednesday will allow lawmakers to press the FBI about the intelligence that the agency gathered, as well as military and homeland security officials about their response to the possible threat. Scheduled to testify are Maj. Gen. William J. Walker, the commanding general of the D.C. National Guard; Jill Sanborn, the assistant director of the FBI’s counterterrorism division; Melissa Smislova, a senior official in the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis; and Robert Salesses, a senior Defense Department official.

michael flynn djt

Former Trump National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, left, the brother of a Pentagon general who participated in discussions on Jan.6 that reportedly help delay rescue of Congress for more than three hours.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Congressional witness accuses Michael Flynn’s brother of holding up National Guard on January 6th, Sheree McSpadden, March 3, 2021. Maj. Gen. William Walker testified today that he was shocked by the many unusual hurdles and restrictions, which he never experienced before (including when he deployed the Guard at civil justice demonstrations during the prior spring and summer), preventing him from quickly deploying the National Guard to assist Capitol Police on Jan. 6, delaying their deployment for 3 hours and 19 minutes from the time of the first request, despite numerous frantic pleas for help.

bill palmer report logo headerChief [Steven] Sund’s voice was already cracking when he asked for help at 3:30, saying it was needed right then or the Capitol would be breached. The Guard was steve sund recroppednot deployed until 5:08 pm.

I won’t bore you with all the details, but suffice it to say that the Secretary of Defense blocked Walker from using the “Quick Reaction Force” if necessary, without jumping through hoops to get his prior approval (totally voiding it’s purpose). The Secretary even tried to block him from properly equipping his men so that he could put them on standby pending approval, but the Secretary of the Army gave Walker permission to at least pull protective equipment for them.

The Army initially falsely denied that Lt. Gen. Charles A. Flynn (the brother of disgraced retired general and Trump’s former national security advisor Michael Flynn, who Trump pardoned) was involved at all in delaying the military’s response. Later, Charles Flynn confirmed to the Washington Post that he was in the room during a tense Jan. 6 phone call when Capitol Police and DC officials pleaded with the Pentagon to dispatch the Guard urgently, but “top Army officials” expressed concern about having the Guard at the Capitol.

According to Walker, Flynn was actually one of two such “top Army officials” who expressed concern about the “optics” of having the Guard there. Why they were concerned about the visual of the Guard being at the Capitol holding off or actually having to remove Trump supporters, yet had no problem with the Guard being lined up on Capitol Steps during a Black Lives Matter protest is obvious: it’s all about politics. Walker even uses the word “optics” and “politics” interchangeably at one point when asked if politics played a part in these decisions, but later says the only possible reasons expressed to him were “optics” and concern that the Guard’s presence might inflame the insurrectionists.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Senator Sheldon Whitehouse comes out swinging, Wendy Jacobson, March 3, 2021. The Senate Hearings on the January 6th Insurrection continued Tuesday with christopher wray oFBI Director Christopher Wray in the hot seat. Wray was forthright on certain points, there was no evidence of antifa, and white supremacists are domestic terrorists, but he dodged or shrugged off many of the Committee’s questions as to what FBI knew leading up to the Capitol riot.

bill palmer report logo headerSenator Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat from Rhode Island, was having none of it. His pent up anger was palpable and he lit into a tirade about how the FBI under Wary’s direction has left scores of information requests and QFR’s (Questions for the Record) unanswered dating back to 2017. Wray sat there knitting his hands as Whitehouse demanded to know why certain letters from GOP Senators had been promptly attended to, while inquires into the Trump-Russia probe, mainly from Democrats had been ignored.

sheldon whitehouseWray expressed, or feigned, sympathetic frustration about the delays and promised to do better, but Whitehouse pressed on stating that the Senate Judiciary and other Committees had been given the brushoff throughout the Trump years from various agencies that Congress supposedly has oversight of in including the FBI. He explained that he will use any tools necessary, including withholding appropriations to get the answers the Committee and the American people deserve. In so many words, Whitehouse accused Wray of creating or participating in executive branch rigamarole: “When there’s a political interest in getting information out, suddenly there’s no logjam.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Military reaction was ‘sprint speed,’ top officer says as Pentagon takes heat for Capitol riot response, Missy Ryan and Dan Lamothe, March 3, 2021 (print ed.). Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, gave his first public comments on the events of Jan. 6.

mark milley army chief of staffThe Pentagon acted as quickly as possible when asked to help respond to rioting at the Capitol on Jan. 6, the top U.S. military officer said, calling the turnaround “sprint speed” in his first public comments about the Pentagon’s reaction to the lethal siege.

Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, right, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said defense officials approved a police request for assistance in about 60 minutes as a mob smashed into Congress in an effort to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s presidential win. It then took several hours for D.C. National Guard members to mobilize and get in place, he said.

Milley spoke as lawmakers prepared to hold another hearing on the riot, which has become a defining moment in President Donald Trump’s months-long attempt to remain in office and overturn the Biden victory.

Maj. Gen. William Walker, the commanding general of the D.C. National Guard, will be among those testifying Wednesday as part of a joint hearing by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration, part of a larger congressional effort to reckon with the violence.

Milley defended the military’s efforts before and during the attack, saying that criticism in the aftermath of the events did not take into account the Pentagon’s decision-making process and the steps involved with calling up part-time troops.

His account diverged from that of current and former police officials who have placed a large share of the blame on the Pentagon, saying that officials there dragged their feet or even initially refused to send additional troops as the violent crowd overpowered a small police force.

As the situation turned chaotic, acting D.C. police chief Robert J. Contee III and Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund, who resigned after the attack, spoke to Pentagon officials and requested additional support.

Sund later told lawmakers that he was “very surprised at the amount of time and the pushback I was receiving when I was making an urgent request for their assistance.”

Contee went further, saying he was “stunned” by the response from the Department of the Army, calling senior Army officials “reluctant” to send the D.C. National Guard to the Capitol.

Asked about Trump’s claim that he told Pentagon leaders they should have 10,000 National Guard personnel on the National Mall to help manage the planned protests, Milley also said he was not aware of any request.

“As chairman of the Joint Chiefs, if there was an order for 10,000 National Guardsmen, I would like to believe I would know that,” he said. “I know that that was never transmitted to me by anyone — the president or secretary of defense or anyone else — for 6th of January.”

 

Virus Victims, Responses

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: March 3), with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):

World Cases: 115,418,917, Deaths: 2,562,876
U.S. Cases:     29,370,805, Deaths:   529,222

washington post logocovad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Washington Post, 52.9 million vaccinated: The number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, covering 43.4% of the prioritized population and 15.9 % of the total population. This includes more than 26.2 million people who have been fully vaccinated. See about your state.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Virus Reporting: Global infection numbers edging back up after weeks of decline, WHO says, Erin Cunningham and Derek Hawkins, March 2, 2021.

  • Austria, Denmark team up with Israel on vaccines as Europe falters
  • Global focus on pandemic led to fewer casualties in conflict zones, report says
  • Delayed coronavirus response by D.C. psychiatric hospital caused 18 deaths, report says

ny times logoNew York Times, Should Your School Be Fully Open? Here’s What the C.D.C. Says, John Keefe, March 3, 2021 (print ed.). Few counties in the United cdc logo CustomStates meet the guidelines to avoid major restrictions on reopening schools, according to a New York Times analysis.

Only 4 percent of the nation’s schoolchildren live in counties where coronavirus transmission is low enough for full-time in-person learning without additional restrictions, according to the guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and an analysis of the agency’s latest figures.

ny times logoNew York Times, Return-to-Office Plans Are Set in Motion, but Virus Uncertainty Remains, Julie Creswell, Gillian Friedman and Peter Eavis, March 3, 2021. Many employers are not making a decision until many workers are vaccinated. And some are making plans for “hybrid” work arrangements.

While coronavirus cases are declining and vaccinations are rising, many companies have not committed to a time and strategy for bringing employees back. The most important variable, many executives said, is how long it will take for most employees to be vaccinated.

Another major consideration revolves around the children of workers. Companies say they can’t make firm decisions until they know when local schools will reopen for in-person learning.

Then there is a larger question: Does it make sense to go back to the way things were before the pandemic given that people have become accustomed to the rhythms of remote work?

ny times logoNew York Times, Empty Office Buildings Squeeze City Budgets as Property Values Fall, Alan Rappeport, March 3, 2021. Dormant offices, malls and restaurants foreshadow a fiscal time bomb for municipal budgets, which are heavily reliant on property taxes. Local officials from both parties are pleading with the Biden administration and members of Congress to approve relief for local governments quickly

ny times logoNew York Times, Coronavirus Updates, Visiting schools, Dr. Biden and the Education Secretary push for reopenings and shots for teachers, March 3, 2021. The C.D.C. director again warns states and cities not to ease virus limits too fast after some have.

Following President Biden’s call on Tuesday to have every school employee receive at least one vaccine shot by the end of March, the White House began a campaign to drum up support for the quick reopening of the nation’s schools by sending the first lady, Jill Biden, and the newly confirmed education secretary, Miguel Cardona, on a two-state tour of reopened schools on Wednesday.

 

U.S. Elections, Politics, Governance

Newsweek, Joe Manchin's $11 Minimum Wage More Popular Than Biden's $15—Among Democrats and Republicans, Jason Lemon, March 3, 2021. The Minimum Wage Debate: Where Republicans And Democrats Stand.

While progressive Democrats continue to push for the federal minimum wage to be increased to $15 per hour, new polling shows that Senator Joe Manchin's suggestion of a more modest increase to $11 is more popular with both Republicans and Democrats.

newsweek logoPresident Joe Biden and Democrats campaigned on raising the federal minimum wage to $15, and House Democrats included the wage hike in their version of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan. However, the wage hike looks unlikely to survive in the Senate's version of the bill, as that chamber's parliamentarian ruled it could not be passed through the budget reconciliation process. Meanwhile, GOP Senators Mitt Romney of Utah and Tom Cotton of Arkansas have put forward a proposal to raise the minimum wage to $10 per hour—close to what Manchin has suggested.

The new poll, from Morning Consult and Politico, which was conducted from February 26 to March 1, shows that 71 percent of voters strongly or somewhat support raising the wage to $11 by 2023, compared with just 60 percent who support the hike to $15 by 2025. Even when breaking down the results based on political party, higher percentages of Republicans, Democrats and independents back the more modest increase.

Among Democrats, 82 percent strongly or somewhat support the increase to $15, while 86 percent approve of the hike to $11. Only 34 percent of Republicans strongly or somewhat support a $15 wage, but 56 percent say they support an increase to $11. As for independent voters, 56 percent approve of $15 and 69 percent back $11. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percent.

President Joe Biden's proposed increase of the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour is less popular than a suggestion by Senator Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) to raise it to $11, according to a new poll. In the photo on the left, Biden looks on during a meeting at the White House on March 1. In the photo on the right, Manchin asks questions during a meeting of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on February 24 in Washington, D.C. Anna Moneymaker-Pool/Getty

Manchin, a moderate Democrat who represents West Virginia, and Democratic Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona both expressed their opposition to the $15 wage even before the parliamentarian ruled it could not go through budget reconciliation. This set up a confrontation between progressive Democratic lawmakers—who have long pushed for raising the wage to $15—and the party's moderate wing. Moderate Democrats and Republicans have raised concerns that such a large increase, up from the current $7.25 that was implemented over a decade ago, would be difficult for small businesses to handle.

The concerns about the $15 wage were buoyed by a Congressional Budget Office report last month, which projected the pay increase would lead to the loss of 1.4 million jobs. Progressives pointed out that the report also found the wage hike would lift nearly 1 million Americans out of poverty. While the White House has said it's accepted the Senate parliamentarian's ruling and aims to push for the $15 wage through future legislation, progressives are demanding that the parliamentarian be fired or disregarded.

washington post logoWashington Post, Supreme Court appears to favor upholding voting laws lower court found unfair to minorities, Robert Barnes, March 3, 2021 (print ed.). The justices are reviewing protections provided by the Voting Rights Act, which forbids laws that result in discrimination based on race.

ny times logoNew York Times, President Biden’s approval rating fell, but he still retains majority support, according to a poll, Giovanni Russonello, March 3, 2021. Whatever honeymoon period he may have briefly enjoyed, President Biden is now past it, according to the results of a Monmouth University poll released on Wednesday.

Mr. Biden’s approval rating now stands at 51 percent nationwide, with 42 percent of the country disapproving. That’s a much narrower split than his 54 percent approval and 30 percent disapproval in another Monmouth survey that was conducted just after he took office.

Congress, too, is bearing the brunt of Americans’ impatience. The country now disapproves of the job lawmakers in Washington are doing by a 29-percentage-point spread, compared with just 16 points in January.

The poll found widespread support for the Covid-19 relief bill making its way through Congress, with 62 percent saying they want to see it passed. Two-thirds supported the bill’s provision increasing additional unemployment benefits to $400 a week from $300 a week. And 68 percent said that the proposed $1,400 stimulus payments should remain in the legislation as is, despite Republican objections; just 25 percent said the payments should be reduced to garner bipartisan support.

Fifty-three percent of respondents supported raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, while 45 percent were opposed. Democratic leaders have pushed for such a wage increase, but the measure is unlikely to make it through the Senate.

The share of voters expressing no opinion of Mr. Biden’s performance dropped to 8 percent from 16 percent, with those Americans mostly appearing to drift into the “disapprove” camp.

The president’s approval rating is now just 43 percent among independents, with 48 percent disapproving. In January, 47 percent of independents approved, 30 percent disapproved and 22 percent had not made up their minds.

washington post logoWashington Post, House ethics office says there’s ‘substantial reason to believe’ Rep. Steven Palazzo misused campaign, congressional funds, Felicia Sonmez, March 3, 2021 (print ed.). A House ethics panel says there is “substantial reason to believe” that Rep. Steven M. Palazzo (R-Miss.) misused his campaign and congressional funds, according to a report made public Monday.

The Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE), which produced the 47-page report last summer after a months-long probe, also said that Palazzo “may have performed official actions to assist his brother,” Kyle Palazzo, in potential violation of House rules and federal law.

steven palazzoThe probe was prompted by a complaint last March from the nonprofit Campaign Legal Center, which accused Rep. Palazzo, right, of using his campaign contributions as a “personal slush fund” through which he paid “himself and his spouse nearly $200,000,” including $60,000 in rent to his own farm.

In its report, the OCE said that it had found “limited evidence of campaign use of the property, especially to justify $60,000.00 in rent and thousands of dollars of additional charges to maintain the home and improve its marketability.”

The ethics office also said there was evidence that Palazzo “may have asked official staffers to perform campaign work and personal errands during the congressional workday.”

“And finally,” the report states, “the OCE found evidence that Rep. Palazzo may have used his official position and congressional resources to contact the Assistant Secretary of the Navy in order to assist his brother’s efforts to reenlist in the military.” It notes that, according to a former Palazzo staffer, Kyle Palazzo “was separated from the Navy for affecting a fraudulent enlistment.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: Full Senate vote on Garland to be attorney general likely delayed until next week; Durbin blames Republicans, Matt Zapotosky, March 3, 2021. The full Senate might not vote on Merrick Garland’s nomination to be attorney general until “into next week,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) said Wednesday, accusing Senate Republicans of refusing to expedite Garland’s confirmation.

In a speech on the Senate floor, Durbin said Garland “checks all of the boxes,” so he had hoped a vote on his confirmation could be expedited in the Senate. The Judiciary Committee voted 15 to 7 on Monday to advance his nomination, with four Republicans joining the panel’s 11 Democrats to approve the move. Seven Republicans opposed it.

“Unfortunately, there was an objection to expediting his nomination so he would get to work at the Department of Justice,” Durbin said. “As a consequence … it could be days, maybe even into next week before he can take the job.”

Garland is ultimately expected to be confirmed with bipartisan support, and because Democrats control the Senate, it is only a matter of time before his nomination is taken up. If the objection remains in place, Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) would have to file cloture, triggering a roughly 3½-day process that would end in a vote.

The Senate, though, is also seeking to move quickly on coronavirus relief legislation, which probably would preempt consideration of nominees for Cabinet posts. It was not immediately clear who was raising an objection to voting on Garland’s nomination, or for what reason.

Those who voted against advancing his nomination were Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah), Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), John Neely Kennedy (R-La.) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.). Some said they did so because he would not answer their questions at his confirmation hearing and in written follow-ups. Garland had notably declined to guarantee that he would allow special counsel John Durham’s investigation into the FBI’s 2016 probe of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign to finish, though Garland did say he saw no reason to terminate the case.

The Post sought comment from all of the Judiciary Committee senators who voted against the nomination. Most declined to say anything publicly, and none took credit for holding up the nomination. Any senator, not just those on the committee, can hold up a nomination. Republicans famously refused to give Garland even a hearing when then-President Barack Obama nominated him for a spot on the Supreme Court in 2016 — a spot that was ultimately filled by Neil M. Gorsuch after Trump won the election.

washington post logoWashington Post, Vernon E. Jordan Jr. (1935–2021): Lawyer and political power broker who became the confidant of presidents dies at 85, Matt Schudel, March 3, 2021 (print ed.). Jordan was one of the most influential figures in Washington, reaching the peak of his quiet authority during the 1990s, when he had Bill Clinton’s ear through two terms as president, including when Clinton faced an investigation and impeachment over a relationship with a White House intern.

vernon jordanVernon E. Jordan Jr., right, never held elective office, was never a member of the Cabinet and never even worked for the federal government. He was a lawyer who rarely appeared in court, a corporate kingmaker who was not a registered lobbyist, a political strategist who did not direct a campaign.

Yet Mr. Jordan was, for years, one of the most influential figures in Washington. With a commanding presence, personal charm and an inviolable sense of discretion, he had a rare combination of talents that made him the confidant of presidents, congressional leaders, business executives and civil rights figures.

Mr. Jordan was the consummate Washington power broker, reaching the peak of his quiet authority during the 1990s, when he was, with the possible exception of Hillary Clinton, President Bill Clinton’s closest adviser.

Mr. Jordan brought a smooth manner and elegant style to Beltway dealmaking, anchored in his youth in a housing project in the segregated South. He had the moral authority of a veteran of the civil rights movement — he nearly died in a 1980 shooting by a racially motivated would-be assassin — and was adept at navigating corporate boardrooms and golf course fairways, as well as gospel-filled churches.

Earlier generations of Washington insiders had given advice from the sidelines, including Tommy “the Cork” Corcoran, Bryce Harlow, Clark Clifford, Lloyd Cutler and Robert Strauss — Mr. Jordan’s mentor at the Akin Gump law firm. But one significant way in which Mr. Jordan differed from his predecessors was he was among the few African Americans at the top of Washington’s power structure.

ny times logoNew York Times, Cuomo Losing Power and Allies as Crisis Deepens, Jesse McKinley, Luis Ferré-Sadurní and Katie Glueck, March 3, 2021 (print ed.). Gov. Andrew Cuomo faced more calls for his resignation, and a Republican congressman, Lee Zeldin, said he was exploring a challenge to him next year.

andrew cuomoWith allegations of unsettling behavior toward women spilling into the public eye, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, right, spent Tuesday fending off calls for his resignation, with few voluble defenders in a moment of unparalleled weakness in his decade-long tenure in Albany.

Signs of the governor’s diminished sway were everywhere.

A small, but expanding, coterie of Democratic lawmakers called on Mr. Cuomo to step down, as did the state Working Families Party, which has frequently clashed with the governor. Among some donors, there was an increasing sense of discomfort with reports of Mr. Cuomo’s behavior and uncertainty around his future, with one active Democratic donor describing a growing instinct to “hedge their bets.”

Representative Lee Zeldin, a Long Island Republican, announced on Tuesday that he was “actively exploring” a run for governor.

Still, for all that, one major bulwark to any forced departure — the Democrat-dominated statehouse, which could impeach him — appeared to be holding, for now at least. Impeachment would require mass defections by Democrats in both the State Assembly and the Senate, which seemed unlikely as of Tuesday.

kweisi mfume and kimberly klacik

washington post logoWashington Post, Donors gave a House candidate more than $8 million. A single firm took nearly half of it, Meagan Flynn and Michael Scherer, March 3, 2021 (print ed.). Baltimore Republican Kim Klacik’s viral ads were touted by President Donald Trump and his son Donald Trump Jr.

U.S. House candidate Kim Klacik, above right, walked onto Mike Huckabee’s cable talk show last August as the latest conservative celebrity, riding high on a viral campaign ad that had attracted 10 million views and was shared on social media by President Donald Trump and his eldest son.

“We raised close to $2 million,” the Republican congressional hopeful said of the three-minute spot, which showed her marching in a red dress and high heels past abandoned buildings in Baltimore, asserting that Democrats do not care about Black lives.

But later that night, Klacik’s staff told her it would be best to stop disclosing how much money the ad had raised for her campaign against Rep. Kweisi Mfume (D, above left) — because she wouldn’t be keeping much of it, Klacik recounted in an interview.

republican elephant logoHer campaign is an example of how some consulting firms are profiting handsomely from Republican candidates who have robust appeal in today’s politically charged environment — even when they are running in deep-blue districts where it is virtually impossible for them to win. The more viral the candidate goes, the more money the companies make — a model possible only through the online outrage machine of hyperpartisan politics.

Fundraising companies say their fees are well-earned and still leave candidates with more money than they would have if their ads had not been shared widely. But critics, including Klacik and some other 2020 candidates, say the system is deceptive, trapping first-time politicians in onerous contracts that siphon away cash their donors intended for them.

“It sounds like part of the swamp that needs to be drained,” said Bruce Dale, a Klacik donor from Michigan, who was aghast to learn that a chunk of his $800 in donations may not have made it to her. “They can say it’s legal, but there are a lot of things that are legal that are wrong. This is wrong.”

High-margin fundraising fees — sometimes in excess of 90 percent of a donor’s first contribution — have sucked resources out of conservative politics ever since the movement organized in the 1970s around the costly medium of direct mail. Social media, email and text-message fundraising brought those same steep margins online.

washington post logoWashington Post, A Michigan man hung a KKK flag facing his Black neighbor’s home. It’s not a crime, prosecutors say, Jaclyn Peiser, March 3, 2021. JeDonna Dinges’s ex-husband was walking through the alleyway next to their house in suburban Detroit last month when he noticed a red flag hanging in the neighbor’s window. Startled, he went inside to tell her.

“He informed me that there was a flag in the neighbor’s window that said something about the Invisible Empire. I had no idea what it meant,” Dinges, who is Black, said in an interview with The Washington Post. Darrell, her ex-husband, who is White and lives with Dinges, explained it was a Ku Klux Klan flag.

Cleveland.com, Jim Jordan’s campaign faces questions over accounting discrepancies that exceed $100K, Sabrina Eaton, March 3, 2021. The Federal Election Commission on Tuesday jim jordan shirtsleevesasked U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan’s campaign committee to explain large accounting discrepancies between reports it filed several years ago and corrected reports the committee filed earlier this year. Many of the discrepancies exceeded $100,000, and one exceeded $900,000.

The campaign says no money was ever missing from its accounts, and blames the inconsistencies on troubles adjusting to skyrocketing donations as Jordan’s national profile grew.

ny times logogeorgia mapNew York Times, Why Georgia G.O.P.’s Voting Rollbacks Would Hit Black People Hard, Richard Fausset, Nick Corasaniti and Mark Leibovich, March 3, 2021. Two bills would have an outsize impact on Black voters, who make up roughly one-third of the state’s population and vote overwhelmingly Democratic.

ny times logoNew York Times, Cuomo, Contrite Over Sex Harassment Accusations, Jesse McKinley and Luis Ferré-Sadurní Refuses to Resign, March 3, 2021. In his first public appearance since a series of harassment allegations surfaced, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he has “learned an important lesson.”

Appearing at the State Capitol, the governor sought to quell the outrage over his actions regarding three young women — including accusations of sexual harassment from two state workers, and another of unwanted touching and kissing at a wedding — as a growing chorus of his fellow Democrats called for him to step aside.

Mr. Cuomo, his voice appearing to crack at times, said that he wanted New Yorkers to “hear from me directly on this.”

 

U.S. Law, Regulation, Disasters

bureau of prisons logo horizontal

washington post logoWashington Post, Study: 1 in 7 U.S. prisoners is serving life, and two-thirds of those are people of color, Tom Jackman, March 3, 2021 (print ed.). A criminal justice advocacy group recommends that states and the federal government implement a 20-year maximum prison term except in rare circumstances.

In America, over 203,000 people are serving life sentences in prison, more than the country’s entire prison population in 1970. Of the lifers, 30 percent are at least 55 years old. And, according to a new study by the Sentencing Project, more than two-thirds of those serving life in prison are people of color.

As part of an effort to end mass incarceration in the American justice system and remedy decades of racial inequity, experts are focusing on the number of aging inmates essentially sentenced to die in prison. And the study by the Sentencing Project shows that, while the number of people incarcerated as juveniles or for nonviolent offenses has declined, the number sentenced to life in prison continues to make up a significant portion of the population behind bars, with an estimated cost of $1 million per inmate for those who spend 40 years in prison.

 

Biden Transition

washington post logoWashington Post, Rhode Island Gov. Raimondo is confirmed as commerce secretary, David J. Lynch, March 3, 2021 (print ed.). New Commerce Dept. chief faced little opposition. Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) won Senate confirmation Tuesday as the next U.S. commerce secretary, a post that will thrust her into some of the most contentious economic and security questions confronting the Biden administration.

The Senate easily approved her nomination by a vote of 84 to 15. She is expected to be sworn in Wednesday.

gina raimondo 2019 CustomRaimondo, 49, right, a former venture capitalist who was reelected to her second term as Rhode Island’s chief executive in 2018, will assume command of a federal agency with sweeping responsibilities and an increasingly important portfolio. Long seen as simply a business-friendly outpost in Washington, the department in recent China Flagyears emerged as an active player in President Donald Trump’s trade wars, while carrying out the decennial census and managing the nation’s weather-monitoring systems.

Commerce repeatedly tightened Chinese access to top U.S. technologies and employed a novel interpretation of American trade law to impose tariffs on imported steel and aluminum, citing national security risks.

ny times logoNew York Times, White House Drops Push for Neera Tanden to Be Top Budget Official, March 3, 2021 (print ed.). Ms. Tanden had drawn bipartisan criticism for social media posts that lambasted lawmakers in both parties. Here’s the latest in politics.

neera tanden twitterThe White House on Tuesday abandoned its push to install Neera Tanden as the director of President Biden’s budget office after senators in both parties had opposed confirming her, making her nomination the first casualty of the evenly split Senate.

In a statement, Mr. Biden said that he had accepted Ms. Tanden’s request to withdraw herself from consideration for the post but said he planned for her to have a “role” in his administration.

“I have accepted Neera Tanden’s request to withdraw her name from nomination for Director of the Office of Management and Budget. I have the utmost respect for her record of accomplishment, her experience and her counsel, and I look forward to having her serve in a role in my Administration. She will bring valuable perspective and insight to our work,” Mr. Biden said.

 

U.S. Foreign Policy

washington post logoWashington Post, Media advocacy group accuses Saudi crown prince, aides of crimes against humanity in Khashoggi death, Missy Ryan and Loveday Morris, March 3, 2021 (print ed.). A media advocacy group has filed a criminal complaint with a German prosecutor alleging that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and top aides committed crimes against humanity in the killing of Washington Post contributing columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

The submission by Paris-based Reporters Without Borders also alleges that Saudi officials are responsible for “widespread and systematic” persecution of journalists in the kingdom, citing what it characterizes as the arbitrary detention of more than 30 journalists.

The other officials named in the complaint include Saud al-Qahtani, a top aide to the crown prince; and Maj. Gen. Ahmed al-Assiri, a former deputy intelligence chief. Both men are accused of “organizational or executive responsibility” in the death of Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist and U.S. resident who was brutally killed inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul in October 2018.

 

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, Sexual Assault Allegations Divide Mexico’s Governing Party, Maria Abi-Habib and Natalie Kitroeff, March 3, 2021 (print ed.). President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has backed a candidate accused of sexual assault, testing his promise to create a more egalitarian Mexico.

Basilia Castañeda said she was such a fervent believer in Mexico’s president that she founded the first chapter of his political party in her small town and stumped with the president’s son on the campaign trail.

Then, in December, the man she has accused of raping her when she was just 17 years old was nominated by the president’s party to run for governor of her state, Guerrero.

In statements to prosecutors, Ms. Castañeda and at least one other woman have accused the candidate for governor, Félix Salgado Macedonio, a former senator who is favored to win andrés lópez obrador wthe election in June, of rape. Local news media have reported that another woman made sexual assault allegations against him in 2007.

One of the criminal investigations is still open, yet Mr. Salgado has enjoyed weeks of public support from President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, right, who has defended the candidate by calling the accusations politically motivated.

The president’s backing of Mr. Salgado is creating significant cracks inside the governing party, presenting a potential challenge to Mr. López Obrador’s popularity and promised transformation of Mexican society.

During a news conference on Tuesday, Mr. López Obrador once again blamed the political opposition for the outcry over Mr. Salgado, claiming that it is “such a shame that the feminist movement is used for other purposes.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Catholic clergy in France abused more than 10,000 child victims, independent commission estimates, Rick Noack, March 3, 2021 (print ed.). The independent commission, set up two years ago with the approval of French church officials, has so far received more than 6,500 calls from people providing testimony on incidents over the past seven decades.

French FlagThe head of a commission examining sexual abuse in France’s Catholic Church put the possible number of child victims at more than 10,000 on Tuesday, portending a public reckoning in a country where church officials long stalled efforts to investigate complicity.

The Independent Commission on Sexual Abuse in the Church, set up two years ago with the approval of French church officials, has so far received more than 6,500 testimonies from victims and witnesses on incidents alleged to have happened in the past seven decades.

“The big question for us is: How many victims came forward? Is it 25 percent? 10 percent, 5 percent or less?” commission leader Jean-Marc Sauvé told journalists.

 

March 2

Top Headlines

 

U.S. Capitol Riot, Insurrection Followups

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

U.S. Elections, Politics, Governance

 

U.S. Law, Regulation, Disasters

 

Biden Transition

 

U.S. Foreign Policy

 

World News


Media News

 

Top Stories

ny times logojoe biden oNew York Times, Politics Live Updates: Enough Vaccine Will Be Available for Every U.S. Adult by May 31, Biden Says, Staff Reports, March 2, 2021. But it will take longer to actually inoculate everyone, President Biden said, and he urged people to remain vigilant by wearing masks. Mr. Biden said the faster timeline was in part the result of Merck’s agreement to help manufacture Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine. Read the latest on Covid-19.

washington post logoWashington Post, Merck will help make Johnson & Johnson vaccine, boosting supply, Laurie McGinley and Christopher Rowland, March 2, 2021. The arrangement, which was brokered by the White House, was reached amid concerns about Johnson & Johnson production delays.

President Biden will announce Tuesday that pharmaceutical giant Merck will help make Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot coronavirus vaccine — an unusual pact between fierce merck logocompetitors that could sharply boost the supply of the newly authorized vaccine, according to senior administration officials.

johnson johnson logoThe officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a matter that has not been announced, said they began scouring the country for additional manufacturing capacity after they realized in the first days of the administration that Johnson & Johnson had fallen behind in vaccine production. They soon sought to broker a deal with Merck, one of the world’s largest vaccine makers, which had failed to develop its own coronavirus vaccine.

Under the arrangement, Merck will dedicate two facilities in the United States to Johnson & Johnson’s shots. One will provide “fill-finish” services, the last stage of the production process during which the vaccine substance is placed in vials and packaged for distribution. The other will make the vaccine, and has the potential to vastly increase supply, perhaps even doubling what Johnson & Johnson could make on its own, the officials said.

washington post logoWashington Post, FBI Director Wray says bureau is pursuing about 2,000 extremism cases, Devlin Barrett and Matt Zapotosky, March 2, 2021. Wray also defended the bureau’s handling of intelligence in advance of the attack on the Capitol.

FBI Director Christopher A. Wray, right, said Tuesday that his agents are pursuing roughly 2,000 domestic terrorism cases — a huge spike as the FBI tries to show it is taking the threat of such attacks seriously in the wake of January’s pro-Trump riot at the U.S. Capitol.

christopher wray o“We have significantly grown the number of investigations and arrests,” Wray told the Senate Judiciary Committee, noting that the number of such cases has more than doubled since he became the FBI director in 2017. He had testified in September that the number of such cases was about 1,000. By the end of 2020, there were about 1,400 such cases, and after Jan. 6 the figure ballooned again, the director said.

Wray also defended the bureau’s handling of intelligence in advance of the attack on the Capitol, asserting that agents rapidly shared what they were learning with other law enforcement agencies, but conceding that FBI officials will review internal practices because Jan. 6, was not an “acceptable result.”

Wray’s appearance on Capitol Hill marks the latest in a series of high-profile congressional hearings examining security and intelligence failures leading up to the Jan. 6 riot, and what the federal government will do to counter the growing threat of violence from domestic extremists. On Wednesday, FBI and military officials are slated to testify before another panel looking into the events of that day.

Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), the committee chairman, pressed Wray on how the bureau shared a situation report, prepared by the FBI’s Norfolk field office a day before the riot, which warned of specific appeals for violence — including a call for “war” at the Capitol. At a hearing last week, the D.C. police chief and the former Capitol Police chief conceded their agencies had received the warning, but suggested the FBI should have more aggressively sounded the alarm.

“I would certainly think that something as violent as an insurrection at the Capitol would warrant a phone call or something,” D.C. police chief Robert J. Contee III told lawmakers.

Wray said the report was shared in three ways — sent by email to the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, which includes the D.C. and Capitol Police; posted on a law enforcement web portal; and mentioned in a command center briefing in D.C.

“It was unverified,” said Wray. “In a perfect world, we would have taken longer to be able to figure out whether it was reliable. But we made the judgment, our folks made the judgment, to get that information to the relevant people as quickly as possible.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Wray delivers a big blow to Jan. 6 conspiracy theories, but the GOP keeps feeding them, Aaron Blake, March 2, 2021. Two months ago, supporters of then-President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to overturn the 2020 election. Ever since then, Trump’s allies have sought — in multiple ways and without real evidence — to poke holes in or call into question the idea that those rioters were truly inspired by Trump or acting on his behalf. They’ve suggested the rioters were provocateurs or antifa, or that evidence of preplanning efforts precludes pointing the finger at Trump.

Those narratives suffered significant blows Tuesday, even as Republicans continued to try to muddy the waters and plant seeds of doubt.

FBI Director Christopher A. Wray testified repeatedly to the Senate Judiciary Committee that there was no evidence that antifa, anarchists or provocateurs who didn’t support Trump were involved in the Capitol siege.

“We have not, to date, seen any evidence of anarchist violent extremists or people subscribing to antifa in connection with the 6th,” Wray said at one point.

Asked at another point whether the people involved were fake Trump supporters, Wray said flatly, “We have not seen evidence of that at this stage.” And again: “We have not seen any evidence of that.”

That’s pretty significant, given about 280 people have been arrested.

Even as he was saying these things, though — and even as there is real work to be done in drilling down on Jan. 6 — Republicans sought to refocus the Charles Grassley R-IOhearing and question the idea that these were people inspired by Trump and his bogus claims of voter fraud.

The committee’s ranking Republican, Sen. Charles E. Grassley (Iowa), left, began his opening statement by assuring the events of Jan. 6 were horrible. But he then spent most of his statement and round of questioning on the threat of antifa and extremist groups associated with the left.

Grassley didn’t go as far as Sen. Ron Johnson did last week, when the Wisconsin Republican used a similar hearing to float conspiracy theories about Jan. 6 provocateurs based on a single, speculative account from a witness at a right-wing think tank. Grassley instead essentially set Jan. 6 aside and suggested the FBI might be giving left-leaning extremists and anarchists comparatively short shrift by not equally investigating last summer’s protests against police violence.

greg abbott screengrab

ny times logoNew York Times, Texas Drops Virus Restrictions Amid a Wave of U.S. Reopenings, Julie Bosman and Lucy Tompkins March 2, 2021. As virus cases fall, states are rescinding mask mandates and reopening businesses and schools despite uncertainty about the pandemic’s future.

texas mapTexas said Tuesday that it was lifting its mask requirement and would allow businesses to fully reopen, the most expansive step by any state to remove coronavirus restrictions as Americans across the country are eager to emerge after a year of isolation in the pandemic.

The move by Texas, with its 29 million residents, goes further than similar actions in other states and cities that are rushing to ease as many limits as they can.

“It is now time to open Texas 100 percent,” Gov. Greg Abbott said, adding that “Covid has not suddenly disappeared,” but state mandates are no longer needed.

All around the country, governors and mayors are calibrating what is feasible, what is safe and what is politically practical.

ny times logoNew York Times, Prosecutors Investigating Trump Focus on His Finance Chief, Ben Protess, William K. Rashbaum and Maggie Haberman, March 2, 2021 (print ed.). State prosecutors in Manhattan who are investigating former President Donald J. Trump and his family business are sharpening their focus on the company’s long-serving chief financial officer, asking witnesses questions about his dealings at the company, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

allen weisselberg croppedThe increased focus on the executive, Allen H. Weisselberg, right, could step up pressure on him to cooperate with the investigation if the prosecutors unearth evidence of wrongdoing on his part. He has served as the Trump Organization’s financial gatekeeper for more than two decades and could be a vital source of information for the government about the inner workings of the company.

In recent weeks, the prosecutors working for the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., shown above at right, have been interviewing witnesses who know Mr. Weisselberg and have asked at least one witness about Mr. Weisselberg’s sons, Barry and Jack Weisselberg, according to two of the people with knowledge of the matter.

Barry Weisselberg has been the property manager of Trump Wollman Rink in Central Park, and Jack works at Ladder Capital, one of Mr. Trump’s biggest lenders.

The district attorney’s office has not accused Mr. Weisselberg or his sons of any wrongdoing, and there is no indication that the sons are a focus of the investigation.

If the prosecutors were to secure Allen Weisselberg’s cooperation, it might provide a significant boost to the long-running investigation and deliver a blow to Mr. Trump, who has long depended on Mr. Weisselberg’s unflinching loyalty.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. announces sanctions on Russia over Navalny poisoning and jailing, Anne Gearan, March 2, 2021. The sanctions are the first by alexey navalny 2017the Biden administration targeting Russia. Opposition leader Alexei Navalny, right, has been a fierce critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Russian FlagThe sanctions block access to financial or other assets in the United States for seven top figures around Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The sanctions are largely symbolic, but represent the first Biden administration action against Russia. U.S. officials who described the measures said they are a signal that the new administration will treat Russia differently than the Trump administration did.

The Biden administration also announced new export restrictions on items that could be used to manufacture chemical weapons and a widening of existing sanctions under a law controlling use of such weapons.

 

U.S. Capitol Riot, Insurrection Followups

 capitol noose shay horse nurphoto via getty

A crowd of Trump supporters surrounded a newly erected set of wooden gallows outside the Capitol Building on Jan. 6. "Hang Mike Pence!" members of the crowd shouted at times about the Republican Vice President who had announced that he could not comply with the president's call to block election certification that day. The wooden gallows was near the Capitol Reflecting Pool. Below is a separate photo by a suspect described in the story below.

ethan nordean WSJ

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. alleges Proud Boys planned to break into Capitol on Jan. 6 from many different points, Spencer S. Hsu, March 2, 2021. U.S. prosecutors alleged for the first time that a Washington state leader of the Proud Boys was nominated by members of the group to take charge of the U.S. Capitol breach on Jan. 6 and carried out a plan to split into groups to break into the building from as many points as possible.

In a 24-page filing Monday, U.S. prosecutors asked a federal judge in Washington, D.C., to keep Ethan Nordean, 30, of Seattle, in jail pending trial, appealing a lower court’s Feb. 8 release order.

Nordean was “nominated from within to have ‘war powers’ ” to lead activities at the Capitol after the group’s chairman, Henry “Enrique” Tarrio, was arrested by D.C. police upon arriving in the city two days earlier, Assistant U.S. Attorneys James B. Nelson and Jason B.A. McCullough alleged. They do not state whether Nordean and/or others were formally selected to lead events that day.

The prosecutors also asserted that Nordean led the group by positioning Proud Boys members — carrying encrypted two-way Chinese-made Baofeng radios and wearing military-style gear — at an entrance to the Capitol grounds that was guarded by only a handful of Capitol Police officers and spreading out others to different locations to avoid triggering police interest.

“By blending in and spreading out, Defendant and those following him on January 6 made it more likely that either a Proud Boy — or a suitably-inspired ‘normie’ [nonmilitant Trump supporter] — would be able to storm the Capitol and its ground in such a way that would interrupt [Congress’s] Certification of the Electoral College vote,” prosecutors said.

Nordean was scheduled for a detention hearing on Tuesday.

Nordean, also known as Rufio Panman online, was arrested Feb. 3 on charges of aiding and abetting the destruction of government property, obstructing an official proceeding, trespassing and disorderly conduct on restricted Capitol grounds. The charges include an offense of violence and a charge defined as a federal crime of terrorism — destroying property to intimidate or coerce the government — punishable by up to 10 years in prison, prosecutors said.

washington post logoWashington Post, A Capitol rioter said he posed as antifa, feds say, then boasted he beat police who ‘got exactly what they deserved,’ Katie Shepherd, March 2, 2021. The day before a pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol, William Robert Norwood III texted a group of friends and family to boast he had traveled to D.C. with a plan to fool the police.

“I’m dressing in all black,” Norwood texted a group chat on Jan. 5, according to images included in a federal criminal complaint filed last week. “I’ll look just like ANTIFA. I’ll get away with anything.”

Then, after joining in the mob, assaulting police officers and storming the Capitol rotunda, federal agents said, Norwood texted the group again to boast that his ploy had been a success.

“It worked,” Norwood texted, along with photos of himself wearing a police officer’s vest that he allegedly took from the Capitol. “I got away with things that others were shot or arrested for.”

Norwood was arrested in Greer, S.C., on Feb. 25 and charged with violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds, obstruction of justice and Congress, theft of government property and other charges. He does not yet have an attorney listed in court records.

Federal agents buttressed the criminal complaint against Norwood with text messages he allegedly sent about joining in the riot — including contradictory messages taking credit for attacking police, while also blaming the violence on antifascists.

washington post logoWashington Post, Military reaction was ‘sprint speed,’ top officer says as Pentagon takes heat for Capitol riot response, Missy Ryan and Dan Lamothe, March 2, 2021. Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, gave his first public comments on the events of Jan. 6.

mark milley army chief of staffThe Pentagon acted as quickly as possible when asked to help respond to rioting at the Capitol on Jan. 6, the top U.S. military officer said, calling the turnaround “sprint speed” in his first public comments about the Pentagon’s reaction to the lethal siege.

Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, right, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said defense officials approved a police request for assistance in about 60 minutes as a mob smashed into Congress in an effort to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s presidential win. It then took several hours for D.C. National Guard members to mobilize and get in place, he said.

Milley spoke as lawmakers prepared to hold another hearing on the riot, which has become a defining moment in President Donald Trump’s months-long attempt to remain in office and overturn the Biden victory.

Maj. Gen. William Walker, the commanding general of the D.C. National Guard, will be among those testifying Wednesday as part of a joint hearing by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration, part of a larger congressional effort to reckon with the violence.

Milley defended the military’s efforts before and during the attack, saying that criticism in the aftermath of the events did not take into account the Pentagon’s decision-making process and the steps involved with calling up part-time troops.

His account diverged from that of current and former police officials who have placed a large share of the blame on the Pentagon, saying that officials there dragged their feet or even initially refused to send additional troops as the violent crowd overpowered a small police force.

As the situation turned chaotic, acting D.C. police chief Robert J. Contee III and Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund, who resigned after the attack, spoke to Pentagon officials and requested additional support.

Sund later told lawmakers that he was “very surprised at the amount of time and the pushback I was receiving when I was making an urgent request for their assistance.”

Contee went further, saying he was “stunned” by the response from the Department of the Army, calling senior Army officials “reluctant” to send the D.C. National Guard to the Capitol.

Asked about Trump’s claim that he told Pentagon leaders they should have 10,000 National Guard personnel on the National Mall to help manage the planned protests, Milley also said he was not aware of any request.

“As chairman of the Joint Chiefs, if there was an order for 10,000 National Guardsmen, I would like to believe I would know that,” he said. “I know that that was never transmitted to me by anyone — the president or secretary of defense or anyone else — for 6th of January.”

washington post logoWashington Post, FBI director faces senators demanding answers about Capitol riot, Devlin Barrett and Matt Zapotosky, March 2, 2021. D.C. National FBI logoGuard leader to testify at Capitol attack hearing Wednesday.

FBI Director Christopher A. Wray testifies during the Senate Judiciary Committee's hearing on domestic terrorism and the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.

washington post logoWashington Post, Fact Checker Analysis: Trump’s four-Pinocchio claim he ‘requested’ 10,000 troops for Jan. 6, but it was rejected by Pelosi, Glenn Kessler, March 2, 2021 (print ed.).

“I requested … I definitely gave the number of 10,000 National Guardsmen, and [said] I think you should have 10,000 of the National Guard ready. They took that number. From what I understand, they gave it to the people at the Capitol, which is controlled by Pelosi. And I heard they rejected it because they didn’t think it would look good. So, you know, that was a big mistake.”

Former president Donald Trump, in an interview with Steve Hilton of Fox News, Feb. 28, 2021

On the day before the Jan. 6 rally, Trump appears to have mentioned 10,000 National Guard troops at a White House meeting on an unrelated matter. Contrary to his statement, he did not make a request or any sort of order to dispatch the troops. Otherwise, his comment would not have been regarded as typical Trump hype. Presumably if he had issued an order, he would have followed up to make sure it was carried out.

Trump goes further afield when he claims that his number was raised with the Capitol Police and that Pelosi, in “a big mistake,” rejected the offer of so many troops. That’s just fantasy.

Like many of Trump’s falsehoods, there’s a seed of reality here. But then the former president nurtures it into a bush of fictions as part of his continuing effort to evade responsibility for how his own actions led to the Capitol Hill riot. He earns Four Pinocchios.

wayne madesen report logo

cpac nazi symbol odal rune

Wayne Madsen Report, Opinion: Far-right terrorist leader IDs Republicans in Congress to "get rid of," Wayne Madsen, left, March 2, 2021. Speaking to wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallthe Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on February 28, while standing on a stage modeled after a Nazi SS symbol, [above] Trump exorted the group of far-right extremists to take revenge on anti-Trump Republicans in Congress.

Based on the storming of the U.S. Capitol, Trump's urging his supporters to "get rid" of his 17 identified Republicans should be taken as a death threat against elected members of Congress.

Responding to Trump's past violence-inducing vitriol, his militia supporters plotted the assassinations of Michigan Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer, Virginia Democratic Governor Ralph Northam, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and former Vice President Mike Pence.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: March 2), with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):

World Cases: 115,115,087, Deaths: 2,552,720
U.S. Cases:    29,315,639, Deaths:    527,386

washington post logocovad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Washington Post, 51.8 million vaccinated: The number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, covering 42.5% of the prioritized population and 15.6 % of the total population. See about your state.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Virus Reporting: Global infection numbers edging back up after weeks of decline, WHO says, Erin Cunningham and Derek Hawkins, March 2, 2021.

  • Austria, Denmark team up with Israel on vaccines as Europe falters
  • Global focus on pandemic led to fewer casualties in conflict zones, report says
  • Delayed coronavirus response by D.C. psychiatric hospital caused 18 deaths, report says

ny times logoNew York Times, Should Your School Be Fully Open? Here’s What the C.D.C. Says, John Keefe, March 2, 2021. Few counties in the United cdc logo CustomStates meet the guidelines to avoid major restrictions on reopening schools, according to a New York Times analysis.

Only 4 percent of the nation’s schoolchildren live in counties where coronavirus transmission is low enough for full-time in-person learning without additional restrictions, according to the guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and an analysis of the agency’s latest figures.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. must stick with two-shot strategy for Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, Fauci says, Dan Diamond, March 2, 2021 (print ed.). Delaying a second dose to inoculate more Americans creates risks, infectious-disease expert says.

The government’s top infectious-disease expert on Monday reiterated that the United States will stick to a plan to inoculate tens of millions of Americans with two doses of coronavirus vaccine, as calls mount to protect more people by letting them get one shot now.

anthony fauci Custom“There’s risks on either side,” Anthony S. Fauci, right, told The Washington Post, warning that shifting to a single-dose strategy for the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines could leave people less protected, enable variants to spread and possibly boost skepticism among Americans already hesitant to get the shots.

moderna logo“We’re telling people [two shots] is what you should do … and then we say, ‘Oops, we changed our mind’?” Fauci said. “I think that would be a messaging challenge, to say the least.”

Fauci said he spoke on Monday with health officials in the United Kingdom, who have opted to delay second doses to maximize giving more people shots more quickly. He said that although he understands the strategy, it wouldn’t make sense in America. “We both agreed that both of our approaches were quite reasonable,” Fauci said.

 

U.S. Elections, Politics, Governance

washington post logoWashington Post, Supreme Court appears to favor upholding voting laws lower court found unfair to minorities, Robert Barnes, March 2, 2021. The justices are reviewing protections provided by the Voting Rights Act, which forbids laws that result in discrimination based on race. Related story, a preview, shown below:

washington post logoWashington Post, Supreme Court to again consider federal protections for minority voters, Robert Barnes, March 2, 2021. The increasingly conservative court's decisions on election rules will affect new laws and new congressional and legislative districts taking shape in states.

With one contentious election behind it, the Supreme Court this week will consider the rules for the next and how federal law protects minority voters as states across the nation race to revamp their regulations.

supreme court graphicThe court on Tuesday will review the shield provided by the Voting Rights Act (VRA), first passed in 1965 to forbid laws that result in discrimination based on race.

The cases at the Supreme Court involve two voting regulations from Arizona that are in common use across the country. One throws out the ballots of those who vote in the wrong precinct. The other restricts who may collect ballots cast early for delivery to polling places, a practice then-President Donald Trump denounced as “ballot harvesting.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The Senate parliamentarian did Democrats a favor on the minimum wage, Catherine Rampell, right, March 2, 2021 (print ed.). catherine rampellEven if the parliamentarian had allowed the provision to remain, or even if Dems nuked the filibuster and could more easily pass any bill with a simple majority, a $15 federal minimum wage probably still wouldn’t receive enough votes to become law.

Firing or overruling the ref won’t help you if your own team can’t decide where the goal posts are.

This has been obvious for a while. Yet Democratic leaders chose to ignore the discord rather than adopt a compromise policy that might be acceptable to moderates — and still achieve, say, 90 percent of the left’s objectives. Which are, presumably, to raise living standards for as many of the working poor as possible.

Raising the federal hourly minimum wage from $7.25 — where it has remained since 2009 — is broadly popular among both voters and Democratic lawmakers. There’s disagreement, though, about what level it should be raised to.

The “Fight for 15” movement, launched in 2012 by fast-food workers with backing from organized labor, cultivated political support for this round-numbered, alliterative goal. The movement has had successes in places such as New York and Seattle, and the left wing of the Democratic Party has worked to expand the minimum to $15 nationwide.

But this policy’s economic and political effects might look different in areas where wages and costs of living are lower. In Mississippi, for instance, the most recent data available show that the median wage is $15 per hour. So if implemented immediately, a federal minimum at that level would apply to half of the state’s wage-earning workforce.

washington post logoWashington Post, House ethics office says there’s ‘substantial reason to believe’ Rep. Steven Palazzo misused campaign, congressional funds, Felicia Sonmez, March 2, 2021 (print ed.). A House ethics panel says there is “substantial reason to believe” that Rep. Steven M. Palazzo (R-Miss.) misused his campaign and congressional funds, according to a report made public Monday.

The Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE), which produced the 47-page report last summer after a months-long probe, also said that Palazzo “may have performed official actions to assist his brother,” Kyle Palazzo, in potential violation of House rules and federal law.

steven palazzoThe probe was prompted by a complaint last March from the nonprofit Campaign Legal Center, which accused Rep. Palazzo, right, of using his campaign contributions as a “personal slush fund” through which he paid “himself and his spouse nearly $200,000,” including $60,000 in rent to his own farm.

In its report, the OCE said that it had found “limited evidence of campaign use of the property, especially to justify $60,000.00 in rent and thousands of dollars of additional charges to maintain the home and improve its marketability.”

The ethics office also said there was evidence that Palazzo “may have asked official staffers to perform campaign work and personal errands during the congressional workday.”

“And finally,” the report states, “the OCE found evidence that Rep. Palazzo may have used his official position and congressional resources to contact the Assistant Secretary of the Navy in order to assist his brother’s efforts to reenlist in the military.” It notes that, according to a former Palazzo staffer, Kyle Palazzo “was separated from the Navy for affecting a fraudulent enlistment.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Vernon E. Jordan Jr. (1935–2021): Lawyer and political power broker who became the confidant of presidents dies at 85, Matt Schudel, March 2, 2021. Jordan was one of the most influential figures in Washington, reaching the peak of his quiet authority during the 1990s, when he had Bill Clinton’s ear through two terms as president, including when Clinton faced an investigation and impeachment over a relationship with a White House intern.

vernon jordanVernon E. Jordan Jr., right, never held elective office, was never a member of the Cabinet and never even worked for the federal government. He was a lawyer who rarely appeared in court, a corporate kingmaker who was not a registered lobbyist, a political strategist who did not direct a campaign.

Yet Mr. Jordan was, for years, one of the most influential figures in Washington. With a commanding presence, personal charm and an inviolable sense of discretion, he had a rare combination of talents that made him the confidant of presidents, congressional leaders, business executives and civil rights figures.

Mr. Jordan was the consummate Washington power broker, reaching the peak of his quiet authority during the 1990s, when he was, with the possible exception of Hillary Clinton, President Bill Clinton’s closest adviser.

Mr. Jordan brought a smooth manner and elegant style to Beltway dealmaking, anchored in his youth in a housing project in the segregated South. He had the moral authority of a veteran of the civil rights movement — he nearly died in a 1980 shooting by a racially motivated would-be assassin — and was adept at navigating corporate boardrooms and golf course fairways, as well as gospel-filled churches.

Earlier generations of Washington insiders had given advice from the sidelines, including Tommy “the Cork” Corcoran, Bryce Harlow, Clark Clifford, Lloyd Cutler and Robert Strauss — Mr. Jordan’s mentor at the Akin Gump law firm. But one significant way in which Mr. Jordan differed from his predecessors was he was among the few African Americans at the top of Washington’s power structure.

ny times logoNew York Times, Cuomo Losing Power and Allies as Crisis Deepens, Jesse McKinley, Luis Ferré-Sadurní and Katie Glueck, March 2, 2021. Gov. Andrew Cuomo faced more calls for his resignation, and a Republican congressman, Lee Zeldin, said he was exploring a challenge to him next year.

With allegations of unsettling behavior toward women spilling into the public eye, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo spent Tuesday fending off calls for his resignation, with few voluble defenders in a moment of unparalleled weakness in his decade-long tenure in Albany.

Signs of the governor’s diminished sway were everywhere.

A small, but expanding, coterie of Democratic lawmakers called on Mr. Cuomo to step down, as did the state Working Families Party, which has frequently clashed with the governor. Among some donors, there was an increasing sense of discomfort with reports of Mr. Cuomo’s behavior and uncertainty around his future, with one active Democratic donor describing a growing instinct to “hedge their bets.”

Representative Lee Zeldin, a Long Island Republican, announced on Tuesday that he was “actively exploring” a run for governor.

Still, for all that, one major bulwark to any forced departure — the Democrat-dominated statehouse, which could impeach him — appeared to be holding, for now at least. Impeachment would require mass defections by Democrats in both the State Assembly and the Senate, which seemed unlikely as of Tuesday.

washington post logoWashington Post, Massive investment in civics education proposed to address eroding trust in democratic institutions, Joe Heim, March 2, 2021. For many close observers, a direct line can be drawn from today’s civics crises to a long-standing failure to adequately teach American government, history and civic responsibility. Breadth has been emphasized over depth, they say, and the cost is a citizenry largely ignorant of the work needed to sustain a democracy.

Now, a diverse collection of academics, historians, teachers, school administrators and state education leaders is proposing an overhaul of the way civics and history are taught to American K-12 students. And they’re calling for a massive investment of funds, teacher training and curriculum development to help make that happen.

The Educating for American Democracy (EAD) initiative will release a 36-page report and an accompanying 39-page road map Tuesday, laying out extensive guidance for improving and reimagining the teaching of social studies, history and civics and then implementing that over the next decade.

Work on the report began two years ago with $650,000 in grants from the Education Department and the National Endowment for the Humanities to come up with a plan to address what some have described as an existential issue for the country. The grant was later increased to $1.1 million. More than 300 individuals with experience at all levels of civics, political science and social studies education contributed to the project, including many with disparate views and ideas about how the work should be done.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Politics: Biden to continue push for pandemic relief packageP, Staff Reports, March 2, 2021. President Biden plans to deliver public remarks on the pandemic from the White House and call into the weekly private Senate Democratic lunch on Capitol Hill as he continues a push Tuesday for passage of his $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package.

  • Former White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany joins Fox News, John Wagner
  • Analysis: Many Republicans don’t want the coronavirus vaccines. Trump could change that, Olivier Knox
  • House Democrats unveil ambitious legislative agenda for March, Colby Itkowitz

peter navarro fox Custom

Politico, Navarro penned 15-page memo falsely accusing Coates of being Anonymous, Daniel Lippman, March 2, 2021. Victoria Coates, then a deputy national security adviser, was politico Customtransferred out of the White House amid a whisper campaign that she was the author of the op-ed and book.

Former President Donald Trump's trade adviser Peter Navarro (shown above in a file photo) penned a 15-page dossier falsely accusing his colleague Victoria Coates of being Anonymous, according to a copy of the document that was obtained by POLITICO and captures the backbiting that was rife in the Trump White House.

The December 2019 memo goes into great detail to make the case that Coates — who was then a deputy national security adviser — was the author of both the New York Times op-ed and a tell-all book that described a resistance force within the administration aiming to undermine President Donald Trump.

Coates, who is not named in the memo but is clearly identified through specific information, was transferred out of the White House to the Department of Energy in February, just weeks after Navarro wrote and circulated the document.

The dossier lists fifteen bullet points as the likely profile of the author, and several of them turned out to be wrong, including that the person was a “Female With Several Children,” a “Middle East Expert, Pro-Israel, Iran Hawk,” an “Experienced Writer” who had ties to former national security adviser John Bolton and who worked at the National Security Council and not at a Cabinet agency.

The Dec. 2, 2019, memo, entitled “Identity of Anonymous” and which has never been published publicly, seems to reverse-engineer the search for Anonymous and cherry-pick clues to pin the blame on Coates.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The GOP is now just the party of white grievance, Michael Gerson (right, former chief speechwriter for Republican President George W. Bush), March 2, 2021 (print ed.). One of the poisonous legacies of michael gerson file photoDonald Trump’s presidency has been to expand the boundaries of expressible prejudice.

Through the explicit practice of White-identity politics, Trump has obviated the need for code words and dog whistles. Thus his strongest supporters during the Jan. 6 riot felt free to carry Confederate battle flags and wear “Camp Auschwitz” sweatshirts without fear of reproof from their political allies.

Many in the crowd surely didn’t consider themselves racists, but they were perfectly willing to make common cause with racists. In social effect, it is a distinction without a difference.

washington post logoWashington Post, Donors gave a House candidate more than $8 million. A single firm took nearly half of it, Meagan Flynn and Michael Scherer, March 2, 2021. Baltimore Republican Kim Klacik’s viral ads were touted by President Donald Trump and his son Donald Trump Jr.

U.S. House candidate Kim Klacik walked onto Mike Huckabee’s cable talk show last August as the latest conservative celebrity, riding high on a viral campaign ad that had attracted 10 million views and was shared on social media by President Donald Trump and his eldest son.

“We raised close to $2 million,” the Republican congressional hopeful said of the three-minute spot, which showed her marching in a red dress and high heels past abandoned buildings in Baltimore, asserting that Democrats do not care about Black lives.

But later that night, Klacik’s staff told her it would be best to stop disclosing how much money the ad had raised for her campaign against Rep. Kweisi Mfume (D) — because she wouldn’t be keeping much of it, Klacik recounted in an interview.

republican elephant logoHer campaign is an example of how some consulting firms are profiting handsomely from Republican candidates who have robust appeal in today’s politically charged environment — even when they are running in deep-blue districts where it is virtually impossible for them to win. The more viral the candidate goes, the more money the companies make — a model possible only through the online outrage machine of hyperpartisan politics.

Fundraising companies say their fees are well-earned and still leave candidates with more money than they would have if their ads had not been shared widely. But critics, including Klacik and some other 2020 candidates, say the system is deceptive, trapping first-time politicians in onerous contracts that siphon away cash their donors intended for them.

“It sounds like part of the swamp that needs to be drained,” said Bruce Dale, a Klacik donor from Michigan, who was aghast to learn that a chunk of his $800 in donations may not have made it to her. “They can say it’s legal, but there are a lot of things that are legal that are wrong. This is wrong.”

High-margin fundraising fees — sometimes in excess of 90 percent of a donor’s first contribution — have sucked resources out of conservative politics ever since the movement organized in the 1970s around the costly medium of direct mail. Social media, email and text-message fundraising brought those same steep margins online.

 

ronny jackson resized civilian palmer

Palmer Report, Opinion: Trump doctor Ronny Jackson, now a House Republican, swallowed by huge scandal, Daniel Cotter, March 2, 2021. U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Ronny Jackson served as physician to President Donald J. Trump for several years and issued medical reports about Trump that obviously were made out of whole cloth. It turns out, we might have some insights into the materials that Trump held over Jackson. According to a CNN exclusive, the Department of Defense report from its inspector general found:

bill palmer report logo headerJackson made “sexual and denigrating” comments about a female subordinate, violated the policy for drinking alcohol while on a presidential trip and took prescription-strength sleeping medication that prompted concerns from his colleagues about his ability to provide proper care.

The report is scathing. Jackson, who is now a member of the House of Representatives, said the report was politically motivated and “resurrected” old allegations against him because he refused to “turn my back on President (Donald) Trump.”

We have wondered what caused so many to continue to stoop so low in light of Trump’s misconduct and misdeeds, but the picture gets clearer. Just as Trump used the National Enquirer to capture and kill stories and hurt enemies, we see that he had leverage over Jackson that likely impugned his impartiality. We will continue to see others being exposed in similar fashion.

 

U.S. Law, Regulation, Disasters

washington post logoWashington Post, In Jackson, Miss., two weeks with no running water and no end in sight, Sarah Fowler, March 2, 2021 (print ed.). Residents are filling pots with whatever water they can find after devastating storms.

On Feb. 15, residents across Mississippi woke up to a blanket of ice, uncommon in this part of the South. The ice trapped many residents in their homes and rendered roads impassable. Days later, another winter storm made its way through the state, leaving residents in central Mississippi without power and ultimately resulting in six deaths.

While power was eventually restored, the city of Jackson soon faced another problem: lack of running water. On Feb. 17, the system lost power, and officials immediately issued a boil-water notice to 43,000 connections, including households and businesses.

ny times logoNew York Times, At Least 13 Killed in Crash in Southern California, Officials Say, Christine Hauser, Miriam Jordan and Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, March 2, 2021. The crash, involving an S.U.V. and a tractor-trailer, took place near Holtville, Calif., about 40 miles west of the Arizona border.

At least 13 people were killed on Tuesday morning when a tractor-trailer slammed into the side of an S.U.V. that was carrying more than two dozen people in Southern California, the authorities said.

The crash took place just after 6 a.m. local time on the outskirts of Holtville, Calif., about 42 miles west of the Arizona border and near the border with Mexico, Omar Watson, the chief of the California Highway Patrol’s border division, said at a news conference.

Chief Watson said the tractor-trailer had been traveling north along State Route 115 when the driver of the S.U.V., a maroon Ford Expedition, pulled into its path. The tractor-trailer struck the S.U.V. on the driver’s side, which caused several passengers to be thrown from vehicle, he said.

There were 25 people inside the S.U.V., Chief Watson said, and 12 were dead when police arrived on the scene shortly after 6:15 a.m. One more died at a hospital, bringing the total fatalities to 13, two fewer than hospital officials had reported earlier on Tuesday.

51.8 million vaccinated The number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, covering 42.5% of the prioritized population and 15.6% of the total population.

 

Biden Transition

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden picks for SEC, CFPB to face senators in joint confirmation hearing, Tory Newmyer, March 2, 2021. President Biden’s team of Wall Street regulators remains a securities exchange commission sealwork in progress, but it is set to take a step forward today.

Two of his key picks — Gary Gensler, tapped to head the Securities and Exchange Commission, and Rohit Chopra, in line to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau — will appear before the Senate Banking Committee for a joint hearing on their nominations.

Both are progressive darlings expected to take a tough line against the financial services interests they would oversee.

washington post logoWashington Post and Parftnership for Public Service, Biden Political Appointee Tracker, Harry Stevens and Madison Walls, March 2, 2021. Joe Biden has picked 58 nominees to fill key roles in his administration so far.

We are tracking 791 government positions among about 1,250 that require Senate confirmation. 484 positions have no nominee yet. Additionally, we have identified 249 appointees so far who are serving in termed positions or who were held over from previous administrations.

Presidents are required to fill roughly 4,000 politically appointed positions in the executive branch and independent agencies, including more than 1,250 that require Senate confirmation. The Washington Post and the Partnership for Public Service are tracking nominees, including Cabinet secretaries, chief financial officers, general counsels, ambassadors and other critical leadership positions.

President Biden’s government transition, beset by delays stemming from the late flip of Senate control to Democrats, has lagged in comparison with his predecessors’ transitions.

 

U.S. Foreign Policy

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washington post logoWashington Post, Biden meets with Mexican president amid pressure on immigration, Anne Gearan, Mary Beth Sheridan, Nick Miroff and Kevin Sieff, March 2, 2021 (print ed.). President Biden has faced criticism from liberals for not fixing a broken immigration system faster and from conservatives who say he recklessly opened the border.

President Biden met with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador on Monday amid growing pressure to find a workable immigration policy, as he faces criticism from liberal Democrats for detaining migrant children and accusations from Republicans that he is recklessly throwing open the nation’s borders amid a pandemic.

Biden and López Obrador issued a joint declaration affirming their will to cooperate on migration issues, particularly the long-term goal of creating more jobs in southern Mexico and Central America. But whether Biden can get Mexico’s immediate help to contain the growing border influx was not clear.

A surge of unaccompanied minors at the border has put an early strain on Biden’s presidency as he pushes to reverse the immigration policies of former president Donald Trump. Biden has frozen construction of the border wall, curbed deportations and welcomed asylum seekers that his predecessor sought to keep in Mexico.

  • Washington Post, Mexico border presents a ‘challenge’ but not a crisis, DHS chief says

washington post logoWashington Post, Inside the Biden team’s deliberations over punishing the Saudi crown prince, John Hudson and Karen DeYoung, March 2, 2021 (print mohammed bin salman al sauded.). Even before President Biden took office, his top advisers began examining how to make good on his campaign promise to treat Saudi Arabia as a “pariah” for the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, left, without destroying America’s long-standing relationship with the oil-rich monarchy.

The results of those deliberations came Friday with the release of a report concluding that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, right, approved the 2018 assassination and a clarification that the United States would sanction lower-level Saudi officials but not Mohammed jamal kahshoggihimself.

The reaction in Washington was swift and condemnatory.

Republicans and Democrats in Congress called the response insufficient and urged the Biden administration to directly punish the crown prince. Human rights groups pushed for a broader freeze on weapons to Saudi Arabia until the crown prince faces justice. A torrent of criticisms came in from prominent columnists and editorial boards, including The Washington Post, for which Khashoggi wrote columns, which said Biden granted “what amounts to a pass to a ruler who has sown instability around the Middle East.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Media advocacy group accuses Saudi crown prince, aides of crimes against humanity in Khashoggi death, Missy Ryan and Loveday Morris, March 2, 2021. A media advocacy group has filed a criminal complaint with a German prosecutor alleging that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and top aides committed crimes against humanity in the killing of Washington Post contributing columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

The submission by Paris-based Reporters Without Borders also alleges that Saudi officials are responsible for “widespread and systematic” persecution of journalists in the kingdom, citing what it characterizes as the arbitrary detention of more than 30 journalists.

The other officials named in the complaint include Saud al-Qahtani, a top aide to the crown prince; and Maj. Gen. Ahmed al-Assiri, a former deputy intelligence chief. Both men are accused of “organizational or executive responsibility” in the death of Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist and U.S. resident who was brutally killed inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul in October 2018.

 

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, 279 Nigerian schoolgirls released days after raid on boarding school, officials say, Adam Taylor, March 2, 2021. Hundreds of Nigerian schoolgirls abducted from a boarding school in the country’s northwest last week have been released, officials said Tuesday.

Zamfara state governor Bello Matawalle said that all 279 students taken Friday morning from Government Girls Junior Secondary School in the town of Jangebe had been freed.

In messages posted to Twitter, Matawalle shared images of the girls as they returned on buses in the state capitol of Gusau and called on “all well-meaning Nigerians to rejoice with us as our daughters are now safe.”

“This news bring overwhelming joy,” Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari wrote on Twitter. “I am pleased that their ordeal has come to a happy end without any incident.”

Though local authorities initially said that 317 girls had been abducted, the number came down as some girls were found to have escaped their captors by running away from the school. Nigerian officials did not provide a detailed account of how the Zamfara students had been freed. Speaking at a news conference on Tuesday, Matawalle suggested the government had worked in some way with “repentant bandits.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Sexual Assault Allegations Divide Mexico’s Governing Party, Maria Abi-Habib and Natalie Kitroeff, March 2, 2021. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has backed a candidate accused of sexual assault, testing his promise to create a more egalitarian Mexico.

Basilia Castañeda said she was such a fervent believer in Mexico’s president that she founded the first chapter of his political party in her small town and stumped with the president’s son on the campaign trail.

Then, in December, the man she has accused of raping her when she was just 17 years old was nominated by the president’s party to run for governor of her state, Guerrero.

In statements to prosecutors, Ms. Castañeda and at least one other woman have accused the candidate for governor, Félix Salgado Macedonio, a former senator who is favored to win the election in June, of rape. Local news media have reported that another woman made sexual assault allegations against him in 2007.

One of the criminal investigations is still open, yet Mr. Salgado has enjoyed weeks of public support from President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who has defended the candidate by calling the accusations politically motivated.

The president’s backing of Mr. Salgado is creating significant cracks inside the governing party, presenting a potential challenge to Mr. López Obrador’s popularity and promised transformation of Mexican society.

During a news conference on Tuesday, Mr. López Obrador once again blamed the political opposition for the outcry over Mr. Salgado, claiming that it is “such a shame that the feminist movement is used for other purposes.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Catholic clergy in France abused more than 10,000 child victims, independent commission estimates, Rick Noack, March 2, 2021. The independent commission, set up two years ago with the approval of French church officials, has so far received more than 6,500 calls from people providing testimony on incidents over the past seven decades.

The head of a commission examining sexual abuse in France’s Catholic Church put the possible number of child victims at more than 10,000 on Tuesday, portending a public reckoning in a country where church officials long stalled efforts to investigate complicity.

The Independent Commission on Sexual Abuse in the Church, set up two years ago with the approval of French church officials, has so far received more than 6,500 testimonies from victims and witnesses on incidents alleged to have happened in the past seven decades.

“The big question for us is: How many victims came forward? Is it 25 percent? 10 percent, 5 percent or less?” commission leader Jean-Marc Sauvé told journalists.

 

Media News

ny times logoNew York Times, 6 Dr. Seuss Books Will No Longer Be Published Over Offensive Images, Jenny Gross, March 2, 2021. The company that oversees the children’s author’s estate said that the titles contained depictions of groups that were “hurtful and wrong.”

Six Dr. Seuss books will no longer be published because of their use of offensive imagery, according to the business that oversees the estate of the children’s author and illustrator.

In a statement on Tuesday, Dr. Seuss Enterprises said that it had decided last year to end publication and licensing of the books by Theodor Seuss Geisel. The titles include his first book writing under the pen name Dr. Seuss, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street (1937), and If I Ran the Zoo (1950).

“These books portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong,” Dr. Seuss Enterprises said in the statement. The business said the decision came after working with a panel of experts, including educators, and reviewing its catalog of titles.

Mr. Geisel, whose whimsical stories have entertained millions of children and adults worldwide, died in 1991. The other books that will no longer be published are McElligot’s PoolOn Beyond Zebra! Scrambled Eggs Super! and The Cat’s Quizzer.

Mr. Geisel’s stories are loved by fans for their rhymes and fantastical characters but also for their positive values, like taking responsibility for the planet. But in recent years, critics have said some of his work was racist and presented harmful depictions of certain groups.

In And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, a character described as “a Chinaman” has lines for eyes, wears a pointed hat, and carries chopsticks and a bowl of rice. (Editions published in the 1970s changed the reference from “a Chinaman” to “a Chinese man.”)

The decision to stop the publication of some Dr. Seuss books helps revive a debate over classic children’s titles that do not positively represent minority groups. In France, the latest in a series of beloved comic books, Lucky Luke, features a Black hero and a narrative that reimagines the role of the cowboy, drawing criticism that the book was caving to an American-inspired obsession with race.

 

March 1

Top Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

More On Pro-Trump Jan. 6 Capitol Riot

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Crime

 

World News

 

Biden Nominations

 

Top Stories

 
tiffany yuen theodora yu feb 28 2021 twitter

Washington Post reporter Theodora Yu via Twitter: Hong Kong District Councilor and activist Tiffany Yuen (@tiffanyykw) at Aberdeen Police Station, shown above. She did interviews with the press and said goodbye to friends before reporting to the police and was charged just now under the national security law for “inciting subversion” along with 46 others. "On the taxi ride to the station, Yuen was calm and said little; she patiently guided the driver to the police station in Tin Wan, the district where she was elected Councilor and moved in a year ago to be closer with the community she serves."

washington post logoWashington Post, With new mass detentions, every prominent Hong Kong activist is now either in jail or exile, Shibani Mahtani, Timothy McLaughlin and Theodora Yu, March 1, 2021 (print ed.). More than 40 activists were charged Sunday under the national security law — the widest use of the draconian measure to date — and all face life in prison.

China FlagSome sat down for one last long meal with their partners. Another went to a tattoo artist to ink a Buddhist mantra on his forearm. One purchased new pink-rimmed glasses to replace her contact lenses, dropped off her two cats to a friend, and swapped sneakers for wool slip-on shoes.

Then, on Sunday afternoon, the Hong Kong pro-democracy activists fanned out to police stations across the territory, where more than 40 of them were officially charged with “conspiracy to commit subversion” under the national security law, according to police. They were detained immediately, will be held overnight for a court session on Monday, and face life in prison if found guilty.

Palmer Report, Opinion: New York criminal prosecutors look to flip Trump Organization CFO against Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, right, March 1, 2021. / If Donald bill palmerTrump’s barely-there CPAC speech and weak CPAC straw poll numbers served as a reminder that he’s finished in political life, then the news coming out of New York tonight serves as a reminder that he’s just getting started in the criminal justice world.

The Manhattan District Attorney has had a widely documented grand jury in the process of criminally indicting Donald Trump for more than a year now, and by all accounts, that process has accelerated since Trump left office. Trump’s tax returns have been acquired. A special outside prosecutor has been hired to lead bill palmer report logo headerthe way. And last week the news surfaced that the DA is focusing not just on Donald Trump, but also on Donald Trump Jr. and Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg.

Now the New York Times is reporting tonight that Manhattan prosecutors are looking to nail Weisselberg on something so they can flip him against Donald Trump and the Trump family. This wouldn’t be the first time that Weisselberg has cut a deal.

After the news broke, Michael Cohen posted a tweet reminding everyone of the last time Allen Weisselberg flipped: “Remember that Allen Weisselberg received (federal) immunity from the SDNY to provide information and testify against me for the Stormy Daniels payment.”

That SDNY case labeled Donald Trump as “Individual 1” but never did reach his doorstep, presumably because the SDNY is overseen by the DOJ, and Trump had control of the DOJ at the time. But now the Manhattan District Attorney is building a much broader criminal case against Trump. There’s more than enough paper trial evidence to put Trump in prison. If Weisselberg flips and testifies against him, it’ll be icing on the cake.

  djt cpac 2021 cspan

 Donald Trump at CPAC on Feb. 28 in Orlando, Florida. Photo: Courtesy of C-SPAN.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump rules out third party as he moves to firm up control of GOP, David Weigel and Michael Scherer, March 1, 2021 (print ed.). Making his first speech since leaving the White House, former president Donald Trump hinted he was contemplating another run in 2024.

Former president Donald Trump declared Sunday that he is considering a presidential run in 2024, has ruled out forming a third party and will devote himself to building up Republican efforts to take on Democrats and others he claimed have targeted his movement.

The address before an ebullient crowd at the Conservative Political Action Conference marked Trump’s first political speech since leaving the White House. It was staged as a public declaration of Trump’s intention to play a dominant political role in controlling the GOP through the 2022 election — and to potentially set himself up for a third campaign for the White House.

“We began it together four years ago, and it is far from being over,” Trump said of the political journey launched by his 2016 campaign. “Let there be no doubt we will be victorious, and America will be stronger and greater than ever before.”

republican elephant logoTrump’s speech came as he has been putting the finishing touches on a new political structure that he intends to use to cement his dominance over the GOP.

“We are not starting new parties,” he said. “We have the Republican Party. It is going to unite and be stronger than ever before.”

Trump also launched an expected attack on President Biden, echoing many of the themes of the Republican’s winning 2016 presidential campaign and its losing sequel in 2020. He alleged that Biden had “the most disastrous first month of any president in modern history,” before attacking the president for his position on border security policy, his erasure of Trump executive orders and his energy policies.

He predicted withering Democratic losses in the 2022 midterms and a Democratic loss of the White House four years from now, prompting a standing ovation and chants of “USA!” and “Four more years!”

He repeated his false claims about the outcome of the 2020 presidential election, which Biden won.

ny times logoNew York Times, Cuomo Accused of Unwanted Advance at a Wedding: ‘Can I Kiss You?’ Matt Flegenheimer and Jesse McKinley, March 1, 2021. A young woman’s account follows two separate accusations that Gov. Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed two female state employees.

Anna Ruch had never met Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo before encountering him at a crowded New York City wedding reception in September 2019. Her first impression was positive enough.

The governor was working the room after toasting the newlyweds, and when he came upon Ms. Ruch, now 33, she thanked him for his kind words about her friends. But what happened next instantly unsettled her: Mr. Cuomo put his hand on Ms. Ruch’s bare lower back, she said in an interview on Monday.

When she removed his hand with her own, Ms. Ruch recalled, the governor remarked that she seemed “aggressive” and placed his hands on her cheeks. He asked if he could kiss her, loudly enough for a friend standing nearby to hear. Ms. Ruch was bewildered by the entreaty, she said, and pulled away as the governor drew closer.

anna ruch andrew cuomoAnna Ruch, shown at right, said she felt “uncomfortable and embarrassed” when Mr. Cuomo, shown at far right, placed his hands on her face and asked to kiss her (Personal photo).

“I was so confused and shocked and embarrassed,” said Ms. Ruch, whose recollection was corroborated by the friend, contemporaneous text messages and photographs from the event. “I turned my head away and didn’t have words in that moment.”

Ms. Ruch’s account comes after two former aides accused Mr. Cuomo of sexual harassment in the workplace, plunging his third term into turmoil as the governor’s defenders and Mr. Cuomo himself strain to explain his behavior.

A spokesman for the governor did not directly address Ms. Ruch’s account, referring to a general statement that Mr. Cuomo released on Sunday night in which he acknowledged that some things he has said “have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation.”

“To the extent anyone felt that way, I am truly sorry about that,” the statement said.

Ms. Ruch’s example is distinct from those of the former aides: A former member of the Obama administration and the 2020 Biden campaign, Ms. Ruch has never been employed by the governor or the state. But her experience reinforces the escalating concerns and accusations about Mr. Cuomo’s personal conduct — a pattern of words and actions that have, at minimum, made three women who are decades his junior feel deeply uncomfortable, in their collective telling.

Exactly a year after the state’s first confirmed coronavirus case — the dawn of a crisis that eventually propelled Mr. Cuomo to national Democratic stardom — the governor was silent on Monday, even as the fallout continued to shadow his beleaguered administration.

His accusers were not quiet, however: Charlotte Bennett, a former aide who accused Mr. Cuomo of sexual harassment, issued her first public statement since outlining her claims in a New York Times article, saying that the apology and attempted explanation issued by the governor on Sunday night was woefully inadequate.

“These are not the actions of someone who simply feels misunderstood,” Ms. Bennett wrote. “They are the actions of an individual who wields his power to avoid justice.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Why Democrats Aren’t Asking Cuomo to Resign, Michelle Goldberg, right, March 1, 2021. The diminishing power of MeToo. It seems obvious enough that Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York did what his former aide Charlotte Bennett said he did. Bennett, 25, told The New York Times that, michelle goldberg thumbamong other things, Cuomo asked her if she ever had sex with older men, complained about being lonely and wanting a hug, and said he would date someone in her 20s.

“I understood that the governor wanted to sleep with me, and felt horribly uncomfortable and scared,” she said.

Bennett memorialized her discomfort in texts to friends and family. She met with Cuomo’s chief of staff, after which she accepted a transfer to a job on the other side of the Capitol from the governor’s office. She said she gave a statement to a special counsel to the governor, Judith Mogul, and she showed The Times a text from Mogul alluding to their meeting, if not its content.

And Cuomo hasn’t denied Bennett’s claims. Instead, he’s issued a sort-of apology that seems to confirm some of them: “I now understand that my interactions may have been insensitive or too personal and that some of my comments, given my position, made others feel in ways I never intended.” He acknowledged comments that “have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation.”

The New York attorney general, Letitia James, will oversee an investigation into all these charges, but that will only delay an eventual reckoning. Given what we know of Bennett’s story, it’s hard to imagine how an inquiry could exonerate the governor; it can probably only determine the degree and prevalence of his apparent harassment. So eventually, Cuomo’s fate will tell us whether there’s still power in the #MeToo movement.

My guess is that if this scandal had broken a few years ago, high-profile Democrats would have felt no choice but to call for Cuomo’s resignation. Since then, however, a few things have happened. Most significantly, among many Democrats, there’s tremendous bitterness toward those who pressured Al Franken to leave the Senate in 2018 after he was accused of grabbing several women’s butts.

But eventually the results of the investigation are going to come out, and unless they show that Cuomo is innocent of behavior he himself seemed to admit, Democrats will have to pick a side.

washington post logoWashington Post, Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy found guilty of corruption and sentenced to at least one year in prison, Rick Noack, March 1, 2021. Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy was found guilty of corruption and influence peddling on Monday and sentenced to one year in prison. Sarkozy was also given a two-year suspended sentence.

French Flag

Prosecutors had demanded a four-year sentence for the 66-year old with a requirement to serve at least two years. In justifying the requested sentence, they cited the damage Sarkozy had inflicted on the French presidency.

nicolas sarkozy resized in 2010Monday’s sentence can still be appealed and it remained unclear if Sarkozy, shown at left in 2010, would have to spend any time in prison even if an appeal were to fail.

The charges against Sarkozy, who was president between 2007 and 2012, were centered around the question whether the former French leader was behind a deal with a magistrate to illegally receive information on inquiries linked to him, using false names and unofficial phone lines.

According to the prosecution, Sarkozy and his then-lawyer and longtime friend Thierry Herzog attempted to bribe the magistrate, Gilbert Azibert, by offering him a high-profile position in return for information. The incident took place after Sarkozy had left office.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

ny times logoNew York Times, Virus Did Not Bring Financial Rout That Many States Feared, Data Shows, Mary Williams Walsh, Graphics by Karl Russell, March 1, 2021.  Throughout the debate over stimulus, one question has produced repeated deadlock in Washington: Should the states get no-strings federal aid?

Republicans have mostly said no, casting it as a bailout for spendthrift blue states. Democrats have argued the opposite, saying that states face dire fiscal consequences without aid, and included $350 billion in relief for state and local governments in President Biden’s $1.9 trillion federal stimulus bill, which narrowly passed the House this past weekend. It faces a much tougher fight in the Senate.

As it turns out, new data shows that a year after the pandemic wrought economic devastation around the country, forcing states to revise their revenue forecasts and prepare for the worst, for many the worst didn’t come. One big reason: $600-a-week federal supplements that allowed people to keep spending — and states to keep collecting sales tax revenue — even when they were jobless, along with the usual state unemployment benefits.

By some measures, the states ended up collecting nearly as much revenue in 2020 as they did in 2019. A J.P. Morgan survey called 2020 “virtually flat” with 2019, based on the 47 states that report their tax revenues every month, or all except Alaska, Oregon and Wyoming.

Grim forecasts held up for a few states, but many took in about as much tax revenue as before the pandemic — sometimes a lot more.
Democrats have included $350 billion in relief for state and local governments in President Biden’s stimulus bill, which faces a tough fight in the Senate.

washington post logoWashington Post, Johnson & Johnson vaccine deepens worries over racial and geographic inequities, Isaac Stanley-Becker, March 1, 2021. Decisions to johnson johnson logoend the shots to harder-to-reach communities make practical sense, because the single-shot vaccine is easier to store and use. But they could drive perceptions of a two-tiered system.Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: March 1), with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):

World Cases: 114,766,140, Deaths: 2,544,637
U.S. Cases:    29,256,870, Deaths:    525,780

washington post logocovad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Washington Post, 49.8 million vaccinated: The number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, covering 40.9% of the prioritized population and 15 % of the total population. See about your state.

ny times logoNew York Times, Thousands of Farmworkers Are Prioritized for the Coronavirus Vaccine, Miriam Jordan, March 1, 2021. A landmark initiative in California is taking vaccines to the fields, targeting a high-risk immigrant work force, many of whom are undocumented.

Ending the virus’s rampage through farm country has been one of the nation’s biggest challenges. Undocumented immigrants are notoriously wary of registering for government programs or flocking to public vaccination sites, and the idea of offering the Covid-19 vaccine to immigrants who are in the country illegally ahead of other Americans has spurred debate among some Republican members of Congress.

But a landmark effort is underway across the Coachella Valley to bring the vaccine directly into the fields. Thousands of farm workers are being pulled into pop-up vaccination clinics hosted by growers and run by the county Health Department.

washington post logoWashington Post, Once Trump’s ‘enemy,’ Fed emerges as White House ally in rejecting concerns about overdoing stimulus, Rachel Siegel, March 1, 2021 (print ed.). Federal Reserve Chair Jerome H. Powell is waving off concerns about an over-torqued economy producing long-feared inflation, federal reserve system Customsaying the job market has a long way to heal before such fears are justified.

In recent weeks, the position has been repeatedly embraced and cited by top Biden officials who make a similar argument when they say Congress needs to “go big” to ensure an economic revival.

 

Pro-Trump Jan. 6 Capitol Riot

washington post logoWashington Post, Rewriting January 6th: Republicans push false accounts of Capitol riot, Mike DeBonis and Jeremy Barr, March 1, 2021. Instead of an attempt to overturn the election by radicalized Donald Trump supporters, it was a choreographed attack staged by antifa provocateurs. Rather than an armed insurrection, it was a good-natured protest spoiled by a few troublemakers.

And instead of a deadly event that put the lives of hundreds of lawmakers, police officers and others at risk, the riot was no big deal at all.

A legion of conservative activists, media personalities and elected officials are seeking to rewrite the story of what happened at the Capitol on Jan. 6, hoping to undermine the clear picture of the attack that has emerged from video and photo evidence, law enforcement officials, journalistic accounts and the testimonials of the rioters themselves: that a pro-Trump mob, mobilized by the former president’s false claims of a stolen election, stormed the seat of American government to keep Trump in power through violent means.

Six weeks after the attack, some are taking advantage of fading memories and unanswered questions to portray the riot in a different, more benign light. The effort comes as federal authorities begin prosecuting scores of alleged marauders, congressional committees seek to plug obvious security failures, and lawmakers consider establishing an outside commission to examine the matter.

On his top-rated Fox News Channel program last week, commentator Tucker Carlson told his audience that the attack did not constitute an “armed insurrection” and accused Democrats of a “relentless and coordinated” campaign to misrepresent the riot.

The next day, during the first public appearance of top Capitol security officials in charge during the riot at a Tuesday hearing, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) spent much of his allotted time reading a firsthand account from Jan. 6 suggesting the violence was perpetrated by a small cadre — including left-wing extremists — who were out of character in an otherwise jovial crowd.

ny times logoNew York Times, How Pro-Trump Forces Pushed a Lie About Antifa at the Capitol Riot, Michael M. Grynbaum, Davey Alba and Reid J. Epstein, March 1, 2021. On social media, on cable networks and even in the halls of Congress, supporters of Donald J. Trump tried to rewrite history in real time, pushing the fiction that left-wing agitators were to blame for the violence on Jan. 6.

Nearly two months after the attack, the claim that antifa was involved has been repeatedly debunked by federal authorities, but it has hardened into gospel among hard-line Trump supporters, by voters and sanctified by elected officials in the party. More than half of Trump voters in a Suffolk University/USA Today poll said that the riot was “mostly an antifa-inspired attack.” At Senate hearings last week focused on the security breakdown at the Capitol, Senator Ron Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican, repeated the falsehood that “fake Trump protesters” fomented the violence.

For those who hoped Mr. Trump’s don’t-believe-your-eyes tactics might fade after his defeat, the mainstreaming of the antifa conspiracy is a sign that truth remains a fungible concept among his most ardent followers. Buoyed by a powerful right-wing media network that had just spent eight weeks advancing Mr. Trump’s baseless claims of voter fraud, pro-Trump Republicans have succeeded in warping their voters’ realities, exhibiting sheer gall as they seek to minimize a violent riot perpetrated by their own supporters.

If anyone was responsible for desecrating the Capitol, Mr. Johnson said in a radio interview as the violence was unfolding that day, “I would really question whether that’s a true Trump supporter or a true conservative.”

In a telephone interview last week, Mr. Johnson delivered a handful of unsubstantiated or false statements that dovetail with much of the right-wing disinformation about the riot circulating online and on conservative radio and television programs. The senator said that while most of the people arrested at the Capitol were right-wing Trump supporters, he had not reached any conclusions about the political affiliations of those responsible for planning it.

On Jan. 6, supporters of former President Trump tried to rewrite history in real time on social media, on cable networks and in the halls of Congress.

In the first 12 hours after a false tweet, a disinformation machine seized on a lie that served its political interests and quickly spread it as truth.

ny times logoNew York Times, Far-Right Groups Are Splintering in Wake of the Capitol Riot, Neil MacFarquhar, March 1, 2021. The breakdown of larger organizations sets the stage for small groups or lone offenders, who are more difficult to track.

Just eight weeks after the Capitol riot, some of the most prominent groups that participated are fracturing amid a torrent of backbiting and finger-pointing. The fallout will determine the future of some of the most high-profile far-right organizations and raises the specter of splinter groups that could make the movement even more dangerous.

“This group needs new leadership and a new direction,” the St. Louis branch of the Proud Boys announced recently on the encrypted messaging service Telegram, echoing denunciations by at least six other chapters also rupturing with the national organization. “The fame we’ve attained hasn’t been worth it.”

Similar rifts have emerged in the Oath Keepers, a paramilitary group that recruits veterans, and the Groyper Army, a white nationalist organization focused on college campuses and a vocal proponent of the false claim that Donald J. Trump won the 2020 presidential election.

The shake-up is driven in part by the large number of arrests in the aftermath of the Capitol riot and the subsequent crackdown on some groups by law enforcement. As some members of the far right exit more established groups and strike out on their own, it may become even more difficult to track extremists who have become more emboldened to carry out violent attacks.

“What you are seeing right now is a regrouping phase,” said Devin Burghart, who runs the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights, a Seattle-based center that monitors far-right movements. “They are trying to reassess their strengths, trying to find new foot soldiers and trying to prepare for the next conflict.”

The top leaders of the Groyper Army, Nick Fuentes and Patrick Casey, have been in a bitter public dispute in the weeks since the riot. Mr. Casey accused Mr. Fuentes of putting followers at risk of arrest by continuing high-profile activities. Mr. Fuentes wrote on Telegram, “It’s not easy but it is important to keep pushing forward now more than ever.”

Among the Proud Boys, a far-right fight club that claims to defend the values of Western civilization, the recriminations were compounded by revelations that Enrique Tarrio, the organization’s leader, once worked as an informant for law enforcement. Despite denials from Mr. Tarrio, the news has thrown the organization’s future into question.

“We reject and disavow the proven federal informant, Enrique Tarrio, and any and all chapters that choose to associate with him,” the Alabama chapter of the Proud Boys announced on Telegram using language identical to other chapters.

After the Capitol siege on Jan. 6, accusations about informants and undercover agents have been particularly pointed. “Traitors are everywhere, everywhere,” wrote one participant on a far-right Telegram channel.

The chapters breaking away accused Mr. Tarrio of leading the group astray with high-profile clashes with far-left demonstrators and by storming the Capitol.

“The Proud Boys were founded to provide brotherhood to men on the right, not to yell slogans at the sky” and “get arrested,” the St. Louis chapter said in its announcement.

Extremist organizations tend to experience internal upheaval after any cataclysmic event, as seen in the case of the 2017 rally in Charlottesville, Va., that left one woman dead, or the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, which killed 168 people, including 19 children.

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

washington post logoWashington Post, Senior Democrats abandon backup plan on $15-per-hour-minimum wage hike, Jeff Stein, March 1, 2021 (print ed.). Senior Democrats are abandoning a backup plan to increase the minimum wage through a corporate tax penalty, after encountering numerous practical and political challenges in drafting their proposal over the weekend, according to two people familiar with the internal deliberations.

On Thursday, the Senate parliamentarian said that the $15-an-hour minimum wage included in President Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus plan was inadmissible under the rules Democrats are using to pass the bill through the Senate.

After that decision, Senate Finance Chair Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Senate Budget Chair Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said they would instead seek to add tax penalties on large corporations that fail to pay $15 an hour — an idea viewed as less likely to be struck down by the parliamentarian and still helpful to some minimum-wage workers.

But now senior Democrats — including Wyden and Sanders — are walking away from that backup effort, according to two people who spoke on the condition of anonymity to share internal discussions.

Economists and tax experts have said that the tax outlined by Sanders and Wyden could be easily avoided and difficult to implement, with large corporations able to reclassify workers as contractors to avoid potential penalties. “I would be extremely nervous about trying out a brand new idea like this with virtually no vetting,” Jason Furman, a former Obama administration economist, said on Twitter on Friday.

ny times logoNew York Times, At CPAC, a Golden Image, a Magic Wand and Reverence for Trump, Elaina Plott, March 1, 2021 (print ed.). The faithful who flocked to the conference of conservatives made it clear that their allegiance was more to former President Trump than to the party.

Tommy Zegan was appalled by the few sculptures of Donald J. Trump in existence — the life-size nude statue that popped up in major cities in America, the golden toilet in London. So in 2018, he got to work.

Mr. Zegan, a Trump supporter who had recently moved to Mexico from the United States, created a six-foot-tall fiberglass mold of the former president and painted it gold. Mr. Zegan’s Trump carried a magic wand in his left hand, a reference to Barack Obama’s quip in 2016 about Mr. Trump’s needing one to bring back manufacturing jobs. The sculpted Trump wore his customary suit jacket and red tie, American flag shorts — and flip-flops — “because technically he should be retired,” Mr. Zegan explained, “but he chose to be a servant.”

djt maga hatThe final product, titled “Trump and His Magic Wand,” was among the more popular attractions at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Fla. On Saturday, attendees flocked to the event’s merchandise hall for photos with the golden sculpture, the scene an almost literal rendering of the Republican Party, which continues to reserve its reverence not for ideas or elected officials but for one man.

“It’s definitely not an idol,” Mr. Zegan insisted. (“I was a youth pastor for 18 years,” he noted.) “An idol is something somebody worships and bows down to. This is a sculpture. It’s two different things.”

The defiantly pro-Trump mood at CPAC represented a culmination of a cycle that began in 2016, when Republican leaders publicly supported Mr. Trump’s nomination for president while privately presuming a landslide defeat and subsequent irrelevance. It was a pattern that held firm over the four years that followed, with many lawmakers continuing to indulge the president, all while confident that a breaking point — whether a loss in 2020 or, most recently, the riot at the Capitol by Trump supporters on Jan. 6 — was imminent.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Trump’s Republican Hit List at CPAC Is a Warning Shot to His Party, Jonathan Martin and Maggie Haberman, March 1, 2021 (print ed.). In his first public appearance since leaving office, Donald Trump went through, by name, every Republican who voted in support of his second impeachment.

After days of insisting they could paper over their intraparty divisions, Republican lawmakers were met with a grim reminder of the challenge ahead on Sunday when former President Donald J. Trump stood before a conservative conference and ominously listed the names of Republicans he is targeting for defeat.

As Democrats pursue a liberal agenda in Washington, the former president’s grievances over the 2020 election continue to animate much of his party, more than a month after he left office and nearly four months since he lost the election. Many G.O.P. leaders and activists are more focused on litigating false claims about voting fraud in last year’s campaign, assailing the technology companies that deplatformed Mr. Trump and punishing lawmakers who broke with him over his desperate bid to retain power.

In an address on Sunday at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, his first public appearance since he left the White House, Mr. Trump read a sort of hit list of every congressional Republican who voted to impeach him, all but vowing revenge.

“The RINOs that we’re surrounded with will destroy the Republican Party and the American worker and will destroy our country itself,” he said, a reference to the phrase “Republicans In Name Only,” adding that he would be “actively working to elect strong, tough and smart Republican leaders.”

Mr. Trump took special care to single out Representative Liz Cheney, the third-ranking House Republican, and Senator Mitch McConnell, the minority leader. He called Ms. Cheney “a warmonger” and said her “poll numbers have dropped faster than any human being I’ve ever seen.” Then he falsely claimed he had helped revive Mr. McConnell’s campaign last year in Kentucky.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The GOP is trapped in Trump’s rendezvous with yesterday, E.J. Dionne Jr., right, March 1, 2021 (print ed.). Donald Trump, the ej dionne w open neckSequel, drew a predictably ecstatic response at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Orlando on Sunday as he assailed President Biden and made clear in a torrent of invective that hatred of immigration will be as important to any attempted comeback as it was to his rise.

Back were the “coyotes,” “the vicious evil smugglers,” “the illegal aliens,” “mass amnesty,” “chain migration” and every other epithet and catchphrase that form his tapestry of nativism. Back also were the throwback forms of McCarthyism as he accused Biden of moving the country toward “radicalism, socialism and indeed it all leads to ­communism.”

Yet if the CPAC conclave was a Trump revival, complete with a golden Trump statue, there was some quiet dissent just beneath the surface. When the results of the CPAC straw poll for 2024 came in, Trump received just 55 percent of the ballots. Imagine Tom Brady receiving 55 percent for MVP from Tampa Bay fans.

ny times logoNew York Times, CPAC Takeaways: Trump Dominates, and DeSantis and Noem Stand Out, Shane Goldmacher and Elaina Plott, March 1, 2021 (print ed.). Any lingering belief that Donald J. Trump would fade from the political scene like other past presidents evaporated fully on Sunday as he spoke for more than 90 minutes in a grievance-filled and self-promoting address that sought to polish up his presidential legacy, take aim at his enemies and tease his political future.

“I am not starting a new party,” Mr. Trump declared, nixing rumors and making news in the first moments of the first speech of his post-presidency.

And why would he? Mr. Trump remains the most influential Republican politician in the nation. The three-day CPAC gathering in Orlando showed how fully the Republican Party has been remade in his image in the five years since he boycotted the conference in 2016 en route to capturing the party’s nomination.

In a meandering speech guided by a teleprompter and interrupted with cheering that at times read more obligatory than enthusiastic, Mr. Trump lashed out at President Biden and outlined his vision of a culture- and immigration-focused Republican Party while relitigating his specific grievances from 2020.

Pro-Trump conservatives tried to turn “cancel culture” into their new “fake news” and spent little time on policy (either their own or President Biden’s).

The speech came right after Mr. Trump won a CPAC 2024 presidential straw poll, finishing with 55 percent of the vote — more than double the percentage ron desantis oof his closest runner-up. But that victory was dampened by the fact that only 68 percent of the attendees at the conference said they wanted him to run again.

A second straw poll, without Mr. Trump, was carried by Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, right, who received 43 percent on his home turf, followed by Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota with 11 percent.

Those results showcased the challenge that senators face in edging ahead of governors in the 2024 pack of potential presidential candidates. Both Mr. DeSantis and Ms. Noem highlighted their efforts to keep the economy open during the coronavirus pandemic, which proved a more popular résumé point than the legislative fights that senators in Washington have been engaged in.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: The most important thing Trump said in his CPAC speech, Aaron Blake, March 1, 2021 (print ed.). It was a message Trump avoided as president: Get a coronavirus vaccine. Former president Donald Trump sought to retain his hold on the Republican Party on Sunday at the Conservative Political Action Conference with his usual blend of falsehoods, grievances and provocations. It was a surprisingly typical speech for Trump, given that it was his first big post-presidential address.

Perhaps the most significant thing he said, though — for the country — was something he avoided forcefully advocating for when he actually commanded the most powerful office in the world:

Get a coronavirus vaccine.

Trump, as he is wont to do, couched it in an attack on his successor, President Biden. Trump claimed that Biden hadn’t actually won the election, and he used the vaccine to cast Biden as weak and indebted to Trump for the vaccines being developed on his watch — but not, notably, for actually getting it, which Trump encouraged people to do.

“We took care of a lot of people — including, I guess, on December 21st, we took care of Joe Biden, because he got his shot, he got his vaccine,” Trump said, before suggesting that Biden’s vaccination shows how few side effects come with the vaccine. “It shows you how unpainful that vaccine shot is.”

“So everybody, go get your shot,” Trump added.

Clip that.

These quotes with the juvenile Biden attacks contained within — as though Biden is scared of getting a shot — are newsworthy, because this is the kind of thing Trump avoided pushing as president, in a very conspicuous way. While he repeatedly and constantly sought to take credit for the production of the vaccines, he did little to actually encourage people — especially Republicans, who were more skeptical of the vaccines — to actually get them.

Lurking in the background was not just the GOP’s skepticism of the need for or efficacy of the vaccine, but also Trump’s past baseless linking of other vaccines to autism, including during the 2016 campaign. Reports indicated as the vaccines were rolled out that Trump wanted credit for them but also feared that actively pushing them would alienate some of the more extreme portions of his base. Trump, who had the coronavirus in the fall, did not get the vaccine on camera, unlike then-Vice President Mike Pence.

ny times logoNew York Times, Under Siege Over Sex Harassment Claims, Cuomo Offers Apology, Jesse McKinley and Dana Rubinstein, Updated March 1, 2021. Gov. Andrew Cuomo sought to stem the growing political fallout over the allegations, acknowledging that he may have made inappropriate remarks. Here’s what we know so far about the sexual harassment claims.

andrew cuomoGov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Sunday sought to stem the growing political fallout over fresh allegations of sexual harassment, acknowledging that he may have made inappropriate remarks that could “have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation” to a young female aide during private meetings last spring.

Mr. Cuomo, right, 63, said his comments — including those which emerged in an account from the aide, Charlotte Bennett — were an extension of life spent at work, where he sometimes “teased people about their personal lives and relationships.”

“I now understand that my interactions may have been insensitive or too personal and that some of my comments, given my position, made others feel in ways I never intended,” Mr. Cuomo said in a statement. “I acknowledge some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation. To the extent anyone felt that way, I am truly sorry about that.”

The response from the governor seemed to reflect the gravity of Ms. Bennett’s accusations, and those of another former aide last week, as well as the potential damage that they could cause to Mr. Cuomo, a third-term Democrat.

Mr. Cuomo, who emerged as a national leader during the pandemic, also repeated his calls for an independent investigation of his own behavior, though the decision over who would oversee that inquiry has already proved torturous. His initial choice of a former federal judge to lead the investigation was met with overwhelming criticism, as was his second suggestion that Letitia James, New York’s attorney general, be paired with Janet DiFiore, the chief judge on New York State’s highest court, to jointly pick someone to investigate the matter. Ms. James rejected that proposal.

Finally, late Sunday, Mr. Cuomo relented again, saying in a statement that he would grant subpoena power to whomever Ms. James designated as the outside investigator, as Ms. James had demanded.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Andrew Cuomo’s survival in office looks doubtful, Karen Tumulty, right, March 1, 2021 (print ed.). It is starting to look as if the karen tumulty resize twitterquestion will soon be not if but when New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo will be forced to resign.

The New York Times has published a blockbuster story in which a second former aide to the governor has accused him of making unwanted sexual overtures. The account given to the paper by Charlotte Bennett, 25, is devastating and thoroughly corroborated.

Wayne Madsen Report, Opinion: The Batistafication of Florida, Wayne Madsen (left, author of 18 books, former Navy intelligence officer and NSA analyst), March 1, 2021. Thanks to the Central Intelligence Agency, which made Florida wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smalla safe haven for Cuba's moneyed and military classes to settle after Fidel Castro's rise to power some sixty years ago, and the Republican Party, which has catered to the right-wing whims wayne madesen report logoof the Cuban expats and their offspring, Florida has turned into an oligarchy resembling that of fascist Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista, ousted by Castro some sixty years ago.

The political and social effect of the Cubans in south Florida and Miami's "Little Havana," has resulted in the "Batistafication" of Florida.

Palmer Report, Opinion: The rise and fall of Ron DeSantis, Bill Palmer, right, March 1, 2021. The straw poll at CPAC this weekend revealed two things. First, bill palmerDonald Trump is finished. Even though the conference was set up as a worship session for him and attendees were straight out of his base, only 55% of them picked Trump as their first choice for 2024. Second, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is now the Republican flavor of the month, finishing a distant second in polling, but far ahead of the rest of the field.

I’m here to tell you that Ron DeSantis won’t be the 2024 Republican nominee for President. How do I know? For one thing, we wouldn’t get that lucky. The guy is completely in over his head in Florida. He has scandal after ugly scandal, and no idea how to deal with any of it. He’s trying to be Trump, but without any of Trump’s guile. If DeSantis were the Republican nominee, the Democrats would have a much easier time of beating him than just about anyone else the Republicans could pick.

bill palmer report logo headerOn top of that, DeSantis is going to have a difficult time even so much as winning reelection as Governor of Florida in 2022 – and if he loses that race, then his presidential ambitions obviously die along with it. If DeSantis does get as far as launching a 2024 presidential bid, his endless scandals and inept idiocy will finish him off during the primary race.

ron desantis oHere’s the thing, though. Ron DeSantis, right, is the most corrupt, dishonest, inept, and disastrous Governor in the nation. Yet the mainstream media has largely refused to bust him for it. Why is this? A cynic would argue that the media is afraid of knocking DeSantis out of politics before he can run for President, precisely because his corrupt ineptitude would make him a ratings goldmine in a presidential race.

The real threat in 2024 isn’t Donald Trump; even his own base is beginning to look for a new con artist to take his place. Nor is it Ron DeSantis, whose fall will be as ugly as his rise will be brief. The real threat is the 2024 Republican candidate that no one saw coming in advance, who’s new enough to politics not to have to take responsibility for Trump, and who hasn’t been around long enough for us to have a running head start on exposing their scandals.

 donald mcneil

ny times logoNew York Times, Ex-Times Reporter Who Used Racial Slur Publishes a Lengthy Defense, Marc Tracy, March 1, 2021. Donald G. McNeil Jr., above, a science and public health reporter at The New York Times who resigned under pressure last month after 45 years at the paper, published an account on Monday describing the circumstances of his departure, in a four-part essay that was often critical of Times leadership.

A leading reporter on the coronavirus pandemic, Mr. McNeil announced his departure last month in the wake of an article in The Daily Beast about his comments and behavior during a Times-sponsored trip for high school students to Peru in 2019. Several students and their parents complained that Mr. McNeil, who was serving as an expert guide on the trip, had used a racial slur and made other insensitive remarks.

Shortly after his return, The Times investigated the matter and disciplined him, saying he had shown poor judgment in using the slur in a conversation about racist language. The Times’s investigation of Mr. McNeil's behavior on the trip did not become public until The Daily Beast reported on it.

After the publication of the Daily Beast article, a group of Times employees sent a letter to Times leaders, questioning how the paper had handled Mr. McNeil. On Feb. 5, Dean Baquet, the executive editor, and Joe Kahn, the managing editor, announced his departure in a memo to the staff. As part of the announcement, Mr. McNeil apologized and said in a statement, “Originally, I thought the context in which I used this ugly word could be defended. I now realize that it cannot. It is deeply offensive and hurtful.”

In his four-part essay, published on the online platform Medium at more than 20,000 words, he wrote that his attempts to discuss serious issues with the students had sometimes fallen flat. He again acknowledged having used the slur, saying his use of it had occurred during a conversation with a trip participant about a student who had been suspended from a high school after a video from two years earlier had surfaced showing the student using the slur.

“Am I a racist?” Mr. McNeil wrote. “I don’t think so — after working in 60 countries over 25 years, I think I’m pretty good at judging people as individuals. But ‘am I a racist?’ is actually a harder question to answer about yourself than some self-righteous people think.”

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Crime

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: Two of Biden’s top DOJ nominees are subjected to baseless smear campaigns, Editorial Board, March 1, 2021 (print ed.). Vanita Gupta and Kristen Clarke, tapped for top jobs at Justice, become targets.

Vanita Gupta is among the nation’s most esteemed civil rights lawyers, revered by liberals for her decades of effective, levelheaded advocacy, and by many of the nation’s biggest police and law enforcement groups for her measured, constructive approach. That rare combination has evidently triggered a case of the vapors among extremists opposed to progress on voting rights, mass incarceration, systemic racism and law enforcement abuse.

How else to explain the categorically dishonest video hit job by a far-right outfit that labels Ms. Gupta, President Biden’s nominee for associate attorney general, the No. 3 Justice Department job, a “dangerous appointee”? In fact, that is an apt characterization only for those terrified at the prospect of expanding justice for the most vulnerable in American society.

Even in an era of florid mendacity, the ad, an $800,000 buy sponsored by the Judicial Crisis Network, is a doozy, mainly notable for the magnitude of the lies and distortions it crams into 30 seconds.

It states that Ms. Gupta, chief of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division under the Obama administration, supports defunding the police. Awkwardly, there’s zero proof of that, including in the ad’s own footnoted citation. The ad states she “led a group that wants to reduce punishments on white supremacists, even terrorists.” In fact, Ms. Gupta and the group she led until her nomination, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, are simply opposed to capital punishment, in line with 25 states that have ended it, including 10 since 2007. (Virginia is now on the verge of eliminating it, too.) In the absence of executions, federal death-row inmates would likely spend the rest of their lives in prison.

Finally, the ad charges that instead of supporting law and order during last summer’s violence following the killing of George Floyd, Ms. Gupta advocated “to let convicts out of jail.” As “evidence,” it cites her factually accurate tweet, in August, that the pandemic was “killing people in federal prison who could be released” — a stance then-Attorney General William P. Barr had embraced months earlier.

The idea that Ms. Gupta is a radical police-hater is risible given the positive reviews her nomination received from an alphabet soup of law enforcement groups, including the National Fraternal Order of Police, which endorsed Donald Trump twice. In HuffPost, the FOP’s director, Jim Pasco, blasted the Judicial Crisis Network ad as “partisan demagoguery.” And on its Facebook page, the FOP praised Ms. Gupta, who led efforts to reform police departments in her time at the Civil Rights Division, as having “worked with us to find common ground even when that seemed impossible.”

The smears against Ms. Gupta are of a piece with attacks on another woman of color, Kristen Clarke, nominated to lead the Civil Rights Division. In Ms. Clarke’s case, the allegations concern antisemitism — so what if the evidence is tissue-thin and there is no record she has ever uttered an antisemitic remark?

In another era, we might have opted not to dignify these attacks with a rebuttal. But in a time when elected officials have been known to embrace lies and conspiracy theories, it’s worth stating sooner rather than later: Both these nominees have serious, distinguished track records as champions of civil rights. For their opponents, that is the real rub.

 

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, Myanmar security forces open fire on protesters, killing at least 18, according to U.N., Andrew Nachemson, March 1, 2021 (print ed.). Security forces on Sunday intensified their crackdown on protests in Myanmar with the bloodiest day of demonstrations since the Feb. 1 military coup, killing at myanmar flagleast 18 and using lethal force for the first time in the main city of Yangon.

The clashes — tear gas, stun grenades, rubber bullets and live rounds — turned Yangon and other cities across the country into battlegrounds as the military moved to crush resistance to its deeply resented seizure of power.

The United Nations’ Human Rights Office on Myanmar said at least 18 people died and 30 others were wounded in several cities across the country, including Yangon, Dawei, Mandalay and Bago. Deaths, the office said, occurred “as a result of live ammunition fired into crowds.”

 

Biden Nominations

washington post logoWashington Post, Senate confirms Miguel Cardona as education secretary, Laura Meckler and Danielle Douglas-Gabriel, March 1, 2021. miguel cardonaThe Senate confirmed Miguel Cardona to serve as education secretary Monday, vaulting the little-known Connecticut educator into the center of the national debate over how to reopen schools for face-to-face classes.

The Senate vote was a bipartisan 64 to 33 for Cardona, whose nomination moved through the chamber without any significant controversy — in contrast with the confirmation of his immediate predecessor, Betsy DeVos, who needed the tiebreaking vote of Vice President Mike Pence to win confirmation.

“At this moment of crisis, Dr. Cardona is exactly the leader we need at the Department of Education,” said Sen. Patty Murray (D.-Wash.), chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. “He has the experience, principles and perspective that we need in this critical role.”