Jan. 2021 News

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

Note: Excerpts are from the authors' words except for subheads and occasional "Editor's notes" such as this.

 

Jan. 31

Top Headlines

 

More On Virus Victims, Responses

 

More On U.S. Riots, Terrorism, Impeachment


U.S. Politics, Governance

 

U.S. Media News

 

World News

 

Top Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, CDC issues sweeping mask mandate for planes, public transportation in U.S., Michael Laris, Jan. 31, 2021 (print ed.). Masks must be worn at train and subway stations, bus terminals and airports nationwide, as well as on planes, trains and other types of public transportation in the United States, according to a far-reaching federal public health order issued late Friday.

cdc logo CustomThe order, which will take effect Monday at 11:59 p.m., adds details to the mandate President Biden signed on his first full day in office.

The order goes beyond the “masking for interstate travel” previously announced by the White House. A key objective, it said, is “preservation of human life.”

“Requiring masks on our transportation systems will protect Americans and provide confidence that we can once again travel safely even during this pandemic,” according to the order from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Therefore, requiring masks will help us control this pandemic and aid in re-opening America’s economy.”

People are ordered to wear masks “while boarding, disembarking, and traveling on any conveyance into or within the United States,” as well as “at any transportation hub that provides transportation within the United States,” the order said.

It lists exemptions for people with disabilities who cannot wear a mask and other cases, and said masks can be removed briefly while eating, drinking, taking medication, going through security screenings and other circumstances.

 

More On Virus Victims, Responses

ny times logoNew York Times, How the Effort to Find Treatments for Covid-19 Faltered, Carl Zimmer, Jan. 31, 2021 (print ed.). Nearly a year into the coronavirus pandemic, as thousands of patients are dying every day in the United States and widespread vaccination is still months away, doctors have precious few drugs to fight the virus.

A handful of therapies — remdesivir, monoclonal antibodies and the steroid dexamethasone — have improved the care of Covid patients, putting doctors in a better position than they were when the virus surged last spring. But these drugs are not cure-alls and they’re not for everyone, and efforts to repurpose other drugs, or discover new ones, have not had much success.

The government poured $18.5 billion into vaccines, a strategy that resulted in at least five effective products at record-shattering speed. But its investment in drugs was far smaller, about $8.2 billion, most of which went to just a few candidates, such as monoclonal antibodies. Studies of other drugs were poorly organized.

The result was that many promising drugs that could stop the disease early, called antivirals, were neglected. Their trials have stalled, either because researchers couldn’t find enough funding or enough patients to participate.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: Jan. 31, 2021), with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):

World Cases: 103,244,620, Deaths: 2,231,808
U.S. Cases:     26,659,473, Deaths:    450,419

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), an independent global health research center at the University of Washington. Projected total U.S. deaths, based on current scenario 459,324 by Feb. 1; 529,000 by March 1; 567,195 by April 1, 2021.

Politico via Yahoo News, Biden's COVID response team is scrambling to find 20 million coronavirus vaccine doses the Trump administration didn't bother tracking, Aylin Woodward, Sun, Jan. 31, 2021. About 20 million vaccine doses are missing, Politico reported. The government has delivered them to states, but states haven't administered them to patients. The Trump administration failed to track where vaccine doses were going and when once they had been delivered to states.

President Biden has ambitious pandemic plans for his first few months in office: By mid-February, he wants 100 federally supported coronavirus vaccination centers up and running. By the end of April, he wants 100 million doses in Americans' arms, which requires an average of 1 million shots to be given per day.

But his administration has already hit a snag during its first 10 days in the White House: some 20 million COVID-19 vaccine doses are unaccounted for -- the federal government has paid for and delivered them to states, but there's no record that those doses have been doled out to patients.

Biden's newly minted COVID response team spent the last week trying to manually track down these millions of missing doses by calling up officials and healthcare providers from different states, Politico reported Saturday.

"I think they were really caught off guard by that," one Biden advisor told Politico. "It's a mess."

The previous administration elected not to track vaccine doses across every step of the federal to state to patient pipeline; "Operation Warp speed," the vaccine rollout program started by Donald Trump, prioritized dose distribution, and didn't require states give updates on what happened to their doses until the shots were administered.

 

More On U.S. Riots, Terrorism, Impeachment

ny times logoNew York Times, How Trump’s Focus on Antifa Distracted Attention From the Far-Right Threat, Adam Goldman, Katie Benner and Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Jan. 31, 2021 (print ed.). As racial justice protests erupted nationwide last year, President Donald J. Trump, struggling to find a winning campaign theme, hit on a message that he stressed over and over: The real domestic threat to the United States emanated from the radical left, even though law enforcement authorities had long since concluded it came from the far right.

It was a message that was quickly embraced and amplified by his attorney general and his top homeland security officials, who translated it into a shift in criminal justice and national security priorities even as Mr. Trump was beginning to openly stoke the outrage that months later would culminate in the storming of the Capitol by right-wing extremists.

Mr. Trump’s efforts to focus his administration on the antifa movement and leftist groups did not stop the Justice Department and the F.B.I. from pursuing cases of right-wing extremism. They broke up a kidnapping plot, for example, targeting Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, a Democrat.

But the effect of his direction was nonetheless substantial, according to interviews with current and former officials, diverting key portions of the federal law enforcement and domestic security agencies at a time when the threat from the far right was building ominously.

Palmer Report, Opinion: The alleged Trump orbit meeting the night before the January 6th Capitol attack, Trisha Delaney, Jan. 31, 2021. This week the Alabama Political Reporter published a piece about a January 5, 2021 meeting at the Trump Hotel (Photos put Tuberville in Trump’s hotel on Jan. 5 despite denying meeting by Eddie Burkhalter). The meeting came to light in part because a man in town for the “events at the Capitol” thought it was a good idea to post a both a video of himself and a picture of himself with others outside of the hotel.

Attached to his picture, Daniel Beck, a CEO of an Idaho technology company, wrote “The Trump hotel is Amazing!! Fifteen of us spent the evening with Donald Trump Jr., Kimberly Guilfoyle, Tommy Tuberville, Michael J. Lindell, Peter Navarro, and Rudy Giuliani. We talked about the elections, illegal votes, court cases, the republics’ status, what to expect on the hill tomorrow. TRUMP WILL RETAIN THE PRESIDENCY!!!”

bill palmer report logo headerCharles Herbster, die-hard Trumper and part of a committee under the former administration also posted that evening that he was “in the private residence of the President at Trump International with the following patriots who are joining me in a battle for justice and truth”. He then proceeded to name some of the same people, but also included others, Adam Piper, Eric Trump, Michael Flynn, Corey Lewandowski, and 2016 deputy campaign manager David Bossie.

Because the FBI has a policy of not discussing ongoing investigations, the public is left to guess at what they may or may not be doing. I have looked each day for news on this Daniel Beck and I’ve seen nothing – no questioning, no inquiries, no arrest, nothing about him at all. In fact, there’s next to nothing about the January 5th meeting apart from the Alabama report and a few other mentions, and yet we now know the bombs were planted that night.

Why isn’t this meeting getting attention? It seems this meeting could be a pretty important piece of information that may provide substantial leads in the ongoing criminal investigation.

Kimberly Guilfoyle’s alleged presence there is also noteworthy. Ali Alexander stated that he received a call from her the night before. This means there’s a good chance she phoned him from this meeting. I’m not sure why we haven’t heard anything about Daniel Beck in the news. But, we know from his owns words that there were at least 14 other average citizens with him, unless he’s including some of the people mentioned by Herbster. Was “Pink Hat Lady” one of them? These are legitimate questions.

Any member of the public who captured by screenshot pictures of persons claiming to be (or bragging of being) at this January 5, 2021 meeting should send those pictures to the FBI. Every single person at that meeting should be identified and questioned. Every article of clothing they were wearing at any time throughout the day should be carefully scrutinized. The bombs were planted around 8:15 p.m. that night.

 

U.S. Politics, Governance, Civic Life

ny times logoNew York Times, After Record Turnout, Republicans Are Trying to Make It Harder to Vote, Michael Wines, Jan. 31, 2021 (print ed.). The presidential election results are settled. But the battle over new voting rules, especially for mail-in ballots, has just begun.

In Georgia, Arizona and other states won by President Biden, some leading Republicans stood up in November to make what, in any other year, would be an unremarkable statement: The race is over. And we lost, fair and square.

But that was then. Now, in statehouses nationwide, Republicans who echoed former President Donald J. Trump’s baseless claims of rampant fraud are proposing to make it harder to vote next time — ostensibly to convince the very voters who believed them that elections can be trusted again. And even djt 2020 hat Customsome colleagues who defended the legitimacy of the November vote are joining them.

According to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University, state legislators have filed 106 bills to tighten election rules, generally making it harder to cast a ballot — triple the number at this time last year. In short, Republicans who for more than a decade have used wildly inflated allegations of voter fraud to justify making it harder to vote, are now doing so again, this time seizing on Mr. Trump’s thoroughly debunked charges of a stolen election to push back at Democratic-leaning voters who flocked to mail-in ballots last year.

georgia mapIn Georgia, where the State House of Representatives has set up a special committee on election integrity, legislators are pushing to roll back no-excuse absentee voting. Republicans in Pennsylvania plan 14 hearings to revisit complaints they raised last year about the election and to propose limitations on voting.

Those and other proposals underscore the continuing power of Mr. Trump’s campaign to delegitimize the November election, even as some of his administration’s top election experts call the vote the most secure in history. And they reflect longstanding Republican efforts to push back against efforts to expand the ability to vote.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: If Republicans won’t risk defeat to tell the truth, Trump will own their party, Norman Ornstein, right, Jan. 31, 2021 (print ed.). When Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), once mocked by President Donald Trump as “Liddle’ Bob Corker,” retired in 2018, Trump loyalist Marsha Blackburn succeeded norm ornstein leading authoritieshim. When Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) retired, he gave a farewell speech making clear that he didn’t want to be “complicit” in the Trump agenda but declined to defend his seat in a primary. On Monday, Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) announced that he, too, would not seek another term, noting, “We live in an increasingly polarized country where members of both parties are being pushed further to the right and further to the left.”

On one level, it’s easy to sympathize: It’s almost impossible to be a traditional Republican in the Trump era. And to be a senator of any stripe in a divided Senate can seem pointless. Portman wasn’t wrong to point out that “it has gotten harder and harder to break through the partisan gridlock and make progress on substantive policy.”

But by pulling the plug rather than facing a potentially bruising primary (or a tightly contested general election) — and risking a rout at the polls — these senators all evaded the bigger debate about the future of the Republican Party: Instead of taking a stand to help the GOP revert to a right-of-center, problem-solving party that doesn’t see compromise as a dirty word, they’re standing aside while the party remakes itself as a xenophobic cult of personality for conspiracy theorists and trade protectionists. Fear of defeat is handing their party over to Trump, his loyalists and Trumpism — and it is warping the country.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The ‘civil war’ for the soul of the GOP is over before it began. Trump won — again, Dana Milbank, right, Jan. 31, 2021 (print ed.). The supposed dana milbank Customcivil war within the Republican Party is over. The neo-Confederates have won.

Just three weeks ago, congressional GOP leaders set out to reclaim their party from President Donald Trump and his violent supporters. Trump had frequently emboldened white supremacists and domestic terrorists, but never more visibly than when he recruited and incited those who sacked the Capitol on Jan. 6 — and then did nothing for hours as they rampaged, hunting for lawmakers, in hopes of overturning the election.

From that deadly spree emerged a glimmer of hope that Republicans would, finally, distance themselves from Trump. House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) said Trump “bears responsibility” for the “attack on Congress by mob rioters” and for failing to “immediately denounce the mob when he saw what was unfolding.” Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) said that the violent attackers were “fed lies” and were “provoked by the president.” He let it be known that he might vote to convict Trump after an impeachment trial.

Yet just three weeks after feebly trying to quit Trump, they have relapsed. It’s as though Abraham Lincoln had offered the Union’s unconditional surrender after the first shots were fired at Fort Sumter.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Republicans should police their own, then we can talk unity, Jennifer Rubin, Jan. 31, 2021. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who pushed the Big Lie and voted to overturn the presidential election, goes to meet with the discredited ex-president who incited a violent insurgency that left five people dead and scores more wounded. That is the leader of the House Republicans. That is the Republican Party of 2021.

It is no wonder that Republicans cannot summon the nerve to throw out QAnon conspiracy theorist and anti-Semite Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), even after her remarks endorsing political violence were unearthed. After all, they might have to do something about a whole batch of their members.

Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.), who spoke at that incitement rally, stands by sedition:

When the Republican Jewish Coalition insists that Greene is outside the “mainstream” of the party, one has to question what party they have been enabling. Sadly, it is Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.) and the nine other Republicans who voted for impeachment who find themselves outside the “mainstream” of a party that has gone off the deep end.

An overwhelming number of Republican House members participated in sedition. Many representatives refused to wear masks, at the cost of infecting colleagues. The GOP is also refusing to hold the former president accountable for unleashing violence on their staff and colleagues. The party has not condemned nor disassociated itself from extremist groups such as the Proud

ny times logo

New York Times, 21 Men Accuse Lincoln Project Co-Founder of Online Harassment, Maggie Astor and Danny Hakim, Jan. 31, 2021. John Weaver, a longtime G.O.P. operative who advised John McCain and John Kasich, made sexual overtures to young men, sometimes offering to help them get work in politics.

washington post logoWashington Post, Lincoln Project disavows co-founder John Weaver after allegations he made unsolicited sexual overtures to young men, Amy B Wang
Jan. 31, 2021. The Lincoln Project is condemning co-founder John Weaver in the wake of allegations that the longtime GOP strategist made unsolicited sexual overtures to several young men, including one who was 14 years old at the time he received sexual messages from Weaver.

“John Weaver led a secret life that was built on a foundation of deception at every level. He is a predator, a liar, and an abuser. We extend our deepest sympathies to those who were targeted by his deplorable and predatory behavior,” the group said in a statement Sunday.

The Lincoln Project, a group of Republicans who opposed former president Donald Trump, rose to prominence last year as they campaigned against Trump and others who supported him. Weaver, 61, helped co-found the group. Weaver previously worked on the presidential campaigns for John McCain and John Kasich.

The New York Times published a report Sunday morning based on interviews with 21 men who alleged that Weaver sent them unwanted provocative messages or solicited them for sex, often in exchange for the promise of professional help.

The New York Times story followed reports about Weaver’s behavior from earlier this month, including one by the American Conservative’s Ryan Girdusky on Jan. 11 and by Axios on Jan. 15.

Weaver did not respond to a request for comment Sunday. Two weeks ago, he acknowledged the “inappropriate” messages in a statement to Axios and apologized, saying he had been closeted.

“The truth is that I’m gay. And that I have a wife and two kids who I love. My inability to reconcile those two truths has led to this agonizing place,” Weaver said in his statement then. “To the men I made uncomfortable through my messages that I viewed as consensual mutual conversations at the time: I am truly sorry. They were inappropriate and it was because of my failings that this discomfort was brought on you.”

Weaver has been on a medical leave of absence from the Lincoln Project since last summer and said he would not return to the organization. On Sunday, the Lincoln Project noted that Weaver was never around other members.

 

U.S. Media News

washington post logoWashington Post, Book Review "American Kompromat": Piling up incriminating information about Trump’s Russian connections, John Sipher, Jan. 31, 2021. John Sipher worked for the CIA’s clandestine service for 28 years. He is now a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and a co-founder of Spycraft Entertainment.

One of the standard warnings attached to U.S. intelligence reports is that the source of a report intends “to influence as well as inform.” The caveat does not mean that the source’s reporting is wrong or should be discounted, but that the source also has an agenda. Craig Unger’s new book, American Kompromat,” should be read with a similar understanding, for it opens with the presumption that former president Donald Trump is, as former CIA director Michael Hayden described him, “a clear and present danger.” Unger starts from the premise that Trump is a Kremlin asset and proceeds to advance the craig unger twitterargument with great detail.

Unger, left, is a veteran investigative journalist and writer, and American Kompromat is a follow-up to his 2018 book, House of Trump, House of Putin, in which he made the case for Russian collusion. 

American Kompromat can be read alongside others that examine Trump’s weak spot for Russia — including Greg Miller’s “The Apprentice,” Michael Isikoff and David Corn’s “Russian Roulette,” Luke Harding’s “Shadow State,” Tim Weiner’s “The Folly and the Glory,” and Seth Abramson’s “Proof of Collusion” — as well as books by insiders such as Peter Strzok, former FBI deputy assistant director of counterintelligence; Josh Campbell, a former FBI special agent and special assistant to then-Director James Comey; and Andrew McCabe, former deputy director of the FBI.

craig unger resized american kompromatAs the Trump administration came to a spectacular end, Unger must have felt the need to update his book continually. Day by day, Trump took actions that added to Unger’s thesis. In the closing weeks of his term, Trump sought to divert attention from a damaging Russian cyberhack, refused to concede Russian President Vladimir Putin’s poisoning of his leading political challenger and brazenly pardoned cronies who refused to testify in Robert Mueller’s Russia probe. (Not to mention allegedly inciting the mob that violently overtook the Capitol.)

Unger outlines Trump’s decades-long relationships with Russian criminals and his willingness to abet the laundering of dirty money flowing from Moscow, and explains why Russian intelligence would find him an easy mark. The web of Trump’s damning connections and his actions as president suggest some sort of affinity for Putin.

According to Unger, there are indications that Trump was used as a conduit for Soviet covert messaging campaigns in the late 1980s. He made numerous visits to Russia where he was certainly watched, feted and cultivated. At the time, he publicly expressed thoughts that were far outside of mainstream Western opinion. For example, he complained that Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev was destroying the Soviet Union — suggesting perhaps relations with KGB elements that shared such a view. Unger cites former KGB officer Yuri Shvets, who served in Washington at the time, saying of Trump: “The guy is not a complicated cookie, his most important characteristics being low intellect coupled with hyperinflated vanity. This combination makes him a dream for an experienced recruiter.”

By compiling decades of Trump’s seedy ties, disturbing and consistent patterns of behavior, and unexplained contacts with Russian officials and criminals, Unger makes a strong case that Trump is probably a compromised trusted contact of Kremlin interests.

That said, it is not an argument meant to stand up to the scrutiny of a criminal court (that would require evidence hidden in Russian intelligence files). Instead, it is a counterintelligence case, a circumstantial compilation of patterns, relationships and logical inferences. Even though counterintelligence probes often do not lead to arrests, the stakes of such investigations may be of far more serious consequence. We have learned over the past several years that many of the most important firewalls in our democracy are not necessarily written in the legal code. It may not be a crime for a presidential candidate to seek to make money from a hostile foreign power and lie about it, but it is potentially a far more serious challenge to our system.

In short, Unger alleges that Trump’s long-standing ties to Russian organized crime, his lifestyle and his business practices made him uniquely vulnerable to blackmail and extortion by the country that is unarguably the best in the world at those dark arts. His campaign team — with its own unusual shady ties to Russia — was willing to work with a hostile foreign power and eager to accept material stolen from Americans. None went to the authorities to report the illicit contacts, and many of them were subsequently arrested. When the issue of Russian involvement surfaced publicly, every single one of them lied and covered up their actions. Trump then attacked the very institutions that could hold him to account and sought to obstruct investigations, eventually pardoning anyone who could provide evidence of wrongdoing. Even Trump’s most fervent supporters have been unable to provide an innocent explanation for why a domestic political campaign would need such deep engagement with a hostile foreign power.

Unger’s narrative of collusion relies on piling up any and all damning information he can muster. However, in some cases, the very volume of information undercuts the strength of his argument. Trump’s presidency was such a ruinous fiasco, it is tempting to keep adding inexplicable actions to the pile. However, the tangential material often confuses more than clarifies. Chapters on William Barr, the Catholic Opus Dei sect, Robert Maxwell, Ghislaine Maxwell and Jeffrey Epstein are interesting but do little to illuminate Trump’s perfidy.

ny times logoNew York Times, Commentary: Survey Says: Never Tweet, Ben Smith, Jan. 31, 2021. The tensions in newsrooms over reporters’ social media presence are not just about politics.

Twitter has occupied an uncomfortable place between journalists and their bosses for more than a decade. It offers journalists both a newswire and a direct line back into the news cycle. But it has also set off a tug of war between the voice of the brand and of the individual.

More staid newsrooms, like The Wall Street Journal and Reuters, have to varying degrees barred journalists from breaking news and developing big voices on the service, while some newer and more ideological outlets, like Vox and The Intercept, encourage and benefit from their journalists’ social media presence.

Caught in the uncomfortable middle are the defining American news brands — The Times, The Washington Post, CNN and NBC — where managers alternate between sending irritated emails and biting their tongues, and journalists marvel and complain at the question of who gets away with what on Twitter and who gets in trouble. One of those who crossed that hazy line was a freelance editor at The Times, Lauren Wolfe, who was recently fired.

Hollywood PoliTrivia, Film History and Criticism: Treason at the movies, Wayne Madsen, left, Jan. 31, 2021. Plots about treason and traitors have always been a huge wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallbox office draw for Hollywood. What better villain is there than someone who sells out their country for personal gain or political motivation?

When the time comes for Hollywood to deal with Donald Trump and his band of traitors, the casting call should have quite a few agents extremely busy pitching their clients as believable worthies and heavies.

 

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine stayed quiet during Trump-era pressures. Now it’s sharing some Giuliani tales, David L. Stern, Jan. 31, 2021 (print ed.). There was a consistent message from Ukraine's leadership over everything from the Trump campaign's dirt digging to Ukraine's central role in the first impeachment proceedings: No comment.

But now, as the Biden administration settles in, some close allies of Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky are opening up about one of the longest-running dramas from the Trump era — the blitz of meetings, messages and public statements in Ukraine by former president Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.

ukraine flagAmong the accounts emerging from Ukrainian officials is a July 2019 phone call between Giuliani and Andriy Yermak, formerly one of Zelensky’s top aides and now his chief of staff. Yermak said the conversation was the first direct contact between Giuliani and the Zelensky administration and, until now, was only discussed in general terms.

The new disclosures from Ukraine do not offer any bombshell revelations about Giuliani’s dealings. But they help fill in some blanks on his frantic — and unsuccessful — quest to press Ukraine to make statements seen as potentially helpful to the Trump reelection bid.

Giuliani’s overall goal, according to the accounts, was to have Zelensky’s government validate the Trump campaign’s unsupported claims — including that Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, engaged in corrupt dealings in Ukraine and that then vice president Biden attempted to cover it up.

washington post logoWashington Post, Russia cracks down on Navalny protests, arresting thousands, Isabelle Khurshudyan and Robyn Dixon, Jan. 31, 2021. The Kremlin responded to a second straight weekend of protests on Sunday with a violent crackdown, arresting thousands in a show of Moscow’s unease at the growing unrest triggered by the treatment of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

A week after tens of thousands of Russians joined demonstrations in more than 100 cities throughout the country, authorities moved to stem Sunday’s rallies before they started, using more aggressive tactics.

But thousands came out despite the threat of arrest — the turnout in some Russian cities was believed to be higher than a week ago — boosting the opposition’s hope of a sustained movement.

 

Jan. 30

Top Headlines

 

More On Virus Victims, Responses

 

More On U.S. Riots, Terrorism, Impeachment

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

 

U.S. Courts, Crime

 

World News

 

Top Stories

djt resized joe biden

cnn logoCNN, Breaking Exclusive: Five of Trump's impeachment defense attorneys leave team less than two weeks befor e trial, Gloria Borger, Kaitlan Collins, Jeff Zeleny and Ashley Semler, Jan. 30, 2021.  Five of former President Donald Trump's impeachment defense team attorneys have stepped aside a little more than a week before his Senate trial is set to begin, according to people familiar with the case, amid a disagreement over his legal strategy.

It was a dramatic development in the second impeachment trial for Trump, who has struggled to find lawyers willing to take his case. And now, with legal briefs due next week and a trial set to begin only days later, Trump is clinging to his election fraud charade and suddenly finds himself without legal representation.

butch bowers militaryButch Bowers,left, and Deborah Barbier, who were expected to be two of the lead attorneys, are no longer on the team. A source familiar with the changes said it was a mutual decision for both to leave the legal team. As the lead attorney, Bowers assembled the team.

Josh Howard, a North Carolina attorney who was recently added to the team, has also left, according to another source familiar with the changes. Johnny Gasser and Greg Harris, also from South Carolina, are no longer involved with the case, either.

A person familiar with the departures told CNN that Trump wanted the attorneys to argue there was mass election fraud and that the election was stolen from him rather than focus on the legality of convicting a president after he's left office. Trump was not receptive to the discussions about how they should proceed in that regard.

The attorneys had not yet been paid any advance fees and a letter of intent was never signed.

jason miller"The Democrats' efforts to impeach a president who has already left office is totally unconstitutional and so bad for our country. In fact, 45 Senators have already voted that it is unconstitutional. We have done much work, but have not made a final decision on our legal team, which will be made shortly," former Trump campaign adviser Jason Miller told CNN. More details below.

Bowers, a respected lawyer from Columbia, South Carolina, once worked in the Justice Department under President George W. Bush.

Barbier, a South Carolina litigator, worked closely on several high-profile cases and was a former federal prosecutor for 15 years in the state before opening up her own boutique criminal defense firm.

Gasser and Harris are both former federal prosecutors. Gasser served as the interim US attorney for South Carolina earlier in his career. Both have worked closely with Barbier on the defense side.

Howard worked as an associate independent counsel on the Whitewater and Monica Lewinsky investigations during the Clinton presidency and spent a decade in the Justice Department where he worked on the confirmations of Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito. Howard once served as the chairman of the North Carolina State Board of Elections, leaving the post at the beginning of 2016.

  ali akbar alexander via dissident

"Stop the Steal" organizer Ali Alexander (from Dissident-mag.com)

wsj logoWall Street Journal, Investigation: Jan. 6 Rally Funded by Top Trump Donor, Helped by Alex Jones, Organizers Say, Shalini Ramachandran, Alexandra Berzon and Rebecca Ballhaus, Jan. 30, 2021. Publix Super Markets heiress donated about $300,000 to the Ellipse event; far-right show host pledged seed money, organizers say; The rally in Washington on Jan. 6 was arranged and funded by a small group of Trump supporters.

The rally in Washington’s Ellipse that preceded the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol was arranged and funded by a small group including a top Trump campaign fundraiser and donor facilitated by far-right show host Alex Jones.

alex jones roger stone 4 9 18 JIP img 2678 CustomMr. Jones (shown at right in a file photo with fellow Trump ally Roger Stone) personally pledged more than $50,000 in seed money for a planned Jan. 6 event in exchange for a guaranteed “top speaking slot of his choice,” according to a funding document outlining a deal between his company and an early organizer for the event.

Mr. Jones also helped arrange for Julie Jenkins Fancelli, Julie Jenkins Fancellileft, a prominent donor to the Trump campaign and heiress to the Publix Super Markets Inc. chain, to commit about $300,000 through a top fundraising official for former President Donald Trump’s 2020 campaign, according to organizers.

Her money paid for the lion’s share of the roughly $500,000 rally at the Ellipse where Mr. Trump spoke.

Another far-right activist and leader of the “Stop the Steal” movement, Ali Alexander, helped coordinate planning with Caroline Wren, a fundraising official who was paid by the Trump campaign for much of 2020 and who was tapped by Ms. Fancelli to organize and fund an event on her behalf, organizers said.

On social media, Mr. Alexander had targeted Jan. 6 as a key date for supporters to gather in Washington to contest the 2020-election certification results. The week of the rally, he tweeted a flyer for the event saying: “DC becomes FORT TRUMP starting tomorrow on my orders!”

publix logoThe Ellipse rally, at which President Trump urged supporters to march to the U.S. Capitol, was lawful and nonviolent. But it served as a jumping-off point for many supporters to head to the Capitol. Mr. Trump has been impeached by the Democrat-led House of Representatives, accused of inciting a mob to storm the Capitol with remarks urging supporters to “fight like hell.”

Few details about the funding and organization of the Ellipse event have previously been revealed. Mr. Jones claimed in a video that he paid for a portion of the event but didn’t offer details.

Messrs. Jones and Alexander had been active in the weeks before the event, calling on supporters to oppose the election results and go to the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Mr. Alexander, for instance, tweeted on Dec. 30 about the scheduled Jan. 6 count for lawmakers to certify the Electoral College vote at the Capitol, writing: “If they do this, everyone can guess what me and 500,000 others will do to that building.”

Julie Jenkins Fancelli donated more than $980,000 in the 2020 election cycle to a joint account for the Trump campaign and Republican Party, records show.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Exposed: the role that Alex Jones and a Publix grocery store heiress played in the January 6th Capitol attacks, Jennifer Mann, Jan 30, bill palmer report logo header2021. Far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones facilitated a $300,000 donation to Donald Trump’s Jan. 6 rally from a Florida supermarket heiress that paid for the majority of the $500,000 rally cost.

Julie Jenkins Fancelli, a daughter of the founder of Publix Supermarkets, and a prolific donor to former president Donald Trump, was part of a small group of donors who paid for the rally, according to a new bombshell today from Wall Street Journal.

publix logoIt was after that rally, when Trump told his followers to not be weak, but “strong,” and promising he was going to ron desantis omarch with them – but didn’t – that thousands of Trump supporters surrounded the Capitol with authorities estimating somewhere between 800 to 1,000 actually stormed into the Capitol.

Publix is the same supermarket chain that earlier this month was given sole distribution rights in 12 Florida counties to administer Covid-19 vaccines after donating $100,000 to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ (left) re-election PAC. With the exception of Palm Beach County, the other 11 are safely “red” counties, supporting both Trump and DeSantis.

 

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California (Screengrab on Jan. 8, 2021, two days after the Trump mob attacked the Capitol to prevent certification of national presidential voting).

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California (Screengrab on Jan. 8, 2021, two days after the Trump mob attacked the Capitol to prevent certification of national presidential voting).

washington post logoWashington Post, Democrats build emotionally charged case for impeachment, Mike DeBonis, Tom Hamburger, Karoun Demirjian and Amy Gardner, Jan. 30, 2021 (print ed.). House managers are scouring for video evidence and police witnesses, even as the Senate tries to limit former president Donald Trump’s impeachment trial to a week.

House Democrats have sought out new cellphone footage of the Capitol siege as well as updated details about injured police officers as they seek to build an emotionally compelling impeachment case against former president Donald Trump.

U.S. House logoThe goal is to present the Senate with fresh evidence that reveals what Trump knew in advance of the Jan. 6 rampage at the Capitol, as well as how his words and actions influenced those who participated. The rioting left five dead, including one member of the U.S. Capitol Police. In addition, two officers, one with the D.C. Police Department, have since died by suicide.

The effort to present new video evidence and witness testimony appears designed to make Republican senators as uncomfortable as possible as they prepare to vote to acquit Trump, as most have indicated they will do. The prospect of injured police officers describing the brutality of pro-Trump rioters to Republicans who regularly present themselves as advocates of law enforcement could make for an extraordinary, nationally televised scene.

Yet the strategy appears to be on a collision course with the Senate, where Democrats and Republicans alike have expressed reluctance to allow witness testimony in the interest of limiting the trial’s length to about a week. Both parties are eager to move past the final days of Trump’s presidency, with Democrats hoping to turn their attention to President Biden’s ambitious legislative agenda, and Republicans hoping to shift attention away from their standard-bearer’s role in the shocking riot.

The House impeachment managers are determined to present as much evidence as senators allow, to ensure a permanent record of Trump’s role in the riots — and to force Republicans to witness the chaos and carnage one more time before they vote against conviction, several individuals familiar with Democratic thinking said.

“Our goal is conviction,” said one person working on strategy with the House impeachment managers, referencing a House Republican from Wyoming who voted with Democrats to impeach Trump. “What story are we going to tell to get there? We are going to describe what happened as summarized by Liz Cheney when she announced her support for Trump’s impeachment: ‘He summoned the mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack.’ ’’

washington post logoWashington Post, Woman charged in Capitol riot said she wanted to shoot Pelosi ‘in the friggin’ brain,' FBI says, Meryl Kornfield, Jan. 30, 2021 (print ed.). Federal authorities arrested two women in Pennsylvania on Friday on charges related to the storming of the U.S. Capitol building after the FBI said one of nancy pelosi msnbc screengrabthe women expressed an intent to shoot House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), right.

Dawn Bancroft (shown below via screengrab and the Justice Department) and Diana Santos-Smith were identified by law enforcement after the FBI said it received a tip on Jan. 12 with a video purportedly capturing the two women as they left the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 amid a large mob of people, according to a criminal complaint.

dawn bancroft doj photo“We broke into the Capitol. . . . We got inside, we did our part,” Bancroft said in the video she sent to her children, according to the FBI. “We were looking for Nancy to shoot her in the friggin’ brain, but we didn’t find her.”

The women — who the FBI said initially lied to authorities — face three federal charges, including knowingly entering a restricted building or grounds without lawful authority and impeding in government business by engaging in disorderly or disruptive conduct in a restricted building or grounds.

Information about their initial appearances in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania was not immediately available. The women could not be reached Friday evening.

News of their arrest and alleged threats come amid heightened security for U.S. lawmakers. Capitol Police asked members of Congress to report travel plans, while the agency beefed up protection for traveling lawmakers in major airports in the region, as well as Washington’s Union Station, The Post reported Friday. Pelosi said on Thursday that part of the threat is an “enemy” within the chamber, referencing colleagues who “want to bring guns on the floor and have threatened violence on other members of Congress.”

 

joe biden gage skidmore microphone

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Signs Orders Aimed at Expanding Health Care Access, Staff Reports, Jan. 29, 2021 (print ed.). President Biden signed orders to reopen Obamacare enrollment and review Trump administration policies that undermined pre-existing condition coverage. He also moved to protect democratic donkey logoreproductive rights and expand access to abortion. Here’s the latest from Washington.

  • Biden’s pick for top economist testifies in the Senate.
  • Pelosi savages G.O.P. leaders for giving education committee seat to congresswoman who called school shootings staged.
  • Democrats could use budget reconciliation to speed up Biden’s pandemic stimulus bill.
  • Inside the White House, strict rules aim to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
  • Whitmer pleads for common ground on the pandemic, but Michigan Republicans say she has cut them out.
  • Analysis: Why aren’t progressives pushing Biden on the filibuster?

 

More On Virus Victims, Responses

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘We Need to Act Now’: Biden and Yellen Sound Alarm on Pandemic Aid, Alan Rappeport and Jim Tankersley, Jan. 30, 2021 (print ed.). President Biden’s top economic advisers, including Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, are increasingly worried about the faltering recovery.

washington post logoWashington Post, In race against time on virus mutations, U.S. is ‘falling behind,’ William Wan and Ben Guarino, Jan. 30, 2021 (print ed.). America has done so little of the genetic sequencing needed to detect mutated versions of coronavirus, like those first discovered in Britain and South Africa, that such variants are likely proliferating quickly, undetected, experts said.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: Jan. 30, 2021), with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):

World Cases: 102,635,172, Deaths: 2,216,418
U.S. Cases:     26,512,193, Deaths:   447,459

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), an independent global health research center at the University of Washington. Projected total U.S. deaths, based on current scenario 459,324 by Feb. 1; 529,000 by March 1; 567,195 by April 1, 2021.

johnson johnson logo

ny times logoNew York Times, Johnson & Johnson Vaccine Works but Fuels Variant Concerns, Carl Zimmer, Noah Weiland and Sharon LaFraniere, Jan. 30, 2021 (print ed.). Johnson & Johnson announced on Friday that its one-dose coronavirus vaccine provided strong protection against Covid-19, potentially offering the United States a third powerful tool in a desperate race against a worldwide rise in virus mutations.

But the results came with a significant cautionary note: The vaccine’s efficacy rate dropped from 72 percent in the United States to 57 percent in South Africa, where a highly contagious variant is driving most cases. Studies suggest that this variant also blunts the effectiveness of Covid vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Novavax. The variant has spread to at least 31 countries, including the United States, where two cases were documented this week.

Johnson & Johnson said that it planned to apply for emergency authorization of the vaccine from the Food and Drug Administration as soon as next week, putting it on track to receive clearance later in February.

 

More On U.S. Riots, Terrorism, Impeachment

Capitol Hill Police Officer Eugene Goodman, at center, holds off pro-Trump from entering the chambers of the Senate at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 (Photo by Igor Bobic of HuffPost via Storyful).

Capitol Hill Police Officer Eugene Goodman, at center, holds off pro-Trump from entering the chambers of the Senate at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 (Photo by Igor Bobic of HuffPost via Storyful).

washington post logoWashington Post, Actions by Proud Boy at Capitol show ‘planning, determination, and coordination,’ U.S. alleges, Rachel Weiner and Spencer S. Hsu, Jan. 30, 2021 (print ed.). Court documents detail allegations against Montana and New York residents accused of engaging in a confrontation with Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman.

A police riot shield used to break a window, then a door kicked open from the inside — new court documents detail the first moments of the Jan. 6 breach of the U.S. Capitol that left five people dead and more than 100 police officers injured.

A criminal complaint against two Montana brothers and a detention memo against a prominent member of the Proud Boys help explain how, the government believes, one segment of a mob overran a small, poorly defended line of Capitol Police officers. In these and other filings, prosecutors trace the actions of possible key instigators in the storming of the Capitol, including members of the Proud Boys — a far-right nationalist and nativist group with a history of violence — and other right-wing extremist groups.

According to prosecutors, citing surveillance video and social media, Proud Boy Dominic Pezzola was one of the first to lead the charge both outside and inside the Capitol, helping overwhelm police defenses after stealing an officer’s riot shield.

Starting at about 1 p.m., Pezzola, known as “Spaz,” was among the first protesters to charge and overwhelm a line of police behind a pedestrian gate on the west-front Capitol grounds, prosecutors said. The crowd advanced toward a second set of waist-high metal barricades at the Capitol’s west plaza, where Pezzola and another Proud Boy dragged a piece of the fence away, leaving police unprotected and helping thousands follow onto the Capitol grounds, prosecutors said. Pezzola next was among the first to reach another police line at the base of the Capitol, prosecutors said.

washington post logoWashington Post, Capitol Police beef up security for traveling members of Congress, Meagan Flynn, Jan. 30, 2021 (print ed.). The Capitol Police are asking members of Congress to remain vigilant while traveling as authorities seek to boost protection for lawmakers in an acutely tense political environment.

In a Thursday night email obtained by The Washington Post, acting sergeant-at-arms Timothy P. Blodgett told lawmakers they should alert the Capitol Police of their travel itineraries ahead of time through a new online portal so that authorities can notify “the appropriate law enforcement agencies for extra awareness.”

Capitol Police officers will be stationed at the major airports in the region, as well as Union Station, to provide an extra layer of security for members arriving or departing — not as personal escorts but to “monitor as Members move throughout the airport,” said the email, which was first reported by the Associated Press. “Members and staff should remain vigilant of their surroundings and immediately report anything unusual or suspicious.” Blodgett wrote.

More than three weeks after the Jan. 6 breach of the Capitol, Blodgett’s security advisory makes evident the multiplying safety concerns confronting lawmakers — within and outside the Capitol building.

cnn logoCNN, Five of Trump's impeachment defense attorneys leave team less than two weeks befor e trial, Gloria Borger, Kaitlan Collins, Jeff Zeleny and Ashley Semler, Jan. 30, 2021.  (Continued from above.) Five of former President Donald Trump's impeachment defense team attorneys have stepped aside a little more than a week before his Senate trial is set to begin, according to people familiar with the case, amid a disagreement over his legal strategy.

butch bowers militaryBowers, left, a respected lawyer from Columbia, South Carolina, once worked in the Justice Department under President George W. Bush.

Barbier, a South Carolina litigator, worked closely on several high-profile cases and was a former federal prosecutor for 15 years in the state before opening up her own boutique criminal defense firm.

Gasser and Harris are both former federal prosecutors. Gasser served as the interim US attorney for South Carolina earlier in his career. Both have worked closely with Barbier on the defense side.

Howard worked as an associate independent counsel on the Whitewater and Monica Lewinsky investigations during the Clinton presidency and spent a decade in the Justice Department where he worked on the confirmations of Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito. Howard once served as the chairman of the North Carolina State Board of Elections, leaving the post at the beginning of 2016.

washington post logoWashington Post, Three South Carolina lawyers named to Trump’s impeachment defense team, Tom Hamburger and Josh Dawsey, Jan. 30, 2021 (Published earlier on Saturday before resignations.) Former president Donald Trump in recent days has added three former prosecutors to his impeachment team, giving him a defense roster consisting entirely of lawyers from South Carolina.

Greg Harris, John Gasser and Deborah Barbier, all former federal prosecutors in private practice, will join lead attorney Karl S. “Butch” Bowers in defending the former president in the Senate impeachment trial scheduled to begin next month.

Additional lawyers could be named to the defense team in coming days. The selection so far marks a dramatic shift from Trump’s previous impeachment. During that Senate trial last year, Trump was defended by lawyers experienced on the national stage. They included Kenneth Starr, the former special prosecutor whose work led to Bill Clinton’s impeachment; Jay Sekulow, who had defended Trump previously; and Alan Dershowitz, a Harvard University law professor, known for his work in high-profile controversial cases.

“They really have the A-team from South Carolina,” said Matt Moore, former chairman of the state Republican Party. Most of the lawyers have small offices in downtown Columbia.

capitol peter stager

ny times logoNew York Times, Republican Ties to Extremist Groups Are Under Scrutiny, Luke Broadwater and Matthew Rosenberg, Jan. 30, 2021 (print ed.). New video: A number of members of Congress have links to organizations and movements that played a role in the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol.

The video’s title was posed as a question, but it left little doubt about where the men who filmed it stood. They called it “The Coming Civil War?” and in its opening seconds, Jim Arroyo, who leads an Arizona chapter of Oath Keepers, a right-wing militia, declared that the conflict had already begun.

To back up his claim, Mr. Arroyo cited Representative Paul Gosar of Arizona, right, one of the most far-right members of Congress. Mr. Gosar had paid a visit to paul gosarthe local Oath Keepers chapter a few years earlier, Mr. Arroyo recounted, and when asked if the United States was headed for a civil war, the congressman’s “response to the group was just flat out: ‘We’re in it. We just haven’t started shooting at each other yet.’”

Less than two months after the video was posted, members of the Oath Keepers were among those with links to extremist groups from around the country who took part in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, prompting new scrutiny of the links between members of Congress and an array of organizations and movements that espouse far-right beliefs.

Nearly 150 House Republicans supported President Donald J. Trump’s baseless claims that the election had been stolen from him. But Mr. Gosar and a handful of other Republican members of the House had deeper ties to extremist groups who pushed violent ideas and conspiracy theories and whose members were prominent among those who stormed the halls of Congress in an effort to stop certification of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory.

andy biggs paul gosar composite gage skidmore via flickrTheir ranks include Representative Andy Biggs of Arizona (shown at left with Gosar), who like Mr. Gosar was linked to the “Stop the Steal” campaign backing Mr. Trump’s effort to overturn the election’s outcome.

Representative Lauren Boebert of Colorado, right, has close connections to militia groups including the so-called Three Percenters, an lauren boebertextremist offshoot of the gun rights movement that had at least one member who entered the Capitol on Jan. 6.

Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene has promoted the QAnon conspiracy theory, whose adherents were among the most visible of those who stormed the building, and she appeared at a rally with militia groups. Before being elected to Congress last year, she used social media in 2019 to endorse executing top Democrats and has suggested that the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., was a staged “false flag” attack.

matt gaetz o CustomRepresentative Matt Gaetz of Florida, left, appeared last year at an event also attended by members of the Proud Boys, another extremist organization whose role in the Jan. 6 assault, like those of the Oath Keepers and Three Percenters, is being investigated by the F.B.I

republican elephant logoIt is not clear whether any elected officials played a role in directly facilitating the attack on the Capitol, other than helping to incite violence through false statements about the election being stolen from Mr. Trump. Officials have said they are investigating reports from Democrats that a number of House Republicans provided tours of the Capitol and other information to people who might have gone on to be part of the mob on Jan. 6. So far, no evidence has surfaced publicly to back up those claims.

 

U.S. Politics, Governance, Civic Life

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden promised unity. But Democrats are preparing to move beyond efforts to woo Republicans, Matt Viser, Jan. 30, 2021 (print ed.).  A week and a half into the Biden presidency, Democrats are adopting a more muscular approach to dealing with Republicans, essentially declaring they will work with them if they can but are prepared move past them if they must.

joe biden oTop Senate Democrats are now working on dual tracks, planning to hold a speedy impeachment trial to avoid derailing President Biden’s legislative agenda while also laying the groundwork for Biden’s covid relief package to pass shortly afterward.

The moves come after Biden launched his administration without Republicans in his Cabinet and started by issuing dozens of executive actions, a clip far more rapid than any of his recent predecessors.

Taken together, the moves are energizing Democrats eager for the party to flex its political muscle. But the tougher approach could also jeopardize one of Biden’s chief goals: achieving more bipartisanship in a capital that has been gripped by polarization.

Many Democrats are concluding that Republicans are unlikely to work with them and that waiting for them to do so would be a mistake. Biden seems to be heeding that argument to some degree.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Democrats have prevailed, but Trumpism is still here. We can’t be complacent, Colbert I. King,Jan. 30, 2021 (print ed.). If complacency prevails, this month’s certification of the electoral college vote will become the Appomattox Court House of our day.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Get your popcorn ready: George W. Bush just took a side in the House Republican civil war, Bill Palmer, right, Jan. 30, 2021. There isn’t going bill palmerto be a civil war between the United States and Trump’s goons. That’s not even remotely on the table. But there is a civil war going on, right now, within the Republican Party – and a major player just publicly picked a side.

The war is between House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, a Trump loyalist who is in over his head and has no idea what to do now that Trump has been removed from the equation, and would-be House Republican leader Liz Cheney, who is a far right corrupt conservative but at least wants to move the party beyond Trump.

bill palmer report logo headerOn Friday night, former President George W. Bush leaked that he’s planning to call his former Vice President Dick Cheney, specifically to thank his daughter Liz Cheney for her service. Bush is pretty clearly publicly throwing his weight behind Liz Cheney in her attempt at wresting control of the Republican House away from Kevin McCarthy.

It’s difficult to say precisely how this will play out. But as long as the Republican House is at war against itself, it’ll only make it easier for the Democrats to carry forward with their agenda, and it’ll only increase the odds of the Democrats winning the 2022 midterms. So get your popcorn ready.

washington post logoWashington Post, Democrat Cori Bush to move House office away from GOP's Greene, citing safety reasons, Colby Itkowitz and Amy B Wang, Jan. 30, 2021 (print ed.). Rep. Cori Bush, a freshman Democrat from Missouri, said Friday that she was moving her office at the U.S. Capitol complex away from Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) for safety reasons, after claiming Greene accosted her without a mask.

Meanwhile, Greene — a conspiracy theorist who has a history of making racist and anti-Semitic remarks — called Bush a liar and accused her of leading a “terrorist mob” because she supported Black Lives Matter.

The allegations, which escalated throughout the day Friday, underscored the degree to which relations have deteriorated to the point of open hostility between congressional Republicans and Democrats after pro-Trump rioters overran the Capitol on Jan. 6 in a violent insurrection that left five people dead. Tensions have only increased as members of Congress prepare for the second impeachment trial of former president Donald Trump, to start early next month, and as Democrats have called for GOP lawmakers who may have had a role in instigating the attack to be censured or expelled.

Friday’s accusations centered on an incident that occurred Jan. 13 in an underground tunnel that connects congressional office buildings to the Capitol.

Bush tweeted Friday that Greene and her staff had berated her in a hallway that day.

“A maskless Marjorie Taylor Greene & her staff berated me in a hallway. She targeted me & others on social media. I’m moving my office away from hers for my team’s safety,” Bush tweeted.

Shortly after Bush’s tweet, Greene tweeted a selfie video as she walked through a Capitol complex hallway, with someone off-camera yelling at her to put on a mask. Greene says it was Bush.

“She is lying to you. She berated me. Maybe Rep. Bush didn’t realize I was live on video, but I have the receipts,” Greene tweeted, also calling Bush “the leader of the St. Louis Black Lives Matter terrorist mob who trespassed into a gated neighborhood to threaten the lives of the McCloskey’s.”

In recent weeks, journalists at several outlets have unearthed numerous social media posts Greene made in the past that showed she parroted claims that deadly school shootings were staged and approved of the execution of Democratic leaders and federal agents. Also on Friday, a major Jewish nonprofit group condemned Greene for supporting an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory that space lasers caused the Camp Fire, California’s deadliest wildfire in history.

 

U.S. Courts, Crime

washington post logoWashington Post, Ex-FBI lawyer avoids prison after admitting he doctored email in investigation of Trump’s 2016 campaign, Matt Zapotosky, Jan. 30, 2021 (print ed.). The former FBI lawyer who admitted to doctoring an email that other officials relied upon to justify secret surveillance of a former Trump campaign adviser was sentenced Friday to 12 months of probation, with no time behind bars.

kevin clinesmithProsecutors had asked that Kevin Clinesmith, 38, right, spend several months in prison for his crime, while Clinesmith’s attorneys said probation would be more appropriate.

Clinesmith pleaded guilty last summer to altering an email that one of his colleagues used in preparing an application to surreptitiously monitor former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page during the bureau’s 2016 investigation of Russia’s election interference.

Justice Department logoU.S. District Judge James E. Boasberg said that Clinesmith’s conduct had undermined the integrity of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which approved the FBI’s flawed applications to surveil Page. “Courts all over the country rely on representations from the government, and expect them to be correct,” Boasberg said.

But Boasberg also said he agreed with a prior finding by the Justice Department Inspector General that Clinesmith and other FBI officials’ actions were not motivated by political bias, and he believed Clinesmith’s contention that he thought, genuinely but wrongly, the information he was inserting into the email was accurate. On top of his probation sentence, Boasberg ordered Clinesmith to perform 400 hours of community service.

The case against Clinesmith is the first and only criminal allegation to arise from U.S. Attorney John Durham’s review of the FBI’s Russia case, and it has become a political lightning rod.

FBI logoClinesmith’s lawyers have argued his altering the email was a mistake meant to save Clinesmith time and personal embarrassment. But former president Donald Trump and his political allies have highlighted the case as part of their allegations that the bureau was biased and seeking to undermine Trump with the investigation that explored possible ties between Russia and his campaign. The case was ultimately taken over by robert mueller full face filespecial counsel Robert S. Mueller III, left.

Clinesmith said in a lengthy statement in court that he took “full responsibility” for what he termed a “lapse in judgment.”

“I let the FBI, Department of Justice, my colleagues, the public, and my family down. I also let myself down,” he said, adding later, “Please do not let my error reflect on those who continue to serve our country.”

In arguing that Clinesmith deserved to go to prison, Durham’s team highlighted anti-Trump texts Clinesmith had sent and argued that it was “plausible that his strong political views and/or personal dislike of [Trump] made him more willing to engage in the fraudulent and unethical conduct to which he has pled guilty.” Clinesmith was suspended for two weeks over the messages.

“While it is impossible to know with certainty how those views may have affected his offense conduct, the defendant plainly has shown that he did not discharge his important responsibilities at the FBI with the professionalism, integrity, and objectivity required of such a sensitive job position,” prosecutors wrote.

Prosecutor Anthony Scarpelli said in court that Clinesmith’s conduct was “more egregious” than that of George Papadopoulos, whose offhand remark in a London bar in May 2016 helped trigger the Russia investigation and who later pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. He was sentenced to 14 days in prison.

Federal sentencing guidelines in Clinesmith’s case called for a penalty of anywhere from zero to six months in prison, though the U.S. Probation Office recommended a term of probation, according to court filings.

Justin Shur, justin shurleft, Clinesmith’s lawyer, argued that probation was appropriate. C

The basic facts of the case are not in dispute, though prosecutors and defense attorneys seem to disagree on what motivated Clinesmith and how sinister his actions were. Clinesmith was an FBI attorney helping investigators on the Russia investigation, and in June 2017, he was asked to clarify whether Page carter page pbs screenshotwas ever a source for the CIA. That was important because the FBI — with approval of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court — had been surveilling Page as a possible agent of a foreign government, and was applying for permission to keep that surveillance going.

If Page was a CIA source, though, that would have to be disclosed to the court, as it would raise significant questions about whether he should be tracked as a possible foreign agent.

Page had provided information to the CIA as “operational contact,” and when Clinesmith sought clarity, a CIA liaison told him as much, using jargon and pointing to documents that made his role clear. But, according to Clinesmith’s lawyers, Clinesmith believed Page was not a direct source, but rather, a subsource of the agency.

In the wake of the Justice Department inspector general’s findings about Clinesmith, along with other significant errors in the applications to surveil Page, lawmakers have questioned whether the FBI should maintain its authority under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Under pressure from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the bureau has vowed and implemented reforms. Clinesmith apologized in court for imposing that “additional burden” on his john durham o portrait 2 croppedformer colleagues.

Durham’s investigation is ongoing, though it is unclear who beyond Clinesmith, if anyone, might face criminal exposure, or what public findings it may ultimately produce. In his final months as Trump’s attorney general, William P. Barr appointed Durham, right, as a special counsel, giving him extra legal and political protection from being relieved of his assignment in the Biden administration.

 

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. national security adviser suggests fast timeline to rejoin Iran deal, Anne Gearan, Jan. 30, 2021 (print ed.). President Biden is eyeing an urgent restoration of the international nuclear deal with Iran as a first step to deal with a range of threats from that country, new national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Friday, suggesting a faster timeline than the administration has previously outlined.

iran flag mapSullivan did not mention Biden’s oft-stated precondition that Iran make the first move by rolling back nuclear activities to come back into compliance with terms of the 2015 deal. Iran is closer to building a bomb now than it was when President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the deal, and putting the nuclear program “in a box” is the first imperative, Sullivan said.

“We are going to have to address Iran’s other bad behavior, malign behavior across the region, but from our perspective, a critical early priority has to be to deal with what is an escalating nuclear crisis as they move closer to having enough fissile material for a weapon,” Sullivan said. “And we would like to make sure that we reestablish some of the parameters and constraints around the program that have fallen away over the course of the past two years.”

Containing Iran’s ability to produce bombmaking nuclear material was the central rationale the Obama administration applied in seeking the deal that Sullivan helped to shape.

The timing of a U.S. return to the deal, as well as new concessions or promises made to Iran and the scope of a potential follow-on agreement, is one of the first major foreign policy tests for the Biden administration.

 

Jan. 29

Top Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

U.S. Capitol Riot, Insurrection Probes

 

U.S. Politics, Governance, Civic Life

 

U.S. Courts, Crime

 

U.S. Media, Education News

 

Top Storiesjoe biden gage skidmore microphone

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Signs Orders Aimed at Expanding Health Care Access, Staff Reports, Jan. 29, 2021 (print ed.). President Biden signed orders to reopen Obamacare enrollment and review Trump administration policies that undermined pre-existing condition coverage. He also moved to protect democratic donkey logoreproductive rights and expand access to abortion. Here’s the latest from Washington.

  • Biden’s pick for top economist testifies in the Senate.
  • Pelosi savages G.O.P. leaders for giving education committee seat to congresswoman who called school shootings staged.
  • Democrats could use budget reconciliation to speed up Biden’s pandemic stimulus bill.
  • Inside the White House, strict rules aim to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
  • Whitmer pleads for common ground on the pandemic, but Michigan Republicans say she has cut them out.
  • Analysis: Why aren’t progressives pushing Biden on the filibuster?

 

nancy pelosi msnbc screengrab

washington post logoWashington Post, Congress hits new levels of partisan rancor, Colby Itkowitz and Mike DeBonis, Jan. 29, 2021 (print ed.).Open hostility broke out among Republicans and Democrats in Congress on Thursday amid growing fears of physical violence and looming domestic terrorism threats from supporters of former president Donald Trump, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi leveling an extraordinary allegation that dangers lurk among the membership itself.

“The enemy is within the House of Representatives, a threat that members are concerned about, in addition to what is happening outside,” Pelosi (D-Calif.) democratic donkey logo(shown in a recent file photo) said at a Thursday morning news conference.

But even as she and others sounded the alarm, Republicans continued to deepen their ties to the former president, who has been impeached on a charge of inciting an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

Hours after Pelosi’s remarks, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) met with Trump in Florida. In a statement, the pair vowed to work together to take back the House. On Thursday afternoon, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), a Trump acolyte, traveled to the district of Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.), a member of the House GOP leadership, to hold a rally criticizing her vote to impeach Trump earlier this month.

The events reflected the extent to which the country’s legislative branch, which has for years been mired in partisan bickering, has reached new levels of animosity just as newly inaugurated President Biden is seeking to win passage of a massive bill designed to help lift the country out of the pandemic.

Some Democrats are expressing fears that Republican lawmakers — who in some cases have tried bringing weapons onto the House floor — cannot be trusted. Some have bought bulletproof vests and are seeking other protections.

ny times logoNew York Times, McCarthy Seeks Thaw With Trump as G.O.P. Rallies Behind Former President, Maggie Haberman, Jan. 29, 2021 (print ed.). The top House Republican sought to present a united front after saying Mr. Trump bore responsibility for the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

kevin mccarthyTwo weeks after Representative Kevin McCarthy, left, the top House Republican, enraged Donald J. Trump by saying that he considered the former president responsible for the violent mob attack at the Capitol, the two men met on Thursday for what aides described as a “good and cordial” meeting, and sought to present a united front.

The meeting at Mr. Trump’s private club in Palm Beach, Fla., came two weeks after Mr. McCarthy, in a speech on the House floor, said that the former president “bears responsibility” for the events of Jan. 6, when a throng of his supporters stormed the Capitol after a rally in which Mr. Trump urged them to “fight like hell” against his election defeat.

It was the latest evidence that top Republicans, many of whom harshly criticized Mr. Trump after the assault, have quickly swung back into line behind him and are courting his support as he faces a second impeachment trial.

republican elephant logoWhile Mr. McCarthy, Republican of California, voted against the impeachment article, Mr. Trump was infuriated by the speech that he delivered just before doing so, advisers said.

Aides to both men have been trying to broker a thaw between the two ever since, even as Mr. Trump has targeted other Republicans who criticized him more harshly for his role in the Capitol breach and voted in favor of impeaching him. They included Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the No. 3 Republican, who joined nine others in the party who voted in support of impeaching Mr. Trump on a charge of “incitement of insurrection.”

washington post logoWashington Post, G.M. to Phase Out Gas Vehicles, Signaling Seismic Shift of Auto Industry, Neal E. Boudette and Coral Davenport, Jan. 29, 2021 (print ed.). The days of the internal combustion engine are numbered.

General Motors said Thursday that it would phase out petroleum-powered cars and trucks and sell only vehicles that have zero tailpipe emissions by 2035, general motors logoa seismic shift by one of the world’s largest automakers that makes billions of dollars today from gas-guzzling pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles.

The announcement is likely to put pressure on automakers around the world to make similar commitments. It could also embolden President Biden and other elected officials to push for even more aggressive policies to fight climate change. Leaders could point to G.M.’s decision as evidence that even big businesses have decided that it is time for the world to begin to transition away from fossil fuels that have powered the global economy for more than a century.

G.M.’s move is sure to roil the auto industry, which, between car and parts makers, employed about one million people in the United States in 2019, more than any other manufacturing sector by far. It will also have huge ramifications for the oil and gas sector, whose fortunes are closely tied to the internal combustion engine.

A rapid shift by the auto industry could lead to job losses and business failures in related areas. Electric cars don’t have transmissions or need oil changes, meaning conventional service stations will have to retool what they do. Electric vehicles also require fewer workers to make, putting traditional manufacturing jobs at risk. At the same time, the move to electric cars will spark a boom in areas like battery manufacturing, mining and charging stations.

Electric cars today are the fastest-growing segment of the auto industry, but they still make up a small proportion of new car sales: about 3 percent of the global total, according to the International Energy Agency. Sales of such cars jumped last year in Europe and China, but they remain niche products in the United States.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: Jan. 29, 2021), with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):

World Cases: 102,144,932, Deaths: 2,203,261
U.S. Cases:     26,340,631, Deaths:   443,794

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), an independent global health research center at the University of Washington. Projected total U.S. deaths, based on current scenario 459,324 by Feb. 1; 529,000 by March 1; 567,195 by April 1, 2021.

jon ossoff raphael warnock

washington post logoWashington Post, New Georgia Democratic senators push for fast action on new stimulus checks to fulfill campaign pledge, Erica Werner, Seung Min Kim and Jeff Stein, Jan. 29, 2021 (print ed.). The two newly elected Democratic senators from Georgia pressed White House officials and fellow Senate Democrats Thursday to act quickly to pass a new round of stimulus checks, arguing that this promise won their party the Senate majority and needs to get done.

The comments by Sens. Jon Ossoff, left, and Raphael G. Warnock, shown in a file photo, during a private lunchtime call with the Senate Democratic caucus and top White House economic advisers were confirmed by several people with knowledge of them, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the discussion was private.

us senate logoOssoff and Warnock both won special elections in Georgia earlier this month on promises to deliver voters a new round of $2,000 stimulus checks if elected. President Biden made the same pledge to Georgia voters while campaigning for the two candidates, whose victories gave Democrats narrow control of the Senate.

The stimulus checks are a centerpiece of Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan, which Democrats are aiming to move quickly through Congress in coming weeks through special budget rules that would allow them to pass the legislation without GOP votes. The checks in the Biden plan are actually $1,400 per person, but would come on top of $600 checks included in the last relief package in December, bringing the total to $2,000.

The arguments from Ossoff and Warnock in favor of fast action on the checks played into a larger sense of urgency among Democrats during the discussion Thursday that Biden’s package must be enacted swiftly, with or without GOP support. Aides to both Ossoff and Warnock declined to comment on the closed-door lunch.

“My strong impression was that there is general unanimity, and it’s strong that we need to be bold and decisive, particularly in putting shots and putting vaccines in people’s arms and putting money in people’s pockets and putting kids back to school,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said. “And one way to put money in people’s pockets is to fulfill our promises on stimulus payments.”

Biden administration officials on Thursday’s call included National Economic Council Director Brian Deese; Jeff Zients, who heads the administration’s covid-19 response; and Anita Dunn, a senior adviser to the White House. A White House spokesman declined to comment.

The discussion came as Democrats formalized plans to move forward on their own with the stimulus legislation, despite warnings from Republicans that they might regret doing so, especially after Biden ran for president as a bipartisan dealmaker.

 

U.S. Capitol Riot, Insurrection Probes

 

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California (Screengrab on Jan. 8, 2021, two days after the Trump mob attacked the Capitol to prevent certification of national presidential voting).

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California (Screengrab on Jan. 8, 2021, two days after the Trump mob attacked the Capitol to prevent certification of national presidential voting).

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: As Senate prepares speedy impeachment trial, some urge slower approach, Paul Kane, Jan. 29, 2021 (print ed.). A small, vocal group wants Democrats to bolster their case for a conviction.

The Senate is hurtling toward an impeachment trial that will accomplish almost nothing by design and likely leave everyone with a bitter aftertaste.

Democratic voters will be furious that GOP senators refused to hold former president Donald Trump accountable for his role in encouraging supporters to march to the Capitol on Jan. 6. Republicans will be upset that congressional Democrats went through with an impeachment trial three weeks after Trump left the White House.

And independent voters, more focused on the health and economic crises fueled by the coronavirus pandemic, will wonder why Congress prioritized an impeachment process at all.

Mitchell_McConnellThat’s the almost inevitable outcome of the Senate trial crafted by Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), particularly after McConnell, right, and 44 other Republicans stuck by Trump’s side in an initial procedural vote.

With House managers now facing an almost impossible task in reaching 67 total votes to convict, some Trump critics are now debating whether to even hold the trial.

tim kaineSen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) has been the most outspoken on this front, calling for the Senate to approve a resolution censuring Trump instead. Though Kaine, right, would vote to convict Trump, he said he believes that time might be better spent focusing on moving pandemic relief legislation.

But a vast majority of Democrats have signaled that they support the emerging Schumer-McConnell approach of a shortened impeachment trial that skips some of the phases that produced a three-week trial of Trump last year.

sheldon whitehouse“I think the sooner we get on to solving covid and solving climate, the better. So I think if this gets drawn out too much, it doesn’t help anybody,” Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), one of the more liberal members of the caucus, said Wednesday.

It’s a stunning reversal for a Democratic caucus that cried out for witnesses and documents during last year’s trial, focused on Trump’s attempt to force Ukrainian officials to announce an investigation into the Biden family.

They didn’t have the majority during that trial, so McConnell could muscle through his wishes. Now, with 50 members of Schumer’s caucus, plus a handful of Republicans who voted against Trump in Tuesday’s proxy vote, Democrats have a working majority to actually call witnesses and subpoena documents.

A small but vocal group would like to at least give that a try, given the severity of events in a riot that left five people dead, including a Capitol Police officer who died after engaging with the mob, and at least 140 officers injured, some quite seriously.

Mitchell_McConnell“We just had one of the most terrifying incidents in American history that put in question the viability of our democracy,” Sen. Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.), right, told Politico on Wednesday. “How much time do you think we should spend on that?”

Coons is a close Biden ally who wants to quickly move on to the new president’s agenda. Yet at the same time, he is angry about how angus kingmany senators are prepared to move past the Jan. 6 attack in a speedy trial.

“There’s still evidence that we need,” Sen. Angus King (Maine), left, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, said Wednesday of Trump’s Jan. 6 actions. “The evidence that I’m particularly interested in is: What did he know about the intention of that crowd when he was addressing them? What did he have in the way of intelligence that may or may not have put him on notice that this was a dangerous situation? And then secondly, what I am interested in is, what did he do that afternoon when it was unfolding?”

capitol peter stager

ny times logoNew York Times, Republican Ties to Extremist Groups Are Under Scrutiny, Luke Broadwater and Matthew Rosenberg, Jan. 29, 2021. New video: A number of members of Congress have links to organizations and movements that played a role in the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol.

The video’s title was posed as a question, but it left little doubt about where the men who filmed it stood. They called it “The Coming Civil War?” and in its opening seconds, Jim Arroyo, who leads an Arizona chapter of Oath Keepers, a right-wing militia, declared that the conflict had already begun.

To back up his claim, Mr. Arroyo cited Representative Paul Gosar of Arizona, right, one of the most far-right members of Congress. Mr. Gosar had paid a visit to paul gosarthe local Oath Keepers chapter a few years earlier, Mr. Arroyo recounted, and when asked if the United States was headed for a civil war, the congressman’s “response to the group was just flat out: ‘We’re in it. We just haven’t started shooting at each other yet.’”

Less than two months after the video was posted, members of the Oath Keepers were among those with links to extremist groups from around the country who took part in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, prompting new scrutiny of the links between members of Congress and an array of organizations and movements that espouse far-right beliefs.

Nearly 150 House Republicans supported President Donald J. Trump’s baseless claims that the election had been stolen from him. But Mr. Gosar and a handful of other Republican members of the House had deeper ties to extremist groups who pushed violent ideas and conspiracy theories and whose members were prominent among those who stormed the halls of Congress in an effort to stop certification of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory.

andy biggs paul gosar composite gage skidmore via flickrTheir ranks include Representative Andy Biggs of Arizona (shown at left with Gosar), who like Mr. Gosar was linked to the “Stop the Steal” campaign backing Mr. Trump’s effort to overturn the election’s outcome.

Representative Lauren Boebert of Colorado, right, has close connections to militia groups including the so-called Three Percenters, an lauren boebertextremist offshoot of the gun rights movement that had at least one member who entered the Capitol on Jan. 6.

Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene has promoted the QAnon conspiracy theory, whose adherents were among the most visible of those who stormed the building, and she appeared at a rally with militia groups. Before being elected to Congress last year, she used social media in 2019 to endorse executing top Democrats and has suggested that the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., was a staged “false flag” attack.

matt gaetz o CustomRepresentative Matt Gaetz of Florida, left, appeared last year at an event also attended by members of the Proud Boys, another extremist organization whose role in the Jan. 6 assault, like those of the Oath Keepers and Three Percenters, is being investigated by the F.B.I

republican elephant logoIt is not clear whether any elected officials played a role in directly facilitating the attack on the Capitol, other than helping to incite violence through false statements about the election being stolen from Mr. Trump. Officials have said they are investigating reports from Democrats that a number of House Republicans provided tours of the Capitol and other information to people who might have gone on to be part of the mob on Jan. 6. So far, no evidence has surfaced publicly to back up those claims.

rosanne boyland

ny times logoNew York Times, Body Camera Footage Shows Capitol Rioters Trampling Over Woman, Evan Hill and Arielle Ray, Jan. 29, 2021 (print ed.). Video obtained by The Times provides a police officer’s view of the deadly battle to defend a key entryway from the mob.

As 34-year-old Rosanne Boyland, above, lay dying on the steps of the Capitol on Jan. 6 after being crushed by a mob, fellow rioters were charging over her to attack police officers with crutches, a hockey stick and pepper spray, new police body camera footage shows.

Video obtained by The Times provides a previously unpublished view of the brutal fight between rioters and officers at a central entryway on the west side of the Capitol — the same one that President Biden used to descend to his inauguration ceremony two weeks later.

The footage shows how rioters, in their effort to attack the police, trampled on Ms. Boyland even as her friend, Justin Winchell, shouted that she was dying and needed help.

Federal prosecutors in Detroit played the video at a Jan. 25 court hearing in the case of Michael Joseph Foy, a Michigan man accused of attacking the officers with a hockey stick. The U.S. attorney’s office in Detroit provided the one minute and 20 second clip to The Times.

The footage appears to come from the body camera worn by one of four Metropolitan Police officers dragged out of the doorway and beaten by rioters during the hourslong battle. It begins at 4:26 p.m., just as officers have managed to push the mob out of the doorway. Inside, rioters had packed together in a dangerous crush in their attempt to force their way through the police and into the Capitol.

Seconds into the video, as rioters tumble over one another, a voice can be heard shouting, “Save her!”

Mr. Foy faces multiple federal charges, including assaulting a police officer, and has been transferred from Detroit to Washington to face prosecution.

washington post logoWashington Post, Calif. man made pipe bombs, plotted attacks on Democrats to keep Trump in power, prosecutors allege, Matt Zapotosky and Shayna Jacobs, Jan. 29, 2021 (print ed.). Federal prosecutors alleged in charges made public Wednesday that a California man who wrongly believed Donald Trump had won the election built pipe bombs and planned to go to “war” against Democrats and others to keep him in power.

ian rogersIan Benjamin Rogers, right, had been taken into custody earlier this month on state charges after Napa County authorities and the FBI searched his home and business and found 49 guns and five pipe bombs, according to an FBI affidavit in the case.

While Rogers, 44, who owns an auto repair shop specializing in British vehicles, told investigators the bombs were for entertainment, investigators came to believe otherwise. According to the affidavit, authorities recovered text messages on Rogers’s phone showing “his belief that Donald Trump won the 2020 presidential election, and his intent to attack Democrats and places associated with Democrats in an effort to ensure Trump remained in office.”

“Let’s see what happens, if nothing does I’m going to war,” he wrote in one, authorities said.

“We can attack Twitter or the democrats you pick,” he said in another.

The twin Trump Towers in Istanbul represents a major conflict of interest for Trump in relation to the dictatorial government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has made no secret of his disdain for ethnic Armenians, with whom Turkey has had a torturous past, which includes Turkish genocide of ethnic Armenians in the early 20th century.

  djt as chosen one

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: ‘The Capitol Insurrection Was as Christian Nationalist as It Gets,’ Thomas B. Edsall, Jan. 29, 2021 (print ed.). Religious resentment has become a potent recruiting tool for the hard right.

It’s impossible to understand the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol without addressing the movement that has come to be known as Christian nationalism.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump suddenly has a real “QAnon Shaman” problem, Bill Palmer, Jan. 29, 2021. The “QAnon Shaman” – who has been criminally charged for his role in the U.S. Capitol attack – now says he wants to testify against Trump at his impeachment trial. Lindsey Graham is opposed to this, which means I’m leaning toward being in favor of it.

There are pros and cons to bringing in someone like that to testify at something like impeachment, which is really just a show trial aimed at convincing the public that Trump should no longer be a part of politics. We’ll see what Senate Democrats end up deciding. One way or the other, Lindsey Graham won’t get a say in the decision.

But I’ll say this much. It’s a big deal that this QAnon Shaman guy, and others like him, are trying to mount criminal defenses that involve blaming Trump for having incited them into carrying out the Capitol attack. It gives the DOJ far stronger ground to criminally charge Trump for having incited them. And don’t be shocked if people like the “Shaman” end up testifying at Trump’s criminal trial. 

 

U.S. Politics, Governance, Civic Lifepennsylvania map major cities

ny times logoNew York Times, Why Pennsylvania G.O.P. Leaders Are All-In for Trump More Than Ever, Trip Gabriel, Jan. 29, 2021 (print ed.). Pennsylvania Republican leaders have made loyalty to the defeated ex-president the key criteria that would-be candidates must demonstrate.

As a second impeachment trial for Donald J. Trump approaches next month, Republicans in states across the country are lining up behind the former president with unwavering support.

republican elephant logoPerhaps no state has demonstrated its fealty as tenaciously as Pennsylvania, where Republican officials have gone to extraordinary lengths to keep Trumpism at the center of their message as they bolster the president’s false claims of a “stolen” election.

Eight of nine Republicans in Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation voted to throw out their state’s own electoral votes for President Biden on Jan. 6, just hours after a mob had stormed the Capitol.

A majority of Republicans in the state legislature had endorsed that effort.

And one House member from the state, Scott Perry, was instrumental in promoting a plan in which Mr. Trump would fire the acting attorney general in an effort to stay in office.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Gaming out the end of the filibuster, Bill Palmer, right, Jan. 29, 2021. If you listen to almost any liberal pundit right now, on TV or online, they’ll bill palmertell you that the Democrats’ agenda is absolutely screwed because they haven’t eliminated the filibuster. You’re probably even believing it at this point, because you keep hearing it over and over and over again. But this notion is almost childlike in its absurd simplicity.

The one thing the pundits never do for you, while they’re trying to scare you into staying tuned in, is game things out for you even one step ahead. And why would they? If the entire point is to scare you into staying tuned in for ratings by pointing out that there’s an upcoming cliff, why would they point out that there’s also a bridge across that cliff? But here at Palmer Report, we like to point out the bridge to you.

bill palmer report logo headerHere’s what will actually happen as things move forward. The Democrats have a couple Senators from reddish states who keep loudly saying that they don’t want to get rid of the filibuster. They know they might ultimately have to do so, but for now they want to loudly get it on the record that they’re opposed to the idea. That way, if they do end up having to vote to get rid of it, they can tell their moderate constituents back home that they only did it very reluctantly, because some unreasonable Republican Senator forced them to. This is always how politicians spin things when they know they might have to make a move, and they’re concerned about how the constituents back home will see it. It’s politics 101.

But that’s actually two steps ahead. For now the filibuster is irrelevant. The first few pieces of legislation the Democrats will move forward with will be passed with reconciliation, which will only require fifty votes. Right now the pundits are hyping the fact that there are only a limited number of times per session that reconciliation can be used, but they’re leaving out the part where the Democrats can change the rules about reconciliation. So that’s a non issue.

In any case, the Democrats will pass their first few pieces of legislation with fifty votes, no problem. But let’s say after that, the Democrats reach a point where they’re voting on legislation that they can’t quite shoe horn into the rules of reconciliation, which do require some kind of budgetary component. That’s when the filibuster could finally become relevant – or more likely, still remain irrelevant.

Based on the operating agreement that Mitch McConnell has already irrevocably signed off on, the Senate Democrats can change the filibuster rules as they go during this session. So let’s say Democrats introduce a piece of legislation. Most Senate Republicans don’t want the filibuster gone, they’re likely to simply not filibuster it, meaning it’ll pass with fifty votes. Yes, it’s that simple.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Biden administration halts effort to install Trump loyalists on Pentagon advisory boards, Dan Lamothe, Jan. 29, 2021 (print ed.). The Biden administration has halted an effort to install several Trump loyalists on Defense Department advisory boards, Pentagon officials said Wednesday, as the new administration considers a series of unusual appointments that were made in the waning days of the Trump administration.

david bossie gage skidmoreAt least temporarily, the decision affects appointees that include Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie (shown at right in a Gage Skidmore photo), both of whom served as campaign managers for former president Donald Trump. They were named to the Defense Business Board in December, as the Trump administration also abruptly dismissed other members with a form letter from what historically had been a nonpartisan panel advising the defense secretary.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is weighing his options, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said Wednesday night.

“The Secretary, as you would expect, is reviewing current policies in place across the Department to determine if any changes are necessary, to include the advisory boards,” Kirby said in a statement. “No final decisions have been made with respect to board Department of Defense Sealmembership. But we will make the information available should that change.”

A senior defense official familiar with the halt, first reported by Politico, said Wednesday night that several appointees the Trump administration named had not yet completed their paperwork to join a board.

The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said the halt affects the processing of all new appointments and renewals, and that related financial and security reviews have been put on hiatus.

republican elephant logoNeither Lewandowski nor Bossie had been sworn in on the business board yet. But others on the boards also serve at the pleasure of the defense secretary, allowing Austin to oust anyone with whom he is not comfortable.

In one effort in December, eight appointments were announced to the Defense Policy Board, including former House speaker Newt Gingrich (R.-Ga.), former Republican congressman J. Randy Forbes of Virginia, and Scott O’Grady, a former fighter pilot who became famous after getting shot down over Bosnia and in recent months insisted falsely that Trump beat President Biden “in a landslide.”

ronna mcdaniel djt Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, RNC chair Ronna McDaniel is steering a GOP that has to reckon with Trump and his legacy, Josh Dawsey and Manuel Roig-Franzia, Jan. 29, 2021. Caught between the party’s warring factions, McDaniel, above, one of the longest-serving GOP chairs in history, faces no “easy task.”

In the months and, perhaps, years to come, McDaniel, now 47 and one of the longest-serving GOP chairs in history, faces the unenviable task of steering a Republican Party that will have to reckon with Trump and the divisive and uncivil legacy of Trumpism. She heads a party that has lost the House, the Senate and the White House under her leadership and is riven by infighting over whether she should defend Trump more forcefully — or at all.

Over the past four years, McDaniel has grown so close to Trump that some Republicans feared her judgment could be impaired by friendship, even as his presidency was imploding and the prospect of him becoming a disruptive force for the party in his post-presidency seemed certain.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Trump from beyond the grave, Robert Harrington, right, Jan. 29, 2021. By now it ought to be a commonplace that the death of irony is robert harringtnn portraitinversely proportional to the rise of hypocrisy. Keep in mind it wasn’t all that long ago that “The Squad” (also known as “AOC plus 3”) was regarded as radical. That was because they believed in really radical stuff, like universal healthcare and racial equality and dreadful things like that.

With the gun-packing Marjorie Taylor Greene’s past coming back to haunt her — videos of her menacing David Hogg, trying to get Ilan Omar and Rashida Tlaib to retake their Congressional oaths on a Bible instead of a Qu’ran, advocating the murder of Democrats on Facebook, etc. — the word “radical” has now been redefined.

bill palmer report logo headerBut it has a Republican redefinition, and that makes this particular stripe of radicalism somehow okay. Well, maybe not okay, but just not as bad and a whole lot mellower — at least in the unique perspective of current Republican leadership. It didn’t stop them from giving Greene a coveted spot on the House Education Committee. You read that right. Education. Of America’s youth. Meanwhile Republicans are still blushing — all the way to the bank.

marjorie taylor greene headshotGreene, right, came out swinging (of course). It’s part of the new Republican playbook: when caught doing something shameful, play the victim. CNN, according to Greene, is “fake news” because they quoted her past Facebook posts and showed a video of her harassing David Hogg.

Think of Marjorie Taylor Greene and her QAnon-believing colleague Lauren Boebert as mini-Trumps, the inevitable consequence of the one-term loser’s toxic tenure. Think of Republican response as tacit approval of their antics, in lockstep with Trump’s acquittal last year and his coming acquittal this year.

This is why Donald Trump and many of his followers must go to prison. Nothing short of a stiff sentence will do, preferably prison for the rest of his life. Failing that Trumpism will thrive and flourish and poison the American government to the point that America will become unrecognisable in a few short years.

 

U.S. Courts, Crime

wayne madesen report logo

 Wayne Madsen Report, Opinion: Trump fascism in the U.S. will get worse before it is defeated, Wayne Madsen, left, Jan. 29, wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Small2021. Donald Trump's fascist reconstruct, formerly known as the Republican Grand Old Party of Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, and Dwight Eisenhower, now inherently represents white minority rule in the United States.

The Republican Party of Trump is only ensured political power into the near future, with its minority of voter support, because of constitutionally-guaranteed Senate seats that grant sparsely-populated North Dakota, Wyoming, and Idaho as much strength in the djt smiling fileSenate as California, New York, and Illinois. In addition, GOP gerrymandering has given the Trump Republicans far more seats in the House of Representatives than their actual electoral strength would provide if congressional districts were drawn cleanly.

The Trump Republicans are facing an eventual and certain political demise. To discover what eventually happens to a party whose strength comes from a rapidly-dwindling minority, one only has to look at minority-ruled South Africa, Rhodesia, South-West Africa, and the often overlooked Portuguese colonies of Mozambique and Angola to understand what will eventually befall the Trump Republicans.

Before it takes its final dying breath, Trump Republicanism will lash out in dramatically racist and violent ways, continuing what it attempted during the past year in state houses in Lansing and Richmond and at the U.S. Capitol.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ex-FBI lawyer avoids prison after admitting he doctored email in investigation of Trump’s 2016 campaign, Matt Zapotosky, Jan. 29, 2021. The former FBI lawyer who admitted to doctoring an email that other officials relied upon to justify secret surveillance of a former Trump campaign adviser was sentenced Friday to 12 months of probation, with no time behind bars.

kevin clinesmithProsecutors had asked that Kevin Clinesmith, 38, right, spend several months in prison for his crime, while Clinesmith’s attorneys said probation would be more appropriate.

Clinesmith pleaded guilty last summer to altering an email that one of his colleagues used in preparing an application to surreptitiously monitor former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page during the bureau’s 2016 investigation of Russia’s election interference.

Justice Department logoU.S. District Judge James E. Boasberg said that Clinesmith’s conduct had undermined the integrity of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which approved the FBI’s flawed applications to surveil Page. “Courts all over the country rely on representations from the government, and expect them to be correct,” Boasberg said.

But Boasberg also said he agreed with a prior finding by the Justice Department Inspector General that Clinesmith and other FBI officials’ actions were not motivated by political bias, and he believed Clinesmith’s contention that he thought, genuinely but wrongly, the information he was inserting into the email was accurate. On top of his probation sentence, Boasberg ordered Clinesmith to perform 400 hours of community service.

The case against Clinesmith is the first and only criminal allegation to arise from U.S. Attorney John Durham’s review of the FBI’s Russia case, and it has become a political lightning rod.

FBI logoClinesmith’s lawyers have argued his altering the email was a mistake meant to save Clinesmith time and personal embarrassment. But former president Donald Trump and his political allies have highlighted the case as part of their allegations that the bureau was biased and seeking to undermine Trump with the investigation that explored possible ties between Russia and his campaign. The case was ultimately taken over by robert mueller full face filespecial counsel Robert S. Mueller III, left.

Clinesmith said in a lengthy statement in court that he took “full responsibility” for what he termed a “lapse in judgment.”

“I let the FBI, Department of Justice, my colleagues, the public, and my family down. I also let myself down,” he said, adding later, “Please do not let my error reflect on those who continue to serve our country.”

In arguing that Clinesmith deserved to go to prison, Durham’s team highlighted anti-Trump texts Clinesmith had sent and argued that it was “plausible that his strong political views and/or personal dislike of [Trump] made him more willing to engage in the fraudulent and unethical conduct to which he has pled guilty.” Clinesmith was suspended for two weeks over the messages.

“While it is impossible to know with certainty how those views may have affected his offense conduct, the defendant plainly has shown that he did not discharge his important responsibilities at the FBI with the professionalism, integrity, and objectivity required of such a sensitive job position,” prosecutors wrote.

Prosecutor Anthony Scarpelli said in court that Clinesmith’s conduct was “more egregious” than that of George Papadopoulos, whose offhand remark in a London bar in May 2016 helped trigger the Russia investigation and who later pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. He was sentenced to 14 days in prison.

Federal sentencing guidelines in Clinesmith’s case called for a penalty of anywhere from zero to six months in prison, though the U.S. Probation Office recommended a term of probation, according to court filings.

Justin Shur, justin shurleft, Clinesmith’s lawyer, argued that probation was appropriate. C

The basic facts of the case are not in dispute, though prosecutors and defense attorneys seem to disagree on what motivated Clinesmith and how sinister his actions were. Clinesmith was an FBI attorney helping investigators on the Russia investigation, and in June 2017, he was asked to clarify whether Page carter page pbs screenshotwas ever a source for the CIA. That was important because the FBI — with approval of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court — had been surveilling Page as a possible agent of a foreign government, and was applying for permission to keep that surveillance going.

If Page was a CIA source, though, that would have to be disclosed to the court, as it would raise significant questions about whether he should be tracked as a possible foreign agent.

Page had provided information to the CIA as “operational contact,” and when Clinesmith sought clarity, a CIA liaison told him as much, using jargon and pointing to documents that made his role clear. But, according to Clinesmith’s lawyers, Clinesmith believed Page was not a direct source, but rather, a subsource of the agency.

In the wake of the Justice Department inspector general’s findings about Clinesmith, along with other significant errors in the applications to surveil Page, lawmakers have questioned whether the FBI should maintain its authority under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Under pressure from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the bureau has vowed and implemented reforms. Clinesmith apologized in court for imposing that “additional burden” on his john durham o portrait 2 croppedformer colleagues.

Durham’s investigation is ongoing, though it is unclear who beyond Clinesmith, if anyone, might face criminal exposure, or what public findings it may ultimately produce. In his final months as Trump’s attorney general, William P. Barr appointed Durham, right, as a special counsel, giving him extra legal and political protection from being relieved of his assignment in the Biden administration.

Palmer Report, Opinion: President Biden’s Supreme Court reform, James Sullivan, Jan. 29, 2021. In just the first week of Joe Biden’s presidency, we saw him flag down a number of the most sordid policies of the Trump administration just by signing a number of carefully written executive orders and bringing much needed relief to some of America’s most vulnerable citizens.

bill palmer report logo headerOn Friday, he announced the launch of a commission that will study the judiciary, led by the former counsel from the Obama White House, Bob Bauer and former Deputy Assistant to the U.S. Attorney General, Cristina Rodriguez. In six months, the commission will make recommendations on how to further improve the courts, with a bipartisan panel of officials from both previous Democratic and Republican administrations.

A number of progressive organizations hope that the commission will endorse the idea of President Biden expanding the number of justices on the Supreme Court after six years of Mitch McConnell recklessly trying to confirm as many conservative justices as possible under a Republican administration.

Former President Donald J. Trump’s Seven Springs family estate in Westchester County, N.Y., is one focus of an investigation by New York’s attorney general (New York Times photo by Tony Cenicola).

Former President Donald J. Trump’s Seven Springs family estate in Westchester County, N.Y., is one focus of an investigation by New York’s attorney general (New York Times photo by Tony Cenicola).

ny times logoNew York Times, Legal Pressure on Trump Increases With Judge’s Order in Fraud Inquiry, Ed Shanahan and William K. Rashbaum, Jan. 29, 2021. The order, answering a demand for documents by New York’s attorney general, rejected a bid to shield the records with attorney-client privilege.

A New York judge on Friday increased pressure on former President Donald J. Trump’s family business and several associates, ordering them to give state investigators documents in a civil inquiry into whether the company misstated assets to get bank loans and tax benefits.

It was the second blow that the judge, Arthur F. Engoron of State Supreme Court in Manhattan, had dealt to Mr. Trump’s company in recent weeks.

In December, he ordered the company, the Trump Organization, to produce records that its lawyers had tried to shield, including some related to a letitia james o headshotWestchester County, N.Y., property that is among those being scrutinized by the New York State attorney general, Letitia James, left.

On Friday, Judge Engoron went further, saying that even more documents, as well as communications with a law firm hired by the Trump Organization, had to be handed over to Ms. James’s office. In doing so, he rejected the lawyers’ claim that the documents at issue were covered by attorney-client privilege.

The ruling was a fresh reminder that Mr. Trump — who left office about a week ago under the cloud of impeachment and is headed for a Senate trial on a charge of “incitement of insurrection” after his supporters stormed the Capitol in a violent rampage — faces significant legal jeopardy as a private citizen.

The most serious threats confronting the former president include a criminal investigation by the Manhattan district attorney and the civil inquiry by the djt michael cohenattorney general into possible fraud in Mr. Trump’s business dealings before he was elected.

Ms. James’s investigation began in March 2019, after Michael D. Cohen, right, the former president’s onetime lawyer, told Congress that Mr. Trump had inflated his assets in financial statements to secure bank loans and understated them elsewhere to reduce his tax bill.

Investigators in Ms. James’s office have focused their attention on an array of transactions, including a financial restructuring of the Trump International Hotel & Tower in Chicago in 2010 that resulted in the Fortress Credit Corporation forgiving debt worth more than $100 million.

Ms. James’s office has said in court documents that the Trump Organization — Mr. Trump’s main business vehicle — had thwarted efforts to determine how that money was reflected in its tax filings, and whether it was declared as income, as the law typically requires.

An analysis of Mr. Trump’s financial records by The New York Times found that he had avoided federal income tax on almost all of the forgiven debt.

Ms. James’s office is also examining whether the Trump Organization used inflated appraisals when it received large tax breaks after promising to conserve land where its development efforts faltered, including at its Seven Springs estate in Westchester County.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump suddenly has a real “QAnon Shaman” problem, Bill Palmer, Jan. 29, 2021. The “QAnon Shaman” – who has been criminally charged for his role in the U.S. Capitol attack – now says he wants to testify against Trump at his impeachment trial. Lindsey Graham is opposed to this, which means I’m leaning toward being in favor of it.

There are pros and cons to bringing in someone like that to testify at something like impeachment, which is really just a show trial aimed at convincing the public that Trump should no longer be a part of politics. We’ll see what Senate Democrats end up deciding. One way or the other, Lindsey Graham won’t get a say in the decision.

But I’ll say this much. It’s a big deal that this QAnon Shaman guy, and others like him, are trying to mount criminal defenses that involve blaming Trump for having incited them into carrying out the Capitol attack. It gives the DOJ far stronger ground to criminally charge Trump for having incited them. And don’t be shocked if people like the “Shaman” end up testifying at Trump’s criminal trial.

washington post logoWashington Post, Murder conviction reversed in Bethesda nuclear bunker case, Dan Morse, Jan. 29, 2021. A Maryland appeals court upended the “depraved heart” murder conviction of a Bethesda man found guilty in the 2017 accidental burning death of a 21-year-old he had hired to dig secret tunnels under his home to serve as a bunker against possible nuclear missile strikes.

The ruling let stand a lesser conviction of involuntary manslaughter against Daniel Beckwitt, a computer expert and wealthy day trader who became increasingly obsessed with threats from North Korea. The court also set in motion resentencing procedures that could lead to an earlier release from prison for Beckwitt.

 

 

U.S. Media, Education News

marjorie greene campaign

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Republicans assign Greene to House education committee — and top Democrats blast the move, Valerie Strauss,  Jan. 29, 2021 (print ed.). Greene has expressed support for conspiracy theories about school shootings being staged by gun-control advocates.

Top Democrats in Congress on Thursday blasted congressional Republicans for assigning to the House education committee Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene republican elephant logo(R-Ga.) — who has identified with the QAnon cult and called deadly school shootings “false-flag” operations.

Greene, who has repeatedly made racist comments and repeated numerous conspiracy theories, tweeted about her new assignment, saying: “Very excited to join Ranking Member @virginiafoxx and others on the House Education and Labor Committee! Let’s get to work!” (She was referring to Rep. Virginia Foxx (N.C.), the ranking Republican on the committee who announced new members this week.)

nancy pelosi maskOn Wednesday morning, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), left, condemned the Republican leadership for giving her the committee assignment.

“What I am concerned about is the Republican leadership in the House of Representatives who is willing to overlook, ignore those statements,” she said. “Assigning her to the education committee when she has mocked the killing of little children at Sandy Hook Elementary school. When she has mocked the killing of teenagers in high school at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

“What could they be thinking — or is thinking too generous a word about what they might be doing. It’s absolutely appalling.”

washington post logoWashington Post, A reporter tried to ask Greene about her false claims, then was threatened with arrest, Katie Shepherd, Jan. 29, 2021 (print ed.). At a town hall meeting on Wednesday, WRCB reporter Meredith Aldis wanted to ask Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) a question about the fierce blowback she has faced this week over old social media posts that promoted baseless claims and endorsed violence.

But when Aldis tried to ask her question at the meeting in Dalton, Ga., Greene, right, rebuffed her.

“I’m talking to my constituents,” Greene said, refusing to listen to the reporter’s question or offer any response.

marjorie taylor greene headshotThen, staffers from Greene’s office told the reporter she had “caused a disturbance” and demanded that she and her team leave, WRCB reported Wednesday night. A sheriff’s deputy threatened to arrest Aldis and her crew for trespassing at the public town hall, which reporters had been invited to attend, the station reported.

The incident capped days of fiery criticism of the freshman congresswoman, who is the first member of Congress to openly endorse the QAnon extremist ideology that the FBI has deemed a domestic terrorism threat.

  • Washington Post, House Democrats revive bill to ban colleagues from carrying guns on Capitol grounds, Meagan Flynn, Jan. 28, 2021.

 

Jan. 28

Top Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

Capitol Riot, Impeachment Politics

 

U.S. Politics, Governance, Civic Life

 

U.S. Media, Education News

 

World News

 

U.S. Law, Consumers, Stocks

 

Top Storiesjoe biden gage skidmore microphone

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Team Rushes to Take Over Government, and Oust Trump Loyalists, David E. Sanger, right,david sanger Jan. 28, 2021 (print ed.). President Biden (shown in a Gage Skidmore photo) named nearly all of his cabinet secretaries and their immediate deputies before he took office, but his real grasp on the levers of power has come several layers down.

When President Biden swore in a batch of recruits for his new administration in a teleconferenced ceremony late last week, it looked like the country’s biggest Zoom call. In fact, Mr. Biden was installing roughly 1,000 high-level officials in about a quarter of all of the available political appointee jobs in the federal government.

At the same time, a far less visible transition was taking place: the quiet dismissal of holdovers from the Trump administration, who have been asked to clean out their offices immediately, whatever the eventual legal consequences.

democratic donkey logoIf there has been a single defining feature of the first week of the Biden administration, it has been the blistering pace at which the new president has put his mark on what President Donald J. Trump dismissed as the hostile “Deep State” and tried so hard to dismantle.

From the Pentagon, where 20 senior officials were ready to move in days before the Senate confirmed Lloyd J. Austin III as defense voice of america logosecretary, to the Voice of America, where the Trump-appointed leadership was replaced hours after the inauguration, the Biden team arrived in Washington not only with plans for each department and agency, but the spreadsheets detailing who would carry them out.

A replacement was even in the works for the president’s doctor: Dr. Sean P. Conley, who admitted to providing a rosy, no-big-deal description of Mr. Trump’s Covid-19 symptoms last year, was told to pack his medical kit. While all presidents eventually bring in their own doctor, Mr. Biden wasted no time bringing back a retired Army colonel, Dr. Kevin O’Connor, who was his doctor when he was vice president.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live U.S. Biden Updates: Biden Signs Orders Aimed at Expanding Health Care Access, Staff Reports, Jan. 28, 2021. President Biden signed orders to reopen Obamacare enrollment and review Trump administration policies that undermined pre-existing condition coverage. He also moved to protect reproductive rights and expand access to abortion. Here’s the latest from Washington.

  • Biden’s pick for top economist testifies in the Senate.
  • Pelosi savages G.O.P. leaders for giving education committee seat to congresswoman who called school shootings staged.
  • Democrats could use budget reconciliation to speed up Biden’s pandemic stimulus bill.
  • Inside the White House, strict rules aim to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
  • Whitmer pleads for common ground on the pandemic, but Michigan Republicans say she has cut them out.
  • Analysis: Why aren’t progressives pushing Biden on the filibuster?

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. economy shrank by 3.5 percent in 2020, the worst year since WWII, Rachel Siegel and Andrew Van Dam, Jan. 28, 2021. New federal data offers a comprehensive snapshot of a year marred by staggering job losses, waves of small-business closures and mounting inequality.

The U.S. economy shrank by 3.5 percent last year as the novel coronavirus upended American business and households, making 2020 the worst year for U.S. economic growth since 1946.

Economic growth slowed in the fourth quarter, rising just 1 percent from the previous quarter, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. That’s equivalent to an annualized rate of 4 percent.

The economy is getting even worse for Americans with a high school diploma or less education

It is the first time the economy has contracted for the year since 2009, when Gross Domestic Product shrank by 2.5 percent during the depths of the Great Recession. It is also the worst year for economic growth since 1946, when the economy shrank by 11.6 percent as the nation demobilized from its wartime footing.

washington post logoWashington Post, Self-styled militia members in 3 states began planning in November ahead of Capitol breach, U.S. alleges, Spencer S. Hsu, Rachel Weiner and Tom Jackman, Jan. 28, 2021 (print ed.). Three self-styled militia members charged in the Jan. 6 breach of the U.S. Capitol began soliciting recruits for potential violence within days of the 2020 presidential election, later training in Ohio and North Carolina and organizing travel to Washington with a busload of comrades and a truck of weapons, U.S. authorities alleged Wednesday.

FBI logoA four-count indictment returned in D.C. laid out fresh details and allegations against Jessica Marie Watkins, 38, and Donovan Ray Crowl, 50 — both of Woodstock, Ohio — and Thomas E. Caldwell, 66, of Berryville, Va. The three, all U.S. military veterans, are accused of conspiring to obstruct Congress and other counts, punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

Prosecutors have said Caldwell appears to have ties to the anti-government Oath Keepers extremist group — although his attorney said he is not a member. They also have alleged that the retired Navy lieutenant commander helped organize dozens of others who coordinated their movements as they “stormed the castle” to disrupt the confirmation of President Biden’s electoral college victory.

Real-time conversations recovered from a walkie-talkie-style app captured Watkins discussing a group of about 30 to 40 “sticking together and sticking to the plan” during the breach, according to court documents previously filed in the case.

In a 15-page indictment unsealed Wednesday, prosecutors revealed new allegations, accusing Watkins of contacting recruits on Nov. 9, six days after the election, for a “Basic Training” camp outside Columbus, Ohio, in early January so they would be “fighting fit by innaugeration.”

Prosecutors also allege that Watkins participated in a “leadership only” conference call via an encrypted app, and that Caldwell arranged with another person bringing “at least one full bus 40+ people coming from N.C.” and weaponry ahead of Jan. 6.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: Jan. 28, 2021), with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):

World Cases: 101,548,103, Deaths: 2,187,034
U.S. Cases:     26,167,997, Deaths: 439,528

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), an independent global health research center at the University of Washington. Projected total U.S. deaths, based on current scenario 459,324 by Feb. 1; 529,000 by March 1; 567,195 by April 1, 2021.

ny times logoezra klein twitterNew York Times, Opinion: The New Virus Strains Make the Next 6 Weeks Crucial, Ezra Klein, right, Jan. 28, 2021. “Let’s not wait until we wrap the car around the tree to start pumping the brakes.”

The B.1.1.7 variant of coronavirus, first seen in Britain, and now spreading throughout Europe, appears to be 30 to 70 percent more contagious, and it may be more lethal, too. It hit Britain like a truck, sending daily confirmed deaths per million people from about six per million in early December to more than 18 per million today. The situation in Portugal is even more dire.

ny times logoNew York Times, Money to Fight Pandemics Was Misused as Slush Fund, Watchdog says, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Updated Jan. 28, 2021. Millions of dollars meant to help fight health threats like the coronavirus and Ebola went to unrelated government activities like legal expenses.

A federal watchdog has found that the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, which drew national attention last year when the Trump administration fired its director, has been used for the past 10 years as a “slush fund” to cover expenses unrelated to its core mission of fighting health threats like Ebola, Zika and the coronavirus.

The 223-page report, issued Wednesday by the Office of Special Counsel, found that the Department of Health and Human Services diverted millions of taxpayer dollars intended for BARDA to finance vaccine research and pandemic preparedness into other government activities, and failed to inform Congress — a potential violation of federal law.

Among the unrelated activities were the removal of office furniture, administrative expenses, news subscriptions, legal services and the salaries of other department employees. The practice of diverting funds was so common, investigators found, that employees had a name for it: the “Bank of BARDA.”

The report focuses on the actions of the assistant secretary for preparedness and response, the health department official who oversees BARDA and is responsible for its budget. The assistant secretary is responsible for leading the federal response to pandemic threats like the novel coronavirus. Its most recent occupant was Dr. Robert Kadlec; President Biden has not named a successor.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Supplies of Covid-19 Vaccines Are Dwindling in the E.U., Jan. 28, 2021. The bloc has locked horns with drug makers over european union logo rectangledelivery problems. Germany said its shortage could last 10 more weeks. Read the latest coronavirus updates.

  • New York severely undercounted virus deaths in nursing homes, report says.
  • Your every Covid-19 vaccine question answered. Really.
  • ‘Get your shot here’: At Dodger Stadium, the lines are for vaccine, not beer.
  • How the coronavirus turns the body against itself.
  • Vietnam reports 82 cases, its first local transmissions in nearly two months.
  • Health workers were stuck in the snow with vaccines, so they improvised.

washington post logoastrazeneca logoWashington Post, E.U. vaccine feud with AstraZeneca bursts into the open; Biden vows to boost supply, Erin Cunningham, Paul Schemm and Marisa Iati, Jan. 28, 2021 (print ed.). It’s unclear whether increasing U.S. vaccine numbers will help return schools to in-person learning. A CDC report said that schools haven't been a major center of transmission.

washington post logoWashington Post, McDonald’s, Subway and other franchises got $15.6 billion in small-business funds, Jonathan O'Connell and Andrew Van Dam, Jan. 28, 2021. Franchises of Subway, McDonald’s, hotel chains, auto dealerships and other big businesses received a total of $15.6 billion from the government’s emergency coronavirus loan program for small businesses, according to data released by the Small Business Administration in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.

Franchise owners of many of America’s biggest chains took advantage of the Paycheck Protection Program. Among fast-food chains, 4,278 Subways, sba logo new Custom Custom2,445 Dunkin’s and 2,217 McDonald’s received funds.

In total, SBA identified 75,746 franchise businesses that received loans, amounting to 1.5 percent of the 5.2 million loans issued between April 3 and Aug. 8. The $15.6 billion they received was 3 percent of the more than $522 billion loaned during that period.

Because franchise owners operate somewhat independently of the chains with which they contract, they are eligible to receive PPP funds, money normally reserved for businesses employing fewer than 500 people. The SBA data on franchise affiliations, which the agency had not previously released, shows that loans to franchises saved almost 2.5 million jobs, although experts say the SBA’s estimates of PPP job retention are badly inflated.

 

Trump Capitol Riot / Impeachment Politics

  wayne madesen report logo

Wayne Madsen Report, Opinion: America initially treated insurrectionists harshly, Wayne Madsen, below left, Jan. 28, 2021. There is no reason why those who incited and wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smalltook part in the January 6 insurrection against the U.S. Congress should not be treated any less harshly by the law than their rebellious white forebears, including Daniel Shays, Aaron Burr, or Jefferson Davis.

In 1786, when the United States was still in its infancy, Daniel Shays, an anti-tax activist in Massachusetts led a militia of rebels to seize the federal armory in Springfield, Massachusetts. Their attempt having failed, the government convinced four thousand members of the Shays army to sign confessions as to their guilt. Several hundred of the militia members were indicted for insurrection. The government gave all of the insurrectionists amnesty except for the 18 ringleaders, including Shays. Shays and the other leaders were convicted of sedition and insurrection and sentenced to death.

The ultimate insurrection, the Southern secession of 1861 to 1865, resulted in Confederate States President Jefferson Davis being imprisoned. Upon being freed on $100,000 bail in 1866, Davis fled to Montreal, Cuba, and Britain.

The United States should return to the "big stick" polices of Presidents Washington, Adams, Jefferson, and Lincoln when dealing with insurrectionists.

Mitchell McConnellPalmer Report, Opinion: What Mitch McConnell is really up to with Trump’s impeachment, Bill Palmer, Jan. 28, 2021. Mitch McConnell’s thinking on bill palmer report logo headerimpeachment seems pretty clear. He’d prefer to get Trump off the stage for good.

But he’ll only vote to convict if he can get 16 other Senate Republicans to join him. He won’t vote to convict if it’s a losing cause. So for now he’s verbally playing both sides, since he doesn’t know which one he’ll end up having to land on.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: McConnell Was Done With Trump. His Party Said Not So Fast, Nicholas Fandos and Jonathan Martin, Jan. 28, 2021 (print ed.). Senator Mitch McConnell had finally had enough. But with most Republicans rallying around former President Trump, he sided with his colleagues.

 ali akbar alexander via dissident

"Stop the Steal" organizer Ali Alexander (from Dissident-mag.com)

washington post logoWashington Post, Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger stood against Trump. He knows fate is coming for him, Ellen McCarthy, Jan. 28, 2021 (print ed.). One thing to understand about Adam Kinzinger is that he knows how this will end.

“The only hope you have is to accept the fact that you’re already dead,” the Republican congressman from Illinois says. He is quoting a scene from the World War II series “Band of Brothers” in which an officer dresses down a soldier who hid from battle. The officer continues: “And the sooner you accept that, the sooner you’ll be able to function as a soldier is supposed to function.”

adam kinzinger headshotKinzinger, right, who is also a pilot with the Air Force National Guard, took those words as an order.

His embrace of this fatalistic credo made it easier for him to fly planes into enemy territory during tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. It made it easier for him to object late last year as President Donald Trump and some of his congressional colleagues amplified the myth of a “rigged” election, stoking violent revenge fantasies among the party’s politically valuable give-me-MAGA-or-give-me-death contingent. And it made it easier for Kinzinger, a young, square-jawed Republican with his whole political life ahead of him, to vote to impeach Trump in the aftermath of the failed insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

“I’m willing to blow this whole thing out of the water at all times,” Kinzinger said of his career in politics. The 42-year-old congressman, who last fall won reelection easily, spoke to The Washington Post from his office a week after the attack on the Capitol. He was the only Republican to vote in favor of a resolution urging Vice President Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment and strip Trump of his presidential powers and one of 10 Republicans to vote to impeach Trump for inciting a riot at the Capitol.

Now, as the Senate prepares for Trump’s impeachment trial, Kinzinger finds himself prepared to learn what his outspoken criticism of the former president will cost him.

“Those 10 [Republican] colleagues who voted to impeach all have to know there’s a decent chance they lose their jobs next year,” says Joe Walsh, a former Illinois congressman who challenged Trump in last year’s presidential primary.

washington post logoWashington Post, S.C. lawyer says he doesn’t hesitate to represent Trump: ‘It’s what I do,’ Michael Kranish, Jan. 28, 2021 (print ed.). As Karl S. “Butch” Bowers Jr. works from his one-lawyer office in Columbia, S.C., preparing to defend former president Donald Trump in the Senate impeachment trial, he thinks back to the day in 1983 when his father called him before heading to federal prison.

Ever since his father served time for defrauding the government, Bowers said, he felt that the conviction was politically motivated and unfair, and he has spent much of his career defending political figures, including two South Carolina governors, against various allegations of wrongdoing.

So he said he did not hesitate to defend Trump, a job that lawyers at big, high-profile law firms apparently did not want.

butch bowers military“It’s who I am. It’s what I do. It’s all about the rule of law in the Constitution,” Bowers, right, told The Washington Post in his first interview since Trump picked him. He was recommended by his longtime friend Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) as the lead attorney in the Senate trial, which is slated to begin Feb. 9.

“It’s my military experience,” said Bowers, who is a colonel in the South Carolina Air National Guard. “I’m not worried what other people think. … This goes back to my dad. I’m not looking to get anybody to say good things about me. What I’m looking for is to help the people I’m retained to represent. And that’s what I care about.”

Bowers, 55, a graduate of Tulane Law School, declined to discuss his legal strategy, whether Trump might appear at the trial, or whether he would call witnesses. Asked whether he wanted to declare Trump’s innocence, he responded: “You’ll see our case when we present it, and I think the facts and the law will speak for themselves.”

daily beast logoDaily Beast, Commentary: Trump Allies Pushing New Riot Defense Don’t Get How Phones Work: 'IMPOSSIBLE!' Will Sommer, Updated Jan. 28, 2021. Internet-connected phones have existed for nearly two decades, but that hasn't stopped Trump allies from saying that only those who heard him speak in person would know to riot.

As the Senate prepares for Donald Trump’s impeachment trial over the Capitol riot, the ex-president’s allies in the right-wing media remain hard at work creating a range of defenses that absolve him from the violence triggered by months of lies and deception.

In the logic of an argument that’s been embraced by pro-Trump cable networks, it was impossible for the first wave of rioters to hear Trump’s speech on the White House Ellipse in person because they started attacking before he was finished speaking. Therefore, Trump couldn’t have incited them to attack the Capitol.

Unless, that is, everyone carries cellphones that can livestream speeches as they happen.

steve bannon trump“The people who were storming the Capitol could not have been the people in front of the president when he was speaking,” Newsmax host Greg Kelly said in an interview with Steve Bannon associate Raheem Kassam on Jan. 12, in a typical statement of the argument.

“Nobody could have both heard the president and breached the perimeter of the Capitol in the time we’re told that it took place,” Kassam said, adding that rioters would need “either a time machine or a teleportation device” to see both Trump’s speech and start the riot.

This claim that Trump could only incite rioters who saw him speak in person has plenty of flaws, including statements from alleged rioters themselves and the fact that Trump promoted the Jan. 6 rally weeks in advance, promising at one point that it would be “wild.”

But the increasingly popular Trump defense has an even bigger problem: the existence of internet-connected cellphones, which can play speeches live even when they’re being given in another location.

Despite the fact that internet-connected phones have existed for nearly two decades, the theory that only people who saw Trump speak in person could have been incited by his remarks has proved to be a hit in right-wing media. Tweets obsessing over the timeline of the riot, which started shortly before Trump finished speaking, have gone viral in an attempt to prove that Trump couldn’t have been involved in a riot that he promoted and was carried out by his supporters.

 

U.S. Politics, Governance, Civic Life

climate change photo

washington post logoWashington Post, As Biden vows monumental change, fossil fuel industry digs in for a fight, Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis, Jan. 28, 2021 (print ed.). President Biden has moved to rejoin the Paris climate accord, halt the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, impose new limits on oil and gas production and mandate climate change as a priority across every federal agency.

Joe Biden had long promised to become the climate president, and on Wednesday he detailed far-ranging plans to shift the U.S. away from fossil fuels, create millions of jobs in renewable energy, and conserve vast swaths of public lands and water.

“This is not a time for small measures,” Biden said at the White House, adding that the nation had already wasted precious years as it delayed in dealing with the climate crisis.

But as he detailed his plans, the gas, oil and coal industries were already mobilizing on all fronts. From an oil patch in Alaska to state capitals to the halls of Congress, the industries and their allies are aiming to slow Biden’s unprecedented push for climate action and keep profits from fossil fuels flowing. Republican attorneys general from six states wrote to the new president, warning him not to overstep his authority. GOP lawmakers attacked his executive orders as “job killers.” And the petroleum industry revived television ads promoting drilling on federal lands.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Republicans throw a tantrum over Biden nominee Deb Haaland, Sally Burnell, Jan. 28, 2021. It should come as absolutely no surprise deb haaland othat Rep. Pete Stauber (R-MN) and 13 other Congressional Republicans have sent a letter to the White House flatly demanding that the Biden administration immediately rescind the nomination of Rep. Deb Haaland, right, a Native American member of the Laguna Pueblo tribe, for Secretary of the Interior as a “job killer.”

bill palmer report logo headerStauber is angry at Haaland’s support for a ban on mining leases on federal lands and the Obama administration proposing such a ban as well that Donald Trump overturned. President Biden has proposed a one year moratorium on mining leases on federal lands as a part of his bold new clean energy agenda. Stauber has a personal stake in this in his “Saving American Mines Act”, H.R. 488, that requires Congress to approve all mineral withdrawals on federal lands.

democratic donkey logoNow five Native tribes in Stauber’s Congressional district are reacting angrily to this attempt to stop one of their own from becoming Secretary of the Interior, the Mille Lacs band of the Ojibwe, the Bois Forte band of the Chippewa, Fond Du Lac band of the Lake Superior Chippewa, the Grand Portage band of the Lake Superior Chippewa and the Leech Lake band of the Ojibwe. They and other Native American tribes in the region have labeled this attempt to stop one of their own from a crucial Cabinet position that profoundly affects them as “offensive”, “hostile” and “irresponsible.”

With Democrats in control of the Senate, there isn’t much that Republicans can do to completely derail this very important Cabinet confirmation.

washington post logoWashington Post, House opens investigation of pandemic ventilator purchases overseen by White House, Reed Albergotti and Aaron Gregg, Jan. 28, 2021 (print ed.). A Washington Post investigation found that the 11,200 ventilators made by a well-connected company were ill-suited for covid-19 patients and remain in a warehouse.

A House subcommittee is investigating a government deal to buy $70 million worth of ventilators for the coronavirus pandemic response that a Washington Post investigation found were inadequate for treating most covid-19 patients.

Last spring, as part of its effort to increase the number of ventilators amid the crisis, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Defense Logistics Agency purchased 11,200 AutoMedx SAVe II+ ventilators from Combat Medical Systems, which distributes the devices. But the ventilators were inadequate for treating covid-19 patients and remain in warehouses, according to Stephanie Bialek, a spokeswoman for the Strategic National Stockpile.

“AutoMedx appears to be the beneficiary of a potentially tainted procurement process,” Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.), the chairman of the House subcommittee on economic and consumer policy, which is in charge of the investigation, wrote in letters sent to the companies on Wednesday.

The Post previously reported that Adrian Urias, AutoMedx’s co-founder and current shareholder, advised the Trump administration’s covid-19 task force on ventilator purchases. In March, when the government posted the minimum specifications that ventilator manufacturers had to meet to sell devices for the pandemic response, those specifications were nearly identical to a spec sheet listed on AutoMedx’s website at the time.

American Prospect (co-published with The Intercept), Commentary On Biden Transition: Merrick Garland Wants Former Facebook Lawyer to Top Antitrust Division, Ryan Grim and David Dayen, Jan. 28, 2021. Susan Davies has spent much of the last decade working on behalf of major mergers and fending off antitrust enforcement.

The battle so far has largely been fought out between lobbyists for Big Tech and their allies on the one hand and skeptics of monopoly power on the other.

facebook logoAccording to three sources familiar with the discussions, Attorney General nominee Merrick Garland, right, is hoping to install as the head of the Department of Justice antitrust division a longtime aide who served under him during the Clinton administration and who later was the attorney charged with shepherding his ill-fated Supreme Court nomination.

That lawyer, Susan Davies, in 2012, Davies represented Facebook in a lawsuit brought by an advertiser, Sambreel Holdings LLC. In December, the Federal Trade Commission launched an antitrust suit against merrick garlandFacebook, looking to break it into its component parts and ban it from the type of anti-competitive behavior Davies defended as their counsel.

The Justice Department is also suing Google, a case filed just ahead of the Facebook prosecution. The outcome of those twin antitrust efforts will be a major hinge point not just in technology policy but in the power of the government to take on consolidated power centers that are distorting markets across industries.

Davies became general counsel and chief intellectual property counsel for the Senate Judiciary Committee, where then-Sen. Joe Biden was a former chair and remained a high-ranking figure. In 2011, she eft for the private sector, becoming a partner at the right-leaning firm Kirkland & Ellis.

 

U.S. Media, Education News

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washington post logoWashington Post, Blinken turns away from Trump-era approaches, starting with media relations, John Hudson, Jan. 28, 2021 (print ed.). President Biden’s top diplomat said an independent press is a “cornerstone of our democracy.” Secretary of State Antony Blinken, right, tried to reset the U.S. government’s relationship with the news media on his first full day in office, calling an independent press essential to the country’s global image and a “cornerstone of our democracy.”

antony blinken o“You keep the American people and the world informed about what we do here. That’s key to our mission,” he said to reporters in the State Department briefing room Wednesday.

Blinken’s attempt to overhaul the combative relationship between State Department officials and the media is among the decisions he is facing about what to keep or discard from the Trump era as President Biden pledges to bring unity and transparency in U.S. governance.

In an early change, Blinken said he would resume the department’s daily news briefing starting next week — a practice that ended during the Trump administration as spokespeople feared contradicting the president’s rapidly shifting positions.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Democrats need to accept the implications of GOP radicalization, Greg Sargent, right, Jan. 28, 2021. Democrats have a tendency to greg sargentengage in a kind of two-step. When they grow frustrated with GOP radicalism, they angrily denounce it — while simultaneously telling themselves that if it can be overcome in the short term, it will be rendered a dead letter forever.

A new piece from the Atlantic’s Ron Brownstein spells out the stakes of the failure to accept the true implications of this GOP radicalization. It argues that the single most consequential decision for Democrats is whether to end the legislative filibuster to pass reforms that would expand voting rights and unwind GOP counter-majoritarian advantages going forward.

Congressional Democrats are coalescing around a package of reforms that would dramatically expand access to voting by requiring states to implement automatic voter registration, extensive early voting and same-day registration. It would restrict voter suppression tactics and hurdles on vote-by-mail.

The reforms would also require nonpartisan redistricting commissions — a strike at the next round of GOP gerrymanders — while restoring protections in the Voting Rights Act and blocking states from disenfranchising felons. The reforms would go far in curtailing Republican counter-majoritarian tactics for years to come.

Any such package will be filibustered by Senate Republicans. That would mean the wielding of yet another counter-majoritarian tool to further entrench GOP counter-majoritarian advantages for the foreseeable future.

There are three reasons why a filibuster of this package could have truly far-reaching effects, as Brownstein spells out.

The first is that Republicans are responding to their 2020 loss by intensifying their voter suppression efforts in numerous states, fake-justified by the same lies about voter fraud that animated Trump’s effort to overturn the election results. That effort was supported by a large swath of the Republican Party, which shows that the GOP is only getting more radical in its willingness to wield counter-majoritarian tactics going forward.

The second reason this decision will be so consequential is that the conservative hold on the Supreme Court makes it more likely that GOP voter suppression efforts will be upheld.

The third is that the Democratic coalition will be increasingly reliant on younger and non-White voters, as the more diverse millennial and Generation Z voters swell into a larger share of the electorate.

Measures expanding the franchise and nixing voter suppression tactics would likely bring large numbers of those voters into the electorate, Brownstein notes. So the question of whether these reforms happen could have a large impact on the makeup of the electorate going forward.

Brownstein summarizes:

For all these reasons, many experts in voting and elections believe that the choices Democrats make regarding their democracy and voting-reform agenda represent a fundamental crossroads in American politics. Passage of these laws wouldn’t guarantee a sustained period of Democratic political dominance: In both 2016 and 2020, Trump’s incredible mobilization of infrequent white voters demonstrated that Republicans could compete in a high-turnout environment.

But failing to pass the laws might ensure the reverse: a lasting Democratic disadvantage.

As democracy scholar Lee Drutman tells Brownstein, if these reforms don’t happen, “there is a very good chance that America will wind up under an extended period of minority rule in which the party that represents 45-46 percent of the country can have a majority of power in Washington.”

 

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Administration Reviewing Trump Arms Sales to U.A.E. and Saudi Arabia, Michael Crowley, Jan. 28, 2021 (print ed.). Officials called the review standard for a new administration, but many Democrats critical of the Gulf States want the president to cancel the deals.

 

U.S. Law, Consumers, Stocks

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. issues rare warning about potential violence by domestic extremists, Nick Miroff, Jan. 28, 2021 (print ed.). The Department of Homeland Security issued a warning to alert the public about a growing risk of attacks by “ideologically-motivated violent extremists” agitated about President Biden’s inauguration and “perceived grievances fueled by false narratives.”

us dhs big eagle logo4DHS periodically issues such advisories through its National Terrorism Advisory System, but the warnings have typically been generated by elevated concerns about attacks by foreign governments or radical groups, not domestic extremists.

In a statement, the department said the purpose of the new bulletin was to warn the public about a “heightened threat environment” across the United States “that is likely to persist over the coming weeks.”

The bulletin is a lesser-status warning designed to alert the public about general risks, rather than an imminent attack linked to a specific threat.

 

Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell in 2005. Credit Joe Schildhorn/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell in 2005 (Joe Schildhorn / Patrick McMullan,via Getty Images)

daily beast logoDaily Beast, Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell Forced Young Girls Into an Orgy: Court Records, Katie Baker and Allison Quinn, Jan. 28, 2021. A witness “watched Maxwell direct a room full of underage girls to kiss, dance, and touch one another in a sexual way for [her] and Epstein to watch,” newly unsealed documents say.

Jeffrey Epstein’s accused madam Ghislaine Maxwell forced young girls into an orgy while she and Epstein watched, according to newly unsealed documents that detail how the British socialite allegedly recruited underage girls to provide sexual favors for the pedophile financier.

A witness to the depraved activity “testified that he watched Maxwell direct a room full of underage girls to kiss, dance, and touch one another in a sexual way for [her] and Epstein to watch,” the records state. The same unnamed man “was in tears as he recounted [Maxwell] bringing a 15-year-old girl to his employer’s home who, in utmost distress, told him that [Maxwell] stole the young girl’s passport and tried to make her have sex with Epstein and then threatened her.”

The disturbing allegations emerged in thousands of court documents that were unsealed in a lawsuit against Maxwell by Epstein accuser Virginia Roberts Giuffre, who says the duo loaned her out for sex with powerful men, including Britain’s Prince Andrew. (Maxwell and Andrew have denied her claims. Epstein killed himself in jail in 2019 after being charged with crimes related to the sex trafficking of minors.) The lawsuit was settled in 2017, and a court has since ordered the release of many of the documents under seal, despite Maxwell’s protestations.

The British heiress was nabbed by the FBI in July 2020 while laying low at a swanky New Hampshire hidey-hole and is awaiting trial for having allegedly facilitated Epstein’s sex-trafficking ring.

The unsealed documents paint a portrait of Maxwell at the center of Epstein’s web of abuse.

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘Dumb Money’ Is on GameStop, Beating Wall Street at Its Own Game, Matt Phillips and Taylor Lorenz Jan. 28, 2021 (print ed.). Millions of amateur traders took on some of Wall Street’s most sophisticated investors to bolster GameStop’s stock.

While the hedge funds and other professional money managers had been shorting GameStop’s shares, betting that its stock was doomed to further decline, the retail investors — online traders, mom-and-pop investors, small brokers and others — have been pushing the other way, buying shares and stock options.

 

Jan. 27

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Virus Victims, Responses

 

Trump Impeachment / Riot Politics

 

U.S. Politics, Governance, Civic Life

 

U.S. Media, Education News

david egan april 2016

Arlington Catholic Herald, Vienna Catholic and disabilities advocate publishes ‘More Alike Than Different,’ Zoey Maraist, Jan. 27, 2021. As a “Star Trek” fan, the phrase “live long and prosper” resonates with David Egan (shown above in a 2016 presentation). When he was born in 1977, the idea that people with Down syndrome could have long and prosperous lives was far from mainstream. But his parents saw him as an individual with his own unique strengths and weaknesses. Thanks to the support of his parents, his community and his own resourcefulness, Egan has been able to — to borrow another “Star Trek” saying — “boldly go where no one has gone before.”

One day when Egan was a teenager, his mother Kathleen was surprised to find him watching C-SPAN. He told her he enjoyed watching the congressmen make speeches. Later he would go on to make many speeches himself, including in the U.S. Senate, testifying on behalf of people with disabilities. Throughout his life, he’s used his leadership abilities in many ways — as a godfather to his nephew, Mason, as a Special Olympics Global Messenger and as a published author of the new book, “More Alike Than Different.”

“I think that I was born to be an advocate,” said Egan. “I want to follow in the road that Jesus took, advocating for those who are misunderstood and often marginalized in our society.”

Egan, a parishioner and former altar server at St. Mark Church in Vienna, credits his early experiences in Special Olympics with pushing him toward his eventual path as an advocate. Basketball and swimming were two of his favorite sports to play. “It helped me gain self-confidence, discipline, resilience and an ability to reach a goal,” he said. “I learned about teamwork and determination. I learned that Special Olympics is more than just medals. It is about giving it our best.”

But Egan did more than play. In 2000, he was selected as a delegate to the First Special Olympics Global Athlete Congress in the Netherlands. In 2010, he participated again in the Global Athlete Congress, this time in Morocco. From 2014 to 2018, he was chosen to be one of 12 Special Olympics Sargent Shriver International Global Messengers selected from the various regions of the world.

“One of the peak moments for me was standing in front of more than sixty thousand people at the opening ceremony for the 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Los Angeles,” he wrote in his autobiography. “I had a message and a hope that the words I spoke would open unexpected doors in the lives of others. I don’t know if people in the audience or watching on TV saw me and others with new understanding. But I think they did.”

When he wasn’t off giving speeches, Egan worked for many years as a clerk in the Booz Allen Hamilton distribution center in Tysons. Then he got a unique opportunity — to be an advocate for people with disabilities on Capitol Hill as the Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Public Policy Fellow — the first person with disabilities to hold the position. As a fellow, he had two roles: working with the Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee and with the National Down Syndrome Society.

At first, it was a difficult adjustment. “The staff had never worked with someone like me and it was hard on all of us at the very beginning,” said Egan. “I learned a lot about how hectic the pace is. I also learned that I had to listen more than I had to talk.”

david egan bookDavid Egan, a parishioner of St. Mark Church in Vienna, recently wrote an autobiography about his life as a disabilities advocate.

But he was proud of what he was able to do. “I was involved in the Down syndrome employment campaign called #DSWORKS and based on my 20 years of competitive employment, I was tasked with creating a resource guide for employers. That was my capstone project for the fellowship,” he said. “I am still involved in that project and extending it to support both employers and employees.”

In 2017, he continued his advocacy work at SourceAmerica, an organization that helps people with disabilities find jobs. He works there as a community relations coordinator, building alliances and advocating for competitive employment.

In 2019, Egan and his mother worked together to write a book about his life, More Alike Than Different, which was published in 2020. Friends, family members and co-workers contributed their thoughts, too. More than a detailed list of Egan’s accomplishments, it invites readers to see a bit of themselves in him. He hopes it encourages people to come up to him after Mass and ask about his life.

“We all share in the same humanity regardless of race, culture, gender, disability or socio-economic status,” he said. “By focusing on abilities, and what makes us more alike than different, our lives become richer.”

Note: David Egan is a cousin of Justice Integrity Project Editor Andrew Kreig.

 

World News

 

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washington post logoWashington Post, Nearly all GOP senators vote against trial for Trump, Mike DeBonis and Seung Min Kim, Jan. 27, 2021 (print ed.). The impeachment trial will proceed on Feb. 9, but a procedural vote made it clear that there are not enough votes for now to convict former president Donald Trump over his role in the deadly Jan. 6 mob attack on the Capitol.

republican elephant logoAll but five Republican senators backed former president Donald Trump on Tuesday in a key test vote ahead of his impeachment trial, signaling that the proceedings are likely to end with Trump’s acquittal on the charge that he incited the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.

The vote also demonstrated the continued sway Trump holds over GOP officeholders, even after his exit from the White House under a historic rand paul hs ocloud caused by his refusal to concede the November election and his unprecedented efforts to challenge the result.

Trump’s trial is not scheduled to begin until Feb. 9, but senators were sworn in for the proceedings Tuesday, and they immediately voted on an objection raised by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) questioning the constitutional basis for the impeachment and removal of a former president. 

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: Yes, ex-presidents can be impeached, Editorial Board, Jan. 27, 2021 (print ed.). House emissaries delivered to the Senate on Monday an article of impeachment against former president Donald Trump, setting the stage for an unprecedented trial of an ex-chief executive.

As they were sworn in as jurors on Tuesday, Republican senators appeared to be splitting into three groups: those arguing Mr. Trump’s actions do not warrant impeachment; those open to convicting him; and those claiming that the former president cannot be tried because he is no longer in office. It is with this last camp that Mr. Trump’s fate likely resides. Most GOP senators voted unsuccessfully on Tuesday to force a debate on the constitutionality of trying Mr. Trump.

Their theory — that impeachment applies only to sitting officials — is not beyond the pale. But it runs against the weight of scholarship, historical practice and common sense. Many Republicans may be embracing the theory nonetheless because it gives them an excuse to avoid any responsibility: They do not have to condone the former president’s incitement of the Jan. 6 Capitol invasion, but they also do not have to anger his supporters. Put briefly: They continue to indulge Mr. Trump’s toxic influence on their party.

There have been so few impeachments over the course of U.S. history that major issues such as this remain unsettled. But the Congressional Research Service notes that the nation’s Founders appeared to accept that former officials could be impeached for their conduct in office, as they could be in the British tradition.

donald trump money palmer report Custom

Palmer Report, Opinion: Whether Senate Republicans convict Trump or not, the impeachment trial is a win for us and a loss for them, Bill Palmer, right, Jan. 27, bill palmer2021. Most Republican senators want Trump gone from the party forever. They just don’t want to have to be the ones to do it.

They know prosecutors will put Trump in prison long before 2024. So they’re not going to bother convicting him themselves unless the storyline gets really ugly before the start of the impeachment trial. These miserable cowards should all resign – but they won’t.

bill palmer report logo headerI really don’t care how Republican senators vote on impeachment. Either they convict him, or they hand us the ability to use their acquittal against them in 2022 and 2024. I’m not going to tolerate the “all hope is lost” routine from my fellow liberals if Trump’s not convicted.

And at the risk of stating the obvious, Trump will be Twitter-less, bankrupt, and in prison by the time of the 2024 election. The notion that he’s somehow magically going to be a contender if he’s not convicted in his impeachment trial? That’s silly.

chuck schumer resized smile

washington post logoWashington Post, Senate could vote on Biden pandemic relief bill as soon as next week, Schumer says, Erica Werner, Mike DeBonis and Seung Min Kim, Jan. 27, 2021 (print ed.). The Senate could vote as soon as next week on a budget bill setting the stage for party-line passage of President Biden’s $1.9 trillion pandemic relief plan.

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y., above) said Tuesday that the Senate could vote as soon as next week on a budget bill setting the stage for party-line passage of President Biden’s $1.9 trillion pandemic relief plan.

“The work must move forward, preferably with our Republican colleagues but without them if we must,” Schumer said. “Time is of the essence to address this crisis.”

Publicly, the Biden administration is courting Republican support, and Schumer held out hope of GOP backing. But a number of leading Republicans including McConnell have panned Biden’s plan as too costly, and behind the scenes Democrats are making plans to move forward without them.

Democratic leaders in both chambers are tentatively planning to introduce a budget resolution on Monday that could come to a vote later in the week, according to several people with knowledge of the plans who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss them.

The resolution would instruct committees to write legislation codifying Biden’s $1.9 trillion pandemic relief plan. Under special rules governing the budget resolution, the resolution could pass the Senate with a simple majority vote, and the subsequent covid-19 relief bill could also pass with a simple majority -- even without eliminating the filibuster.

Proof via Substack, Investigation: More Revelations About Secretive January 5 War Council at Trump International Hotel, Seth Abramson, Jan. 27, 2021. A few seth abramson proof logokey questions have been resolved, but significant unsolved mysteries remain.

Reporting in the Omaha World-Herald, as well as social media screenshots and videos, confirm a January 5 pre-insurrection war council at DC’s Trump International Hotel. Also confirmed by the evidence is a list of the gathering’s (minimum) fifteen attendees.

The first Proof article on this subject can be found here.

The secretive January 5 meeting — which one attendee, Senator Tommy Tuberville, has already been caught lying about, and which another, Nebraska gubernatorial candidate Charles Herbster, has attempted to scrub his social media to conceal — included eight different components of Trump’s political machine:

  • Family members: Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump, and Kimberly Guilfoyle (current girlfriend of Trump Jr., and a former on-air Fox News personality).
  • Trump’s legal team: Rudy Giuliani.
  • United States senators: Tuberville and at least two other senators (see below).
  • Administration officials: Peter Navarro and Charles Herbster.
  • January 6 organizers: Ali Alexander, Adam Piper, and Michael Flynn.
  • Trump campaign officials: Corey Lewandowski (former), David Bossie (former).
  • Cyberintelligence specialists: Flynn (information operations) and possibly Phil Waldron (self-described—see more below—as skilled in “intelligence analysis”).
  • Trump donors: Mike Lindell, Daniel Beck, and Herbster.

Due to minimal ongoing coverage of this extraordinary pre-January 6 strategy meeting, questions about the Trump International Hotel gathering remain. This article outlines key questions and reveals the answers to several — all uncovered over the last 24 hours.

Question 1: How many senators attended Team Trump’s January 5 war council?

...

Seth Abramson, shown at right, founder of Proof, 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).

 

Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logocdc logo CustomWashington Post, CDC finds scant coronavirus spread in schools, particularly with masks and distancing in place, Laura Meckler, Jan. 27, 2021 (print ed.). Some indoor athletics, however, have led to infections and should be curtailed if schools want to operate safely, researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concluded in newly published papers.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: Jan. 27, 2021), with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):

World Cases: 100,939,006, Deaths: 2,169,925
U.S. Cases:     26,011,222, Deaths:    435,452

washington post logoWashington Post, Robots are disinfecting hotels during the pandemic. It’s the tip of a hospitality revolution, JD Shadel, Jan. 27, 2021. The cleaning routines at most busy airports and hotels had remained relatively unchanged for decades. But as the pandemic rages into its second year, major brands are increasingly turning to the world of high-tech disinfection to strengthen their cleaning protocols. It’s a trend that’s slowly transforming housekeeping — and accelerating the pace of automation in hospitality.

 

Trump Impeachment Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, Pentagon restricted commander of D.C. Guard ahead of Capitol riot, Paul Sonne, Jan. 27, 2021 (print ed.). In the run-up to the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, Maj. Gen. William J. Walker said he was prohibited from taking urgent action without higher level sign-off.

The commander of the D.C. National Guard said the Pentagon restricted his authority ahead of the riot at the U.S. Capitol, requiring higher-level sign-off to respond that cost time as the events that day spiraled out of control.

Local commanders typically have the power to take military action on their own to save lives or prevent significant property damage in an urgent situation when there isn’t enough time to obtain approval from headquarters.

But Maj. Gen. William J. Walker, the commanding general of the District of Columbia National Guard, said the Pentagon essentially took that power and other authorities away from him ahead of a pro-Trump protest on Jan. 6. That meant he couldn’t immediately roll out troops when he received a panicked phone call from the Capitol Police chief warning that rioters were about to enter the U.S. Capitol.

roger stone djt

Palmer Report, Opinion: Roger Stone tied to Oath Keepers on eve of U.S. Capitol attack, could be in serious legal trouble, Bill Palmer, Jan. 27, 2021. Last week the Feds brought the first conspiracy charges against a leader of the “Oath Keepers” extremist group in relation to the January 6th U.S. Capitol domestic terrorist attack. Conspiracy charges open the door for others in the conspiracy to also be charged – and that could be bad news for Roger Stone.

Stone’s name has already been widely linked to the incitement of the Capitol attack, but is there enough to criminally charge him for it? Now it turns out Stone not only met with the Oath Keepers the night before the attack, Vice says he used them as security. This means Stone will have one heck of a time trying to explain how he wasn’t conspiring to incite the attack the next morning.

Donald Trump pardoned Roger Stone (shown above left in file photos) just before leaving office, but that was only for specific crimes in relation to the Mueller probe. If Stone ends up being charged as part of the Capitol attack conspiracy, his pardon won’t help him at all.

ny times logoNew York Times, Proud Boys Under Growing Scrutiny in Capitol Riot Investigation, Alan Feuer and Frances Robles, Jan. 27, 2021 (print ed.). The leadership of the Proud Boys has come under increased scrutiny as agents and prosecutors across the country try to determine how closely members of the far-right nationalist group communicated during the riot at the Capitol this month and to what extent they might have planned the assault in advance, according to federal law enforcement officials.

joe biggs justice departmentAt least six members of the organization have been charged in connection with the riot, including one of its top-ranking leaders, Joseph Biggs. Mr. Biggs, shown at right in an FBI photo, a U.S. Army veteran, led about 100 men on an angry march from the site of President Donald J. Trump’s speech toward — and then into — the Capitol building.

The Proud Boys, who have a history of scuffling with left-wing antifascist activists, have long been some of Mr. Trump’s most vocal, and violent, supporters, and he has returned the favor, telling them during one of the presidential debates to “stand back and stand by.” Along with the right-wing militia the Oath Keepers, the Proud Boys was one of the extremist groups with a large presence at the Capitol incursion, investigators said.

Despite having launched one of the most sprawling inquiries in American history, investigators have yet to unearth clear-cut evidence suggesting there was a widespread conspiracy to assault the Capitol on Jan. 6.

enrique tarrio mic

Reuters, Proud Boys leader was ‘prolific’ informer for law enforcement, Aram Roston, Jan. 27, 2021. Enrique Tarrio, above, the leader of the Proud Boys extremist group, has a past as an informer for federal and local law enforcement, repeatedly working undercover for investigators after he was arrested in 2012, according to a former prosecutor and a transcript of a 2014 federal court proceeding obtained by Reuters.

Members of the far-right Proud Boys, including leader Enrique Tarrio (C), rally in support of President Trump to protest against the results of the 2020 U.S. presidential election, in Washington, November 14, 2020. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

In the Miami hearing, a federal prosecutor, a Federal Bureau of Investigation agent and Tarrio’s own lawyer described his undercover work and said he had helped authorities prosecute more than a dozen people in various cases involving drugs, gambling and human smuggling.

Tarrio, in an interview with Reuters Tuesday, denied working undercover or cooperating in cases against others. “I don’t know any of this,” he said, when asked about the transcript. “I don’t recall any of this.”

Law-enforcement officials and the court transcript contradict Tarrio’s denial. In a statement to Reuters, the former federal prosecutor in Tarrio’s case, Vanessa Singh Johannes, confirmed that “he cooperated with local and federal law enforcement, to aid in the prosecution of those running other, separate criminal enterprises, ranging from running marijuana grow houses in Miami to operating pharmaceutical fraud schemes.”

Tarrio, 36, is a high-profile figure who organizes and leads the right-wing Proud Boys in their confrontations with those they believe to be Antifa, short for “anti-fascism,” an amorphous and often violent leftist movement. The Proud Boys were involved in the deadly insurrection at the Capitol January 6.

The records uncovered by Reuters are startling because they show that a leader of a far-right group now under intense scrutiny by law enforcement was previously an active collaborator with criminal investigators.

Washington police arrested Tarrio in early January when he arrived in the city two days before the Capitol Hill riot. He was charged with possessing two high-capacity rifle magazines, and burning a Black Lives Matter banner during a December demonstration by supporters of former President Donald Trump. The D.C. Superior Court ordered him to leave the city pending a court date in June.

Though Tarrio did not take part in the Capitol insurrection, at least five Proud Boys members have been charged in the riot. The FBI previously said Tarrio’s earlier arrest was an effort to preempt the events of January 6.

Alabama Political Reporter, Photos put Tuberville in Trump’s hotel on Jan. 5 despite denying meeting, Eddie Burkhalter, Jan. 27, 2021. The photos and Facebook post put Tuberville, Donald Trump Jr., Peter Navarro, Rudy Giuliani and others at the Trump hotel on Jan. 5.

Here is the latest on the meeting among Trump allies on Jan. 5:

  • Trump appointee Charles Herbster says Sen. Tommy Tuberville met with the Trump family, then-RAGA director and top Trump adviser on Jan. 5 at the Trump International Hotel.
  • Photos and a separate social media post put Tuberville in Trump’s hotel on Jan. 5, despite Tuberville denying attending any meeting.
  • Charles Herbster originally posted on Jan. 5 that the meeting took place at the White House and included Rudy Guiliani that evening, but the next morning he edited his post to say it happened at Trump’s hotel, and he removed Guiliani from the post altogether.
  • David Bossie, former President Donald Trump’s deputy campaign manager, told APR that he didn’t attend the meeting in question, despite Herbster saying he was there.

Alabama Republican Senator Tommy Tuberville through a spokeswoman Tuesday denied meeting with the then-director of the Republican Attorneys General Association and others inside Trump’s private residence at the Trump International Hotel on Jan. 5 — on the eve of the deadly U.S. Capitol attack.

But a photo posted to social media appears to show Tuberville in the hotel’s lobby that day, and a company CEO in a separate post describes meeting with Tuberville and others at the hotel that day and discussing “illegal votes.”

Charles W. Herbster, who was then the national chairman of the Agriculture and Rural Advisory Committee in Trump’s administration, in a Facebook post at 8:33 p.m. on Jan. 5 said that he was standing “in the private residence of the President at Trump International with the following patriots who are joining me in a battle for justice and truth.”

Among the attendees, according to Herbster’s post, were Tuberville, former RAGA director Adam Piper, Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump, Trump’s former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, adviser Peter Navarro, Trump’s 2016 campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and 2016 deputy campaign manager David Bossie.

A photo posted to an Instagram user’s account appears to show Tuberville standing in the lobby of the Trump International Hotel on Jan. 5. The user captioned the photo “Newly elected Senator Tommy Tuberville.” In two other separate photos, the person posted images of Flynn and Donald Trump Jr. inside the hotel on Jan. 5. Attempts to reach the person who posted that photo were unsuccessful Tuesday.

Sen. Tommy Tuberville inside the lobby of the Trump International Hotel on Jan. 5, according to an Instagram post. (VIA INSTAGRAM)

In two separate Instagram photos, a person posted images of Flynn and Donald Trump Jr. inside the hotel on Jan. 5. (VIA INSTAGRAM)

In two separate Instagram photos, a person posted images of Flynn and Donald Trump Jr. inside the hotel on Jan. 5. (VIA INSTAGRAM)

Daniel Beck, CEO of an Idaho technology company, in a Facebook post at 10:27 p.m. on Jan. 5 wrote that he’d spent the evening with Tuberville, Trump Jr. and girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle, Michael J. Lindell, Navarro and Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani.
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He wrote: “The Trump hotel is Amazing!! Fifteen of us spent the evening with Donald Trump Jr., Kimberly Guilfoyle, Tommy Tuberville, Michael J. Lindell, Peter Navarro, and Rudy Giuliani. We talked about the elections, illegal votes, court cases, the republics’ status, what to expect on the hill tomorrow. TRUMP WILL RETAIN THE PRESIDENCY!!!”

Daniel Beck, CEO of an Idaho technology company, in a Facebook post at 10:27 p.m. on Jan. 5 wrote that he’d spent the evening with Tuberville and others. (VIA FACEBOOK)

A commenter on Beck’s post wrote: “My God look at what is happening now at the Capital. Is this what America has become. These are NOT Democrats doing this. So our Senate and House are under lockdown. Is this what all you discussed at your meeting?” Beck responded: “not at all.”

The Jan. 5 meeting, as discussed in the Facebook post, was first reported by journalist Seth Abramson on Tuesday.

APR sent questions to a Tuberville spokesperson Tuesday afternoon asking whether Tuberville had attended a Jan. 5 meeting with Trump, Piper and several others at Trump’s hotel, and if so, why was he called to the meeting and what was discussed. The Tuberville spokeswoman replied in an email: “the answers to your questions are No and Not Applicable.” Attempts to contact Herbster on Tuesday were unsuccessful.

Herbster deleted his Facebook post after APR’s story published Tuesday evening, and it’s not clear from the post if Trump attending the Jan. 5 meeting, whether in person or by phone, that Herbster said he attended. Herbster later on Tuesday evening put his post back up.

 

U.S. Politics, Governance, Civic Life

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden’s climate plan will target racial, economic disparities, Juliet Eilperin, Brady Dennis and Darryl Fears, Jan. 27, 2021 (print ed.). President Biden will make the needs of low-income Americans and communities of color the focus of his plan Wednesday, according to two individuals briefed on it, making environmental justice a top priority for the first time in a generation.

HuffPost, Federal Judges Are Retiring Now That Joe Biden Will Pick Their Replacements, Jennifer Bendery, It’s not just Democrat-appointed judges, either. For huff post logoat least one federal judge, it appeared that President Joe Biden couldn’t be sworn in fast enough. “It has been my honor to serve,” U.S. District Judge Victoria Roberts wrote to Biden on Inauguration Day, roughly 90 minutes after he took office, announcing her plans to step down. “With respect, I congratulate you on your election as the 46th President of the United States, and Kamala Harris on her election as Vice President.”

Roberts, who has been a judge on the Eastern District Court of Michigan since 1998, announced she would be taking senior status — or begin semi-retirement — on Feb. 24. That opens up a new court vacancy for Biden to fill.

Roberts is one of five federal judges with lifetime appointments who have announced plans to retire or semi-retire since last Wednesday, the day Donald Trump left the White House, according to data provided by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. That’s after eight judges had already announced their plans to step down since Biden was declared the winner of the 2020 presidential election.

The retirements keep coming. On Tuesday, two more U.S. district judges announced their plans to take senior status, though their names aren’t yet listed on the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts’ website. And there are likely others in the queue with similar plans.

While judges may, of course, have personal reasons for retiring or semi-retiring at the beginning of Biden’s presidency, it’s safe to say, for the most part, that the timing of these judges’ departures isn’t coincidental: They wanted Biden to pick their replacements, not Trump.

American Conservative Union President Matt Schlapp and Donald J. Trump (file photos).

American Conservative Union President Matt Schlapp and Donald J. Trump (file photos).

Politico, A top MAGA gathering finds life complicated after Trump, Gabby Orr and Daniel Lippman, Jan. 27, 2021. CPAC was at the top of its powers last year. Then Covid-19 hit, Trump lost, and the post-election chaos ensued. Now, the confab has some challenges ahead.

One of the premier MAGA gatherings in the nation is struggling to recreate the magic this year.

For decades, the Conservative Political Action Conference has been a staple of Republican politics. In recent years, the conservative confab has been the go-to stop for rising GOP stars, grassroots organizers and luminaries in the Trump movement.

djt hands up mouth open CustomBut President Donald Trump’s election loss has created hurdles around programming and guest booking. Stringent coronavirus guidelines in Maryland have pushed the conference outside of the Washington, D.C. area for the first time in nearly 50 years. Previous sponsors aren’t yet committed or have decided to forgo sponsorship entirely due to changes to the event’s format or disappointment in the return on their investment last year. And the president that attendees adored so much may not show up to the event at all.

Senior Trump adviser Jason Miller said that Trump, whose Mar-a-Lago abode is less than 2.5 hours away from the Orlando hotel where this year’s conference will occur on Feb. 25-28, is not currently scheduled to make an appearance.

ACU chairman Matt Schlapp said he is convinced this year’s conference will be no different from past years. “CPAC is going great,” he told POLITICO on Tuesday, before then saying that his quote needed to be attributed without his name. Schlapp did not address questions about why some sponsors were not continuing their CPAC sponsorship.

But after those questions were posed and additional questions were sent to CPAC sponsors — including whether the Jan. 6 Capitol riots impacted their thinking about sponsoring again this year — ACU General Counsel David Safavian accused POLITICO of “tortious interference with business relationships” and attempting “to ‘cancel’ both CPAC and the American Conservative Union itself.” The group then tweeted a copy of a letter from Safavian that included a litigation threat.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: The GOP’s Marjorie Taylor Greene problem is spinning out of control, Aaron Blake, Jan. 27, 2021. The GOP faces a steady stream of revelations about the new congresswoman’s extreme views and advocacy for fringe causes and baseless claims.

Republicans knew they had a Marjorie Taylor Greene problem back in the summer of 2020 when she was running for Congress. House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) called the QAnon supporter’s comments about Black people and Muslims “disgusting,” while a spokesman for House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) called them “appalling.” Scalise backed her primary opponent.

Then she won, and Republicans tried to put a good face on it — even falsely claiming she had disavowed QAnon and suggesting the country should move on.

That posture is looking increasingly untenable.

 

U.S. Media, Education News

ny times logoNew York Times, Marty Baron Will Retire From The Washington Post, Katie Robertson, Jan. 27, 2021 (print ed.). After a storied journalism career that took him to newsrooms across the country, The Post’s executive editor, 66, said he would depart on Feb. 28.

martin baron at 2018 pulitzers wikimedia commonsMartin Baron, right, a newsroom giant who led The Washington Post, The Boston Globe and The Miami Herald to numerous Pulitzer Prizes in a storied journalism career, said on Tuesday that he would retire on Feb. 28 after eight years as The Post’s executive editor.

“At age 66, I feel ready to move on,” he said in a note to the newspaper’s staff.

Mr. Baron said that he had joined the paper with “a reverence for The Post’s heritage of courage and independence and feeling an inviolable obligation to uphold its values,” and that the news staff had delivered “the finest journalism.”

“You stood firm against cynical, never-ending assaults on objective fact,” he wrote.

His years as executive editor started in January 2013, weeks before former President Barack Obama was sworn in for a second term, and spanned all of President Donald J. Trump’s time in the White House. Mr. Trump frequently denigrated The Post, calling it “fake news,” “the enemy of the people” and “crazed and dishonest,” among other insults. In 2017, The Post adopted the first official slogan in its more than 140-year history: “Democracy Dies in Darkness.”

Mr. Baron’s decision to leave did not come as a surprise. He had previously committed to staying at the paper only through the 2020 election.

washington post logoWashington Post, YouTube suspends Rudy Giuliani from its ad revenue sharing program, Gerrit De Vynck, Jan. 27, 2021 (print ed.). Donald Trump’s personal lawyer violated the service’s rules by posting false claims about the election, YouTube said.

rudy giuliani recentYouTube has suspended Rudolph W. Giuliani, left, from participating in its ad revenue sharing program, cutting off one of the ways former president Donald Trump’s personal attorney has been making money from his legions of followers.

The suspension, which YouTube imposed last week and confirmed on Tuesday, came as Dominion Voting Systems sued Giuliani for $1.3 billion, alleging he youtube logo Customused his social media posts to make damaging, false claims that the company had engaged in election manipulation.

YouTube’s action doesn’t stop Giuliani from posting new videos or making paid product endorsements in his posts, which he does often. But it prevents him from receiving any money from the ads YouTube sells that run before a video begins to play.

YouTube spokesperson Jessica Gibby confirmed that Giuliani had been suspended from the company’s ad partner program after multiple violations of YouTube’s rules against posting misleading information about the recent presidential election. He is eligible to appeal the suspension after 30 days, she said.

.

kayleigh mceneny collage

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Kayleigh McEnany’s shameful tryout for Fox News, Erik Wemple, Jan. 27, 2021. One of the most inevitable stories of the immediate post-Trump era surfaced on Tuesday: Former White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, above, it turns out, has been in negotiations to join Fox News.

According to Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), McEnany wrote in her termination financial disclosure that she had an “employment agreement” with Fox News, “starting work in January.” Asked about that claim, Fox News issued this statement: “Kayleigh McEnany is not currently an employee or contributor at Fox News.”

fox news logo SmallIt’s unclear whether McEnany will join the network, but it’s worth noting that Fox News recently lost its existing ex-Trump press secretary, Sarah Sanders. A Fox News contributor since August 2019, Sanders had to relinquish the position upon announcing her candidacy for governor of Arkansas. Now Fox News is looking at a former-Trump-press-secretary pool of Sean Spicer (now with Newsmax), Stephanie Grisham (who never held a press briefing) and McEnany.

The appeal of all four to a network like Fox News is that, more than any cluster of unprofessionals in former president Donald Trump’s orbit, his former press secretaries have the most experience in covering up, promoting and articulating lies.

media matters logoAccording to Laura Keiter, a spokeswoman for Media Matters for America, McEnany has appeared on Fox News weekday programming at least 325 times since August 2017, when she left CNN to become Republican National Committee spokeswoman. After the announcement of her selection as White House press secretary last April, she appeared on Fox News weekday programming at least 93 times.

Meanwhile, for the entire length of her time as press secretary, McEnany turned in zero weekday appearances on CNN and MSNBC, according to Media Matters. And she conducted just 41 formal press briefings, according to Martha Joynt Kumar, director of the White House Transition Project.

None of this is illegal. Press secretaries may speak to whatever outlets they please, just like presidents. That’s their First Amendment right. Steering your misleading TV appearances to a single outlet, while neglecting your obligations to the rest of the press corps and negotiating an eventual paid gig — that’s an abdication of duty to the public.

 

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, Unequal access to vaccines could cost trillions in global losses, report warns, Erin Cunningham, Jan. 27, 2021 (print ed.). Battles have emerged between nations over limited supplies of the most effective vaccines.

South Africa’s leader accused developed countries Tuesday of hoarding much-needed coronavirus vaccines at the expense of poorer nations, as a new study warned that unequal access to the doses could cost the global economy trillions of dollars.

Speaking at a virtual meeting of the World Economic Forum, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa called on wealthy nations to release any excess doses “so that other countries can have them.”

“The rich countries of the world went out and acquired large doses of vaccines. … Some countries even acquired up to four times what their population needs,” he said.

“We are all not safe if some countries are vaccinating their people and other countries are not vaccinating,” Ramaphosa continued. “We all must act together in combating the virus.”

The president’s remarks came amid growing battles among nations over limited supplies of the most effective vaccines against the coronavirus, which has infected nearly 100 million people and killed more than 2 million worldwide.

Wayne Madsen Report, Commentary: COVID wiping out an entire generation of political leadership in developing countries, Wayne Madsen, Jan. 27, 2021. The American media has largely ignored the dire effects the disease has had in other countries, particularly developing nations in Africa and Asia.

WMR has received a first-hand report of the virus taking the lives of a number of political leaders in South Africa, Zimbabwe, and other countries. South Africa's dynamic Minister of the Presidency, Jackson Mthembu was the latest to fall victim to the virus. Mthembu was a stalwart of the governing African National Congress (ANC) who began fighting against the apartheid regime in the 1970s. Mthembu became ill from the virus on January 11 and he died on January 21, ten days later.

 

U.S. Law, Consumers, Stocks

ny times logoNew York Times Magazine, Investigation: Who’s Making All Those Scam Calls? Yudhijit Bhattacharjee, Jan. 27, 2021. Every year, tens of millions of Americans collectively lose billions of dollars to scam callers. Where does the other end of the line lead?

One afternoon in December 2019, Kathleen Langer, an elderly grandmother who lives by herself in Crossville, Tenn., got a phone call from a person who said he worked in the refund department of her computer manufacturer. The reason for the call, he explained, was to process a refund the company owed Langer for antivirus and anti-hacking protection that had been sold to her and was now being discontinued.

According to the F.B.I.’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, the total losses reported to it by scam victims increased to $3.5 billion in 2019 from $1.4 billion in 2017. Last year, the app Truecaller commissioned the Harris Poll to survey roughly 2,000 American adults and found that 22 percent of the respondents said they had lost money to a phone scam in the past 12 months; Truecaller projects that as many as 56 million Americans may have been victimized this way, losing nearly $20 billion.

washington post logoWashington Post, Watchdog says officials misused biomedical research funds for years, Dan Diamond and Lisa Rein, Jan. 27, 2021. Officials overseeing the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, an arm of the federal health department, used millions of dollars from the fund to pay for unrelated salaries, administrative expenses and even removing office furniture, according to an inspector general investigation of a whistleblower complaint.

Federal officials repeatedly raided a fund earmarked for biomedical research in the years leading up to the covid-19 pandemic, spending millions of dollars to pay for unrelated salaries, administrative expenses and even the cost of removing office furniture, according to the findings from an investigation into a whistleblower complaint shared with The Washington Post.

The investigation, conducted by the Health and Human Services Department’s inspector general and overseen by the Office of Special Counsel, centered on hundreds of millions of dollars intended for the development of vaccines, drugs and therapies by the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority or BARDA, an arm of the federal health department.

The unidentified whistleblower alleged that officials in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response at HHS, which oversaw the biomedical agency, wrongly dipped into the money set aside by Congress for development of lifesaving medicines, beginning in fiscal year 2010 and continuing through at least fiscal year 2019, spanning both the Obama and Trump administrations.

The inspector general substantiated some of the whistleblower’s claims, finding that staff referred to the agency as the “bank of BARDA” and told investigators that research and development funds were regularly tapped for unrelated projects, sometimes at “exorbitant” rates.

steve bannon exlarge

ny times logoNew York Times,Trump’s Pardon of Bannon Could Raise Risk for 3 Co-Defendants, Benjamin Weiser, Jan. 27, 2021 (print ed.). President Trump’s former adviser, Stephen Bannon (shown above), may now be a witness against three other men accused in a border-wall

Of all the pardons former President Donald Trump granted in the hours before he left office, perhaps none was as galling to his critics, government watchdog groups and even some of his allies than the pardon of his former chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon.

Mr. Bannon, 67, had been charged with conspiring to swindle donors to a private fund to build a wall along the Mexican border, siphoning off more than $1 million for personal and other expenses, the indictment said.

Even The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page, a conservative bastion, suggested Mr. Bannon’s pardon was unseemly and egregious, asserting that, if the charges were true, “Mr. Trump should be furious at his ex-adviser for turning his signature issue into a grift.”

But the pardon also left three other men who were indicted with Mr. Bannon in an unusual and unenviable predicament. None of them received pardons and so they still must face a trial in May. What’s more, legal experts said, Mr. Bannon could now be called as a government witness to testify against them, potentially increasing their legal jeopardy.

John S. Martin Jr., a retired federal judge and former U.S. attorney in Manhattan, said that, assuming Mr. Bannon accepted his pardon and the immunity it conferred, he could not invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination if called to testify for the government against his co-defendants.

“He may not have walked as far away as he thought,” Mr. Martin said.

Even if a judge allows Mr. Bannon to invoke the Fifth Amendment on the theory he still faces possible state charges, as some experts suggest, his absence at the defense table would doubtless reshape the trial.

Mr. Bannon’s three co-defendants — Brian Kolfage, an Air Force veteran who lost both of his legs and one of his arms during his service in Iraq; Andrew Badolato, a venture capitalist; and Timothy Shea — will be left defending themselves without the most prominent figure in the alleged scheme.

“Now, it’s a totally different trial,” said John C. Meringolo, Mr. Shea’s lawyer. “Different strategies must apply.”

Philip Allen Lacovara, a former deputy solicitor general of the United States and onetime counsel to the Watergate special prosecutor, said Mr. Bannon’s former co-defendants might feel resentment at being “left holding the bag that he was helping to fill.”

leon black jeffrey epstein

Leon Black, left, CEO and co-founder of Apollo Global Management, and the late sex offender Jeffrey Epstein (file photos).

ny times logoNew York Times, Amid Epstein Revelations, Leon Black Remains Chairman of MoMA, Robin Pogrebin, Jan. 27, 2021. After the disclosure that Mr. Black had paid Jeffrey Epstein $158 million, some have called for his removal.

ny times logoNew York Times, Harvey Weinstein Accusers Agree to $17 Million Settlement, Melena Ryzik and Cara Buckley, Jan. 27, 2021. Some 40 women will harvey weinsteinparticipate in the bankruptcy court agreement, though others who have sued Mr. Weinstein, right, and accused him of sexual abuse have objected to the terms and are considering an appeal.

On Monday, a bankruptcy court judge in Delaware confirmed the settlement deal, clearing the way for dozens of women who say they were sexually assaulted or harassed by Mr. Weinstein to receive a portion of the $17 million victims fund, largely by ending their civil claims against him.

“Eighty-three percent of the victims have expressed very loudly that they want closure through acceptance of this plan,” the bankruptcy judge, Mary F. Walrath, said in a hearing. Nearly 40 women voted last month to accept the terms of the settlement, which would allow their claims to be evaluated and paid out using a point system, potentially putting an end to a lengthy and anguishing process to determine how the numerous women who accused Mr. Weinstein of misconduct might find restitution.

Mr. Weinstein, 68, was sentenced last March to 23 years in prison after being convicted of rape and another felony sex crime in a criminal trial in New York.

ny times logofederal reserve system CustomNew York Times, Fed Leaves Interest Rates Near-Zero as Economic Recovery Slows, Jeanna Smialek, Jan. 27, 2021. Jerome Powell, the Federal Reserve chair, said the resurgence of the virus was “weighing on economic activity and job creation.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Wall Street Suffers Worst Daily Drop in Months, Staff report, Jan. 27, 2021. After setting records in 2020 despite economic damage from the pandemic, investors have grown concerned that markets have become detached from reality. The sell-off came amid a speculative frenzy in some corners of the market that drove up shares of some mostly small, struggling companies. The Federal Reserve also issued a glum assessment of the economy. Here’s the latest in business news.

The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq Composite indexes fell 2.6 percent. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 2 percent.

After the S&P 500 rallied more than 16 percent in 2020, hitting record after record despite the economic damage caused by the pandemic, investors have grown concerned that financial markets have become detached from reality. And the sell-off came amid a speculative frenzy in some corners of the market that drove up shares of some mostly small, struggling companies.

washington post logoWashington Post, Terminally ill doctor killed pediatrician and himself after hours-long hostage standoff in Austin, police say, Andrea Salcedo and Derek Hawkins, Jan. 27, 2021. A terminally ill doctor carrying “numerous” guns held an Austin medical office hostage for hours on Tuesday before fatally shooting a local physician and himself, police said, shaking the Texas capital city and leaving investigators hunting for a possible motive.

Following a standoff that lasted more than six hours, officers entered the Children’s Medical Group building in central Austin on Tuesday night and found the suspect, Bharat Narumanchi, a 43-year-old pediatrician from southern California, dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, according to police. It’s not clear what prompted Narumanchi to target the office, but investigators said he had recently been diagnosed with cancer and was given just weeks to live.

 

Jan. 26

Top Stories

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

Trump Impeachment / Riot Politics

 

U.S. Politics, Governance, Civic Life

 

U.S. Media, Education News

 

World News

 

 U.S. Law, Courts

 

Top Stories

joseph biden kamala harris cspan inauguation

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden takes first step aimed at dismantling systemic racism with orders focused on equity, Cleve R. Wootson Jr. and Tracy Jan, Jan. 26, 2021. President Biden plans to sign executive actions Tuesday aimed at increasing equity across the nation, a move the administration says is an early and significant first step in Biden’s efforts to dismantle systemic racism.

The measures seek to strengthen anti-discrimination housing policies that were weakened under President Donald Trump, nix federal contracts with private prisons, increase the sovereignty of Native American tribes and combat xenophobia against Asians and Pacific islanders weeks after the departure of a president who blamed the Chinese for the coronavirus pandemic.

A senior Biden administration official told reporters that the movement was part of a wider effort to infuse a focus on equity into everything the federal government does and that more actions — both executive orders and efforts to pass legislation through Congress — would be forthcoming.

bureau of prisons logo horizontal

Palmer Report, Opinion: President Biden comes out swinging against for-profit prisons and for the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, Bill Palmer, right, Jan. 26, 2021. In bill palmerhis first week in office, President Joe Biden has been tacklinging one major new topic nearly every day.

Today Biden turned his focus to racism and inequality. He signed executive orders ending the federal government’s relationship with private prisons, enacting protections for Asian-Americans who are being discriminated against in the COVID era, and ending Trump’s 1776 commission, which he called “harmful.”

bill palmer report logo headerThese were all moves that Biden was able to do today with the stroke of an executive order pen. He also addressed other racial equity topics which he’ll have to pursue via legislation. He voiced support for police reform. He also threw his support behind a new Voting Rights Act, which he confirmed should be named after the late John Lewis.

Passing major complex legislation takes time, even with majority control of the House and Senate. But with Senate Democrats having taken full control of the Senate last night, along with the power to partially or fully kill the filibuster at any time, they should have little trouble passing any legislation that all fifty Democrats agree on. This is going to be an era of tremendous concrete progress, so long as we remain united behind Democratic leaders.

 

Justice Department Headquarters in Washington, DC (Justice Department photo)

 U.S. Justice Department headquarters in Washington, D.C.

ny times logoNew York Times, Watchdog to Examine Whether Justice Dept. Helped Trump Effort to Overturn Election, Katie Benner, Jan. 26, 2021 (print ed.). The inquiry was announced after revelations about a plot between Donald Trump and a top former department official to promote false claims of voter fraud by replacing the acting attorney general.

Justice Department log circularThe Justice Department watchdog announced Monday that he had opened an investigation into whether any of the department’s officials tried to undo the results of the presidential election, as scrutiny of former President Donald J. Trump and his associates builds ahead of his impeachment trial.

The investigation by the department’s inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz, right, followed efforts by Mr. Trump and a top federal law enforcement official, Jeffrey michael horwitz headshotClark (shown below at left), to push other Justice Department leaders to falsely assert that continuing fraud investigations cast doubt on the election results. As detailed by The New York Times in recent days, Mr. Trump was said to have considered installing Mr. Clark as acting attorney general to carry out the scheme.

The inquiry adds to the increasing scrutiny on Mr. Trump’s attempts to wield the power of the Justice Department to advance his false claims about the election in the final weeks of his presidency. It follows another inspector general investigation into whether a federal prosecutor in jeffrey clark oGeorgia was improperly pushed to help and a broader Democratic-led Senate inquiry into pressure on the department to aid Mr. Trump’s cause.

Mr. Trump sought repeatedly to compel the Justice Department to back his baseless claims of election irregularities, ultimately prompting the attorney general at the time, William P. Barr, to publicly state early last month that the department had found no voting fraud on a scale that would affect the election results. Mr. Barr fell out of favor with Mr. Trump over the issue and left his post within weeks.

The investigation underscores fears among Senate Republicans, including Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader, that if they do not distance themselves from Mr. Trump and undo his grip on the party, a steady drip of negative revelations paired with his own erratic behavior could damage their political fortunes.

Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader, had urged Mr. Horowitz over the weekend to open an investigation, saying that it was “unconscionable that a Trump Justice Department leader would conspire to subvert the people’s will.”

Related Stories:

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Three Weeks Inside a Pro-Trump QAnon Chat Room, Stuart A. Thompson, Jan. 26, 2021. ( Audio report), Here’s what it sounded like: “They’re guilty. Treason. Behead ’em all.”

Steve Bannon at a 2013 Tea Party Rally (Photo via C-SPAN)

Steve Bannon at a 2013 Tea Party Rally (Photo via C-SPAN)

wayne madesen report logoWayne Madsen Report, Commentary: The battle against fascism and a looming World War III, Wayne Madsen, right, Jan. 26, 2021. The threat of international wayne madsen screen shotfascism is now so great, the world's democracies must declare total war on the leadership, militias, political constructs, and infrastructure of global fascism.

On January 25, the House of Commons in Canada got the ball rolling by unanimously voting for a motion put forth by the New Democratic Party (NDP) that canadian flagdeclares the pro-Donald Trump Proud Boys a terrorist organization and bans it from operating on Canadian soil.

The U.S. government should awake to the dangers of the global fascist movement.

Two overseas organizations that involve Americans, The Movement and The Base, should be squeezed politically and financially by the Biden administration. The Movement, which is headquartered in Brussels and is Steve Bannon's fledgling Fascist International, has managed to secure funding guo wen gui 2017from exiled Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui, left -- who has replaced Robert and Rebekah Mercer as Bannon's primary sugar daddy -- and moneyed interests in the Roman Catholic Church that are affiliated with the fascist religious order Opus Dei.

Guo has provided Bannon with media platforms, including a television network, that are being used to rally the extreme right around the United States and the world. Guo was granted political asylum by the Trump administration after China issued a warrant for his arrest for epoch timesseveral counts of financial fraud in China.

Guo and Bannon have linked their media efforts with those of the religious cult Falun Gong, which publishes the pro-Trump and far-right conspiracy newspaper Epoch Times. Bannon's strategy is to infiltrate existing political parties with far-right activists. So far, Bannon's ploy has seen success with the Republican Party, especially its state-level party organizations in Arizona, Oregon, Maine, Texas, and Hawaii that have been largely taken over by conspiracy theorists touting Qanon inanity.

Proof via Substack, Investigation: January 5 Meeting at Trump International Hotel Could Hold the Key to the January 6 Insurrection, Seth Abramson, Jan. 26, seth abramson proof logo2021. The night before the insurrection, a large group of Trump family and advisers held an urgent meeting with January 6 organizers at the president's private residence in DC.

Well after dark on January 5, 2021 — just 15 hours before an insurrection against the United States government incited by the President of the United States — Nebraska Republican Charles W. Herbster, at the time the National Chairman of the Agriculture and Rural Advisory Committee for the Trump administration, attended a private meeting of Trump family members, Trump administration officials, Trump campaign advisers, January 6 organizers, and at least one member of the United States Senate at Trump International Hotel in Washington.

In attendance at the large and only recently uncovered meeting, conducted “in the private residence of the President” at his hotel, were, according to Herbster’s account, the following individuals (Note: Donald Trump’s presence at the meeting, either in person or via speakerphone, as yet remains unclear, so his name is temporarily absent from this listing):

  • Donald Trump Jr., eldest son of the president
  • Eric Trump, second-eldest son of the president
  • Michael Flynn, former National Security Advisor to the president
  • Peter Navarro, Assistant to the President, Director of Trade and Manufacturing Policy, and National Defense Production Act Policy Coordinator
  • Corey Lewandowski, 2016 Trump campaign manager
  • David Bossie, 2016 Trump deputy campaign manager
  • Adam Piper, executive director of the Republican Attorneys General Association
  • Tommy Tuberville, United States senator from the State of Alabama

According to research by political strategist and regular CNN, MSNBC, The Hill, CBS, and Fox News contributor Cheri Jacobus, Txtwire CEO Daniel Beck claims he was at the January 5 meeting also, and that additional attendees at the gathering included the following three people:

  • rudy giuliani recentRudy Giuliani, right, personal attorney to the President of the United States
  • Kimberly Guilfoyle, girlfriend of Donald Trump Jr.
  • Michael Lindell, Trump donor and MyPillow CEO

In a Facebook post, Beck claims that there were “fifteen of us [who] spent the evening [January 5]” at Trump International Hotel in DC, a statement that tracks with the nine attendees listed by Herbster, the additional three referenced by Beck himself, and a photograph Beck took on January 5 in which he appears outside the hotel with an unidentified woman and three unidentified men, two wearing red “Make America Great Again” caps:

Guilfoyle’s presence at the meeting is critical given that Stop the Steal coordinator Ali Alexander claims he received a call from Guilfoyle during the evening of January 5 — when she would have been with Trump’s family and advisers at Trump International. As for Tuberville, he now claims, contrary to the statements of Herbster and Beck, that he was never at the Trump International Hotel on January 5.

An Instagram photograph from January 5, taken at Trump International Hotel in DC, appears to show Senator Tuberville on-site, as described by both Beck and Herbster:

In Charles Herbster’s Facebook post detailing the meeting — a post that looks forward with anger and trepidation to the upcoming January 6 certification of Joe Biden’s electoral victory, and has since been hidden and reposted, along with all photos of the Trump family on Herbster’s Facebook account posted from December 2020 through January 2021 — the Nebraska Republican writes of the “battles and blood” that in the past have been required to “protect our way of life”, as well as his own decision “[not to] choose the easy path” but instead “fight” the “widespread voter fraud that happened on November 3.”

Herbster is, as of January 26, not yet speaking to media about January 5, nor about Senator Tuberville’s contrary account of the events of that evening in DC.

Seth Abramson, shown at right, 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).

Palmer Report, Opinion: Removing Louis DeJoy, Rob Partridge, Jan. 26, 2021. Dr. Benjamin Franklin established America’s postal service in 1775, operating out of a small storefront that still exists on Market Street in Philadelphia. Time-honored and highly popular, the USPS oath remains: “Neither rain, nor sleet, nor dark of night shall stay these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”

bill palmer report logo headerWith the Trump campaign staring at a likely presidential election loss, could it be that a sinister Roger Stone inspired heist was planned focused on derailing the USPS?

us mail logoWhat if a mere 3% of the mail could be delayed by a month or more – especially in ‘blue’ cities such as Philadelphia, Detroit, Milwaukee and Atlanta? In that case the mail-in ballot option driven by COVID-19, and utilized far more by Democratic Party and Independent voters, might be muted. Voting center deadlines for mail arrival would pass with millions of such votes rendered ineligible to be counted under state laws. A mere 3%.

louis dejoy CustomThe problem with that plan might have emerged when Louis DeJoy, left, was appointed as Postmaster General and used a sledgehammer on the USPS rather than a scalpel. High speed sorting machines were disabled and thousands of the ubiquitous blue mail boxes were removed from local street corners. Thousands of veterans saw their needed medicines delayed. Millions of Social Security check deliveries were late. Everyone noticed, Congress got involved, and small but important corrections were forced just in time.

The House and Senate must subpoena Mr. DeJoy at the earliest possible date to investigate his role in that debacle. Concurrently, the entirety of the Trump-appointed Postal Board of Governors must resign, so that a new Board can be appointed, and quickly relieve Mr. DeJoy of his post.

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: Lone Wolves Connected Online: A History of Modern White Supremacy, Laura Smith, Jan. 26, 2021. Forty years ago, Louis Beam had the idea of using the internet to drive a movement. Today, his vision is disturbingly prevalent.

In 1982, Louis Beam drove 500 miles from a rugged patch of Texas land near the Gulf of Mexico to another rugged patch of land in the Arkansas Ozarks. He was headed to “the Farm,” a remote 250-acre commune of white supremacists calling themselves the Covenant, the Sword and the Arm of the Lord. The C.S.A. was stockpiling weapons and training in guerrilla tactics to prepare for an imminent race war.

Mr. Beam was a small man, with a meticulously trimmed mustache. A former Grand Dragon of the Texas Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, he was by the early 1980s more concerned with networking and organizing strategies than membership in any one group. Across the country — in Idaho, Washington State, California and Arkansas — there were “patriots” ready and willing to do anything for the white cause, it was just a matter of connecting them. Mr. Beam and other white supremacist leaders wanted to harness their followers’ racist zeal without inviting the prying eyes of law enforcement.

The solution was in Mr. Beam’s car: a Commodore 64, one of the earliest personal computers. Using a dial-up modem and a phone line, anyone could sign on to a bulletin board system and read or write racist screeds. He was traveling the country to share the good news of the early internet.

“Imagine, if you will, all the great minds of the patriotic Christian movement linked together and joined into one computer,” Mr. Beam wrote in one of his early online essays. “Imagine any patriot in the country being able to call up and access these minds.”

For the past 40 years, there have been dueling narratives about white supremacists in the U.S.: dangerous or farcical. They are alternately seen as a hillbilly fringe with outsize ambitions for political revolution, and a savvy movement demanding constant vigilance.

While the media, nonprofits and law enforcement have juggled these two ideas, white-power organizers have been busy connecting, recruiting and working at the digital grindstone — speaking to and expanding their base for decades.

ny times logoNew York Times, As Trump Seeks to Remain a Political Force, New Targets Emerge, Maggie Haberman and Reid J. Epstein, Jan. 26, 2021 (print ed.). As former President Trump surveys the political landscape, there is a Senate opening in Ohio, an ally’s bid for Arkansas governor and scores to settle.

Former President Donald J. Trump, determined to remain a force in G.O.P. politics, is gaining new opportunities with a crucial Senate seat unexpectedly coming open in Ohio, an ally announcing for governor of Arkansas and rising pressure on Republicans in Congress who did not stand with him during this month’s impeachment vote.

republican elephant logoThe surprise announcement on Monday by Senator Rob Portman of Ohio that he would not seek a third term sparked a political land rush, with top strategists in the state receiving a flood of phone calls from potential candidates testing their viability. One consultant said he had received calls from five would-be candidates by midday.

That opening, along with another statewide contest next year in which Gov. Mike DeWine is expected to face at least one Trump-aligned primary challenger, is likely to make Ohio a central battleground for control of the Republican Party, and an inviting one for Mr. Trump, who held on to Ohio in the election while losing three other Northern battleground states.

Mr. Portman’s announcement came hours after Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Mr. Trump’s former White House press secretary, began her campaign for Arkansas governor. The Republican primary there already includes the state’s lieutenant governor and attorney general, but private polling indicates that Ms. Sanders is beginning well ahead, and Mr. Trump endorsed her candidacy on Monday night. 

 state dept map logo Small

usa today logoUSA TODAY, Senate confirms Antony Blinken as Biden's secretary of state, Deirdre Shesgreen, The Senate overwhelmingly confirmed Antony Blinken, below right, to be the nation’s 71st secretary of state Tuesday as lawmakers scrambled to approve President Joe Biden's Cabinet nominees before impeachment proceedings begin antony blinken oagainst his predecessor.

In a strong show of bipartisan support, the final Senate tally was 78 to 22 and included "yes" votes from several top Republicans.

"Mr. Blinken has a long and distinguished history when it comes to statecraft and foreign relations matters," said Idaho Sen. James Risch, the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "Certainly, he is very qualified for this job."

Blinken will become America’s top diplomat as the world confronts a confluence of threats: the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change and a great-power competition that increasingly pits the United States against China on trade, technology and other issues.

"He is the right person to repair and restore our alliances, to rebuild and renew the State Department," said Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., who will soon become chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.

Blinken will be charged with unraveling much of President Donald Trump's foreign policy, which made even some of his most ardent Republican supporters squeamish. Trump alienated U.S. allies, from Canada to Germany, and he embraced some of the world's most brutal dictators, including North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Trump withdrew from international agreements on arms control, climate change and trade, among other nettlesome global problems.

mike pompeo portraitThe 78-to-22 vote in favor of Blinken's nomination is particularly notable given that Trump's two nominees for secretary of state were confirmed by relatively narrow margins. Rex Tillerson, Trump's first secretary of state and the former CEO of Exxon Mobil, was confirmed 55 to 43. Mike Pompeo, right, a GOP congressman from Kansas, took the helm of the State Department on a vote of 57 to 42.

rand paul hs oSen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., left, emerged as Blinken's most vocal opponent. A libertarian who has long opposed U.S. military intervention, Paul suggested Blinken would lead the country into more messy foreign entanglements.

"Mr. Blinken has been a full-throated advocate of military intervention in the Middle East for 20 years," Paul said Tuesday on the Senate floor, citing Blinken's support for the U.S. military’s role in Iraq, Libya and Syria.

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden and Putin Speak, Agreeing to Extend Nuclear Treaty, Anton Troianovski, Jan. 26, 2021. President Biden and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia agreed to extend the last remaining nuclear arms treaty between their countries, but Mr. Biden confronted his counterpart over the poisoning of a Russian opposition leader and other issues, the White House said.

Vladimir PutinIt was the first call between the leaders of the world’s two nuclear superpowers since Mr. Biden’s inauguration. The New Start treaty, which limits the size of the two countries’ strategic nuclear arsenals, expires on Feb. 5, and the call appeared to seal a last-minute agreement to extend the treaty after the Trump administration declined to do so.

Russian FlagBut on a host of other high-stakes matters, Mr. Biden sent the message that he would be taking a harder line on Russia than his predecessor. He raised the poisoning of the Russian opposition leader Aleksei A. Navalny, whose arrest on Jan. 17 sparked protests across the country last weekend, the White House said.

He also spoke to Mr. Putin, right, about what American officials have described as a highly sophisticated hack of American government networks, reports of Russia placing bounties on American soldiers in Afghanistan, and what the White House said was “interference in the 2020 United States election.”

“President Biden made clear that the United States will act firmly in defense of its national interests in response to actions by Russia that harm us or our allies,” the White House statement said. “The two presidents agreed to maintain transparent and consistent communication going forward.”

The Kremlin’s statement on the call confirmed that the two leaders agreed to extend the New Start treaty, but did not mention the sources of tension that the White House said Mr. Biden had raised. Instead, the Kremlin emphasized what it said was a “businesslike and frank” call, echoing hopes in Moscow that Mr. Biden will lead a more professional and predictable administration than that of former president Donald J. Trump.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden now hopes for 1.5 million vaccinations a day, a big jump from earlier comments, Annie Linskey, Jan. 25, 2021. On Monday, President Biden said he could envision 1.5 million U.S. vaccinations per day. The recalibration reflects the reality that the country is already close to the million-a-day pace.

For weeks President Biden has emphasized that his goal for rolling out the coronavirus vaccine was an easy-to-remember 1 million shots a day, or 100 million vaccinations in his first 100 days. On Monday, he suggested a much faster clip, saying he could envision 1.5 million vaccinations per day.

“I think with the grace of God . . . we’ll be able to get that to 1.5 million a day,” Biden told reporters.

A million a day is still his minimum goal, Biden said, but “I hope we’ll be able to increase as we go along so we’ll get to 1.5 million. That’s my hope.”

The recalibration reflects the reality that the country is already close to the million-a-day pace, using procedures put in place by the Trump administration.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden to reopen ACA insurance marketplaces amid pandemic, Amy Goldstein, Jan. 26, 2021 (print ed.). The pandemic has deprived millions of Americans coverage as they have lost jobs in the economic fallout.

President Biden is scheduled to take executive actions as early as Thursday to reopen federal marketplaces selling Affordable Care Act health plans and to lower recent barriers to joining Medicaid.

The orders will be Biden’s first steps since taking office to help Americans gain health insurance, a prominent campaign goal that has assumed escalating significance as the pandemic has dramatized the need for affordable health care — and deprived millions of Americans coverage as they have lost jobs in the economic fallout.

Under one order, HealthCare.gov, the online insurance marketplace for Americans who cannot get affordable coverage through their jobs, will swiftly reopen for at least a few months, according to several individuals inside and outside the administration familiar with the plans. Ordinarily, signing up for such coverage is tightly restricted outside a six-week period late each year.

washington post logocdc logo CustomWashington Post, CDC finds scant coronavirus spread in schools, particularly with masks and distancing in place, Laura Meckler, Jan. 26, 2021. Some indoor athletics, however, have led to infections and should be curtailed if schools want to operate safely, researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concluded in newly published papers.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: Jan. 26, 2021), with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):

World Cases: 100,388,749, Deaths: 2,152,444
U.S. Cases:     25,863,646, Deaths:   431,408

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), an independent global health research center at the University of Washington. Projected total U.S. deaths, based on current scenario 459,324 by Feb. 1; 529,000 by March 1; 567,195 by April 1, 2021.

 

Trump Impeachment Politics

ny times logoNew York Times, G.O.P. Senators Vote en Masse Against Trying Trump, Suggesting He’ll Be Acquitted, Staff Reports, Jan. 26, 2021. Republicans vote en masse against trying Trump, signaling he is likely to be acquitted of the impeachment charge.

  • Capitol Police chief apologizes for security failures during the assault, including a delay in calling for Guard troops.
  • Biden announces new actions targeting racial inequality.
  • Biden calls Putin to discuss Navalny, government hack, Ukraine and ‘malign actions by Russia.’
  • Antony J. Blinken is confirmed as secretary of state.
  • Harris swears in Yellen as Treasury secretary, a first for women in both roles.
  • Gina M. Raimondo, Biden’s nominee for commerce secretary, testifies before the Senate.
  • More vaccines will go to states next week, showing companies are on track to deliver their pledged doses.
  • Fox gives a show to one former Trump aide, but shoots down claims it hired another.

In a 55 to 45 vote that strongly suggested that the Senate does not have the votes to convict the former president, senators narrowly killed a Republican effort to dismiss the impeachment charge as unconstitutional. The acting Capitol Police chief apologized to Congress for lapses that led to the siege on Jan. 6.

republican elephant logoThe opposition of all but a handful of Republicans underscored Mr. Trump’s continued strength in the party even after his brazen campaign to overturn his election defeat, fueled by false claims of voting fraud, and he left office with his party relegated to the minority in both houses of Congress.

Senators could yet change their views. But for now, the vote signaled the likelihood that Mr. Trump would for the second time in a year be acquitted by the Senate in an impeachment charge, spared by loyal Republicans who were reluctant to break with him. It would take two thirds of senators — 67 votes — to mitch mcconnellattain a conviction, meaning 17 Republicans would have to cross party lines to side with Democrats in finding him guilty.

Senator Mitch McConnell, right, Republican of Kentucky and the minority leader, is said to believe Mr. Trump committed impeachable offenses surrounding the deadly Capitol siege and has said he is undecided on the charge. Yet he voted with the vast majority of the party to uphold the constitutional challenge, which would have effectively terminated the trial if it had prevailed.

rand paul hs oSenator Rand Paul, left, Republican of Kentucky, forced the vote after arguing that it was unconstitutional to hold an impeachment trial of a former president, an assertion widely disputed by scholars and even the Senate itself in the past.

“Private citizens don’t get impeached. Impeachment is for removal from office, and the accused here has already left office,” Mr. Paul said, calling the trial “deranged” and vindictive.

“I want this body on record — every last person here,” he added. “Is this how you think politics should be?”

Among the Republicans who joined Democrats in voting to put aside the objection and proceed were Senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Susan Collins of Maine, Mitt Romney of Utah, Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Patrick Toomey of Pennsylvania.

“My review of it has led me to conclude it is constitutional in recognizing impeachment is not solely about removing a president, it is also a matter of political consequence,” said Ms. Murkowski, who has praised the House’s bipartisan impeachment.

The action unfolded just after the Senate convened as a court of impeachment and senators took an oath, dating to the 18th century, to administer “impartial justice.” Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont and the president pro tempore, was sworn in to preside over the proceeding and the Senate also formally summoned Mr. Trump to answer the House’s charge.

Senators were expected to put the trial on pause for two weeks, delaying any further debate on the matter. The pause will allow President Biden time to win confirmation of members of his administration and give Mr. Trump’s still-forming legal team a chance to prepare his defense.

— Nicholas Fandos

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Many Republicans are choosing collective amnesia of Jan. 6. That would be disastrous, Michael Gerson, right, Jan. 26, 2021 (print michael gerson file photoed.). The desire to erase the memory of unpleasant events is psychologically natural. But it would be disastrous in a democracy under continuing threat.

The Capitol insurrection — and the broader attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election — lies like an undigested lump in the gut of our political system.

How can we be asked to forget events that we haven’t fully processed? The president of the United States, with the broad approval of GOP leaders, systematically attempted to invalidate millions of votes from disproportionately minority voters. When that effort failed, Trump invited a mob to Washington, whipped up its resentments, directed it toward Capitol Hill, urged it to intimidate legislators and disrupt a constitutional process, challenged it to “fight,” and then refused to intervene while domestic terrorists hunted for Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in the hallways of the Capitol.

Would Republican senators still want the country to put these events behind it if 20 Capitol Police officers had been beaten to death rather than one? If Pelosi had actually been zip-tied and held hostage? If Pence had been murdered? At what point would executive incitement of a violent mob to intimidate the legislative branch meet GOP senators’ exacting standards for conviction? For what similar actions by a Democratic president would they allow bygones to be bygones?

The problem here is a general lack of Republican shame. In everyday life, shame is a generally unhealthy emotion. In a politician, it is irreplaceable.

washington post logoWashington Post, Pentagon restricted commander of D.C. Guard ahead of Capitol riot, Paul Sonne, Jan. 26, 2021. In the run-up to the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, Maj. Gen. William J. Walker said he was prohibited from taking urgent action without higher level sign-off.

The commander of the D.C. National Guard said the Pentagon restricted his authority ahead of the riot at the U.S. Capitol, requiring higher-level sign-off to respond that cost time as the events that day spiraled out of control.

Local commanders typically have the power to take military action on their own to save lives or prevent significant property damage in an urgent situation when there isn’t enough time to obtain approval from headquarters.

But Maj. Gen. William J. Walker, the commanding general of the District of Columbia National Guard, said the Pentagon essentially took that power and other authorities away from him ahead of a pro-Trump protest on Jan. 6. That meant he couldn’t immediately roll out troops when he received a panicked phone call from the Capitol Police chief warning that rioters were about to enter the U.S. Capitol.

djt virus trump did it Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: On impeachment, Republican senators are as spineless as ever, Jennifer Rubin, right, Jan. 26, 2021. The majority of Senate jennifer rubin new headshotRepublicans remain every bit as timorous and intellectually slippery as they were in 2020 when they voted to acquit Donald Trump and when they sought to overturn the election, claiming they were merely “asking questions” about the legitimacy of the results. (The way to merely ask questions is to merely ask questions, not to reject the will of the voters.) Hence, you see a flock of Republicans now declare that convicting a president for sedition after he left office is “unconstitutional.”

Let’s unpack this.

First, Republicans are wrong. A well-balanced and detailed report by the Congressional Research Service recalls:

The House has never impeached, nor has the Senate ever tried, a former President. However, both chambers have previously determined that they retain power to proceed against an executive branch official that has resigned from office.

Second, the empty objection to the trial on the grounds that it would set a “dangerous precedent” has it backward. Allowing a president to attempt sedition for the purposes of retaining office with absolutely no penalty would be as frightening an invitation as one could imagine to future presidents and their enablers.

Third, most Republican senators, especially slick lawyers such as Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), understand both of the foregoing points.

Democrats should call Republicans’ bluff. To make this user-friendly, present the stipulation in the form of a five-to-six-minute video, easily accessible for ordinary voters.

ny times logoNew York Times, Capitol Police chief apologizes for security failures during the assault, including a delay in calling for Guard troops, Luke Broadwater, Emily Cochrane and Adam Goldman, Jan. 26, 2021. The acting Capitol Police chief, Yogananda D. Pittman, told a House panel that the agency “failed to meet its own high standards as well as yours.”

The acting chief of the Capitol Police apologized to Congress on Tuesday for the agency’s massive security failures on Jan. 6, acknowledging during a closed-door briefing that the department knew there was a “strong potential for violence” but failed to take adequate steps to prevent what she described as a “terrorist attack.”

yogananda pittmanYogananda D. Pittman, left, the acting chief of police, also confirmed that the Capitol Police Board, an obscure panel made up of three voting members, had initially declined a request two days earlier for National Guard troops and then delayed for more than an hour as the violence unfolded on Jan. 6 before finally agreeing to a plea from the Capitol Police for National Guard troops, according to prepared testimony obtained by The New York Times.

In an extraordinary admission, Chief Pittman, who was not the acting chief at the time of the siege, told members of the House Appropriations Committee, which oversees funding for the agency, that the Capitol Police “failed to meet its own high standards as well as yours.” She added, “I am here to offer my sincerest apologies on behalf of the department.” steve sund recroppedChief Pittman’s predecessor, Steven Sund, right, resigned after the riot.

Chief Pittman’s comments offered the fullest detailed account to date about police preparations for Jan. 6, when thousands of angry protesters, believing false claims that the election had been stolen, marched on the Capitol at the behest of former President Donald J. Trump.

Speaking by video conference in a virtual briefing, Chief Pittman told the committee that the department “should have been more prepared for this attack,” according to the remarks.

Chief Pittman said that her department knew Jan. 6 would be unlike previous protests. She said her department knew that militia groups and white supremacists organizations would descend on Washington.

“We also knew that some of these participants were intending to bring firearms and other weapons to the event,” she said. “We knew that there was a strong potential for violence and that Congress was the target. The department prepared in order to meet these challenges, but we did not do enough.”

She said the Capitol Police had 1,200 people working on site when the attack occurred, which was “no match” for “the tens of thousands of insurrectionists.”

Two days before the attack, Chief Sund requested that the Capitol Police Board declare a state of emergency and authorize a request to secure National Guard support. The board denied the request, according to Chief Pittman, but encouraged Chief Sund to contact the National Guard to determine how many guardsmen could be sent to the Capitol on short notice, which he did.

As the protesters became an increasing threat to the Capitol on Jan. 6, Chief Sund asked for more help from federal agencies and law enforcement agencies in the area. “He also lobbied the board for authorization to bring in the National Guard, but he was not granted authorization for over an hour,” Chief Pittman said.

During the hearing, the commander of the District of Columbia National Guard told committee members that his authority to quickly deploy the guard was removed ahead of the riot. Maj. Gen. William J. Walker, the commanding general of the D.C. National Guard, said he had such authority for July 4, but the Pentagon required additional approval for a request for the guard during the Capitol attack, according to a person familiar with the testimony.

General Walker testified that Chief Sund called him as the threat to the Capitol increased on Jan. 6 and that he immediately notified the Army.

“On my own, I started preparing people to be ready, but I had to wait for specific approval to go out to launch,” General Walker said. “I was in constant communication with the U.S. Army leadership who was acting on behalf of the Secretary of the Army.”

Two of the board members at the time of the attack have already resigned: Paul D. Irving, the House sergeant-at-arms, and Michael C. Stenger, the Senate sergeant-at-arms. The third member, J. Brett Blanton, the Architect of the Capitol, is still on the board. Mr. Blanton was nominated by Mr. Trump in December 2019 and confirmed by the Senate that same month. The chief of the Capitol Police serves in an ex-officio, non-voting capacity.

“In my experience, I do not believe there was any preparations that would have allowed for an open campus in which lawful protesters could exercise their First Amendment right to free speech and at the same time prevented the attack on Capitol grounds that day,” Chief Pittman said.

In the aftermath of the attack, many officers are suffering from PTSD, she said, “particularly after the loss of two of our officers directly and indirectly as a result of the events of January 6th.” Officers also have been experiencing an increase in coronavirus infections.

michael sherwin pool sarah silbiger

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. prosecutors eye 400 potential suspects, expect sedition charges ‘very soon’ in Jan. 6 Capitol breach, Spencer S. Hsu, Rachel Weiner and Devlin Barrett, Jan. 26, 2021. In charging papers, prosecutors have identified a dozen members or affiliates of right-wing groups, including the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers and Three Percenters.

U.S. authorities have opened case files on at least 400 potential suspects and expect to bring sedition charges against some “very soon” in the sprawling investigation of the Jan. 6 breach of the U.S. Capitol, officials said.

Acting U.S. attorney Michael R. Sherwin (shown above in a pool file photo) said Tuesday at a news conference that while new arrests in the nationwide manhunt will soon “plateau” after an initial wave of 135 arrests and 150 federal criminally charged cases, investigations continue into whether different “militia groups [and] individuals” from several states conspired and coordinated the illegal assault on Congress beforehand.

Justice Department log circularIn charging papers, prosecutors have already identified a dozen members or affiliates of right-wing groups, including the Proud Boys — a nationalist, “Western chauvinist” group — and the anti-government Oath Keepers and Three Percenters, which recruit heavily among former military and law enforcement personnel. Sherwin suggested that seditious conspiracy charges are pending and, without commenting on grand jury indictments, said that “the results will bear fruit very soon.”

Federal law makes conspiring to overthrow or oppose by force federal authority punishable by up to 20 years in prison, including the use of violence to prevent, hinder or delay the execution of law.

Sherwin, the top federal prosecutor in D.C., gave reporters an update on the probe, alongside FBI Washington Field Office head Steven D’Antuono, roughly three weeks after mobs of Trump supporters overran police lines and smashed their way into the U.S. Capitol.

The riot disrupted the certification of Joe Biden’s electoral college victory and led to the evacuation of lawmakers and assaults on roughly 139 police ashli babbittofficers. It also resulted in five deaths, including Capitol Police Officer Brian D. Sicknick and a California woman, Ashli Babbitt, right, who was shot by an officer while climbing through a window leading to an inner room of the House.

Law enforcement officials have estimated that roughly 800 people entered the Capitol without authorization, The Washington Post reported Sunday.

Speaking via teleconference Tuesday, officials declined to confirm that figure, saying that the total remained fluid pending video and other analysis. But D’Antuono confirmed that the FBI has opened subject case files on more than 400 individuals with the help of more than 200,000 public tips, among other sources.

Prosecutors have obtained more than 500 grand jury subpoenas and search warrants, and charged dozens for assaulting police, a number Sherwin said would quickly grow.

Also Monday, a Texas man charged in the attack was ordered held without bail after apologizing for urging the assassination of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) on Twitter; he blamed former president Donald Trump for his actions.

garret miller photo facebook us district court“I am ashamed of my comments,” Garret Miller, 34, of Richardson, Tex., right, said in a statement released by attorney Clint Broden. “I believed I was following the instructions of former president Trump and he was my president and the commander-in-chief. His statements also had me believing the election was stolen from him.

“Nevertheless, I fully recognize Joe Biden is now the President of the United States and that the election is over,” Miller continued. He said he never intended to harm Ocasio-Cortez nor police, apologized to both, and called his social media posts “completely inappropriate.”

Miller tweeted “Assassinate AOC” on Jan. 6, according to charging papers. Afterward, he threatened an officer online, writing that if he got his hands on the officer, he would “hug his neck with a nice rope,” court documents said.

On Jan. 16, he wrote on Facebook that “its huntin season” and that the officer “deserve[s] to die,” prosecutors alleged.

ny times logoNew York Times, Proud Boys Under Growing Scrutiny in Capitol Riot Investigation, Alan Feuer and Frances Robles, Jan. 26, 2021. The leadership of the Proud Boys has come under increased scrutiny as agents and prosecutors across the country try to determine how closely members of the far-right nationalist group communicated during the riot at the Capitol this month and to what extent they might have planned the assault in advance, according to federal law enforcement officials.

joe biggs justice departmentAt least six members of the organization have been charged in connection with the riot, including one of its top-ranking leaders, Joseph Biggs. Mr. Biggs, shown at right in an FBI photo, a U.S. Army veteran, led about 100 men on an angry march from the site of President Donald J. Trump’s speech toward — and then into — the Capitol building.

The Proud Boys, who have a history of scuffling with left-wing antifascist activists, have long been some of Mr. Trump’s most vocal, and violent, supporters, and he has returned the favor, telling them during one of the presidential debates to “stand back and stand by.” Along with the right-wing militia the Oath Keepers, the Proud Boys was one of the extremist groups with a large presence at the Capitol incursion, investigators said.

Despite having launched one of the most sprawling inquiries in American history, investigators have yet to unearth clear-cut evidence suggesting there was a widespread conspiracy to assault the Capitol on Jan. 6.

capitol peter stager

Palmer Report, Opinion: Here come sedition charges in the U.S. Capitol terrorist attack, Bill Palmer, Jan. 26, 2021. In the three weeks since the domestic terrorist attack on the U.S. Capitol, more than a hundred participants have been arrested for their roles. But most of the criminal charges have been of the lesser, easier to prove variety, such as trespassing or violent entry.

bill palmer report logo headerWe’ve been hoping this was merely because the Feds wanted to quickly get the arrests rolling with the basic charges, and that we’d end up seeing superseding indictments with the more serious charges. Sure enough, the first conspiracy charges have come down in recent days. Now here come the sedition charges.

The Acting U.S. Attorney for Washington DC announced today that he expects to bring the first sedition charges as early as next week, according to NBC News. Sedition charges can result in twenty year prison sentences, and will send a message to future would-be Capitol stormers that their lives will effectively be over if they ever try such a thing.

Sedition charges could also lay the legal groundwork for bringing incitement of sedition charges against those who specifically urged the terrorists to descend on the Capitol, such as Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and Josh Hawley. We’ll see where this goes. But it’s clearly still just getting started.

 

U.S. Politics, Governance, Civic Life

 

chuck schumer resized smile

Palmer Report, Opinion: So this is what winning looks like, Bill Palmer, Jan. 26, 2021 Even as Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was insisting that he was bill palmersomehow still in control of the Senate, Palmer Report urged everyone to simply call McConnell’s bluff and get behind the hard charging new Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, above. Sure enough, Schumer found a way to make McConnell realize his bluff wasn’t working, and McConnell caved.

And so now the rules of the Senate will be entirely in the hands of the fifty Democratic Senators. Manchin and Sinema are still publicly bill palmer report logo headersaying they don’t want to get rid of the filibuster for now, but so be it. McConnell dropped his demand for a requirement that the filibuster be kept intact. This means that the first time some idiot like Ted Cruz tries a filibuster, Manchin and Sinema can reverse course, saying they were left with no choice. It’ll allow them to look reasonable in the eyes of the moderate voters in their home states, thus ensuring their reelection. It’s simply how things work.

Even as the filibuster conversation will play out in the coming days or weeks, the reality is that Senate Democrats can ram through just about anything they want, just by adding some budgetary component to the legislation so they have an excuse to use budget reconciliation to pass it with just 50 votes (with VP Kamala Harris as the tiebreaker).

The point is that Chuck Schumer and the Senate Democrats have won, without having to formally give up anything to McConnell, beyond letting him save a little artificial face. All we had to do was give Schumer the room to use his leverage, which he did, and now the Democrats can do anything they want.

This is what winning looks like. We should get used to it, embrace it, crave it, seek more of it. Winning requires strategizing, and getting behind our Democratic elected leaders so their leverage increases – all while resisting the urge to inaccurately attack our leaders, which only weakens their position while they’re trying to negotiate. If we’re smart with our activism, these next few years can be among the most productive we’ve ever had.

washington post logoWashington Post, One coal state senator holds the key to Biden’s climate agenda. And it’s not Mitch McConnell, Sarah Kaplan and Dino Grandoni, Jan. 26, 2021 (print ed.). In a 50-50 Senate, West Virginia moderate Joe Manchin (D) is set to become the most powerful person in Washington. He'll determine much of what President Biden can achieve -- particularly when it comes to climate change.

joe manchin oHe’s a coal country native, born to a family of mining town mayors. As West Virginia governor, he sued the Environmental Protection Agency. He has scuttled efforts to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, criticized the Paris climate agreement and famously shot a copy of a cap-and-trade carbon proposal full of lead.

democratic donkey logoNow the fate of the most ambitious climate agenda ever proposed by an American president rests in his hands.

Sen. Joe Manchin III, right, who is set to become chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, is a conservative Democrat from one of the reddest states in the country. In a Senate split 50-50, Manchin is also a crucial swing vote on contentious legislation, defining the limits of what President Biden and the Democrats can accomplish. Over the weekend, he led a bipartisan, bicameral group of lawmakers in talks with the White House over its proposed $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Helping Kids Is a Very Good Idea, Paul Krugman, right, Jan. 26, 2021 (print ed.). Republicans won’t support the Democrats’ proposal, paul krugmanbut they should. Shouldn’t politicians who claim to be terribly worried about the future of America’s children support, you know, actually helping America’s children today?

That’s not a hypothetical question. Democrats are reportedly working on legislation that would offer monthly payments to most American families with children, and could, among other things, cut child poverty roughly in half.

One especially good thing about the legislation in the works is that Democrats finally seem to have broken free of Republican framing, under which every benefit takes the form of a tax credit. This will apparently be a straightforward proposal to send money to qualifying families.

Assuming that Democrats can eventually get past Mitch McConnell’s attempt to, in effect, prevent the party that won the election from taking control of the Senate, Republicans will soon have to vote on this legislation. How will they justify voting no?

ny times logoNew York Times, From Navy SEAL to Part of the Angry Mob, Dave Philipps, Jan. 26, 2021 (print ed.). The presence of a member of the Navy SEALs who was trained to identify misinformation reflects the partisanship that helped lead to the Capitol attack.

In the weeks since Adam Newbold, a former member of the Navy SEALs, was identified as part of the enraged crowd that descended on the Capitol on Jan. 6, he has been interviewed by the F.B.I. and has resigned under pressure from jobs as a mentor and as a volunteer wrestling coach. He expects his business to lose major customers over his actions.

But none of it has shaken his belief, against all evidence, that the presidential election was stolen and that people like him were right to rise up.

It is surprising because Mr. Newbold’s background would seem to armor him better than most against the lure of baseless conspiracy theories. In the Navy, he was trained as an expert in sorting information from disinformation, a clandestine commando who spent years working in intelligence paired with the C.I.A., and he once mocked the idea of shadowy antidemocratic plots as “tinfoil hat” thinking.

Even so, like thousands of others who surged to Washington this month to support President Donald J. Trump, Mr. Newbold bought into the fabricated theory that the election was rigged by a shadowy cabal of liberal power brokers who had pushed the nation to the precipice of civil war. No one could persuade him otherwise.

Photos from the Capitol show Mr. Newbold wearing a black “We the People” T-shirt and straddling a Capitol Police motorcycle, just a few steps from where officers were battling with rioters.

Mr. Newbold says he did not enter the Capitol, and he has not been charged with any crimes. But his presence there reflects the volatile brew of partisan politics and viral misinformation that helped lead to the assault.

One striking aspect of the angry crowd at the Capitol was how many of its members seemed to come not from the fringes of American society but from white picket-fence Main Street backgrounds — firefighters and real estate agents, a marketing executive and a Town Council member, all captivated by flimsy conspiracy theories. Mr. Newbold’s presence showed just how persuasive the rigged-election story had grown.

rand paul cbs 1 10 2016

Palmer Report, Opinion: Rand Paul and the bad faith Republican plot to “own the libs,” Robert Harrington, below right, Jan. 26, 2021. Now that it has achieved meme-status, the phrase “owning the libs” has evolved to be defined as the obstruction of, domination of and confounding of all things not in line with the Republican agenda. robert harringtnn portraitWhether or not individual Republicans use the phrase, they use the idea. To them a moral or political question is decided not on its merits but on its party.

Had Republicans won the 2020 presidential election there would be no question about election fraud, unless they felt they had not won by a sufficiently large margin. There wouldn’t have been 65 lawsuits alleging widespread voter fraud, even if there had been widespread voter fraud. But because they lost, the question of voter fraud has become an endless one, one for which there can never be a sufficient number of investigations to satisfy them.

bill palmer report logo headerI make this charge with evidence. Hillary Clinton was investigated six times by Republicans for her role in the Benghazi attacks and in each she was cleared. Yet to this day Republicans still insist that she was criminally culpable for the attacks. Their attitude toward her supposed culpability is no different than it would be had the six investigations never taken place. Six or sixty investigations, the Republican position on Benghazi remains unfalsifiable to this day. To them Hillary Clinton is unclearable, no matter what.

So Rand Paul’s ostensibly reasonable insistence on Sunday to George Stephanopoulos that election integrity in the 2020 presidential election be investigated is freighted with bad faith. Specifically, Paul (shown above in a file photo) said, “What I would suggest is if we want greater confidence in our elections — and 75 percent of Republicans agree with me — is that we do need to look into election integrity and [we] do need to see if we can restore confidence in the elections.”

republican elephant logoHowever reasonable his claim may sound on the surface — and when they can, Republicans endeavour to sound oh-so-reasonable — it is in reality, as I say, freighted with bad faith. He dismisses the very reasonable claim that 65 lawsuits filed in various courts constitute sufficient investigations by saying that “most of them were thrown out for procedural reasons.” But some of them were not. And the ones that were not were dismissed on merit.

Rand’s point, really, if you held his feet to the fire, is that however many of the cases were thrown out on merit, that number isn’t enough. If ten were thrown out on merit then he would require twenty. Again, we know this because six Benghazi investigations weren’t enough either.

At what point do Republicans stop? Whether it’s Benghazi investigations or alleged election fraud investigations, they never stop until or unless one of the investigations uncovers exactly what they want, Hillary’s criminal culpability or proof of widespread election fraud. Until then, they will never, ever be satisfied.

Had Rand Paul really been concerned about America’s confidence in the integrity of the election he would have objected to Donald Trump’s incessant claims that the election was fraudulent months before it even took place. He wants the election to be investigated until fraud is found, period. If no fraud is found then he wants the investigations to continue. Again, we know this because of Benghazi, and everything else like it.

This is the game of “owning the libs.” The problem with owning the libs is that it comes with a cost: losing America. The headlong Republican pursuit of power has trampled everything sacred about America. Not even the sacking of the Capitol by thousands of Republican thugs is enough to give them pause. No price is too high and no depth is too low in their headlong pursuit. In the end the American people lose.

This is why Republicans who were criminally involved must go to prison for their part in the failed coup of January 6th. Nothing short of this is ever going to stop them.

washington post logoWashington Post, Federal court temporarily blocks Biden’s 100-day deportation ‘pause,’ Nick Miroff, Jan. 26, 2021. A federal judge in Texas blocked President Biden’s 100-day deportation “pause” on Tuesday, dealing a blow to one of his administration’s most significant early immigration moves.

Judge Drew Tipton, a Trump appointee, granted a temporary restraining order sought by Texas attorney general Ken Paxton. The order will be in effect for 14 days while the judge considers a broader motion by the state for a preliminary injunction.

Paxton, a close Trump ally, celebrated the ruling as a “victory” and declared Texas “the first state in the nation to bring a lawsuit against the Biden (administration). AND WE WON.”

As one of his first executive actions, Biden ordered U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to halt most deportations from the interior of the United States for 100 days.

 

U.S. Media, Education News

ny times logoNew York Times, Marty Baron Will Retire From The Washington Post, Katie Robertson, Jan. 26, 2021. After a storied journalism career that took him to newsrooms across the country, The Post’s executive editor, 66, said he would depart on Feb. 28.

martin baron at 2018 pulitzers wikimedia commonsMartin Baron, right, a newsroom giant who led The Washington Post, The Boston Globe and The Miami Herald to numerous Pulitzer Prizes in a storied journalism career, said on Tuesday that he would retire on Feb. 28 after eight years as The Post’s executive editor.

“At age 66, I feel ready to move on,” he said in a note to the newspaper’s staff.

Mr. Baron said that he had joined the paper with “a reverence for The Post’s heritage of courage and independence and feeling an inviolable obligation to uphold its values,” and that the news staff had delivered “the finest journalism.”

“You stood firm against cynical, never-ending assaults on objective fact,” he wrote.

His years as executive editor started in January 2013, weeks before former President Barack Obama was sworn in for a second term, and spanned all of President Donald J. Trump’s time in the White House. Mr. Trump frequently denigrated The Post, calling it “fake news,” “the enemy of the people” and “crazed and dishonest,” among other insults. In 2017, The Post adopted the first official slogan in its more than 140-year history: “Democracy Dies in Darkness.”

Mr. Baron’s decision to leave did not come as a surprise. He had previously committed to staying at the paper only through the 2020 election.

ny times logoNew York Times, Deborah Rhode, Who Transformed the Field of Legal Ethics, Dies at 68, Clay Risen, Jan. 26, 2021 (print ed.). A Stanford professor, she pushed the legal profession to confront the ways it failed clients and to be more inclusive of women.

deborah l rhode resizedDeborah L. Rhode, right, a law professor who transformed the field of legal ethics from little more than a crib sheet for passing the bar exam into an empirically rich, morally rigorous investigation into how lawyers should serve the public, died on Jan. 8 at her home in Stanford, Calif. She was 68.

Her husband, Ralph Cavanagh, confirmed her death but said the cause had not yet been determined.

With 30 books and some 200 law review articles to her name, Professor Rhode, who spent over four decades teaching at Stanford, was by far the most-cited scholar in legal ethics, with a work ethic that astounded even her hard-charging colleagues.

“She was done with all her chapters before I started mine,” said David J. Luban, a law professor at Georgetown and one of her co-authors on Legal Ethics, a casebook now in its eighth edition.

To Professor Rhode, the core issues in legal ethics were not about bar association rules, but the politics and interests behind those rules, especially those that limited who could practice law and how lawyers should go about providing services to people who could not afford them.

“In her view, it wasn’t enough to memorize rules or espouse airy principles," said Nora Freeman Engstrom, a fellow law professor at Stanford. “Legal ethics — and legal ethics scholars — would have to refocus on what matters: access to justice, integrity, accountability, and equality.”

Professor Rhode was a relentless critic of the American Bar Association, which she believed was too focused on barriers to entry that undermined innovation and kept legal fees high. Such was her intellectual standing that in 2014 the association nevertheless gave her its Outstanding Scholar Award.

She was equally concerned with issues of gender in the legal profession, a subject she knew well from deep personal experience. As one of a handful of women at Yale Law School in the mid-1970s, and later as only the second woman to receive tenure at Stanford Law School, she found herself constantly harassed, demeaned and excluded by colleagues.

When she arrived at Stanford in 1979, she had wanted to teach gender and the law, but the dean refused, telling her to pick a “real subject,” as she recalled. She agreed to teach contracts instead, but changed her mind two years later when the dean retired and several alumni threw him a party — and invited a stripper.

“I said to hell with contracts,” she later wrote.

But progress on gender-equity issues brought its own complications. As women made their way into law firms and legal faculties, among other professions, during the 1980s and ’90s, it became easy to conclude that sex discrimination had disappeared, or was fast on its way to disappearing — what Professor Rhode referred to as the “no-problem problem.”

One of Professor Rhode’s best known books grew out of an Op-Ed for The New York Times about her distaste for high heels and the social mores that demand women wear them.

Through law review articles and countless opinion pieces in publications like The New York Times, The New Republic and Slate, she documented the barriers that women still faced, among them unconscious bias, unequal pay, lack of mentors, stereotypes and inflexible workplace structures.

ny times logoNew York Times, Tired of Waiting on the City, Shelters Solved a Wi-Fi Problem Themselves, Andy Newman, Jan. 25, 2021. New York City said it was “impossible” to quickly install reliable internet for thousands of homeless students. Some shelters proved them wrong.

School days at the Diallo sisters’ apartment in the Bronx can be hectic. Still, the family’s remote-learning setup works.

At Aaron Morris’s apartment at a shelter in East Flatbush, Brooklyn, it’s a different story. Aaron, 15, is still getting kicked offline many times a day, and it has affected his grades — and his moods.

“It upsets me to the point I just want to quit and not go to school at all,” he said earlier this month.

Providing reliable internet access to the city’s 111,000 children in homeless shelters and unstable housing has been one of the most stubborn obstacles to getting online schooling right, and for many students there’s no relief in sight. The city belatedly started putting Wi-Fi in 200 family shelters in November and says it won’t finish until the end of summer, after a second pandemic school year has come and gone.

In November, when a lawsuit demanded that the city speed up and complete the Wi-Fi project by early January, the city protested that it was being asked to “perform the impossible,” listing 14 bureaucratic hurdles to be cleared at each shelter before installation could even begin.

But operators who collectively run more than a dozen of the city’s 200 family shelters have proved it is not impossible at all.

washington post logoWashington Post, Major Internet outages hit the East Coast, causing issues for Verizon, Zoom, Slack, Gmail, Rachel Lerman, Jan. 26, 2021. People across the East Coast were having trouble accessing core Internet services Tuesday morning, just as they were logging on for work and school.

Users reported trouble loading Gmail, Slack and Zoom — apps that have become necessities to keep work-from-home life running smoothly during the coronavirus pandemic.

The issue seemed to be stemming from problems with the Verizon Fios Internet service, though the company did not quickly confirm issues. Verizon’s customer support team said on Twitter on Tuesday that a fiber had been cut in Brooklyn, which could possibly account for some of the issues.

Internet speeds and access started gradually coming back to normal performance after about an hour of the outages. Many services were back to operating as usual by midafternoon.

World Socialist Web Site (WSWS), Commentary: Facebook restores service to socialist pages, claiming the purge was an “automation error,” Andre Damon, Jan. 26, 2021.  Facebook backed down in the face of public protests but failed to provide a credible explanation for its actions.

On Monday, following widespread protests, Facebook restored the page of the International Youth and Students for Social Equality (IYSSE) at the University of Michigan, along with the accounts of leading members of the IYSSE and the Socialist Equality Party (SEP).

In response to inquiries made by the Financial Times in Britain, Facebook claimed the removals were the result of an “automation error,” adding, “We apologise for the error.”
The FT carried a report on Facebook's censorship of the WSWS

The restoration of service came two days after Facebook disabled these pages without any explanation and without providing any recourse. Among the individual pages deleted were those of IYSSE National Secretary Genevieve Leigh and World Socialist Web Site (WSWS) US Managing Editor Niles Niemuth.

Statements on the WSWS denouncing the political purge were shared thousands of times on social media, in addition to a flood of letters and statements of support from workers, young people, journalists and professionals.

The FT reported the controversy in a front-page article titled, “Facebook sparks anger after shutting socialist pages.” The newspaper interviewed both David North, the chairman of the WSWS International Editorial Board, and Chris Marsden, the national secretary of the SEP (UK).

“Even though this particular ban has been [reversed], it’s a warning we don’t know what might come next,” the article quoted North as saying. “Social media… is privately owned but to all intents and purposes it’s [become] what used to be the market square,” Marsden said. “They’re using their power in a way that’s completely undemocratic.”

Facebook’s claim that its disabling of the accounts was merely the product of a technical glitch lacks all credibility and is patently dishonest. The social media company had clearly invested time and resources to identifying leading members of the SEP, IYSSE and WSWS.

The claim is belied by the repeated statements of Facebook officials, both in congressional hearings and before military audiences, that Facebook deliberately seeks to combat what it calls “radical” political viewpoints.

 

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, Unequal access to vaccines could cost trillions in global losses, report warns, Erin Cunningham, Jan. 26, 2021. Battles have emerged between nations over limited supplies of the most effective vaccines.

South Africa’s leader accused developed countries Tuesday of hoarding much-needed coronavirus vaccines at the expense of poorer nations, as a new study warned that unequal access to the doses could cost the global economy trillions of dollars.

Speaking at a virtual meeting of the World Economic Forum, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa called on wealthy nations to release any excess doses “so that other countries can have them.”

“The rich countries of the world went out and acquired large doses of vaccines. … Some countries even acquired up to four times what their population needs,” he said.

“We are all not safe if some countries are vaccinating their people and other countries are not vaccinating,” Ramaphosa continued. “We all must act together in combating the virus.”

The president’s remarks came amid growing battles among nations over limited supplies of the most effective vaccines against the coronavirus, which has infected nearly 100 million people and killed more than 2 million worldwide.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Biden already faces war powers questions, Olivier Knox, Jan. 26, 2021. The president has ordered a potentially consequential “review” of whether the Taliban are keeping up their end of a February 2020 agreement calling for a U.S. and NATO withdrawal by May.
On his way out the door, Donald Trump declined to send Congress a public list of U.S. combat deployments abroad and ordered U.S. troop levels in Iraq and Afghanistan down to 2,500 in each country — both issues now on Biden’s plate.

The Delaware Democrat, long an advocate of extricating the United States from Afghanistan, has ordered a potentially consequential “review” of whether the Taliban is keeping its end of a February 2020 agreement calling for a U.S. and NATO withdrawal by May. Implicit in that decision is the possibility that the president could hold off if the Taliban is not.

ny times logoNew York Times, Mexico’s President Has Covid-19. Will He Take the Disease More Seriously? Maria Abi-Habib and Oscar Lopez, Jan. 26, 2021. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has played down the pandemic, and many Mexicans wonder if his own illness will change his mind since he can count on the quality care that many struggle to find.

With the president now infected, what most aggrieved many Mexicans was not only that he had flouted basic safety precautions, but that he also may go back to playing down the threat that the surging pandemic poses after his own illness.

They noted that with top-notch medical care delivered at his living quarters, the president may well recover. But their loved ones, on the other hand, will struggle to get the most basic care, whether a bed at an overflowing hospital or just the supplies like oxygen that might help them survive at home.

“My dad believed him — he believed him that nothing would happen by not wearing a mask,” said Lilia Ramírez Díaz, who was making the second trip of the day to refill an oxygen tank for her diabetic father, battling Covid-19 at home.

“They both got sick,” she said, but the president “doesn’t have to go around looking and begging for an oxygen tank.”

A devastated Mexico is struggling to rein in the pandemic. Three days before the president disclosed his own infection on Sunday, the authorities announced more than 1,800 coronavirus deaths, breaking the record of single-day deaths set just days earlier.

washington post logoWashington Post, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte to resign, leaving nation without a stable government to guide pandemic response, Chico Harlan, Jan. 26, 2021 (print ed.). Conte directed pandemic decision-making while trying to hold warring political factions together. Conte’s decision leaves Italy with no straightforward path to reestablishing a workable government, all while the country tries to manage the pandemic’s health crisis and a vaccine campaign that has slowed because of Pfizer-BioNTech shortages.

guiseppe conteThere is still a chance Conte, right, could return as prime minister of a recomposed government. But, just as likely, a party that had recently defected from his coalition could return to the fold — with somebody else replacing Conte at the top. If those options fail, the country could usher in some kind of unelected unity government.

Or, Italians could be going back to the polls, where the far right would be favored to win power.

Italy over the past year has endured one of the world’s highest coronavirus death tolls, 85,000, while also sustaining a collapse in tourism and a worst-on-record economic slowdown.


 U.S. Law, Courts

 

leon black jeffrey epstein

Leon Black, CEO and co-founder of Apolloa Global Management, and the late sex offender Jeffrey Epstein (file photos).

ny times logoNew York Times, Apollo C.E.O. to Step Down After Firm Finds More Payments to Jeffrey Epstein, Matthew Goldstein and Katherine Rosman, Jan. 26, 2021 (print ed.). An inquiry’s finding that Leon Black, the billionaire boss of Apollo Global Management, paid the convicted sex offender $158 million touched off an attempt to remove him.

The founders of Apollo Global Management, one of the world’s biggest private equity firms, engaged in a brief power struggle this weekend over control of the firm, a rift that opened up after an inquiry revealed that one founder — Apollo’s chief executive and chairman, Leon Black — had paid more than $150 million jeffrey epstein sex offenderto the convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, right.

On Monday, Mr. Black announced his plan to step down as chief executive this year. “I have advised the Apollo board that I will retire as C.E.O. on or before my 70th birthday in July and remain as chairman,” he said in a statement.

The review — ordered by the firm’s board at Mr. Black’s behest in October, after The New York Times detailed at least $75 million in payments — found that Mr. Black had paid Mr. Epstein $158 million in a five-year period ending in 2017. He had also lent Mr. Epstein more than $30 million, only $10 million of which was paid back, the report found.

Mr. Black’s payments effectively bankrolled the lifestyle of Mr. Epstein — whom Mr. Black viewed as a “confirmed bachelor with eclectic tastes,” according to the report — in the years after his 2008 guilty plea in Florida to a prostitution charge involving a teenage girl.

leon black black and whiteAlso, Mr. Black, shown at left in a company photo, believed that Mr. Epstein had “served his time” for that case and deserved a second chance, the report said. It found there was no evidence that Mr. Black had participated in any of Mr. Epstein’s criminal activities, or that Mr. Epstein had ever introduced Mr. Black to any underage girl.

The details of their financial dealings — Mr. Epstein’s advice was worth perhaps $2 billion in tax savings to Mr. Black, according to the report — created friction between Mr. Black and one of Apollo’s other founders, Joshua Harris, according to three people briefed on the discussions. In recent months, Apollo investors had begun openly questioning the financial ties between Mr. Black and Mr. Epstein, who died in 2019.

joshua harris1One of the people said Mr. Harris, right, believed that Mr. Black showed poor judgment in consorting with Mr. Epstein, and that the new findings would further hurt Apollo’s reputation.

Apollo’s board held a videoconference on Sunday to approve the findings of the review, according to two people briefed on the discussions. At the meeting, Mr. Black also announced his plans to step down this year and hand over the chief executive job to Marc Rowan, Apollo’s third founder. Mr. Black intends to remain chairman of the New York firm, which manages $455 billion for institutional investors, including pension plans and sovereign wealth funds.

During a series of meetings on Sunday evening, including with individual board members, Mr. Harris raised objections to Mr. Black’s timeline for stepping down, believing that the reputational threat was so serious that Mr. Black should relinquish the chief executive role without delay, the people said. Mr. Harris also made his case to his co-founders that night in discussions with Apollo’s executive committee — which consists of the three of them.

Mr. Rowan, who built Apollo’s insurance business but had largely stepped away from the firm’s day-to-day operations in recent years, will take over when Mr. Black steps down.

Mr. Black informed Apollo’s clients of the succession plan and the findings of the review in a letter on Monday evening.

Mr. Harris will continue in his current role as a senior managing director, focused on the firm’s financial performance and working closely with Mr. Rowan, according to the letter, the contents of which were reviewed by The Times. The letter also informed clients of other proposed governance changes, including adding four more independent directors. It also laid out Mr. Black’s plan to donate $200 million to charities that support gender equality and fight sex trafficking.

ny times logoNew York Times, What Jeffrey Epstein Did to Earn $158 Million From Leon Black, Matthew Goldstein and Steve Eder, Jan. 26, 2021. Mr. Epstein specialized in aggressively pitching ways to minimize paying taxes. And not just to Mr. Black, the private equity chief executive who was his main benefactor in his later years.

He styled himself as a math whiz and “financial doctor” to the rich — even though he was a college dropout who had only a brief tenure at a traditional Wall Street firm. It was said his services were available only to billionaires, whose affairs he handled mostly from a tropical island hideaway.

So what did Jeffrey Epstein do to earn hundreds of millions of dollars from a handful of wealthy clients like the private equity billionaire Leon Black?

The answer: help rich people pay less in taxes.

In the case of Mr. Black, the chief executive of Apollo Global Management, his advice could have been worth as much as $2 billion in savings, according to a law firm’s review of Mr. Black’s business dealings with Mr. Epstein. On Monday, Mr. Black announced that he would step down as Apollo’s chief executive this year after the review found he had paid Mr. Epstein $158 million over five years for his services.

Mr. Epstein’s specialty was suggesting ways for wealthy clients to use sophisticated trusts and other investment vehicles to reduce their tax liability while passing on assets to their children, according to documents reviewed by The New York Times and interviews with 11 people familiar with his work. In the process, he collected hefty fees — usually based on a cut of the anticipated tax savings.

In the years after 2008, when Mr. Epstein pleaded guilty in Florida to prostitution charges involving a teenage girl, he often advised clients on the use of grantor retained annuity trusts, or GRATs, according to three people familiar with his work.

GRATs are a form of sophisticated trust that broke into the mainstream after a high-profile court fight involving a Walmart heir, and have been used by wealthy people including the father of former President Donald J. Trump, according to published reports. These trusts permit a person to keep collecting income from assets of all kinds — including stocks, real estate and art — and then hand them off to family members without paying the large gift or estate taxes normally associated with such transfers.

One person who did business for Mr. Epstein over the past decade said the disgraced financier’s “biggest thing was GRATs.” The person, who stopped working with Mr. Epstein in 2018 but spoke on the condition of anonymity because he continues to advise wealthy clients, said Mr. Epstein had bragged about using GRATs to save money for a small group of clients, including Mr. Black.

In Mr. Black’s case, according to the review by the law firm Dechert, the savings were enormous: about $1 billion for a single GRAT. Mr. Epstein’s detection of a problem in a trust set up in 2006 and his proposed solution were “the most valuable piece of work” that he performed, the report said.

“Outside legal counsel described the solution as a ‘grand slam,’” according to the Dechert report, which was commissioned at Mr. Black’s request after The Times reported in October that he had paid Mr. Epstein at least $75 million in fees.

The Dechert report — 22 double-spaced pages delivered to Apollo’s board — cleared Mr. Black of any wrongdoing, but he said he would step down as chief executive by the time he turned 70 in July. Another Apollo founder, Marc Rowan, will take over that role, and Mr. Black will remain the company’s chairman. Apollo’s shares were up 7 percent on Tuesday.

Mr. Epstein was compensated for the resolution of the GRAT problem as part of a $23.5 million agreement with Mr. Black in 2013, according to the report. After that, they entered a series of agreements that netted Mr. Epstein more than $100 million more before the two men parted ways in 2018.

Jack Blum, a Washington lawyer who has led corruption investigations for several Senate committees, said he was surprised by the size of the fees Mr. Epstein’s work commanded. “You could be the best lawyer in Manhattan working on the most complicated trusts and estates and it would never come anywhere close to that kind of money,” he said.

ny times logoNew York Times, A Scientist Is Arrested, and Academics Push Back, Ellen Barry, Jan. 26, 2021. Gang Chen, an M.I.T. professor, faces federal charges of hiding affiliations with China. His colleagues, and M.I.T., are challenging the allegations.

It was Donald J. Trump’s last full week in office, so Andrew E. Lelling, the federal prosecutor in Boston, knew he had limited time left in his job. But there was one more important arrest to announce, one that had been in the works for more than a year and would burnish his record on a key initiative of his tenure.

Police officers that morning had arrested Gang Chen, a professor of mechanical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, on suspicion of hiding affiliations with Chinese government institutions in order to secure $19 million in U.S. federal grants.

Dr. Chen’s prosecution was the latest in the Justice Department’s two-year-old China Initiative, which aims to root out research scientists passing sensitive technology to China.

At a news conference that morning, Mr. Lelling said he believed that Dr. Chen, 56, who became a naturalized U.S. citizen two decades ago, had remained loyal to the country of his birth.

“The allegations of the complaint imply that this was not just about greed, but about loyalty to China,” he said.

In the 10 days since Dr. Chen’s arrest, his colleagues have publicly protested, arguing that prosecutors have overreached, blurring the line between disclosure violations and more serious crimes, like espionage or intellectual property theft.

More than 160 members of the M.I.T. faculty have signed a letter arguing that the Chinese affiliations Dr. Chen is accused of hiding were routine academic activities, such as reviewing grant proposals, and not ones that clearly required disclosure.

The university itself has challenged one of the prosecution’s assertions, saying that $19 million in Chinese funding cited in the criminal complaint was not granted to Dr. Chen individually, but rather was part of a well-publicized collaboration that Dr. Chen helped to broker between M.I.T. and a Chinese research center.

Dr. Chen has pleaded not guilty and was released on $1 million bond. M.I.T. is paying for his legal defense, something that has not occurred in similar cases, including that of a Harvard professor, Charles M. Lieber, who was charged last year with hiding his Chinese funding sources.

The Biden administration has signaled it will maintain a tough line on Chinese intellectual property theft, and scores of investigations are underway.

“To put this threat into perspective, we have now reached the point where the F.B.I. is opening a new China-related counterintelligence investigation about every 10 hours,” said Joseph R. Bonavolonta, the F.B.I.’s Boston special agent in charge.

But some scholars say the China Initiative — which has led to charges against about 10 U.S. academics and six visiting research scientists — should reconsider criminal prosecutions that are based solely on disclosure of foreign funding.

ny times logoNew York Times,Trump’s Pardon of Bannon Could Raise Risk for 3 Co-Defendants, Benjamin Weiser Jan. 26, 2021. President Trump’s former adviser, Stephen Bannon, may now be a witness against three other men accused in a border-wall

Of all the pardons former President Donald Trump granted in the hours before he left office, perhaps none was as galling to his critics, government watchdog groups and even some of his allies than the pardon of his former chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon.

Mr. Bannon, 67, had been charged with conspiring to swindle donors to a private fund to build a wall along the Mexican border, siphoning off more than $1 million for personal and other expenses, the indictment said.

Even The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page, a conservative bastion, suggested Mr. Bannon’s pardon was unseemly and egregious, asserting that, if the charges were true, “Mr. Trump should be furious at his ex-adviser for turning his signature issue into a grift.”

But the pardon also left three other men who were indicted with Mr. Bannon in an unusual and unenviable predicament. None of them received pardons and so they still must face a trial in May. What’s more, legal experts said, Mr. Bannon could now be called as a government witness to testify against them, potentially increasing their legal jeopardy.

John S. Martin Jr., a retired federal judge and former U.S. attorney in Manhattan, said that, assuming Mr. Bannon accepted his pardon and the immunity it conferred, he could not invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination if called to testify for the government against his co-defendants.

“He may not have walked as far away as he thought,” Mr. Martin said.

Even if a judge allows Mr. Bannon to invoke the Fifth Amendment on the theory he still faces possible state charges, as some experts suggest, his absence at the defense table would doubtless reshape the trial.

Mr. Bannon’s three co-defendants — Brian Kolfage, an Air Force veteran who lost both of his legs and one of his arms during his service in Iraq; Andrew Badolato, a venture capitalist; and Timothy Shea — will be left defending themselves without the most prominent figure in the alleged scheme.

“Now, it’s a totally different trial,” said John C. Meringolo, Mr. Shea’s lawyer. “Different strategies must apply.”

Philip Allen Lacovara, a former deputy solicitor general of the United States and onetime counsel to the Watergate special prosecutor, said Mr. Bannon’s former co-defendants might feel resentment at being “left holding the bag that he was helping to fill.”

mar a lago aerial Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, Supreme Court ends lawsuits alleging Trump illegally profited from business interests, Robert Barnes and Ann E. Marimow, Jan. 26, 2021 (print ed.). All sides agreed that cases involving “emoluments clauses” are moot after Donald Trump lost reelection.

The Supreme Court on Monday put an end to lawsuits alleging that former president Donald Trump violated a constitutional anti-corruption prohibition by profiting from his business empire while president.

The justices, without comment or noted dissent, declined to hear Trump’s request to consider lower court orders that said lawsuits could go forward, agreeing with those on both sides of the issue that the cases became moot with Trump no longer in office.

The justices also vacated the lower court judgments in the cases, one of which was filed by the attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia.

It means that there is no definitive answer after years of legal wrangling over the Constitution’s emoluments clauses, which prohibit presidents and others from accepting gifts or payments from foreign governments without congressional approval.

The question has rarely been presented because presidents rarely maintain active business interests in office, as Trump did. Much of the litigation turned on the president’s interest in the Trump International Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue, near the White House, which became a magnet for foreign dignitaries and others doing business with the government.

The litigation was consumed with questions about who had the right to bring such a suit, and legal questions without precedent.

“We are proud that because of our case, a court ruled on the meaning of ‘emoluments’ for the first time in American history, finding that the Constitution prohibits federal officials from accepting almost anything of value from foreign or domestic governments,” District of Columbia Attorney General Karl A. Racine and Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh said in a joint statement.

 

Jan. 25

Top Stories

 

Trump Impeachment Evidence, Disputes


Virus Victims, Responses

 

U.S. Politics, Elections, Governance

 

U.S. Media, Education News

 

World News

 

 U.S. Law, Crime

 

Remembering Larry King

 

Top Stories

 

President-elect Joe Biden (Gage Skidmore photo via Flickr).

President-elect Joe Biden (Gage Skidmore photo via Flickr).

washington post logoWashington Post, Senate confirms Janet Yellen as first female treasury secretary, Jeff Stein and Rachel Siegel, Jan. 25, 2021. Janet Yellen was confirmed as the first female secretary of the Treasury Department by the Senate on Monday evening. Yellen’s confirmation process caused little controversy, as the former Federal Reserve chair has long-standing ties to Senate policymakers and extensive economic and government credentials.

The final vote was 84 to 15, with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) among those supporting Yellen.

janet yellen oThe Senate Finance Committee voted unanimously last week to send Yellen’s confirmation to the full Senate, with several Senate Republicans on the committee praising her qualifications for the position.

Yellen, right, 74, spent years as a professor before entering politics as head of President Bill Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisers in the late 1990s. She chaired the Fed from 2014 to 2018, playing a key role in the recovery after the Great Recession. President Donald Trump broke with tradition when he opted not to reappoint her in 2017, instead selecting Jerome H. Powell to lead the central bank.

washington post logoWashington Post, McConnell ends five-day standoff, pursuing power-sharing deal with Democrats, Mike DeBonis, Jan. 25, 2021. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Monday night signaled he would step back from an ultimatum over Senate rules that sparked a partisan showdown, which threatened to obstruct President Biden’s early legislative agenda.

mitch mcconnellMcConnell (R-Ky.), right, said in a statement that he was ready to move forward with a power-sharing accord with Democrats on how to operate the evenly divided Senate, defusing a potentially explosive clash over the minority’s rights to block partisan legislation.

At issue for McConnell was the fate of the filibuster, the Senate rule that acts as a 60-vote supermajority requirement for most legislation. With many Democrats calling for its elimination as their party takes control of the House, Senate and White House, McConnell had sought ­assurances from the new Senate majority leader, Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), that the filibuster would be preserved.

Democrats bristled at the request, demanding that McConnell agree to a power-sharing arrangement that followed the model used during the last 50-to-50 Senate, in 2001 — which would give the party with the vice presidency and its tie-breaking powers control of the floor agenda.

Without the deal in place, Senate committees remained frozen from the previous Congress, where Republicans held a majority. That created the unusual circumstance where Democrats have control of the floor while GOP chairs remained in charge of most committees.

McConnell on Monday said he was prepared to move forward on a deal “modeled on that [2001] precedent” after two Democratic senators — Joe Manchin III (W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) — publicly reiterated their previously stated opposition to eliminating the filibuster.

McConnell’s statement came as Schumer on Monday reiterated his own determination not to bow to the longtime Republican leader’s demands.

“He is not majority leader. He is the minority leader, and he is not going to get his way,” Schumer said in an MSNBC interview Monday. “We are not going to do what he wants. . . . We hope in the next day or two he will come to his senses and take our offer.” Justin Goodman, a spokesman for Schumer, said Democrats were “glad Senator McConnell threw in the towel and gave up on his ridiculous demand.”

Palmer Report, Opinion: Killing the filibuster, Bill Palmer, Jan. 25, 2021. On Monday night Mitch McConnell caved, ceding his ability to have any say going bill palmerforward on whether the filibuster lives or dies. He’s even putting it in writing, meaning he can’t just magically take it back. This means it’s solely up to Senate Democrats to decide what to do about the filibuster.

There are a couple Senate Democrats from moderate-to-conservative states who would very much like to not have to completely eliminate the filibuster, because they don’t want it used against them by their Republican opponent when they seek reelection. So they’d rather just chip away at the filibuster as they go.

Any time a Republican Senator threatens to filibuster a certain piece of legislation, Senate Democrats can just make that specific kind of legislation exempt from the filibuster. The Democrats can also use reconciliation to pass just about anything with 50 votes.

bill palmer report logo headerThe filibuster should be eliminated. As Pennsylvania State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta pointed out, the filibuster “has been used repeatedly to block civil rights legislation.” We can’t allow someone as deranged as Ted Cruz, for instance, to single handedly subvert the will of the people by overruling the majority of the Senators.

But in the short term, the fate of the filibuster won’t dictate much about whether Senate Democrats can pass legislation. You know I spent four years saying pardons weren’t a magic wand for Trump, and then they turned out not to be a magic wand for him? Killing the filibuster isn’t a magic wand for Senate Democrats either. Continually threatening to kill it can be 100% as effective as killing it.

We’ll see where this goes, but let’s not do the fatalistic “all hope is lost” thing if the filibuster doesn’t immediately die. If Senate Democrats have indeed maneuvered their way into a position where the Republicans are afraid to use the filibuster, then the Democrats will get everything they want. And if the Republicans do try to use the filibuster, the Democrats can go more nuclear as they go. The filibuster should die. But our success in the Senate won’t be about whether we kill the filibuster. It’ll be about whether our legislation gets passed into law.

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Sets in Motion Plan to Ban New Oil and Gas Drilling on Federal Land, Lisa Friedman, Jan. 25, 2021. President Biden is said to be planning several orders on climate change. A drilling ban would fulfill a campaign promise that infuriated the oil industry, President Biden on Wednesday will direct federal agencies to determine how expansive a ban on new oil and gas leasing on federal land should be, part of a suite of executive orders that will effectively launch his agenda to combat climate change, two people with knowledge of the president’s plans said Monday.

An eventual ban on new drilling leases would fulfill a campaign promise that infuriated the oil industry and became a central theme in the fight for the critical battleground state of Pennsylvania, where the natural gas extraction method known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has become big business.

The move is the most prominent of several that Mr. Biden with announce Wednesday, the two people said. The president also will direct the government to conserve 30 percent of all federal land and water by 2030, create a task force to assemble a governmentwide action plan for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, issue a memorandum elevating climate change to a national security priority. Mr. Biden will also create several new commissions and positions within the government focused on environmental justice and environmentally friendly job creation, including one to help displaced coal communities.

The programs and proclamations are supposed to signal that climate change is back on the government agenda, bigger than ever. What they will not deliver, at least yet, is a steep and rapid reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

 

Trump Impeachment Evidence, Disputes

 

Justice Department Headquarters in Washington, DC (Justice Department photo)

 U.S. Justice Department headquarters in Washington, D.C.

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: Jeffrey Clark Was Considered Unassuming. Then He Plotted With Trump, Katie Benner and Charlie Savage, Updated Jan. 25, 2021. Justice Department colleagues said they were shocked by Mr. Clark’s embrace of former President Trump’s falsehoods and his plan to oust the acting attorney general.

It was New Year’s Eve, but the Justice Department’s top leaders had little to celebrate as they discussed Jeffrey Clark, right, the acting head of the civil division, jeffrey clark owho had repeatedly pushed them to help President Donald J. Trump undo his electoral loss.

Huddled in the department’s headquarters, they noted that they had rebuked him for secretly meeting with Mr. Trump, even as the department had rebuffed the president’s outlandish requests for court filings and special counsels, according to six people with knowledge of the meeting. No official would host a news conference to say that federal fraud investigations cast the results in doubt, they told him. No one would send a letter making such claims to Georgia lawmakers.

Justice Department log circularWhen the meeting ended not long before midnight, Acting Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen hoped that the matter was settled, never suspecting that his subordinate would secretly discuss the plan for the letter with Mr. Trump, and very nearly take Mr. Rosen’s job, as part of a plot with the president to wield the department’s power to try to alter the Georgia election outcome.

It was clear that night, though, that Mr. Clark — with his willingness to entertain conspiracy theories about voting booth hacks and election fraud — was not the establishment lawyer they thought him to be. Some senior department leaders had considered him quiet, hard-working and detail-oriented. Others said they knew nothing about him, so low was his profile. He struck neither his fans in the department nor his detractors as being part of the Trumpist faction of the party, according to interviews.

jeffrey rosenThe department’s senior leaders were shocked when Mr. Clark’s machinations came to light. They have spent recent weeks debating how he came to betray Mr. Rosen, right, his biggest champion at the department, and what blend of ambition and conviction led him to reject the results of the election and embrace Mr. Trump’s claims, despite all evidence to the contrary, including inside the department itself.

The plot devised by Mr. Clark and Mr. Trump would have ousted Mr. Rosen and used the Justice Department to pressure lawmakers in Georgia to overturn the state’s election results. But Mr. Trump ultimately decided against firing Mr. Rosen after top department leaders pledged to resign en masse.

washington post logoWashington Post, Inspector general to investigate whether any Justice Dept. officials improperly sought to help overturn election, Matt Zapotosky, Jan. 25, 2021. The Justice Department’s inspector general announced Monday that its office is opening an investigation into whether any current or former department official tried to improperly “alter the outcome of the 2020 Presidential Election” — a broad review that comes on the heels of a revelation that then-President Donald Trump considered replacing his acting attorney general with an official more amenable to his unfounded claims of voter fraud.

michael horwitz headshotJustice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz, right, announced the review in a two paragraph news release, though he noted his jurisdiction would be limited to “allegations concerning the conduct of former and current DOJ employees,” and he could not examine other government officials. The news release said the inspector general would follow its normal process in releasing the results of its work publicly.

Horowitz’s announcement comes just days after reporting that Trump entertained a plan to replace the acting attorney general for his final weeks in office, Jeffrey Rosen, with a different department lawyer, Jeffrey Bossert Clark, who was more amenable to wielding the department’s power to help keep Trump in office. According to people familiar with the matter, Trump only aborted the plan after Justice Department officials threatened a mass resignation.

ny times logoNew York Times, With Impeachment Trial Looming, Republicans Waver on Punishing Trump, Nicholas Fandos, Jan. 25, 2021. The House sent an “incitement of insurrection” charge against former President Trump to the Senate, but Republicans seem largely reluctant to convict him.

For the second time in just over a year, the House on Monday sent an article of impeachment against Donald J. Trump to the Senate for trial, thrusting his fate into the hands of 50 Republican senators who for now appear reluctant to convict him.

republican elephant logoOn a day marked more by ceremony than substance, nine House impeachment managers crossed the Capitol to inform the Senate that they were ready to prosecute Mr. Trump for “incitement of insurrection,” a bipartisan charge approved after the former president stirred up a violent mob that stormed the Capitol. But with some of the outrage wrought by the Jan. 6 rampage already dissipating, few Republicans appeared ready to repudiate a leader who maintains broad sway over their party by joining Democrats in convicting him.

Senators planned to put off the heart of the trial until Feb. 9. That move will allow President Biden time to win confirmation of crucial cabinet officials and buy breathing room for Republicans to weigh their stances in what amounts to a referendum on their own futures and that of their party as much as on Mr. Trump.

Unlike Mr. Trump’s last impeachment, when his party quickly rallied behind him, several Republicans, including Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader, have signaled they are open to convicting the former president after his mendacious campaign to overturn his election loss turned deadly. That would allow the Senate to take a second vote to bar him from ever holding office again. But at least at the trial’s outset, their numbers fell well short of the 17 Republicans needed to join Democrats to secure a conviction.

Proof via Substack, Investigation: The Fingerprints of Top Trump Adviser Roger Stone Are All Over the January 6 Insurrection, Seth Abramson, Jan. 25, 2021. seth abramson proof logoStone says he wasn't involved, but the evidence suggests he's lying — yet again.

Roger Stone’s fingerprints are all over the January 6 insurrection.

And the fact that no Trump friend, ally, or adviser granted clemency by the former president was more attentively aided by him — Trump first commuted Stone’s 40-month prison sentence in July 2020, then later pardoned him — raises the question of whether Trump needed Stone both out of prison and beholden to him as part of the president’s own plans: specifically, a scheme to overturn the November 2020 election.

The evidence that has emerged since January 6 — discussed at length here, and fully sourced via major-media investigative reporting — suggests that’s just what happened.

roger stone denton conferenceTrump would have known in advance of his commutation of Roger Stone’s prison sentence in July 2020 exactly what Stone, right, would start doing thereafter, as Stone had coined the phrase “Stop the Steal” in the lead-up to the 2016 election, declaring at the time that “If this election is close, THEY WILL STEAL IT” (emphasis in original, both here and in every all-caps quotation that appears hereafter). Stone’s 2016 “Stop the Steal” effort was a massive fundraising scam that would see its echo in Trump’s 2020 post-election Save America PAC, an “election defense” fund that raised hundreds of millions of dollars via hundreds of November and December emails to frustrated Trump voters.

While we don’t know where the money Stone needlessly raised in 2016 went, we do know that virtually none of the hundreds of millions raised by Trump in 2020 via his Save America PAC went to election defense. The most recent assessment puts the percentage of the money raised that went to Trump lawsuits at under 10%. The rest went to either the RNC or, to a far greater degree, a political fund that Trump can now draw from in the future for almost any purpose, including domestic and international travel self-declared by the man himself as being for “political” purposes.

Roger Stone’s “Stop the Steal” tagline was picked up, during Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign, by a man he describes as a “good friend”, far-right activist Ali Alexander. Stone, at the time, was under the scrutiny of the federal justice system and was constricted in his political activities.

Beginning in midsummer 2020, however — just in time for the start of the 2020 general election — Stone was unleashed, thanks to Trump, thereafter conjoining his efforts with Alexander’s even as the latter bolstered his ties with a group with which Roger Stone has been associated: the Proud Boys, a far-right neofascist “club” for men.

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel has gone so far as to call the infamous white supremacist organization “affiliated with” Roger Stone, and vice versa. This is significant, given that blaze orange-hatted Proud Boys were, per the Wall Street Journal, at the forefront of the breach of the Capitol on January 6.

Just Security, “Fight for Trump”: Video Evidence of Incitement at the Capitol, Ryan Goodman and Justin Hendrix, Jan. 25, 2021. How direct is the connection between what President Donald Trump communicated to his supporters and their actions in laying siege to the U.S. Capitol? Videos recorded by many individuals over the course of the day provide some answers.

A portion of these videos have not been seen widely before, including video footage largely from the platform Parler showing how the crowd reacted in real time to some of the most potent lines in Trump’s speech at the Ellipse. The videos, along with other information in the public record, provide strong evidence of a causal link between Trump’s messages to his supporters and their dangerous, illegal conduct. The collection of videos, viewed chronologically, also shows the ways in which Trump placed the life of Vice President Mike Pence, among others, in grave danger.

What’s revealed by these videos is not only relevant to the impeachment trial of Trump, where the House has charged that Trump “willfully made statements that, in context, encouraged—and foreseeably resulted—in lawless action at the Capitol.” The video evidence may also be relevant to an investigation by the Attorney General of the District of Columbia for potential incitement to riot. And it may be relevant down the road to other federal prosecutors. Ultimately, the greatest relevance of these videos will be how parts of the public understands the events of the day, and how history records it.

Below is the video followed by reactions to it from former senior Justice Department officials and former federal prosecutors.

The video segments sourced from Parler include a number of clips made publicly available previously by ProPublica, as well as separate footage that has not been widely referenced in the news media that was made available for download following the much publicized scraping of publicly available information from the Parler site.

Trump lawyers Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, left, and Jenna Ellis allege election fraud at a press conference on Nov. 19, 2020.

Trump lawyers Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, left, and Jenna Ellis allege election fraud at a press conference on Nov. 19, 2020 (Screengrab).

ny times logoNew York Times, Rudy Giuliani Sued by Dominion Voting Systems Over False Election Claims, Nick Corasaniti, Jan. 25, 2021. The suit against Mr. Giuliani, a lawyer for Donald Trump, accuses him of carrying out “a viral disinformation campaign,” and seeks damages of more than $1.3 billion.

Dominion Voting Systems filed a defamation lawsuit on Monday against Rudolph W. Giuliani, the lawyer for Donald J. Trump and former mayor of New York City who played a key role in the former president’s monthslong effort to subvert the 2020 election.

dominion voting systemsThe 107-page lawsuit, filed in the Federal District Court in Washington, accuses Mr. Giuliani of carrying out “a viral disinformation campaign about Dominion” made up of “demonstrably false” allegations, in part to enrich himself through legal fees and his podcast.

The suit seeks damages of more than $1.3 billion and is based on more than 50 statements Mr. Giuliani made at legislative hearings, on Twitter, on his podcast and in the conservative news media, where he spun a fictitious narrative of a plot by one of the biggest voting machine manufacturers in the country to flip votes to President Biden.

Mr. Giuliani, one of Mr. Trump’s closest advisers and confidants, has faced continuing fallout for his highly visible efforts to reverse the election outcome. This month, the chairman of the New York State Senate’s judiciary committee formally requested that the state court system strip Mr. Giuliani of his law license.

Mr. Giuliani did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Taken together with a lawsuit the company filed this month against Sidney Powell, another lawyer who was allied with Mr. Trump, the suit represents a point-by-point rebuke of one of the more outlandish conspiracy theories surrounding last year’s election. The president’s allies had contended that the voting machine company — which was also used in states during Mr. Trump’s victory in the 2016 election, has been tested by government agencies, and was used in states Mr. Trump carried in 2020 — was somehow involved in a rigged election, partly as a result of ties to a long-deceased Venezuelan dictator.

“Dominion was not founded in Venezuela to fix elections for Hugo Chávez,” the suit says. “It was founded in 2002 in John Poulos’s basement in Toronto to help blind people vote on paper ballots.” The suit later adds that the headquarters for the company’s United States subsidiary is in Denver.

 

andrew weissmann resized cnn

Palmer Report, Opinion: Looks like Donald Trump badly screwed up his pardons of his co-conspirators, Bill Palmer, right, Jan. 25, 2021. For the past four years bill palmerPalmer Report has been pointing out that pardons aren’t magic wands, and that Trump would run into a number of tricky scenarios if he tried pardoning his own co-conspirators or pardoning people preemptively. Sure enough, that’s now playing out.

bill palmer report logo headerAndrew Weissman, above, who helped bring the original criminal charges against Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, and Roger Stone, now says that Trump’s pardons of Manafort and Stone leave the door wide open for additional federal criminal charges to be brought against them. He also adds that Steve Bannon’s pardon leaves the door open for additional federal charges against him.

Remarkably, this isn’t even due to the state charges that can be brought separately, or due to potential legal challenges to preemptive pardons or co-conspirator pardons. Weissman says that these pardons are simply written poorly and don’t cover much. He contrasts this with the Flynn pardon, which he says protects Flynn more broadly.

Here’s what we find interesting. Flynn’s pardon was granted back in December, when Bill Barr was still on the job and White House Counsel Pat Cippollone was still in Trump’s corner. These other, more poorly written pardons were issued in late January, by which time Barr had quit and Cippollone was reportedly on the outs. In other words, Trump may have had no competent henchmen left to write those last minute pardons.

Here at Palmer Report, we expect Manafort, Stone, Bannon, and Flynn to end up in prison. They all committed documented crimes beyond what they were charged with, meaning more charges can be brought. And because they’re creatures of habit, they’re likely out committing even more crimes as we speak. Flynn’s pardon may be the strongest, but his culpability in the U.S. Capitol attack keeps looking dicier. And state charges can take all of them down anyway.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

anthony fauci white house

ny times logoNew York Times, Fauci on What Working for Trump Was Really Like, Donald G. McNeil Jr., Jan. 24, 2021. From denialism to death threats, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci (shown in a file photo) describes a fraught year as an adviser to President Donald J. Trump on the Covid-19 pandemic.

For almost 40 years, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci has held two jobs. As director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, he has run one of the country’s premier research institutions. But he has also been an adviser to seven presidents, from Ronald Reagan to, now, Joseph R. Biden Jr., called upon whenever a health crisis looms to brief the administration, address the World Health Organization, testify before Congress or meet with the news media.

For Dr. Fauci, 80, the past year has stood out like no other. As the coronavirus ravaged the country, Dr. Fauci’s calm counsel and commitment to hard facts endeared him to millions of Americans. But he also became a villain to millions of others. Trump supporters chanted “Fire Fauci,” and the president mused openly about doing so. He was accused of inventing the virus and of being part of a secret cabal with Bill Gates and George Soros to profit from vaccines. His family received death threats. On Jan. 21, appearing in his first press briefing under the Biden administration, Dr. Fauci described the “liberating feeling” of once again being able to “get up here and talk about what you know — what the evidence, what the science is — and know that’s it, let the science speak.”

In an hourlong conversation with The New York Times over the weekend, Dr. Fauci described some of the difficulties, and the toll, of working with President Donald J. Trump. (This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.)
Sign up for Science Times: Get stories that capture the wonders of nature, the cosmos and the human body.

When did you first realize things were going wrong between you and President Trump?

It coincided very much with the rapid escalation of cases in the northeastern part of the country, particularly the New York metropolitan area. I would try to express the gravity of the situation, and the response of the president was always leaning toward, “Well, it’s not that bad, right?” And I would say, “Yes, it is that bad.” It was almost a reflex response, trying to coax you to minimize it. Not saying, “I want you to minimize it,” but, “Oh, really, was it that bad?”

And the other thing that made me really concerned was, it was clear that he was getting input from people who were calling him up, I don’t know who, people he knew from business, saying, “Hey, I heard about this drug, isn’t it great?” or, “Boy, this convalescent plasma is really phenomenal.” And I would try to, you know, calmly explain that you find out if something works by doing an appropriate clinical trial; you get the information, you give it a peer review. And he’d say, “Oh, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, this stuff really works.”

He would take just as seriously their opinion — based on no data, just anecdote — that something might really be important. It wasn’t just hydroxychloroquine, it was a variety of alternative-medicine-type approaches. It was always, “A guy called me up, a friend of mine from blah, blah, blah.” That’s when my anxiety started to escalate.

Did you have any problems with him in the first three years of his presidency?

No, he barely knew who I was.

When did the death threats start?

Wow. Many, many months ago. In the spring. Hold on — just bear with me. [He consults someone who answers “March 28.”] So there — you got it from the head of my Secret Service detail. That’s when I got protection, so maybe two weeks prior to that.

It was the harassment of my wife, and particularly my children, that upset me more than anything else. They knew where my kids work, where they live. The threats would come directly to my children’s phones, directly to my children’s homes. How the hell did whoever these assholes were get that information? And there was chatter on the internet, people talking to each other, threatening, saying, “Hey, we got to get rid of this guy. What are we going to do about him? He’s hurting the president’s chances.” You know, that kind of right-wing craziness.

Were you ever shot at or confronted?

No, but one day I got a letter in the mail, I opened it up and a puff of powder came all over my face and my chest.

That was very, very disturbing to me and my wife because it was in my office. So I just looked at it all over me and said, “What do I do?” The security detail was there, and they’re very experienced in that. They said, “Don’t move, stay in the room.” And they got the hazmat people. So they came, they sprayed me down and all that.

Did they test the powder?

Yeah. It was a benign nothing. But it was frightening. My wife and my children were more disturbed than I was. I looked at it somewhat fatalistically. It had to be one of three things: A hoax. Or anthrax, which meant I’d have to go on Cipro for a month. Or if it was ricin, I was dead, so bye-bye.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: Jan. 25, 2021), with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):

World Cases: 99,857,603, Deaths: 2,140,768
U.S. Cases:   25,704,372, Deaths:    429,506

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), an independent global health research center at the University of Washington. Projected total U.S. deaths, based on current scenario 459,324 by Feb. 1; 529,000 by March 1; 567,195 by April 1, 2021.

washington post logoWashington Post, Moderna vaccine protects against British, S. African variants, company says, Carolyn Y. Johnson, Jan. 25, 2021. But the vaccine-elicited antibodies were less efficient at neutralizing the South African variant in a laboratory dish. By  The company has begun developing a new vaccine against the South African variant as a precaution.

moderna logoThe coronavirus vaccine developed by Moderna triggers an immune response that protected in laboratory tests against two variants of the virus first detected in Britain and South Africa, the company said Monday.

But the reassuring news that vaccine-elicited antibodies remained effective against concerning new variants was tempered by an ominous finding. Those antibodies were less efficient at neutralizing the South African variant in a laboratory dish — a sixfold reduction in response foreshadowed by a small, but mounting body of evidence that has trickled out showing that the variant may have the potential to elude parts of the immune response.

As a precaution, Moderna announced it will launch two new studies. The company will test adding a third shot of its current vaccine to boost its two-dose regimen. Scientists have also already designed an all-new vaccine specific to the South African variant that could be used as a booster to prime the immune system to the new strain, and plan to test it in the coming months.

 

U.S. Politics, Elections, Governance

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: How to Fix 4 Years of Trump’s War Against Government, Neil Eggleston and Alexa Kissinger, Jan. 25, 2021. The authors are lawyers who served in the administration of President Barack Obama. Mr. Eggleston was the White House counsel from 2014 to 2017. Ms. Kissinger was a special assistant to Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to the president, from 2013 to 2015.

Of all the urgent tasks facing the Biden administration, among the most pressing is to unwind former President Donald Trump’s four-year effort to “deconstruct the administrative state.”

djt march 2020 CustomFrom headline-grabbing policies like caging children at the southern border to stealth rollbacks of climate and environmental regulations, politicizing the role of science and leaving hundreds of key political appointments vacant during a pandemic, the consequences of the Trump administration’s governing philosophy will take swift, sustained and systemic efforts to mend.

In the dwindling months of his presidency, Mr. Trump pushed through a series of so-called midnight rules, surreptitiously sliding politically controversial and unpopular legacy items under the wire.

These recent rules, for example, would expand the methods of execution in federal death cases to include electrocution and death by firing squad. They broaden the definition of “independent contractors,” allowing gig economy companies to avoid providing benefits and safety protections to their workers. They prevent immigration judges from using their discretion to close immigration cases and halt deportations, and allow federal contractors to claim a religious exemption to discriminate in hiring. They shield companies from liability for killing migratory birds and effectively ban certain methods of scientific research in the drafting of public health rules.

Although the practice has historically been deployed by presidents of both parties, Mr. Trump turned it into a sport, finalizing more rules in his last year than any other modern president and even bypassing statutory waiting periods. Between Election Day and Inauguration Day alone, the Trump administration issued 53 new rules.

Faced with this catalog of harm, the new administration has wasted no time. Just hours after being sworn in, President Biden took bold action to freeze a litany of final and pending agency regulations and signed a bevy of executive orders reversing Trump-era policies.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden is firing some top Trump holdovers, but in some cases, his hands may be tied, Lisa Rein and Anne Gearan, Jan. 25, 2021 (print ed.). The practice of shifting workers from appointee to career status occurs at the end of every presidency.

joe biden oPresident Biden is trying to shake a Trump hangover in the federal government by acting to remove some holdovers and install his own appointees, but a quiet push to salt federal agencies with Trump loyalists is complicating the new president’s effort to turn the page.

The Biden team, showing a willingness to cut tenures short, moved quickly last week to dump several high-profile, Senate-confirmed Trump appointees whose terms extended beyond Inauguration Day — in some cases by several years.

They include the surgeon general, the National Labor Relations Board’s powerful general counsel, and the heads of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the U.S. Agency for Global Media.

But other, lower-profile Trump loyalists, some of whom helped carry out his administration’s most controversial policies, are scattered throughout Biden’s government in permanent, senior positions. And identifying them, let alone dislodging them, could be difficult for the new leadership.

The Jan. 16 appointment of Michael Ellis, a former GOP operative who served in the Trump White House, as the National Security Agency’s top lawyer caused such a furor that he was placed on paid leave within hours of taking office.

And in the former president’s final months and weeks, dozens of other political appointees had their status similarly converted to permanent civil service roles that will allow them to stay in government for years to come. These new career officials are protected from partisan removal unless the new administration discovers that they got their jobs illegally — without competition and because of their political affiliation.

As Biden tries to reset the government to match his priorities, Democrats fear the Trump holdovers, who served in partisan roles, could undermine the new administration as they move into the civil service, which is supposed to operate free of partisanship.

The practice of shifting employees from appointee to career status, informally called burrowing, occurs at the end of every presidency — and it is controversial. Trump aides and their GOP allies in Congress, for example, threatened at the start of Trump’s term to remove any Obama-era political appointees who had been replanted in the civil service, and dozens were, records show.

But the just-departed president is on track to exceed the number of Democrats the Obama administration rewarded with permanent roles. In his final year, President Barack Obama moved 29 political appointees into career jobs. As of November, Trump had installed almost that many, 26, in the first 10 months of 2020, according to data provided to Congress by the Office of Personnel Management.

Nine more requests await review by personnel officials. More are expected. Congress has not received data covering December and the first 20 days of January, when outgoing administrations tend to move quickly to reward appointees who want to stay in government.

“There’s a great irony here,” said Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.), who leads a House oversight panel on federal government operations, referring to Trump’s efforts to place his appointees in government. “The crowd that didn’t believe in government and called its agencies the deep state now wants to work for them.”

Connolly has asked the Government Accountability Office, Congress’s research arm, to tally all of Trump’s conversions over four years.

washington post logoWashington Post, Fact Checker Analysis: Trump made 30,573 false or misleading claims as president. Nearly half came in his final year, Glenn Kessler, Jan. 24, 2021. The Washington Post Fact Checker’s database of Trump claims, originally launched as a project to track his first 100 days, offers a window into his obsessions.

He overstated the “carnage” he was inheriting, then later exaggerated his “massive” crowd and claimed, despite clear evidence to the contrary, that it had not rained during his address. He repeated the rain claim the next day, along with the fabricated notion that he held the “all-time record” for appearing on the cover of Time magazine.

And so it went, day after day, week after week, claim after claim, from the most mundane of topics to the most pressing issues.

Over time, Trump unleashed his falsehoods with increasing frequency and ferocity, often by the scores in a single campaign speech or tweetstorm. What began as a relative trickle of misrepresentations, including 10 on his first day and five on the second, built into a torrent through Trump’s final days as he frenetically spread wild theories that the coronavirus pandemic would disappear “like a miracle” and that the presidential election had been stolen — the claim that inspired Trump supporters to attack Congress on Jan. 6 and prompted his second impeachment.

washington post logoWashington Post, GOP Sen. Rob Portman announces he won’t seek reelection, creating an open Senate seat in Ohio in 2022, Colby Itkowitz, Jan. 25, 2021. Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) is retiring after his term ends in 2022, leaving another Senate seat vacant in a battleground state.

robert portmanPortman, right, who was elected to the Senate in 2010, called the decision not to seek reelection a difficult one but said it has become too hard to get much accomplished in Washington.

“I don’t think any Senate office has been more successful in getting things done, but honestly, it has gotten harder and harder to break through the partisan gridlock and make progress on substantive policy, and that has contributed to my decision,” Portman said in a statement. “We live in an increasingly polarized country where members of both parties are being pushed further to the right and further to the left, and that means too few people who are actively looking to find common ground. This is not a new phenomenon, of course, but a pat toomeyproblem that has gotten worse over the past few decades.”

Although Ohio voted for Donald Trump in the last two presidential elections, Democrats will see the open Senate seat as another opportunity to bolster their ranks in the 2022 midterms.

Portman’s exit comes after Sen. Patrick J. Toomey, left, a Republican from neighboring Pennsylvania, a state with similar political dynamics as Ohio, also announced his retirement.

The other senators representing Ohio and Pennsylvania are Democrats.

Palmer Report, Opinion: The real reason GOP Senator Rob Portman has abruptly announced he’s not seeking reelection, Bill Palmer, Jan. 25, 2021. And so it begins. GOP Senator Rob Portman abruptly announces he’s not running in 2022. He’s citing silly reasons. But the obvious reason is that no matter which way he votes on impeachment, he’ll have trouble getting reelected. It’s a no-win scenario for every Senate Republican.

bill palmer report logo headerIf Portman votes to convict Trump, the far right vote won’t turn out for him, and he may even lose a primary challenge. If Portman votes to acquit Trump, he’ll lose votes in the middle. Either way he would have had a hard time in 2022. We’ll likely see more GOP Senators “retiring” like this in the wake of impeachment.

America is better off if the Republicans convict Trump. But even if the Republicans acquit him, the mere fact that we’re forcing a vote will make it easier for Democrats to win in 2022 and 2024. And Trump will be in prison by 2024 even if he’s not convicted and disqualified.

This doesn’t mean we automatically get Portman’s Ohio seat. In fact Ohio has been trending Republican, so winning it won’t be easy no matter who the candidates are. And the GOP candidate in 2022 will be someone who didn’t have to vote on impeachment and therefore won’t have lost votes over it. We’ll still have to work hard to flip that seat. But at least the GOP has now lost the incumbency advantage in that race.

So does this mean Portman will vote to convict, since he’s not running again anyway? Tough to say. When GOP Senators retire, they usually become lobbyists for right wing think tanks. Their final votes in office end up being whatever the think tank wants. In this case that could go either way.

But convicting Trump is not the only goal of this impeachment trial. Since the odds of conviction are somewhat dicey one could even argue it’s not even the main goal. If the GOP acquits him, it doesn’t mean he and they have magically won. Acquittal would be a major loss for the GOP – and there’s no saving Trump anyway.

ny times logoNew York Times, Progressives Are Seething Over Biden’s Likely Pick for Banking Regulator, Emily Flitter, Jan. 25, 2021 (print ed.). A former Obama administration official is the front-runner to be comptroller of the currency. The prospect has angered groups hoping for more dramatic reform.The internal fight among Democrats about how far left the party should lean has spilled over into the arcane world of financial regulation.

President Biden is leaning toward nominating Michael S. Barr, a law professor and a former Obama administration official, to the position of comptroller of the currency, according to two people familiar with the process. The post is a relatively obscure but highly influential regulator of banks.

The prospect has dismayed many progressive groups that would prefer Mehrsa Baradaran, a law professor who has written about how banks treat Black people and the poor.

On Friday, one supporter of Ms. Baradaran emailed the entire Biden transition team announcing that he would go on a hunger strike if Mr. Barr was confirmed.

The unfolding drama reflects the high stakes around regulation of the banking industry. It’s also the latest example of the challenges facing President Biden, who will have to manage the divisions between progressives and moderates within his own party even as he tries to gain bipartisan support for his agenda.

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency decides which companies can do banking business in the United States and sets standards for banks’ activities in poor and minority communities. The office also monitors banks to make sure they are following rules for keeping criminals out of the financial system, managing risk and treating customers fairly.

Several progressive groups have expressed support for a different candidate: Mehrsa Baradaran, a law professor who has studied the inequitable treatment that Black and poor people often receive from banks. One supporter of Ms. Baradaran even threatened to go on a hunger strike should Mr. Barr win the nomination.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live updates: Biden lifts ban on transgender people serving in the military, reversing Trump’s controversial policy, John Wagner, Colby Itkowitz and Paulina Firozi, Jan. 25, 2021. The president plans to sign his latest executive order on Monday, this one aiming to boost sales of goods manufactured in the United States.

President Biden signed an executive order Monday fulfilling a campaign promise to overturn a ban on transgender people serving in the military. President Donald Trump largely barred their open service in 2017, announcing the decision in a tweet.

House impeachment managers are scheduled to deliver to the Senate an article of impeachment accusing Trump of “incitement of insurrection.” The delivery will clear the way for a historic Senate trial next month

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: The Capitol attack shouldn’t be used to close off more of D.C.’s public spaces, Editorial Board, Jan. 25, 2021 (print ed.). Just hours after the inaugural festivities for President Biden concluded Wednesday night, work crews started to remove the temporary barriers and fencing that closed off key areas of the nation’s capital. Washingtonians, who saw their daily routines disrupted but understood the need for the unprecedented security after the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, should welcome the news. But they also should be wary, because if the past is any guide, the events of Jan. 6 will be used to try to justify further, permanent fortifications that will close off even more precious public spaces in the capital city.

Indeed, if Washingtonians have learned anything over the past 25 years, it’s that “temporary” security measures imposed during an emergency — such as the closing of Pennsylvania Avenue after the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 — have a way of becoming permanent.

The city is increasingly dotted with bollards, concrete jersey barriers, and higher and higher fences — the most recent being the one topped with razor wire to keep the public away from the U.S. Capitol. The seven-foot fence has been billed as temporary, but there is already, predictably, a push for a permanent fortification to keep people off the grounds. Legislation has been introduced that would “direct the Architect of the Capitol to design and install an appropriate fence around the perimeter of the United States Capitol including the East Front and the West Front.”

washington post logoWashington Post, The rivers run through it, and Jon Tester wants them protected for Montana, Nick Ehli, Jan. 25, 2021. As the state’s population booms and its politics shift, proposed federal legislation would safeguard hundreds of miles of iconic waterways.

More than a dozen crystalline rivers ribbon out of the mountains in the southwest corner of this state, free-flowing through canyons, valleys and prairies before emptying into the Missouri River and helping to sustain a nation.

jon tester o“This is the best that Mother Earth has to offer,” says Montana’s senior senator, Jon Tester, right. “But if we do nothing, they will disappear.”

At a time of intense economic and political crosscurrents — both here and in Washington — Tester (D) is pushing legislation to protect 336 miles of these rivers. He believes that his effort is more than a parochial concern, that the fate of streams and tributaries in the shadow of Yellowstone National Park matters to many Americans.

Question: I wonder if rival companies involved in elections might be allies under the theory that rival of my opponent might be at least a short-term ally? Just asking but I don't know if this is viable. I realize I do recall that in the 1970s a key force in effective opposition to tobacco propaganda were the chemical manufacturers, who wanted to point to the cancer risks of smoking instead of bearing what they regarded as a disproportionate share of blame and costs for environmentally caused cancers.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump is threatening to form the Patriot Party — a name already used by ‘hillbilly’ socialists, Antonia Noori Farzan, Jan. 25, 2021. In recent weeks, former president Donald Trump has repeatedly floated the idea of creating a third party called the Patriot Party, raising fears of a major schism within the GOP.

But just like Trump’s “America First” slogan was originally invoked by Americans sympathetic to the Nazis in the 1930s, the “Patriot Party” name has been used before — and the association may not be exactly what the former president and his allies had in mind.

Trump jumps into a divisive battle over the Republican Party — with a threat to start a ‘MAGA Party’

The original Patriot Party was a group of socialist radicals who sought to stoke revolutionary fervor among poor and working-class White people, decking themselves out in Confederate flags while taking their political inspiration from the Black Panthers. With chapters in cities nationwide, the Patriot Party was one of several organizations that formed in the late 1960s and early 1970s with the belief that Whites would abandon racist beliefs once they learned that capitalism was the real enemy.

Sen. Josh Hawley, a first-term Missouri Republican, gives a fist salute to the pro-Trump mob outside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 (photo by Francis Chung).

Sen. Josh Hawley, a first-term Missouri Republican, gives a fist salute to the pro-Trump mob outside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 (photo by Francis Chung). Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is shown below at left in a screenshot.

Kansas City Star, 'Bamboozled’: Hawley mentors stunned by conduct, but early warning signs were there, Bryan Lowry, Jonathan Shorman, and Eric Adler, Jan. 25, 2021 (print ed.). Josh Hawley’s rise included warning signs of radicalism; After violence at Capitol, Hawley still calls for Biden's votes to be blocked.

Josh Hawley was a precocious 15-year-old in 1995, writing a regular column for his hometown paper, The Lexington News, when he was still in high school.

He used the early platform to opine on politics, culture and those he believed had been unfairly maligned by the media — among them anti-government militias and Los Angeles police detective Mark Fuhrman.

Hawley warned against depicting all militia members as domestic terrorists after the Oklahoma City bombing, which killed 168 people, including 19 children. Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, who carried out the attack on the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, had ties to the Michigan Militia.

“Many of the people populating these movements are not radical, right-wing, pro-assault weapons freaks as they were originally stereotyped,” Hawley wrote two months after the bombing.

He argued that middle class Americans had gravitated to anti-government organizations out of genuine concerns about federal overreach and a disillusionment with mainstream politics.

“Dismissed by the media and treated with disdain by their elected leaders, these citizens come together and form groups that often draw more media fire as anti-government hate gatherings,” Hawley said.

“Feeling alienated from their government and the rest of society, they often become disenchanted and slip into talks of ‘conspiracy theories’ about how the federal government is out to get them.”

Twenty-six years later, the junior senator from Missouri is the face of the failed effort to overturn the 2020 election, captured in a photograph that shows him raising a fist in solidarity with a crowd of former President Donald Trump’s supporters shortly before they laid siege to the U.S. Capitol.

The insurrection left five people dead, including a police officer, after a mob made up of militia members and racists with Confederate flags and neo-Nazi paraphernalia stormed the Capitol. Their deadly rage was fueled by the election of President Joe Biden, whose victory was due in large part to Black voters.

Prior to Jan. 6, Hawley had enjoyed an uninterrupted trajectory from Rockhurst High School valedictorian to the U.S. Senate — by way of Stanford University, Yale Law School, a clerkship for Chief Justice John Roberts and a brief tenure as Missouri attorney general.

Hawley, an evangelical Christian, has long championed the view that political leaders should be guided by their religious faith and that secularism runs counter to the country’s founding principles.

Hawley’s classmates at Yale Law School remember him as politically ambitious and a deeply religious conservative. But they say they witnessed a startling transformation when he railed against elites as a Senate candidate.

“Josh came across as decent and kind and thoughtful at Yale. Today he seems like a steaming mass of grievance,” said Ian Bassin, who attended Yale with Hawley before going on to work in the Obama White House and found the group Protect Democracy.

Bassin was one of 12 Yale Law alumni to sign a letter in 2018 warning that the Hawley they saw campaigning in Missouri was unrecognizable compared to the person they knew in school. josh hawley ladders commercial

When Josh Hawley was campaigning for attorney general in Missouri, he said he wouldn’t be using the office as a ladder to higher office. YouTube/GPSIMPACT

ny times logoNew York Times, President Biden Is Vowing to Reopen Schools Quickly. It Won’t Be Easy, Dana Goldstein, Jan. 25, 2021. Fights between districts and unions — as well as fear among teachers and parents — could make it hard to fulfill the promise.

In his first 48 hours in office, President Biden sought to project an optimistic message about returning the nation’s many homebound students to classrooms. “We can teach our children in safe schools,” he vowed in his inaugural address.

The following day, Mr. Biden signed an executive order promising to throw the strength of the federal government behind an effort to “reopen school doors as quickly as possible.”

But with about half of American students still learning virtually as the pandemic nears its first anniversary, the president’s push is far from certain to succeed. His plan is rolling out just as local battles over reopening have, if anything, become more pitched in recent weeks.

Teachers are uncertain about when they will be vaccinated and fearful of contagion. With alarming case counts across the country and new variants of the coronavirus emerging, unions are fighting efforts to return their members to crowded hallways. Their reluctance comes even as school administrators, mayors and some parents feel increased urgency to restore educational business-as-usual for the millions of students who are struggling academically and emotionally.

Given the seemingly intractable health and labor challenges, some district officials have begun to say out loud what was previously unthinkable: that schools may not be operating normally for the 2021-2022 school year. And some labor leaders are seeking to tamp down the expectations Mr. Biden’s words have raised.

“We don’t know whether a vaccine stops transmissibility,” said Randi Weingarten, the powerful president of the American Federation of Teachers, the nation’s second largest teachers union.

Some virus experts, however, have said there is reason to be optimistic on this question.

djt looking up

ny times logo

New York Times, Presidential Transition: Live Reports: The House is poised to transmit its article of impeachment against Trump to the Senate, Staff Reports, Jan. 25, 2021.

  • Biden hopes to tighten ‘Buy American’ provisions with an executive order.
  • Trump’s impending impeachment trial further divides Republicans.
  • Biden is vowing to reopen schools, but it won’t be easy.
  • Sarah Huckabee Sanders will run for governor of Arkansas.

The House is poised to deliver to the Senate on Monday its article of impeachment charging former President Donald J. Trump with “incitement of insurrection,” formally advancing the process even as the trial itself has been delayed.

U.S. House logoAt 7 p.m., the House impeachment managers will march the charge across the Capitol. That is the official, if ceremonial, start of the Senate trial process, during which the managers are expected to make their case that Mr. Trump should be held accountable for his role in inciting the deadly assault on the Capitol on Jan. 6. Representative Jamie Raskin, Democrat of Maryland and the lead impeachment manager, will read the article on the Senate floor.

Senate leaders last week struck a deal to pause the trial until the week of Feb. 8 to give the prosecution and the defense time to draft and exchange legal briefs, a timetable that also allows President Biden time to install members of his cabinet. Senators will be sworn in as jurors on Tuesday.

“During that period, the Senate will continue to do other business for the American people, such as cabinet nominations and the Covid relief bill, which would provide relief for millions of Americans who are suffering during this pandemic,” said Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader.

The looming trial has already sent lawmakers burrowing into dueling positions, deepening the schisms in an already divided Senate. As some Republicans in the chamber, including Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader, have grown increasingly worried that failing to distance themselves from Mr. Trump could damage the party for years to come, others have made clear that they oppose even the idea of a trial and will try to dismiss the charge before it begins.

ny times logoNew York Times, A War Over Filibuster, a Stalling Tactic, Stops the Senate From the Start, Carl Hulse, Jan. 25, 2021. Before the Senate can get down to business, Senator Mitch McConnell wants Democrats to promise not to gut the procedure that can grind the chamber to a halt.

For months, as Democrats contemplated capturing control of the White House and the Senate and finally being in a position to push through their agenda without Republican interference, centrists like Senator Jon Tester of Montana have warned that they would not join their party in jettisoning the filibuster, the ultimate weapon of mass obstruction, to clear the way.

us senate logoBut now that President Biden is in office and Democrats have taken hold of the Senate, even Mr. Tester, who sees the filibuster as a crucial mechanism to force the sort of bipartisan compromise that is sorely needed, says his determination to preserve it is not unconditional.

“I feel pretty damn strongly, but I will also tell you this: I am here to get things done,” Mr. Tester said in an interview. “If all that happens is filibuster after filibuster, roadblock after roadblock, then my opinion may change.”

Mr. Tester is at the center of a rapidly developing showdown over the fate of the filibuster, the signature feature of the Senate — a once rarely employed weapon now used routinely to stall action in the gridlocked institution — that holds heavy consequences for Mr. Biden’s presidency.

Before the Senate can get down to business under new Democratic management, Senator Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican and new minority leader, has forced a confrontation over the rule — which effectively imposes a 60-vote threshold to take any action — by refusing to cooperate in organizing the Senate unless Democrats promise not to gut it.

Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the new majority leader, has rebuffed the demand, which has infuriated Democrats who regard it as evidence that Mr. McConnell intends to obstruct Mr. Biden’s proposals on pandemic relief, immigration, climate change, health care and more.

“Mitch McConnell will not dictate to the Senate what we should do and how we should proceed,” Mr. Schumer said Sunday. “McConnell is no longer the majority leader.”

The stalemate has created a bizarre situation in which most Senate committees are frozen under Republican control and new senators cannot be seated on the panels even though Democrats now command the Senate majority.

Beyond the immediate logistical effects, the feud reflects a challenging dynamic in the 50-50 Senate for Mr. Biden. By holding out against Democrats eager to take charge, Mr. McConnell is exercising what leverage he has. But he is also foreshadowing an eventual clash in the chamber that might otherwise have taken months to unfold over how aggressive Democrats should be in seeking to accomplish Mr. Biden’s top priorities.

Democrats say they must retain at least the threat that they could one day end the filibuster, arguing that bowing to Mr. McConnell’s demand now would only embolden Republicans to deploy it constantly, without fear of retaliation.

 

U.S. Media, Education News

ny times logoNew York Times, Commentary and Analysis: Trump Wants Back on Facebook. This Star-Studded Jury Might Let Him, Ben Smith, Jan. 25, 2021 (print ed.). A new kind of corporate supercourt is looking for legitimacy.

They meet mostly on Zoom, but I prefer to picture the members of this court, or council, or whatever it is, wearing reflective suits and hovering via hologram around a glowing table. The members include two people who were reportedly on presidential shortlists for the U.S. Supreme Court, along with a Yemeni Nobel Peace Prize laureate, a British Pulitzer winner, Colombia’s leading human rights lawyer and a former prime minister of Denmark. The 20 of them come, in all, from 18 countries on six continents, and speak 27 languages among them.

facebook logoThis is the Oversight Board, a hitherto obscure body that will, over the next 87 days, rule on one of the most important questions in the world: Should Donald J. Trump be permitted to return to Facebook and reconnect with his millions of followers?

The decision has major consequences not just for American politics, but also for the way in which social media is regulated, and for the possible emergence of a new kind of transnational corporate power at a moment when almost no power seems legitimate.

The board will seriously examine the Trump question, guided by Facebook’s own rules as well as international human rights law.

The board took up the case Thursday, and will appoint a panel of five randomly selected board members, at least one of them American, to decide what is to be done with Mr. Trump’s account. The full, 20-person board will review the decision, and could reinstate Mr. Trump’s direct connection to millions of supporters, or sever it for good.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Site Trump Could Run to Next, Kara Swisher, kara swisherJan. 25, 2021. Facebook and Twitter have kicked Donald Trump off their platforms and Amazon Web Services removed Parler from its cloud. But there’s another popular platform that markets itself as the destination for free speech: Substack.

With more than 250,000 unique individuals paying for the newsletters on its platform, Substack is a lot smaller than Twitter or Facebook. Still, it’s a rapidly growing space for big media personalities who want to reach their audience directly. Glenn Greenwald, Andrew Sullivan, Hunter Harris and Anne Helen Petersen have all left their legacy media publications to start their own Substack newsletters. So should media companies be worried about the competition?

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Are We Ready for a Monday Without Trump? Gail Collins and Bret Stephens, Jan. 25, 2021. The White House, Congress and the media are all going to have to make some big adjustments.

Bret Stephens: Gail, I know we should be forward-looking and positive. But as you cast a final glance at the Trump administration’s final hours, what will you remember most fondly: Melania’s last “Be Best” address or the president marching off to the tune of The Village People’s “Y.M.C.A.”?

Gail: My question for you at this huge, enormous, change-of-course moment is: What will the public start thinking about? The Biden agenda? Donald Trump in exile? The next “Bachelorette”?

ny times logoNew York Times, How to Keep Internet Trolls Out of Remote Workplaces, Nellie Bowles, Jan. 25, 2021 (print ed.). When companies move all employee communications online, they face the same problems as the rest of the internet. But they don’t have to let bad behavior seep in.

Office conversation at some companies is starting to look as unruly as conversation on the internet. That’s because office conversation now is internet conversation. Many companies have been working online for nearly a year, with plans to continue well into 2021. And just as people are bolder behind keyboards on Twitter, they are bolder behind keyboards on workplace messaging platforms like Microsoft Teams and Slack — with all the good and all the bad, but with a lot more legal liability.

Work culture experts say there are steps companies can take before the lawyers get involved. These are among them: closely monitoring large chat groups, listening to complaints, reminding employees they are on the job and not bantering with friends, and being aware that a move to a virtual work force can expose new issues like age discrimination.

 

rudy giuliani amazon prime borat

ny times logoNew York Times, Rudolph Giuliani and Bill O’Reilly Still Have a Major N.Y. Platform, Azi Paybarah, Jan. 24, 2021. A popular radio station in Manhattan has become a haven where conservative hosts can defend Donald Trump. Rudolph W. Giuliani, above, still has a voice, amplified by a 50,000-watt radio station nestled in Midtown Manhattan. And there, Mr. Giuliani is his usual, unrestrained self.

Think Mr. Trump lost the election? Mr. Giuliani vehemently disagrees.

“He won that election,” Mr. Giuliani said last week on his radio show on WABC-AM (770). “You give me one hour. I will prove it to you with pictures, documents, votes and people we can call on the phone in five states.”

And the people who want him disbarred?

“Idiots,” “malicious left-wingers” and “irresponsible political hacks,” he said on his show on Thursday. “You want to disbar me? I think I’m going to move to disbar you.”

In the heart of New York City, long a Democratic stronghold, WABC has become an established beacon for right-wing views.

bill oreilly 2010Wonder what happened to Bill O’Reilly, right, after he was ousted from Fox News? He hosts a one-hour show for WABC, after Mark Levin, the syndicated conservative commentator who has a three-hour show at night.

The Fox News host Brian Kilmeade has a two-hour show in the mornings. Bernard Kerik, the former police commissioner, and Jeanine Pirro, the Fox News host, have one-hour weekend shows.

WABC’s identity as a conservative guidepost may come as a surprise to those more familiar with its history as a pioneering Top 40 station: In the late 1960s and early 1970s, WABC had more than six million listeners, the most in the history of American radio at that time.

But in 1982, when most music stations had moved to the FM dial, WABC dropped music from its programming and went to an all-talk format on May 10, a date that some longtime fans and radio industry veterans refer to as the day the music died.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Fox News is a hazard to our democracy. It’s time to take the fight to the Murdochs. Here’s how, Margaret Sullivan, right, Jan. 25, 2021 margaret sullivan 2015 photo(print ed.). The company has forfeited its responsibilities to society. It’s time to push back, speaking the only language the owners understand.

In recent days, Fox has taken a sharp turn toward a more extreme approach as it confronts a post-Trump ratings dip — the result of some of its farthest-right viewers moving to outlets such as Newsmax and One America News and some middle-of-the-roaders apparently finding CNN or MSNBC more to their liking.

With profit as the one true religion at Fox, something had to change. Ninety-year-old Rupert Murdoch, according to a number of reports, has stepped in to call the shots directly. Most notably, the network has decided to add an hour of opinion programming to its prime-time offerings. The 7 p.m. hour will no fox news logo Smalllonger be nominally news but straight-up outrage production.

Why? Because that’s where the ratings are.

The pro-Trump media world peddled the lies that fueled the Capitol mob. Fox News led the way.

And in a move that should be shocking but isn’t, one of those who will rotate through the tryouts for that coveted spot will be Maria Bartiromo, whose Trump sycophancy during the campaign may well have been unparalleled. She was among those (including Lou Dobbs and Jeanine Pirro) recently forced under threat of a lawsuit to air a video that debunked repeated false claims on her show that corrupt voting software had given millions of Trump votes to Biden.

Corporations that advertise on Fox News should walk away, and citizens who care about the truth should demand that they do so (in addition to trying to steer their friends and relatives away from the network).

mike lindell screengrab

Palmer Report, Opinion: My Pillow guy Mike Lindell just got permanently banned from Twitter, Bill Palmer, right, Jan. 25, 2021. By permanently banning everyone bill palmer report logo headerfrom bill palmerDonald Trump to Michael Flynn to Sidney Powell, Twitter has set a clear precedent that spreading election lies with the aim of inciting insurrection is an automatic disqualifier. Now Twitter has permanently banned yet another insurrectionist, My Pillow guy Mike Lindell (shown above in a file photo speaking at an annual conference of CPAC).

Mike Lindell’s @realmikelindell account has been taken down and replaced with an error message that says “Account suspended Twitter suspends accounts which violate the Twitter Rules.” To be clear, this message only displays when someone has been permanently suspendeded; this isn’t a mere timeout.
twitter bird Custom
Notably, Lindell’s company still has its @MyPillowUSA account, which is generally used for selling pillows, not political commentary. But if Lindell tries to hijack that account and keep tweeting, as Trump tried to do with the @POTUS account, we suspect he’ll lose the My Pillow account as well. Maybe it wasn’t a good idea for Lindell to walk into the Oval Office holding a piece of paper that appeared to say “martial law” on it.

 

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, Capitol Riot Puts Spotlight on ‘Apocalyptically Minded’ Global Far Right, Katrin Bennhold and Michael Schwirtz, Jan. 25, 2021 (print ed.).  United by racist ideology, extremists have built a web of real and online connections that worry officials on both sides of the Atlantic and beyond.

Many adherents saw the Capitol riot as a teaching moment — about how to pursue their goal of overturning democratic governments in more concrete ways.When insurrectionists stormed the Capitol in Washington this month, far-right extremists across the Atlantic cheered. Jürgen Elsässer, the editor of german flagGermany’s most prominent far-right magazine, was watching live from his couch.

“We were following it like a soccer match,” he said.

Four months earlier, Mr. Elsässer had attended a march in Berlin, where a breakaway mob of far-right protesters tried — and failed — to force their way into the building that houses Germany’s Parliament. The parallel was not lost on him.

“The fact that they actually made it inside raised hopes that there is a plan,” he said. “It was clear that this was something bigger.”

And it is. Adherents of racist far-right movements around the world share more than a common cause. German extremists have traveled to the United States for sniper competitions. American neo-Nazis have visited counterparts in Europe. Militants from different countries bond in training camps from Russia and Ukraine to South Africa.

For years far-right extremists traded ideology and inspiration on societies’ fringes and in the deepest realms of the internet. Now, the events of Jan. 6 at the U.S. Capitol have laid bare their violent potential.

ny times logoNew York Times, Is Space the Next ‘Great Power’ Contest Between the U.S. and China? William J. Broad, Jan. 25, 2021 (print ed.). The Biden administration faces not only waves of Chinese antisatellite weapons but a history of jumbled responses to the intensifying threat. Beijing’s rush for antisatellite arms began 15 years ago. Now, it can threaten the orbital fleets that give the United States military its technological edge. Advanced weapons at china flag SmallChina’s military bases can fire warheads that smash satellites and can shoot laser beams that have a potential to blind arrays of delicate sensors.

And China’s cyberattacks can, at least in theory, cut off the Pentagon from contact with fleets of satellites that track enemy movements, relay communications among troops and provide information for the precise targeting of smart weapons.

Among the most important national security issues now facing President Biden is how to contend with the threat that China poses to the American military in space and, by extension, terrestrial forces that rely on the overhead platforms.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Here are five takeaways from the developing space war between China and the U.S., William J. Broad, Jan. 25, 2021 (print ed.). The Biden administration is inheriting the menace of Chinese antisatellite arms as well as an innovative way of trying to defuse the escalating threat.

washington post logoWashington Post, Riots explode across Netherlands over coronavirus lockdown orders, Erin Cunningham, Jan. 25, 2021. Rioters attacked police and vandalized property in at least 10 regions in the Netherlands in some of the worst violence in years. “This is criminal violence and we will treat as such,” said Prime Minister Mark Rutte.

washington post logoisrael flagWashington Post, Violence erupts in Israel’s ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods over coronavirus restrictions, Steve Hendrix and Shira Rubin, Jan. 25, 2021. Rioters pelt police with stones, burn a bus, as government attempts to increase compliance in areas where infections are among the highest


 U.S. Law, Crime

ny times logoNew York Times, Supreme Court Won’t Hear Appeal from Sheldon Silver, Former N.Y. Lawmaker, Adam Liptak, Jan. 25, 2021. Mr. Silver, who once dominated state politics as the speaker of the New York Assembly, was convicted of taking illicit payments from real estate developers.

sheldon silver wThe Supreme Court on Monday let stand the conviction of Sheldon Silver, right, the once-powerful State Assembly speaker in New York who went to prison last summer on federal corruption charges.

As is the court’s custom, its brief order gave no reasons for turning down the case. Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, joined by Justice Clarence Thomas, dissented, saying the court should have heard the case to clarify its rulings on bribery and extortion.

The court has in recent years been skeptical of broad interpretations of public corruption laws, saying they are not all-purpose devices to ensure good government.

Mr. Silver’s lawyers told the justices that prosecutors had overreached in his case by securing his conviction of accepting bribes in a real estate scheme without proving that those who made the payments had intended to influence particular official actions.

The federal appeals court in New York, in affirming Mr. Silver’s conviction for his role in the scheme, said it was enough that he understood that he would take official actions in exchange for the payments.

washington post logoWashington Post, Six shot dead, including pregnant woman, in ‘mass murder,’ Indianapolis officials say, Meryl Kornfield, Jan. 25, 2021 (print ed.). Authorities said they have determined the attack was “targeted” and there may have been more than one shooter, but no suspects have been identified.

FBI crime data indicated killings rose nearly 21 percent nationwide in the first nine months of the year, The Post previously reported.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Finishing off Brett Kavanaugh, Bill Palmer, Jan. 25, 2021. Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse expressed his ongoing exasperation this week that the Trump-era DOJ never did properly investigate Brett Kavanaugh, and now Kavanaugh is casting absurd Supreme Court votes unabated.

bill palmer report logo headerThe minute President Biden’s Attorney General Merrick Garland is confirmed, I strongly urge Senate Democrats to refer Brett Kavanaugh to the DOJ for felony perjury. It’s an easily proven charge, as we all saw him lie under oath about various key topics during his confirmation hearing.

If the DOJ brings a case, Kavanaugh will end up having to resign in exchange for non-prosecution. There’s never a guarantee that the DOJ will bring a case. But with Trump gone, and the DOJ being back to making decisions based on the merits of any given case, it’s difficult to imagine the DOJ not bringing a case in such a clear cut instance of felony perjury. For that matter, once the DOJ opens the perjury case, it can investigate the things he was lying about, such as how his debts magically disappeared, and get to the bottom of that as well.

Kavanaugh has to go. Even if we can’t nail him for sexual assault, we can nail him for perjury. Getting him off the Supreme Court won’t fix what’s currently wrong with the court – but it’ll make doing so easier.

 

Remembering Larry King

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Commentary: An unvarnished homage to Larry King, Wayne Madsen, left, Jan. 25, 2021. Larry King's death at the age of 87 has prompted eulogies from many of his former colleagues and interview subjects. Although King, born Larry Zeiger in Brooklyn, spent the final leg of his career in Los larry king mugAngeles, from 1978 to around 2007 he lived and worked in Washington, DC, hosting his CNN interview program from either Washington, New York, or Los Angeles.

King's staying power in the rough-and-tumble media market in the nation's capital made him not only a fixture but the subject of many jokes.

Since Larry became a sort of fixture at Los Angeles Friar's Club roasts, where irreverence toward the roastee is not only expected but is a requirement, allow this editor to shed some light on King, right, that is not being mentioned in all the fawning tributes of the week.

ny times logoNew York Times, How Newsmakers and News Hosts Are Remembering Larry King, Bryan Pietsch, Jan. 24, 2021 (print ed.). CNN colleagues like Wolf Blitzer and Christiane Amanpour were joined by celebrities including Oprah Winfrey, Bill Clinton, Magic Johnson and Celine Dion in mourning the longtime broadcaster.

washington post logoWashington Post, Larry King, TV host who gave boldface names a cozy forum, dies at 87, T. Rees Shapiro, Jan. 23, 2021. Larry King, the suspendered impresario of cable television whose popular CNN interview program — with its guest-friendly questions and conversational banter — was a premier safe larry king resizedhaven for the famous and infamous to spill their secrets, hype their projects and soften their image, died Jan. 23 at a hospital in Los Angeles. He was 87.

Ora Media, the production company he co-founded, announced his death but did not provide a cause, according to the Associated Press. CNN reported earlier this month that Mr. King was hospitalized for complications from covid-19. The TV host, who was long beset by medical problems, such as diabetes and heart attacks, underwent an operation to remove early-stage lung cancer in 2017 and had a stroke in 2019.

In a career that included print and radio, Mr. King was best known for sitting behind a bulbous RCA microphone in the anchor chair of his prime-time CNN show “Larry King Live” from 1985 to 2010.

2015 Magazine Profile: New York Times Magazine, Larry King Is Preparing for the Final Cancellation, Mark Leibovich, Aug. 26, 2015. Five years after CNN pulled the plug on his show, the TV host is thinking about whom he’ll book for his funeral.

We sat at Larry King’s table at the Palm steakhouse in Washington, a city the cable talk impresario has not lived in since 1997. Yet King, now 81, remained central to the restaurant’s scenery. Caricatures of him hung on the walls, depicting various stages of his perpetual middle age. People walked by and said hello and told him they always watched his show, even though King left CNN four and a half years ago. ‘

When he is not interviewing anyone, just eating lunch, King tends to slump in his chair. On TV, you experienced him mainly as sharp angles, arched shoulders and pointed elbows, and a collection of features and accouterments (suspenders, saucer glasses). King’s once-black hair has now assumed, or been assumed with, a coppery orange color. The beige of his unmade face lacks the glow that radiated when King was at his peak and framed by the edges of a screen.

Like all old people, or so King claims, he likes to read the obituaries first thing every morning. God’s box scores. He can’t turn away.

King is fixated on dying. Everyone is, to some degree, but not like him. Shawn King, his seventh wife, told me that Larry talks so much about his demise that he started to upset their teenage sons, and she had to tell him to knock it off.

 

Jan. 24

Top Stories

 
Virus Victims, Responses

 

U.S. Politics, Elections

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Crime

 

U.S. Media, Education News

 

World News

 

Capitol Riot Fallout

 

Top Stories

joe biden 2 transition

Palmer Report, Opinion: President Joe Biden’s approval numbers are off the charts, Bill Palmer, Jan. 24, 2021.  Presidents usually enter office with an approval rating well above fifty percent, only for it to fall off as time goes on. Donald Trump was the rare exception who entered office with a low approval rating in the forties; he never did recover. So it’s crucial that President Joe Biden hit the ground running in terms of popularity.

bill palmer report logo headerSure enough, Biden entered office this past week with an approval rating in the high sixties. That’s a great start for him. The tricky part is what happens after a new President begins carrying out a political agenda, and risks quickly losing support.

But thus far that isn’t happening for Biden. In fact his first-week initiatives are generally polling very highly. Check out these ABC News poll numbers that pollster Matt McDermott tweeted:

If you average all of those numbers together, they come out to about 68%. This means that about two-thirds of the country not only supports President Biden, but also supports the specific agenda he’s pushing forward with. It means Biden has an opportunity to continue pushing forward with an aggressive agenda in the coming weeks and months, accomplishing as much as possible during his honeymoon period. We predict Biden will do precisely that.

washington post logoWashington Post, Fight over the rules grinds the Senate to a halt, imperiling Biden’s agenda, Mike DeBonis and Seung Min Kim, Jan. 24, 2021 (print ed.).  The two parties have yet to agree how to operate the 50-50 chamber days after Democrats took control.

When President Biden took office last week, he promised sweeping, bipartisan legislation to solve the coronavirus pandemic, fix the economy and overhaul immigration.

Just days later, the Senate ground to a halt, with Democrats and Republicans unable to agree on even basic rules for how the evenly divided body should operate.

Meanwhile, key Republicans have quickly signaled discomfort with — or outright dismissal of — the cornerstone of Biden’s early legislative agenda, a $1.9 trillion pandemic relief plan that includes measures including $1,400 stimulus checks, vaccine distribution funding and a $15 minimum wage.

On top of that, senators are preparing for a wrenching second impeachment trial for President Donald Trump, set to begin Feb. 9, which could mire all other Senate business and further obliterate any hopes of cross-party cooperation.

Taken together, this gridlock could imperil Biden’s entire early presidency, making it impossible for him to deliver on key promises as he contends with dueling crises.

capitol ties

A heavily disguised rioter invades the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 as part of the pro-Trump "Stop the Steal" protest carrying plastic "ties," which are normally used by law enforcers and terrorists to bind the wrists of suspects or, in the case of terrorists, hostages.

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: Pennsylvania Lawmaker Played Key Role in Trump’s Plot to Oust Acting Attorney General, Katie Benner and Catie Edmondson, Jan. 23, 2021 (print ed.).  The congressman’s involvement underlined how far the former president was willing to go to overturn the election, and Democratic lawmakers are beginning to call for investigations into those efforts.

When Representative Scott Perry joined his colleagues in a monthslong campaign to undermine the results of the presidential election, promoting “Stop the Steal” events and supporting an attempt to overturn millions of legally cast votes, he often took a back seat to higher-profile loyalists in President Donald J. scott perryTrump’s orbit.

But Mr. Perry, left, an outspoken Pennsylvania Republican, played a significant role in the crisis that played out at the top of the Justice Department this month, when Mr. Trump considered firing the acting attorney general and backed down only after top department officials threatened to resign en masse.

It was Mr. Perry, a member of the hard-line Freedom Caucus, who first made Mr. Trump aware that a relatively obscure Justice Department official, Jeffrey jeffrey clark oClark, right, the acting chief of the civil division, was sympathetic to Mr. Trump’s view that the election had been stolen, according to former administration officials who spoke with Mr. Clark and Mr. Trump.

Mr. Perry introduced the president to Mr. Clark, whose openness to conspiracy theories about election fraud presented Mr. Trump with a welcome change from the acting attorney general, Jeffrey A. Rosen, who stood by the results of the election and had repeatedly resisted the president’s efforts to undo them.

republican elephant logoMr. Perry’s previously unreported role, and the quiet discussions between Mr. Trump and Mr. Clark that followed, underlined how much the former president was willing to use the government to subvert the election, turning to more junior and relatively unknown figures for help as ranking Republicans and cabinet members rebuffed him.

Mr. Perry’s involvement is also likely to heighten scrutiny of House Republicans who continue to advance Mr. Trump’s false and thoroughly debunked claims of election fraud, even after President Biden’s inauguration this week and as Congress prepares for an impeachment trial that will examine whether such talk incited the Capitol riot.

Background:

 Justice Department logo

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump and Justice Dept. Lawyer Said to Have Plotted to Oust Acting Attorney General, Katie Benner, Jan. 23, 2021 (print ed.). Trying to find another avenue to push his baseless election claims, Donald Trump considered installing a loyalist, and had the men make their cases to him.

The Justice Department’s top leaders listened in stunned silence this month: One of their peers, they were told, had devised a plan with President Donald J. jeffrey rosenTrump to oust Jeffrey A. Rosen, right, as acting attorney general and wield the department’s power to force Georgia state lawmakers to overturn its presidential election results.

Palmer Report, Opinion: House Republican Scott Perry in deep trouble for role in Trump’s DOJ election criminal scandal: Report, Bill Palmer,  Jan. 23, 2021. The thing about criminal conspiracies is that once they’re finally caught onto, they have a way of continuing to unravel.

Last night we all learned that prior to January 6th, Donald Trump had criminally conspired with DOJ official Jeffrey Clark to try to overthrow the election. Now it turns out that plot included a certain House Republican. bill palmer report logo headerIt was House Republican Scott Perry who played matchmaker between Trump and Clark, letting Trump know that Clark was potentially open to conspiring with him, according to an expose tonight from the New York Times.

 

garret miller with flag us court photo1

A man identified by federal authorities as Garret Miller is shown in the photos filed the photo above and below right in U.S. District Court as part of an indictment alleging that he threated to assassinate a member of Congress and a Capitol Hill policeman. 

ny times logoNew York Times, A Texas man who stormed the Capitol threatened to assassinate Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Michael Levenson, Jan. 24, garret miller photo facebook us district court2021 (print ed.). Garret Miller, right, who was among those who stormed the Capitol, also threatened the officer who fatally shot a Trump supporter, saying he would “hug his neck with a nice rope,” prosecutors said.

A Trump supporter who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 threatened on social media to assassinate Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (shown below in a file photo) that day and also threatened the Capitol Police officer who fatally shot a woman as she tried to enter the Speaker’s Lobby, federal prosecutors alexandria ocasio cortez resized yoho speech july 23 2020 house tv via apsaid.

The man, Garret Miller, 34, of Richardson, Texas, was arrested on Wednesday and charged with, among other things, threats, knowingly entering a restricted building and violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds, according to a criminal complaint.

Surveillance video from inside the Capitol, a selfie and a video posted by Mr. Miller and comments he made on social media showed that he had been part of a crowd that had pushed past the police to enter the Capitol, disrupting Congress as it was certifying President Donald J. Trump’s loss to Joseph R. Biden Jr., the complaint states.

 

capitol guns drawn

Police with guns drawn watch as rioters and vandals break into the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo / J. Scott Applewhite) (Source: J. Scott Applewhite/AP).

brian sicknickA California woman was warned and then fatally shot as she and others in the mob shattered glass and tried to crawl up and through the hole in the door to enter the chamber where congressional members and staff had huddled for safety during the rampage. Dying also were four others, including Brian D. Sicknick, above, a Capitol Hill police officer murdered while trying to protect government workers during the pro-Trump insurrection. President Trump failed to order federal flags flown at half-mast in his honor, although House Speaker Nancy Pelosi did so over the flags she controls at the Capitol.

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: A Lunge, Then a Gunshot: Inside the Deadly Capitol Shooting, Adam Goldman and Shaila Dewan, Jan. 24, 2021 (print ed.).  At a crucial moment in the Jan. 6 riot, as the mob closed in on lawmakers, a Capitol Police lieutenant fatally shot a woman vaulting through a window. Videos taken of the episode, legal documents and witness accounts point to a dire set of circumstances and an officer left to confront a mob.

During the four-and-a-half-hour attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, one of the moments when the mob came closest to the lawmakers they were pursuing took place just after 2:30 p.m.

On one side of a set of antique wood and glass doors were dozens of lawmakers and their aides trying to evacuate the House chamber.

On the other were rioters yelling “Stop the steal” as they hammered the panes with a flagpole, a helmet and even a bare fist.

ashli babbittIn between was a Capitol Police lieutenant, scrambling to pile tables and chairs into a makeshift barricade. He had 31 rounds for his service weapon, and he has told others that he feared he might need them all.

At the height of the standoff, a woman named Ashli Babbitt, right, tried to vault through a window. The lieutenant, his weapon already extended, pulled the trigger once, killing her in a confrontation that was captured on video and widely viewed around the world. (Excerpt continued below in section "Capitol Riot Followups.")

 

madison cawthorne hunting amazon

Proof via Substack, Investigation: It's Time to Talk About Madison Cawthorn, Seth Abramson, Jan. 24, 2021. The North Carolina Congressman (shown above) is seth abramson proof logoa key January 6 figure too few are talking about.

We’ve entered an era of American history in which we must be more on guard against recurrences of the past than ever before. Donald Trump, if not convicted of incitement to insurrection by the Senate in February, may run again for president—in a storm of vengeance and spite—in 2024. If he doesn’t, one or another of those of his offspring who haven’t fallen far from the tree might well do so, bringing with them the same depravity of spirit and hatred of democracy that festered in their father for decades.

But it may equally be that, over the next ten or twenty or thirty years, the recurrence of Trumpism as a dangerous monolith at the center of our democracy comes to us in the form of someone outside the Trump family: another man or woman with no scruples, a history of deceit, a willingness to incite the very worst in us, and a penchant for fraud.

It’s in this spirit that I write about a twenty-five year-old Republican Congressman from North Carolina, Madison Cawthorn. Cawthorn, we recently learned from The Nation, was elected to Congress of the strength of lies about his military service, his educational background, his work experience, and even his experience—as it turns out, wholly illusory—as a Paralympian. Why these lies weren’t caught by media before this Trump-in-waiting made it to the halls of Congress, we don’t yet know.

What we do know is that in mid-December 2020, Madison Cawthorn “encouraged” Trump voters to call the Capitol and “lightly threaten” members of Congress on the subject of the 2020 election results, in doing so saying to members of Congress, as he explicitly recommended, “‘You know what? If you don’t start supporting election integrity, I’m coming after you, Madison Cawthorn’s coming after you, everybody’s coming after you.’”

In the event anyone thought Cawthorn had accidentally slipped into unfortunate and indelicate hyperbole, the Congressman appeared at Trump’s “Stop the Steal” rally on January 6 to expand on his prior incitement. He repeated that he was “encouraging” Trump voters to “make their voice[s] heard” because “our Constitution was violated [on November 3].” He ranted that the mob was “doing this”—what he thought or believed the crowd was about to do is unclear—because they’d been forced to do so, indeed because no one else would “make sure they [their representatives in Congress] stood up for election integrity.”

Cawthorn spoke closer in time to Donald Trump on January 6 than either of Trump’s adult sons, and was introduced by the same music Trump himself is introduced by (“Macho Man” by the Village People). He began his speech on the day of the armed insurrection by shouting, “Wow, this crowd really has some fight in it! I’m so glad each and every one of you have come.” He proceeded to underscore to the gathered mob that the Capitol was only “two miles away” down “Pennsylvania Avenue”—as though he were a traffic cop directing them to their final destination. He juxtaposed the lack of “courage” at the Capitol—just two miles away, down Pennsylvania Avenue, you can’t miss it!—with the “courage” that he said he saw in the angry masses before him.

ny times logoNew York Times, How Democrats Planned for Doomsday Scenarios, Alexander Burns, Jan. 24, 2021. The organized left anticipated former President Donald Trump’s postelection schemes, including his attempt to claim a win he had not achieved.

The video call was announced on short notice, but more than 900 people quickly joined: a coalition of union officials and racial justice organizers, civil rights lawyers and campaign strategists, pulled together in a matter of hours after the Jan. 6 attack on Capitol Hill.

They convened to craft a plan for answering the onslaught on American democracy, and they soon reached a few key decisions. They would stay off the streets for the moment and hold back from mass demonstrations that could be exposed to an armed mob goaded on by President Donald J. Trump.

They would use careful language. In a presentation, Anat Shenker-Osorio, a liberal messaging guru, urged against calling the attack a “coup,” warning that the word could make Mr. Trump sound far stronger than he was — or even imply that a pro-Trump militia had seized power.

And they would demand stern punishment for Mr. Trump and his party: Republicans at every level of government who incited the mob “must be removed or resign,” read one version of the group’s intended message, contained in Ms. Shenker-Osorio’s presentation and reviewed by The New York Times.

The meeting was no lucky feat of emergency organizing, nor was the highly disciplined and united front that emerged from it.

Instead, it was a climactic event in a long season of planning and coordination by progressives, aimed largely at a challenge with no American precedent: defending the outcome of a free election from a president bent on overturning it.

By the time rioters ransacked the Capitol, the machinery of the left had already been primed to respond — prepared by months spent sketching out doomsday scenarios and mapping out responses, by countless hours of training exercises and reams of opinion research.

Interviews with nearly two dozen leaders involved in the effort, and a review of several hundred pages of planning documents, polling presentations and legal memorandums, revealed an uncommon — and previously unreported — degree of collaboration among progressive groups that often struggle to work so closely together because of competition over political turf, funding and conflicting ideological priorities.

For the organizers of the effort, it represents both a good-news story — Mr. Trump was thwarted — and an ominous sign that such exhaustive efforts were required to protect election results that were not all that close.

For the most part, the organized left anticipated Mr. Trump’s postelection schemes, including his premature attempt to claim a victory he had not achieved, his pressure campaigns targeting Republican election administrators and county officials and his incitement of far-right violence, strategy documents show.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

anthony fauci white house

ny times logoNew York Times, Fauci on What Working for Trump Was Really Like, Donald G. McNeil Jr., Jan. 24, 2021. From denialism to death threats, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci (shown in a file photo) describes a fraught year as an adviser to President Donald J. Trump on the Covid-19 pandemic.

For almost 40 years, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci has held two jobs. As director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, he has run one of the country’s premier research institutions. But he has also been an adviser to seven presidents, from Ronald Reagan to, now, Joseph R. Biden Jr., called upon whenever a health crisis looms to brief the administration, address the World Health Organization, testify before Congress or meet with the news media.

For Dr. Fauci, 80, the past year has stood out like no other. As the coronavirus ravaged the country, Dr. Fauci’s calm counsel and commitment to hard facts endeared him to millions of Americans. But he also became a villain to millions of others. Trump supporters chanted “Fire Fauci,” and the president mused openly about doing so. He was accused of inventing the virus and of being part of a secret cabal with Bill Gates and George Soros to profit from vaccines. His family received death threats. On Jan. 21, appearing in his first press briefing under the Biden administration, Dr. Fauci described the “liberating feeling” of once again being able to “get up here and talk about what you know — what the evidence, what the science is — and know that’s it, let the science speak.”

In an hourlong conversation with The New York Times over the weekend, Dr. Fauci described some of the difficulties, and the toll, of working with President Donald J. Trump. (This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.)
Sign up for Science Times: Get stories that capture the wonders of nature, the cosmos and the human body.

When did you first realize things were going wrong between you and President Trump?

It coincided very much with the rapid escalation of cases in the northeastern part of the country, particularly the New York metropolitan area. I would try to express the gravity of the situation, and the response of the president was always leaning toward, “Well, it’s not that bad, right?” And I would say, “Yes, it is that bad.” It was almost a reflex response, trying to coax you to minimize it. Not saying, “I want you to minimize it,” but, “Oh, really, was it that bad?”

And the other thing that made me really concerned was, it was clear that he was getting input from people who were calling him up, I don’t know who, people he knew from business, saying, “Hey, I heard about this drug, isn’t it great?” or, “Boy, this convalescent plasma is really phenomenal.” And I would try to, you know, calmly explain that you find out if something works by doing an appropriate clinical trial; you get the information, you give it a peer review. And he’d say, “Oh, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, this stuff really works.”

He would take just as seriously their opinion — based on no data, just anecdote — that something might really be important. It wasn’t just hydroxychloroquine, it was a variety of alternative-medicine-type approaches. It was always, “A guy called me up, a friend of mine from blah, blah, blah.” That’s when my anxiety started to escalate.

Did you have any problems with him in the first three years of his presidency?

No, he barely knew who I was.

When did the death threats start?

Wow. Many, many months ago. In the spring. Hold on — just bear with me. [He consults someone who answers “March 28.”] So there — you got it from the head of my Secret Service detail. That’s when I got protection, so maybe two weeks prior to that.

It was the harassment of my wife, and particularly my children, that upset me more than anything else. They knew where my kids work, where they live. The threats would come directly to my children’s phones, directly to my children’s homes. How the hell did whoever these assholes were get that information? And there was chatter on the internet, people talking to each other, threatening, saying, “Hey, we got to get rid of this guy. What are we going to do about him? He’s hurting the president’s chances.” You know, that kind of right-wing craziness.

Were you ever shot at or confronted?

No, but one day I got a letter in the mail, I opened it up and a puff of powder came all over my face and my chest.

That was very, very disturbing to me and my wife because it was in my office. So I just looked at it all over me and said, “What do I do?” The security detail was there, and they’re very experienced in that. They said, “Don’t move, stay in the room.” And they got the hazmat people. So they came, they sprayed me down and all that.

Did they test the powder?

Yeah. It was a benign nothing. But it was frightening. My wife and my children were more disturbed than I was. I looked at it somewhat fatalistically. It had to be one of three things: A hoax. Or anthrax, which meant I’d have to go on Cipro for a month. Or if it was ricin, I was dead, so bye-bye.

ny times logoNew York Times, New Pandemic Plight: Hospitals Are Running Out of Vaccines, Simon Romero and Giulia McDonnell Nieto del Rio, Jan. 24, 2021 (print ed.). U.S. health officials are frustrated that available doses are going unused while the virus is killing thousands of people each day. Thousands of vaccine appointments have been canceled and local officials are often uncertain about what supplies they will have in hand.

As the coronavirus tears across much of Texas, Dr. Esmaeil Porsa is grappling with one of the most formidable challenges he has faced: The Houston hospital system he operates is running out of vaccines.

texas mapDr. Porsa, the chief executive of Harris Health System, which treats thousands of mostly uninsured patients, warned on Friday that its entire vaccine supply could be depleted by midday Saturday. The problem is not one of capability — the vaccination centers Dr. Porsa oversees have easily been administering as many as 2,000 vaccines a day — but of availability.

“All of a sudden the distribution of vaccines stopped,” Dr. Porsa said. “It’s perplexing and frustrating because I keep hearing that there are high percentages of vaccines that have been distributed but not administered.”

In the midst of one of the deadliest phases of the pandemic in the United States, health officials in Texas and around the country are growing desperate, unable to get clear answers as to why the long-anticipated vaccines are suddenly in short supply. Inoculation sites are canceling thousands of appointments in one state after another as the nation’s vaccines roll out through a bewildering patchwork of distribution networks, with local officials uncertain about what supplies they will have in hand.

In South Carolina, one hospital in the city of Beaufort had to cancel 6,000 vaccine appointments after it received only 450 of the doses it expected. In Hawaii, a Maui hospital canceled 5,000 first-dose appointments and put 15,000 additional requests for appointments on hold.

The situation is especially dire in Texas, which is averaging about 20,000 new coronavirus cases a day, fueling concerns over whether officials will be able to curb the spread when they cannot get their hands on the vaccines they desperately need to do so.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: Jan. 24, 2021), with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):

World Cases: 99,416,374, Deaths: 2,132,164
U.S. Cases:   25,569,883, Deaths:    427,637

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), an independent global health research center at the University of Washington. Projected total U.S. deaths, based on current scenario 459,324 by Feb. 1; 529,000 by March 1; 567,195 by April 1, 2021.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live: Variants Threaten to Undo Progress as World Nears 100 Million Cases, Staff reports, Jan. 24, 2021. Altered versions of the coronavirus raise questions about how effective the current vaccines will be against them.

Other news: For some, vaccinations have come to be seen as a status symbol. The University of Michigan is forced to shut down its athletic programs over a virus variant. A year after the Wuhan outbreak, Beijing’s control is near total over what people in China see, hear and think about the pandemic. Here’s the latest on Covid-19.

Palmer Report, Opinion: This most disgraceful inheritance, Robert Harrington, right, Jan. 24, 2021. “To cannon,” Napoleon once said, “all men are equal.” It is even truer robert harringtnn portraitfor coronavirus, because one cannot aim a coronavirus. Coronavirus proved to be no respecter of blue or red. But it is a respecter of social distancing, mask wearing and hand washing. So it’s no coincidence that because more Democrats than Republicans do those things, more Republicans and fewer Democrats get sick. Such was the consequence of politicizing the pandemic. It may be the case that that’s all the last administration did about it.

bill palmer report logo headerIt turns out that we really did need an unimpeachable source (if you’ll pardon the expression) to tell us the truth about what the last administration was doing about coronavirus. It also turns out they lied to us. The outgoing gaggle of cretins were doing even less than we dared to suspect. When the Chief Cretin said “We’ve done a tremendous job, tremendous,” they had in fact been doing almost nothing. Only fools are surprised.

“What we’re inheriting is so much worse than we could have imagined,” said President Joe Biden’s coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zients in a call with reporters. Another official said: “There is nothing for us to rework. We are going to have to build everything from scratch.”

Mike Pence was put in charge of the previous coronavirus task force and, for bad measure, Jared Kushner, right, was (bafflingly) put in charge of a separate uncoordinated coronavirus task force. Turns out neither man did much of anything. This criminal negligence that has caused (as I write this) 427,635 American deaths, may not merely spell the end of both their political careers, it might see them both safely in prison.

It is within the remit of every district attorney in the United States to file criminal charges against the ex-vice president and the ex-president’s son-in-law for criminal negligence if any of their constituents died of coronavirus. They can also charge the disgraced ex-president as a co-conspirator. I don’t doubt that a lot of other criminal charges are looming for a lot of other members of the pirate ship known as the Trump administration.

The seven day average death rate for COVID-19 remains over 3,000 per day. This is the mess we inherited. Real President Biden has implemented a wartime strategy — in lieu of the last administration’s fake wartime strategy — in order to combat this daily 9/11-sized catastrophe.

It is a juggernaut with so much momentum that, by the end of February, half a million Americans will have died. There is little or nothing that the Real President can do about that. Death is what you might call the ultimate trailing indicator of coronavirus. Those deaths were foreordained long before the cretin who previously infested the White House was whipped from office by a disgusted constituency.

 

U.S. Politics, Elections

washington post logoPresident Donald Trump officialWashington Post, Trump jumps into a divisive battle over the Republican Party — with a threat to start a ‘MAGA Party,’ Josh Dawsey and Michael Scherer, Jan. 24, 2021 (print ed.). Former president Donald Trump threw himself back into politics this weekend by publicly endorsing a devoted and divisive acolyte in Arizona who has embraced his false election conspiracy theories and entertained the creation of a new "MAGA Party."

In a recorded phone call, Trump offered his “complete and total endorsement” for another term for Arizona state party chairwoman Kelli Ward, a lightning rod who has sparred with the state’s Republican governor, been condemned by the business community and overseen a recent flight in party registrations. She narrowly won reelection, by a margin of 51.5 percent to 48.5 percent, marking Trump’s first victory in a promised battle to maintain political relevance and influence after losing the 2020 election.

 

Sen. Josh Hawley, a first-term Missouri Republican, gives a fist salute to the pro-Trump mob outside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 (photo by Francis Chung).

Sen. Josh Hawley, a first-term Missouri Republican, gives a fist salute to the pro-Trump mob outside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 (photo by Francis Chung). Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is shown below at left in a screenshot.

Kansas City Star, 'Bamboozled’: Hawley mentors stunned by conduct, but early warning signs were there, Bryan Lowry, Jonathan Shorman, and Eric Adler, Jan. 24, 2021. Josh Hawley’s rise included warning signs of radicalism; After violence at Capitol, Hawley still calls for Biden's votes to be blocked.

Josh Hawley was a precocious 15-year-old in 1995, writing a regular column for his hometown paper, The Lexington News, when he was still in high school.

He used the early platform to opine on politics, culture and those he believed had been unfairly maligned by the media — among them anti-government militias and Los Angeles police detective Mark Fuhrman.

Hawley warned against depicting all militia members as domestic terrorists after the Oklahoma City bombing, which killed 168 people, including 19 children. Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, who carried out the attack on the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, had ties to the Michigan Militia.

“Many of the people populating these movements are not radical, right-wing, pro-assault weapons freaks as they were originally stereotyped,” Hawley wrote two months after the bombing.

He argued that middle class Americans had gravitated to anti-government organizations out of genuine concerns about federal overreach and a disillusionment with mainstream politics.

“Dismissed by the media and treated with disdain by their elected leaders, these citizens come together and form groups that often draw more media fire as anti-government hate gatherings,” Hawley said.

“Feeling alienated from their government and the rest of society, they often become disenchanted and slip into talks of ‘conspiracy theories’ about how the federal government is out to get them.”

Twenty-six years later, the junior senator from Missouri is the face of the failed effort to overturn the 2020 election, captured in a photograph that shows him raising a fist in solidarity with a crowd of former President Donald Trump’s supporters shortly before they laid siege to the U.S. Capitol.

The insurrection left five people dead, including a police officer, after a mob made up of militia members and racists with Confederate flags and neo-Nazi paraphernalia stormed the Capitol. Their deadly rage was fueled by the election of President Joe Biden, whose victory was due in large part to Black voters.

Prior to Jan. 6, Hawley had enjoyed an uninterrupted trajectory from Rockhurst High School valedictorian to the U.S. Senate — by way of Stanford University, Yale Law School, a clerkship for Chief Justice John Roberts and a brief tenure as Missouri attorney general.

Hawley, an evangelical Christian, has long championed the view that political leaders should be guided by their religious faith and that secularism runs counter to the country’s founding principles.

Hawley’s classmates at Yale Law School remember him as politically ambitious and a deeply religious conservative. But they say they witnessed a startling transformation when he railed against elites as a Senate candidate.

“Josh came across as decent and kind and thoughtful at Yale. Today he seems like a steaming mass of grievance,” said Ian Bassin, who attended Yale with Hawley before going on to work in the Obama White House and found the group Protect Democracy.

Bassin was one of 12 Yale Law alumni to sign a letter in 2018 warning that the Hawley they saw campaigning in Missouri was unrecognizable compared to the person they knew in school. josh hawley ladders commercial

When Josh Hawley was campaigning for attorney general in Missouri, he said he wouldn’t be using the office as a ladder to higher office. YouTube/GPSIMPACT

washington post logoWashington Post, Anarchists and extremists divide the left as Biden term begins, Marissa J. Lang and Kimberly Kindy, Jan. 24, 2021 (print ed.). Extreme-left demonstrators destroyed the Democratic headquarters in Portland, Ore., hours after President Biden took the oath of office.

marco rubio official.jpgPalmer Report, Opinion: Marco Rubio just found a whole new way to embarrass himself, Bill Palmer, Jan. 24, 2021. Marco Rubio always comes off as being distinctly in over his head. The only trick in his bag is to never take a stand on anything, generically criticize both sides, and try to spin the middle ground as somehow being the high ground.

bill palmer report logo headerNow Rubio, right, is finally being forced to pick a side when it comes to Trump’s domestic terrorism, and it’s not going well for him. Rubio appeared on the Chris Wallace show on Fox News this morning and acknowledged that Trump bears “responsibility” for the U.S. Capitol attack, but thinks Trump shouldn’t be put on impeachment trial in the Senate because it might “stir up” the people who carried out the attack.

This is pathetic, even for Marco Rubio. When has the United States ever made a decision about whether to put a criminal on trial and based it on whether that criminal’s violent acolytes might carry out more violence in retaliation? If this is Rubio’s position, then he doesn’t belong anywhere in the United States government, and he should resign.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Tests of Biden’s leadership, and GOP’s willingness to cooperate, come quickly, Dan Balz, Jan. 24, 2021 (print ed.). The opening days of President Biden’s administration produced a stack of executive actions and a $1.9 trillion legislative proposal focused on the coronavirus pandemic and the weakened economy. With those initiatives come two early tests. Can Biden make the executive branch function effectively and will his appeals for unity bear fruit?

joe biden twitterThe executive actions collectively were designed to show a change in course after the presidency of Donald Trump, but the principal focus of the first days is on job one: dealing with the pandemic. Biden’s challenge is to replace Trump’s mismanagement of the health crisis with a national strategy to suppress the virus and deliver hundreds of millions of vaccinations.

As the president said Thursday, the pandemic will get worse before things get better. The covid-19 death toll could reach 500,000 next month, after topping 400,000 last Tuesday. Mutations of the virus that are more transmissible could accelerate the number of new cases contracted, which inevitably would lead to more hospitalizations and more deaths.

washington post logoWashington Post, Civil rights leaders say they won’t let up on Biden — or Harris, Cleve R. Wootson Jr., Jan. 24, 2021 (print ed.). Civil rights activists say the White House cannot use the vice president's presence to justify delaying action on racial justice.

pamela brown madison cawthorn

Palmer Report, Opinion: CNN’s Pamela Brown just bulldozed House Republican Madison Cawthorn, Trisha Delaney, Jan. 24, 2021. Freshman Congressman Madison Cawthorn (R-NC), above right, made the typical rookie mistake.

bill palmer report logo headerVying for the spotlight he shot his mouth off about election fraud, served as a contributing factor to the incitement of insurrection at the Capitol, and then he made the serious miscalculation of going on air tonight with Pamela Brown of CNN, above left, instead of appearing on one of the propaganda ‘no-questions-asked, no utterance challenged’ “alternative facts” networks.

Brown confronted Cawthorn with a docket full of “facts,” primary among them was that amid all of his election irregularity allegations he never once saw fit to have an issue with his own state of North Carolina. You can watch it below:

Brown recited the many ways in which North Carolina also changed its voting procedures due to the pandemic including, extending the time for mail-in ballots to be received (for up to a week), and even making changes after the voting began. Near her wrap up she made the point that these issues not only existed in his home state but, unlike the states he complained of (primarily Wisconsin), North Carolina actually had confirmed voter fraud in 2018. Thanks, Pamela Brown. We needed this.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden is firing some top Trump holdovers, but in some cases, his hands may be tied, Lisa Rein and Anne Gearan, Jan. 24, 2021. The practice of shifting workers from appointee to career status occurs at the end of every presidency.

President Biden is trying to shake a Trump hangover in the federal government by acting to remove some holdovers and install his own appointees, but a quiet push to salt federal agencies with Trump loyalists is complicating the new president’s effort to turn the page.

The Biden team, showing a willingness to cut tenures short, moved quickly last week to dump several high-profile, Senate-confirmed Trump appointees whose terms extended beyond Inauguration Day — in some cases by several years.

They include the surgeon general, the National Labor Relations Board’s powerful general counsel, and the heads of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the U.S. Agency for Global Media.

But other, lower-profile Trump loyalists, some of whom helped carry out his administration’s most controversial policies, are scattered throughout Biden’s government in permanent, senior positions. And identifying them, let alone dislodging them, could be difficult for the new leadership.

The Jan. 16 appointment of Michael Ellis, a former GOP operative who served in the Trump White House, as the National Security Agency’s top lawyer caused such a furor that he was placed on paid leave within hours of taking office.

And in the former president’s final months and weeks, dozens of other political appointees had their status similarly converted to permanent civil service roles that will allow them to stay in government for years to come. These new career officials are protected from partisan removal unless the new administration discovers that they got their jobs illegally — without competition and because of their political affiliation.

As Biden tries to reset the government to match his priorities, Democrats fear the Trump holdovers, who served in partisan roles, could undermine the new administration as they move into the civil service, which is supposed to operate free of partisanship.

The practice of shifting employees from appointee to career status, informally called burrowing, occurs at the end of every presidency — and it is controversial. Trump aides and their GOP allies in Congress, for example, threatened at the start of Trump’s term to remove any Obama-era political appointees who had been replanted in the civil service, and dozens were, records show.

But the just-departed president is on track to exceed the number of Democrats the Obama administration rewarded with permanent roles. In his final year, President Barack Obama moved 29 political appointees into career jobs. As of November, Trump had installed almost that many, 26, in the first 10 months of 2020, according to data provided to Congress by the Office of Personnel Management.

Nine more requests await review by personnel officials. More are expected. Congress has not received data covering December and the first 20 days of January, when outgoing administrations tend to move quickly to reward appointees who want to stay in government.

“There’s a great irony here,” said Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.), who leads a House oversight panel on federal government operations, referring to Trump’s efforts to place his appointees in government. “The crowd that didn’t believe in government and called its agencies the deep state now wants to work for them.”

Connolly has asked the Government Accountability Office, Congress’s research arm, to tally all of Trump’s conversions over four years.

washington post logoWashington Post, Fact Checker Analysis: Trump made 30,573 false or misleading claims as president. Nearly half came in his final year, Glenn Kessler, Jan. 24, 2021. The Washington Post Fact Checker’s database of Trump claims, originally launched as a project to track his first 100 days, offers a window into his obsessions.

He overstated the “carnage” he was inheriting, then later exaggerated his “massive” crowd and claimed, despite clear evidence to the contrary, that it had not rained during his address. He repeated the rain claim the next day, along with the fabricated notion that he held the “all-time record” for appearing on the cover of Time magazine.

And so it went, day after day, week after week, claim after claim, from the most mundane of topics to the most pressing issues.

Over time, Trump unleashed his falsehoods with increasing frequency and ferocity, often by the scores in a single campaign speech or tweetstorm. What began as a relative trickle of misrepresentations, including 10 on his first day and five on the second, built into a torrent through Trump’s final days as he frenetically spread wild theories that the coronavirus pandemic would disappear “like a miracle” and that the presidential election had been stolen — the claim that inspired Trump supporters to attack Congress on Jan. 6 and prompted his second impeachment.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Here’s the thing about Sarah Huckabee Sanders running for Governor of Arkansas, Bill Palmer, Jan. 24, 2021. Sarah Huckabee sarah huckabee sanders 2017 05 05Sanders, right, is now running for Governor of Arkansas in 2022, according to multiple major news outlets. No, you read that right. She’s not the only prominent Republican running in the race, and we don’t think her odds of making it out of the primary are great. But here’s the thing.

bill palmer report logo headerWe all watched Sarah Huckabee Sanders commit felony obstruction of justice from the White House briefing room podium. Robert Mueller could have stopped this if he’d done his job by charging her for it. Instead he served up some ridiculous excuse for not charging any of Trump’s people with obstruction.

Mueller’s unwillingness to take action, when he still had a chance, will continue to haunt us for years to come. Sure, Trump might have pardoned Huckabee Sanders to keep her out of prison, but that would have pretty much derailed her political ambitions. Now, because Mueller didn’t do his job, we’ll have to sit through the ridiculousness of Huckabee Sanders running for Governor, and the outside chance she’ll win.

wayne madsen screen shotStrategic Culture Foundation, Opinion: The Scourge of Anti-Government Libertarianism, Wayne Madsen, right, Jan. 24, 2021. Lying at the heart of the increasingly discredited ideology of Trumpism is the bankrupt politics of libertarianism.

Libertarians have as some of their heroes some of the most deranged economists, philosophers, and politicians in recent history.

strategic culture logoAt the top of that list of deplorables is sociopathic writer and godmother of modern libertarianism Ayn Rand. A critic of programs she deemed “socialist,” including President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Social Security system and President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Medicare, she did not hesitate to avail herself of both “socialistic” federal programs in the 1970s. During the 1973 Israeli-Arab War, Rand said that the war involved “civilized men,” Israelis, fighting “savages,” the Arab nations. Rand also justified European colonialists seizing the land of the indigenous native peoples of the Western Hemisphere.

Even though Rand was a supreme hypocrite and racist, her vile beliefs seeped into the Republican Party’s “libertarian” wing, partially represented by Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater and President Ronald Reagan, and which later developed into the Tea Party movement and Trumpism.

The Libertarian Party of the United States represents nothing more than parlor room discourse by major political party rejects. Libertarians have only achieved political power by nesting themselves inside established political parties having a record of electoral success and governance. This has been the case with Trump, disgraced House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich, Pat Buchanan, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, and Paul’s father, Ron Paul, the latter having quixotically run for President on the Libertarian Party ticket in 1988, before becoming a Republican and being elected to the U.S. House from Texas. Paul became one of the ideological leaders of the anti-government Tea Party movement.

Paul and other Republican leaders embraced the laissez-faire economic doctrines of such anti-government and pro-corporate economists as Friedrich Hayek, Murray Rothbard, Ludwig von Mises, Charles Murray, and economist, Milton Friedman. This resulted in increasingly rightward-leaning anti-labor policies by the administrations of George W. Bush and Trump. While Paul and his son, Senator Paul, have nothing but hostility for the social democratic-inspired government services provided in the Nordic nations, Germany, and Canada, they have no problems with governments like those of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, and Britain’s Boris Johnson that embrace the corporate fascist policies of Friedman and the Austrian School economists Hayek and von Mises.

Libertarian opposition to labor rights, public health, and environmental controls has resulted in poverty-level wages, the spread of disease – including the present Covid virus – and poisonous air and water.

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Crime

washington post logoWashington Post, Virginia moves toward banning capital punishment, in a shift for prolific death penalty state, Laura Vozzella and Gregory S. Schneider, Jan. 24, 2021 (print ed.). Virginia, which carried out its first execution in 1608 and put colonists to death for such infractions as stealing grapes and killing chickens, has been the nation’s most prolific death penalty state over the past four centuries.

Virginia, a state that has executed more prisoners than any other in the country, appears poised to eliminate the death penalty — a seismic shift for the state legislature, which just five years ago looked to the electric chair and secret pharmaceutical deals to keep the ultimate punishment alive.

ralph northam file headshotThe former capital of the Confederacy would become the first Southern state to abolish capital punishment if a bill on track to pass the Senate gets out of the House and over to the desk of Gov. Ralph Northam (D), right, who has promised to sign it.

A ban in Virginia could help sweep in change across the South, according to experts who say racial disparities in the death penalty’s application have roots in the region’s history of slavery and Jim Crow segregation.

“Just as Confederate monuments are being dismantled, this vestige of Confederate law is also facing dismantling,” said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center. “That historical context is a central part of the repeal. And repeal offers a real opportunity for racial healing.”

As recently as last year, as Democrats took full control in Richmond for the first time in a generation and ushered in vast changes on many fronts, efforts to ban or restrict the death penalty sputtered.

washington post logoWashington Post, Justice Dept., FBI debate not charging some Capitol rioters, Devlin Barrett and Spencer S. Hsu, Jan. 24, 2021 (print ed.). Law enforcement officials are considering forgoing charges against those who went into the building but are not linked to violence, threats or destruction.

Federal law enforcement officials are privately debating whether they should decline to charge some of the individuals who stormed the U.S. Capitol this month — a politically loaded proposition but one alert to the practical concern that hundreds of such cases could swamp the local courthouse.

The internal discussions are in their early stages, and no decisions have been reached about whether to forgo charging some of those who illegally entered the Capitol on Jan. 6, according to multiple people familiar with the discussions.

Justice Department officials have promised a relentless effort to identify and arrest those who stormed the Capitol that day, but internally there is robust back-and-forth about whether charging them all is the best course of action. That debate comes at a time when officials are keenly sensitive that the credibility of the Justice Department and the FBI are at stake in such decisions, given the apparent security and intelligence failures that preceded the riot, these people said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss legal deliberations.

washington post logoWashington Post, Union chief says 38 Capitol Police employees have tested positive for coronavirus since Jan. 6 riot, Tom Jackman, Jan. 24, 2021 (print ed.). Since the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, 38 U.S. Capitol Police employees have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, the head of the officers’ union said Saturday. Cases are also climbing among members of the D.C. National Guard stationed around the Capitol.

Meantime, the Justice Department said five more people have been arrested in the Capitol riot, including a county jail guard from New Jersey who took an “emergency holiday” from work to travel to Washington and a Federal Aviation Administration employee from California who is a QAnon follower, court records stated.

In another development, two police officers from rural Virginia who had admitted their participation in the Capitol siege were suspended without pay by their department after a search warrant affidavit disclosed that one told a friend on Jan. 10: “I’m going to war . . . DC on the 20th for sure.”

The head of the labor committee for the Capitol Police officers’ Fraternal Order of Police chapter, Gus Papathanasiou, said he had been told by the police chief’s office that 38 employees tested positive for the virus. He said there was no breakdown on how many were officers at the Capitol on Jan. 6, but he noted that most civilian employees in the department telework and would not have been there during the riot.

washington post logoWashington Post, Six shot dead, including pregnant woman, in ‘mass murder,’ Indianapolis officials say, Meryl Kornfield, Jan. 24, 2021. Authorities said they have determined the attack was “targeted” and there may have been more than one shooter, but no suspects have been identified.

FBI crime data indicated killings rose nearly 21 percent nationwide in the first nine months of the year, The Post previously reported.

 

U.S. Media, Education News

rudy giuliani amazon prime borat

ny times logoNew York Times, Rudolph Giuliani and Bill O’Reilly Still Have a Major N.Y. Platform, Azi Paybarah, Jan. 24, 2021. A popular radio station in Manhattan has become a haven where conservative hosts can defend Donald Trump. Rudolph W. Giuliani, above, still has a voice, amplified by a 50,000-watt radio station nestled in Midtown Manhattan. And there, Mr. Giuliani is his usual, unrestrained self.

Think Mr. Trump lost the election? Mr. Giuliani vehemently disagrees.

“He won that election,” Mr. Giuliani said last week on his radio show on WABC-AM (770). “You give me one hour. I will prove it to you with pictures, documents, votes and people we can call on the phone in five states.”

And the people who want him disbarred?

“Idiots,” “malicious left-wingers” and “irresponsible political hacks,” he said on his show on Thursday. “You want to disbar me? I think I’m going to move to disbar you.”

In the heart of New York City, long a Democratic stronghold, WABC has become an established beacon for right-wing views.

bill oreilly 2010Wonder what happened to Bill O’Reilly, right, after he was ousted from Fox News? He hosts a one-hour show for WABC, after Mark Levin, the syndicated conservative commentator who has a three-hour show at night.

The Fox News host Brian Kilmeade has a two-hour show in the mornings. Bernard Kerik, the former police commissioner, and Jeanine Pirro, the Fox News host, have one-hour weekend shows.

WABC’s identity as a conservative guidepost may come as a surprise to those more familiar with its history as a pioneering Top 40 station: In the late 1960s and early 1970s, WABC had more than six million listeners, the most in the history of American radio at that time.

But in 1982, when most music stations had moved to the FM dial, WABC dropped music from its programming and went to an all-talk format on May 10, a date that some longtime fans and radio industry veterans refer to as the day the music died.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Fox News is a hazard to our democracy. It’s time to take the fight to the Murdochs. Here’s how, Margaret Sullivan, right, Jan. 24, 2021 margaret sullivan 2015 photo(print ed.). The company has forfeited its responsibilities to society. It’s time to push back, speaking the only language the owners understand.

In recent days, Fox has taken a sharp turn toward a more extreme approach as it confronts a post-Trump ratings dip — the result of some of its farthest-right viewers moving to outlets such as Newsmax and One America News and some middle-of-the-roaders apparently finding CNN or MSNBC more to their liking.

With profit as the one true religion at Fox, something had to change. Ninety-year-old Rupert Murdoch, according to a number of reports, has stepped in to call the shots directly. Most notably, the network has decided to add an hour of opinion programming to its prime-time offerings. The 7 p.m. hour will no fox news logo Smalllonger be nominally news but straight-up outrage production.

Why? Because that’s where the ratings are.

The pro-Trump media world peddled the lies that fueled the Capitol mob. Fox News led the way.

And in a move that should be shocking but isn’t, one of those who will rotate through the tryouts for that coveted spot will be Maria Bartiromo, whose Trump sycophancy during the campaign may well have been unparalleled. She was among those (including Lou Dobbs and Jeanine Pirro) recently forced under threat of a lawsuit to air a video that debunked repeated false claims on her show that corrupt voting software had given millions of Trump votes to Biden.

Corporations that advertise on Fox News should walk away, and citizens who care about the truth should demand that they do so (in addition to trying to steer their friends and relatives away from the network).

washington post logoWashington Post, Universities face pressure to vet ex-Trump officials before hiring them, Marisa Iati and Lauren Lumpkin, Jan. 24, 2021 (print ed.). A petition circulating at Harvard demands the school check “for their role in undermining” democracy before they are invited to teach or speak on campus.

There is a long tradition of political appointees moving into academia — former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice returned to Stanford University as a robert gatesprofessor, ex-CIA director Robert Gates, right, was a dean and then president at Texas A&M University, and former secretary of health and human services Sylvia Mathews Burwell is president of American University.

But in recent months, some students and faculty have argued colleges should apply more scrutiny to former Trump officials looking to make similar transitions.

The backlash was swift at Carnegie Mellon University in June when the school announced former Trump official Richard Grenell was hired for a one-year fellowship. In an open letter to university administrators, critics said Grenell, left, who served as acting director of national intelligence richard grenell oand ambassador to Germany, “has a well-documented record of sexism and support for racist political movements.” Criticism grew in November when Grenell falsely claimed that voter fraud had cost Donald Trump a second term.

Carnegie Mellon officials defended the hire but formed committees to study both Grenell’s appointment and the university’s hiring procedures. In one letter to the community, campus leaders acknowledged tension between the institution’s embrace of free expression and “diversity as a core value.”

harvard logoSimilar disputes are playing out at other universities. A petition circulating at Harvard University demands that the school vet Trump administration officials “for their role in undermining” democracy before they are invited to teach or speak on campus. In the District, an open letter from Georgetown University faculty asked the administration to develop standards for Trump appointees before extending invitations to campus. A George Washington University student argued in a column that the school should reject job applications from Trump officials.

But others say efforts to keep Trump officials from campuses undermine universities and their responsibility to foster diverse perspectives, including viewpoints that make some students uncomfortable.

Hollywood PoliTrivia, Pop Culture Review: Politics at the Oscars, Wayne Madsen, below at left, Jan. 24, 2021. Often, to both cheers and boos, the Academy Awards -- the Oscars -- have seen awardees, including top film stars, launch into political statements.

Although the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences often weighed in beforehand against such commentary, political statements became as expected as the envelope openings, the Oscar acceptance speeches, the song and dance routines, and the annual homages to recently deceased stars.

 

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, Capitol Riot Puts Spotlight on ‘Apocalyptically Minded’ Global Far Right, Katrin Bennhold and Michael Schwirtz, Jan. 24, 2021. United by racist ideology, extremists have built a web of real and online connections that worry officials on both sides of the Atlantic and beyond.

Many adherents saw the Capitol riot as a teaching moment — about how to pursue their goal of overturning democratic governments in more concrete ways.When insurrectionists stormed the Capitol in Washington this month, far-right extremists across the Atlantic cheered. Jürgen Elsässer, the editor of german flagGermany’s most prominent far-right magazine, was watching live from his couch.

“We were following it like a soccer match,” he said.

Four months earlier, Mr. Elsässer had attended a march in Berlin, where a breakaway mob of far-right protesters tried — and failed — to force their way into the building that houses Germany’s Parliament. The parallel was not lost on him.

“The fact that they actually made it inside raised hopes that there is a plan,” he said. “It was clear that this was something bigger.”

And it is. Adherents of racist far-right movements around the world share more than a common cause. German extremists have traveled to the United States for sniper competitions. American neo-Nazis have visited counterparts in Europe. Militants from different countries bond in training camps from Russia and Ukraine to South Africa.

For years far-right extremists traded ideology and inspiration on societies’ fringes and in the deepest realms of the internet. Now, the events of Jan. 6 at the U.S. Capitol have laid bare their violent potential.

washington post logoWashington Post, Protesters across Russia hold marches for jailed opposition leader Navalny, Robyn Dixon and Isabelle Khurshudyan, Jan. 24, 2021 (print ed.). Riot police detained hundreds of supporters of Alexei Navalny as they protested for his freedom across the country. Prosecutors have threatened rioting charges against participants if any violence takes place.

alexey navalny 2017More than 1,000 people were arrested Saturday as protesters took the streets across Russia calling for the release of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny, right — a broad show of defiance against President Vladimir Putin and his widening crackdowns against critics. Navalny's wife Yulia was among those detained.

The rallies — amid biting cold from Russia's Far East to milder temperatures in central Moscow — came less than a week after Navalny returned from Germany, where he recovered from a nerve agent poisoning in August during a trip to Siberia. Navalny, declared an enemy of the state, was arrested shortly after stepping off the plane.


Capitol Riot Fallout

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: A Lunge, Then a Gunshot: Inside the Deadly Capitol Shooting, Adam Goldman and Shaila Dewan, Jan. 24, 2021 (print ed.).   (Continued from above). At the height of the standoff, a woman named Ashli Babbitt, right, tried to vault through a window. The lieutenant, his weapon already extended, pulled ashli babbittthe trigger once, killing her in a confrontation that was captured on video and widely viewed around the world. (Excerpt continued below in section "Capitol Riot Followups.")

At least three investigations into the security response on Jan. 6 are underway, and officials have not provided the full details of Ms. Babbitt’s death.

But videos taken of the episode, legal documents and witness accounts point to a dire set of circumstances and an officer left to confront a mob. The officer, a lieutenant who has not been publicly named, has been placed on administrative leave while his actions are reviewed by federal authorities.

The use of deadly force by officers is considered legally justified if they have an “objectively reasonable” fear of serious, imminent harm to themselves or others. Several policing experts said that video of the encounter was not enough for them to offer an opinion on the shooting. But interviews with two people with direct knowledge of the officer’s account suggest he will make the case that he acted to protect lawmakers from harm.

“I could look them in the eyes,” said Representative Jim McGovern, Democrat of Massachusetts, who had been presiding in the speaker’s chair and was one of the last to leave as the mob attempted to break through the doors. “I mean, that’s how close they were.”

He added: “I don’t even know what would have happened had they breached that area.”

Ms. Babbitt’s husband, Aaron, told a Fox affiliate on the day of the riot that he had seen his wife die on the news.

“She didn’t have any weapons on her, I don’t know why she had to die in the People’s House,” he said, adding, “She was voicing her opinion and she got killed for it.”

He did not respond to an email requesting comment. One of Ms. Babbitt’s brothers, reached by phone, declined to comment.

Ms. Babbitt was one of five people who lost their lives at the Capitol that day. A Capitol Police officer was overpowered and beaten by rioters. A Georgia woman appeared to have been killed in a crush of fellow rioters. One man had a stroke, and another a heart attack.

The lieutenant had heard on the news that Trump supporters like Ms. Babbitt would be converging on Washington, according to his account. But the first time the protests were discussed at work came only when he arrived early that morning; according to his account, he had been given no advance planning to counter a violent riot or an invasion of the building.

That afternoon both the House and the Senate were in session, with hundreds of lawmakers debating challenges to the certification of the Electoral College vote when the mob fought its way past lines of Capitol Police officers outside and forced their way into the building. Some said they merely wanted to halt the proceedings while others carried weapons, climbing gear and zip ties that could be used as restraints.

The crowd was peppered with far-right nationalists, military veterans and militia members, and adherents of a dangerous conspiracy. Rioters hurled invectives at police officers and called them traitors while threatening to kill former Vice President Mike Pence and Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House.

The lieutenant, a veteran officer, was regularly assigned to the Speaker’s Lobby, an enclosed hallway and waiting area in the inner sanctum of the Capitol where access is highly restricted. The lobby runs directly behind the House chamber and is lined with portraits of the House’s past leaders. It is bound by two sets of old wooden doors with windows, one on the Democratic side and one on the Republican side.

 

Jan. 23

Top Stories


Virus Victims, Responses

 

U.S. Politics, Governing

 

U.S. Media, Education News

 

Capitol Riot Fallout

 

Top Stories

Justice Department logo

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump and Justice Dept. Lawyer Said to Have Plotted to Oust Acting Attorney General, Katie Benner, Jan. 23, 2021 (print ed.). Trying to find another avenue to push his baseless election claims, Donald Trump considered installing a loyalist, and had the men make their cases to him.

The Justice Department’s top leaders listened in stunned silence this month: One of their peers, they were told, had devised a plan with President Donald J. jeffrey rosenTrump to oust Jeffrey A. Rosen, right, as acting attorney general and wield the department’s power to force Georgia state lawmakers to overturn its presidential election results.

The unassuming lawyer who worked on the plan, Jeffrey Clark, left, had been devising ways to cast doubt on the election results and to bolster Mr. Trump’s continuing legal battles and the pressure on Georgia politicians. Because Mr. Rosen had refused the president’s entreaties to jeffrey clark ocarry out those plans, Mr. Trump was about to decide whether to fire Mr. Rosen and replace him with Mr. Clark.

The department officials, convened on a conference call, then asked each other: What will you do if Mr. Rosen is dismissed?

The answer was unanimous. They would resign.

Their informal pact ultimately helped persuade Mr. Trump to keep Mr. Rosen in place, calculating that a furor over mass resignations at the top of the Justice Department would eclipse any attention on his baseless accusations of voter fraud. Mr. Trump’s decision came only after Mr. Rosen and Mr. Clark made their competing cases to him in a bizarre White House meeting that two officials compared with an episode of Mr. Trump’s reality show “The Apprentice,” albeit one that could prompt a constitutional crisis.

georgia mapThe previously unknown chapter was the culmination of the president’s long-running effort to batter the Justice Department into advancing his personal agenda. He also pressed Mr. Rosen to appoint special counsels, including one who would look into Dominion Voting Systems, a maker of election equipment that Mr. Trump’s allies had falsely said was working with Venezuela to flip votes from Mr. Trump to Joseph R. Biden Jr.

dominion voting systemsThis account of the department’s final days under Mr. Trump’s leadership is based on interviews with four former Trump administration officials who asked not to be named because of fear of retaliation.

Mr. Clark said that this account contained inaccuracies but did not specify, adding that he could not discuss any conversations with Mr. Trump or Justice Department lawyers. “Senior Justice Department lawyers, not uncommonly, provide legal advice to the White House as part of our duties,” he said. “All my official communications were consistent with law.”

nancy pelosi chuck schumer cropped jan 8 2019 screengrab

 washington post logoWashington Post, Senate reaches deal to start Trump’s trial Feb. 9, Mike DeBonis, Jan. 23, 2021 (print ed.). The majority leader said the wait would allow the Senate to make further progress on President Biden’s nominations and his $2 trillion pandemic relief proposal.

The impeachment trial of former president Donald Trump will begin Feb. 9 under a deal reached Friday by top Senate leaders — delaying by two weeks the us senate logohigh-stakes proceedings over whether Trump incited the violent Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

The agreement was made by Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), above left, and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), right, following a standoff over the timing of the trial, which could permanently bar Trump from holding public office.

mitch mcconnellThe House on Jan. 13 passed a sole impeachment article, alleging “incitement of insurrection.” House leaders could have forced the Senate to begin the trial immediately by transmitting the papers across the Capitol. But a delay serves the former and current presidents: Trump has struggled to assemble a legal team and muster a defense, and President Biden needs the Senate to confirm most of his Cabinet appointees.

McConnell pushed Thursday for a three-week delay, but Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), above right, on Friday morning announced their intention to deliver the impeachment papers Monday — setting up a trial as soon as Tuesday. Later in the day, Biden publicly called for a delay, saying, “the more time we have to get up and running to meet these crises, the better.”

Announcing the two-week timetable Friday, Schumer said the wait would allow the Senate to make further progress on Biden’s nominations and his $2 trillion pandemic relief proposal — the centerpiece of his early legislative agenda — before shifting to Trump.

“We all want to put this awful chapter in our nation’s history behind us, but healing and unity will only come if there is truth and accountability, and that is what this trial will provide,” he said.

Palmer Report, Opinion: House Republican Scott Perry in deep trouble for role in Trump’s DOJ election criminal scandal: Report, Bill Palmer, right, Jan. 23, 2021. The bill palmerthing about criminal conspiracies is that once they’re finally caught onto, they have a way of continuing to unravel. Last night we all learned that prior to January 6th, Donald Trump had criminally conspired with DOJ official Jeffrey Clark to try to overthrow the election. Now it turns out that plot included a certain House Republican.

bill palmer report logo headerIt was House Republican Scott Perry who played matchmaker between Trump and Clark, letting Trump know that Clark was potentially open to conspiring with him, according to an expose tonight from the New York Times. We’ve seen various House Republicans play various roles in Trump’s election overthrow plot with various degrees of criminal culpability, but this takes the cake.

scott perryScott Perry, right, knowingly entered into a criminal conspiracy to commit election fraud with Donald Trump and Jeffrey Clark. Perry and Clark republican elephant logoare both looking at federal prison time over this, and because Trump has already left office, it’s too late for him to pardon them.

Our guess is that either Perry or Clark can get a generous plea deal by flipping on everyone else involved. We’ll see which of the two of them has the sense to cut a deal first. In any case, Perry’s career in the U.S. House of Representatives surely won’t last long after this.

ny times logoNew York Times, White House Orders Assessment on Violent Extremism in the U.S., Julian E. Barnes and Hailey Fuchs, Jan. 23, 2021 (print ed.). President Biden on Friday ordered the director of national intelligence to work with the F.B.I. and the Department of Homeland Security to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the threat from domestic violent extremism, a sign of how seriously the new administration is taking the issue in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol.

The request comes only days after Avril D. Haines, the newly installed director of national intelligence, pledged to members of Congress during her confirmation hearing that she would help with just such an assessment.

FBI logoThe new intelligence work began as people charged in the mob attack on the Capitol by supporters of former President Donald J. Trump continued to appear in court. On Friday, a federal magistrate judge in Dayton, Ohio ordered Donovan Crowl, an accused rioter linked to the far-right group the Oath Keepers, detained until his trial, citing the safety of the community.

Domestic terrorism and violent groups are a thorny issue for intelligence agencies like the C.I.A., which are limited to tracking attempts by foreign governments or organizations to influence extremist groups in America. The F.B.I. and Department of Homeland Security have more leeway to investigate domestic groups and homegrown terrorism.

But Friday’s order will have practical as well as symbolic import. Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said the assessment would help Mr. Biden hone his policies aimed at curbing violent extremism in the United States.

“This assessment will draw on the analysis from across the government and, as appropriate, nongovernmental organizations,” Ms. Psaki said. “The key point here is that we want fact-based analysis upon which we can shape policy.”

In recent years, some parts of the intelligence community have been working to increase their focus on the threat of domestic terrorism, particularly by doing more to track growing foreign influence operations on domestic groups. The C.I.A. also has officers in its counterterrorism section who specialize in tracking racially-motivated violent extremists overseas.

The order for the evaluation from the intelligence community comes as judges continue to deny bail for suspects in the Capitol riot.

washington post logoWashington Post, GOP opposition to stimulus relief intensifies, Erica Werner, Seung Min Kim and Jeff Stein, Jan. 23, 2021 (print ed.). President Biden may find he can get a big plan or a bipartisan plan — but not both.

President Biden’s pitch for bipartisan unity to defeat the coronavirus and resurrect the economy is crashing into a partisan buzz saw on Capitol Hill, where Republicans and Democrats can’t agree on ground rules for running the Senate — let alone pass a $1.9 trillion stimulus bill.

Biden’s relief package is being declared dead on arrival by senior Senate Republicans, some of whom say there has been little, if any, outreach from the Biden team to get their support. Liberals are demanding the president abandon attempts to make a bipartisan deal altogether and instead ram the massive legislation through without GOP votes. And outside groups are turning up the pressure for Biden and the Democrats who control Congress to enact economic relief quickly, even if it means cutting Republicans out of the deal.

In the face of these competing pressures, Biden may discover he can get a big covid-19 stimulus bill or a bipartisan deal — but not both. The path Biden chooses with his first major piece of legislation could set the tone for the remainder of his first term in office, revealing whether he can make good on his promise to unify Congress and the country.

elizabeth warren o purple“It’s important that Democrats deliver for America. If the best path to that is to do it in a way that can bring Republicans along, I’m all in favor of that,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), right, said. “But if Republicans want to cut back to the point that we’re not delivering what needs to be done, then we need to be prepared to fight them. Our job is to deliver for the American people.”

Publicly, top aides insist Biden is serious about wanting a bipartisan deal on the relief bill. They say this should be achievable given the magnitude of the economic and health-care crisis besetting the nation a year after the pandemic began, with more than 412,000 dead and the economy newly shedding jobs. Some Democrats have expressed optimism that GOP frustration with how the Trump administration ended could convince some Republicans to be more open to a fresh start with a Democratic president, especially since longtime lawmakers know Biden from his decades in the Senate and as vice president.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: Jan. 23, 2021), with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):

World Cases: 98,841,727, Deaths: 2,118,556
U.S. Cases:   25,392,642, Deaths:   424,187

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), an independent global health research center at the University of Washington. Projected total U.S. deaths, based on current scenario 459,324 by Feb. 1; 529,000 by March 1; 567,195 by April 1, 2021.

washington post logoWashington Post, Criticized by science community and Trump, Birx said she ‘always’ considered quitting, Meryl Kornfield, Jan. 23, 2021 (print ed.). Facing criticism from the administration she worked for and some in the scientific community, Deborah Birx, coordinator of the Trump White House’s coronavirus response, “always” considered quitting her job, she said in an interview set to air Sunday.

“I mean, why would you want to put yourself through that every day?” Birx said in a clip of her conversation with Margaret Brennan on CBS News’ “Face The Nation.”

deborah birx palmerBirx, right, at one point called “pathetic” by former president Donald Trump on Twitter, told Brennan that her job and the coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than 412,000 people in the United States were politicized under the Trump administration. Birx told CBS that she was “censored” by the White House, but she denied that she ever purposefully withheld information.

She said she will retire “within the next four to six weeks.” She had announced in late December that she planned to leave her post at cdc logo Customthe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, following an Associated Press report that she’d visited Fenwick Island in Delaware with her family the day after Thanksgiving, at a time when the CDC cautioned against traveling for the holiday. Birx said she would assist with the Biden administration’s transition before leaving.

Birx, a world-renowned AIDS researcher, was tapped by Vice President Mike Pence to be his “right hand” leading the administration’s turbulent coronavirus response. During her four-decade career in public service, Birx was an Army physician, director of the United States Military HIV Research Program and U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator under President Barack Obama.

 

U.S. Politics, Governing

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden administration weighs turning over Trump tax returns to House Democrats, Spencer S. Hsu, Jan. 23, 2021 (print ed.).  House Democrats have renewed their long-stalled demand for Donald Trump’s federal tax records, but the Biden administration has not decided whether it will drop its predecessor’s objections and release the Treasury Department records to investigators, Justice Department attorneys told a federal judge Friday.

U.S. District Judge Trevor N. McFadden declined Friday to lift a stay on a pending House lawsuit. Instead, the judge agreed to give Treasury and Justice Department officials two weeks to report back to him, acknowledging that President Biden’s team was just settling in after the inauguration this week.

trevor mcFadden CustomMcFadden, left, also kept in place an order requiring the government to give the former president’s lawyers 72 hours’ notice before releasing his tax return information to allow them to file a request to block the release.

Separation-of-powers issues that have slowed the case “may fall out” now that Trump is no longer in office, the judge noted.

“It would be a former president trying to stop a political branch, rather than one branch suing another. At least that’s my instinct,” said McFadden, a 2017 Trump appointee to the federal bench in Washington.

House General Counsel Douglas N. Letter agreed, saying, “We’re not dealing with a president anymore. We’re dealing with a former president.”

chuck schumer smile uncredited

Palmer Report, Opinion: Some of you don’t know it yet, but you’re going to love Chuck Schumer, Bill Palmer, right, Jan. 23, 2021. In the handful of days since Chuck bill palmerSchumer became Senate Majority Leader, there has been quite a bit of hand wringing and skepticism from liberal activists. Part of that is because Mitch McConnell is still talking as if he were still in charge, in an effort at psyching everyone out into believing that he’s still somehow running the show from his newfound Senate Minority Leader position.

bill palmer report logo headerBut another part of the hand wringing over Chuck Schumer, shown above in a file photo, is because he’s been a prominent figure on the national political stage for a long time, but he’s never had any power while on that stage. Schumer has spent years as Senate Minority Leader, a position where all you really get to do is complain, try to psych the other side out, and beg for scraps.

That’s right, in all the years that Chuck Schumer has been the Democratic leader in the Senate, he’s never been Majority Leader. Contrast this with Democratic House Leader Nancy Pelosi, who’s had two turns as Speaker of the House, including during these pivotal last two years of the Trump regime.

If Nancy Pelosi comes off as more fierce and savvy, that’s because she is – and we’re sure Chuck Schumer wouldn’t mind us saying so. Pelosi is a once in a generation talent. But Schumer is quite fierce and savvy in his own right. And one of his better skills is that he’s been willing to follow Pelosi’s lead over the past two years, presumably because he recognized that she’s uniquely good at this.

Chuck Schumer is about to face trial by fire right out of the gate as Senate Majority Leader. He’s working with a 50-50 “majority” which brings some procedural differences than if it were 51-49. And he’s about to oversee a historic impeachment trial of Donald Trump.

But Schumer is already rather loudly pushing back against Mitch McConnell’s bluff and bluster, even as McConnell keeps leaking things to the media that are aimed at giving the false appearance that Schumer is caving to him. Schumer is in a position to shine right now, and he’s going to live up to it. So long as you keep in mind that Schumer doesn’t have a magic wand making impossible things happen, just as McConnell never had a magic wand, you’re going to end up loving Schumer. I’d bet money on it.

washington post logoWashington Post, Vice President Harris to stay at Blair House while official residence undergoes repairs, Jura Koncius, Jan. 23, 2021 (print ed.). Although they’ve had to put off their move into the official vice president’s residence, Vice President Harris and second gentleman Doug Emhoff are in very good hands.

kamala harris portraitAs temporary residents of Blair House, the president’s elegant guesthouse, they have access to historic antique-filled rooms (120 of them) and the gracious hospitality and amenities that the guesthouse extends to visiting heads of state.

And you can’t beat the commute: It’s right across the street from the White House complex and the vice president’s offices.

Harris, right, and Emhoff must wait for some maintenance to be completed at the official vice president’s residence — an 1893 Victorian on the wooded grounds of the Naval Observatory, about two miles away — before they can move in. Crews are working on new liners for the chimneys and other tasks in the 33-room home, according to an aide in the vice president’s office.

“Its such a cozy and beautiful place,” says Capricia Marshall, a former chief of protocol and current board member of the Blair House Restoration Fund. “There is so much history here, and it tells the great story of our country. So many presidents have passed through that black and white marble threshold. Yes, it has a lot of square footage, but it feels like a home.”

washington post logo

Washington Post, Virginia pays $115,000 to prisoner who says he was punished for not speaking English, Rachel Weiner, Jan. 23, 2021 (print ed.). Nicholas Reyes, a convicted murderer, was held in solitary confinement at one of Virginia’s most restrictive prisons for a decade because he did not fill out a journal in a language he does not speak, his attorneys said.

Last week, Virginia agreed to pay Reyes $115,000 and set up a system for ensuring that non-English-speakers in the prison system are not isolated for lack of ability to communicate.

“If it’s done right, I think this policy can really transform how people with limited English proficiency are treated in Virginia prisons,” said Vishal Agraharkar, an attorney with the Virginia American Civil Liberties Union who worked on Reyes’s case.

Reyes killed his pregnant girlfriend in Alexandria in 1991, then fled to Florida, where it took police nine years to find him. He is serving a 47-year prison sentence.

Reyes, a native of El Salvador, does not understand English or read in any language, his attorneys said in a 2018 lawsuit filed in federal court in Alexandria against the Virginia Department of Corrections.

According to court records, Reyes was initially placed in solitary confinement at Red Onion State Prison in Wise County after a fight with another prisoner at a different facility.

But no effort was made to find a way to move him safely, his attorneys said. Instead, he was placed in a program for solitary inmates that included journaling in English. He missed meals, showers, outdoor recreation and phone calls to his family because prison guards ignored him or failed to communicate in a way he could understand, his attorneys said. Twelve years went by before, with the lawsuit pending, he was moved into less-restrictive housing.

The Virginia Department of Corrections argued that “solitary confinement” did not describe the conditions of any inmate at Red Onion, because prisoners in isolation have access to staffers and reading materials, and that the program Reyes was in was intended to be therapeutic.

 

U.S. Media, Education News

washington post logoWashington Post, Larry King, TV host who gave boldface names a cozy forum, dies at 87, T. Rees Shapiro, Jan. 23, 2021.  Larry King, the suspendered impresario of cable television whose popular CNN interview program — with its guest-friendly questions and conversational banter — was a premier safe larry king resizedhaven for the famous and infamous to spill their secrets, hype their projects and soften their image, died Jan. 23 at a hospital in Los Angeles. He was 87.

Ora Media, the production company he co-founded, announced his death but did not provide a cause, according to the Associated Press. CNN reported earlier this month that Mr. King was hospitalized for complications from covid-19. The TV host, who was long beset by medical problems, such as diabetes and heart attacks, underwent an operation to remove early-stage lung cancer in 2017 and had a stroke in 2019.

In a career that included print and radio, Mr. King was best known for sitting behind a bulbous RCA microphone in the anchor chair of his prime-time CNN show “Larry King Live” from 1985 to 2010.

washington post logoWashington Post, Education Dept. staff recommends dropping embattled for-profit college accreditor backed by DeVos, Danielle Douglas-Gabriel, Jan. 23, 2021 (print ed.). A controversial accreditation agency backed by former education secretary Betsy DeVos may soon be stripped of its power to act as the gatekeeper for billions of dollars of federal financial aid.

Career staffers at the Education Department are recommending that the Accrediting Council for Independent College and Schools, or ACICS, lose the federal recognition needed to operate. In a report made public Friday, staffers concluded that the oversight body, which mostly accredits for-profit colleges, had failed to meet federal standards.

“The agency failed to demonstrate that it has competent and knowledgeable individuals, qualified by education and experience in their own right and trained by the agency on their responsibilities, as appropriate for their roles, regarding the agency’s standards, policies, and procedures,” the report said.

An independent advisory board will take the recommendation into consideration when it convenes next month to decide the council’s fate. The Trump administration had delayed the evaluation, even as the Education Department launched new inquiries into problems at the accrediting agency.

 

Capitol Riot Fallout

washington post logoWashington Post, Censure move goes forward against GOP contender for Va. governor, Laura Vozzella and Gregory S. Schneider, Jan. 23, 2021. State Sen. Amanda Chase (R-Chesterfield) objected to being stripped of her lone committee assignment following her remarks about U.S. Capitol rioters.

amanda chaseChase, left, has offered particular praise for Ashli Babbitt, the military veteran fatally shot as she broke into the Capitol. On Facebook, Chase described Babbitt, right, as a “veteran who was brutally murdered by Capitol Police today .... Babbitt was a 14-year veteran who served four tours with the Air Force .... These were not rioters and looters; these were Patriots who love their country and do not want to see our great republic turn into a socialist country.”

Editor's Note: Babbitt was shot by a Capitol Hill Police Officer while she was trying to climb through a battered down door panel as part of a violent mob breaking down the door to challenge House members who had sought safety inside, according to widely seen video.


Jan. 22

Top Stories


Virus Victims, Responses

 

U.S. Transfer of Power

 

Trump Watch

 

U.S. Politics, Governing

 

Capitol Riot Followups

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Civil Rights


World News

 

Top Stories

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Signs Executive Orders for Covid Response, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Jan. 22, 2021 (print ed.). Biden rolls out ‘full-scale, wartime’ coronavirus strategy, including requiring masks on some planes, trains and buses.

joe biden kamala harrisPresident Biden, pledging a “full-scale wartime effort” to combat the coronavirus pandemic, signed a string of executive orders and presidential directives on Thursday aimed at combating the worst public health crisis in a century, including new requirements for masks on interstate planes, trains and buses and for international travelers to quarantine after arriving in the United States.

“History is going to measure whether we are up to the task,” Mr. Biden declared in an appearance in the State Dining Room of the White House, with Vice President Kamala Harris and Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, his chief Covid-19 medical adviser, by his side.

With thousands of Americans dying every day from Covid-19, a national death toll that exceeds 400,000 and a new, more infectious variant of the virus spreading quickly, the pandemic poses the most pressing challenge of Mr. Biden’s early days in office. How he handles it will set the tone for how Americans view his administration going forward, as Mr. Biden himself acknowledged.

In a 200-page document released earlier Thursday called “National Strategy for the Covid-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness,” the new administration outlines the kind of centralized federal response that Democrats have long demanded and that President Donald J. Trump refused.

Calls for unity were already fraying a day into the new administration. On Capitol Hill, Representative Steve Scalise, the No. 2 House Republican, accused the Biden team of offering “old Washington spin.” And the new president took a shot at his predecessor, saying, “For the past year we couldn’t rely on the federal government to act with the urgency and focus and coordination that we needed, and we have seen the tragic cost of that failure.”

washington post logoWashington Post, In first full day in office, Biden faces multiple crises, Ashley Parker and Matt Viser, Jan. 22, 2021 (print ed.). The president spoke in somber tones as he unveiled a covid-19 plan, comparing the situation to a war and warned that deaths could top 500,000 next month.

President Biden raced Thursday to show he was addressing the array of crises awaiting him on his first day in office, issuing executive orders aimed at combating the coronavirus and preparing measures to take on the struggling economy and other problems.

Biden and his team found themselves immediately on what the president called a “wartime” footing, describing fighting the coronavirus as “a national emergency.” Against an already calamitous backdrop of a pandemic that has left more than 408,000 Americans dead, an additional 900,000 people filed new unemployment claims last week, underlining a devastated job market.

In remarks in the White House State Dining Room, Biden outlined a new national strategy for combating the virus, signing 10 executive orders and other documents to streamline the federal government response, move toward reopening schools and businesses, ensure safer travel, and increase vaccinations, among other goals.

He called on Americans to “mask up” for the next 100 days, saying that doing so could save more than 50,000 lives. Biden’s tone was notably sober, contrasting not only with former president Donald Trump’s rhetoric, which was often full of superlatives and grand promises, but also with the tone of other presidents on many occasions.

“Let me be very clear: Things are going to continue to get worse before they get better,” Biden said, adding that the death toll would probably top 500,000 next month. “And let me be equally clear: We will get through this. We will defeat this pandemic.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Senate Strikes Deal to Delay Trump’s Impeachment Trial for 2 Weeks, Staff reports, Jan. 22, 2021. The House still plans to deliver the charge against former President Trump on Monday, but the Senate would then pause until the week of Feb. 8.

Bloomberg, Organizers of Trump Rally Had Been on Campaign’s Payroll, Bill Allison, Jan. 22, 2021. Former President Donald Trump’s campaign paid more than $2.7 million over two years to individuals and firms that organized the Jan. 6 rally that led to rioters storming the U.S. Capitol, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

The payments, which span Trump’s re-election campaign, show an ongoing financial relationship between the rally’s organizers and Trump’s political operation. They were all made through Nov. 23, the most recent date covered by Federal Election Commission filings, which is before the rally was publicly announced.

djt handwave fileEight paid Trump campaign officials were named on the permit issued on by the National Park Service for the rally, including Maggie Mulvaney, the niece of Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s former chief of staff who resigned his position as special envoy to Northern Ireland after the riot. Maggie Mulvaney was paid $138,000 by the campaign through Nov. 23.

After the rally, in which the president encouraged them to march on the Capitol, Trump supporters stormed the building, disrupting the count of Electoral College votes in an event that ultimately killed five people. Lawmakers and Vice President Mike Pence, who was presiding over what is normally a ceremonial event, were forced to flee.

President Joe Biden was blamed for firing the White House chief usher on his first day on the job, but his predecessor actually did the deed -- apparently to spite the incoming first family.

Donald and Melania Trump sent White House ushers home early on Inauguration Day in one of their last acts in a tense presidential transition, a well-placed official not associated with the Biden team told the National Journal.

"The Trumps sent the butlers home when they left so there would be no one to help the Bidens when they arrived," the official said. "So petty."
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Other knowledgable sources confirmed to the Journal that chief usher Timothy Harleth, a former executive of Trump Hotels hired by Melania Trump, was summarily fired by the outgoing president and first lady -- and not by the Bidens, as was widely reported afterward.

Harleth was already gone by the time Joe and Jill Biden arrived at the White House on Wednesday afternoon, leaving no one in place to open the doors for their inaugural entry and leading to an awkward pause.

"It's a big protocol breach for the president to ever stand in front of a closed door at the White House," said a veteran White House social expert. "That may be why there was nobody to open the doors to the Bidens. You couldn't expect the Biden staff to know to do that. Doors are opened and closed by ushers. There are rules about all these things and everyone has their job."

The rest of the usher staff was back on the job Thursday, but Harleth -- considered to be a Trump loyalist -- was not expected to be retained by the Bidens for long.

A Trump campaign adviser said the campaign had no role in organizing, operating or paying for the rally. No campaign staff worked on it, said the adviser, who asked not to be named. He added that any employees or contractors who worked on the event did not do so at the campaign’s direction.

Megan Powers, listed as one of two operations managers on the permit, was paid $290,000 by the Trump campaign from February 2019 through the most recent filing period. She served as director of operations for Trump’s campaign.

Caroline Wren, a top GOP fundraiser who was listed on the permit as an adviser to the rally and Ronald Holden, the backstage manager, were also paid by the campaign.

The biggest recipient of campaign funds according to the report, was Event Strategies Inc., which was paid more than $1.7 million by Trump’s campaign and joint fundraising committee. The firm’s owners, Justin Caporale and Tim Unes, served as rally production manager and stage manager, respectively.

Women for America First, the nonprofit organization that requested the permit on Nov. 24, originally for an event to be held on Jan. 23, had a financial relationship with America First Policies, the pro-Trump nonprofit formed to advance his agenda shortly after he took office, according to the report. America First Policies made a $25,000 grant to Women for America First in 2019, its most recent tax return shows.

ny times logoNew York Times, White House Orders Assessment on Violent Extremism in the U.S., Julian E. Barnes and Hailey Fuchs, Jan. 22, 2021. President Biden on Friday ordered the director of national intelligence to work with the F.B.I. and the Department of Homeland Security to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the threat from domestic violent extremism, a sign of how seriously the new administration is taking the issue in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol.

The request comes only days after Avril D. Haines, the newly installed director of national intelligence, pledged to members of Congress during her confirmation hearing that she would help with just such an assessment.

The new intelligence work began as people charged in the mob attack on the Capitol by supporters of former President Donald J. Trump continued to appear in court. On Friday, a federal magistrate judge in Dayton, Ohio ordered Donovan Crowl, an accused rioter linked to the far-right group the Oath Keepers, detained until his trial, citing the safety of the community.

Domestic terrorism and violent groups are a thorny issue for intelligence agencies like the C.I.A., which are limited to tracking attempts by foreign governments or organizations to influence extremist groups in America. The F.B.I. and Department of Homeland Security have more leeway to investigate domestic groups and homegrown terrorism.

But Friday’s order will have practical as well as symbolic import. Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said the assessment would help Mr. Biden hone his policies aimed at curbing violent extremism in the United States.

“This assessment will draw on the analysis from across the government and, as appropriate, nongovernmental organizations,” Ms. Psaki said. “The key point here is that we want fact-based analysis upon which we can shape policy.”

In recent years, some parts of the intelligence community have been working to increase their focus on the threat of domestic terrorism, particularly by doing more to track growing foreign influence operations on domestic groups. The C.I.A. also has officers in its counterterrorism section who specialize in tracking racially-motivated violent extremists overseas.

The order for the evaluation from the intelligence community comes as judges continue to deny bail for suspects in the Capitol riot.

washington post logoWashington Post, To fight impeachment, Trump turns to ‘Butch’ Bowers, a S.C. lawyer at a small firm who has defended state Republicans, Michael Kranish and Josh Dawsey, Jan. 22, 2021. When Republican politicians in South Carolina have faced possible impeachment, ethics charges or other serious accusations, they have often turned to Karl S. “Butch” Bowers Jr., a lawyer with a military background, taciturn demeanor and a small office near the State House in Columbia.

Now Bowers is taking on his biggest case yet: defending former president Donald Trump in his second impeachment trial, this time against a charge that he incited a mob to attack the U.S. Capitol.

The longtime GOP attorney is little known outside of South Carolina and has no powerhouse law firm behind him. Colleagues say he is better known for behind-the-scenes negotiations than courtroom oratory.

In Bowers, Trump is getting a seasoned lawyer at a time when prominent Washington litigators have little interest in working for the former president — and a measured figure who offers a sharp contrast to attorneys Rudolph W. Giuliani and Sidney Powell, who spent the past several months unspooling wild conspiracy theories that the election was rigged.

“When I was threatened with the specter of impeachment, he was able and professional,” said former South Carolina governor Mark Sanford, recalling how Bowers successfully fought off efforts to remove him from office. “From his vantage point, it is a good business decision. It substantially raises your profile on a national and international basis.”

In addition to his work for Sanford, Bowers defended then-South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley during an ethics investigation, and he played a key role in the campaigns of some of the state’s most prominent Republican politicians. His law office is in a small white building that also houses the firm of current Gov. Henry McMaster.

“He is the first call that every Republican campaign makes for a legal team,” said South Carolina political consultant Tim Pearson, who has worked alongside Bowers on gubernatorial campaigns and shares office space with him. “It doesn’t surprise me he is willing to do the work. He is a lawyer’s lawyer in the sense that I think he believes that everybody deserves representation.”

Bowers did not respond to a request for comment.

Bowers, 55, a graduate of Tulane Law School, was recommended to Trump by Sen. Lindsey O. Graham, the South Carolina Republican, who said that he expects that Trump might bring on other lawyers.

washington post logoWashington Post, Senate confirms Austin as first Black defense secretary, Paul Sonne, Jan. 22, 2012. lloyd austin resized uniform fileRetired four-star Army general Lloyd Austin, right, became the first African American defense secretary on Friday, after the Senate confirmed him as President Biden’s nominee in a 93-to-2 vote.

His confirmation to the post breaks down a racial barrier for the military and makes Austin one of the most powerful members of President Biden’s Cabinet, which is far more diverse than that of his predecessor, Donald Trump.

Department of Defense SealFor Austin to be confirmed, the House and Senate first had to pass a waiver exempting him from a law that requires secretaries of defense to be out of uniform for seven years before occupying the top civilian post at the Pentagon. Austin retired in 2016. Congress granted him the waiver on Thursday.

“It’s an honor and a privilege to serve as our country’s 28th Secretary of Defense, and I’m especially proud to be the first African American to hold the position,” Austin said in a statement on Twitter after his confirmation. “Let’s get to work.”

Senators Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) were the lawmakers in the chamber to vote against Austin’s nomination.

nancy pelosi chuck schumer cropped jan 8 2019 screengrab

washington post logoWashington Post, Schumer says article of impeachment against Trump will be delivered to Senate on Monday, with trial to begin Feb. 8, John Wagner, Jan. 22, 2012. Sen. Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Friday that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), shown above, will deliver the article of impeachment against President Trump on Monday, clearing the way for the start of Trump’s second impeachment trial.

“It will be a full trial; it will be a fair trial,” Schumer said during remarks on the Senate floor. Shortly after his comments, Pelosi released a statement confirming the timing.

The House impeached Trump on a single article of “incitement of insurrection” for his role in the Jan. 6 takeover of the Capitol by a violent pro-Trump mob.

“Make no mistake, there will be a trial, and when that trial ends, senators will have to decide if they believe Donald John Trump incited the insurrection against the United States,” Schumer said.

Schumer pushed back on arguments by some Republicans that a trial of a president who has already left office would be unconstitutional. Democrats are seeking to convict Trump and bar him from holding federal office again.

“It makes no sense whatsoever that a president or any official could commit a heinous crime against our country, and then be permitted to resign, so as to avoid accountability and a vote to disbar them from future office,” Schumer said. “Makes no sense.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who had argued for delaying a trial until next month, reiterated his objections to moving quickly.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: Jan. 22, 2021), with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):

World Cases: 98,191,948, Deaths: 2,102,828
U.S. Cases:   25,196,086, Deaths:    420,285

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), an independent global health research center at the University of Washington. Projected total U.S. deaths, based on current scenario 459,324 by Feb. 1; 529,000 by March 1; 567,195 by April 1, 2021.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden to increase federal food benefits among executive actions aimed at stabilizing economy, Jeff Stein and Laura Reiley, Jan. 22, 2021 (print ed.). The president will ask the Department of Agriculture on Friday to allow states to increase food stamps and to expand by 15 percent benefits awarded through a school meals programs for low-income students.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Washington Post, Biden’s covid-19 strategy should be applauded. Here’s where it can go further, Leana S. Wen, Jan. 22, 2021 (print ed.). Less than 24 hours after taking office, President Biden has released a national strategy to combat covid-19. In firmly establishing the federal government’s leadership role in pandemic response, this action is a 180-degree reversal of the Trump administration’s approach of denial, deflection and capitulation.

The Biden strategy is to be applauded for its comprehensiveness. Where I wish it went further is with its boldness.

The United States is not where it was at the beginning of the pandemic, when Biden’s plan might have prevented us from passing one tragic milestone after another. Now, we are in a race against time, with the arrival of even more contagious variants coming on top of high baselines of infection. The steps that would have worked months ago are not nearly enough now; this is the time for much more aggressive federal action.

Let’s start with one of Biden’s first acts, the signing of an executive order to mandate masks in federal buildings. To be sure, this is a dramatic change from former president Donald Trump’s maskless parties in the White House. This order, combined with the subsequent executive orders signed Thursday to require masks on much interstate travel, will protect many Americans and send an unequivocal message that the new administration is following public health guidance.

Full coverage of the coronavirus pandemic

But if the evidence is clear that masks save lives, why isn’t Biden issuing a full-on national mask mandate? Some have said any rules that reach beyond federal buildings and interstate commerce will face court challenges. Issuing a national mandate is the clearest signal that the country is in crisis; this very powerful tool must be used. And I believe that Biden can get around the issue of mandates being a state prerogative by tying federal funding to masking requirements. This will force governors’ hands: They can issue statewide mandates or forgo federal funds.

ny times logoNew York Times, President Biden told OSHA to issue new Covid-19 guidance to employers, Noam Scheiber, Jan. 22, 2021 (print ed.). Unions, which largely support the new president, had complained that the Trump administration did little to protect workers from the coronavirus.

President Biden directed the Occupational Safety and Health Administration on Thursday to release new guidance to employers on protecting workers from Covid-19.

In one of 10 executive orders that he signed Thursday, the president asked the agency to step up enforcement of existing rules to help stop the spread of the coronavirus in the workplace and to explore issuing a new rule requiring employers to take additional precautions.

The other executive orders also relate to the pandemic, including orders directing federal agencies to issue guidance for the reopening of schools and to use their powers to accelerate the production of protective equipment and expand access to testing.

Critics accused OSHA, which is part of the Labor Department, of weak oversight under former President Donald J. Trump, especially in the last year, when it relaxed record-keeping and reporting requirements related to Covid-19 cases.

Under Mr. Trump, the agency also announced that it would mostly refrain from inspecting workplaces outside of a few high-risk industries like health care and emergency response. And critics complained that its appetite for fining employers was limited. Mr. Biden’s executive order urges the agency to target “the worst violators,” according to a White House fact sheet.

washington post logoWashington Post, FEMA would operate up to 100 federally run mass vaccination sites under Biden plan, Isaac Stanley-Becker, Jan. 22, 2012. A draft FEMA document envisions four different models for sites, with the largest capable of handling 6,000 doses a day.

Up to 100 sites run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency could begin offering coronavirus vaccine within the next month, part of a strategy that fema logo Custom 2would dramatically expand the federal government’s role in the effort to corral the pandemic.

The plan, which was announced by President Biden on his first day in office, is already taking shape in the form of a draft “Concept of Operations,” which was obtained by The Washington Post. The document envisions FEMA, which previously had more of a piecemeal role in pandemic response, fully unleashed.

Its mission will be to “provide federal support to existing or new community vaccination centers and mobile clinics across the country.”

Enlisting FEMA, an agency of the Department of Homeland Security, is among the clearest signals that Biden intends to involve the federal government more directly in the administration of vaccines, instead of leaving the final step of the massive effort to state and local authorities.

usda logo horizontal Customwashington post logoWashington Post, Biden to increase federal food benefits among executive actions aimed at stabilizing economy, Jeff Stein and Laura Reiley, Jan. 22, 2021 (print ed.). The president will ask the Department of Agriculture on Friday to allow states to increase food stamps and to expand by 15 percent benefits awarded through a school meals programs for low-income students.

usda headquarters 2007 CustomPresident Biden is expected on Friday to significantly increase federal food assistance for millions of hungry families among executive actions intended to stabilize the deterioration of the economy weighed down by the raging coronavirus pandemic.

Biden is asking the Department of Agriculture to allow states to increase Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits — commonly known as food stamps — and to increase by 15 percent benefits awarded through a school meals program for low-income students started during the pandemic, according to Biden administration officials. That could give a family of three children more than $100 in extra benefits every two months, officials said.

A growing number of Americans are going hungry

A separate unilateral move aims to help get previously approved stimulus checks into the hands of Americans who haven’t received them yet. And another would ask the Labor Department to make clear that workers who refuse to return to working conditions that could expose them to the coronavirus should be eligible for unemployment insurance.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s economy left Black Americans behind. Here’s how they want Biden to narrow the gaps, Tracy Jan, Jan. 22, 2012. Systemic racial inequalities have left Black Americans trailing Whites on every economic measure — gaps that are worsening amid the coronavirus recession.

washington post logoWashington Post, Senior Democrats drafting plan to give parents $3,000 per child in Biden stimulus, Jan. 22, 2012. Senior Democratic lawmakers are moving to fulfill President Biden’s desire to expand the child tax credit by drafting legislation that would direct the Internal Revenue Service to send recurring monthly payments to tens of millions of American families, according to officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to share knowledge of the internal discussion.

Under one draft of the plan being discussed, the IRS would be tasked with depositing checks worth $300 every month per child younger than 6, as well as $250 every month per child aged 6 to 17. That would amount to $3,600 over the course of the year for young children, as well as $3,000 a year for older children, the officials said.

Unlike the stimulus checks, the Biden administration and Democratic lawmakers are hoping to make these child benefits a permanent government program that would continue in future years, according to three senior Democratic officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal planning. The current proposal only calls for the expanded benefit to be enacted for one year, after which Democrats widely hope political pressure will force Congress to extend them. The benefit would be phased out for affluent Americans, though the precise income level has not been determined.

The benefit could prove costly, increasing the federal deficit by as much as $120 billion for one year, according to estimates by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a nonpartisan group. But it could curb child poverty in the U.S. by more than 50 percent, researchers at Columbia University have found.

 

U.S. Transfer of Power

ny times logoNew York Times, Congress Paves Way for Installing General Austin as Defense Secretary, Catie Edmondson and Jennifer Steinhauer, Jan. 22, 2021 (print ed.). Lloyd Austin, right, who is poised to become the first Black American to lead the Pentagon, was granted a waiver. A confirmation vote is set for Friday.

lloyd austin resized uniform fileThe House and Senate on Thursday overwhelmingly approved a special waiver to allow Lloyd J. Austin III, a retired four-star Army general, to serve as secretary of defense, eliminating a hurdle to confirmation for a crucial member of President Biden’s national security team who is poised to become the first Black American to lead the Pentagon.

In back-to-back votes, lawmakers in both parties approved the special dispensation for General Austin to hold the post, as required for any defense secretary who has been retired from active-duty military service for fewer than seven years. Leaders set a vote for Friday morning to confirm him.

voice of america logo washington post logoWashington Post, At Voice of America, a sweeping ouster of Trump officials on Biden’s first full day, Paul Farhi, Jan. 22, 2021 (print ed.). With a veteran reporter taking the place of controversial overseer Michael Pack, the dominoes started falling in other top offices.

President Biden moved swiftly to oust top managers loyal to former president Donald Trump who had been blamed for recent turmoil at the federal government’s array of international news organizations, including the biggest and most influential one, the Voice of America.

michael packOnly hours after he was inaugurated, Biden forced out Michael Pack, right, the controversial head of the agency that oversees VOA and four other networks that broadcast news to millions of people abroad. This was followed, domino-like, on Thursday by the removal of VOA’s director and deputy director after only a few weeks on the job.

In doing so, Biden appears to be putting the brakes on what critics said was an effort by the Trump administration to turn the news agencies into mouthpieces for Trump’s views and policies.

The federal government spends $637 million annually to support the five news networks — VOA, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Middle East Broadcasting, the Office of Cuba Broadcasting and Radio Free Asia. The agencies were established by Congress as an extension of American “soft power,” although the news and commentary they produce is by regulation independent of government or political control.

Voice of America alone broadcasts in 47 different languages, primarily in countries where press freedom is limited or nonexistent.

One of Biden’s first moves Wednesday was to seek the resignation of Pack, a Trump appointee who created a trail of scandal, lawsuits and acrimony in the eight months since he became chief executive of the news organizations’ parent, the U.S. Agency for Global Media.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden’s choices for FTC and FCC chairs signal major shift ahead, Tony Romm, Jan. 22, 2021 (print ed.). President Biden on Thursday appointed Rebecca Kelly Slaughter as acting chairwoman of the Federal Trade Commission, a move that positions the Washington watchdog agency to take on a more aggressive role in policing Facebook, Google and other tech giants in Silicon Valley.

ftc logoBiden also designated Jessica Rosenworcel, right, to serve as the acting chairwoman of the Federal Communications Commission. Rosenworcel is a fervent supporter of net neutrality and has called on the FCC for years to put its muscle behind a massive effort to build jessica rosenworcel fccout broadband to the country’s most unserved communities.

The two appointments reflect the tectonic political shift underway in Washington as Democrats, newly in charge of the White House and Congress, prepare to roll back a slew of deregulatory actions implemented under President Donald Trump. Biden and his congressional counterparts over the past year have teased an ambitious digital agenda, promising to rein in Silicon Valley, rethink the legal protections afforded to tech giants and expand internet access nationwide.

But Slaughter and Rosenworcel still may face early obstacles at their respective commissions. New vacancies at the FTC and FCC may fcc logoleave it deadlocked at two Democrats and two Republicans.

The stalemate will not totally trap the agencies in policy paralysis, but it still may set back some of their most ambitious plans until Biden nominates additional Democrats and the party’s razor-thin majority in the Senate can confirm them. Biden also must decide whether to name Slaughter and Rosenworcel as permanent chairs.

washington post logoWashington Post, GOP pushes for delay in impeachment trial to give Trump time to craft defense, Mike DeBonis and Seung Min Kim, Jan. 22, 2021 (print ed.). Senate Republicans on Thursday pushed to delay the impeachment trial of former president Donald Trump for at least three weeks because he is struggling to recruit a legal team and assemble a defense against the accusation that he incited the deadly Jan. 6 invasion of the Capitol.

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) floated postponing the start of the trial until mid-February, telling colleagues that Trump deserved more time to prepare his case and file briefs with the Senate. A conviction could bar Trump from public office in the future.

The proposal came as a key Trump ally, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), disclosed that the former president had secured a lead defense counsel for the trial: Butch Bowers, a Columbia, S.C., attorney known for his prominent role in litigating political and election matters for North and South Carolina Republicans.

Palmer Report, Opinion: To the victor belong the spoils, Robert Harrington, right, Jan. 22, 2021. We will be dissecting the ironies of this election for years. I, for one, robert harringtnn portraitplan to put my own scalpel to good use. Beginning in any old random place, how about the irony that the former toxic president (Trump) employed another former toxic president (Andrew Jackson) as his mascot? The slogan that ushered in the Jacksonian era, “to the victor belong the spoils,” is now being used against Trump with the same scorched earth relentlessness of one ancient Egyptian pharaoh erasing another.

bill palmer report logo headerTrump’s own use of the presidency was exclusively twofold, his self glorification and as the ultimate tool of revenge. As he set about to erase the legacy of President Barack Obama with a little man’s zeal he soon realized it was easier said than done. Trump’s goal was to exact vengeance on a man (a black man, no less) who frustrated and ultimately humiliated his efforts to prove Obama wasn’t born in the United States. (That racist lie became so toxic to Trump that it was even largely abandoned by all but his most zealous followers.)

On his first day in office Joe Biden signed 15 executive orders — a new record. The orders range from rescinding Trump’s Muslim ban to rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement to dismantling the declaration of a national emergency used to justify funding for of a wall on the US-Mexico border. In rapid succession much of the Trump legacy was wiped out in a single day. Such was the impermanent sand upon which it was built.

The Republican response was predictable. Sean Hannity claims it’s hypocrisy to call for unity then to turn around and make such a “disunifying” assault on the legacy of Donald Trump. In other words, Hannity is inventing rules to keep our President from doing the job the American people elected him to do. Sorry, Sean, but it doesn’t work that way.

Besides, “to the victor belong the spoils.” That’s straight from Andy Jackson. By the way, Jackson’s portrait was removed from the Oval Office. The victor also gets that power, too.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Rainbows vs. ‘play ball!’: Biden’s call for unity faces test in fractured Congress, Paul Kane, Jan. 22, 2021 (print ed.). The new president can either listen to Republican calls for bipartisanship, or he can heed the advice of some allies who believe that GOP lawmakers are merely setting traps to end up in gridlock.

President Biden traveled just 25 steps between Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) at Wednesday’s post-inaugural reception, but that short distance summed up what will be a recurring battle for his new priorities.

Biden can either listen to Republican calls for bipartisanship or he can heed the advice of some allies who believe GOP lawmakers are merely setting traps to end up in gridlock and the new president should instead focus on a quick legislative strike with almost entirely Democratic votes.

As the emcee for the ceremony, Blunt explained that in pre-pandemic times the event would have been a luncheon so lawmakers could bond with the new president, but noted that, after his 36 years in the Senate and eight as vice president, Biden was a pretty familiar figure already. Blunt, presenting the traditional gift of a painting, said first lady Jill Biden helped pick the pre-Civil War landscape with a rainbow in the sky.

“A rainbow, always a good sign,” Blunt told the Bidens.

A couple of minutes later, presenting the new president with a flag that flew over the House during his swearing-in, Pelosi took a more forceful tone as she recalled how the national anthem at a baseball game ends with a declaration to act.

“Play ball! Right there, play ball. So we’re going to get ready to play ball. We’re ready to go,” she told the president.

In his own speech, Biden clearly spelled out that he wants to work with Republicans and try to heal the partisan wounds of the past decade, saying that “unity is the path” for defeating the coronavirus crisis and overcoming other critical issues.

 

Trump Watch

djt looking up

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump steps out of the White House and into a company in crisis, David A. Fahrenthold and Jonathan O'Connell, Jan. 22, 2012 (print ed.). New financial disclosures show the depth of his financial problems, compounded by his role in the Capitol riot. Donald Trump returns to his company this week as it faces a deepening crisis, with key properties bleeding revenue and its bankers, lawyers and customers fleeing the company.

djt march 2020 CustomFinancial disclosure forms, filed by the former president as he left office, revealed that his hotels, resorts and other properties had lost more than $120 million in revenue last year, as the pandemic forced long-term closures and kept customers home.

Those losses were worst in the places where Trump could least afford it: His Washington hotel, which has a $170 million loan outstanding, saw revenue drop more than 60 percent. His Doral resort in Miami — also carrying a huge debt load — saw a 44 percent drop.

On Thursday, the company’s troubles grew: One of its banks and one of its law firms said they would cut their ties with the Trump Organization. They are the latest in a string of vendors and customers who severed their relationships with the company after Jan. 6, when a mob of Trump supporters attacked the U.S. Capitol directly after he addressed them at a rally.

White House Advisor Mercedes Schlapp and her husband, prominent attorney and Trump defender Matt Schlapp flank U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh

White House Advisor Mercedes Schlapp and her husband, prominent Trump ally Matt Schlapp flank U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

Axios, Trump ally Matt Schlapp got $750k in unsuccessful pardon push, Lachlan Markay, Jan 22, 2021. The lobbying firm run by Trump ally Matt Schlapp brought in $750,000 in the final two weeks of 2020 from a former top Trump fundraiser and convicted fraudster who retained Schlapp to lobby — unsuccessfully — for a presidential pardon.

Why it matters: The substantial sum that the former fundraiser, Georgia's Parker "Pete" Petit, paid to Schlapp's Cove Strategies shows how valuable connections to Donald Trump were in his final days in office for wealthy felons seeking clemency from the outgoing president.

What's new: Lobbying disclosure records filed on Thursday said Schlapp, a close informal Trump adviser, worked on a "request for a pardon and other public policy issues relating to criminal justice."

The disclosure filing, which covered the last two weeks of 2020, said that Schlapp had contacted just one government office on Petit's behalf: the Executive Office of the President.
Petit was not on the list of the nearly 150 pardons and commutations that the White House released during Trump's final days in office.
Schlapp didn't respond to inquiries about the other policy work he reported performing on the account.

The backstory: Petit, a former Atlanta health care executive, co-chaired the Trump campaign's 2016 fundraising operation in Georgia.

A federal court convicted him of securities fraud in November. The charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

Be smart: A host of federal convicts retained lobbyists to try to win clemency from Trump in his final days. But even the most lucrative lobbying contracts didn't guarantee success.

 

U.S. Politics, Governing

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Democrats and Republicans Are Not United on ‘Unity,’ Peter Baker, Jan. 22, 2021 (print ed.). President Biden seeks bipartisanship but is caught between Republicans who want tangible concessions and Democrats who are in no mood to compromise.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Corrupt, the Clueless and Joe Biden, Paul Krugman, right, Jan. 22, 2021 (print ed.). Unity is a fine goal, but don’t expect much paul krugmancooperation. The inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris was an astonishingly emotional moment. I know I wasn’t alone in suddenly, unexpectedly finding myself tearing up. For a little while it felt as if we were living in a dream — a dream about the nation we should be, a land of decency, honesty, justice and unity in diversity. (E pluribus unum, to coin a phrase.)

But now the work begins, and it won’t be easy. Biden spoke movingly about unity, but let’s face it: He won’t sway many people in the other party.

Some, perhaps most, of the opposition he’ll face will come from people who are deeply corrupt. And even among Republicans acting in good faith he’ll have ted cruz abc resize horizontalto contend with deep-seated cluelessness, the result of the intellectual bubble the right has lived in for many years.

Let’s start with the face of corruption: Ted Cruz, left. OK, there are other prominent Republicans just as bad or worse — hello, Josh Hawley. But Cruz epitomizes the bad faith Biden will have to contend with.

Cruz is, or used to be, a smart man — ask him and he’ll tell you (although in my experience people secure in their intellectual bona fides don’t boast about their academic credentials). But he has spent many years pursuing power by trying to appeal to the worst instincts of the Republican base. Most notably, he has been among the leading voices pushing the false narrative of a stolen election and bears significant responsibility for the sacking of the Capitol.

ny times logoNew York Times, President Biden Wants to Raise Taxes, Yet Many Trump Tax Cuts Are Here to Stay, Jim Tankersley, Jan. 22, 2021. Donald Trump has left the White House. But many of his signature tax cuts aren’t going anywhere.

Donald J. Trump has left the White House. But many of his signature tax cuts aren’t going anywhere.

Democrats have spent years promising to repeal the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which Republicans passed without a single Democratic vote and was estimated to cost nearly $2 trillion over a decade. President Biden said during a presidential debate in September that he was “going to eliminate the Trump tax cuts.”

Mr. Biden is now in the White House, and his party controls both chambers of Congress. Yet he and his aides are committing to only a partial rollback of the law, with their focus on provisions that help corporations and the very rich. It’s a position that Mr. Biden held throughout the campaign, and that he clarified in the September debate by promising to only partly repeal a corporate rate cut.

In some cases, including tax cuts that help lower- and middle-class Americans, they are looking to make Mr. Trump’s temporary tax cuts permanent.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden calls for LGBTQ protections in day-one executive order, angering conservatives, Samantha Schmidt, Emily Wax-Thibodeaux and Moriah Balingit, Jan. 22, 2021 (print ed.). On his first day in office, President Biden issued a sweeping executive order making it clear that gay and transgender people are protected against discrimination in schools, health care, the workplace and other realms of American life.

The executive order outlines a broad interpretation of last year’s landmark Supreme Court ruling that gay and transgender employees are covered by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination “because of sex.” The Trump administration had interpreted that decision in Bostock v. Clayton County narrowly and only applying to employment.

Biden’s order calls on agencies across the federal government to review existing regulations and policies that prohibit sex discrimination, and to revise them as necessary to clarify that “sex” includes sexual orientation and gender identity.

Baltimore Sun, U.S. Capitol Police investigate after report Rep. Andy Harris brought gun to House chamber checkpoint, Jeff Barker, Jan. 22, 2021 (print ed.). U.S. Rep. Andy Harris of Maryland is the latest Republican lawmaker to run afoul of new security screening designed to keep guns out of the House chamber following an attack two weeks ago on the Capitol, according to a Capitol official and an eyewitness account.

andy harrisA security official “saw a firearm on the person of Rep. Harris, right, and relayed that to his superiors” as Harris sought to enter the chamber Thursday, said the Capitol official with knowledge of the events. “To be clear, Rep. Harris did not enter the Floor,” said the official. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter.

The encounter was witnessed by Matt Fuller, a reporter for HuffPost. He tweeted that after Harris was refused entry, he asked Republican U.S. Rep. John Katko of New York “to take something from him.” Katko declined, saying “he doesn’t have a license,” according to Fuller’s tweets.

The U.S. Capitol Police department is looking into the matter, spokeswoman Eva Malecki told The Sun. She declined to answer questions, saying “we can’t comment on an ongoing investigation.”

Harris’ district includes parts of the counties of Baltimore, Carroll and Harford, as well as the Eastern Shore.
As some Trump supporters stepped back, Rep. Andy Harris stepped up »

After speaking with Katko, Harris “then left on the elevators and 10 minutes later returned to the House chamber,” according to Fuller’s article for HuffPost. “He placed his cellphone and keys on a desk to the side, did not set off the magnetometer and was allowed to enter the House floor.”

The House placed metal detectors outside the chamber’s doors in the week after violent supporters of then-President Donald Trump stormed and ransacked the Capitol on Jan. 6, threatening members and then-Vice President Mike Pence.

The rioters were trying to halt Congress from finalizing the Nov. 3 election results in which the Republican Trump lost to Democrat Joe Biden. Once that session resumed, Harris was among the GOP members arguing on behalf of Trump’s unfounded contention that some election results should be dismissed because of fraud or other irregularities.

Members are permitted to carry guns on the Capitol grounds, including the building itself, but not in the chamber.

However, enough Republican lawmakers have been flouting the rules that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Jan. 13 that members would be fined $5,000 in the future for refusing “to abide by these protections.” A second offense would carry a $10,000 fine. The levies would be deducted from their salaries, the speaker said.

Among those criticizing the rules are Rep. Lauren Boebert, a Colorado Republican who tweeted Jan. 3 that she would “carry my Glock to Congress.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Can Someone Please Open the Door? Annie Karni and Katie Rogers, Jan. 22, 2021 (print ed.). The Bidens waited for an awkward moment in front of a closed door when they arrived at their new residence, a protocol breach that turned out to be a small but curious bit of disarray.

It was the culminating moment of a transfer of power: President Biden and the first lady, Jill Biden, walked up the driveway to their new home on Wednesday, ascended the steps to the North Portico, waved to the crowd as a military band played “Hail to the Chief,” turned to head inside — and came face-to-face with a closed door.

As the world watched and a small crowd of Biden family members came up behind them, the first couple waited.

Was the president supposed to open the pair of big wooden doors himself? Had former President Donald J. Trump, who had left eight hours earlier, locked him out?

Soon enough the doors were swung open, and the Bidens entered. The awkward moment had lasted only a handful of seconds — about 10, if you time it — but it did not go unnoticed in Washington.

“There was a protocol breach when the front doors were not held open for the first family as they arrived at the North Portico,” said Lea Berman, who served as a White House social secretary for President George W. Bush.

The breach turned out to be a small but curious bit of disarray in the chaotic two-and-a-half months between Election Day and Inauguration Day. Nothing was normal in the transition from the Trump to the Biden administration, and turning over the White House to new occupants was no exception.

Palmer Report, 'So petty': Donald and Melania Trump fired chief usher before leaving White House to spite Bidens, Travis Gettys, January 22, 2021.

Raw Story, Oath Keepers lose ‘Community Rewards’ donations from major grocer after Capitol riots: report, Sky Palma, Jan. 22, 2021. The supermarket chain Kroger announced that it is removing a militia group associated with the Jan. 6 Capitol riots from its Community Rewards program, ABC9 reports.

The Indiana Oath Keepers were removed from the program, which Kroger describes as a "customer-directed giving program in which thousands of IRS-approved 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations participate." The Oath Keepers had posted the Community Rewards program on their website as a way to collect donations.

"We were dismayed to learn today this group is part of the Community Rewards program," Kroger's statement read. "Given the concerning nature of the allegations against this organization, we have immediately removed the group from receiving customer-directed funds. Kroger has not directed any corporate grants or charitable dollars to the organization."

 

Capitol Riot Followups

washington post logoWashington Post, National Guard members allowed back at Capitol after they were banished to a parking garage, Alex Horton, Jan. 22, 2012. Hundreds of National Guard members forced from the U.S. Capitol in Washington and into a parking garage Thursday night were allowed to return indoors to rest, defense officials said Friday, after photos of soldiers lying on concrete prompted outrage from lawmakers.

The abrupt transfer came Thursday afternoon with no explanation, two soldiers told The Washington Post. The troops were using space at the Capitol to relax in between guard shifts, but relocating to the parking garage put them in close quarters with moving cars, exhaust fumes, few toilets and troops potentially infected with the coronavirus, the soldiers said.

The National Guard said Thursday the Capitol Police moved the Guard members off the grounds as foot traffic from lawmakers and other officials increased in the area, but that was contradicted by acting Capitol police chief Yogananda Pittman, who said in a statement Friday that “police did not instruct the National Guard to vacate the Capitol Building facilities.”

National Guard officials did not resolve the contradiction in a Friday statement, but denied allegations made on social media that the request originated from lawmakers.

“Our understanding is that the unfortunate request for the National Guard to be relocated was made without the knowledge of the Congressional members,” said Wayne Hall, a spokesman for the National Guard Bureau. “This morning, all of the break areas used by the National Guard on duty at the Capitol are inside buildings.”

The Guard members have hotel rooms, but soldiers are on duty for a day or two, working shifts a few hours at a time and cannot easily return to their hotels, many of which are in Virginia and Maryland. So they nap wherever they can — on concrete, indoor tennis courts or on carpeted floors.

Two soldiers who spoke to The Post estimated at least hundreds of troops were moved to the garage as officials struggle to find places to put thousands of service members. Nearly 26,000 National Guard members arrived after the Jan. 6 Capitol riot to help secure Wednesday’s presidential inauguration. More than 10,000 remain on duty, while 15,000 others were slated to return home in the coming days, defense officials said Thursday.

washington post logoWashington Post, Prosecutors want defense attorney, ex-Sacramento GOP leader charged in Capitol siege to remain detained, Rachel Weiner and Spencer S. Hsu, Jan. 22, 2012. Last week, William Calhoun was in one Georgia courtroom representing people accused of crimes.

Justice Department log circularThis week, a judge in another declared Calhoun, who allegedly bragged online about storming into the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Jan. 6, was too dangerous to let out of jail.

“Because of the corrupting and dangerous ideology that has poisoned this man’s mind, he has no respect for the laws of the United States or the people who enforce those laws,” Magistrate Judge Charles Weigle said. If Calhoun was released, the judge said, “I would be afraid for my life.”

By attacking the Capitol with a right-wing mob seeking to stop then-President-elect Joe Biden from taking office, Weigle said, Calhoun, a private defense attorney, “crossed a sacred, sacred line.”

Federal prosecutors have asked for detention in a only handful of the criminal cases brought against alleged participants in this month’s attack on the Capitol. Along with Calhoun, the government is seeking to detain an ousted Sacramento leader of a GOP volunteer organization who was arrested Tuesday.

“You will all die,” Jorge Riley, formerly the corresponding secretary of the California Republican Assembly, wrote in a since-deleted Facebook post two days after the Capitol siege, the FBI alleged.

The assistant federal defender for Riley did not respond to a request for comment.

Prosecutors also want to keep Couy Griffin — a New Mexico county commissioner and founder of the group Cowboys for Trump who has a history of violent rhetoric — behind bars.

Justice Dept. investigating sedition and conspiracy charges and any terror links to violent storming of U.S. Capitol

According to charging documents, after the riot Griffin vowed to return for Biden’s inauguration, saying in a video, “There’s gonna be blood running out of that building.”

washington post logoWashington Post, QAnon believers seek to adapt their extremist ideology, filled with false conspiracy theories, for a new era, Drew Harwell, Jan. 22, 2012 (print ed.). With Q having vanished and Trump out of office, far-right extremist groups are targeting disillusioned believers online in hopes of further radicalizing them to a new cause.

Biden’s rise to the White House marked the biggest inflection point yet for QAnon’s core believers, who this week voiced doubts and frustrations that the movement’s years-old promises of mass executions and an extended Trump presidency had been bogus all along.

QAnon believers grapple with doubt, spin new theories as Trump era ends

But even as reality intrudes, many QAnon adherents are finding ways to carry on, including by concocting new explanations for QAnon failures. And with Q having vanished and Trump out of office, other far-right extremist groups are seeking to capitalize on the leadership void by targeting disillusioned believers in hopes of radicalizing them to a new cause.

The movement’s resistance to reality highlights a major challenge for the Biden administration as it braces to confront the specter of disinformation online: Emboldened by conspiracy-theory echo chambers and encouraged by fellow online believers, the followers of far-right ideologies appear impervious to even the most obvious truths — and many are digging in for the years ahead.

QAnon has featured prominently in real-world violence, including through its devotees’ participation in the Capitol siege, and it has bedeviled tech companies who have scrambled to remove known purveyors of violent threats and conspiratorial lies.

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Civil Rights

Palmer Report, Opinion: Turns out Trump screwed up Paul Manafort’s pardon, Bill Palmer, Jan. 21, 2021. Right around the time Trump began issuing his first post-election pardons, Palmer Report pointed out that it probably wouldn’t be that difficult for the post-Trump DOJ to work around the pardons. After all, broad or preemptive pardons are legally flimsy, and Trump’s team of legal advisers were mostly idiots.

bill palmer report logo headerSure enough, Andrew Weissman, who helped bring the original criminal case against Paul Manafort as part of the Mueller probe, is now revealing that Trump’s pardon of Manafort is indeed written poorly and easily worked around. Weissman explained that the pardon only covered the crimes that Manafort was convicted of, not the additional crimes that Manafort confessed to during his brief cooperation phase.

As Rachel Maddow noted on air tonight, even though Manafort’s pardon was issued weeks ago, Weissman waited until after Trump left office to point out the mistake, so that Trump couldn’t go back and fix it. This means the DOJ can indeed bring criminal charges against Manafort and steer him back toward prison. We’re guessing Manafort isn’t the only pardon that Trump screwed up.

ny times logoNew York Times, For Prosecutors, Trump’s Clemency Decisions Were a ‘Kick in the Teeth,’ Eric Lipton, Jan. 22, 2021 (print ed.). Commutations in high-profile Medicare fraud cases have elicited anger among those who spent years pursuing complex prosecutions.

It was New Year’s Eve, and dance music was pulsating from the backyard of a multimillion-dollar home here co-owned by Philip Esformes, a former nursing home executive who orchestrated one of the biggest Medicare frauds in United States history.

Just days after being granted clemency by President Donald J. Trump and released after serving four years of his 20-year sentence, Mr. Esformes was under a disco ball celebrating his daughter’s wedding.

Not far away, in Hialeah, Fla., Judith Negron, 49, who had been convicted in a separate scheme to siphon off hundreds of millions of dollars in fraudulent Medicare payments, was also at home for the holidays instead of in federal prison. Thanks to a commutation by Mr. Trump, she had been released after serving eight years of a 35-year sentence and was relieved of any remaining obligation to pay her share of $87 million in court-ordered restitution.

This was hardly the outcome that Paul E. Pelletier expected when he and a team of other top Justice Department prosecutors and federal investigators set out to expose what Mr. Esformes and Ms. Negron had done.

After years of painstaking work and millions of dollars spent to investigate and prosecute the cases, the remainders of the sentences being served by the two convicted felons — participants in a type of fraud that costs taxpayers billions of dollars — had been wiped away by the stroke of a presidential pen.

In explaining his decisions, Mr. Trump said that Ms. Negron was a “wife and mother” and had dedicated her time in prison to “improving her life and the lives of her fellow inmates.” Mr. Esformes, he said, spent his time in prison “devoted to prayer and repentance and is in declining health,” and others had raised claims of misconduct by prosecutors in his case.

The presidential rationales did not hold much weight with those who had sought to hold Mr. Esformes and Ms. Negron accountable.

“It is an incredible kick in the teeth to the agents and prosecutors who toil away every day under very difficult circumstances to achieve justice and some restitution to the taxpayers from the billions of dollars that has literally been stolen from them,” Mr. Pelletier said.

His frustration is shared by many current and former Justice Department officials who spent years working on these cases, considered two of the most important taken up in the nationwide effort to combat widespread Medicare fraud.

“It is disheartening, demoralizing,” said Wifredo A. Ferrer, a former United States attorney for the Southern District of Florida, speaking generally about presidential commutations in Medicare fraud cases. “We are doing these cases to control health care costs and save lives and make sure legitimate health care centers don’t have to compete with the crooks.”

washington post logohank aaron 1974Washington Post, Hank Aaron (1934–2021): Baseball legend who became voice for civil rights dies at 86, Dave Sheinin and Matt Schudel, Jan. 22, 2021. “Hammerin' Hank,” shown at right in 1974 Milwaukee Braves uniform, smashed Babe Ruth’s all-time home run record, in defiance of threats to his life and never forgot the jeers he received while playing in the South during the days of segregation.

ny times logoNew York Times, Hank Aaron Was More Than His Stats. But His Stats Were Outrageous, Benjamin Hoffman, Jan. 22, 2021.  Known for home runs and longevity, Aaron is the career leader in R.B.I. and total bases. He is third on the career hits list.

Hank Aaron, whose death at 86 was announced on Friday, was the home run king for 33 years. His final total of 755 can be quoted by nearly anyone who follows baseball — it is a number considerably more well known than the actual record, 762, which is held by Barry Bonds. But Aaron’s accomplishments on the field extended far beyond his home run total.

 

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, E.U. leaders consider travel bans, faster vaccine rollout to fight variants, Michael Birnbaum, Jan. 22, 2021 (print ed.). There’s fear the U.K. variant and others could overwhelm medical systems. Germany proposed strict, temporary bans on travel to the E.U. from countries where mutated forms of the virus are already prevalent.

european union logo rectangleEuropean leaders, struggling with a slow vaccination effort and fearful that highly contagious coronavirus variants could rapidly overwhelm their medical systems, moved Thursday to begin reimposing border restrictions and to speed the distribution of vaccines — even those not yet approved for use.

“We are increasingly concerned about different variants of the virus,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told reporters after a virtual summit of European Union leaders, saying that although the bloc intends to keep borders open for trade, it may restrict nonessential travel.

The leaders held back from endorsing a specific plan for borders. But Germany — which as the richest and most populous E.U. member often drives its discussions — proposed strict, temporary bans on travel to the E.U. from countries where mutated forms of the coronavirus are already prevalent, including Britain. The proposal would restrict E.U. citizens from returning to their home countries if they are currently in an affected country, and would therefore be more stringent than previous border measures.

 

World Socialist Website, Commentary: Facebook purges left-wing pages and individuals, Andre Damon, Jan. 23, 2021. On Friday, Facebook carried out a purge of left-wing, antiwar and progressive pages and accounts, including leading members of the Socialist Equality Party. Facebook gave no explanation why the accounts were disabled or even a public acknowledgement that the deletions had occurred.

facebook logoAt least a half dozen leading members of the Socialist Equality Party had their Facebook accounts permanently disabled. This included the public account of Genevieve Leigh, the national secretary of the International Youth and Students for Social Equality, and the personal account of Niles Niemuth, the US managing editor of the World Socialist Web Site. In 2016, Niemuth was the Socialist Equality Party’s candidate for US Vice President.

Facebook also disabled the London Bus Drivers Rank-and-File Committee Facebook page, which was set up with the support of the Socialist Equality Party (UK) to organize opposition among bus drivers. This follows a widely discussed call for a walkout by bus drivers to demand elementary protections against the COVID-19 pandemic.

None of the individuals whose accounts were disabled had violated Facebook’s policies. Upon attempting to appeal the deletion of their account, they received an error message stating, “We cannot review the decision to disable your account.”

With no explanation or warning, Facebook has effectively seized the intellectual property of those it has targeted, cutting them off from years of their photos, writings and online discussions.

Also targeted was the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) in the UK. Its main national Facebook account was disabled, with approximately 20,000 followers, together with its student group, the Socialist Workers' Student Society, with approximately 5,000 followers, as well as its annual Marxism festival, with 12,000 followers.

Additionally, entire branches of the organization were disabled on Facebook, particularly in Scotland, as well as the Facebook accounts of individual members, according to SWP representative Lewis Nielsen. “This has been a concerted attack on us,” Nielsen told the World Socialist Web Site.

Following widespread protests on Twitter and other social media networks, Facebook reversed the ban of the SWP’s main page, although the pages of a number of local branches and members remain offline.

The attack on leading members of the SEP and other left-wing organizations is a calculated act of censorship, at the behest of the state and the ruling class, to silence opposition. These actions are part of a yearslong campaign to create the framework for censorship in the United States and internationally.

Such acts of censorship are a desperate response to the growth of popular opposition to inequality, social misery and the ruling class’s disastrous response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has put profits above the protection of human lives.

The World Socialist Web Site has for years warned about the crackdown on left-wing political organizations by Facebook, Twitter and Google.

Since the 2016 election, the US intelligence agencies have advocated internet censorship in the name of fighting “fake news.” While these actions have been presented as targeting far-right conspiracy theories, they have, in fact, disproportionately affected left-wing, antiwar and socialist organizations.

In 2017, Google announced that it would promote “authoritative” news sources over “alternative viewpoints,” leading to a massive drop in search traffic to left-wing sites.

World Socialist Web Site Editorial Board Chairman David North published an open letter to Google on August 25, 2017 demanding that it stop the censorship of socialist, antiwar and progressive sites. “Censorship on this scale is political blacklisting,” North wrote. “The obvious intent of Google’s censorship algorithm is to block news that your company does not want reported and to suppress opinions with which you do not agree.”

In congressional testimony this past November, Google CEO Sundar Pichai was asked, “Can you name for me one high profile person or entity from a liberal ideology who you have censored?” In response, he acknowledged that there had been “compliance issues” with the World Socialist Web Site.

Facebook and Twitter followed Google’s example, removing left-wing accounts and pages with millions of followers. Friday was a new milestone in this campaign, with Facebook systematically removing the entire social media presence of a left-wing organization on the same day that it erased dozens of other accounts.

 

Jan. 21

joseph biden inauguration resized nbc news 2021 inauguration day empty mall

 Top Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

Biden Transition / Inaugural

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Crime

 

U.S. Elections, Politics

 

World News

 

Top Stories

joseph biden kamala harris cspan inauguation

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden ushers in sweeping change, Amy Goldstein, Isaac Stanley-Becker and Laura Meckler, Jan. 21, 2021. President’s pandemic plan aims to expand access to testing and vaccines, reopen schools. Aspects of the plan are intended to steer more money to states and make travel safe.

President Biden plans Thursday to issue a new national strategy to respond to the coronavirus pandemic and to take executive actions intended to make tests and vaccines more abundant, schools and travel safer, and states better able to afford their role in the long road back to normal life.

On his second day in office, aides said, Biden will sign an additional 10 executive orders, plus presidential memorandums, dealing with many aspects of the public health crisis the new president has defined as his top priority.

They include the creation of a Pandemic Testing Board that can spur a “surge” in the capacity for coronavirus tests. Other orders will foster research into new treatments for covid-19, the disease caused by the virus; strengthen the collection and analysis of data to shape the government’s response to the crisis; and direct the federal occupational safety agency to release and enforce guidelines to protect workers from getting infected.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Biden pledges to defeat extremism and culture of lies as he confronts Trump’s legacy, Dan Balz, Jan. 21, 2021 (print ed.).  The inauguration of President Biden marked the traditional transfer of power that has taken place every four years through two centuries of the nation’s history. This year the day was far more than that, a moment both somber and hopeful in a country reeling from a pandemic and economic distress in a capital city locked down by threats of violence from far-right extremists.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosFor Biden, Wednesday’s ceremonies represented the fulfillment of decades of personal ambition to serve as president. But if it was a day for him to celebrate that achievement, it was also a day to reckon with what the four years of Donald Trump’s presidency have done to the country and the monumental task of repair and restoration that is now the new president’s responsibility.

Biden ran for president with a pledge to rebuild a sense of normalcy after the chaos and divisiveness of the Trump presidency. But the shocking attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6 underscored that a return to normalcy will require presidential resolve in the face of white supremacist threats to democracy as much as or more than customary calls for unity and bipartisan cooperation that long have been central to Biden’s makeup.

washington post logoWashington Post, 46th president faces pandemic, economic crisis, national division, Toluse Olorunnipa and Annie Linskey, Jan. 21, 2021 (print ed.). Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. was sworn in Wednesday as the 46th president of the United States, pledging to confront an array of convulsing challenges and bring healing and unity to a deeply fractured nation.With his hand on his thick family Bible and with his wife, Jill Biden, by his side, Biden recited the oath administered by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. The moment marked the pinnacle of a career in public leadership that began a half-century ago.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Biden Confronts a Confluence of Crises, Staff Reports, Jan. 21, 2021 (print ed.). President Biden moved quickly to undo the Trump administration’s legacy and push his own agenda, including a $1.9 trillion pandemic package. The new White House Covid-19 coordinator was stunned by the vaccination plan the Trump administration left behind: “What we’re inheriting is so much worse than we could have imagined.”President Biden prepared to spend his first full day in the White House addressing a confluence of crises, with the pandemic at the top of that list.

The Biden team said it had identified 12 “immediate supply shortfalls” in the Trump administration’s pandemic response plans, which Mr. Biden is expected to address later on Thursday when he speaks about his approach to confronting the crisis.

Some of Mr. Biden’s advisers said they were stunned by the vaccination plan — or the lack of one — that it inherited from the Trump administration, and said jeffrey zients o obama national economic councilthe Trump team failed to share crucial information about supplies and vaccine availability.

“What we’re inheriting is so much worse than we could have imagined,” Jeff Zients, right, the new White House Covid-19 response coordinator, said.

Mr. Biden will participate Thursday morning in the Virtual Presidential Inaugural Prayer Service. Because of the pandemic, he and Vice President Kamala Harris will watch the service from the White House Blue Room, officials said. After that, they are scheduled to receive the daily intelligence briefing prepared for the president, and then they will quickly turn to the virus, with Mr. Biden speaking about the pandemic and signing about a dozen related executive orders in the afternoon, including on mask wearing and more.

Local officials have expressed a hope that the Biden administration would step up vaccine production to make second doses available for the expanded pool of eligible people. Production of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines authorized in the United States are running flat out, and it is not clear whether the administration could significantly expand the overall supply any time soon.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden signs several directives, including mask mandate on federal property and rejoining Paris accord, Seung Min Kim, Jan. 21, 2021 (print ed.). President Biden signed a ­blizzard of executive orders Wednesday on the coronavirus, immigration and climate change — launching a 10-day cascade of directives reversing policies of his GOP predecessor as Democrats pushed for even more-sweeping and prompt legislative action.

The most pressing of his priorities are measures to combat the deadly coronavirus pandemic. Biden signed executive actions to require masks on all federal grounds and asked agencies to extend moratoriums on evictions and on federal student loan payments.

He urged Americans to don face coverings for 100 days, while reviving a global health unit in the National Security Council — allowed to go dormant during the Trump administration — to oversee pandemic preparedness and response. Biden also began to reverse several steps taken by President Donald Trump by embracing the World Health Organization, revoking the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline and rejoining the Paris climate agreement.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

ny times logoNew York Times, 13,000 School Districts, 13,000 Approaches to Teaching During Covid, Kate Taylor, Jan. 21, 2021. To assess how public schools have navigated the pandemic and the impact on students, The Times examined seven representative districts. The answers were strikingly different.

What does it mean to go to public school in the United States during the pandemic?

The answer looks so different in different parts of the country, it is hard to tell that we are one nation.

In some rural and suburban areas, especially in the South, Midwest and Great Plains, almost all students began the 2020-21 academic year attending school in person, and they have continued to do so, except for temporary closures during outbreaks.

In many cities, the bulk of students haven’t been in a classroom since March. And in some districts, like New York City, only younger students have the option of going to school in person, with many attending only part-time.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: Jan. 21, 2021), with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):

World Cases: 97,423,166, Deaths: 2,086,174
U.S. Cases:   25,001,446, Deaths:    415,926

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), an independent global health research center at the University of Washington. Projected total U.S. deaths, based on current scenario 459,324 by Feb. 1; 529,000 by March 1; 567,195 by April 1, 2021.

anthony fauci graphic Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, Fauci praises WHO leadership in coronavirus pandemic, signaling break from Trump era, Paul Schemm, Jan. 21, 2021. Anthony S. Fauci, shown above, the chief medical adviser to President Biden, praised the leadership of the World Health Organization on Thursday in the battle against the coronavirus pandemic, a dramatic departure from the attitude of the previous U.S. administration.

world health organization logo CustomHours after taking office, Biden signed directives to reengage with the WHO and join its effort to distribute coronavirus vaccines around the world, reversing the position of the Trump administration, which repeatedly criticized the U.N. agency.

Fauci, who is also the United States’ top infectious-disease expert, led the U.S. delegation to the group’s executive board meeting and confirmed Biden’s decision, which includes honoring financial obligations to the cash-strapped health body.

“I join my fellow representatives in thanking the World Health Organization for its role in leading the global response to this pandemic,” he said via videoconference. “Under trying circumstances, this organization has rallied the scientific and research community to accelerate vaccines, therapies and diagnostics.”

washington post logoWashington Post, 900,000 filed for jobless claims last week, a historically high level as Biden inherits worst job market of any modern president, Eli Rosenberg, Jan. 21, 2021. Another 900,000 people filed new unemployment claims last week, former President Donald Trump’s last in office, a snapshot of the significant labor market challenges facing President Biden.

us labor department logoAn additional 423,000 people in 47 states filed new claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, the program created to help gig and self-employed workers.

All told, nearly 16 million people were claiming benefits as of January 2nd, the last week available for that measurement.

The number of new unemployment claims filed each week has remained above the pre-pandemic record of 695,000 since coronavirus cases starting rising last March. And jobless claims have risen in recent weeks.

President Biden inherits one of the worst job markets of any president, with the country’s unemployment rate at 6.7 percent and nearly 10 million less people with jobs than at the beginning of last year, as the pandemic has wreaked havoc on industries like tourism, hospitality and food service.

ny times logoNew York Times, Conceived in Another Era, the U.S. Unemployment System Failed, Eduardo Porter / Graphics by Karl Russell, Jan. 21, 2021. A decline in funding and changes in the workplace — and how long people are out of work — have left a program unequal to the 21st-century economy. The nation’s unemployment insurance program, conceived during the Great Depression, was meant to keep jobless workers and their families from suffering drops in income that could tip them into poverty or force them to liquidate their assets to afford food, rent and other necessities.

Its goals included allowing the unemployed to wait for a productive job to materialize, rather than take the first one that appeared, and providing stability to the economy in recessions, mitigating the expected drop in consumption when millions of workers lost their jobs.

In 2019, only 27 percent of unemployed workers received any benefits, a share that has been declining over the last 20 years. The benefits have eroded as well, to less than one-third of prior wages, on average, about eight percentage points less than in the 1940s.

The immediate reason is money. But the problem is complicated by the program’s architecture: Reluctant to raise taxes from employers, many states have resorted to cutting benefits.

The tussle in Congress last month over whether to extend emergency unemployment payments that were on the cusp of expiring — potentially pushing 12 million people into some form of destitution, according to the Century Foundation, a liberal policy research group — was a reminder that the system as designed has not been up to its task.

Unemployment insurance is controlled and funded by the states, within loose federal guidelines. But Washington has been repeatedly called on to provide additional relief, including emergency patches to unemployment insurance after the Great Recession hit in 2008. Indeed, it has intervened in response to every recession since the 1950s.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Inherits a Vaccine Supply Unlikely to Grow Before April, Sharon LaFraniere and Noah Weiland, Jan. 21, 2021. But with 200 million doses pledged for the coming months, some experts say President Biden’s plan for 100 million shots in 100 days is far too modest.

ny times logoNew York Times, Harrowing Scenes in U.K. Hospitals Hold Sobering Lesson for U.S., Benjamin Mueller, Jan. 21, 2021. Health workers, facing a new virus variant, say the government’s failure to anticipate a winter surge has left them resorting to desperate measures.

Hundreds of soldiers have been dispatched to move patients and equipment around London hospitals. Organ transplant centers have stopped performing urgent operations. Doctors have trimmed back the level of oxygen being given to patients to save overloaded pipes.

 

Biden Transition

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: A president replaced. A nation redeemed, Dana Milbank, right, Jan. 21, 2021 (print ed.). The inauguration of President Biden on dana milbank CustomWednesday was more than a transfer of power. In ways symbolic and substantive, it was the redemption of a nation.

Inauguration Day in the capital city dawned to fierce winds, as if Nature herself were sweeping away the pestilence, financial misery, political violence and lies. The winds carried departing President Donald Trump away on Air Force One three hours before Biden took the oath of office — the first time an outgoing president refused to attend his successor’s inauguration since the disgraced Andrew Johnson demurred 152 years ago.

The defeated president departed in typically vulgar fashion: He granted late-night pardons to scores of crooks and cronies after some clemency-seeking felons paid Trump allies lavishly; and ordered a last-minute cancellation of his “drain-the-swamp” ban on former aides becoming lobbyists or foreign agents.

On Wednesday morning, Trump staged a campaign-style rally with a couple hundred supporters at Joint Base Andrews, where family and aides shunned face masks and a sound system played “Macho Man.” Trump treated the crowd to his usual self-congratulation (“amazing by any standard,” “91 percent approval”), repeated oft-told falsehoods about his achievements, made a jingoistic reference to the “China virus” and spoke in the past tense of the still-raging pandemic that kills thousands of Americans daily.

Reportedly plotting to form his own political party, Trump said on his way out that “hopefully it’s not a long-term goodbye,” and “we will be back in some form.”

Air Force One taxied away to the strains of Frank Sinatra (“And now, the end is near …”). Arriving over Florida, Trump took the presidential aircraft on a joyride — flying low over his Mar-a-Lago estate.

Former vice president Mike Pence, a target of the Trump-incited mob on Jan. 6, declined to participate in this last stroking of a narcissist. Breaking with Trump, he attended the inauguration. House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) also snubbed Trump, instead accepting Biden’s invitation to join him for pre-inaugural prayer.

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden’s 17 Executive Orders and Other Directives in Detail, Aishvarya Kavi Jan. 21, 2021 (print ed.). The moves aim to strengthen protections for young immigrants, end construction of President Donald Trump’s border wall, end a travel ban and prioritize racial equity.

In 17 executive orders, memorandums and proclamations signed hours after his inauguration, President Biden moved swiftly on Wednesday to dismantle Trump administration policies his aides said have caused the “greatest damage” to the nation.

Despite an inaugural address that called for unity and compromise, Mr. Biden’s first actions as president are sharply aimed at sweeping aside former President Donald J. Trump’s pandemic response, reversing his environmental agenda, tearing down his anti-immigration policies, bolstering the teetering economic recovery and restoring federal efforts to promote diversity.

Here’s a look at what the measures aim to accomplish.

 Amanda Gorman (Associated Press pool photo by Patrick Semansky, Jan. 20, 2021).

Amanda Gorman (Associated Press pool photo by Patrick Semansky, Jan. 20, 2021).

ny times logoNew York Times, Amanda Gorman Captures the Moment, in Verse, Alexandra Alter, Updated Jan. 21, 2021. The youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history read “The Hill We Climb,” which she finished after the riot at the Capitol.

Two weeks ago, the poet Amanda Gorman was struggling to finish a new work titled “The Hill We Climb.” She was feeling exhausted, and she worried she wasn’t up to the monumental task she faced: composing a poem about national unity to recite at President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s inauguration.

“I had this huge thing, probably one of the most important things I’ll ever do in my career,” she said in an interview. “It was like, if I try to climb this mountain all at once, I’m just going to pass out.”

Gorman managed to write a few lines a day and was about halfway through the poem on Jan. 6, when pro-Trump rioters stormed into the halls of Congress, some bearing weapons and Confederate flags. She stayed awake late into the night and finished the poem, adding verses about the apocalyptic scene that unfolded at the Capitol that day.

At 22, Gorman is the youngest inaugural poet ever in the United States. She joins a small group of poets who have been recruited to help mark a presidential inauguration, among them Robert Frost, Maya Angelou, Miller Williams, Elizabeth Alexander and Richard Blanco.

But none of her predecessors faced the challenge that Gorman did. She set out to write a poem that would inspire hope and foster a sense of collective purpose, at a moment when Americans are reeling from a deadly pandemic, political violence and partisan division.

ap logoAssociated Press, Inaugural poet Amanda Gorman: ‘Even as we grieved, we grew,’ Hillel Italie, Jan. 20, 2021. The country has a new president and a new literary star. In one of the inauguration’s most talked about moments, poet Amanda Gorman summoned images dire and triumphant Wednesday as she called out to the world “even as we grieved, we grew.”

The 22-year-old Gorman referenced everything from Biblical scripture to “Hamilton,” and at times echoed the oratory of John F. Kennedy and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. With urgency and assertion she began by asking “Where can we find light/In this never-ending shade?” and used her own poetry and life story as an answer. The poem’s very title, “The Hill We Climb,” suggested both labor and transcendence.

It was an extraordinary task for Gorman, who soon after finishing her poem helped inspire — along with Vice President Kamala Harris — the Twitter hashtag ”#BlackGirlMagic and was being praised by former President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama among others.

Mindful of the past, Gorman wore earrings and a caged bird ring — a tribute to Angelou’s classic memoir “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” — given to her by Oprah Winfrey, a close friend of the late writer. “I have never been prouder to see another young woman rise! Brava Brava, @TheAmandaGorman! Maya Angelou is cheering—and so am I,” Winfrey tweeted.

White nationalists march in a Charlottesville torchlight parade chanting

White nationalists march in a Charlottesville torchlight parade chanting "Jews will not replace us" on Aug. 12, 2017.

ny times logoNew York Times, Charlottesville Inspired Biden to Run. It Has a Message for Him, Astead W. Herndon, Jan. 21, 2021. The white supremacist rally in 2017 prefigured the rise of right-wing violence. Now, as President Biden calls for unity, residents want accountability first. Susan Bro recognized the palpable anger and open bigotry on display in the mob that attacked the United States Capitol this month. It reminded her of the outpouring of hate that killed her daughter, Heather Heyer.

That was in 2017, when white supremacists, self-avowed neo-Nazis and right-wing militias marched on Charlottesville in the name of intolerance — and former President Donald J. Trump — and one of them drove a car into a crowd, fatally injuring Ms. Heyer. More than three years later, Ms. Bro and other Charlottesville residents say they have a message for the nation after the latest episode of white violence in Washington, and for President Biden, who is emphasizing themes of healing and unity in the face of right-wing extremism.

Healing requires holding perpetrators accountable, Ms. Bro said. Unity follows justice.

“Look at the lessons learned from Charlottesville,” she said. “The rush to hug each other and sing ‘Kumbaya’ is not an effective strategy.”

The Capitol attack and Mr. Trump’s handling of it felt eerily familiar to many residents of Charlottesville, where the 2017 Unite the Right rally not only forever tied the former president to violence committed by white extremists, but also inspired Mr. Biden to run for president and undertake “a battle for the soul of this nation.”

washington post logoWashington Post, A look inside President Biden’s Oval Office, Annie Linskey, Jan. 21, 2021 (print ed.). President Biden has filled the Oval Office with images of American leaders and icons, focusing the room around a massive portrait of Franklin D. Roosevelt that hangs across from the Resolute Desk. It is a clear nod to a president who helped the country through significant crises, a challenge Biden now also faces.

The Oval Office is synonymous with the power and majesty of the American presidency. All incoming presidents change the decor of the largely symbolic room to offer a sense of their personality and the type of presidency they hope to have. Biden’s is notable for the sheer number of portraits and busts of well-known American historical figures.

President Biden's new Oval Office, with bust (at center) of the late migrant farm worker labor organizer Cesar Chavez at rear of photos.

President Biden's new Oval Office, with bust (at center) of the late migrant farm worker labor organizer Cesar Chavez at rear of photos.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden’s Cesar Chavez bust in the Oval Office signals a new era for Latinos, activists hope: ‘It shows that he’s authentic,’ Andrea Salcedo, Jan. 21, 2021. Paul Chavez was watching TV coverage of President Biden’s first address from the Oval Office on Wednesday when he suddenly recognized the sculpture right behind him.

It was his father. The 22-inch-tall bronze bust of civil rights and farm labor leader Cesar Chavez stood just behind the Resolute Desk, surrounded by portraits of the president and his family.

“We were just as surprised and thrilled as everybody else to see its placement, it was so prominent,” Paul Chavez, 63, told The Washington Post late Wednesday. “We were excited not just because it was a bust of my father, but what it represented. To us, it was an affirmation of the importance and the contributions of our community, immigrants and Latinos.”

For many Latino leaders like Chavez’s son, it spoke volumes that Biden decided to make the community organizer’s bust a central piece of Oval Office decor. They say it symbolizes his commitment to the Latino community and marks the beginning of a new relationship with a president they hope is far less adversarial than his predecessor.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden fires labor board’s top lawyer, a Trump appointee who refused to resign, Eli Rosenberg and Reis Thebault, Jan. 21, 2021 (print ed.). The fracas began when the Biden administration asked now-former general counsel Peter Robb to resign, a White House official said, a precedent-breaking us labor department logomove.

Labor groups celebrated Robb’s dismissal and hailed it as a welcome departure from Trump administration policies they deemed hostile toward workers and unions.

Biden, who pledged on the eve of the election to be “the most pro-union president you’ve ever seen,” has sought to appeal to working-class Americans and received several key endorsements from organized labor.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Biden’s speech was a commitment to a new democracy, E.J. Dionne Jr., right, Jan. 21, 2021 (print ed.). At his inauguration, the ej dionne w open neckpresident directs the country toward reviving our democratic spirit.

From his very first words, he underscored why this was no normal Inauguration Day and why the 2020 election was anything but a routine exercise. Democracy itself had been challenged for four years, and violently so during the spasm of disrespect at the nation’s Capitol only two weeks ago.

“This is democracy’s day,” Biden declared. “Today, we celebrate the triumph not of a candidate, but of a cause, the cause of democracy. . . . We’ve learned again that democracy is precious. Democracy is fragile. At this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden’s inaugural special: 10 things you missed, from Bruce Springsteen to many, many fireworks, Emily Yahr, Jan. 21, 2021. President Biden's inaugural prime-time special featured celebrities including Katy Perry, John Legend and Bruce Springsteen performing in D.C. and around the country. The coronavirus pandemic made it impossible to hold a true inaugural concert on Wednesday, but that wasn’t going to stop the celebrities from showing up, in Washington and remote locations.

During “Celebrating America,” a 90-minute prime-time special that aired on most broadcast and cable news networks, A-list musicians appeared to sing some of their most famous songs (and cover some even more famous songs) — and President Biden and Vice President Harris arrived to address the nation. Here are 10 thing you missed from the telecast.

Bruce Springsteen kicked things off with the Lincoln Memorial in the background: “I’m proud to be here in cold Washington, D.C., tonight,” the musician said — an accurate statement, since the temperatures were in the low 30s. “I want to offer this small prayer for our country.” He then launched into “Land of Hopes and Dreams,” and a half-hour later, his Twitter account posted the most hopeful lyrics.

washington post logoWashington Post, As Biden addressed the world, an unknown man in uniform stood watch over his son Beau’s grave, Antonia Noori Farzan, Jan. 21, 2021. As the world tuned in to watch President Biden deliver his inaugural address at the Capitol on Wednesday, a lone man in uniform carried out a silent vigil more than 110 miles away.

Kneeling on the chilly ground as winds whipped through the Delaware cemetery, the man clasped his hands and bowed his head before the grave of Biden’s late son, Beau, for the duration of the speech. His identity remains unknown, as do his reasons for visiting St. Joseph on the Brandywine Catholic Church in Wilmington, Del., on Wednesday.

But the poignant scene, which would have gone unnoticed if a reporter from the Delaware News Journal hadn’t stopped by the graveyard to pay her own respects, struck a chord with thousands on Twitter.

“This broke me,” wrote the actress and activist Alyssa Milano.

Patricia Talorico, an award-winning features writer and food columnist for the News Journal, was also thinking about Beau Biden as the inauguration festivities began in Washington this week. So when she set out on Wednesday to see how people were celebrating Biden’s inauguration in his home state, Talorico decided that she would stop by Beau Biden’s grave and say a short prayer.

Talorico posted a photograph of the scene on Twitter, and reactions flooded in from hundreds of thousands of people.

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Crime

ICE logo

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden administration to pause deportations, curtail arrests, Maria Sacchetti, Jan. 21, 2021 (print ed.). The Biden administration has ordered U.S. immigration agencies to focus their energies on threats to national security, public safety and recent border crossers, ending a four-year stretch during the Trump administration that exposed anyone in the United States illegally to deportation.

joe biden oActing Homeland Security Secretary David Pekoske issued a memo hours after President Biden’s inaugural Wednesday setting strict limits for arresting and deporting immigrants while the department reviews its policies and practices. He also imposed an “immediate” 100-day pause on the deportations of certain noncitizens, to take effect no later than Friday. Pekoske is in charge as the Senate considers the nomination of Alejandro Mayorkas, the former deputy DHS secretary during the Obama administration.

The memo is the first step in a broader plan to find a different solution for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States, many of whom have lived here for years and have U.S.-citizen children. Many are essential workers — delivery workers, caregivers, even physicians — but Congress has not passed a major citizenship bill since 1986.

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: Kushner's contribution to Trump's final pardon list, Wayne Madsen, left, Jan. 21, 2021. Donald Trump's final pardon list more resembled Jared Kushner's wish list than anything nearing a legitimate granting of clemency. In fact, counting the number of rabbis mentioned on the list as individuals putting in a good word for convicted criminals it is clear that Kushner's close connections to the right-wing Chabad organization played a big part in the formulation of the final pardon list.

Let's take a look at Trump's and Kushner's rogues gallery of those receiving pardons:

rudy giuliani recentKen Kurson was the deputy director of communications of Giuliani Partners from 2002 to 2006 and co-authored a book with Giuliani titled "Leadership." Kurson was the chief of operations for Giuliani's ill-fated 2008 presidential campaign.

In 2013, Kushner, the owner of the neo-conservative New York Observer, named Kurson as the paper's editor. The paper fed into the Trump 2016 presidential campaign's propaganda machine.

steven calabresi c span

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Problem With Trump’s Odious Pardon of Steve Bannon, Steven G. Calabresi, shown above, and Norman L. Eisen, right, Jan. 21, norman eisen Small2021 (print ed.). Donald Trump is exiting office with a final outburst of constitutional contempt. Like a Borgia pope trading indulgences as quid pro quos with his corrupt cardinals, Mr. Trump on Wednesday used one of the most sweeping powers of the presidency to dole out dozens of odious pardons to a roster of corrupt politicians and business executives as well as cronies and loyalists like Steve Bannon.

The pardon of Mr. Bannon, below left, his former chief strategist, encapsulates the most repugnant aspects of Mr. Trump’s misuse of the pardon power: cronyism, criminality and cultivation of his far-right base. One of us is an originalist Republican and the other a living-Constitution Democrat, but we both think pardons like that of Mr. Bannon may be unconstitutional.

steve bannon trumpAnd as with previous actions for Roger Stone, Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn, the new pardon of Mr. Bannon is both corrupt and a possible obstruction of justice, as he might otherwise have turned against the former president in a potential criminal, civil or impeachment proceeding. Mr. Bannon has been a witness to Mr. Trump’s activities for years, and the two were reportedly in communication in the run-up to Mr. Trump’s incitement of the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Mr. Trump did not have the constitutional power to obstruct justice by failing to faithfully execute the law through pardons of associates like Mr. Bannon, who could potentially testify against him. The Constitution and its amendments work like a giant power of attorney by which the founding generation, and their successors, We the People, have delegated certain limited and enumerated powers to the president, Congress, the federal courts and the states. The president is empowered to take care that the laws be faithfully executed and not to break them.

The pardon power is a relic of the royal English prerogative, which, if un-cabined, could be used as a wrecking ball of both our democracy and the rule of law. We believe that Mr. Trump’s midnight pardons of Mr. Bannon and his ilk are unconstitutional and, if reviewed by courts, should be set aside.

Mr. Calabresi, a Republican, is a professor at Northwestern’s Pritzker School of Law. Mr. Eisen, a Democrat, is a senior fellow at Brookings and outside counsel for the nonpartisan Voter Protection Program.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump’s self-serving pardons should renew calls for a reckoning with the presidential power, Margaret Colgate Love, Jan. 21, 2021 (print ed.). Margaret Colgate Love, right, served as U.S. pardon attorney between 1990 and 1997, and currently represents applicants for presidential pardon.

margaret colgate loveFormer president Donald Trump’s irregular and self-serving pardons confirm both his defiance of norms and taste for drama. But for this student of the pardon power, they have been a long time coming, the product of 40 years of neglect and misunderstanding by successive presidents and Justice Department officials.

Happily, the widespread outrage over Trump’s pardoning practices presents an opportunity to consider what role this extraordinary constitutional power should play in the modern federal justice system, as well as how it should be managed going forward.

Most proposals for reforming pardon focus on the process by which the president receives recommendations. They include stripping the Justice Department of the advisory role it has historically played and establishing the sort of independent clemency commission that exists in many states.

The law makes the president exclusively responsible — through his pardon power — for shortening most federal prison sentences and relieving the collateral consequences of conviction — functions that in most states are now routinely performed by judges and agencies under statutory schemes.

But a modern justice system cannot run efficiently or fairly on such antique and unreliable remedies, of which pardon is indisputably one.

I do not advocate curtailing the president’s pardon power, and the Biden administration can decide how it wishes to administer that power. I hope it will restore at least the appearance of fairness and regularity to the way applications from ordinary people are considered (even if the process will continue to function, as it always has, more or less like a lottery).

But I also hope reform will not include creation of a new bureaucracy. The incoming administration should urge Congress to offload many of pardon’s exclusive functions onto the legal system by enacting robust statutory relief mechanisms, for those in prison and for those who have fully served their sentences, as a majority of states have done in recent years.

washington post logoWashington Post, An incomplete Supreme Court witnessed Biden’s oath. There’s history there, Robert Barnes, Jan. 21, 2021 (print ed.). Only six of the nine members of the Supreme Court attended President Biden’s swearing-in Wednesday, the first time in more than 20 years that not all of the justices witnessed the ceremony.

clarence thomas HRJustices Clarence Thomas, right, Stephen G. Breyer and Samuel A. Alito Jr., the court’s three oldest, were the no-shows. “Several of the justices elected not to attend the inauguration ceremony in light of the public health risks posed by the COVID pandemic,” Supreme Court spokeswoman Kathleen Arberg said in a statement.

The justices have not conducted business in person since March — holding private conferences and oral arguments via teleconference — although they gathered at a memorial service for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in September.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., for the fourth time, administered the oath of office to the president-elect. But he has yet to see a supporter on the other side of the Bible.

washington post logoWashington Post, Justice Dept. watchdog to examine abrupt departure of U.S. attorney who Trump appeared to criticize, Matt Zapotosky, Jan. 21, 2021. Byung J. “BJay” Pak suddenly stepped down earlier this month as then-President Trump waged a pressure campaign on Georgia officials over the election.

The Justice Department inspector general has begun examining the abrupt departure this month of the U.S. attorney in Atlanta after then-President Donald Trump complained officials in Georgia were not doing enough to find election fraud, according to people familiar with the matter.

The investigation into the sudden resignation of Byung J. “BJay” Pak by Inspector General Michael Horowitz appears to be in its early stages. Pak unexpectedly announced Jan. 4 that he was stepping down that day as the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, surprising many in his office. Trump then bypassed Pak’s top deputy in selecting a temporary replacement, raising questions among legal observers about the possibility of political interference in law enforcement work.

Pak’s resignation came just a day after The Washington Post reported on an extraordinary call in which Trump urged Republican Brad Raffensperger, the Georgia secretary of state, to “find” enough votes to overturn his election defeat in that state. Legal scholars said the request from Trump was an obvious abuse of power that might warrant criminal investigation.

Raw Story, Alabama man who breached the Capitol said he was directed by Alex Jones to be there: report, Sky Palma, Jan. 21, 2021. 
William Watson, 23, who has been charged federally with violent entry and civil disorder after being part of the mob that breached the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, told federal agents that he departed for D.C. from Alabama on Jan. 5 to "support the patriots, support Trump, support freedom," AL.com reports.

"I guess the overriding thing for why we were there that day is because they were certifying the fraudulent election that day, and so we went to protest that," Watson said, adding that he was directed by InfoWars host Alex Jones to meet at the Capitol at 1 p.m.

Watson went on to tell authorities that the crowd quickly turned belligerent towards Capitol police, accusing them of protecting traitors. When the mob was shot with tear gas, someone yelled the order to "charge."
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"It's like 100 people there getting stopped, and they're all, and I assumed at the top was 'cause of riot shields holding people back, but we just started all pushing and pushing and pushing and eventually got through that one area and then they kind of made another little line and then we pushed on that line and then they gave up and after that one, they gave up, completely, and moved the rest of the barricades climbing up the steps toward the building and then ushered us, like made hand motions for us to go in," he said, according to AL.com.

 

U.S. Elections, Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, Obama, Bush and Clinton release video praising peaceful transfers of power, as Trump skips inauguration, Tim Elfrink, Jan. 21, 2021.  Standing in the Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery alongside his two predecessors in the White House, former president Barack Obama noted that inaugurations are central to American democracy.

“Inaugurations signal a tradition of a peaceful transfer of power that is over two centuries old,” Obama said in a joint video released late Wednesday with former presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton.

Joe Biden is sworn in as the 46th president, pleads for unity in inaugural address to a divided nation

Although former president Donald Trump’s name was never uttered in the nearly three-minute clip, it served as an unsubtle rebuke to the latest member of the ex-presidents club, who has torpedoed the norms surrounding the peaceful transfer of power. Trump spent weeks falsely claiming he lost the November election because of voter fraud. Two weeks before the inauguration, a mob provoked by Trump stormed the Capitol in an attempted insurrection.

In the video, Obama recalled that one of his “fondest memories” of his inauguration was Bush and his wife, Laura Bush, welcoming him and his wife, Michelle Obama, to the White House — a courtesy that Trump and his wife, Melania Trump, didn’t afford the Bidens on Wednesday.

“It was a reminder that we can have fierce disagreements and yet recognize each other’s common humanity, and that as Americans, we have more in common than what separates us,” Obama said.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Karl Rove sounds the alarm as Republican Party circles the drain, James Sullivan, Jan. 21, 2021. After seeing the GOP go from almost total government control with sizable locks on the House, Senate and even a majority of state legislatures to losing Congress and the White House in just four short years, longtime Republican strategist Karl Rove is sounding the alarm, calling on the GOP to renounce Proud Boys, militias and QAnon – or, just about everything they’ve been associated with in the Trump era, if they want to have any chance of success in the 2022 midterms.

bill palmer report logo headerThe fact that Rove wasn’t saying this before the 2020 election took place basically tells you that everything you ever thought about him in the past was accurate – he’s all about the optics and salvaging any chance of them winning elections in the future, while hoping that his own toxic legacy in Republican politics and its role of getting us where we are today will be overlooked.

He might have a whole other problem too – that his warning is coming far too late, after the GOP has found a new and unlikely coalition of voters, particularly people who feel like the party of Mitch McConnell et al cheated them out of another term of Donald Trump. Looking at Rand Paul’s most recent tirade about President Biden’s inaugural address, and it seems like not only are there still a number of fringe voters the GOP needs to win elections, there are still politicians desperately looking to win them over.

The only thing Rove’s new Wall St. Journal op-ed is good for is proof that if Democrats continue to force Republicans to take a stand on QAnon and white supremacists, it’ll be that much harder for them to win elections going forward.

joe biggs lindsey graham

Proud Boys leader Joe Biggs, left, with U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina (file photo). The Florida-based 37-year-old Biggs is a former staff member at the infamous conspiracy theorist TV show InfoWars hosted by Alex Jones and is one of the Proud Boys' most prominent leaders, acting as a registered agent for a corporation set up by the allegedly neo-facist organization.

washington post logoWashington Post, Proud Boys organizer Joe Biggs arrested as FBI alleges more possible planning in U.S. Capitol breach, Jan. 21, 2021 (print ed.). Proud Boys organizer Joseph Randall Biggs was arrested in Florida on Wednesday after the FBI alleged that members of the far-right nationalist group appeared equipped with walkie-talkie-style communication devices and earpieces that could enable “real-time communication” during the breach of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

joe biggs justice departmentBiggs, 37, of Florida, “did aid, abet, counsel, command, induce, or procure others” to storm the Capitol, the FBI alleged in new charging papers. Biggs and others were among the first rioters to storm into the building, the FBI said.

Biggs, shown at right in a photo circulated by the Justice Department, made an initial appearance Wednesday in federal court, where he did not enter a plea. U.S. Magistrate Judge Embry Kidd of Orlando released him to home confinement after prosecutors did not request his detention. He denied having any knowledge of preplanning of the event in an interview with the FBI, court documents said.

According to charging papers, Biggs was among the first to enter the Capitol during the riot, about 2:13 p.m., part of a mob that delayed the electoral vote certification of President Biden’s victory and forced the evacuation of Congress.

Biggs was seen on video 20 seconds after someone who appears to be Dominic Pezzola — a Proud Boys member who has already been charged — led the smashing of a window on the Senate side of the building with a police riot shield, an FBI affidavit alleged.

Daily MailOnline, 'This is awesome!' Proud Boys leader Joe Biggs pulls down his mask to reveal his face after entering the Capitol building during riots, but now claims he only entered to use the john and meant to say events were 'awful,' Josh Boswell, Jan. 21, 2021.  But in an interview with DailyMail.com, Biggs claimed the only reason he went inside the building was because he 'wanted to take a piss'. When asked why he told other rioters in the video that being inside the Capitol was 'awesome', Biggs said he meant 'awe-inspiring', but also 'awful.'

Biggs is a former staff member at the infamous conspiracy theorist TV show InfoWars and is one of the Proud Boys' most prominent leaders. The 37-year-old can be seen in a video shared on right-wing social media site Parler striding inside the Capitol building with other rioters. He is called out by his name then pulls down his face mask and declares: 'This is awesome.'

In a post accompanied by a video shared on Parler, Biggs wrote: 'We will not be attending DC in colors. We will be blending in as one of you. You won't see us.' Despite his attendance, Biggs does not appear on the FBI's wanted list for alleged insurrectionists.

In the days before January 6, Biggs posted on Parler, a social media site popular among Trump supporters, about 'blending in', adding: 'We will not be attending DC in colors... You won't see us'

ny times logoNew York Times, Members of the Proud Boys, who were among Donald Trump’s staunchest fans, are calling him “a total failure,” Sheera Frenkel and Alan Feuer, Jan. 21, 2021 (print ed.). Members of the far-right group, who were among Donald Trump’s staunchest fans, are calling him “weak” as more of them were charged for storming the U.S. Capitol.After the presidential election last year, the Proud Boys, a far-right group, declared its undying loyalty to President Trump.

In a Nov. 8 post in a private channel of the messaging app Telegram, the group urged its followers to attend protests against an election that it said had been fraudulently stolen from Mr. Trump. “Hail Emperor Trump,” the Proud Boys wrote.

But by this week, the group’s attitude toward Mr. Trump had changed. “Trump will go down as a total failure,” the Proud Boys said in the same Telegram channel on Monday.

As Mr. Trump departed the White House on Wednesday, the Proud Boys, once among his staunchest supporters, have also started leaving his side. In dozens of conversations on social media sites like Gab and Telegram, members of the group have begun calling Mr. Trump a “shill” and “extraordinarily weak,” according to messages reviewed by The New York Times. They have also urged supporters to stop attending rallies and protests held for Mr. Trump or the Republican Party.

The comments are a startling turn for the Proud Boys, which for years had backed Mr. Trump and promoted political violence. Led by Enrique Tarrio, many of its thousands of members were such die-hard fans of Mr. Trump that they offered to serve as his private militia and celebrated after he told them in a presidential debate last year to “stand back and stand by.” On Jan. 6, some Proud Boys members stormed the U.S. Capitol.

But since then, discontent with Mr. Trump, who later condemned the violence, has boiled over. On social media, Proud Boys participants have complained about his willingness to leave office and said his disavowal of the Capitol rampage was an act of betrayal. And Mr. Trump, cut off on Facebook and Twitter, has been unable to talk directly to them to soothe their concerns or issue new rallying cries.

The Proud Boys’ anger toward Mr. Trump has heightened after he did nothing to help those in the group who face legal action for the Capitol violence. On Wednesday, a Proud Boy leader, Joseph Biggs, 37, was arrested in Florida and charged with unlawful entry and corruptly obstructing an official proceeding in the riot. At least four other members of the group also face charges stemming from the attack.

“When Trump told them that if he left office, America would fall into an abyss, they believed him,” Arieh Kovler, a political consultant and independent researcher in Israel who studies the far right, said of the Proud Boys. “Now that he has left office, they believe he has both surrendered and failed to do his patriotic duty.”

The shift raises questions about the strength of the support for Mr. Trump and suggests that pockets of his fan base are fracturing. Many of Mr. Trump’s fans still falsely believe he was deprived of office, but other far-right groups such as the Oath Keepers, America First and the Three Percenters have also started criticizing him in private Telegram channels, according to a review of messages.

On Wednesday, the Proud Boys Telegram group welcomed President Biden to office. “At least the incoming administration is honest about their intentions,” the group wrote.

The Proud Boys were founded in 2016 as a club for men by Gavin McInnes, who also was a founder of the online publication Vice. Describing themselves as “Western chauvinists,” the group attracted people who appeared eager to engage in violence and who frequently espoused anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic views. The group had supported Mr. Trump since he assumed office.

“They wanted to arm themselves and start a second civil war and take down the government on Trump’s behalf,” said Marc-André Argentino, a researcher who studies the far right and a Ph.D. candidate at Concordia University. “But ultimately, he couldn’t be the authoritarian they wanted him to be.”

ny times logoNew York Times, From Commander in Chief to Interloper in Palm Beach, Patricia Mazzei and Julia Echikson, Jan. 21, 2021. If former President Donald Trump intends to live in South Florida full time, he is likely to encounter some friction. (Though his fans are thrilled.) On Wednesday, Donald J. Trump did what many older New Yorkers do: He retired to Florida.

His presidential career, filled with the bombast and showmanship he displayed while announcing his candidacy after a golden escalator ride in New York, ended quietly and in private, behind the groomed hedges of his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach.

The wealthy have long sought to retreat from public life on this chichi barrier island. High society knows a thing or two about discretion, and one could hardly pick a better place for seclusion than a luxurious oceanfront mansion during the glorious South Florida winter.

But in seeking refuge in Florida, as so many have done before him, Mr. Trump may find that some in Palm Beach are not exactly eager to embrace the former president as a full-time neighbor, not after he incited a mob of his supporters two weeks ago to storm the U.S. Capitol.

“Nobody that I’ve spoken to is looking forward to him coming back to Palm Beach,” said Richard J. Steinberg, a real estate broker who works in Palm Beach and New York. “Quite honestly, I think that whether you’re a Trump supporter or not, I don’t think that there are many people that in good conscience can justify what happened on Jan. 6, and I think that most — most — people hold him at least partially responsible.”

Throngs of Mr. Trump’s supporters greeted his motorcade on Wednesday as it made one last trip along Southern Boulevard from Palm Beach International Airport to Mar-a-Lago, with many screaming in delight to catch a glimpse of him in his final moments as president.

“He gave us freedom,” said Valéry Barto of West Palm Beach, who sported a Make America Great Again hat and waited nearly three hours before Mr. Trump rolled by. “He was for us. Now it’s going to be all messed up.”

No local leaders met Mr. Trump at the airport, as they might have on an official visit. Only a small group of supporters, many of them former campaign volunteers, waved silently when he walked off the plane. CNN did not carry Air Force One’s landing live.

joe biden resized 2 transition

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden takes over POTUS Twitter account, inheriting a blank slate from Trump, Rachel Lerman, Jan. 21, 2021 (print ed.). President Biden’s administration takes over the official White House social media accounts Wednesday. But Twitter won’t transfer followers, unlike with the previous administration.

President Biden (shown in a campaign photo) became @POTUS on Twitter slightly before noon on Wednesday. But unlike four years ago, when President Donald Trump took over the handle, Biden hasn’t kept the account’s current followers.

The account he took over Wednesday midday started with more than 955,000 followers, those who had followed his transition account @PresElectBiden in the last week. Trump’s POTUS account became @POTUS45 at the same time. The previous followers of the POTUS account will get a notification about the transfer with the option to follow Biden’s POTUS account if they wish.

Biden’s digital director Rob Flaherty called Twitter’s transition plan “profoundly insufficient” in a tweet last week.

“They’re bending themselves over backwards to break with the 2017 protocol they set on the transfer of accounts, and also breaking with every other social platform in providing the new administration a follower base,” he added.

The move of accounts between administrations is just one of a broader digital transition among social media accounts on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube taking place as Biden became the 46th president Wednesday.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Democrats, Here’s How to Lose in 2022. And Deserve It, Ezra Klein, Jan. 21, 2021. You don’t get re-elected for things voters don’t know about.

President Biden takes office with a ticking clock. The Democrats’ margin in the House and Senate couldn’t be thinner, and midterms typically raze the governing party. That gives Democrats two years to govern. Two years to prove that the American political system can work. Two years to show Trumpism was an experiment that need not be repeated.

Two years.

This is the responsibility the Democratic majority must bear: If they fail or falter, they will open the door for Trumpism or something like it to return, and there is every reason to believe it will be far worse next time. To stop it, Democrats need to reimagine their role. They cannot merely defend the political system. They must rebuild it.

“This is a fight not just for the future of the Democratic Party or good policy,” Senator Bernie Sanders told me. “It is literally a fight to restore faith in small-d democratic government.”

Among the many tributaries flowing into Trumpism, one in particular has gone dangerously overlooked. In their book “Presidents, Populism and the Crisis of Democracy,” the political scientists William Howell and Terry Moe write that “populists don’t just feed on socioeconomic discontent. They feed on ineffective government — and their great appeal is that they claim to replace it with a government that is effective through their own autocratic power.”

washington post logoWashington Post, FBI should examine Parler’s role in Capitol attack, House Democrat says, Tom Hamburger and Craig Timberg, Jan. 21, 2021 (print ed.).  Rep. Maloney says she’s planning to launch an investigation into the conservative site’s policies, ownership and alleged Russia ties.

The chairwoman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee on Thursday asked the FBI to conduct a “robust examination” of the alleged role in the Jan. 6 Capitol siege of Parler, the now-disabled social media site that bristled with violent chatter before and after a mob stormed the Capitol in a rampage that left one police officer and four rioters dead.

carolyn maloney oRep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.), left, the chairwoman, said the request is a step toward opening a formal committee investigation into sites that may encourage violence, including Parler. The site became prominent last year as a freewheeling alternative to Twitter, gaining popularity in particular among conservatives.

She said the committee will begin its own formal investigation of Parler and similar sites, and that it was a “top priority” for her to learn answers to a range of questions about Parler, including its alleged ties to Russia, as documented in news reports. Her letter to FBI Director Christopher A. Wray on Thursday singled out Parler’s use of a Russian-owned Web services company, DDoS-Guard, that also has Russian government clients and may leave Parler vulnerable to data requests by Russian agencies.

“I am going to get to the bottom of who owns and funds social media platforms like Parler that condone and create violence,” Maloney said in an interview with The Washington Post.

In response to Maloney’s letter, Parler Chief Operating Officer Jeffrey Wernick said in a statement to The Post, “Like other social-media platforms, we have been cooperating and will continue to cooperate with law-enforcement efforts to identify and prosecute those individuals responsible for organizing and carrying out the shameless Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. Parler welcomes Rep. Maloney’s call to have the Federal Bureau of Investigation conduct a robust examination of our policies and actions."

Newsweek, Tennessee Mayor Lowers Flag for Biden Inauguration, Says Town Is Grieving, Tom Batchelor, Jan. 21, 2021. The mayor of a town in Tennessee lowered the U.S. flag to half-staff before Joe Biden's inauguration on Wednesday, saying he was mourning the "loss of freedoms" he believed a Democratic administration would herald.

In a message posted on Facebook, Mayor Robert T. Keeton III said: "The Town of Bruceton grieves for our Republic and our loss of freedoms.

"We mourn the victims of the Chinese plague and those that have suffered its depredations. "We pray that God delivers and restores us and that we do not fall to the clutches of communism."

The post, which was accompanied by a photograph of the lowered flag, attracted strong criticism. One person, Bethany Hollingsworth, wrote: "This is a flagrant incitement of anger and disunity on a public platform. The mayor is not The Town of Bruceton. Was this statement approved by the city council?

But others offered words of encouragement. Joey Nunnery posted: "Love it! A mayor with some balls to speak his mind and opinion. Draw the line in the sand. Most in America now days believes that a man does not have that right to speak freely, but he does!

Western Tennessee's Carroll County, which includes Bruceton, backed Donald Trump by 9,194 votes to 2,558 for Joe Biden in the November 2020 presidential election.

 

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. to seek five-year extension on key nuclear arms treaty, John Hudson, Jan. 21, 2021. President Biden is also preparing to impose new costs on Russia, pending an assessment of alleged interference in the 2020 election, involvement in the poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, a cyber breach of U.S. agencies and other activities.

washington post logoWashington Post, Rare twin suicide bombings rock Baghdad market, killing at least 32, Louisa Loveluck and Mustafa Salim, Jan. 21, 2021. Although Iraqi security forces continue to fight ISIS militants in rural areas, attacks in the capital have been rare. Rare twin suicide bombings struck a market Thursday in central Baghdad, killing at least 32 people and injuring 110 more, according to Iraq's health ministry.

The blasts came midmorning as people were shopping for secondhand clothes at a market in Tayaran Square. Video footage showed the second explosion ripping through the air as sirens blared and casualties were raced away in motorized rickshaws. Other images from the scene showed bodies strewn on the ground amid upturned tables and piles of unsold jackets.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. to resume processing thousands of stalled visas for Afghans who aided Americans, Susannah George, Jan. 21, 2021. More than 7,000 special visas allocated to Afghans by Congress in 2020 went unissued.

Palmer Report, Opinion: President Biden takes hard line on Vladimir Putin, Bill Palmer, Jan. 21, 2021. Biden White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said during her press briefing today that America’s “relationship with Russia is adversarial.” Thank the lord. It’s about time we hear the White House and the President talking this way.

Psaki also stated that the Biden White House is asking the U.S. Intel community for an immediate assessment of Russia’s role in everything from hacking U.S. agencies, to targeting the 2020 election, to bounties on U.S. troops.

Psaki was asked during yesterday’s briefing when President Biden might call Vladimir Putin. She stated that Biden was more interested in calling America’s “partners” first. We finally have a President of the United States who understands that Putin is the enemy, not the boss.

 

 

Jan. 20

Top Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Responses


U.S. Transfer of Power

 

U.S. 2021 Politics, Governing

 

U.S. Trump Pardons

 

U.S. Capitol Riots, Impeachment

 

U.S. Media, Communications News

 

World News

 

Top Stories

ny times logoNew York Times, BIDEN IS SWORN IN AS 46TH PRESIDENT, Staff reports, Jan. 20, 2021. ‘Democracy Has Prevailed,’ He Says in Inaugural Address; Harris Is First Woman and First Woman of Color to Be Vice President.

  • joe biden kamala harris campaign shotPresident Biden is taking office at a moment of profound crises, promising to seek unity after a tumultuous four years.
  • Vice President Kamala Harris has become the highest-ranking woman in the history of the United States.
  • Former President Donald Trump did not attend the inauguration ceremony.

Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. was sworn in as the 46th president of the United States on Wednesday, taking office at a moment of profound economic, health and political crises with a promise to seek unity after a tumultuous four years that tore at the fabric of American society.

With his hand on a five-inch-thick Bible that has been in his family for 128 years, Mr. Biden recited the 35-word oath of office swearing to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution” in a ceremony administered by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., completing the process at 11:49 a.m., 11 minutes before the authority of the presidency formally changes hands.

The ritual transfer of power came shortly after Kamala Devi Harris was sworn in as vice president by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, her hand on a Bible that once belonged to Thurgood Marshall, the civil rights icon and Supreme Court justice. Ms. Harris’s ascension made her the highest-ranking woman in the history of the United States and the first Black American and first person of South Asian descent to hold the nation’s second highest office.

“This is America’s day,” Mr. Biden said as he began his Inaugural Address. “This is democracy’s day.”

After a deeply tumultuous transition, including the storming of the Capitol by supporters of now-former President Donald J. Trump, “democracy has prevailed,” Mr. Biden said, in a speech that immediately laid out the contrast between himself and his predecessor.

“Few people in our nation’s history have been more challenged or found a time more challenging or difficult than the time we’re in now,” Mr. Biden said, before explicitly acknowledging the devastating toll of the coronavirus in a way Mr. Trump never did.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Harris sworn in as vice president, shattering gender and racial barriers, Chelsea Janes and Cleve R. Wootson Jr., Jan. 20, 2021. Harris makes history. What will she do with it?

kamala harris debate june 27 2019 filePresident Trump departed Washington for the final time Wednesday morning with a melancholy farewell — and a vow to return to the political arena — although he still did not directly acknowledge that voters had turned him out.

Trump had imagined a showy military send-off that more resembled authoritarian pageantry than the placid rituals of American electoral democracy, but those dreams were dashed as only a modest crowd of a few hundred aides and other loyalists showed up at Joint Base Andrews to see him off.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump grants clemency to 143 in late-night flurry, Rosalind S. Helderman, Josh Dawsey and Beth Reinhard, Jan. 20, 2021 (print ed.).
In his last full day in office, President Trump pardoned former adviser Stephen K. Bannon, GOP donor Elliott Broidy and a raft of well-connected celebrities, politicians and nonviolent drug offenders.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden issues a blizzard of executive orders to reverse Trump’s policies, Seung Min Kim, Jan. 20, 2021 (print ed.). President-elect Joe Biden signed a blizzard of executive orders as soon as he is inaugurated Wednesday that will lay out his coronavirus, immigration and climate policies — launching a 10-day cascade of administrative actions aimed at reversing the policies of his Republican predecessor.

The most pressing of his priorities will be measures to combat the ongoing deadly coronavirus pandemic. Once he is sworn in at noon, Biden plans to sign executive actions that will require masks on all federal grounds and ask agencies to extend moratoriums on evictions and on federal student loan payments.

He will urge Americans to don face coverings for 100 days while reviving a global health unit in the National Security Council — allowed to go dormant during the Trump administration — to oversee pandemic preparedness and response. Biden will also begin to reverse steps taken by President Trump to withdraw from the World Health Organization by dispatching Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease official, to speak at the international group’s executive board meeting on Thursday.

ny times logoNew York Times, On Day 1, Biden Moves to Undo Trump’s Legacy, Michael D. Shear, Jan. 20, 2021. President Biden signed a series of executive orders on issues including immigration and criminal justice. And he moved to rejoin the Paris Climate Accord. President Biden unleashed a full-scale assault on his predecessor’s legacy on Wednesday, acting hours after taking the oath of office to sweep aside President Donald J. Trump’s pandemic response, reverse his environmental agenda, tear down his anti-immigration policies, bolster the sluggish economic recovery and restore federal efforts aimed at promoting diversity.

Moving with an urgency not seen from any other modern president, Mr. Biden signed 17 executive orders, memorandums and proclamations from the Oval Office on Wednesday afternoon. Among the steps the president took were orders to rejoin the Paris climate accord and end Mr. Trump’s travel ban on predominantly Muslim and African countries.

Individually, the actions are targeted at what the president views as specific, egregious abuses by Mr. Trump during four tumultuous years. Collectively, Mr. Biden’s assertive use of executive authority was intended to be a hefty and visible down payment on one of his primary goals: to, as his top advisers described it, “reverse the gravest damages” done to the country by Mr. Trump.

“We’ll press forward with speed and urgency, for we have much to do in this winter of peril and significant possibilities,” Mr. Biden said during his Inaugural Address at the Capitol, delivered to a crowd shrunken by coronavirus risks and threats of violence. “Much to repair. Much to restore. Much to heal. Much to build, and much to gain.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden opens inaugural proceedings by memorializing 400,000 Americans lost to covid, Matt Viser and Annie Linskey, Jan. 20, 2021 (print ed.). President-elect Joe Biden opened his inaugural commemorations Tuesday evening by honoring the 400,000 Americans who have died in the coronavirus pandemic, marking the final hours before his swearing-in with a somber reminder of the struggles facing the nation he will lead Wednesday.

Biden, returning to Washington for the first time since winning the election, presided over the first national mourning event amid the pandemic, and it set the tone for an inauguration that will be marked with more solemnity than jubilation.

Lanterns surrounding the Reflecting Pool next to the Lincoln Memorial shone to represent the dead, and buildings across the nation lit in a united effort to honor those lost. As the sun set with vibrant tangerine hues over a largely desolate, security-conscious downtown, Biden explicitly called on Americans to remember the victims and implicitly signaled the swift changes he would try to bring to the presidency.

Four years after President Trump entered office talking about "American carnage" and insisting that "I alone can fix it," Biden sought to project an optimism rooted in the possibilities of a country united and working together.

"Between sundown and dusk, let us shine the lights in the darkness," Biden said in brief remarks that left the images to speak louder than his words. "To heal, we must remember. It's hard sometimes to remember, but that's how we heal. It's important to do that as a nation. That's why we're here today."

Earlier, a Michigan nurse, Lori Marie Key, sang "Amazing Grace," and after Biden spoke, gospel singer Yolanda Adams sang "Hallelujah."

joe jill bidenAs she did, Biden; his wife, Jill, right; Vice President-elect Kamala D. Harris; and her husband, Doug Emhoff, turned to gaze across the darkened pool. In a space that is usually crowded with people for a pre-inaugural concert, the dominant image instead was one of a void framed by light.

The ceremony was meant as a demarcation between Biden's presidency and the tenure of Trump, who has mostly ignored the swiftly rising coronavirus caseloads and death toll for months, after insisting during the campaign that the virus would soon disappear.

washington post logoWashington Post, As Trump exits Washington, he tells modest crowd, ‘We will be back in some form,’ Anne Gearan and Philip Rucker, Jan. 20, 2021.
The outgoing president, skipping Biden’s inauguration, planned a grand military send-off, but only a few hundred people showed up to see him depart.  

 

andy biggs paul gosar composite gage skidmore via flickr

Arizona Republican Congressmen Andy Biggs, left, and Paul Gosar (Photos by Gage Skidmore via Flickr /CC BY-SA 2.0.)

Arizona Mirror, Biggs and Gosar sought pardons for Capitol riot, but didn’t get them, Jim Small, Updated Jan. 20, 2021. Arizona Republican Congressmen Andy Biggs and Paul Gosar have asked President Donald Trump to preemptively pardon them for their roles in the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, but the president has no plans to do so, CNN reported Tuesday.

Trump retains sweeping clemency and pardon powers until Joe Biden takes the oath of office at 10 a.m. Arizona time Wednesday, and CNN noted that the mercurial president could change his mind. However, facing an impeachment trial in the Senate and growing prospects that Republican senators — including longtime GOP leader Mitch McConnell — will vote to convict Trump for his role in encouraging the rioters, Trump has decided not to proactively pardon the congressmen. Per CNN:

Huddled for a lengthy meeting with his legal advisers, Trump was warned the pardons he once hoped to bestow upon his family and even himself would place him in a legally perilous position, convey the appearance of guilt and potentially make him more vulnerable to reprisals.

So, too, was Trump warned that pardons for Republican lawmakers who had sought them for their role in the Capitol insurrection would anger the very Senate Republicans who will determine his fate in an upcoming impeachment trial. …

Several Republican lawmakers who are alleged to have been involved in the rally that preceded the deadly riot on the U.S. Capitol have sought clemency from Trump before he leaves office, but after meeting with his legal advisers for several hours on Saturday, the President decided he would not grant them, according to two people familiar with his plans.

The fear of legal exposure is not limited to Republicans who promoted or spoke at the rally, including Reps. Andy Biggs, Mo Brooks and Paul Gosar. Those who participated, organized and fundraised for it are also concerned, sources told CNN, including his eldest son Donald Trump Jr. and his girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle, who both spoke at the rally.

Ali Alexander, a conservative activist who helped organize the “Stop the Steal” protest on Jan. 6 claimed in several now-deleted videos in the days and weeks before the event that he, Biggs, Gosar and Alabama Congressman Brooks “schemed up” the plan to put “max pressure on Congress while they were voting” on whether to certify the results of the Electoral College. Trump and many of supporters hoped that Congress or Vice President Mike Pence could overturn the results during the certification vote.

It was while the House of Representatives and Senate were debating Arizona’s 11 electoral votes that a violent mob pushed its way into the Capitol, forcing members of Congress and their staffs to hide and sparking a disturbance that ultimately killed five people.

Early Wednesday morning, Trump issued dozens of pardons and commutations. The list did not include Biggs, Gosar or anyone else involved in the Jan. 6 failed coup attempt that sought to block Biden’s certification as president.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, Exactly one year after ‘Patient One’ came to U.S. hospital, Biden inherits chaotic vaccine rollout, Joel Achenbach, Lena H. Sun and Fenit Nirappil, Jan. 20, 2021 (print ed.). Day One executive order aimed at shifting pandemic strategy; Surgeon General Adams will be asked to resign.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden expected to re-engage with World Health Organization, join global vaccine effort, Emily Rauhala, Jan. 20, 2021.  The Biden administration is expected to re-engage with the World Health Organization and opt into a multilateral effort to distribute vaccines around the world, reversing two decisions by the Trump administration that ripped the country away from public health diplomacy in the middle of a pandemic.

world health organization logo CustomThe Covid-19 plan published on the White House website vows to “immediately restore our relationship with the World Health Organization, which — while not perfect — is essential to coordinating a global response during a pandemic.”

Secretary of State-designate Tony Blinken said in his confirmation hearing on Tuesday that the U.S. will participate in Covax, an international effort to source and distribute vaccines, particularly in low and middle-income countries.

By moving quickly on both issues, the incoming administration is signaling a return to a more cooperative approach to global health amid a crisis that has already claimed more than 2 million lives. But after months of WHO-bashing, threats and domestic chaos, America’s future role and influence remain an open question.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: Jan. 20, 2021), with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):

World Cases: 96,625,755, Deaths: 2,065,698
U.S. Cases:   24,806,964, Deaths:    411,486

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), an independent global health research center at the University of Washington. Projected total U.S. deaths, based on current scenario 459,324 by Feb. 1; 529,000 by March 1; 567,195 by April 1, 2021.

washington post logoWashington Post, More than 16,000 vaccine doses potentially spoiled in Maine and Michigan, Andrea Salcedo, Jan. 20, 2021. More than 16,000 doses of the coronavirus vaccine shipped to Maine and Michigan were damaged because of improper temperature storage.

 

U.S. Transfer of Power

President-elect Joe Biden (Gage Skidmore photo via Flickr).

President-elect Joe Biden (Gage Skidmore photo via Flickr).

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden’s Long Road to the Presidency, Tanner Curtis, Antonio de Luca, Thomas Kaplan and Umi Syam, Jan. 20, 2021. President-elect Joe Biden’s journey from local government to the White House spanned half a century.

When Joseph R. Biden Jr. is sworn in as the 46th president of the United States on Wednesday, it will be a moment of political triumph that has been decades in the making. His long career in public office spanned eight presidents, from Richard M. Nixon to Barack Obama, but the nation’s highest office always eluded him. Now, Mr. Biden, 78, will finally join their ranks.

The story begins with an Irish Catholic family in northeastern Pennsylvania. Mr. Biden was born in 1942, the eldest son of Joseph Robinette Biden Sr. and Catherine Eugenia Finnegan Biden. He was also a son of Scranton, Pa., which would become central to his political identity. The Biden family moved to Delaware when he was 10 years old.

ny times logoNew York Times, For Kamala Harris, an Influential Voice and a Decisive Vote, Michael Crowley and Katie Glueck, Jan. 20, 2021. With a tiebreaking vote in the Senate, Ms. Harris may be returning to the Capitol frequently. But her role is likely to include more responsibilities.

Hours after she is sworn in as America’s 49th vice president, becoming the first woman and first woman of color in the job, Kamala Harris will return to the U.S. Capitol for what is likely to be her first official act, the swearing-in of three newly-elected Democratic senators.

kamala harris debate june 27 2019 fileMs. Harris will be acting in her constitutional role as president of the Senate when she gives the oath of office to two Democrats elected in a Georgia special election this month, and to her own successor to the California seat she resigned on Monday. But the ceremony will also illustrate how important the Senate will be to the start of her tenure as vice president in the Biden administration.

With the Senate divided 50-50 between Republicans and Democrats and Joseph R. Biden Jr. hoping to pass ambitious legislation on the coronavirus, the economy, climate change and other policy matters, Ms. Harris — who as vice president will break any tiebreaking votes — may find herself returning often to the Capitol.

“There’s definitely going to be a demand, I think, in a 50-50 Senate, like I’ve never seen in the Senate before,” said Senator Cory Booker, Democrat of New Jersey.

“For the Biden-Harris agenda, she will be in Congress very, very often or reaching out to senators very often, to try to push that agenda through,” Mr. Booker said. An aide to Ms. Harris said that she had already begun reaching out to other senators about White House nominations, including that of retired Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III to be secretary of defense.

Biden-Harris, Transition, Nominees, Appointees, Agency Review Teams, Motto: "The Biden-Harris White House Senior Staff will be composed of diverse, joe biden kamala harris campaign shotexperienced, and talented individuals who demonstrate President-elect Biden’s commitment to building an administration that not only looks like America, but is also ready to deliver results for working families on Day One."

washington post logoWashington Post, Who Joe Biden picked to fill his Cabinet, Staff Reports, Biden’s incoming Cabinet so far. President-elect Joe Biden has made his selections for his incoming Cabinet and top White House positions. Cabinet positions — with the exception of the vice president and White House chief of staff — will require Senate approval, which may face significant delays.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Reports: Biden, Harris take oath in ceremony unlike any other, Staff Reports, Jan. 20, 2021. President-elect Joe Biden will be sworn in as the nation’s 46th president on Wednesday at an inauguration like no other, amid a raging pandemic, in a city that has become a fortress of fences, concrete barriers and security checkpoints. Vice President-elect Kamala D. Harris’s swearing-in, just before Biden takes the oath of office, will shatter gender and racial barriers.

President Trump, who refused to concede and never congratulated Biden on his win, departed the White House for the final time on Marine One and will soon leave for Florida — making him the first president to skip his successor‘s swearing-in since 1869. Vice President Pence will attend the inauguration instead of Trump’s departure ceremony at Joint Base Andrews.

Biden and Harris attended a church service before arriving at the Capitol. Inauguration events will begin shortly after 11 a.m. They will be sworn in at noon, with Biden’s inaugural address to follow.

After touting his record in a farewell address, Trump undid one of the only measures he had taken to “drain the swamp,” rescinding an executive order that limited former administration officials from lobbying the government or working for foreign countries.

A dozen members of the National Guard have been removed from inauguration duty as the federal government screens troops for possible insider threats­.

washington post logoWashington Post, NSA was forced to make him its top lawyer. Now he’s on leave, Ellen Nakashima, Jan. 20, 2021. The director of the National Security Agency on Wednesday put the agency’s top lawyer on administrative leave days after the Pentagon ordered the ex-GOP operative be installed in the job, according to a U.S. official familiar with the matter.

nsa logo 2NSA Director Gen. Paul Nakasone placed Michael Ellis, a former Trump White House official, on leave pending an inquiry by the Pentagon inspector general into the circumstances of his selection as NSA general counsel, said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the matter’s sensitivity.

Nakasone was ordered on Saturday by then-acting defense secretary Christopher C. Miller to install Ellis by 6 p.m. that day.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s final day: A diminished and aggrieved president stays out of public view before exit, Philip Rucker, Ashley Parker and Josh Dawsey, Jan. 20, 2021 (print ed.). President Trump spent his final full day in office Tuesday the same way he spent many of his 1,460 prior days as president: brooding over imagined injustices, plotting retribution against perceived enemies and seeking ways to maximize his power.

But the same pathologies that abetted Trump’s political rise, animated his followers and became hallmarks of his turbulent single term have now, in the twilight of his presidency, left him a man diminished.

In an indication of his wounded state, the president who took office determined to be omnipresent in American life, with daily and at times hourly appearances before the press corps, was almost entirely absent from public view as he prepared to vacate the White House on Wednesday morning.

Trump has spent the past seven days effectively in hiding, apart from delivering a scripted farewell address that his staff recorded and released Tuesday afternoon. In the 19-minute speech, he acknowledged that his term as the 45th president is concluding and declared, “We did what we came here to do and so much more.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Assumes Presidency as Trump Leaves White House, Staff reports, Jan. 20, 2021. Defying Convention Once More, Trump Opts to Skip Inauguration. President Trump departed the White House on Wednesday morning for the last time as the commander in chief after four tumultuous years that shook the nation, choosing to leave town rather than face the reality that he lost re-election to President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.

“Have a good life, we will see you soon,” Mr. Trump said at the end of off-the-cuff remarks delivered to supporters at Joint Base Andrews, discarding a prepared statement and ignoring advisers who thought he should have thanked Mr. Biden by name.

“We were not a regular administration,” Mr. Trump said, delivering a truncated version of his self-aggrandizing campaign rally speech, and imploring those gathered — most without masks — to “remember” all of his accomplishments.

“We will be back in some form,” he added, before walking away from his last appearance as the nation’s commander in chief to the strains of “Y.M.C.A.” by the Village People. His vice president, Mike Pence, did not attend his farewell event.

Despite flouting most of the conventions associated with the peaceful transfer of power, Mr. Trump did abide by one presidential norm — leaving the traditional note to Mr. Biden in the Oval Office, according to a White House official.

washington post logoWashington Post, Sen. Hawley moves to block swift confirmation for Biden’s homeland security pick, Nick Miroff and Maria Sacchetti, Jan. 20, 2021 (print alejandro mayorkased.). Homeland security nominee Alejandro Mayorkas told senators he would carry out President-elect Joe Biden’s immigration overhaul while intensifying efforts to combat domestic extremism, during a hearing Tuesday that highlighted Republican opposition to his confirmation.

Testifying before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Mayorkas, right, wore a blue mask and listened impassively to questions about his management style and involvement in a visa program for wealthy investors.

Mayorkas, 61, is expected to win confirmation since the Democrats picked up two additional Senate seats this month in Georgia. But legislative aides from both parties said it is unclear how quickly that will occur.

Democrats are pushing for Mayorkas’s rapid confirmation, saying it is crucial to have top national security officials in place given the recent siege on the U.S. Capitol, cyberattacks on federal agencies, and the coronavirus pandemic.

josh hawley missouri

But Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), right, the focus of deep resentment for challenging Biden’s election and, critics say, helping to incite the violent mob who attacked the Capitol, moved later Tuesday to block the fast-track confirmation process, saying he was dissatisfied with Mayorkas’s responses to questions about the Biden immigration agenda. Hawley is a member of the homeland security committee.

washington post logoWashington Post, Vice President Pence handles tasks declined by Trump in final days, Ashley Parker, Jan. 20, 2021 (print ed.). On Thursday, Vice President Pence visited the Federal Emergency Management Agency for a briefing on inauguration security. On Sunday, he flew to Fort Drum, N.Y., where he thanked the troops for “the privilege of serving with you as vice president.”

Mike PenceAnd on Wednesday, he will attend the swearing-in of President-elect Joe Biden — taking the place of President Trump, who is refusing to participate in the transition of power and will instead be en route to his private Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Fla.

Pence, right, in many ways, has long been the historic picture of a Republican president in the Trump era — conservative, seemingly imperturbable and, perhaps most important, distinctly not Trump.

And now, in the waning days of the Trump administration, Pence is occupying the role of pretend president, executing the tasks and responsibilities of the presidency — some ceremonial and historic, others urgent and practical — that Trump appears unwilling to do.

 

U.S. Politics, Governing

jon ossoff raphael warnock

Incoming Democratic U.S. Senators from Georgia, Jon Ossoff, left, and Raphael Warnock.

Roll Call, Padilla, Ossoff and Warnock sworn in, sealing Democrats’ Senate majority, Stephanie Akin and Paul V. Fontelo, Jan. 20, 2021. Democrats sealed their control of Washington on Wednesday by swearing in three new senators to take the chamber’s majority hours after Joe Biden was inaugurated as the 46th president.

alex padilla oThe subdued ceremony in the Senate chambers showcased the diversity that the Democratic Party promises to usher into the Capitol in the Biden era.

Upon taking his oath, Georgia’s Raphael Warnock became the 11th Black senator to serve in the office, the first from Georgia and the third serving currently. Jon Ossoff, also of Georgia, became the first senator born in the 1980s, the youngest since Biden began his first Senate term in 1973 and the Peach State’s first Jewish senator.

And Alex Padilla became the first Latino senator from California.

washington post logo

Washington Post, Opinion: Joe Biden delivers one of the best inaugural addresses in memory, Jennifer Rubin, right, Jan. 20, 2021.From the somber, elegant jennifer rubin new headshotmemorial service Tuesday night at the Lincoln Memorial to the swearing-in of Joseph R. Biden Jr. as the 46th president and Kamala D. Harris as the first female, first African American and first Asian American vice president on Wednesday, we could feel not simply the beginning of a new presidency but also a new national ethos. The nation has not experienced in recent memory such a dramatic shift in presidential tone, rhetoric and symbolism.

Fleeing Washington in disgrace, the classless former president departed Wednesday morning as he governed — self-absorbed, sullen and unable to fill the role of president for the entire country. Good riddance.

We then pivoted to the new presidency. Ahead of the inauguration, Biden, a genuinely religious man, joined first lady Jill Biden, Harris and second gentleman Doug Emhoff to attend Mass at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle. Biden was prayerful, serious and sincere. Religion for the faithful and not for photo ops? Well, this was new — and at the same time a reminder of how things used to be.

From the get-go, the Capitol looked new and different. The brightly colored clothing and the diverse crowd and presenters signaled that we are done with the gloomy, monochromatic era.

In contrast to the dark, creepy speech about “American carnage" that we heard four years ago, Biden delivered an impressive, forward-looking and optimistic vision of America. He did not shy away from the riot unleashed on the Capitol this month. “From now, on this hallowed ground, where just a few days ago violence sought to shake the Capitol’s very foundation, we come together as one nation under God, indivisible, to carry out the peaceful transfer of power as we have for more than two centuries,” Biden said. “As we look ahead in our uniquely American way: restless, bold, optimistic, and set our sights on the nation we know we can be and we must be.”

ny times logoNew York Times, How Gerrymandering Will Protect Republicans Who Challenged the Election, Reid J. Epstein and Nick Corasaniti, Jan. 20, 2021 (print ed.). Of the 139 House Republicans who voted to object to the election result, 85 come from states where Republicans will control the redistricting process this year.

Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio comes from a duck-shaped district that stretches across parts of 14 counties and five media markets and would take nearly three hours to drive end to end.

jim jordan shirtsleevesDesigned after the 2010 census by Ohio Republicans intent on keeping Mr. Jordan, right, then a three-term congressman, safely in office, the district has produced the desired result. He has won each of his last five elections by at least 22 percentage points.

The outlines of Ohio’s Fourth Congressional District have left Mr. Jordan, like scores of other congressional and state lawmakers, accountable only to his party’s electorate in Republican primaries. That phenomenon encouraged the Republican Party’s fealty to President Trump as he pushed his baseless claims of election fraud.

That unwavering loyalty was evident on Jan. 6, when Mr. Jordan and 138 other House Republicans voted against certifying Joseph R. Biden Jr. as the winner of the presidential election. Their decision, just hours after a violent mob had stormed the Capitol, has repelled many of the party’s corporate benefactors, exposed a fissure with the Senate Republican leadership and tarred an element of the party as insurrectionists.

But while Mr. Trump faces an impeachment trial and potential criminal charges for his role in inciting the rioting, it is unlikely that Mr. Jordan and his compatriots will face any reckoning at the ballot box.

Almost all of them are guaranteed to win re-election.

Of the 139 House Republicans who voted to object to Mr. Biden’s Electoral College victory, 85 come from states in which Republicans will control all levers of the redistricting process this year. An additional 28 represent districts drawn by Republicans in 2011 without Democratic input in states where the G.O.P. still holds majorities in state legislative chambers.

Taking a position as inflammatory as refusing to certify a free and fair election would be much riskier for lawmakers in Congress and in statehouses if they needed to appeal to electorates beyond their next sets of primary voters — a group that itself remains loyal to the outgoing president.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump commission’s ‘1776 Report’ outrages historians, Gillian Brockell, Jan. 20, 2021 (print ed.). The 45-page report, released on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, is largely an attack on decades of historical scholarship, particularly when it comes to the nation's 400-year-old legacy of slavery. Most of those listed as authors lack credentials as historians.

Historians responded with dismay and anger Monday after the White House’s “1776 Commission” released a report that it said would help Americans better understand the nation’s history by “restoring patriotic education.”

“It’s a hack job. It’s not a work of history,” American Historical Association executive director James Grossman told The Washington Post. “It’s a work of contentious politics designed to stoke culture wars.”

The commission was created in September with a confusing news conference featuring Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson. The 45-page report is largely an attack on decades of historical scholarship, particularly when it comes to the nation’s 400-year-old legacy of slavery, and most of those listed as authors lack any credentials as historians. While claiming to present a nonpartisan history, it compares progressivism to fascism and claims the civil rights movement devolved into “preferential” identity politics “not unlike those advanced by [slavery defender John C.] Calhoun and his followers.”

“I don’t know where to begin,” said public historian Alexis Coe. “This ‘report’ lacks citations or any indication books were consulted, which explains why it’s riddled in errors, distortions, and outright lies.”

Kali Nicole Gross, a history professor at Rutgers and Emory universities and the co-author of “A Black Women’s History of the United States,” said it was “dusty, dated” and “the usual dodge on the long-lasting, harmful impacts of settler-colonialism, enslavement, Jim Crow, the oppression of women, the plight of queer people ... as the true threat to democracy.”

Boston University historian Ibram X. Kendi tweeted: “This report makes it seems as if slaveholding founding fathers were abolitionists; that Americans were the early beacon of the global abolitionist movement; that the demise of slavery in the United States was inevitable.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Justice Dept. will not pursue charges against Sen. Burr, who came under scrutiny for stock sales at outset of pandemic, Matt Zapotosky and Felicia Sonmez, Jan. 20, 2021 (print ed.). The Justice Department has ended its investigation into Sen. Richard Burr and will not pursue charges against the North Carolina Republican, who was being probed for stock sales he made before the coronavirus pandemic crashed global markets.

richard burr o SmallIn a statement Tuesday, Burr, right, said, “Tonight, the Department of Justice informed me that it has concluded its review of my personal financial transactions conducted early last year. The case is now closed.”

Burr’s lawyer, Alice Fisher, said the senator was pleased that the department had closed the case without further action.

“As the country continues to concentrate efforts on battling the challenges presented by covid-19, Senator Burr’s focus will remain on the safety and security of North Carolinians and the United States as a whole,” Fisher said.

Burr was one of a number of senators to come under investigation last year for stock sales they made before the pandemic’s effect on the markets.

washington post logoWashington Post, Celebrities avoided Trump and D.C. for years. Here are the stars returning for Biden’s inauguration, Emily Yahr, Jan. 20, 2021 (print ed.).  Much of D.C. closed off as never before; Howling winds could top 35 mph during Biden’s inauguration.

As a reality-TV-star president leaves the White House, celebrities are headed back to Washington.

Hollywood A-listers, who made no secret of their disdain for President Trump, have been largely absent from the city and its cultural scene over the past four years. Now, they are returning in droves: Superstars Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez and Garth Brooks will perform at President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday, while a host of other stars — Tom Hanks, Demi Lovato, Bruce Springsteen, Kerry Washington, Eva Longoria, Lin-Manuel Miranda among them — will appear on a prime-time inaugural special, “Celebrating America,” to air that night.

But even after this week’s events are over, the stage is set for a return to the pre-Trump era, as artists from all areas are far more likely to resume events and White House visits, as well as advocate for various causes.

While a few stars did make the attempt (Kim Kardashian West, notably, lobbied for prison reform), most stayed away — and it was a two-way street. Trump skipped events such as the White House correspondents’ dinner and Kennedy Center Honors. Before Trump had a chance to decline his invitation to the latter, multiple honorees said they would skip any events with the president.

 

U.S. Trump Pardons

steve bannon audrey strauss statement

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Pardons Bannon Hours Before Leaving Office, Maggie Haberman, Jan. 20, 2021 (print ed.). steve bannon filePresident Trump has granted clemency to Stephen K. Bannon, right, the former White House chief strategist who was charged with defrauding people who supported building a border wall that Mr. Trump supported, White House officials said.

The president made the decision after a day of frantic efforts to sway his thinking, including from Mr. Bannon, who spoke to him by phone earlier on Tuesday.

The pardon was described as a pre-emptive move that would effectively wipe away the charges against Mr. Bannon, should he be convicted. A prosector's statement of the charges is shown above center.

steve bannon exlarge

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump ends it all with one final scam — and it bodes badly for Trumpism’s future, Greg Sargent, Jan. 20, 2021. For a presidency that’s been awash in grift and deception from the start, you could not have scripted a more fitting end.

In his final moments as president, Donald Trump hailed his massive tax cut for the rich and corporations as one of his leading accomplishments — just after pardoning the chief architect of his “economic populism,” all to protect him from facing charges that he literally stole money from Trump supporters with a two-bit scam promising to help build his border wall.

As Trump prepared to depart from Joint Base Andrews on Wednesday morning, he hailed his presidency as “amazing, by any standard.”

“We also got the largest tax cut reform in the history of our country by far,” Trump told the crowd of die-hards who had collected to watch his departure. After telling that lie, Trump suggested Democrats would hike taxes on ordinary Americans. In fact, President-elect Joe Biden’s plan only targets income over $400,000.

If we want to take stock of the Trump era, and how far removed that final moment was from the initial promise of this presidency, a good place to start is with an interview that Stephen K. Bannon gave just after helping engineer Trump’s 2016 victory.

In it, Bannon declared that Trump would offer a “populist” agenda of massive spending to rebuild the U.S. manufacturing base, producing an “entirely new” movement for the “American working class.”

Bannon promised a new “economic nationalism” that would rival the New Deal’s success in recasting the political alignment of working-class Americans of all races, but this time toward Trump’s GOP. Bannon declared: “It will be as exciting as the 1930s.”

Now, as the country remains mired in terrible crises that rival those of the 1930s — ones largely created by Trump himself — he just closed out his term with a raft of deeply corrupt pardons, one of which went to Bannon.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump’s final wave of pardons includes names pushed by criminal justice reform advocates, Annie Karni, Updated Jan. 20, 2021. The group includes nonviolent offenders whose names have been percolating for years among advocates who believe their punishments never fit their crimes.

President Trump, during his one term in office, has used clemency power on behalf of convicted liars and crooked politicians, some of whom have been his friends. But the long list of pardons his team has prepared for him to sign on his final full day in office includes the names of people who have been serving life sentences for drug or fraud charges and who for years have been seeking clemency.

In the past, the administration has emphasized clemency for low-level offenders in order to blunt criticism that Mr. Trump was inappropriately offering pardons to people to whom he had personal connections. Tuesday’s group includes nonviolent offenders whose names have been percolating for years among advocates who believe their punishments never fit their crimes and whose cases underscore the broken nature of the country’s criminal justice system.

The names were recommended by a group that included Alice Johnson, who has been working with #Cut50, a prisoner advocacy group, and Mark Holden, a former executive at Koch Industries. Ms. Johnson herself was granted a full pardon after speaking on Mr. Trump’s behalf at the Republican National Convention and has continued to personally press Mr. Trump and his family members about their cases. The Justice Department’s Office of the Pardon Attorney was cut out of the process, as has been typical in the Trump White House.

Among those being pardoned Tuesday, according to people directly involved in the process, are Darrell Frazier, who has served more than 30 years of a life sentence for drug conspiracy charges. During his incarceration, Mr. Frazier founded the Joe Johnson Tennis Foundation, a nonprofit supporting children in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Craig Cesal has been serving a life sentence without parole on a marijuana charge. “My crime was that my truck repair business in Chicago fixed trucks operated by a Florida long-haul trucking company whose drivers trafficked marijuana in the south,” he told The Washington Post in 2016.

Lavonne Roach, a nonviolent drug offender, has been serving a 30-year sentence after she was charged with conspiracy to distribute meth. Ms. Roach, a Lakota Sioux woman, has been in prison since 1994.

cnn logoCNN, Trump's last-minute pardons include Bannon, Lil Wayne and scores of others, Pamela Brown, Kevin Liptak and Kaitlan Collins, Jan. 20, 2021. President Donald Trump issued a raft of 11th-hour pardons and commutations early Wednesday that included his onetime political strategist (shown above), a former top fundraiser and two well-known rappers but not himself or his family.

The batch of 73 pardons and 70 commutations issued in the final hours of his presidency was expected, and is in keeping with a long-standing presidential tradition of exercising clemency powers at the last minute.

The list reflected a President keen on awarding pardons to his stalwart allies, an unusual number of whom have been swept up in corruption or lying charges.

The vast majority of the pardons and commutations on Trump's list were doled out to individuals whose cases have been championed by criminal justice reform advocates, including people serving lengthy sentences for low-level offenses.

But several controversial names do appear, including Steve Bannon, who has pleaded not guilty to charges he defrauded donors in a "We Build the Wall" online fundraising campaign. Trump had spent the past days deliberating over a pardon for the man who helped him win the presidency in 2016 and followed him to the White House. During his final hours in office there was a frantic debate underway behind the scenes on whether to grant Bannon a pardon.

One concern was Bannon's possible connection to the January 6 riot of Trump supporters at the US Capitol, according to a source familiar with the discussions.

Over the course of Tuesday, Trump continued to contemplate pardons that aides believed were settled, including for his former strategist. The President continued to go back and forth on it into Tuesday night, sources told CNN.

Other names included Tuesday were Elliott Broidy, a former top fundraiser for Trump's campaign who pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy relating to a secret lobbying campaign to influence the Trump administration on behalf of a foreign billionaire in exchange for millions of dollars.

The rapper Lil Wayne received a pardon after pleading guilty to a gun possession charge in Miami. Another rapper, Kodak Black, received a commutation after he pleaded guilty to a weapons charge.

Trump also offered clemency to Paul Erickson, the conservative political operative and ex-boyfiend of alleged Russian spy Maria Butina, who pleaded guilty to wire fraud and money laundering charges; Robin Hayes, a North Carolina political donor convicted of trying to bribe officials; Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, convinced of federal charges including racketeering, extortion and the filing of false tax returns; William Walters, a professional sports gambler convicted of insider trading; and Aviem Sella, an Israeli air force officer who the US accused of being a spy.

Bob Zangrillo, the Miami developer and venture capitalist charged in the Varsity Blues college admission scandal, also received a pardon. None of the other parents caught up in the probe were pardoned.

Though neither Trump or members of his family were included on his list, Trump has until noon on Wednesday to issue any final pardons before leaving office.

atlantic logoThe Atlantic, Swamp Thing: Trump’s pardons sent an unmistakable message, capping the corruption of his tenure in office, David Frum, right, Jan. 20, 2021. david frum twitter CustomIn 1955, a junior United States senator named John F. Kennedy published Profiles in Courage, a collection of short essays about eight of his predecessors who had risked their careers for their ideals over the previous 150 years.

In one single day in 2021, that many senators showed courage worth enduring historical honor. Seven were Republicans: Richard Burr, Bill Cassidy, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Mitt Romney, Ben Sasse, and Pat Toomey. The other was Joe Manchin, a Democrat from a state where nearly 69 percent of the voters chose Donald Trump for president in 2020.

Thanks to their integrity, a clear majority of the Senate voted to condemn the former president as an insurrectionist against the United States. The 57–43 margin wasn’t enough to convict under the Constitution. It wasn’t enough to formally disqualify Trump from ever again seeking office in the United States. But practically? It will do as a solemn and eternal public repudiation of Trump’s betrayal of his oath of office.

You say that you are disappointed? That a mere rebuke was not enough? That justice was not done? It wasn’t. But now see the world from the other side, through the eyes of those who defend Trump or even want him to run again. Their hope was to dismiss this impeachment as partisan, as founded on fake evidence, as hypocritical and anti-constitutional—to present this verdict as an act of oppression by one half of the country against the other. That hope was banished today.

atlantic logo horizontalIt’s not half against half. It’s a clear American majority—including a sizable part of the Republican Senate caucus—against a minority. And even many of the senators who voted to acquit went on record to condemn Trump as an outlaw and a seditionist.

Again and again, the Trumpists lost key votes. Five Republican senators and then six rejected the argument that the Senate lacked jurisdiction. Five Republican senators rejected the vote against witnesses. The accusing majority consistently stuck together. The condoning minority repeatedly splintered.

The 57 votes against Trump silence any complaint that he was condemned on some partisan basis or by some procedural unfairness. It crushes his truculent lawyers’ claim that the argument against Trump was mere chicanery. The senators who voted to acquit are the ones likely to justify their decision on some strained, narrow, technical ground. The number who truly believed Trump innocent of the charges brought against him is surely smaller than the 43 who voted to acquit. Statements by senators such as Mitch McConnell and Rob Portman show that their votes did not match their thoughts.

Trump’s likely reaction to the trial will make things even more difficult for him if he ever tries for the presidency again. He will now erupt in a vendetta against the senators who voted to convict him, stoking primary challenges against them as he had previously threatened to do, even against senators who ultimately protected him, such as John Thune of South Dakota. The 2022 Senate map is a challenging one for Republicans, and Trump will be acting the part of party-wrecker.

David Frum: The Trump crew’s incompetence lasted to the end

The background fact of this second Trump impeachment trial was how broadly popular it was. In January, a Monmouth survey found that 56 percent of Americans wanted Trump convicted. Quinnipiac reported that 59 percent regard him as responsible for inciting violence against the U.S. government. According to ABC/The Washington Post, 66 percent believe that Trump acted irresponsibly during the post-election period. According to polls, fewer than a quarter believed that Trump did “nothing wrong” on January 6.

Those are not the numbers on which to base a Grover Cleveland–style comeback tour—especially not when the majority of Americans also believe that Donald Trump did a bad job handling the COVID-19 pandemic and that President Joe Biden is doing a good job.

Things will get worse for the 45th president. The 57–43 margin in the Senate flashes a green light to federal and state prosecutors that, if they find evidence of crimes, proceeding with legal action against Trump would be politically safe.

Trump also faces the prospect of civil actions by the families of those who lost their lives in the insurrection that he incited. If and when they sue, their attorneys will surely cite what Senator Mitch McConnell said immediately after the trial vote. The Senate minority leader condemned Trump’s actions as a “disgraceful, disgraceful dereliction of duty” and said he held Trump “practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day.” McConnell continued:

The people who stormed this building believed they were acting on the wishes and instruction of their president. And their having that belief was a foreseeable consequence of the growing crescendo of false statements, conspiracy theories, and reckless hyperbole which the defeated president kept shouting into the largest megaphone on planet Earth. The issue is not only the president’s intemperate language on January 6 … It was also the entire manufactured atmosphere of looming catastrophe, the increasingly wild myths about a reverse landslide election that was somehow being stolen by some secret coup by our now-president.

His own damning assessment did not suffice to persuade McConnell to convict Trump of impeachable offenses. That abdication will weigh on McConnell’s conscience and historical reputation.

But McConnell’s words on the record may well suffice in future civil proceedings to impose responsibility on Trump for the harm he did. If your loved ones were injured or killed on January 6, the leader of Trump’s party in the Senate just volunteered his video testimony about who might be held liable for your loss.

Even more significantly, McConnell reminded senators that regular criminal law could deal with common criminals—as the Republican leader suggested Trump to be. Maybe McConnell was just emitting words, only maneuvering. But if federal and state law-enforcement officials are pursuing Trump, today’s events will encourage them, not deter them.

“Drain the swamp.”

Of all Trump’s lies, that was one of the most puzzling. It’s not just that Trump himself was and is crooked, or even that he so obviously likes and admires crooks. It’s that Trump’s particular form of crookedness was exactly the kind of crookedness that people have in mind when they imagine Washington, D.C., as a “swamp.”

Trump’s first Manhattan real-estate deal—the first deal on which his employer-father allowed him to take the lead—was the redevelopment of a bankrupt historic hotel near New York’s Grand Central Terminal. The deal needed complex permissions from the city and the state. To obtain those permissions, Trump hired the famous fixer Roy Cohn. Cohn secured him a $400 million tax abatement plus other special favors, including a waiver of all urban-preservation rules. After the deal was done, the city official who bestowed the favors was hired as a partner in Cohn’s law firm. A decade later, that official went to federal prison for corruption crimes.

And so it went throughout Trump’s business career, beginning to end. Shortly after ascending to the presidency, he agreed to pay $25 million to settle fraud claims brought by students at Trump University (he admitted no wrongdoing).

And on his last full day in office, as the minutes ticked down, he ended his presidency with a grand present to pro-Trump crooks, past and present. Earlier in the transition period, he had pardoned Paul Manafort and Roger Stone—the longtime associates who protected his secrets. On his way out, he has pardoned another former campaign chair, Steve Bannon, who was indicted on charges of defrauding Trump’s own supporters.
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Trump pardoned the flamboyantly corrupt former congressman Duke Cunningham, convicted of bribery, fraud, and tax evasion in 2005 and sentenced to eight years in prison. Cunningham completed his sentence in 2013. The matter might have been left to the history books—but Trump wanted the history books to record this last gesture of fellow feeling between a disgraced Republican president and a disgraced Republican member of the House of Representatives.

Trump pardoned the former Republican fundraiser Elliott Broidy. Broidy came to public attention with the news that Trump’s onetime fixer Michael Cohen had arranged for Broidy’s former mistress to be paid off, in an agreement using the same pseudonyms Cohen had previously employed to strike a deal between Trump and the adult-film actor Stormy Daniels. In October 2020, Broidy pleaded guilty to lobbying the Trump administration on behalf of Malaysia as an unregistered foreign agent, agreeing to forfeit $6.6 million.

These are but a few of the final pardons issued by Trump at his own discretion, without having gone through the normal process of vetting and review; they add up to more such pardons than issued by any previous president. Also on his way out the door, Trump canceled a 2017 executive order that imposed a five-year blackout before former administration officials can lobby their former agencies. Trump’s former aides can now do exactly what Trump promised at the start of his administration he would never allow his people to do.

And of course he did! Obviously he did! Trump’s was a government of the crooks, by the crooks, and for the crooks. How on earth did this brazen and shameless practitioner of sleaze verging upon crime ever sell the idea that he was somehow struggling against sleaze?

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: With his last pardons, Trump makes clear his position on political corruption, Philip Bump, Jan. 20, 2021. Trump grants clemency to 143 people, including Bannon, in late-night pardon blast The first pardon President Trump issued was to former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio. Arpaio had been convicted of a criminal contempt charge after refusing to adhere to a judge’s order curtailing his targeting of suspected undocumented immigrants.

That pardon set a tone. Arpaio had been a strong supporter of Trump and his politics echoed Trump’s, from his approach to immigration to his attacks on Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama. That Trump was essentially rewarding an elected official’s refusal to be held in check by part of the government clearly resonated for a president who, at that time, was battling a federal investigation of members of his own presidential campaign.

Over the months that followed, Trump repeatedly sided with corrupt politicians over the authorities who uprooted them. He pardoned former New York City police commissioner Bernard Kerik, who had admitted to fraud and lying to White House officials. He pardoned Michael T. Flynn, his own former national security adviser, who had pleaded guilty to lying to investigators digging into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign. He pardoned former congressmen Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) and Duncan D. Hunter (R-Calif.), both of whom had endorsed his 2016 candidacy and who had pleaded guilty to insider trading and misusing campaign money, respectively. He commuted the sentences of former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich (D), who was convicted on corruption charges, and former congressman Steve Stockman (R-Tex.), who had been convicted of money laundering and misusing campaign contributions.

Even as his time in office came to a close, Trump wasn’t done. Early Wednesday morning, the day Trump will leave his office, the White House announced a number of new pardons. Among them was one for former congressman Rick Renzi (R-Ariz.), who was convicted on charges of corruption, as was former congressman Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R-Calif.), who was convicted on various fraud and bribery-related charges. Trump also pardoned former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick (D), who was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice.

 

julian assange screenshot arrest (Ruptly)

London police arresting the bearded WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange (screenshot from Ruptly video).

Information Clearing House, No Pardons For Edward Snowden Or Julian Assange, Kevin Gosztola, Jan. 20, 2021. Although several long shot campaigns were mounted, President Donald Trump did not pardon any whistleblowers who were indicted or prosecuted under the United States Espionage Act. He also declined to pardon the only journalist ever to be indicted under the World War I-era law.

djt on wikileaksWikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, right, were not offered clemency because Trump "did not want to anger Senate Republicans who will soon determine whether he's convicted during his Senate trial."

"Multiple GOP lawmakers had sent messages through aides that they felt strongly about not granting clemency to Assange or Snowden," according to CNN.

NSA whistleblower Reality Winner, who was the first to be prosecuted under the Espionage Act under Trump, and former CIA officer John Kiriakou pursued pardons. They were effectively denied as well.

wikileaks logo2On January 17, the New York Times reported that an associate of Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani told Kiriakou a pardon would cost him $2 million.

"I laughed. Two million bucks—are you out of your mind?" Kiriakou told the Times. "Even if I had two million bucks, I wouldn't spend it to recover a $700,000 pension."

The report exposed a sliver of the corruption around pardons in the final days of the Trump presidency, as "several people with connections" to Trump apparently "accepted large sums of money" in return for clemency.

john kiriakouKiriakou, right, said Trump was not the only president in history to encourage this kind of behavior. "Certainly, Bill Clinton did at the end of his administration well. But this just highlights how the pardon process in the United States is broken."

Throughout the past three months, prominent supporters of Assange, like Pamela Anderson and Glenn Greenwald, were frequent guests on Fox News during primetime in order to communicate the case for a pardon directly to Trump.

A few Republicans in Con