June 2021 News

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Editor's Choice: Scroll below for our monthly blend of mainstream and alternative June, 2021 news and view

 

 

June 22

Top Headlines

 

Trump Watch

 

Justice Dept. Accountability

 

Virus Victims, Responses

   

U.S. Law, Courts, Crime

 

U.S. Elections, Politics, Governance

 

World News

 

U.S. Jobs, Economy, Race

 

Top Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, Appeals court blocks federal judge’s ruling to overturn California’s assault weapons ban, Timothy Bella, June 22, 2021 (print ed.). A three-judge panel in a one-page order on Monday issued a stay of the June 4 order from U.S. District Judge Roger T. Benitez of the Southern District of California, in which he likened an AR-15 rifle to a Swiss Army knife.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit has blocked a federal judge’s ruling overturning California’s longtime ban on assault weapons, in which he likened an AR-15 to a Swiss Army knife.

A three-judge panel in a one-page order on Monday issued a stay of the June 4 order from U.S. District Judge Roger T. Benitez of the Southern District of California, in which the judge ruled that sections of the state ban in place since 1989 regarding military-style rifles are unconstitutional.

Senior Circuit Court Judge Barry G. Silverman, Circuit Judge Jacqueline H. Nguyen and Circuit Judge Ryan D. Nelson wrote that the stay will remain in place pending the outcome of another case challenging the ban. 

Destroyed Murtha federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995 (Photo via ABC News).

Destroyed Murtha federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995 (Photo via ABC News).

washington post logoWashington Post, In Oklahoma, the 1995 bombing offers lessons — and warnings — for today’s fight against extremism, Hannah Allam, June 22, 2021 (print ed.). Many Oklahomans are alarmed to see terrorist Timothy McVeigh’s far-right ideology spread in the state he attacked, while a political class that is increasingly dominated by those who rarely speak against extremism or, worse, promote it.

Talking about political violence is especially fraught this year, as Oklahoma faces its long-buried history of racial bloodshed. This is the centennial of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, when a White mob razed a prosperous Black district in what President Biden called “an act of hate and domestic terrorism.”

An hour outside of Tulsa, Leonardo DiCaprio and other Hollywood stars are filming a movie about the “Reign of Terror,” when wealthy Osage Native Americans were killed in the 1920s.

Many Oklahoma educators, activists and politicians view this moment as an opportunity to confront historical violence in an unflinching way that serves as a national model. The same goes, they said, for sharing lessons from the Oklahoma City bombing, which is getting renewed attention under Attorney General Merrick Garland, who oversaw the criminal investigation and is now leading a reinvigorated fight against domestic terrorism at the Justice Department. In a speech this month, Garland cited the Tulsa and Oklahoma City attacks as inspiration for the Biden administration’s revamped domestic terrorism strategy.

“The people who live in Oklahoma City have a special obligation to figure out what are the paths out of that type of extremism, because we know where it leads,” said Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt, an anti-Trump Republican. “Ultimately, it leads to violence.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Justices rule against NCAA limits on some school perks for student-athletes, Robert Barnes and Molly Hensley-Clancy, June 22, 2021 (print ed.). The NCAA had contested a lower-court ruling that would allow colleges to offer greater academic-related perks to Division I football and men’s and women’s basketball players.

  • Washington Post, High school sports will feel impact of athlete branding changes. For some, that’s cause for concern.

 

Trump Watch

Proof via Substack, Investigation and Commentary: A Comprehensive Overview of All Five of Donald Trump's January 6 War Rooms, Seth Abramson, June 21-22, 2021. During Insurrection Week, Trump's seth abramson graphicinsurrectionists had at least five secretive war rooms inside Washington. Here's everything we know about each of them so far.

Research by Proof into the January 6 insurrection reveals that Team Trump opened five “war rooms” during Insurrection Week. Trump lawyer John Eastman was the first to call his own space (of the seth abramson proof logofive) a “war room”; another participant in the same room, Joe Oltmann, called it a “command center”; and at another point Eastman noted that he had been working in a “communications coordination.” The five spaces that answer to such descriptions are summarized below and then discussed in more detail.

#1: The Trump International War Room; Location: Trump Townhouse in Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC; Occupants: 19+.

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

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

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Sues N.Y.C. for Ending Golf Course Contract After Capitol Riot, Jonah E. Bromwich, June 22, 2021 (print ed.).  The Trump Organization, which had a 20-year contract to operate a public golf course in the Bronx, claims it was unfairly targeted.

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Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: Trump's connection to the KGB highlighted in full-page ads in 1987, Wayne Madsen, left (author and former Navy Intelligence officer and NSA analyst), June 21, 2021. Donald Trump's role as an intelligence asset for the wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallSoviet Committee for State Security (KGB) and Czechoslovak State Security (StB) in the 1970s and 80s was revealed in WMR's August 19, 2020 article, "Trump likely a KGB/Czechoslovak StB intelligence asset as early as 1976."

wayne madesen report logoFurther information revealed to The Guardian of the UK by former KGB agent Yuri Shvets indicates that the Trump Organization's full-page ad run in the September 2, 1987 editions of The New York Times, Washington Post and Boston Globe was actually crafted and paid for by the KGB.

At a critical time for U.S. foreign policy, with the Soviet bloc showing significant signs of unraveling and Iran posing a threat to shipping in the Persian Gulf, Trump's full-page ad was titled "There's nothing wrong with America's Foreign Defense Policy that a little backbone can't cure."

The current probe of the Trump Organization's finances, particularly the firm's longtime chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg, by the Manhattan District Attorney's office, may yield information on Trump's receipt of KGB financing for the three newspaper ads and other purposes via a KGB business front on Fifth Avenue, Joy-Lud electronics store, run by Soviet Ukrainian emigré Semyon Kislin, a "spotter agent" or recruiter for the KGB.

 

Justice Dept. Accountability

washington post logoWashington Post, Garland tries to untangle the Trump legacy at Justice Dept., Devlin Barrett, June 22, 2021 (print ed.. Merrick Garland has been criticized by some Democrats over recent legal decisions, but the new attorney general insists he is plotting a straight course.

merrick garlandThree months into his new job, judge-turned-attorney general Merrick Garland, who inherited a demoralized and politicized Justice Department, is facing criticism from some Democrats that he is not doing enough to quickly expunge Trump-era policies and practices.

On a host of issues ranging from leak investigations to civil and criminal cases involving former president Donald Trump, Garland has been beset by a growing chorus of Justice Department log circularcongressional second-guessers, even as he insists he is scrupulously adhering to the principles of equal justice under the law.

How he charts his way through the current controversies and still-unresolved politically sensitive cases is likely to determine how much of a long-term impact the Trump presidency has on the Justice Department.

“It’s a difficult situation to navigate. The Department of Justice is an institution like an ocean liner — it doesn’t turn around easily,” said Ronald Weich, who served as an assistant attorney general in the early days of the Obama administration.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, 177.3 million U.S. vaccinated, as of June 22, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This includes more than 150 million people (45.2 % of the eligible population) fully vaccinated and 53.4 % with at least one dose. See about your state.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated June 22, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here): 

World Cases: 179,635,172, Deaths: 3,890,556
U.S. Cases:     34,419,838, Deaths:    617,463
India Cases:    29,977,861, Deaths:    389,302
Brazil Cases:   17,969,806, Deaths:    502,817

washington post logoWashington Post, Book offers fresh details about chaos, conflicts in Trump pandemic response, Dan Diamond, June 22, 2021 (print ed.). At one point, the president mused about transferring infected American citizens in Asia to Guantánamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba. In the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, as White House officials debated whether to bring infected Americans home for care, President Donald Trump suggested his own plan for where to send them, eager to suppress the numbers on U.S. soil.

“Don’t we have an island that we own?” the president reportedly asked those assembled in the Situation Room in February 2020, before the U.S. outbreak would explode. “What about Guantánamo?”

“We import goods,” Trump specified, lecturing his staff. “We are not going to import a virus.”

Aides were stunned, and when Trump brought it up a second time, they quickly scuttled the idea, worried about a backlash over quarantining American tourists on the same Caribbean base where the United States holds terrorism suspects.

Such insider conversations are among the revelations in Nightmare Scenario: Inside the Trump Administration’s Response to the Pandemic That Changed History, a new book by Washington Post journalists Yasmeen Abutaleb and Damian Paletta that captures the dysfunctional response to the unfolding pandemic.

The book offers new insights about Trump as the president careened between embracing miracle coronavirus cures in his quest for good news, grappling with his own illness — which was far more serious than officials acknowledged — and fretting about the outbreak’s implications for his reelection bid.

CNNCNN, A coronavirus outbreak hit a Florida government building. Two people are dead but a vaccinated employee wasn't infected, Jamiel Lynch, June 22, 2021. Two people are dead and four of their coworkers were hospitalized after a Covid-19 outbreak swept through a government building in Manatee County, Florida.

The outbreak began in the IT department, according to Manatee County Administrator Scott Hopes, who is also an epidemiologist. Another person who worked on the same floor but in a different department also tested positive for coronavirus last week.

The only exposed employee in the IT office who was vaccinated did not get infected, Hopes said.

"The clinical presentation gives me concern that we're dealing with a very infectious variant that is quite deadly," Hopes told Burnett.

The government building was closed on Friday as a precaution. It reopened Monday but officials didn't implement a mask requirement, instead keeping them optional.Hopes said he's encouraging workers who aren't vaccinated to wear a mask and the county is making them available to employees and visitors.

"Clearly masks work, but the vaccine is more important at this point," Hopes said.

washington post logoWashington Post, Philippines’ Duterte threatens to arrest anyone refusing to get vaccinated, Regine Cabato, June 22, 2021 (print ed.). While vaccinations remain voluntary in the country, the president’s spokesman said that could change.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has threatened to arrest anyone who refuses to be vaccinated against the coronavirus, as the country grapples with both vaccine hesitancy and a lack of supplies.

rodrigo duterte philippines president“I will order their arrest,” Duterte, left, said late Monday. “To protect the people, I have to sequester you in jail. Now choose — get vaccinated, or I’ll lock you up in a cell.”

“If you don’t want to be vaccinated, I’ll have you arrested and have the vaccine shot into your [buttocks],” he said, using a vulgar term.

philippines flagHe also expressed impatience with any kind of anti-vaccine sentiment, suggesting that if people felt that way, they should leave.

“If you don’t get vaccinated, leave the Philippines. Go to India if you want, or somewhere, America,” he added.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra clarified Tuesday that refusing vaccination was not against the law.

washington post logoWashington Post, Wuhan lab’s classified work complicates search for pandemic’s origins, Eva Dou, June 22, 2021 (print ed.). The Wuhan lab has drawn global scrutiny because of its research on bat coronaviruses in the city where the pandemic began. The events have shined a light on a research niche that — in China, the United States and elsewhere — operates with heightened secrecy because of the national security risks of handling deadly pathogens.

washington post logoWashington Post, Coronavirus cases surge in Cornwall, England, after G-7 summit, sparking fury, Miriam Berger, June 22, 2021. Coronavirus cases are rising in Cornwall — but Downing Street says the Group of Seven summit held in the British town earlier this month is not to blame.

The seven-day case rate in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly has soared from 4.9 per 100,000 people in early June to 130.6 per 100,000 people on June 16, the Guardian reported. Rates of infections are particularly high in Carbis Bay, where the summit was held, and several nearby areas where delegates to the gathering of world leaders stayed.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesperson on Monday denied any direct causation between the G-7 summit — with its influx of journalists, police officers and support staff — and the rise in coronavirus infection rates.

“We are confident that there were no cases of transmission to the local residents,” the unidentified spokesperson told the Guardian. “All attendees were tested, everyone involved in the G-7 work were also tested during their work on the summit.”

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Crime

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. judge tosses most claims against Trump in clearing of Lafayette Square, Spencer S. Hsu, June 22, 2021 (print ed.). Dabney L. Friedrich of Washington called allegations that federal officials conspired to enable a photo op of President Donald Trump holding a Bible too speculative.

A U.S. judge on Monday dismissed most claims filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of D.C., Black Lives Matter and others in lawsuits that accused the Trump administration of authorizing an unprovoked attack on demonstrators in Lafayette Square last year.

dabney friedrich nbcThe plaintiffs asserted the government used unnecessary force to enable a photo op of President Donald Trump holding a Bible outside of the historical St. John’s Church. But U.S. District Judge Dabney L. Friedrich of Washington, right, called allegations that federal officials conspired to make way for the photo too speculative.

The judge’s decision came in a 51-page opinion after the Justice Department requested she toss four overlapping lawsuits naming dozens of federal individual and agency defendants, as well as D.C. and Arlington police, in the June 2020 incident.

Friedrich also ruled that federal defendants such as then-Attorney General William P. Barr and then-acting Park Police chief Gregory T. Monahan are immune from civil suits and could not be sued for damages, and that Black Lives Matter as a group could not show it was directly injured by actions against individual demonstrators.

The judge did allow litigation to go forward challenging federal restrictions on protests and other First Amendment activity at Lafayette Square across from the White House, and against local D.C. and Arlington County police agencies that supported the operation.

The lawsuits stem from confrontations last June when military personnel along with federal and local law enforcement officers forcibly cleared the square. Officials used batons, clubs and spray and fired projectiles as more than 1,000 largely peaceful demonstrators gathered to protest the killing of George Floyd. Images of violence before Trump made his way to the church drew a national backlash and the nation’s top military official later apologized for walking with Trump before television cameras that day.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden administration to back bid to end disparity in drug sentencing, Sean Sullivan and Seung Min Kim, June 22, 2021. The move on crack and powder cocaine reflects how the president’s attitude on drug laws has shifted over his long tenure in elected office.

joe biden black background resized serious fileThe Biden administration plans to endorse legislation that would end the disparity in sentences between crack and powder cocaine offenses that President Biden helped create decades ago, according to people with knowledge of the situation — a step that highlights how Biden’s attitudes on drug laws have shifted over his long tenure in elected office.

At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday, Regina LaBelle, the acting director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, plans to express the administration's support for the Eliminating a Quantifiably Unjust Application of the Law Act, or Equal Act. The legislation, which sponsored by Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) and Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio), would eliminate the sentencing disparity and give people who were convicted or sentenced for a federal cocaine offense a resentencing. 

djt michael cohenPalmer Report, Opinion: New York prosecutors are now closing in on Donald Trump from all sides, Bill Palmer, June 22, 2021. When it comes to the criminal justice proceedings in New York that are now playing out against Donald Trump and the Trump Organization, it’s important to keep two things in mind as a baseline. First, Michael Cohen (above left)) – who has met with Manhattan prosecutors more than ten times regarding the case – has publicly stated that there’s more than enough evidence to take Trump down whether anyone flips on him or not. Second, the way these kinds of proceedings always work is that prosecutors try to flip as many people as possible, in order to have them pile on for good measure.

It’s within this context that things have suddenly gotten really interesting in the past 24 hours. First came the story about prosecutors closing in on Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg (below right). Then bill palmer report logo headercame the story about prosecutors closing in on Trump Organization COO Matthew Calamari. This one-two punch makes two things clear.

allen weisselberg croppedFirst, Manhattan prosecutors are targeting everyone under Donald Trump in order to try to get one or more of them to flip on Trump. If they’re simultaneously squeezing the CFO and COO of Trump’s company, then they’re surely squeezing everyone in between. And keep in mind that a lower ranking Trump Organization official, Jeff McConney, has already testified to the grand jury. This means that, by legal definition in New York, he got immunity in exchange for testifying to the grand jury. It makes you wonder who else may have jumped at the chance to get automatic immunity by testifying in this case.

Second, the Manhattan criminal probe has clearly reached the point where prosecutors are ready to begin having the grand jury issue criminal indictments against Trump’s underlings who don’t flip. Yesterday’s media blitz feels like a last call for those who want to cut a deal. That doesn’t mean indictments will start coming down tomorrow, or this week. The legal process doesn’t move that swiftly. But it was reported last week that the Weisselberg indictment could come “this summer” – and we are now officially two days into summer.

The upshot is this. Regardless of how much evidence New York prosecutors have amassed against Donald Trump – and Cohen says they have more than enough – they’re in the process of squeezing everyone in Trump’s life in order to build the most bulletproof criminal case possible. They’ve got Cohen, McConney and perhaps others. They want Weisselberg, Calamari, and surely others. They’re going to indict and arrest whoever necessary in order to complete the job of nailing Donald Trump – and they’re closing in on him from all sides.

 

U.S. Elections, Politics, Governance

washington post logoWashington Post, New Yorkers vote in primaries for mayor after a race dominated by crime and coronavirus recovery, Jada Yuan and David Weigel, June 22, 2021 (print ed.). Visualize how ranked-choice voting could change the way democracy works

Democrats in America’s largest city will pick a nominee Tuesday to succeed Mayor Bill de Blasio after a campaign shaped by a surge in violent crime and a debate about how the places hardest hit during the coronavirus pandemic can recover.

“New city, new vision, new mind-set,” Brooklyn borough president Eric Adams told voters at a Sunday rally in Inwood, a largely Dominican neighborhood in Manhattan. “We are going to finally end the institutional poverty in our city. We’re going to become a safe, fair, affordable city. We will get the justice we deserve with the safety we need.”

Adams, a 60-year-old retired police captain and former state legislator, has become the dominant figure in a race where sexual misconduct allegations, a campaign staff revolt and even a debate question about real estate prices knocked other candidates off course. In public polls, he has charged ahead of 2020 presidential candidate Andrew Yang, 46, who has attacked Adams as a corrupt insider who won’t deliver real change.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Only the Women Can Save Us Now, New York, Michelle Goldberg, June 22, 2021. Both men leading the Democratic mayoral primary are disasters. Last week I wrote about michelle goldberg thumbwhy I thought Eric Adams is very marginally preferable to Andrew Yang in New York City’s Democratic mayoral primary. Yang is likable, and I can see why people have gravitated to his sunny vision of a vibrant, business-friendly city.

But electing a totally inexperienced mayor buoyed by hedge fund billionaires and singularly focused on public order seems potentially calamitous. Not because public order isn’t important — everyone wants a safe city — but because it has to be balanced with a commitment to justice.

An Adams mayoralty would likely be pretty terrible. He has a penchant for dishonesty and demagogy, and both were on full display when he accused Yang and Kathryn Garcia of racism because they had the temerity to join forces against him.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Politics: Senate to vote on whether to begin debate on voting rights bill, Colby Itkowitz, June 22, 2021. Senate to vote on OPM nominee after GOP senators blocked her over critical race theory and abortion rights stances; Obama throws his weight behind Sen. Manchin’s modified voting rights proposal.

  • The Senate votes Tuesday on whether to advance a sweeping voting rights package, with Republicans poised to use the filibuster to block the legislation. Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), who opposes the bill as it is now, may still support this procedural step to start debating it. Manchin has offered a compromise that has the support of former president Barack Obama. The vote is expected around 5:30 p.m.
  • The White House, meanwhile, continues its behind-the-scenes push to secure a bipartisan deal on infrastructure and plans to invite senators to meet with President Biden to discuss it this week.
  • The president has a meeting in the afternoon with Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Deanne Criswell to discuss how the agency is preparing for natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes and wildfires this summer.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Manchin got Republicans to admit to the ‘big lie.’ Democrats should celebrate, Catherine Rampell, right, June 22, 2021 (print ed.). Credit where due to Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-catherine rampellW.Va.): The media seems to have missed it, but last week he got Republicans to admit to the “big lie.” Whatever his Democratic colleagues’ other beefs with him, they should celebrate this achievement.

Dick ShelbyOn Wednesday, Manchin, left, did something very clever when he offered a compromise on election-reform legislation.

In a memo, Manchin proposed building upon parts of the For the People Act and a narrower bill, known as the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, with a few amendments.

His proposal would make Election Day a public holiday, require two weeks of early voting, automatically register voters through motor vehicle departments and eliminate partisan gerrymandering. It’s not everything Democrats want — and has some oversights — but it addresses most of the party’s goals for promoting free and fair elections.Advertisement

Perhaps more important, from a political standpoint: Manchin’s compromise completely undercuts Republicans’ case for blocking reform.

It does this by including new requirements to safeguard election security, which is — or was — the top priority of Republicans concerned by “questions” the 2020 election supposedly raised.

krysten sinema vote thumb

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: We have more to lose than gain by ending the filibuster, Krysten Sinema, June 22, 2021 (print ed.). Kyrsten Sinema, shown above voting "thumbs down" against a $15 kyrsten sinema ominimum wage and at right, a Democrat, represents Arizona in the U.S. Senate. 

Arizonans expect me to do what I promised when I ran for the House and the Senate: to be independent — like Arizona — and to work with anyone to achieve lasting results. The best way to achieve durable, lasting results? Bipartisan cooperation.

Since I was elected to Congress, a bipartisan approach has produced laws curbing suicide among our troops and veterans, boosting American manufacturing, delivering for Native American communities, combating hate crimes, and protecting public lands.

It’s no secret that I oppose eliminating the Senate’s 60-vote threshold. I held the same view during three terms in the U.S. House, and said the same after I was elected to the Senate in 2018. If anyone expected me to reverse my position because my party now controls the Senate, they should know that my approach to legislating in Congress is the same whether in the minority or majority.

Once in a majority, it is tempting to believe you will stay in the majority. But a Democratic Senate minority used the 60-vote threshold just last year to filibuster a police reform proposal and a covid-relief bill that many Democrats viewed as inadequate. Those filibusters were mounted not as attempts to block progress, but to force continued negotiations toward better solutions.

washington post logoWashington Post, If Republicans block a compromise voting-rights bill, reform the filibuster, Editorial Board, June 22, 2021 (print ed.). Mr. Manchin’s reforms deserve a full hearing and an up-or-down vote. If his proposal does not get its due, Democrats should consider reforming the filibuster.

There is no shortage of ideas about how to adjust the procedural maneuver without abolishing it, such as demanding that minority senators show up to sustain their filibusters; requiring three-fifths of present and voting senators to end a filibuster, rather than three-fifths of all senators; or reducing the number of votes needed to overcome filibusters. These are just a few possibilities.

 

World News

imran khan pakistan pm

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Pakistan is ready to be a partner for peace in Afghanistan, but we will not host U.S. bases, Imran Khan, June 22, 2021 (print ed.). Imran Khan is the prime minister of Pakistan. Pakistan is ready to be a partner for peace in Afghanistan with the United States — but as U.S. troops withdraw, we will avoid risking further conflict.

Our countries have the same interest in that long-suffering country: a political settlement, stability, economic development and the denial of any haven for terrorists. We oppose any military takeover of Afghanistan, which will lead only to decades of civil war, as the Taliban cannot win over the whole of the country, and yet must be included in any government for it to succeed.

In the past, Pakistan made a mistake by choosing between warring Afghan parties, but we have learned from that experience. We have no favorites and will work with any government that enjoys the confidence of the Afghan people. History proves that Afghanistan can never be controlled from the outside.

Our country has suffered so much from the wars in Afghanistan. More than 70,000 Pakistanis have been killed. While the United States provided $20 billion in aid, losses to the Pakistani economy have exceeded $150 billion. Tourism and investment dried up. After joining the U.S. effort, Pakistan was targeted as a collaborator, leading to terrorism against our country from the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and other groups. U.S. drone attacks, which I warned against, didn’t win the war, but they did create hatred for Americans, swelling the ranks of terrorist groups against both our countries.

While I argued for years that there was no military solution in Afghanistan, the United States pressured Pakistan for the very first time to send our troops into the semiautonomous tribal areas bordering Afghanistan, in the false expectation that it would end the insurgency. It didn’t, but it did internally displace half the population of the tribal areas, 1 million people in North Waziristan alone, with billions of dollars of damage done and whole villages destroyed. The “collateral” damage to civilians in that incursion led to suicide attacks against the Pakistani army, killing many more soldiers than the United States lost in Afghanistan and Iraq combined, while breeding even more terrorism against us. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province alone, 500 Pakistani policemen were murdered.

There are more than 3 million Afghan refugees in our country — if there is further civil war, instead of a political settlement, there will be many more refugees, destabilizing and further impoverishing the frontier areas on our border. Most of the Taliban are from the Pashtun ethnic group — and more than half the Pashtuns live on our side of the border. We are even now fencing this historically open border almost completely.Advertisement

If Pakistan were to agree to host U.S. bases, from which to bomb Afghanistan, and an Afghan civil war ensued, Pakistan would be targeted for revenge by terrorists again. We simply cannot afford this. We have already paid too heavy a price. Meanwhile, if the United States, with the most powerful military machine in history, couldn’t win the war from inside Afghanistan after 20 years, how would America do it from bases in our country?

I believe that promoting economic connectivity and regional trade is the key to lasting peace and security in Afghanistan. Further military action is futile. If we share this responsibility, Afghanistan, once synonymous with the “Great Game” and regional rivalries, could instead emerge as a model of regional cooperation.

washington post logoWashington Post, Iran’s Raisi says ballistic missiles, regional presence ‘not negotiable’ — and he doesn’t want to meet Biden, Erin Cunningham, June 22, 2021 (print ed.). Iran’s President-elect Ebrahim Raisi, a cleric and former judiciary chief, is a hardline conservative who enjoyed the backing of Iran’s supreme leader and allied security services in last week’s presidential elections.

ebrahim raisi smile facebookIran’s President-elect Ebrahim Raisi, right, is opposed to talks that would limit Tehran’s ballistic missile program or support for regional proxy forces, the new hard line leader said in remarks Monday.

Speaking at his first news conference in the capital, Raisi, who was elected Friday, also said that he is not willing to meet President Biden, even as the two sides work to revive the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.

Iran FlagWhen asked by a reporter if he was willing to meet the U.S. president, Raisi simply said: “No.” He added that Iran’s ballistic missiles and regional presence are also “not negotiable.”

Raisi, a cleric and former judiciary chief, is a hard line conservative who enjoyed the backing of Iran’s supreme leader and allied security services in last week’s presidential elections. His victory marks a shift from the more reform-minded presidency of Hassan Rouhani, a moderate pragmatist who favored engagement with the West.

Preventing Iran from getting nuclear weapon is ‘paramount priority,’ national security adviser says.

ny times logospain flag CustomNew York Times, Spain Pardons Jailed Catalan Separatist Leaders, Nicholas Casey, June 22, 2021. Spain approved pardons for the group’s involvement in a failed attempt to form a breakaway state in Catalonia, a major olive branch in the conflict. 

washington post logoWashington Post, Australia’s runaway mouse plague targets prisons, forcing mass evacuation, Jennifer Hassan, June 22, 2021. The mice aren’t just causing chaos in homes, farms and hospitals. Australia has a mouse problem. A plague, in fact. A mass invasion occurs every decade or so, wreaking havoc across communities and destroying the crops and stock of farmers who are worried about what the future holds for their livelihoods.

australian flag wavingUntold numbers of the critters are running rampant along the country’s Eastern grain belt, demolishing crops, sabotaging homes and forcing concerned farmers to create makeshift traps to slow down the rodents, which are able to reproduce at an alarming rate.

 

U.S. Jobs, Economy, Race

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Week Inflation Panic Died, Paul Krugman, right, June 22, 2021 (print ed.). Remember when everyone was panicking about inflation, warning ominously about 1970s-type stagflation? paul krugmanOK, many people are still saying such things, some because that’s what they always say, some because that’s what they say when there’s a Democratic president, some because they’re extrapolating from the big price increases that took place in the first five months of this year.

But for those paying closer attention to the flow of new information, inflation panic is, you know, so last week.

Seriously, both recent data and recent statements from the Federal Reserve have, well, deflated the case for a sustained outbreak of inflation. For that case has always depended on asserting that the Fed is either intellectually or morally deficient (or both). That is, to panic over inflation, you had to believe either that the Fed’s model of how inflation works is all wrong or that the Fed would lack the political courage to cool off the economy if it were to become dangerously overheated.

ny times logoNew York Times, As Lumber Prices Fall, the Threat of Inflation Loses Its Bite, Matt Phillips, June 22, 2021 (print ed.). Lumber prices soared over the past year, frustrating would-be pandemic do-it-yourselfers, jacking up the costs of new homes and serving as a compelling talking point in the debate over whether government stimulus efforts risked the return of 1970s-style inflation.

The housing-and-renovation boom drove insatiable demand for lumber, even as the pandemic idled mills that had already been slowed by an anemic construction sector since the 2008 financial crisis. Lumber futures surged to unprecedented heights, peaking at more than $1,600 per thousand board feet in early May.

But since then, the prices of those same plywood sheets and pressure-treated planks have tumbled, as mills restarted or ramped up production and some customers put off their purchases until prices came down.

It’s a dance of supply and demand that has reassured many experts and the Federal Reserve in their belief that painful price spikes for everything from airline tickets to used cars will abate as the economy gets back to normal.

washington post logoWashington Post, Retail workers are quitting at record rates for higher-paying work, Abha Bhattarai, June 22, 2021 (print ed.).  The retail industry faces a reckoning as workers quit at record rates: "These were never good jobs." Some 649,000 employees gave notice in April, the sector’s largest one-month exodus in over 20 years, a reflection of pandemic-era strains and a strengthening job market

washington post logoWashington Post, Maryland finds more than 500,000 ‘potentially fraudulent’ jobless claims, Ovetta Wiggins, June 22, 2021 (print ed.). Maryland labor officials said Monday that they have found 508,000 “potentially fraudulent” unemployment claims in the past six weeks, the latest response from the Hogan administration as it fends off criticism over the governor’s decision to cut enhanced federal jobless benefits in coming days.

Gov. Larry Hogan, one of at least 25 Republican governors who has decided to end the federal benefits in their state, said Maryland has found 1.3 million fraudulent claims since the beginning of the pandemic. He said numbers have increased in recent weeks as the Labor Department beefed up its security measures and as a July 3 deadline for receiving the benefits draws near.

washington post logoWashington Post, Sen. Whitehouse defends family’s membership in private beach club amid questions about whether it is all-White, Felicia Sonmez, June 22, 2021 (print ed.). The Rhode Island Democrat was asked whether the club has any non-White members. “I think the people who are running the place are still working on that, and I’m sorry it hasn’t happened yet,” he said. 

 

June 21

Top Headlines

 

Trump Watch

 

Justice Dept. Accountability

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

U.S. Politics, Governance, Economy

 

U.S. Media News

 

U.S. Crime, Courts, Law

 

World News

  

Top Stories 

washington post logoWashington Post, Recovering U.S. economy is drastically changed and it’s not going back, Heather Long, June 21, 2021 (print ed.) A new economic era has arrived, and it features greater worker power, higher housing costs and very different ways of doing business. Policymakers are also contending with inflation and how Americans will react to high rates.

In late February 2020, the unemployment rate was 3.5 percent, inflation was tame, wages were rising and American companies were attempting to recover from a multiyear trade war.

The pandemic disrupted everything, damaging some parts of the economy much more than others. But a mass vaccination effort and the virus’s steady retreat this year has allowed many businesses and communities to reopen.

What Americans are encountering, though, is almost unrecognizable from just 16 months ago. Prices are up. Housing is scarce. It takes months longer than normal to get furniture, appliances and numerous parts delivered. And there is a great dislocation between millions of unemployed workers and millions of vacant jobs.

The post-covid luxury spending boom has begun. It’s already reshaping the economy.

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome H. Powell acknowledged all the uncertainty this week, saying that policymakers had misjudged parts of the recovery and that they aren’t certain what exactly will happen next.

ny times logoNew York Times, As Lumber Prices Fall, the Threat of Inflation Loses Its Bite, Matt Phillips, June 21, 2021. Lumber prices soared over the past year, frustrating would-be pandemic do-it-yourselfers, jacking up the costs of new homes and serving as a compelling talking point in the debate over whether government stimulus efforts risked the return of 1970s-style inflation.

The housing-and-renovation boom drove insatiable demand for lumber, even as the pandemic idled mills that had already been slowed by an anemic construction sector since the 2008 financial crisis. Lumber futures surged to unprecedented heights, peaking at more than $1,600 per thousand board feet in early May.

But since then, the prices of those same plywood sheets and pressure-treated planks have tumbled, as mills restarted or ramped up production and some customers put off their purchases until prices came down.

It’s a dance of supply and demand that has reassured many experts and the Federal Reserve in their belief that painful price spikes for everything from airline tickets to used cars will abate as the economy gets back to normal.

ny times logoNew York Times, Guest Essay: I Am Breaking My Silence About the Baseball Player Who Raped Me, Kat O’Brien (a former journalist and baseball writer for The Fort Worth Star-Telegram and Newsday), June 21, 2021 (print ed.). I was 22 years old and working as a sports reporter when I was raped by a Major League Baseball player.

major league baseball mlb logoI didn’t tell my best friend, my sister, my mother or my sports editor, who was a woman. For 18 years, I didn’t tell anyone.

I didn’t say it out loud to myself, write it down, speak his name or allow myself to think about it beyond wishing hard that it would not have happened. I spent years willing it to unhappen. Magical thinking became my truth.

That all changed in January.

 

Trump Watch

Proof via Substack, Investigation and Commentary: A Comprehensive Overview of All Five of Donald Trump's January 6 War Rooms, Seth Abramson, June 21, 2021. During Insurrection Week, Trump's seth abramson graphicinsurrectionists had at least five secretive war rooms inside Washington. Here's everything we know about each of them so far.

Research by Proof into the January 6 insurrection reveals that Team Trump opened five “war rooms” during Insurrection Week. Trump lawyer John Eastman was the first to call his own space (of the seth abramson proof logofive) a “war room”; another participant in the same room, Joe Oltmann, called it a “command center”; and at another point Eastman noted that he had been working in a “communications coordination.” The five spaces that answer to such descriptions are summarized below and then discussed in more detail.

#1: The Trump International War Room; Location: Trump Townhouse in Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC; Occupants: 19+.

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

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

washington post logo

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: Trump's connection to the KGB highlighted in full-page ads in 1987, Wayne Madsen, left (author and former Navy Intelligence officer and NSA analyst), June 21, 2021. Donald Trump's role as an intelligence asset for the wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallSoviet Committee for State Security (KGB) and Czechoslovak State Security (StB) in the 1970s and 80s was revealed in WMR's August 19, 2020 article, "Trump likely a KGB/Czechoslovak StB intelligence asset as early as 1976."

wayne madesen report logoFurther information revealed to The Guardian of the UK by former KGB agent Yuri Shvets indicates that the Trump Organization's full-page ad run in the September 2, 1987 editions of The New York Times, Washington Post and Boston Globe was actually crafted and paid for by the KGB.

At a critical time for U.S. foreign policy, with the Soviet bloc showing significant signs of unraveling and Iran posing a threat to shipping in the Persian Gulf, Trump's full-page ad was titled "There's nothing wrong with America's Foreign Defense Policy that a little backbone can't cure."

The current probe of the Trump Organization's finances, particularly the firm's longtime chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg, by the Manhattan District Attorney's office, may yield information on Trump's receipt of KGB financing for the three newspaper ads and other purposes via a KGB business front on Fifth Avenue, Joy-Lud electronics store, run by Soviet Ukrainian emigré Semyon Kislin, a "spotter agent" or recruiter for the KGB.

Axios, Scoop: Trump works refs ahead of book barrage, Mike Allen, June 21, 2021. Former President Trump has given at least 22 interviews for 17 different books since leaving office, with authors lining up at Mar-a-Lago as he labors to shape a coming tsunami of Trump tomes, Axios has learned.

axios logoWhy it matters: Trump advisers see the coming book glut as proof that interest in "POTUS 45," as they call him, has never been higher. These advisers know that most of the books will paint a mixed picture, at best. But Trump is working the refs with charm, spin and dish.

Offering Diet Cokes and dressed in suit and tie, Trump spent an average of about 90 minutes with each of the authors, some of whom were invited to stay and eat dinner at Mar-a-Lago (although not with him).

The interviews are mostly on the record, for use when the books publish. So Trump, who has rarely been heard on non-Fox outlets since leaving office, will see himself quoted constantly over the next year.

Between the lines: Sources tell me Trump makes each author feel they're getting something special. And some of them are: Many of the nuggets will definitely make news. But there appears to be quite a bit of overlap in the "scoops" Trump is dishing out.

There's intense jockeying among the authors over several publishing-date logjams in the coming 18 months, with Michael Wolff's Landslide currently in pole position (July 27). The book many Trump insiders are awaiting most is Maggie Haberman's, due next year.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Told you Roger Stone was going down for the January 6th Capitol attack, Bill Palmer, June 21, 2021. Weeks ago, federal prosecutors brought conspiracy charges against two “Oath Keepers” employees of Roger Stone, for their roles in the January 6th Capitol attack. At the time, Palmer Report explained that under these circumstances the main reason to bring conspiracy charges against them was so that conspiracy charges could also be brought against Stone.

bill palmer report logo headerSure enough, Harry Litman of the LA Times tweeted on Sunday night that the Feds are in fact investigating Roger Stone for the Capitol attack. This comes as no real surprise. Video evidence has been circulating for months that showed Stone interacting and plotting with these same Oath Keepers on the morning of the attack. And while that alone wouldn’t be enough to get a criminal conviction against Stone, it was more than enough for the Feds to dig in and uncover the entire evidence trail.

FBI logoWhat stands out is that the Feds are now allowing the media to find out that they’re targeting Roger Stone in the January 6th investigation. The Feds know that this will only place additional pressure on them to bring charges against Stone before too much longer – so this can be taken as a sign that Stone’s indictment likely isn’t too far off. It’s worth asking if this is a sign that one or more of Stone’s Oath Keepers pals may be cutting a plea deal against him.

It’s also worth pointing out that Roger Stone’s pardon from Donald Trump was issued before the Capitol attack, and therefore can’t possibly get him off the hook for it. Stone is fully vulnerable to whatever criminal charges end up being brought against him related to January 6th. Trump’s commutation and pardon were the only thing that kept Stone out of prison the last time around. This time there’s nothing to protect Stone.

 

Justice Dept. Accountability

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: If the Justice Department won’t investigate itself, Congress should, Jennifer Rubin, right, June 21, 2021. Democrats and other critics of the disgraced former president’s reign jennifer rubin new headshotof corruption and politicization over the criminal justice system are losing patience with Attorney General Merrick Garland. Appearing on CBS News’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday, Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, spoke out about the Trump Justice Department’s attempt to target his email records:

I had to hear from Apple and not the Justice Department about what had gone on in the last four years. The inspector general is doing an investigation. I talked with the attorney general about going beyond that. I think he really needs to do a wholesale review of all of the politicization of the department over the last four years. What happened to our committee, what happened to members of the press, that’s just a subset.

The direct intervention by the president and the attorney general in specific criminal cases implicating the president, like that of Roger Stone, one of his aides whose sentence was reduced before he was pardoned, [and] Mike Flynn, another presidential national security adviser whose case was made to completely go away. These are gross abuses of the independence of the Justice Department, and we don’t know how far . . . they run. And our new attorney general has to find out.

Several points deserve emphasis. First, we do not know what other victims of Justice Department abuse are out there because we do not know the full scope of the previous administration’s “national security” witch hunts. Second, we do not know who within the Justice Department objected to any direction they found unethical or illegal or who complied with directions they knew were wrong. We therefore lack a full picture of events and have no way of knowing whether any attorney deserves censure, termination or even prosecution. 

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. Garland tries to untangle the Trump legacy at Justice Dept., Devlin Barrett, June 21, 2021. Merrick Garland has been criticized by some Democrats over recent legal decisions, but the new attorney general insists he is plotting a straight course.

Three months into his new job, judge-turned-attorney general Merrick Garland, who inherited a demoralized and politicized Justice Department, is facing criticism from some Democrats that he is not doing enough to quickly expunge Trump-era policies and practices.

On a host of issues ranging from leak investigations to civil and criminal cases involving former president Donald Trump, Garland has been beset by a growing chorus of congressional second-guessers, even as he insists he is scrupulously adhering to the principles of equal justice under the law.

How he charts his way through the current controversies and still-unresolved politically sensitive cases is likely to determine how much of a long-term impact the Trump presidency has on the Justice Department.

“It’s a difficult situation to navigate. The Department of Justice is an institution like an ocean liner — it doesn’t turn around easily,” said Ronald Weich, who served as an assistant attorney general in the early days of the Obama administration.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump and his CFO Allen Weisselberg stay close as prosecutors advance case, Jonathan O'Connell, Shayna Jacobs, David A. Fahrenthold and Josh Dawsey, June 21, 2021. The former president and his trusted lieutenant both head to Trump Tower as prosecutors press Allen Weisselberg to turn on his boss.

If Donald Trump was looking for some good news on his 75th birthday last Monday, it arrived at 8:15 a.m. by way of a blue Mercedes slipping into Trump Tower’s private garage entrance on West 56th Street.

Behind the wheel was Allen Weisselberg, Trump’s longtime confidant and Trump Organization chief financial officer, whom the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office has pressed to turn on the former president as they investigate Trump’s business dealings.

Every day that Weisselberg arrives for work at Trump Tower — as he did that day, steering in from his Upper West Side apartment across town — could be seen as a public signal that he is sticking with Trump and deflecting investigators’ advances.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, Scientists battle over the ultimate origin story: Where did the coronavirus come from? Joel Achenbach, June 21, 2021 (print ed.). Stanley Perlman, who has been studying coronaviruses for 39 years, got a nasty email June 4: “Dr. Frankenstein just wants more public money and wants to research things he shouldn’t be messing with. THANKS A LOT FOR CORONA LOSER.”

Perlman, a mild-mannered, grandfatherly virologist at the University of Iowa, didn’t know the author of the dyspeptic email and had nothing to do with the emergence of the coronavirus. But he had co-signed a letter to the Lancet in February 2020 saying SARS-CoV-2 was not a bioengineered virus and condemning “conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin.”

That remains the consensus of many scientists — but the “lab leak” theory has never gone away and has become louder than ever. It is not a theory so much as a constellation of scenarios that imagine how the virus may have emanated from a laboratory in China, ranging from the accidental to the sinister.

ny times logoNew York Times, Sway Podcast, Kara Swisher Interviews Anthony Fauci, Kara Swisher, right, June 21, 2021. Anthony Fauci doesn’t have a Twitter account. But he does have a lot to say about the kara swisherrecent scrutiny following the release of his emails from 2020 — an especially busy time in his tenure as America’s chief immunologist.

Republicans like Ron DeSantis have used the emails as fodder for criticism, accusing him of “faucism” (yes, that’s a play on fascism). Fauci’s response: “Here’s a guy whose entire life has been devoted to saving lives. And now you’re telling me he’s like Hitler? Come on, folks. Get real.”

[You can listen to this episode of “Sway” on Apple, Spotify, Google or wherever you get your podcasts.]

In this conversation, Kara Swisher and Fauci parse the science from the politics. She presses him on the Wuhan lab leak theory, which critics claim Fauci and the media were too quick to dismiss. They discuss what went wrong with his early mask-wearing guidance and whether there is room for error or evolution of advice when it comes to public health in a social media age. And of course, they dig into some of the 4,000 or so pages of Fauci’s emails, including exchanges with Sylvia Burwell, the former Health and Human Services secretary, and Mark Zuckerberg. (No, he was not asking Zuck for help with his Instagram.)

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: China passes 1 billion vaccinations amid tightened curbs, questions on shots’ efficacy, Katerina Ang and Miriam Berger, June 21, 2021.  Hundreds of thousands of deaths appear to be missing from India’s coronavirus toll, state figures indicate

China has administered more than 1 billion doses of coronavirus vaccines, a state health body said, marking a milestone for one of the world’s fastest inoculation drives even as questions persist about how much protection against symptomatic infection is provided by Chinese-developed shots.

Beijing has offered other countries tens of millions of doses as part of a “vaccine diplomacy” competition with Washington, although reports have emerged in Brazil of people turning down available Chinese-developed Sinovac shots in hopes of receiving the coronavirus vaccine developed by U.S. firm Pfizer with German partner BioNTech. Hundreds of Indonesian health-care workers were recently infected after being inoculated with Sinovac shots — with dozens requiring hospitalization. Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates are also offering Pfizer-BioNTech boosters to many people vaccinated with Chinese-developed Sinopharm doses.

Despite vaccinating millions of people daily, China is still focused on a virus-elimination strategy. International borders remain largely sealed and the economic hub of Shenzhen over the weekend moved to step up enforcement of social distancing measures after a small increase in infections.

In related news:

  • Excess deaths in just two Indian states over the past year are 360,000 above normal levels, suggesting a massive undercount of covid-19 deaths across the country.
  • Olympic organizers will allow spectators at this summer’s Tokyo Games but cap attendance at 10,000 people or 50 percent of a venue’s capacity, whichever is smaller, they announced on Monday.
  • Hong Kong will cut the quarantine period for some vaccinated travelers starting June 30, as the beleaguered semiautonomous Chinese city seeks to keep its place as a global economic hub.
  • Cuba says late-phase trial of its Soberana 2 vaccine showing promising results.

washington post logoWashington Post, Models predict U.S. coronavirus infections could surge this fall if vaccination rates lag, former FDA chief says, Jeanne Whalen, June 21, 2021 (print ed.). Scott Gottlieb also expressed concern about U.K. study showing brain-tissue shrinkage after covid-19.

The transmission of the more contagious delta variant in the United States could spur a fall surge in coronavirus infections if only 75 percent of the country’s eligible population is vaccinated, former Food and Drug Administration chief Scott Gottlieb said Sunday.

Although Gottlieb cited one projection forecasting an increase in infections reaching as high as 20 percent of last winter’s peak, he called that an “aggressive estimate,” saying he doesn’t “think it’ll be quite that dire.” But he said states with low vaccination rates already are showing a concerning rise in cases with the spreading of delta, which is up to 60 percent more contagious than earlier variants.

Delta variant could become dominant strain in U.S. this summer, CDC head says

“So Connecticut, for example, where I am, shows no upsurge of infection, but Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Missouri show very substantial upsurges of infections. That’s based entirely on how much population-wide immunity you have based on vaccination,” Gottlieb said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” program.

He urged a renewed vaccination push closer to the fall, as people prepare to return to school and work, when he said they may be more open to the shots.

washington post logoWashington Post, 177.3 million U.S. vaccinated, as of June 21, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This includes more than 150 million people (45.2 % of the eligible population) fully vaccinated and 53.4 % with at least one dose. See about your state.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated June 21, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here): 

World Cases: 179,320,883, Deaths: 3,883,427
U.S. Cases:     34,406,001, Deaths:    617,166
India Cases:    29,935,221, Deaths:    388,164
Brazil Cases:   17,927,928, Deaths:    501,918

 

U.S. Politics, Governance, Economy

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Week Inflation Panic Died, Paul Krugman, right, June 21, 2021. Remember when everyone was panicking about inflation, warning ominously about 1970s-type stagflation? paul krugmanOK, many people are still saying such things, some because that’s what they always say, some because that’s what they say when there’s a Democratic president, some because they’re extrapolating from the big price increases that took place in the first five months of this year.

But for those paying closer attention to the flow of new information, inflation panic is, you know, so last week.

Seriously, both recent data and recent statements from the Federal Reserve have, well, deflated the case for a sustained outbreak of inflation. For that case has always depended on asserting that the Fed is either intellectually or morally deficient (or both). That is, to panic over inflation, you had to believe either that the Fed’s model of how inflation works is all wrong or that the Fed would lack the political courage to cool off the economy if it were to become dangerously overheated.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: In trying to pressure Biden, the Catholic bishops forget the lessons of JFK, Karen Tumulty, June 21, 2021 (print ed.). In September 1960, Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kennedy, against the advice of his political consultants, confronted anti-Catholic bigotry head-on in an extraordinary speech before a hostile audience of several hundred Protestant ministers in Houston.

Kennedy’s strong stance on the separation of church and state helped secure the narrow victory that made him the first Catholic president in U.S. history.

A little more than 60 years later, a second Catholic president sits in the White House, and the church’s American bishops appear to have forgotten what it took for one of their own to get there. On Friday, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops — defying a warning from the Vatican — voted to create guidelines for receiving the sacrament of Holy Communion.

What is driving the move is a push by conservative bishops to declare that President Biden, who rarely misses Mass and is arguably the most religiously observant president since Jimmy Carter, should not be allowed to receive the Eucharist. It is also a reaction to the relatively liberal Pope Francis, who espouses a vision of making the church more inclusive.

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘We don’t want you here’: Sen. Ron Johnson is booed at Milwaukee’s Juneteenth celebration, Felicia Sonmez,June 21, 2021 (print ed.). The Wisconsin Republican had originally objected to making Juneteenth a federal holiday. He later relented.

ron johnson oThe incident came days after Congress voted to make Juneteenth a federal holiday. Johnson, right, had originally objected to the move on the grounds that taxpayers should not be forced to pay for an additional holiday for federal workers. He relented last week, paving the way for the Senate’s unanimous passage of the bill.

In a statement on the measure Tuesday, Johnson said he supports Juneteenth and noted that resolutions recognizing the significance of the day have passed the Senate unanimously during his time in Congress. But he added: “While it still seems strange that having taxpayers provide federal employees paid time off is now required to celebrate the end of slavery, it is clear that there is no appetite in Congress to further discuss the matter.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Who Are the Billionaires’ Picks for New York Mayor? Follow the Money, Dana Rubinstein, Jonah E. Bromwich and Katie Glueck, June 21, 2021. Ultrawealthy donors have given $16 million to super PACs dedicated to the New York City mayor’s race. Half of that has gone to three moderate candidates. The influx of money comes as the pandemic has illuminated the stark differences between the city’s haves and have-nots.

  • New York Times, Here’s why we may not know who won Tuesday’s mayoral primary before July 12.

 

U.S. Media News

ny times logoNew York Times, Media Commentary: Tucker Carlson Calls Journalists ‘Animals.’ He’s Also Their Best Source, Ben Smith, Updated June 21, 2021. His platform on Fox News made him a big player in Donald Trump’s circle. Off camera, he shapes the coverage of Trump’s world and Fox’s own internal politics.

Mr. Carlson, right, a proud traitor to the elite political class, spends his time when he’s not denouncing the liberal media trading gossip with them. He’s the go-to guy for sometimes-unflattering stories about tucker carlsonDonald J. Trump and for coverage of the internal politics of Fox News (not to mention stories about Mr. Carlson himself). I won’t talk here about any off-the-record conversations I may have had with him. But 16 other journalists (none from The Times; it would put my colleagues in a weird position if I asked them) told me on background that he has been, as three of them put it, “a great source.”

“In Trump’s Washington, Tucker Carlson is a primary supersecret source,” the media writer and Trump chronicler Michael Wolff writes in his forthcoming collection of essays, “Too Famous.” Mr. Wolff, who thanked Mr. Carlson in the acknowledgments of his 2018 book, “Fire and Fury,” explained, “I know this because I know what he has told me, and I can track his exquisite, too-good-not-to-be-true gossip through unsourced reports and as it often emerges into accepted wisdom.”

Mr. Carlson was particularly well positioned to be a source about the Trump administration. His Fox platform, where in May he had a nightly average of three million viewers, made him someone who mattered to Mr. Trump, a close follower of television ratings. He has a former reporter’s eye for detail and anecdote, and his observations can be detected in the lurid tales of Mr. Trump’s chaotic court and Fox’s own tumultuous internal politics.

fox news logo SmallA coming book by the Wall Street Journal reporter Michael Bender, Frankly, We Did Win This Election: The Inside Story of How Trump Lost, includes a moment in which Mr. Carlson sends Mr. Trump’s calls to voice mail after the first presidential debate last fall, when he was criticized for repeatedly interrupting Joe Biden. When Mr. Trump finally reaches the Fox host, the book describes, verbatim, an exchange between the two men that casts Mr. Carlson in a flattering light. (“Everyone says I did a good job,” Mr. Trump tells Mr. Carlson. “I don’t know who told you that was good,” Mr. Carlson says. “It was not good.”) Mr. Bender declined to comment on the sourcing that allowed him to so precisely reconstruct a conversation between the two men.

And Brian Stelter, the host of the CNN program “Reliable Sources,” told me that “you can see Tucker’s fingerprints all over the hardcover” edition of his 2020 book Hoax, which excoriates Fox News for amplifying Mr. Trump’s falsehoods. He said that he “couldn’t stomach” talking to Mr. Carlson, who has grown ever more hard-line, for the updated paperback version that was just released.

Mr. Carlson was born to a world of insiders and story shapers, and makes no secret of it. His father was a reporter in Los Angeles and San Diego before Ronald Reagan appointed him director of the Voice of America, and the son grew up with a generation of elite Washington journalists. “I’ve always lived around people who are wielding authority, around the ruling class,” he said in a 2018 interview.

A former New York Observer media writer, Sridhar Pappu, recalled to me that when he first traveled to Washington to cover the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner in the early 2000s, it was Mr. Carlson who asked him, “Do you have an invitation to Tammy’s?” referring to the annual brunch for media insiders co-hosted by Tammy Haddad, the well-connected former MSNBC producer.

Mr. Carlson has said he turned against his fellow elites after the 2008 financial crisis. His political shift also transformed his long journeyman’s career as a magazine writer and MSNBC conservative, and made him Fox’s leading tribune of the pro-Trump masses.

But his decades of Washington relationships have produced a tiresome conversation among Mr. Carlson’s old friends about what he really stands for, whether he’s really a racist or whether he cynically plays one on TV. Who knows, and what does it matter anyway? Mr. Carlson’s recent fixations include suggesting that the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection was, in fact, a provocation staged by the F.B.I. and that making children wear masks is abuse. The Anti-Defamation League recently called for him to be fired from Fox News for warning that Democrats are plotting to “replace” the current electorate with “more obedient voters, from the third world.” The Pentagon rebuked him for a sexist riff on women in the military.

And then there are his stated views on the media. “I just can’t overstate how disgusted I am,” he told the Fox-owned sports media site Outkick in April. “The media is basically Praetorian Guard for the ruling class, the bodyguards for Jeff Bezos. That’s the opposite of what we should have. I really hate them for it, I’ll be honest.”

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Crime

washington post logoWashington Post, Justices rule against NCAA limits on some school perks for student-athletes, Robert Barnes and Molly Hensley-Clancy, June 21, 2021. The NCAA had contested a lower-court ruling that would allow colleges to offer greater academic-related perks to Division I football and men’s and women’s basketball players.s ago

  • Washington Post, High school sports will feel impact of athlete branding changes. For some, that’s cause for concern.

 djt maga hat speech uncredited Custom

Palmer Report, Opinion: Two weeks notice, Bill Palmer, right, June 21, 2021. If what the major news outlets are reporting is accurate – and it probably is, given that the sources for the stories are likely the bill palmerprosecutor themselves – then we’re about to enter a remarkable stretch that a lot of people were certain would never happen. We’re talking about the actual takedown of Donald Trump and his most notorious associates.

bill palmer report logo headerThis past week we all learned that federal prosecutors are planning to make a charging decision against Trump lackey Matt Gaetz in “July.” It’s worth pointing out that July begins less than two weeks from now. We also learned this past week that New York prosecutors are looking to indict Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg “this summer.” According to the calendar, summer 2021 officially began yesterday.

So if things remain on the trajectory that prosecutors just finished leaking to the media, then in as little as two weeks from now we could be looking at Gaetz and Weisselberg both in handcuffs. Gaetz has been accused of a wide variety of crimes, some of them truly heinous. It’s not clear what the odds of conviction would be for his worst crimes. But if the reporting is true that he allegedly used campaign funds to pay for it all, then he’ll be nearly a lock for prison, because no one gets away with using campaign funds for anything. And Weisselberg’s financial crimes are the kind that no one skates on either.

So while Gaetz and Weisselberg can decide to go to trial if they want, there’s a good chance they’ll be under indictment on charges they have no chance of beating at trial. Weisselberg’s only way out will be to cut a plea deal against Donald Trump, which is what we all know New York prosecutors want out of him. Gaetz may not even have a way out, depending on the severity of the charges against him. But his only potential shot at leniency would also be to flip on Trump, if the Feds are indeed looking to make a criminal case against Trump.

We don’t know what will happen once Weisselberg and Gaetz are arrested. Flipping or not flipping is a personal choice. But the upshot at this point is that, based on what’s being reported, we could be less than two weeks away from seeing them both in handcuffs. And even if it doesn’t happen quite that quickly, we know we can expect Gaetz to happen sometime in July, and Weisselberg to happen sometime this summer.

There are those defeatists who still think that Donald Trump is going to somehow magically get away with it all no matter what. If anything, since the news surfaced last month that New York was empaneling a grand jury specifically to bring indictments in the criminal case against Donald Trump and the Trump Organization, the defeatists have become more insistent that Trump will skate. We’ll see what they say once the handcuffs start landing on the wrists of Trump’s closest confidantes. Once Trump lost the election, he was never just going to “get away with it all.” These upcoming weeks should help make that more clear.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Taking on racism and crime should be the same fight, E.J. Dionne Jr., right, June 21, 2021 (print ed.). We must fight racism and fight crime at the same time. We must reform ej dionne w open neckpolicing and make policing more effective. And we must battle any demagoguery that casts demands for justice as concessions to criminality.

Harmonizing these goals is morally urgent as the movement for change ignited by police killings of Black Americans runs headlong into public alarm at a wave of murders across the nation.

It’s important in politics, too. A review of why Democrats lost seats in the House last year by Rep. Sean Maloney (D-N.Y.), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, found that Republican attacks against the “defund the police” slogan proved more potent than Democrats had anticipated.

A report by the centrist think tank Third Way, the Collective PAC and Latino Victory concluded that “where Defund the Police had a significant impact, it was as a part of culture-based attack on Democrats that sought to stoke fears among voters about any candidate with a ‘D’ after their name.”

Concerns about crime cross party lines. In New York City, which holds its mayoral primary on Tuesday, a recent NY1/Ipsos poll of likely Democratic primary voters found that crime/public safety should be the top priority for the next mayor, listed by 46 percent. Reopening the economy and affordable housing followed well behind at 30 percent each; stopping the spread of covid-19 drew 24 percent, and battling racial injustice 20 percent.

When you talk to Democratic politicians searching for a principled path forward, one name pops up again and again. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York, chair of the House Democratic Caucus, has both personal and political reasons to push for police reform as part of a strategy for restoring order.

washington post logoWashington Post, Unmasking the far right: An extremist paid a price when his identity was exposed online after a violent clash in Washington, Robert Klemko, June 21, 2021 (print ed.). Laura Jedeed, an activist from Portland, Ore., was harassed after filming a group of President Donald Trump’s supporters last year.

In a flash, Laura Jedeed was surrounded by screaming men. The freelance journalist was filming a group of Trump supporters walking the streets of the District after the “Million MAGA March” on Nov. 14 when a man wearing an American flag gaiter mask approached her, stepped on her toes and began yelling.

“What’s up, you stupid b----?” the man shouted, his mask slipping down his face.

Jedeed yelled at the man to stop touching her. A crowd formed around her and another journalist, with unmasked men screaming at them from all directions. Jedeed kept her camera rolling, and when she got away from the crowd, she uploaded video of the incident to YouTube and Twitter, and it went viral.

Reaction was swift.

washington post logoWashington Post, Thieves have been stealing truckloads of nuts, police say. The latest heist was 42,000 pounds of pistachios, Jaclyn Peiser, June 21, 2021. As Touchstone Pistachio Company ran through its routine audit earlier this month, something wasn’t adding up.

The company soon enlisted the sheriff’s office in Tulare County, Calif., for help and on Saturday, law enforcement officials said they had found the missing nuts and arrested the thief. Police said the culprit, Alberto Montemayor, 34, was hiding the pistachios in a tractor trailer parked in a nearby parking lot and then repackaging them to sell.

The case is just the latest heist of pistachio nuts in Central California, where the nuts were a $5.2 billion economic engine tied to more than 47,000 jobs last year, according to studies commissioned by the industry. Last August, the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office arrested a 23-year-old man for allegedly stealing two trucks full of pistachios valued at $294,000.

 

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, Iran’s Raisi says ballistic missiles, regional presence ‘not negotiable’ — and he doesn’t want to meet Biden, Erin Cunningham, June 21, 2021. Iran’s President-elect Ebrahim Raisi, a cleric and former judiciary chief, is a hardline conservative who enjoyed the backing of Iran’s supreme leader and allied security services in last week’s presidential elections.

ebrahim raisi smile facebookIran’s President-elect Ebrahim Raisi, right, is opposed to talks that would limit Tehran’s ballistic missile program or support for regional proxy forces, the new hard line leader said in remarks Monday.

Speaking at his first news conference in the capital, Raisi, who was elected Friday, also said that he is not willing to meet President Biden, even as the two sides work to revive the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.

Iran FlagWhen asked by a reporter if he was willing to meet the U.S. president, Raisi simply said: “No.” He added that Iran’s ballistic missiles and regional presence are also “not negotiable.”

Raisi, a cleric and former judiciary chief, is a hard line conservative who enjoyed the backing of Iran’s supreme leader and allied security services in last week’s presidential elections. His victory marks a shift from the more reform-minded presidency of Hassan Rouhani, a moderate pragmatist who favored engagement with the West.

Preventing Iran from getting nuclear weapon is ‘paramount priority,’ national security adviser says.

washington post logoWashington Post, Attacks in Mexican border city kill at least 14 people, Paulina Villegas, June 21, 2021 (print ed.). The attacks may have derived from a dispute between rival groups over territorial control of the area and dominance over illicit operations including drug trafficking and human trafficking, an official said.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ethiopia’s historic election overshadowed by a cascade of crises and conflict, Max Bearak, June 21, 2021 (print ed.).  Ethiopia is set to hold a twice-delayed national election on Monday in what the government has heralded as a long-awaited emergence into multi-party democracy.

But a cascade of major crises in Africa’s second-most populous country has thrown the vote into disarray, leaving millions unable to vote.

Foremost among them is a disastrous seven-month-old civil war in the northern region of Tigray, where a powerful regional political party is waging a guerilla-style conflict against Ethiopia’s military, which in turn has aligned with forces from neighboring Eritrea and Ethiopia’s Amhara region. All sides have been accused of war crimes, and humanitarian groups say hundreds of thousands in Tigray are experiencing famine conditions.

The election itself has been weakened by widespread insecurity, logistical issues and political disputes. Tigray will not take part in the vote at all, and about a fifth of polling stations in the rest of the country will not open on Monday because of security concerns or improperly printed ballots, according to the country’s election commission. The closed polling stations tend to be in areas where opposition parties claim support. Those closures as well as the jailing of numerous prominent government critics have led some of the country’s biggest opposition parties to boycott the election.

ny times logoNew York Times, War Shatters Nobel Halo of Ethiopia’s Prime Minister, Declan Walsh, June 21, 2021. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed plunged Ethiopia into a war in the Tigray region that spawned atrocities and famine. On Monday, his country goes to the polls.

abiy ahmed ethiopian pmAs war raged in northern Ethiopia, and the region barreled toward its worst famine in decades, a senior American envoy flew to the Ethiopian capital last month in the hope of persuading Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to pull his country out of a destructive spiral that many fear is tearing it apart.

Not long ago Mr. Abiy, who faces Ethiopian voters on Monday in long-delayed parliamentary elections, was a shining hope for country and continent. After coming to power in 2018 he embarked on a whirlwind of ambitious reforms: freeing political prisoners, welcoming exiles home from abroad and, most impressively, striking a landmark peace deal with Eritrea, Ethiopia’s old foe, in a matter of months.

ny times logoNew York Times, What led Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to conduct a military campaign in the Tigray region, and how has the fighting affected Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa? Declan Walsh and Abdi Latif Dahir, Updated June 21, 2021. Why did Ethiopia’s leader launch an internal war on the Tigray Region? Here’s some background.

 

June 20

Top Headlines

 

Trump-era Justice Abuses, Insurrection

 

Virus Victims, Responses 

 

U.S. Crime, Courts, Law

  

U.S. Politics, Governance, Climate

 

World News

 

U.S. Religion and Media News

 

Top Stories 

ny times logoNew York Times, How Republican States Are Expanding Their Power Over Elections, Nick Corasaniti and Reid J. Epstein, June 20, 2021 (print ed.). With Republican-led states mounting an expansive takeover of election administration, Democratic officials of color have been some of the earliest casualties. Republicans in states like Georgia and Arkansas have also stripped secretaries of state of their power and made it easier to overturn election results.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosLonnie Hollis has been a member of the Troup County election board in West Georgia since 2013. A Democrat and one of two Black women on the board, she has advocated Sunday voting, helped voters on Election Days and pushed for a new precinct location at a Black church in a nearby town.

But this year, Ms. Hollis will be removed from the board, the result of a local election law signed by Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican. Previously, election board members were selected by both political parties, county commissioners and the three biggest municipalities in Troup County. Now, the G.O.P.-controlled county commission has the sole authority to restructure the board and georgia mapappoint all the new members.

“I speak out and I know the laws,” Ms. Hollis said in an interview. “The bottom line is they don’t like people that have some type of intelligence and know what they’re doing, because they know they can’t influence them.”

Ms. Hollis is not alone. Across Georgia, members of at least 10 county election boards have been removed, had their position eliminated or are likely to be kicked off through local ordinances or new laws passed by the state legislature. At least five are people of color and most are Democrats — though some are Republicans — and they will most likely all be replaced by Republicans.

republican elephant logoMs. Hollis and local officials like her have been some of the earliest casualties as Republican-led legislatures mount an expansive takeover of election administration in a raft of new voting bills this year.

G.O.P. lawmakers have also stripped secretaries of state of their power, asserted more control over state election boards, made it easier to overturn election results, and pursued several partisan audits and inspections of 2020 results.

Republican state lawmakers have introduced at least 216 bills in 41 states to give legislatures more power over elections officials, according to the States United Democracy Center, a new bipartisan organization that aims to protect democratic norms. Of those, 24 have been enacted into law across 14 states.

washington post logomichele roosevelt edwardsWashington Post, Investigation: ‘Italygate’ election conspiracy theory was pushed by two firms led by woman who also falsely claimed $30 million mansion was hers, Jon Swaine and Emma Brown, June 20, 2021 (print ed.). Two firms led by Virginia business executive Michele Roosevelt Edwards promoted outlandish claims that an Italian defense contractor conspired with CIA officials to switch votes from Trump to Biden using satellite technology.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: The summer that could define the Biden presidency, Dan Balz, June 20, 2021 (print ed.). President Biden faces big challenges and hard decisions on infrastructure, voting rights and the pandemic, testing liberals’ loyalty and whether bipartisanship is possible.

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: Horse deaths and drug violations: The dark side of Bob Baffert’s reign as thoroughbred racing’s top trainer, Gus Garcia-Roberts and Steven Rich, June 20, 2021 (print ed.). In March 2020, horse racing’s most recognizable figure, Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, declared that his sport was “in crisis.”

Federal prosecutors had just indicted more than two dozen trainers, veterinarians and others on charges related to doping horses, a seismic event in a sport already reeling from a well-publicized spate of horse deaths and perpetually dwindling revenue.

bob baffertIn an op-ed for The Washington Post, Baffert, right, wrote that reforming racing was not just necessary to the sport’s survival but the only moral path forward. “Nothing is more important than the health and safety of our equine and human athletes,” Baffert wrote, “and nothing impacts their health and safety more than the policies and procedures concerning drugs.”Advertisement

The bold statement appeared to put Baffert on the right side of history: By the end of the year, President Donald Trump had signed into law the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act, which promised to reform the sport. But the star trainer’s sudden support belied the fact that Baffert has for years been entangled with the very problems he blamed for his sport’s potential demise: drugs, dead horses and a feckless regulatory system.

At least 74 horses have died in Baffert’s care in his home state of California since 2000, more than all but two of hundreds of trainers in the state, according to a Post analysis of data and public records. But when factoring in the number of races run, Baffert’s horses have died at the highest rate of the 10 trainers who have had the most horse deaths.

 

Trump-era Justice Abuses, Insurrection

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Garland inherited a booby-trapped DOJ. Here’s why it won’t be easy to fix, Joyce White Vance (right, a former U.S. attorney in Alabama, and a professor at the University of Alabama School of Law), June 20, 2021 (print ed.). No Biden U.S. attorneys have been confirmed yet, and there are tens of thousands of investigations to sift through, none of which come with warning stickers

joyce vance smaller photoAttorney General Merrick Garland knew he’d inherit some ticking time bombs when he took charge of the Justice Department. What he didn’t know, apparently, until the New York Times reported it this month, was that one of them was this: Under the Trump administration, the department subpoenaed Apple for information that included accounts belonging to Democratic members of Congress and their staff and families, and concealed that fact from them for almost four years.

That’s a shocking departure from the respect for the separation of powers that prevented even President Richard M. Nixon, with his list of enemies, from investigating members of merrick garlandCongress. We don’t know the story behind the subpoenas — who ordered them or whether the White House was involved.

What’s less shocking is that Garland, left, didn’t know about this case sooner — and may yet not know if there are other Trump-era investigations that were subject to improper White House influence, such as those involving subpoenas for reporters’ communications, for example. The problem cases don’t identify themselves. Files don’t come with bright yellow stickers that say “Warning!” or “Danger!” It will take a top-to-bottom review of the Justice Department to root them out. And it has to happen fast.

The sheer scope of that review will be daunting. The Justice Department has an enormous docket of pending investigations and cases.

In 2020, U.S. attorneys’ offices alone indicted in more than 57,000 criminal cases and handled 92,860 civil matters. That doesn’t include the work in the Justice Department’s seven Washington-based litigation divisions: criminal, civil, national security, civil rights, antitrust, tax, and environment and natural resources. There are lawyers in other components of the department as well, such as the pardon attorney’s office, the office of professional responsibility and the Bureau of Prisons.

Justice Department log circularAnd there are lawyers in the department’s four law enforcement agencies — the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the U.S. Marshals Service — while agents work on matters that have yet to be referred to a prosecutor. To complicate things further, investigations can be international in scope.

It’s an enormous portfolio for a new attorney general to take control of, especially without his full team in place. The Senate Judiciary Committee hearing for the head of Garland’s criminal division was only held late last month. There isn’t a single Senate-confirmed U.S. attorney nominated by President Biden in any of the 94 offices across the country.

Garland has tasked his deputy attorney general, Lisa Monaco, with “surfacing potentially problematic matters deserving high level review,” and he has enlisted the department’s inspector general to investigate the subpoena incident. But he will have to go well beyond that, ensuring a comprehensive, painstaking review, if he wants to find any other land mines before they, too, explode on the front pages of the nation’s newspapers — and if he wants to have a hope of restoring trust in the institution.

How will that be possible? One critical step is for Garland to commit to transparency. He can depart from the Justice Department’s culture of reserve, a culture that avoids much in the way of public explanation.

The department can’t publicize the details of investigations in progress because it could compromise them, endanger witnesses or smear the reputations of people who are never charged. Disclosure of grand jury proceedings is prohibited by law. But the department can be transparent about the way it works and its decision-making process. It can openly discuss why it takes certain legal positions, especially when institutional interests are at stake. It can make sure the country learns about any additional problems the department uncovers and how it is fixing them from the attorney general himself, not from investigative reporters.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Told you the Feds would find their way to the insurrectionist Republicans in Congress, Bill Palmer, right, June 20, 2021. Federal investigations into massive criminal conspiracies only bill palmerwork one way, and if some folks don’t understand how such things work, it doesn’t change how those investigations work. The Feds always start by busting the ground level people who physically committed the crimes, then work to flip them on the higher-ups in order to establish a criminal conspiracy. If the FBI probe into the January 6th Capitol attack was going to target insurrectionist Republicans in Congress, this was the only way it was ever going to happen.

Much as I’ve tried to explain this over the past few months, defeatists have instead insisted that because no House or Senate Republicans have been indicted yet, it’ll never happen. This is a logical fallacy on its face, in addition to not being how criminal probes work, yet defeatism always somehow ends up being its own justification for defeatism.

bill palmer report logo headerOf course the defeatists love to insist that insurrectionist House and Senate Republicans must be arrested right this second or else all hope is lost, but that kind of foaming at the mouth ignores two important facts.

The first is that even if the Feds did arrest members of Congress for what they publicly said to the insurrectionists that day, no jury would convict them for it; the only way to nail the U.S. House logoinsurrectionist Republicans is to flip inside witnesses against them.

The second fact here is that, in spite of all the “sky is falling” rhetoric, our democracy has in fact not collapsed into a puddle simply because no insurrectionist Republicans have been indicted yet. We are not five minutes away from the nation collapsing, no matter how many talking heads try to drum up ratings each day by insisting otherwise. And now the inevitable is finally happening in the federal criminal probe into the insurrectionists.

FBI logoMSNBC is now reporting that the FBI is indeed interrogating January 6th suspects about their connections to members of Congress. This is how an investigation into a hierarchal criminal conspiracy works. Now that most of the low-level henchmen are in custody, investigators attempt to leverage them to move up the hierarchy and take down those who were calling the shots.

This doesn’t prove that any members of Congress will go down for January 6th. But it does prove that the federal criminal investigation is headed in that direction. Members of Congress with connections to the attack will be probed, to see if there’s enough evidence there to prove that they were part of a criminal conspiracy. Logically, this was always going to end up happening. It’s literally the only way these kinds of investigations work. But now you have your proof of where this is headed – and as always, the defeatists were just yelling baseless nonsense about insurrectionist House Republicans somehow already magically being off the hook.

  

Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, 177.1 million U.S. vaccinated, as of June 20, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This includes more than 149.7 million people (45.1 % of the eligible population) fully vaccinated and 53.3 % with at least one dose. See about your state.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated June 20, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here): 

World Cases: 179,041,697, Deaths: 3,877,237
U.S. Cases:     34,401,712, Deaths:    617,083
India Cases:    29,881,965, Deaths:    386,740
Brazil Cases:   17,883,750, Deaths:    500,868

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Why so many Republicans talk about nonsense, Jennifer Rubin, right, June 20, 2021. The latest numbers on vaccination rates are telling: Mississippi has the lowest percentage of vaccinated residents, followed by Alabama, Arkansas, Wyoming, Louisiana, Georgia and Tennessee. All except Louisiana have both Republican governors and legislatures, as do the next seven on jennifer rubin new headshotthe list. Among the 14 U.S. senators representing the bottom seven, only two (both in Georgia) are Democrats. The Post reports, “Ten states, concentrated in the Deep South and rural West, report fewer than 35 percent of residents are fully immunized.”

Health care in these deep-red states is generally dreadful. Among the 12 states that have neither expanded nor voted to expand Medicaid, all but three have GOP governors and in those three (North Carolina, Kansas and Wisconsin), a Democratic governor faces a GOP legislature.

Of the 15 poorest states, all but two (Maine and New Mexico) are also deep red. Among the 30 Senate seats from those states, 27 are held by Republicans.

By these or just about any other measures, Republican states are failing to meet the basic needs of their residents. Among unvaccinated Americans, infection rates are climbing. More will get sick in those places, and some will die. Republicans are unwilling or incapable of meeting the challenge.

This sorry sight is unsurprising given that Republicans have all but given up on the notion of governance. At the national level, they consume themselves with race-baiting (e.g., scaring Americans about immigration and critical race theory), assailing private companies (e.g., corporations that defend voting rights, social media platforms, book publishers) and perpetrating the most ludicrous and dangerous lie in memory — that the 2020 election was stolen.

As Reason Magazine’s Peter Suderman wrote recently for the New York Times, the GOP “no longer has a cognizable theory of government.” They claim to be economic populists but oppose raising any taxes on the rich and corporations, decry union organizing and attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act. “Freedom” used to be a central theme, but they are on a crusade to criminalize abortion and compel unwilling women to endure nine months of pregnancy — even in cases of rape or incest. They are also in favor of ordering teachers not to teach unfavorable facts about America.

 

U.S. Crime, Courts, Law 

washington post logoWashington Post, Retropolis: As Juneteenth marks the end of slavery, lawmakers turn their focus to forced prison labor, Hannah Knowles, June 20, 2021 (print ed.). The 13th Amendment outlawed slavery “except as a punishment for crime.” That caveat stands today, allowing forced labor in prisons that disproportionately hold people of color.

Days after the official nationwide abolition of slavery in December 1865, Alabama made it illegal for Black farm employees to sell a long list of foods, including corn, rice, cotton and “animal of any kind.”

Another law punished Black people for gathering in a “disorderly way,” one professor said in a Cornell Law Review article. Another for carrying a pistol. And whipping and branding were scrapped as penalties, while a new sentence was added: “hard labor for the county.”

Desperate to keep profiting from Black bondage, Alabama’s leaders were exploiting an exception to the 13th Amendment, which outlawed slavery in the United States “except as a punishment for crime.” That caveat stands today, allowing forced labor in prisons that disproportionately hold people of color — even as Americans celebrate emancipation with Juneteenth, newly elevated to a federal holiday.

The same day that President Biden signed into law a bill commemorating the date June 19, Democratic lawmakers reintroduced a proposal they say is long overdue to truly end centuries of bondage: a constitutional amendment to remove the “punishment clause.” With key Biden administration priorities such as voting access and changes to policing stalled in Congress, the renewed push to end forced prison work is one of many changes advocates are framing as necessary to back the symbolic embrace of Juneteenth with national action to address racism and inequality.

“We know that the work of making that vision of a just and equal society a reality is unfinished,” Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) said at a Saturday virtual gathering, two days after introducing the proposed “abolition amendment” with Rep. Nikema Williams (D-Ga.). “We know that slavery’s legacy of injustice continues in many ways today.”

Williams said she is “confident” the amendment will pass and noted some states, red and blue, had recently removed similar exceptions from their constitutions.

ny times logoNew York Times, Los Angeles Just Elected a Liberal D.A. He’s Already Facing a Recall Effort, Tim Arango, June 20, 2021 (print ed.). George Gascón is facing an intense backlash for enacting the sorts of policies demanded by protesters after the killing of George Floyd.

From inside the walls of Folsom State Prison, the two inmates, one a convicted murderer, clinked their cups of prison moonshine in a toast to the new district attorney of Los Angeles, George Gascón.

A video of the celebration was released earlier this year by Mr. Gascón’s opponents — and there are many — who used it to attack what is perhaps the most far-reaching plank of his progressive agenda: the review of nearly 20,000 old prison sentences, many for violent crimes like murder, for possible early releases.

Mr. Gascón, a Democrat, has brushed off the video as nothing more than a Willie Horton-style attack by get-tough-on-crime proponents that “plays well on Fox News.” But he doesn’t shy away from his belief that even those convicted of violent crimes deserve a chance at redemption.

“There’s no way we can get to meaningful prison reduction in this country without looking at more serious crimes,” Mr. Gascón, who also supports ending cash bail and eliminating the prosecution of juveniles as adults, said in an interview. “The public stories you hear are the really scary stuff. You’re talking about the violent sexual predator. You’re talking about some sadistic murderer. The reality is those are really a small number of the prison population and violent crime.”

But the prospect of convicted murderers getting out early, or getting lighter sentences than they would have received in a previous era, has fueled an effort to force a recall election next year and remove Mr. Gascón from office. More than a thousand volunteers, as well as dozens of paid workers, are collecting signatures for the recall at gun stores, bail bonds offices, and even outside Mr. Gascón’s home.

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘Disorder and Chaos’ in N.Y.C. Jails as Pandemic Recedes, Jan Ransom, June 20, 2021 (print ed.). Six people have died, a murder suspect was accidentally released and a captain was charged with homicide. The future of Rikers Island remains unclear.

Violence on Rikers Island is surging. Exhausted guards are working triple shifts. And staffing shortages have triggered lockdowns at some of the jail’s largest facilities.

More than a year after the coronavirus sickened thousands in New York City’s jail system, the Department of Correction has plunged further into crisis as complaints of severe mismanagement, persistent violence and deaths of incarcerated people continue to mount.

Correction officers and incarcerated people alike have described a tumultuous first half of the year: Six detainees have died, including at least two by suicide, compared with seven through all of 2020. Guards have been forced to work triple and occasionally quadruple shifts, staying on duty for 24 hours or longer, to make up for staffing shortages.

Last month, a report by a federal monitor appointed to oversee the troubled jails described a system in a state of disorder, and expressed grave concern about the agency’s ability to change course.

 

U.S. Politics, Governance 

llewellyn king photo logo

White House Chronicle, Commentary: The Great Western Drought Will Affect Us All, Llewellyn King, above, June 19-20, 2021. The severe drought gripping the Western states looks set to reach into all lives in the nation and into every pocket.

The unbearable heat for those living in the West, with record-high temperatures stretching from Wyoming to the Mexican border and from the Pacific to the Mississippi, will impact the rest of the country as well.

Scientists have classified this monstrous baking as a megadrought. There hasn’t been regular rain or mountain snow in the West for more than 20 years.

To call it a scorcher is to underestimate a catastrophe that has the possibility of reaching near-biblical proportions. This is big and there is no quick fix. None.

The drought means epic disruptions, merciless rearrangement.

First, of course, there is no water, which means much economic activity may slow or cease. Farmers won’t be able to grow crops or raise livestock. Food prices that are already high from the pandemic’s disruptions will go even higher.

The electricity supply will be strained and may be curtailed because of reduced hydroelectric production. The 13 Western states get more than 22 percent of their electricity from hydropower dams, located mostly in Washington, according to the National Hydropower Association.

In today’s world, farmers depend on electricity to water crops and livestock, milk cows, dry grain, and freeze produce.

The first measurable disruption of the summer will be from breakdowns in the California food supply chain. Prices in supermarkets will reflect the impact of the drought on California, which acts as the nation’s truck farm. If you eat it, it grows in California, but only when there is water for irrigation.

The rivers of the West are running dry. The reserves of water in the great dams on the major rivers, especially the Columbia and the Colorado, which act as the lifelines of much of the West, are way below normal.

Manufactured goods from Western states will be affected if power shortages are extended and widespread. Wildfires will abound and have already started their annual scourge.

Business Insider, Trump Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross made at least $53 million from private companies while serving in government: report, John L. Dorman, June 20, 2021. Wilbur Ross, the commerce secretary under former President Donald Trump, raked in at least $53 million from private companies while working in the administration and earning a taxpayer-funded salary, according to a Huffington Post report.

wilbur rossWhile leading the Department of Commerce, Ross reported making a minimum of $53 million to $127 million in outside earnings.

However, according to the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), Ross, right, may have "earned significantly more as he was not required to specify certain income totals over $1 million."

"It is impossible to know Ross's exact income because it was reported in broad ranges, but it is clear that while running the agency in charge of promoting economic growth and regulating global trade for the United States, he made tens of millions of dollars," the CREW investigative report noted.

The report added: "Ross became notorious for mixing personal business with his government role."

According to the CREW report, Ross made at least $42 million in 2017, which included "more than $6 million he was paid for giving up unvested restricted Invesco shares and more than $5 million from selling Invesco stock."

The development comes after The Washington Post reported last month that a security unit within the Department of Commerce had morphed into a counterintelligence-like operation "that collected information on hundreds of people inside and outside the department."

Read more: We identified the 125 people and institutions most responsible for Donald Trump's rise to power and his norm-busting behavior that tested the boundaries of the US government and its institutions

The Investigations and Threat Management Service (ITMS) searched workers' offices in the evenings and looked through emails in search of possible foreign influence, according to the Post.

Per the Post report, the Biden administration paused all ITMS investigations in March and suspended its activities last month.

According to Forbes, Ross started a special purpose acquisition company in the Cayman Islands in January while still in his government role.

In 2017, CREW sought a probe into whether he fully divested from the Bank of Cyprus and questioned whether he "violated conflict of interest rules by participating in meetings and policy deliberations involving the United States and China trade matters related to assets he held or holds."

Palmer Report, Opinion: The long hard fall of Mike Pence, James Sullivan, June 20, 2021. Few figures in politics have risen and fallen so quickly as Mike Pence, even after the disastrous scandals that plagued his congressional career and tenure as Indiana governor.

mike pence bites lip CustomHe was once hailed by right-wingers and even some political strategists as the man who single handedly saved Trump’s campaign with his ability to convince evangelicals to come out and vote for Donald Trump in droves, and once championed by Trumpers as the only worthy successor for his boss and the GOP in 2024, who lionized Pence’s knack for terrifying a number of progressives and moderates with his theocratic vision of America.

bill palmer report logo headerNow it seems like forever ago that people dreaded the possibility that Pence could become president if Trump never completed his first term of office – something that made people reluctant to call for the former guy’s impeachment for fear that they could get something much worse. By the end of Trump’s term, Pence was yet another enemy of the people – demonized by his own boss for his failure to overturn the election – which is something the vice president cannot actually do. Rather than officially denounce the former guy, Pence decided to keep that albatross and describe his relationship with Trump as “complicated.”

On Friday, we got a glimpse of just how well that played. The Faith & Freedom Coalition should’ve seemed like a fairly routine place for the former veep to make an appearance and get a standing ovation no matter what he said, but the problem is that Pence took the stage and couldn’t get a word out. Rather than thunderous applause, his speech was drowned out by people screaming “Traitor!” It’s bad news for anyone hoping to be president – and bad news for the GOP in general – since they’re clearly still not over the last election and the loss of their de facto leader. Let’s make sure it stays that way for at least another eight years.'

ny times logoNew York Times, Yang and Garcia Form Late Alliance in Mayor’s Race, Drawing Adams’s Ire, Emma G. Fitzsimmons and Jeffery C. Mays, June 20, 2021 (print ed.). Andrew Yang and Kathryn Garcia campaigned together on Saturday in a show of unity that their top rival, Eric Adams, sought to portray as racially motivated.

andrew yang twitterAndrew Yang and Kathryn Garcia, two leading candidates in the New York City mayor’s race, joined each other on the campaign trail on Saturday, a late alliance that the contest’s front-runner, Eric Adams, immediately sought to portray as an attempt to weaken the voice of minority voters.

Mr. Yang, right, and Ms. Garcia stopped short of an official cross-endorsement, with Mr. Yang urging voters to rank Ms. Garcia second on their ballots but Ms. Garcia refraining from doing the same for him. Still, the two distributed fliers at a rally in Queens that featured their photos and names side by side.

“Rank me No. 1 and then rank Kathryn Garcia No. 2,” Mr. Yang said.

The display of unity, just three days before the Democratic primary scheduled for Tuesday, appeared to be aimed at Mr. Adams, the Brooklyn borough president, who has been leading in the polls. Mr. Yang and Ms. Garcia are centrists in the top tier of candidates who are trying to stop Mr. Adams’s momentum, and theirs was the first major alliance under ranked-choice voting.

 

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, Brazil, Besieged by Covid, Now Faces a Severe Drought, Manuela Andreoni and Ernesto Londoño, June 20, 2021 (print ed.). Brazilians are paying more for electricity, dealing with the possibility of water rationing and expecting a destructive fire season in the Amazon.

Crops have shriveled up under searing heat. Immense water reservoirs, which generate the bulk of Brazil’s electricity, are growing alarmingly shallow. And the world’s largest waterfall system, Iguaçu Falls, has been reduced from a torrent to a trickle.

brazil flag wavingAs Brazil approaches 500,000 deaths from Covid-19, a worsening drought is imperiling the country’s ability to jump-start its beleaguered economy, and may set the stage for another intensely destructive fire season in the Amazon rainforest.

Several states in the country are facing the worst drought in at least 90 years. The crisis has led to higher electricity prices, the threat of water rationing and a disruption of crop growing cycles. Agriculture, an economic engine of the nation — which relies heavily on hydropower — is now at risk.

Experts said the arid landscape, which coincided with a rise in illegal deforestation over the past months in the Amazon rainforest, could lead to a devastating fire season. Enforcement of environmental regulations is weak in the rainforest, and fire season traditionally begins in July.

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ny times logoNew York Times, Iranian Hard-Liner, Ebrahim Raisi, Is Headed to Presidency, Vivian Yee, June 20, 2021 (print ed.). Rivals conceded the election to Mr. Raisi, Iran’s judiciary chief, a close ally of the supreme leader who has a record of human rights violations.

Iran FlagIran’s ultraconservative judiciary chief, Ebrahim Raisi, looked certain to become the country’s next president on Saturday after an election that many voters skipped, seeing it as rigged in his favor.The semiofficial news agency Fars, citing the head of the election commission, said that with 90 percent of the vote counted Mr. Raisi had won 17 million of the 28 million votes tabulated. Two rival candidates have conceded, and President Hassan Rouhani congratulated Mr. Raisi for the victory on Saturday, the semiofficial Mehr news agency reported.

Huge swaths of moderate and liberal-leaning Iranians sat out the election, saying that the campaign had been engineered to put Mr. Raisi in office or that voting would make little difference. He had been expected to win handily despite late attempts by the more-moderate reformist camp to consolidate support behind their main candidate — Abdolnasser Hemmati, a former central bank governor.

There was no immediate word on voter turnout. But if 28 million votes amounted to 90 percent of the ballots cast, then only about 31 million people would have voted. That would be a significant decline from the last presidential election, in 2017.. The number of eligible voters is 59 million, according to Mehr, an official news agency.

 washington post logoWashington Post,, Death of Afghan commander in Taliban massacre highlights country’s struggles and fears, Pamela Constable, June 20, 2021 (print ed.). Col. Sohrab Azimi was among 23 commandos killed as the insurgent group seeks to make gains with the U.S. military leaving the fight.

Col. Sohrab Azimi, a field commander in Afghan special forces that often rescue troops and retake outposts from Taliban attacks, symbolized the country's best hope to fend off an insurgent takeover as U.S. troops began to withdraw from the fight.

Azimi, 31, and his squad of 22 men were massacred Wednesday by Taliban forces while defending a base in northern Faryab province and waiting for reinforcements.

The loss unleashed a flood of emotions across social media — grief, anger and fear that even the nation’s most skilled defenders would be undercut by poor military leadership and the departure of Afghanistan’s major foreign military ally.

washington post logoWashington Post, Israel, Hamas revert to routine of provocation and reprisal, Steve Hendrix, June 20, 2021 (print ed.).  Nearly a month after a cease-fire ended 11 days of intense fighting, neither side is eager for a return to a full air war, according to military and political analysts, although the situation remains volatile.

washington post logoWashington Post, Israel struggles to restore vaccine swap deal after Palestinians reject doses for being too old, Shira Rubin, June 20, 2021. Israeli officials are working to revive talks to deliver vaccine doses to the Palestinian Authority after a deal last Friday was suddenly called off by P.A. officials who said that the vaccines were too close to their expiration date and do not meet their standards.

Some 5 million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza are still without sufficient vaccine supplies as shipments from other sources continue to lag even while their neighbor, Israel, is mostly returning to pre-pandemic life.

The announcement and abrupt cancellation of the deal has given rise to conspiracy theories and further damaged the low standing of the Palestinian Authority among its people.

Palestinians cancel vaccine deal with Israel, saying doses are too close to expiration date

On Friday, Israeli officials celebrated the finalization of the three-way deal between the two governments and Pfizer, by which Israel would ship more than 1 million doses of its vaccine to the Palestinian Authority, in exchange for a similar number of doses to be delivered back to Israel later this year.

Hours later, however, Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh scrapped the deal, saying that the first shipment of some 100,000 Pfizer doses was due to expire at the end of the month and so too close to their expiration date.

At a news conference Friday evening, Palestinian Health Minister Mai al-Kaila said health officials who inspected the vaccines found they “did not meet standards and so we decided to return them.”

 

U.S. Religion and Media News 

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ny times logoNew York Times, Pope’s Silence Speaks Volumes on Controversial Communion Vote by U.S. Bishops, Jason Horowitz, June 20, 2021 (print ed.). The divergence of the conservative American church from Francis’ agenda is now so obvious as to be unremarkable, even when U.S. bishops ignore a Vatican warning.

Pope Francis (shown above) on Saturday put a founder of the European Union on the track to sainthood, told Roman deacons to take care of the poor and met with a top prelate who once defended him against wild allegations by the Vatican’s former ambassador to the United States.

But the most telling thing he did was stay quiet about the extraordinary vote by America’s Roman Catholic bishops to move ahead — despite the warning of the pope’s top doctrinal official — with the drafting of new guidance that conservatives hope will eventually deny communion to President Biden for his support of abortion rights.

The pope said nothing, church officials and experts said, because there is nothing else to say.

The divergence of the conservative American church from Francis’ agenda is now so apparent as to become unremarkable, and Vatican officials and experts said Saturday that the pope’s silence also underlined just how unsurprising the American vote, made public on Friday, was to the Vatican.

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ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Will Christian America Withstand the Pull of QAnon? Peter Wehner (Mr. Wehner, right, who served in various roles in the three Republican administrations before the Trump administration, is a contributing peter wehnerOpinion writer. He attends McLean Presbyterian Church in McLean, Va.), June 19, 2021 (print ed.).

The scandals, jagged-edged judgmentalism and culture war mentality that have enveloped significant parts of American Christendom over the last several years, including the nation’s largest Protestant denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, have conditioned many of us to expect the worst. Which is why the annual meeting of the convention this week was such a pleasant surprise.

The convention’s newly elected president, the Rev. Ed Litton, above, barely defeated the Rev. Mike Stone, below left, the choice of the denomination’s insurgent right. Mr. Litton, a soft-spoken pastor in Alabama who is very conservative theologically, has made racial reconciliation a hallmark of his ministry and has said that he will make institutional accountability and care for survivors of sexual abuse priorities during his two-year mike stone twitterterm.

“My goal is to build bridges and not walls,” Mr. Litton said at a news conference after his victory, pointedly setting himself apart from his main challenger. But those bridges won’t be easy to build.

Tensions in the convention are as high as they’ve been in decades; it is a deeply fractured denomination marked by fierce infighting. The Conservative Baptist Network, which Mr. Stone is part of, was formed in 2020 to stop what it considers the convention’s drift toward liberalism on matters of culture and theology.Ruth Graham and Elizabeth Dias of The Times describe the individuals in the Conservative Baptist Network as “part of an ultraconservative populist uprising of pastors” who want to “take the ship.” They are russell moore headshotzealous, inflamed, uncompromising and eager for a fight. They nearly succeeded this time. And they’re not going away anytime soon.

They view as a temporary setback the defeat of Mr. Stone, who came within an eyelash of winning even after allegations by the Rev. Russell Moore, right, the former head of the Southern Baptist Convention’s public policy arm, that Mr. Stone blocked investigations of sexual abuse at Southern Baptist churches and engaged in a broader campaign of intimidation. (Mr. Stone has denied the charges.

joe biden jill biden church

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden finds himself caught in politics of Catholic Church, Matt Viser, June 19, 2021 (print ed.). Joe Biden (shown above at center foreground with First Lady Jill Biden) is arguably the most observant U.S. president in decades and the nation’s most prominent Catholic politician. He rarely misses Mass, he quotes scripture, and his faith has long been a core part of his identity. He’s also a liberal, and that’s stirring up the U.S. Catholic bishops fighting cultural battles within the church.

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ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Some Catholic Leaders Deserve to Have Biden’s Ear, and Some Do Not, Tom Perriello, June 20, 2021 (print ed.). (Tom Perriello, shown above, the U.S. executive director of Open Society Foundations, is a former diplomat and member of Congress). The efforts by conservative bishops to arbitrate who receives communion reinforce why they so often stand alone.

The last time I took communion was in El Salvador, not long before the pandemic. As a Catholic, I enjoy exploring how Mass is experienced and enriched by different cultures. But I had a more urgent reason for searching out this ritual abroad. It provided my only chance to take the Eucharist, because I quietly decided 10 years ago that I could not in good conscience do so under the auspices of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

While the Catholic Church is far from infallible overseas, I frequently bear witness to Catholic leaders reminding me why my faith called me to a career promoting peace and justice. But back home, the persistent efforts by conservative bishops to arbitrate who among the faithful receives communion, while failing to practice the confession and penance they demand of others, reinforces why the American bishops so often stand alone.

When the bishops met on Friday, they could have voiced their support for today’s economic and racial justice movements. They could have backed Congressional efforts to guarantee dignity for children, parents, the aging and the workers who care for them. Instead, these men who benefit from a lifetime guarantee of housing, health care, and income, voted to back a measure that could be an early step toward limiting communion for President Biden — a man of compassion, empathy and lived but quiet faith.

This is not the first time the bishops have challenged a practicing Catholic who supports abortion rights. Former Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts was targeted by conservative bishops, some of whom even criticized Boston’s archbishop for presiding over former Senator Ted Kennedy’s funeral Mass.

I have worked on peace and justice issues at home and abroad, and I was always struck by the U.S. bishops’ myopic focus. But my experiences with them during my brief time in Congress shocked me. As a representative, I saw them cherry-pick theology to promote partisan ends, favoring a future Supreme Court over their congregations struggling to afford care.

At a time when the Church could model moral accountability for its decades of criminality and corruption, they opt instead for the partisan agenda of their largest donors and the misogyny inherent in their structure. They have opted to model the so-called “cafeteria Catholicism,” of which they accuse reformers. Their statements lack the moral clarity of their Salvadoran brethren in calling out, say, authoritarianism, or Big Tech’s role in spreading hate and lies, or elected officials who obstruct efforts to humanize our economy.

Growing up around Charlottesville, Va., I spent every Sunday hearing priests sermonize about the horrible atrocities committed against innocent civilians — even nuns — in Central America and about our own government’s complicity. We heard about extreme poverty, with a clear message that a failure to devote your life to addressing these injustices might lead to eternal damnation.

Catholic bishops in El Salvador, the country where Saint Óscar Romero was assassinated for standing with the poor and vulnerable, also met recently. They chose to take a courageous position against President Nayib Bukele’s move to consolidate power and create impunity for corruption. They also sent the Biden administration a clear message that “tough talk” on the border only helps the coyotes and gangs extort a higher price from those most at risk.

These are the true Catholic leaders, and the ones I hope serve as the better angels in President Biden’s ear.

I look forward to taking communion again when travel resumes and to being inspired every day by Catholic clergy and their lay colleagues whose faith inspires them to serve. I continue to fall short in my faith and feel guilty, as any Catholic would. I pray this week that the American bishops reflect on Pope Francis’s message that communion “is not the reward of saints, but the bread of sinners.”

Instead of asking whether they think President Biden is worthy of communion from them, I pray that they ask what they must do to rebuild the moral authority that would have them offering communion to any of us.

 

June 19

Top Headlines

 

American Vote Suppression, Nullification

 

Virus Victims, Responses 

 

U.S. Crime, Courts, Law

  

U.S. Politics, Governance, Climate

 

World News

 

U.S. Religion and Media News

 

Top Stories 

ny times logoNew York Times, With Vaccination Goal in Doubt, Biden Warns of Variant’s Threat, Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Noah Weiland, June 19, 2021 (print ed.). The U.S. is unlikely to partly vaccinate 70 percent of its adults by July 4. President Biden has ramped up his drive for Americans to get their shots.

joe biden black background resized serious fileWith the United States unlikely to reach his self-imposed deadline of having 70 percent of adults partly vaccinated against the coronavirus by July 4, President Biden on Friday stepped up his drive for Americans to get their shots, warning that those who decline risk becoming infected by a highly contagious and potentially deadly variant.

In an afternoon appearance at the White House, Mr. Biden avoided mentioning the 70 percent target that he set in early May and instead trumpeted a different milestone: 300 million shots in his first 150 days in office. But even as he hailed the vaccination campaign’s success, he sounded a somber note about the worrisome Delta variant, which is spreading in states with low vaccination rates.

“The best way to protect yourself against these variants is to get vaccinated,” the president declared.

His remarks came as his administration begins a final push to reach the July 4 goal over the next two weeks. Vice President Kamala Harris and Xavier Becerra, the health and human services secretary, were both on the road on Friday, trying to drum up enthusiasm for the vaccine. Ms. Harris went to Atlanta, where she noted that less than half of people in Fulton County, where the city is, had at least one shot, and Mr. Becerra to Colorado.

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, New Docuseries Suggests Jeffrey Epstein Was a Government Informant, Nick Schager, June 19, 2021. The Plot Thickens. The Peacock docuseries “Epstein’s Shadow: Ghislaine Maxwell” traces the life of the late sex trafficker’s right-hand woman, with victims speaking out about the damage they wrought.

Ghislaine Maxwell has a name that many can’t pronounce and a backstory that’s shrouded in mystery. Epstein’s Shadow: Ghislaine Maxwell seeks to rectify the latter by investigating the life of Jeffrey Epstein’s notorious girlfriend and co-conspirator, who currently resides in a Brooklyn jail awaiting trial for a variety of sex-trafficking charges that were levied against her by the U.S. federal government daily beast logoin 2020. Informative and comprehensive, it paints a portrait of a woman who was groomed at an early age for her eventual role as a madame for her pedophilic partner—a cretin for whom she herself groomed countless underage girls for his perverse sexual pleasure.

Peacock’s three-part docuseries (premiering June 24) is a no-frills non-fiction affair, and all the better for it. A raft of interviews with acquaintances, authors, journalists, and more provide the narrative spine for an archival footage-heavy investigation into Maxwell’s saga, which has ensnared the many rich and powerful people whom she brought into Epstein’s orbit.

Those include, most infamously, Prince Andrew, Duke of York, whose damningly clumsy BBC interview receives some airplay here, as well as Donald Trump, Bill Clinton, and various celebrities—Elon Musk, Mick Jagger, Joan Rivers—whom she was photographed with at one gala event or another. Maxwell was the conduit between Epstein and high society’s cream of the crop, and though this overview presents no new bombshells about her A-list relationships, her intimate ties to dignitaries, politicians, artists, and other notable names is made definitively clear.

Those links are central to Maxwell’s fate, since it’s apparent she and Epstein made secret surveillance videos (and photographs) of visitors to their NYC townhouse home—meaning they potentially have blackmail material on a host of global big shots.

alexander acosta o cropped CustomThese incriminating recordings have been fingered as the reason Epstein received a “sweetheart deal” from U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida (and Secretary of Labor under Trump) Alexander Acosta, right, in 2008, when the feds had Epstein dead-to-rights on sex-trafficking crimes, and yet offered him a plea agreement that put him behind bars for 15 months—he could even come and go during the day from prison—and provided immunity to anyone related to his infractions, at least in Palm Beach. It’s also been suggested that they’re the cause of his much-debated suicide; as the conspiracy theory goes, he may have been murdered by forces that wanted to keep what he knew—and had—from seeing the light of day.

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washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion : Remittances aren’t talked about much in discussions of northern migration. They should be, Colbert I. King, right, June 19, 2021 (print ed.). Dry sounding “workers’ remittances” represent money that migrants colbert king twitterfrom Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador send back home to their families and communities. By any measure, remittances have more transformative economic power in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala than all U.S. aid contributions to those countries combined.

A little context.

Some two-thirds of all emigrants from Latin America and the Caribbean reside in the United States, making this country the largest — and, given our economy and currency, the most reliable — source of remittances for the region. Workers’ remittances — money sent by people working mostly in low-paid jobs in housekeeping, construction, food preparation, etc. — are a crucial source of investment and external financing for the Northern Triangle

washington post logoWashington Post, Heat wave raises fears western U.S. states could face severe fire season, Derek Hawkins and David Suggs, June 19, 2021 (print ed.) The punishing heat wave that baked the western United States this week has intensified fears that the region is heading into another severe wildfire season, pressuring emergency officials and residents still recovering from last year’s historic blazes once again to prepare for the worst.

Record high temperatures and a worsening drought have parched vast tracts of brush, timber and grasses, leaving an abundance of potential fuels for the flames to consume. The vegetation has dried out faster than usual in some places after an early snow melt and months with little precipitation. The triple-digit heat this week has only compounded the problem.

“We’re going into fire season with fuels that are already much drier than we’d expect at this time of year,” said Lenya N. Quinn-Davidson, a fire adviser with the University of California Cooperative Extension. “Everything is kind of primed. If we get those ignitions, everything will be ready to burn easily.

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washington post logoWashington Post, Entire Portland police crowd-control unit quits over fellow officer’s assault charge, Max Hauptman, June 19, 2021 (print ed.). All of the approximately 50 members of a Portland, Ore., police crowd-control unit resigned from their assignment on Wednesday, citing a lack of support from city officials during a year that has seen frequent clashes between protesters and law enforcement.

The mass resignation came one day after a grand jury charged Officer Corey Budworth with one count of assault in the fourth degree, a misdemeanor offense that carries up to a one-year jail sentence, for his actions during an Aug. 18 protest in downtown Portland.

Budworth, who was placed on administrative leave by the department on Tuesday, was filmed repeatedly striking a woman in the head with a baton and knocking her to the ground. There have been few criminal cases filed against police officers for excessive use of force at protests, and the Multnomah County indictment marks the first time a member of the Portland Police Department will face prosecution for such actions.

 

American Vote Suppression, Nullification

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: The administrators of U.S. democracy are under attack, Editorial Board, June 19, 2021 (print ed.). This is an underappreciated threat to U.S. democracy.

A report from New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice this week shows that one-third of election officials feel unsafe, with most saying that social media has made their professions more dangerous. Election workers up and down the ranks have endured death threats, racial slurs and menacing protests outside their homes. One website displayed a state election director’s home address and a photo with crosshairs over it along with a warning: “Your days are numbered.”

katie hobbs headshotThese threats continue long after the height of the 2020 vote dispute: In May, Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, right, tweeted, “Earlier today a man called my office saying I deserve to die and wanting to know ‘what she is wearing so she’ll be easy to get.’

It was one of at least three such threats today. Then a man who I’ve never seen before chased me and my staffer outside of our office.” It is only a matter of time before election officials end up hurt — or worse. Even if the point is merely to intimidate, it is toxic for democracy if voting administrators have to fear what one side may do to them if it loses.

 washington post logoWashington Post, McConnell vows to block voting legislation, spurning Manchin’s compromise offer, Mike DeBonis and Vanessa Williams, June 18, 2021 (print ed.). Senate Republicans vowed Thursday to block voting legislation from advancing later this month, rejecting a key Democratic senator’s compromise offer that adopted some GOP ideas in a bid to break partisan gridlock on the issue.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosThe pledge from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) all but guarantees that Republicans will filibuster a sweeping voting bill that Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) is sending to the floor Tuesday.

Mitchell_McConnellParts of the bill are meant to overrule provisions contained in a host of GOP-passed state laws that have placed restrictions on early voting, mail-in voting, ballot drop boxes and other policies that make it easier to cast a ballot, in response to former president Donald Trump’s false claims of a stolen 2020 presidential election.

“I’ve taken a look at all the new state laws — none of them are designed to suppress the vote,” McConnell, left, said Thursday. “There is no rational basis for the federal government to take over all of American elections.”

The only remaining question is whether all 50 Democratic senators will unite in support of debating the bill, known as the For the People Act, and how they will react once Republicans block the legislation.

Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), above, has long withheld support for the sprawling bill, which contains dozens of provisions for disparate voting, campaign finance and elections, citing a lack of GOP support. But this week he circulated a three-page memo outlining potential changes that could win his support, including adopting some traditional Republican priorities such as mandating that voters provide identification and giving state and local elections officials a free hand to maintain their voter rolls.

Manchin outlines demands on voting legislation, creating an opening for potential Democratic compromise

After huddling with his fellow Democratic senators Thursday, Manchin suggested that he would join with them to at least start debating the bill next week. “I would think we all would want to do that,” he said. “You could air your differences that you might have or what your concerns are or what your thoughts may be.”

us senate logoBut McConnell said flatly Wednesday that his party would not be joining in.

“All Republicans, I think, will oppose that . . . if that were to be surfaced on the floor,” he said.

McConnell’s remarks came not long after the Manchin proposal won a notable endorsement from Democratic voting-rights activist Stacey Abrams, who said in a morning CNN appearance that she could “absolutely” support his proposal and called it a “first and important step to preserving our democracy.”

Other Democrats also spoke positively about Manchin’s proposal — and several senators said they could be willing to accept a voter ID mandate as part of a broader package.

raphael warnock“I don’t know anybody who believes that people shouldn’t have to prove that they are who they say they are,” said Sen. Raphael G. Warnock (D-Ga.), right, a close ally of Abrams. “But what has happened over the years is people have played with common sense identification and put into place restrictive measures intended not to preserve the integrity of the outcome, but to select certain voters. That’s what I oppose.”

Abrams, a former Georgia state legislative leader and gubernatorial candidate, is an influential figure among Democrats, who credit her efforts with helping deliver Georgia for President Biden in 2020. But she is a reviled figure among the Republican voter base, and McConnell and other GOP leaders immediately used her words of support to cast the Manchin proposal as unacceptable.

In an interview Thursday, Abrams said she did not agree with every piece of Manchin’s proposal but said it “signaled a willingness to engage and to have conversations” about voting legislation. “But this is a process,” she added, “which means others are going to also have a say.”

The most important message Manchin’s engagement has sent, Abrams said, is that the effort to pass federal voting rights legislation still has momentum. And she said the GOP efforts to weaponize her support for the new talks among Democrats did not change the political fundamentals of the partisan clash.

“If I disagreed with it, they were going to oppose it. If I agreed with it, they were going to oppose it,” she said. “There’s nothing in access to the right to vote that will appease Mitch McConnell.”

McConnell gathered about a dozen Republican senators to stand with him in front of reporters Thursday as he lambasted the Democratic voting rights efforts, a show of force that reflected his own long-standing distaste for legislation that puts federal fetters on campaigns and elections as well as the depth of support he has within his caucus for his hard-line approach.

That approach is backstopped by the Senate filibuster — the 60-vote supermajority rule that gives a united minority an effective veto — and the knowledge that Manchin and several other Democratic senators do not currently support changing that rule.

As he rolled out his compromise proposal Wednesday, Manchin simultaneously made clear that he remains unwilling to change Senate rules to pass major legislation with a simple majority. On Thursday, he said he was still hopeful that some Republicans could be convinced to support some type of elections bill.

“McConnell has the right to do whatever he thinks he can do,” Manchin told reporters. “I would hope that there’s enough good Republicans who understand the bedrock of our society is having an accessible, open, fair and secure election.”

 

Virus Victims, Responses

ny times logoNew York Times, High Hopes for Johnson & Johnson’s Covid Vaccine Have Fizzled, Noah Weiland, June 19, 2021 (print ed). The “one and done” Janssen vaccine has made up less than 4 percent of the U.S.’s total administered doses so far. Millions of vials will soon expire. The vaccine’s appeal has dropped after several controversies, and experts now say that the U.S. has missed a big opportunity to tackle health disparities.

When Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose coronavirus vaccine was authorized for emergency use in late February, ​it was seen as a breakthrough for reaching vulnerable and isolated Americans, a crucial alternative to vaccines that require two shots weeks apart and fussier storage. It was soon popular on college campuses, in door-to-door campaigns and with harder-to-reach communities that often struggle with access to health care.

johnson johnson logoBut with only 11.8 million doses administered in the United States so far — less than 4 percent of the total — the “one and done” vaccine has fallen flat. States have warned for weeks that they may not find recipients for millions of doses that will soon expire, partly because the vaccine’s appeal dropped after it was linked to a rare but serious blood-clotting disorder and injections were paused for 10 days in April.

The vaccine took another hit last week, when regulators told Johnson & Johnson that it should throw out tens of millions of additional doses produced at a plant in Baltimore because they might be contaminated. The diminished supply and enthusiasm for the shot mean that its role in the United States is fading fast, even though millions of Americans have yet to be vaccinated.

“It’s just not what I think anybody would have hoped it would be when it came out,” said Dave Baden, the chief financial officer of the Oregon Health Authority.

Health officials in a number of other states presented a similarly discouraging picture. The pause on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, they said, effectively kicked it aside for good; only about 3.5 million doses have been used since the pause was lifted on April 23. Kim Deti, a spokeswoman for the Wyoming Health Department, said the graph of uptake in her state told the vaccine’s story: a significant climb in the early weeks of its rollout, followed by a plateau that began around the pause.

washington post logoWashington Post, 175.9 million U.S. vaccinated, as of June 19, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This includes more than 147.8 million people (44.5 % of the eligible population) fully vaccinated and 53 % with at least one dose. See about your state.

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

World Cases: 178,668,986, Deaths: 3,868,508
U.S. Cases:     34,393,269, Deaths:    616,920
India Cases:    29,823,546, Deaths:    385,167
Brazil Cases:   17,802,176, Deaths:    498,621

ny times logoeuropean union logo rectangleNew York Times, E.U. Recommends Opening to Americans to Rescue the Summer, Monika Pronczuk, June 18, 2021. The European Union recommended its 27 member nations lift a ban on nonessential travel from the United States, but each country will decide for itself. 

 

U.S. Crime, Courts, Law 

ny times logoNew York Times, Los Angeles Just Elected a Liberal D.A. He’s Already Facing a Recall Effort, Tim Arango, June 19, 2021. George Gascón is facing an intense backlash for enacting the sorts of policies demanded by protesters after the killing of George Floyd.

From inside the walls of Folsom State Prison, the two inmates, one a convicted murderer, clinked their cups of prison moonshine in a toast to the new district attorney of Los Angeles, George Gascón.

A video of the celebration was released earlier this year by Mr. Gascón’s opponents — and there are many — who used it to attack what is perhaps the most far-reaching plank of his progressive agenda: the review of nearly 20,000 old prison sentences, many for violent crimes like murder, for possible early releases.

Mr. Gascón, a Democrat, has brushed off the video as nothing more than a Willie Horton-style attack by get-tough-on-crime proponents that “plays well on Fox News.” But he doesn’t shy away from his belief that even those convicted of violent crimes deserve a chance at redemption.

“There’s no way we can get to meaningful prison reduction in this country without looking at more serious crimes,” Mr. Gascón, who also supports ending cash bail and eliminating the prosecution of juveniles as adults, said in an interview. “The public stories you hear are the really scary stuff. You’re talking about the violent sexual predator. You’re talking about some sadistic murderer. The reality is those are really a small number of the prison population and violent crime.”

But the prospect of convicted murderers getting out early, or getting lighter sentences than they would have received in a previous era, has fueled an effort to force a recall election next year and remove Mr. Gascón from office. More than a thousand volunteers, as well as dozens of paid workers, are collecting signatures for the recall at gun stores, bail bonds offices, and even outside Mr. Gascón’s home.

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘Disorder and Chaos’ in N.Y.C. Jails as Pandemic Recedes, Jan Ransom, June 19, 2021. Six people have died, a murder suspect was accidentally released and a captain was charged with homicide. The future of Rikers Island remains unclear.

Violence on Rikers Island is surging. Exhausted guards are working triple shifts. And staffing shortages have triggered lockdowns at some of the jail’s largest facilities.

More than a year after the coronavirus sickened thousands in New York City’s jail system, the Department of Correction has plunged further into crisis as complaints of severe mismanagement, persistent violence and deaths of incarcerated people continue to mount.

Correction officers and incarcerated people alike have described a tumultuous first half of the year: Six detainees have died, including at least two by suicide, compared with seven through all of 2020. Guards have been forced to work triple and occasionally quadruple shifts, staying on duty for 24 hours or longer, to make up for staffing shortages.

Last month, a report by a federal monitor appointed to oversee the troubled jails described a system in a state of disorder, and expressed grave concern about the agency’s ability to change course.

ny times logoNew York Times, Man Pleads Guilty to Threatening to Lynch 2 Members of Congress, Michael Levenson, June 19, 2021 (print ed.). Kenneth R. Hubert, of Marionville, Mo., had threatened Representatives Emanuel Cleaver II after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol and Steve Cohen in 2019, prosecutors said.

kenneth hubertA Missouri man pleaded guilty on Thursday to charges that he had threatened to lynch a Black congressman the day after the Jan. 6 siege at the U.S. Capitol and a Jewish congressman in 2019, court records show.

The man, Kenneth R. Hubert, right, 63, Marionville, Mo., was arrested in March after, prosecutors said, he had directed the threats at Representatives Emanuel Cleaver II of Missouri and Steve Cohen of Tennessee, both Democrats.

According to a plea agreement filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, Mr. Hubert pleaded guilty to two counts of threatening to assault a United States steve cohenofficial. Each count carries a maximum penalty of six years in prison, the agreement states. It was unclear whether a sentencing date had been set.

Prosecutors, Mr. Hubert’s lawyer and representatives for Mr. Cleaver and Mr. Cohen did not immediately respond to messages on Friday.

In the plea agreement, Mr. Hubert acknowledged that on May 6, 2019, he had called the Washington office of Mr. Cohen, who is Jewish, and told a staff member that he had “a noose with the congressman’s name on it” and planned to “put a noose around his neck” and drag him behind his pickup truck.

Three days later, F.B.I. agents went to Mr. Hubert’s home, where he admitted making the call and said he had done so because he was offended by a comment that Mr. Cohen had made about Donald J. Trump, who was president, the agreement states.

On Jan. 7, a day after a mob of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol, Mr. Hubert called Mr. Cleaver’s office in Independence, Mo., and, according to the plea agreement, left a voice mail message in which he called Mr. Cleaver, who is Black, a racial slur, and said, “How about a noose around his neck?”

After F.B.I. agents went to Mr. Hubert’s home on Jan. 19, he admitted that he had called Mr. Cleaver’s office, acknowledged that his message was threatening and said he had been upset about a comment that Mr. Cleaver had made in the House of Representatives, the agreement states.

Prosecutors said Mr. Hubert had been upset after Mr. Cleaver had ended the opening prayer on the first day of Congress by saying, “Amen and A-woman.”

Mr. Hubert had a history of making threatening and hostile phone calls, according to prosecutors.

On the morning of Jan. 6, they said, he called the Missouri Democratic Party and left a message saying the party should “stay in hiding. Steal the election, we got something for you.” In a second voice mail later that day, he pointed to the siege at the Capitol and said, “It’s coming your way next,” prosecutors said.

Mr. Hubert had also been investigated by law enforcement officials after he left a hostile message for a federal judge in Montana in 2014 in response to a ruling on same-sex marriage, according to prosecutors. Mr. Hubert had also called the Council on American-Islamic Relations in St. Louis in 2016 and made disparaging and derogatory comments, prosecutors said.

At a hearing in March, Mr. Hubert’s lawyer, David Mercer, said his client had served in the military, had spent most of his life in southern Missouri and had “lived a completely law-abiding life,” The Kansas City Star reported. 

 

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U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL, at center, former Florida State Rep. Chris Dorworth, left, then of the Ballard Partners lobbying firm, and former Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg, at right, posed for the photograph above outside the White House in June of 2019.

Palmer Report, Opinion:  The Matt Gaetz scandal is blowing up in Republicans’ faces, Bill Palmer, right, June 19, 2021. Once the Feds gained two cooperating witnesses against Matt Gaetz last month, it was bill palmerpretty clear that he was headed for likely criminal indictment. Earlier today the Feds seemingly tipped off that Gaetz will be indicted and arrested within weeks. This is ugly news for Republicans – and not just the specific Central Florida Republicans who appear to be going down with him.

Because Republican House Leader Kevin McCarthy, left, is a tepid idiot who usually just defers to whatever fantasy Donald Trump would like to see play out, McCarthy missed the chance to preemptively make some kind of move to distance his party from Matt Gaetz. There was a window of opportunity where McCarthy could have had the House GOP remove Kevin McCarthyGaetz from committees, so that once Gaetz was indicted, the Republicans could argue that they took action against Gaetz before anyone else did.

bill palmer report logo headerBut now it’s realistically too late for McCarthy and the House GOP to get out ahead of the Gaetz scandal. Congressman Ted Lieu highlighted the trouble that House Republicans are now facing in a tweet today: “Dear Kevin McCarthy: You and your GOP caucus should stop embracing Rep Matt Gaetz and remove him from the Judiciary Committee immediately. Gaetz should not be sitting on the Committee that has oversight over the DOJ that is investigating him for alleged sex crimes & other crimes.”

Lieu’s tweet is a preview of what the Democratic Party will end up saying about every House Republican who faces reelection in 2022: they knew what Matt Gaetz was all along, so why did they try to protect him instead of doing the right thing? At this point Kevin McCarthy is a deer in the headlights – and House Republicans are stuck right there with him.

 

U.S. Politics, Governance 

llewellyn king photo logo

White House Chronicle, Commentary: The Great Western Drought Will Affect Us All, Llewellyn King, above, June 19, 2021. The severe drought gripping the Western states looks set to reach into all lives in the nation and into every pocket.

The unbearable heat for those living in the West, with record-high temperatures stretching from Wyoming to the Mexican border and from the Pacific to the Mississippi, will impact the rest of the country as well.

Scientists have classified this monstrous baking as a megadrought. There hasn’t been regular rain or mountain snow in the West for more than 20 years.

To call it a scorcher is to underestimate a catastrophe that has the possibility of reaching near-biblical proportions. This is big and there is no quick fix. None.

The drought means epic disruptions, merciless rearrangement.

First, of course, there is no water, which means much economic activity may slow or cease. Farmers won’t be able to grow crops or raise livestock. Food prices that are already high from the pandemic’s disruptions will go even higher.

The electricity supply will be strained and may be curtailed because of reduced hydroelectric production. The 13 Western states get more than 22 percent of their electricity from hydropower dams, located mostly in Washington, according to the National Hydropower Association.

In today’s world, farmers depend on electricity to water crops and livestock, milk cows, dry grain, and freeze produce.

The first measurable disruption of the summer will be from breakdowns in the California food supply chain. Prices in supermarkets will reflect the impact of the drought on California, which acts as the nation’s truck farm. If you eat it, it grows in California, but only when there is water for irrigation.

The rivers of the West are running dry. The reserves of water in the great dams on the major rivers, especially the Columbia and the Colorado, which act as the lifelines of much of the West, are way below normal.

Manufactured goods from Western states will be affected if power shortages are extended and widespread. Wildfires will abound and have already started their annual scourge.

 

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, Brazil, Besieged by Covid, Now Faces a Severe Drought, Manuela Andreoni and Ernesto Londoño, June 19, 2021. Brazilians are paying more for electricity, dealing with the possibility of water rationing and expecting a destructive fire season in the Amazon.

Crops have shriveled up under searing heat. Immense water reservoirs, which generate the bulk of Brazil’s electricity, are growing alarmingly shallow. And the world’s largest waterfall system, Iguaçu Falls, has been reduced from a torrent to a trickle.

brazil flag wavingAs Brazil approaches 500,000 deaths from Covid-19, a worsening drought is imperiling the country’s ability to jump-start its beleaguered economy, and may set the stage for another intensely destructive fire season in the Amazon rainforest.

Several states in the country are facing the worst drought in at least 90 years. The crisis has led to higher electricity prices, the threat of water rationing and a disruption of crop growing cycles. Agriculture, an economic engine of the nation — which relies heavily on hydropower — is now at risk.

Experts said the arid landscape, which coincided with a rise in illegal deforestation over the past months in the Amazon rainforest, could lead to a devastating fire season. Enforcement of environmental regulations is weak in the rainforest, and fire season traditionally begins in July.

ebrahim raisi smile facebook

ny times logoNew York Times, Iranian Hard-Liner, Ebrahim Raisi, Is Headed to Presidency, Vivian Yee, June 19, 2021. Rivals conceded the election to Mr. Raisi, Iran’s judiciary chief, a close ally of the supreme leader who has a record of human rights violations.

Iran FlagIran’s ultraconservative judiciary chief, Ebrahim Raisi, looked certain to become the country’s next president on Saturday after an election that many voters skipped, seeing it as rigged in his favor.The semiofficial news agency Fars, citing the head of the election commission, said that with 90 percent of the vote counted Mr. Raisi had won 17 million of the 28 million votes tabulated. Two rival candidates have conceded, and President Hassan Rouhani congratulated Mr. Raisi for the victory on Saturday, the semiofficial Mehr news agency reported.

Huge swaths of moderate and liberal-leaning Iranians sat out the election, saying that the campaign had been engineered to put Mr. Raisi in office or that voting would make little difference. He had been expected to win handily despite late attempts by the more-moderate reformist camp to consolidate support behind their main candidate — Abdolnasser Hemmati, a former central bank governor.

There was no immediate word on voter turnout. But if 28 million votes amounted to 90 percent of the ballots cast, then only about 31 million people would have voted. That would be a significant decline from the last presidential election, in 2017.. The number of eligible voters is 59 million, according to Mehr, an official news agency.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Power of Money: How Autocrats Use London to Strike Foes Worldwide, Andrew Higgins, Jane Bradley, Isobel Koshiw and Franz Wild, June 19, 2021 (print ed.). English courtrooms are a battleground — and a source of strong weapons — in disputes between the tycoons and the politicians of the post-Soviet world.

 

U.S. Religion and Media News 

ed litton

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Will Christian America Withstand the Pull of QAnon? Peter Wehner (Mr. Wehner, right, who served in various roles in the three Republican administrations before the Trump administration, is a contributing peter wehnerOpinion writer. He attends McLean Presbyterian Church in McLean, Va.), June 19, 2021 (print ed.).

The scandals, jagged-edged judgmentalism and culture war mentality that have enveloped significant parts of American Christendom over the last several years, including the nation’s largest Protestant denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, have conditioned many of us to expect the worst. Which is why the annual meeting of the convention this week was such a pleasant surprise.

The convention’s newly elected president, the Rev. Ed Litton, above, barely defeated the Rev. Mike Stone, below left, the choice of the denomination’s insurgent right. Mr. Litton, a soft-spoken pastor in Alabama who is very conservative theologically, has made racial reconciliation a hallmark of his ministry and has said that he will make institutional accountability and care for survivors of sexual abuse priorities during his two-year mike stone twitterterm.

“My goal is to build bridges and not walls,” Mr. Litton said at a news conference after his victory, pointedly setting himself apart from his main challenger. But those bridges won’t be easy to build.

Tensions in the convention are as high as they’ve been in decades; it is a deeply fractured denomination marked by fierce infighting. The Conservative Baptist Network, which Mr. Stone is part of, was formed in 2020 to stop what it considers the convention’s drift toward liberalism on matters of culture and theology.Ruth Graham and Elizabeth Dias of The Times describe the individuals in the Conservative Baptist Network as “part of an ultraconservative populist uprising of pastors” who want to “take the ship.” They are russell moore headshotzealous, inflamed, uncompromising and eager for a fight. They nearly succeeded this time. And they’re not going away anytime soon.

They view as a temporary setback the defeat of Mr. Stone, who came within an eyelash of winning even after allegations by the Rev. Russell Moore, right, the former head of the Southern Baptist Convention’s public policy arm, that Mr. Stone blocked investigations of sexual abuse at Southern Baptist churches and engaged in a broader campaign of intimidation. (Mr. Stone has denied the charges.

washington post logoWashington Post, Catholic bishops back document that could limit Communion for Biden, Michelle Boorstein, June 19, 2021 (print ed.). The presidency of the country’s second Catholic president is revealing deep divisions among U.S. bishops. The vote to create guidelines on the meaning of communion could be an early step toward limiting the serving of the eucharist to politicians who support abortion rights.

Catholic bishops on Friday voted to create guidelines on the meaning of Communion, a move that could be an early step toward limiting the serving of the Eucharist to President Biden and other politicians who support abortion rights.

The vote came after a 3½-hour-long emotional discussion Thursday at the annual spring meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Multiple bishops clashed over how, or if, they should single out the church’s teaching on abortion.

The vote on whether to create a draft document about the meaning of the Eucharist, the bread-and-wine rite at the heart of Communion, needed a simple majority. The measure passed 168 to 55, with six abstentions.

Biden’s presidency, the second Catholic to ever hold the position in the nation’s history, is revealing deep divisions among U.S. bishops, and one after another appeared Thursday at their annual meeting to declare their fraternity is at a crossroads..

Embedded in the organization’s agenda this week were explosive, profound differences about theology, pastoring, human nature and a political backdrop that set off a rare public show of division among the bishops . One bishop said the men were meeting at a time of “historic opportunity.” Another said he could not recall a moment like this in 30 years. Yet another said the bishops’ discussion was the most robust discussion in a decade.

Each side said the other was jeopardizing the church’s reputation.

joe biden jill biden church

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden finds himself caught in politics of Catholic Church, Matt Viser, June 19, 2021 (print ed.). Joe Biden (shown above at center foreground with First Lady Jill Biden) is arguably the most observant U.S. president in decades and the nation’s most prominent Catholic politician. He rarely misses Mass, he quotes scripture, and his faith has long been a core part of his identity. He’s also a liberal, and that’s stirring up the U.S. Catholic bishops fighting cultural battles within the church.

 

christina bobb resized

washington post logoWashington Post, One America News is the face of the GOP-led Arizona election audit. Its reporter is also helping pay for it, Paul Farhi and Elahe Izadi, June 19, 2021 (print ed.). The right-wing channel’s Christina Bobb, above, is simultaneously covering, promoting and fundraising for the review of the 2020 election results.

One America News correspondent Christina Bobb had some exciting news to share from the scene of the Arizona GOP-led audit of the 2020 presidential vote in Maricopa County: Republican lawmakers from another battleground state had just paid a visit to see if they might replicate it back home.

“If they like what they see, [they’ll] take it back to Pennsylvania,” she told her audience this month from the floor of a massive Phoenix arena where more than 2 million ballots are being removed from boxes and examined by hand.

“I think we can expect to see a lot more key decision-makers coming out to take a look,” she added, hopefully.

Bobb didn’t mention in her report that she had helped raise money to pay for those lawmakers to visit. Nor that she worked with Arizona Republicans last year to find some of the initial, much-disputed evidence they used to justify the audit.

 

June 18

Top Headlines

 

Jan. 6 U.S. Pro-Trump Insurrection

 

Virus Victims, Responses 

 

U.S. Crime, Courts, Law

  

U.S. Politics, Governance, Climate

 

World News

 

Religion and Media News

 

Top Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, Juneteenth holiday marking end of slavery becomes law after decades of inaction, Seung Min Kim, June 18, 2021 (print ed.). In signing the measure — which resulted in an joe biden twitterunexpected day off Friday for federal workers — President Biden called for more aggressive action on voting access and other racial equity measures.

Because June 19 falls on a Saturday this year, most federal employees will get this Friday off.

washington post logoWashington Post, House votes to repeal 2002 authorization for military force with strong bipartisan support, White House endorsement, Karoun Demirjian, June 17, 2021. The House voted Thursday to repeal a 19-year-old military authorization that Congress passed to give legal backing to the Iraq War with the support of Democrats, Republicans and the White House — an unprecedented coalition to end post-9/11 authorities to engage in hostilities that critics argue are outdated.

The 268-to-161 vote reflects growing bipartisan support for the repeal effort and tees up the legislation for the Senate, where Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) this week declared his support for the measure and his intention to bring it to the floor for a vote sometime this year.

“Today’s historic vote is a turning point,” House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Gregory W. Meeks (D-N.Y.) said on the floor just before the vote. “I look forward to Congress no longer taking a back seat on some of the most consequential decisions our nation can make.

 

joe manchin smile palmer

washington post logoWashington Post, McConnell vows to block voting legislation, spurning Manchin’s compromise offer, Mike DeBonis and Vanessa Williams, June 18, 2021 (print ed.). Senate Republicans vowed Thursday to block voting legislation from advancing later this month, rejecting a key Democratic senator’s compromise offer that adopted some GOP ideas in a bid to break partisan gridlock on the issue.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosThe pledge from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) all but guarantees that Republicans will filibuster a sweeping voting bill that Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) is sending to the floor Tuesday.

Mitchell_McConnellParts of the bill are meant to overrule provisions contained in a host of GOP-passed state laws that have placed restrictions on early voting, mail-in voting, ballot drop boxes and other policies that make it easier to cast a ballot, in response to former president Donald Trump’s false claims of a stolen 2020 presidential election.

“I’ve taken a look at all the new state laws — none of them are designed to suppress the vote,” McConnell, left, said Thursday. “There is no rational basis for the federal government to take over all of American elections.”

The only remaining question is whether all 50 Democratic senators will unite in support of debating the bill, known as the For the People Act, and how they will react once Republicans block the legislation.

Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), above, has long withheld support for the sprawling bill, which contains dozens of provisions for disparate voting, campaign finance and elections, citing a lack of GOP support. But this week he circulated a three-page memo outlining potential changes that could win his support, including adopting some traditional Republican priorities such as mandating that voters provide identification and giving state and local elections officials a free hand to maintain their voter rolls.

Manchin outlines demands on voting legislation, creating an opening for potential Democratic compromise

After huddling with his fellow Democratic senators Thursday, Manchin suggested that he would join with them to at least start debating the bill next week. “I would think we all would want to do that,” he said. “You could air your differences that you might have or what your concerns are or what your thoughts may be.”

us senate logoBut McConnell said flatly Wednesday that his party would not be joining in.

“All Republicans, I think, will oppose that . . . if that were to be surfaced on the floor,” he said.

McConnell’s remarks came not long after the Manchin proposal won a notable endorsement from Democratic voting-rights activist Stacey Abrams, who said in a morning CNN appearance that she could “absolutely” support his proposal and called it a “first and important step to preserving our democracy.”

Other Democrats also spoke positively about Manchin’s proposal — and several senators said they could be willing to accept a voter ID mandate as part of a broader package.

raphael warnock“I don’t know anybody who believes that people shouldn’t have to prove that they are who they say they are,” said Sen. Raphael G. Warnock (D-Ga.), right, a close ally of Abrams. “But what has happened over the years is people have played with common sense identification and put into place restrictive measures intended not to preserve the integrity of the outcome, but to select certain voters. That’s what I oppose.”

Abrams, a former Georgia state legislative leader and gubernatorial candidate, is an influential figure among Democrats, who credit her efforts with helping deliver Georgia for President Biden in 2020. But she is a reviled figure among the Republican voter base, and McConnell and other GOP leaders immediately used her words of support to cast the Manchin proposal as unacceptable.

In an interview Thursday, Abrams said she did not agree with every piece of Manchin’s proposal but said it “signaled a willingness to engage and to have conversations” about voting legislation. “But this is a process,” she added, “which means others are going to also have a say.”

The most important message Manchin’s engagement has sent, Abrams said, is that the effort to pass federal voting rights legislation still has momentum. And she said the GOP efforts to weaponize her support for the new talks among Democrats did not change the political fundamentals of the partisan clash.

“If I disagreed with it, they were going to oppose it. If I agreed with it, they were going to oppose it,” she said. “There’s nothing in access to the right to vote that will appease Mitch McConnell.”

McConnell gathered about a dozen Republican senators to stand with him in front of reporters Thursday as he lambasted the Democratic voting rights efforts, a show of force that reflected his own long-standing distaste for legislation that puts federal fetters on campaigns and elections as well as the depth of support he has within his caucus for his hard-line approach.

That approach is backstopped by the Senate filibuster — the 60-vote supermajority rule that gives a united minority an effective veto — and the knowledge that Manchin and several other Democratic senators do not currently support changing that rule.

As he rolled out his compromise proposal Wednesday, Manchin simultaneously made clear that he remains unwilling to change Senate rules to pass major legislation with a simple majority. On Thursday, he said he was still hopeful that some Republicans could be convinced to support some type of elections bill.

“McConnell has the right to do whatever he thinks he can do,” Manchin told reporters. “I would hope that there’s enough good Republicans who understand the bedrock of our society is having an accessible, open, fair and secure election.”

 

Jan. 6 Pro-Trump Capitol Insurrection 

joe oltmann resized amazon.com via proof

Proof via Substack, The Troubling Associations of Insurrection-Week Trump "Command Center" Participant Joe Oltmann—the Man Who Tried to Convince the State Department to Overturn the 2020 seth abramson graphicElection on Insurrection Day, Seth Abramson, left, June 17-18, 2021. From Eric Trump to the State Department, paramilitaries to pro-Trump rappers, Trump lawyers to Stop the Steal, this seth abramson proof logoportrait of the ties of an invitee to an Insurrection Week "war room" is telling. 

On March 13, 2020, a man named Joe Otto (shown above) took to his podcast, Conservative Daily, to call COVID-19 a “fake story” and assure his listeners that the “real pandemic” was the “mental midget-ness” of a society that—he said—celebrates the idea that “everyone is a victim.”

Joe Otto—real name Joe Oltmann—has now spent the last year identifying himself as the victim of everyone from local Colorado politicians to “antifa journalists”, from mask mandates to the author of Proof, who Oltmann (communicating under his real name) has accused of lying about him in this Proof article, thereafter threatening to “sue [me]…out of existence.”

 Trump attorney and former Justice Department Deputy Attorney Gen. Rudy Giuliani, his colleague and significant other Maria Ryan, and One America Network White House correspondent Christina Bogbb are shown working in a Willard Hotel

Trump attorney and former Justice Department Deputy Attorney Gen. Rudy Giuliani, his colleague and significant other Maria Ryan, and One America Network White House correspondent Christina Bogbb are shown working in a Willard Hotel "War Room" near almost across the street from White House grounds with fellow Trump supporters on Jan. 6, 2021 in a photo by a fellow Trump supporter.

Proof via Substack, Investigation: We Now Know What the Willard Hotel War Room Was For—and You're Not Going to Believe It, Seth Abramson, June 16-17-2021. The revelation of the seventh person in seth abramson graphicTrump's Willard Hotel war room leads to the strangest discovery of the January 6 investigation so far, one so bizarre that it must be read to be believed.

When I discovered that the seventh identifiable figure in the photographs of Donald Trump’s Willard Hotel command center (photographs which had been posted on Instagram by Trump associate Robert Hyde) was Rudy Giuliani girlfriend Maria Ryan, the news meant little to me. It would, I felt, merit little interest from anyone else, either.

I now realize that I couldn’t have been more mistaken, as sometimes mundane discoveries lead to appalling ones—something you’d think I’d recall from my experience as a federal-system criminal investigator and then a state criminal defense attorney.

seth abramson proof logoAs the identification of Maria Ryan as the seventh entrant into the Willard war room was underway, a Proof reader sent me a January 5 “interview” Ryan had conducted with One America News (OAN) propagandist Christina Bobb. I put the word “interview” in quotes here because, as the above photo confirms, and as Proof has already reported at great length, Bobb was, with Ryan, a member of Trump’s secretive insurrection-week team at the Willard — and therefore her on-air discussion with Ryan on January 5 was in no way a real interview. Note: Bobb didn’t disclose her association with Ryan during their chat.

Even odder than the truth of the Bobb-Ryan “interview” was its timing: Insurrection Eve.

Indeed (and this was the first sign of the strange story I was about to find myself immersed in as a journalist and researcher) on January 5, 2021, Maria Ryan was being interviewed from the very war room that Bobb was a member of—meaning that Bobb had at some point left the war room, gone in to work at OAN’s television studio, and then conducted an “interview” with the very legal team she was a part of with a fellow team member who was sitting in the very war room that Bobb herself had been using.

 

andrew clyde left jan 6 201

A frightened U.S. Congressman, Andrew Clyde, left, Republican of Georgia, is defended by Capitol security during the pro-Trump insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021.

washington post logoWashington Post, GOP congressman refuses to shake hands with D.C. police officer who protected the Capitol on Jan. 6, Colby Itkowitz and Peter Hermann, June 18, 2021 (print ed.). Rep. Andrew S. Clyde (R-Ga.), who voted against awarding police officers the Congressional Gold Medal for their bravery in protecting the U.S. Capitol against violent, pro-Trump rioters on Jan. 6, refused to shake hands with D.C. police officer Michael Fanone on Wednesday.

Fanone was beaten unconscious after he voluntarily rushed to the Capitol to help defend it from those who breached the building. He suffered a concussion and a mild heart attack. In the months since, Fanone has been one of the leading voices pushing back against Republicans who have sought to downplay the severity of what happened Jan. 6.

Fanone, joined by Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn, returned to the Capitol on Wednesday, the day after 21 House Republicans voted against the Gold Medal resolution, in an effort to meet them and tell his story.

andrew clydeHe said he recognized Clyde, right, at an elevator and that he and Dunn hopped in with the congressman.

djt maga hat“I simply extended my hand and said, “How are you doing today, Congressman.’ I knew immediately he recognized me by the way he reacted. He completely froze. He just stared at me,” Fanone said in an interview.

Fanone said Clyde did not motion to shake his hand in return.

“I said, ‘I’m sorry, you’re not going to shake my hand?’ ” Fanone said he told Clyde.

He said Clyde answered, “I don’t know who you are.”

Fanone said he responded, “’I’m sorry, sir, my name is Michael Fanone. I’m a D.C. police officer and I fought to defend the Capitol on Jan. 6.” He said he described being stunned repeatedly in the back of the neck and beaten unconscious, stripped of his badge and radio.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

ny times logoNew York Times, High Hopes for Johnson & Johnson’s Covid Vaccine Have Fizzled, Noah Weiland, June 18, 2021.The “one and done” Janssen vaccine has made up less than 4 percent of the U.S.’s total administered doses so far. Millions of vials will soon expire. The vaccine’s appeal has dropped after several controversies, and experts now say that the U.S. has missed a big opportunity to tackle health disparities.

When Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose coronavirus vaccine was authorized for emergency use in late February, ​it was seen as a breakthrough for reaching vulnerable and isolated Americans, a crucial alternative to vaccines that require two shots weeks apart and fussier storage. It was soon popular on college campuses, in door-to-door campaigns and with harder-to-reach communities that often struggle with access to health care.

johnson johnson logoBut with only 11.8 million doses administered in the United States so far — less than 4 percent of the total — the “one and done” vaccine has fallen flat. States have warned for weeks that they may not find recipients for millions of doses that will soon expire, partly because the vaccine’s appeal dropped after it was linked to a rare but serious blood-clotting disorder and injections were paused for 10 days in April.

The vaccine took another hit last week, when regulators told Johnson & Johnson that it should throw out tens of millions of additional doses produced at a plant in Baltimore because they might be contaminated. The diminished supply and enthusiasm for the shot mean that its role in the United States is fading fast, even though millions of Americans have yet to be vaccinated.

“It’s just not what I think anybody would have hoped it would be when it came out,” said Dave Baden, the chief financial officer of the Oregon Health Authority.

Health officials in a number of other states presented a similarly discouraging picture. The pause on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, they said, effectively kicked it aside for good; only about 3.5 million doses have been used since the pause was lifted on April 23. Kim Deti, a spokeswoman for the Wyoming Health Department, said the graph of uptake in her state told the vaccine’s story: a significant climb in the early weeks of its rollout, followed by a plateau that began around the pause.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: China’s road to 1 billion vaccine doses: eggs, water bottles, free rides, Staff Reports, June 18, 2021. The country’s inoculation effort accounts for more than a third of all China Flagshots globally. While the E.U. said that American tourists should be allowed easier entry, Lisbon was forced into a weekend lockdown.

  • Israel is to bolster the Palestinian vaccination drive, trading a million doses.
  • Suspicion about vaccination videos fuels attacks on health workers in Kashmir.
  • In Taiwan, some foreign tech workers are confined indoors to tackle an outbreak.
  • Vaccinations are now mandatory for frontline workers in Moscow.
  • Isolated in the South Pacific, Fiji struggles as infections rise

washington post logoWashington Post, 175.9 million U.S. vaccinated, as of June 18, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This includes more than 147.8 million people (44.5 % of the eligible population) fully vaccinated and 53 % with at least one dose. See about your state.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated June 18, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here): 

World Cases: 178,267,584, Deaths: 3,859,419
U.S. Cases:     34,377,592, Deaths:    616,440
India Cases:    29,762,793, Deaths:    383,521
Brazil Cases:   17,704,041, Deaths:    496,172

ny times logoeuropean union logo rectangleNew York Times, E.U. Recommends Opening to Americans to Rescue the Summer, Monika Pronczuk, June 18, 2021. The European Union recommended its 27 member nations lift a ban on nonessential travel from the United States, but each country will decide for itself 

washington post logoWashington Post, Federal judge strikes down CDC cruise rules in ‘major victory’ for DeSantis, Hannah Sampson, June 18, 2021. A federal judge said Friday that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention can’t enforce its rules for coronavirus-era sailing against cruise ships in Florida starting July 18.

The decision was hailed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) — who filed suit against the public health agency in April — as a “major victory.”

Under the ruling from U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday, the CDC’s conditional sail order will become a “ 'nonbinding ‘consideration,’ 'recommendation’ or 'guideline’ ” when applied to Florida sailings on July 18.

As part of its conditional sailing order, the CDC says operators can sail quickly if 95 percent of crew and passengers are vaccinated. If not, the agency requires cruise lines to take volunteers on “test” cruises to show they can mitigate the risks of covid.

Cruise ships have not been allowed to carry passengers from the United States since March of 2020, after high-profile outbreaks on ships around the world.

The agency can propose “a narrower injunction” by July 2 “to further safeguard the public’s health while this action pends,” the ruling said. CDC spokeswoman Caitlin Shockey declined to comment Friday afternoon.

In a statement, DeSantis said the industry would soon be allowed to sail again thanks to the lawsuit that he and Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody filed. In reality, some cruise ships are preparing to sail as soon as next week with the CDC’s blessing after meeting their requirements.

It wasn’t clear if cruise operators would change anything about their plans after July 18 given the ruling. Roger Frizzell, spokesman for industry giant Carnival Corp., said the company was in the process of reviewing the decision.


U.S. Crime, Courts, Law
 

ny times logoNew York Times, Man Pleads Guilty to Threatening to Lynch 2 Members of Congress, Michael Levenson, June 18, 2021. Kenneth R. Hubert, of Marionville, Mo., had threatened Representatives Emanuel Cleaver II after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol and Steve Cohen in 2019, prosecutors said.

A Missouri man pleaded guilty on Thursday to charges that he had threatened to lynch a Black congressman the day after the Jan. 6 siege at the U.S. Capitol and a Jewish congressman in 2019, court records show.

kenneth hubertThe man, Kenneth R. Hubert, right, 63, Marionville, Mo., was arrested in March after, prosecutors said, he had directed the threats at Representatives Emanuel Cleaver II of Missouri and Steve Cohen of Tennessee, both Democrats.

According to a plea agreement filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, Mr. Hubert pleaded guilty to two counts of threatening to assault a United States official. Each count carries a maximum penalty of six years in prison, the agreement states. It was unclear whether a sentencing date had been set.

Prosecutors, Mr. Hubert’s lawyer and representatives for Mr. Cleaver and Mr. Cohen did not immediately respond to messages on Friday.

In the plea agreement, Mr. Hubert acknowledged that on May 6, 2019, he had called the Washington office of Mr. Cohen, who is Jewish, and told a staff member that he had “a noose with the congressman’s name on it” and planned to “put a noose around his neck” and drag him behind his pickup truck.

Three days later, F.B.I. agents went to Mr. Hubert’s home, where he admitted making the call and said he had done so because he was offended by a comment that Mr. Cohen had made about Donald J. Trump, who was president, the agreement states.

On Jan. 7, a day after a mob of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol, Mr. Hubert called Mr. Cleaver’s office in Independence, Mo., and, according to the plea agreement, left a voice mail message in which he called Mr. Cleaver, who is Black, a racial slur, and said, “How about a noose around his neck?”

After F.B.I. agents went to Mr. Hubert’s home on Jan. 19, he admitted that he had called Mr. Cleaver’s office, acknowledged that his message was threatening and said he had been upset about a comment that Mr. Cleaver had made in the House of Representatives, the agreement states.

Prosecutors said Mr. Hubert had been upset after Mr. Cleaver had ended the opening prayer on the first day of Congress by saying, “Amen and A-woman.”
ImageRepresentative Steve Cohen of Tennessee was the target of a threat in 2019.

Mr. Hubert had a history of making threatening and hostile phone calls, according to prosecutors.

On the morning of Jan. 6, they said, he called the Missouri Democratic Party and left a message saying the party should “stay in hiding. Steal the election, we got something for you.” In a second voice mail later that day, he pointed to the siege at the Capitol and said, “It’s coming your way next,” prosecutors said.

Mr. Hubert had also been investigated by law enforcement officials after he left a hostile message for a federal judge in Montana in 2014 in response to a ruling on same-sex marriage, according to prosecutors. Mr. Hubert had also called the Council on American-Islamic Relations in St. Louis in 2016 and made disparaging and derogatory comments, prosecutors said.

At a hearing in March, Mr. Hubert’s lawyer, David Mercer, said his client had served in the military, had spent most of his life in southern Missouri and had “lived a completely law-abiding life,” The Kansas City Star reported.

 Ronnie Oneill III in court (Photo by Arielle Bader with the Tampa Bay Times via the Associated Press).

Accused murderer Ronnie Oneal III arguing his case in court (Photo by Arielle Bader with the Tampa Bay Times via the Associated Press).

washington post logoWashington Post, A boy is the sole survivor of a family massacre. His dad, the suspect, was allowed to question him in court, Julian Mark, June 18, 2021 (print ed.). For about 20 minutes in a Tampa courtroom on Wednesday, a jury listened to an 11-year-old boy describe what he survived three years ago: hearing his mom hit with a shotgun blast, seeing his sister stabbed in the head with an ax, and then feeling himself get soaked in gasoline and lit on fire.

His father, Ronnie Oneal III, is charged with committing all of these crimes. After the 11-year-old’s harrowing testimony to prosecutors, Oneal himself got up to directly question him about it.

“Did I hurt you the night of this incident?” Oneal asked his son, known as Ronnie Oneal IV.

“Yes,” the boy replied. “You stabbed me.”

It was an unusual moment in an unusual trial. Hillsborough Circuit Judge Michelle Sisco allowed Oneal to represent himself in his murder trial this week, determining he was mentally fit, educated enough and understood the consequences of such a decision, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

The son has been adopted by the family of one of the police officers working on the case.

 ABC News, As Gaetz investigation ramps up, feds mount sweeping probe into Central Florida political scene: Sources,Will Steakin and Katherine Faulders, June 18, 2021. The sprawling probe has revved up its focus on alleged corruption and fraud.

Since federal prosecutors obtained the cooperation of GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz's once close-ally in May, sources tell ABC News the ongoing investigation, which includes sex trafficking allegations involving Gaetz, has engulfed the tight-knit Central Florida political scene as prosecutors continue their investigation of the Florida congressman.

Former Seminole County tax collector Joel Greenberg, who reached a plea deal last month, has been assisting federal agents in the sprawling probe that has recently revved up its focus on alleged corruption and fraud stemming from Greenberg's time in office and beyond, multiple sources familiar with the matter told ABC News.

The former tax collector pleaded guilty in May to a host of crimes including charges of stalking, identity theft, wire fraud and conspiracy to bribe a public official, as well as a sex trafficking charge. Greenberg is prepared to hand over evidence and testimony that could implicate Gaetz and others, sources told ABC News.

Sources told ABC News that prosecutors believe a decision about whether or not to bring charges against Gaetz could come as early as July.

Sources said the probe into the congressman has ramped up in recent weeks. Investigators have started interviewing more women who were allegedly introduced to Gaetz through Greenberg, who last month pleaded guilty to sex trafficking a 17-year-old girl -- who later went on to work in pornography -- and introducing her to other "adult men." Since May, a new round of target letters and subpoenas in the wide-ranging investigation have been sent out, ABC News has learned.

Another avenue investigators have been focusing on recently, according to sources, are contracts that Greenberg handed out through the tax office totaling more than $1.5 million, which an independent audit late last year described as "unnecessary" and "considered to be a waste of taxpayer dollars," according to documents in the forensic audit of the tax office obtained by ABC News through a public records request.

Sources told ABC News that investigators have reached out to Keith Ingersoll, whose firm KI Consulting had a $48,000 contract with the tax office that ran between January 2017 and September 2020. The audit found that there was "no evidence of work product" by Ingersoll's group despite the multi-year contract and staff at the tax office being "unaware what this group did."

Ingersoll's attorney did not respond to multiple requests for comment from ABC News.

In May, Politico reported that investigators were seeking information from close associates of Greenberg, including Gaetz and long-time friend Joe Ellicott. A subpoena received by one associate allegedly stated that the grand jury is investigating alleged crimes "involving commercial sex acts with adult and minor women as well as obstruction of justice." It also requested any communications, documents, recordings and payments the individual had with Ellicott, Gaetz and Greenberg from 2016 until now, according to Politico.

Ellicott, who was also on the tax office payroll as an assistant deputy tax collector, has a long history with Greenberg; he was a groomsman at the former tax collector's wedding and the pair co-hosted a local sports-themed radio show before Greenberg ran for office.

Ellicott could emerge as a key witness in the ongoing sex traffic investigation, and appears to have information that may be damning to others beyond Greenberg, sources say. In a private text exchange over the encrypted messaging app Signal, Ellicott allegedly told Greenberg last August that a mutual friend was worried she could be implicated in the investigation into the sex ring involving a minor.

Palmer Report, Opinion: The real reason the Feds just revealed that Matt Gaetz is likely going down within weeks, Bill Palmer, June 18, 2021. Just because the media coverage of the federal criminal investigation into Matt Gaetz has tapered off this month, that doesn’t have anything to do with the trajectory of the investigation itself. With two cooperating witnesses in hand, we’ve been fully expecting prosecutors to end up indicting Gaetz before much longer. Now there’s news on that front.

This morning ABC News reported that the Feds are now planning to make a charging decision about Gaetz in July – a month which begins just twelve days from now. To be clear, this kind of inside information doesn’t get picked up by a gust of wind and randomly land on a reporter’s desk. Prosecutors have clearly given this story to the media because they want it out there. But why?

bill palmer report logo headerFor one thing, if the probe is this close to completion, then the Feds surely already know whether they have enough to indict Matt Gaetz. And if they were coming up short, if anything they’d be leaking about how their witnesses are falling apart, so as to lower expectations and reduce the public backlash for when they don’t charge Gaetz.

Instead they’re playing up the help that cooperating witness Joel Greenberg, right, has provided. In other words, prosecutors are letting it be known that they plan to indict Gaetz within weeks. But again, why put this out there now?

Palmer Report, Opinion: Matt Gaetz is falling to pieces, Ron Leshnower, June 18, 2021. Matt Gaetz is falling fast. A sizeable drop remains to the floor of the prison cell where Gaetz belongs, but the GOP’s star is quickly fading from relevance and influence. As the feds ramp up their investigation into Gaetz for sex trafficking and obstruction of justice, he can’t afford to shed any positive public opinion. Gaetz was right to vote for Juneteenth, but the toxic stench surrounding his wide-ranging criminal activity is pulling him down.

bill palmer report logo headerA new analysis from Business Insider notes that Gaetz has not appeared once on Fox News since March 30. This last appearance was when Gaetz famously remarked that Tucker Carlson had been “falsely accused of a terrible sex act,” prompting Carlson to call the exchange “one of the weirdest interviews I have ever conducted.” After appearing on Fox 310 times since August 2017, Gaetz remains effectively banned from the network for nearly three months and counting.

In a separate report, Business Insider revealed that former Gaetz staffers have started formally disassociating themselves from the shunned creep. At least 25 former congressional aides have removed Gaetz’ name from their LinkedIn resumes, fearing it could destroy their career prospects. Even Dan McFaul, Gaetz’s former chief of staff, now only goes so far as to say he generically served a “congressman.”

supreme court resized 2021

ny times logoNew York Times, Affordable Care Act Survives Latest Supreme Court Challenge, Adam Liptak, June 18, 2021 (print ed.). A seven-justice majority ruled that the plaintiffs did not have the standing to sue, but the court did not address the larger issue in the case. The 2010 law, also known as Obamacare, has been the subject of relentless criticism from Republicans and two other major Supreme Court cases.

The Affordable Care Act on Thursday survived a third major challenge in the Supreme Court.

A seven-justice majority ruled that the plaintiffs had not suffered the sort of direct injury that gave them standing to sue.

The court did not reach the larger issues in the case: whether the bulk of the sprawling 2010 health care law, President Barack Obama’s defining domestic legacy, could stand without a provision that initially required most Americans to obtain insurance or pay a penaltydjt hands up mouth open CustomIn the years since the enactment of the law in 2010, Republicans have worked hard to destroy it, and President Donald J. Trump relentlessly criticized it. But attempts to repeal it failed, as did two earlier Supreme Court challenges, in 2012 and 2015. With the passing years, the law gained in popularity and was woven into the fabric of the health care system. Its future now seems secure.

Striking down the Affordable Care Act would have expanded the ranks of the uninsured in the United States by about 21 million people — a nearly 70 percent increase — according to recent estimates from the Urban Institute.

The biggest loss of coverage would have been among low-income adults who became eligible for Medicaid under the law after most states expanded the program to include them. But millions of Americans would also have lost private insurance, including young adults whom the law allowed to stay on their parents’ plans until they turned 26 and families whose income was modest enough to qualify for subsidies that help pay their monthly premiums.

A ruling against the law would also have doomed its protections for Americans with past or current health problems — or pre-existing conditions. The protections bar insurers from denying them coverage or charging them more for it.

The case, California v. Texas, No. 19-840, was brought by Republican officials who said the mandate requiring health insurance coverage became unconstitutional after Congress in 2017 eliminated the penalty for failing to obtain coverage because the mandate could no longer be justified as a tax.

The argument was based on the court’s 2012 ruling, in which Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., joined by what was at the time the court’s four-member liberal wing, said the mandate was authorized by Congress’s power to assess taxes.

The new challenge was largely successful in the lower courts. A federal judge in Texas ruled that the entire law was invalid, but he postponed the effects of his ruling until the case could be appealed. In 2019, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, in New Orleans, agreed that the mandate was unconstitutional but declined to rule on the fate of the remainder of the health law, asking the lower court to reconsider the question in more detail.

washington post logoWashington Post, Justices unanimously rule for Catholic group in Philadelphia foster-care dispute, Robert Barnes, June 18, 2021 (print ed.). The Supreme Court said Thursday that Philadelphia was wrong to end a contract to provide foster care services to a religious organization that refuses to work with same-sex couples.

 

U.S. Politics, Governance, Climate 

anna paulina

Business Insider via Yahoo News, A Florida Republican reportedly compared his political rival to a 'f---ing speed bump' and threatened to send a hit squad to make her 'disappear,' Oma Seddiq, June 17, 2021. A Florida congressional candidate threatened to call a "Russian-Ukrainian hit squad" to make his political opponent "disappear," according to a secret phone call recording obtained by Politico.

William Braddock, a Republican running for Florida's 13th Congressional District, attacked one of his rivals, Anna Paulina Luna (shown above in a file photo), in a phone call with a conservative activist recorded last Wednesday, per Politico.

republican elephant logo"I really don't want to have to end anybody's life for the good of the people of the United States of America," Braddock said during the phone call. "That will break my heart. But if it needs to be done, it needs to be done. Luna is a f---ing speed bump in the road. She's a dead squirrel you run over every day when you leave the neighborhood."

Braddock also called Luna "a crazy b----" and "a piece of s---," among other insults during the 30-minute phone call, according to Politico.

At another part of the conversation, Braddock expressed confidence that Luna will lose the upcoming Republican primary election. The candidates are running to replace outgoing Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist, who is running for governor.

"She's gonna be gone. Period. That's end of discussion. Luna is not an issue," Braddock said, per Politico.

"How do we make her go?" the activist who recorded the phone call, Erin Olszewski, asked.

"I call up my Russian-Ukrainian hit squad and within 24 hours they're sending me pictures of her disappearing," Braddock answered. "I'm not joking."

Olszewski told Politico that she recorded the conversation and turned it over to St. Petersburg police.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: With Obamacare Ruling, Health Battles Are Likely to Shift, Margot Sanger-Katz and Sarah Kliff, June 18, 2021 (print ed.). Congressional Republicans have largely abandoned efforts to repeal the law. With the latest Supreme Court ruling, health policy now shifts to new territory

ny times logoNew York Times, Why G.O.P.-Led States Are Banning Police From Enforcing Federal Gun Laws, Glenn Thrush and Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs Missouri is the latest to throw down a challenge to the enforcement of firearms laws as Republicans try to thwart President Biden’s gun control proposals.

Missouri has become the latest state to throw down a broad challenge to the enforcement of federal firearms laws, as Republican-controlled state legislatures intensify their fierce political counterattack against President Biden’s gun control proposals.

mike parson MissouriA bill signed by Gov. Mike Parson, left, over the weekend — at a gun store called Frontier Justice — threatens a penalty of $50,000 against any local police agency that enforces certain federal gun laws and regulations that constitute “infringements” of Second Amendment gun rights.

At least eight other states — Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia — have taken similar action this year, passing laws of varying strength that discourage or prohibit the enforcement of federal gun statutes by state and local agents and officers.

The new law “is about protecting law-abiding Missourians against government overreach and unconstitutional federal mandates,” Mr. Parson and the attorney general, Eric Schmitt, said in a letter defending the law on Thursday to the U.S. Justice Department. They said the state would “reject any attempt by the federal government to circumvent the fundamental right Missourians have to keep and bear arms to protect themselves and their property.”

In interviews, the sponsors of the bill in the Missouri House and Senate acknowledged that the law would most likely have little immediate effect on the current operations of local and state police agencies, since there is presently little difference between state and federal gun laws in Missouri.

There would be no change to the federal requirement for background checks before buying guns from licensed firearms dealers, they said, and local police officers could still aid in federal gun law enforcement operations as long as the person being targeted was also violating a state law.

The Republican lawmakers said their main intent was to guard against the potential of more wide-ranging legislation from Washington, where Democratic lawmakers have proposed a major expansion of federal background checks, an extension of the time period in which federal officials can review purchases and bills to restrict the sale of popular semiautomatic weapons like AR-15s.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Democrats devise a way to finally expand Medicaid in resistant states, Paige Winfield Cunningham, June 18, 2021 (print ed.). Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Tex.) says he has a solution. On Thursday morning, he’ll introduce legislation, co-signed by more than 40 House Democrats, that would let cities and counties bypass the states still refusing to expand their Medicaid programs.

“We’ve got a new, homegrown solution to finally get Medicaid to millions of our most vulnerable citizens by empowering local governments to cover their residents and protect their health," Doggett said in a statement.

ny times logoNew York Times, For Republicans, ‘Crisis’ Is the Message as the Outrage Machine Ramps Up, Jonathan Weisman, June 18, 2021 (print ed.). With next year’s midterm elections seen as a referendum on Democratic rule, Republicans are seeking to create a sense of instability and overreach, diverting focus from their own divisions.

House Republican leaders would like everyone to know that the nation is in crisis.

republican elephant logoThere is an economic crisis, they say, with rising prices and overly generous unemployment benefits; a national security crisis; a border security crisis, with its attendant homeland security crisis, humanitarian crisis, and public health crisis; and a separate energy crisis.

steve scalisePressed Tuesday on whether the nation is really so beleaguered, the No. 2 Republican in the House, Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana, right, thought of still more crises: anti-Semitism in the Democratic ranks, “yet another crisis,” he asserted, and a labor shortage crisis.

“Unfortunately they’re all real,” he said capping a 25-minute news conference in which the word “crisis” was used once a minute, “and they’re all being caused by President Biden’s actions.”

As Americans groggily emerge from their pandemic-driven isolation, they could be forgiven for not seeing the situation as quite so dire. They might also be a little confused about which of the many outrages truly needs their focus: the border, perhaps, but what about Dr. Anthony S. Fauci and the Wuhan lab leak theory, the teaching of critical race theory in the nation’s schools, the fact that some schools are not fully reopened, Representative Ilhan Omar, or all those transgender athletes competing in high school sports?

House Republicans, still overwhelmingly in the thrall of Donald J. Trump, have learned over the last four years that grievance, loudly expressed, carries political weight, especially with their core voters. Mr. Trump certainly did not teach members of his party how to express anger over perceived injustices; many of them had been doing it for years. But the House Republican leadership has shifted to Trumpian expressions of outrage since the days of former Speaker Paul D. Ryan, a self-described “policy guy” with a happy-warrior image, and the backslapping bonhomie of his predecessor John A. Boehner.

The idea is that with Democrats in control of the White House, House and Senate, next year’s midterm elections will be a referendum on one-party control, not on Republican governing plans.

 

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, The Power of Money: How Autocrats Use London to Strike Foes Worldwide, Andrew Higgins, Jane Bradley, Isobel Koshiw and Franz Wild, June 18, 2021. English courtrooms are a battleground — and a source of strong weapons — in disputes between the tycoons and the politicians of the post-Soviet world.

ny times logoNew York Times, Iran Edges Toward One-Party Rule as Clerics Sideline Moderates, Vivian Yee and Farnaz Fassihi, June 18, 2021 (print ed.). An ultraconservative judiciary chief appears to have the only real chance of winning after virtually all the other viable candidates were disqualified.

Iran FlagSince the revolution in 1979 toppled the monarchy, Iran has been run by parallel branches of the government. One is elected and the other is appointed, composed of the supreme leader and powerful councils of clerics.

While Iran has never been a true democracy over the past four decades, there was always a degree of choice and competition in elections for president and parliament. The outcomes were never a certainty.

But even those limited freedoms, which shrank after a contested election in 2009 led to widespread unrest, have nearly disappeared in this election cycle. The country is now moving increasingly toward what amounts to a one-party system whereby the top council of clerics that vets candidates eliminates anyone seen as a challenge to their conservative policies and views.

The Islamic Republic’s hierarchy has long used election turnout to try to bolster its legitimacy, pointing to robust voter participation as proof that Iranians really do choose their leaders. If voter turnout is low on Friday, that could be regarded as a sign of growing disaffection.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden’s strategy of pessimism ekes out a few gains with Putin, John Hudson, June 18, 2021 (print ed.). With expectations set low and pushed lower by the talks’ ending earlier than expected, President Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin emerged with a pleasant surprise: incremental progress on a handful of issues.

joe biden resized oIn a political career spanning four decades, President Biden has seen American presidents from both parties try to transform the U.S. relationship with Russia only to leave office disappointed.

In his first meeting as commander in chief with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Biden intended not to make the same mistake.

He would make no overtures for a reset in relations, and his pessimism about the prospects of changing Putin’s mind on issues such as human rights would inform his actions.

With expectations set low and pushed even lower by the talks’ ending earlier than expected, Putin and Biden emerged from the meetings with a pleasant surprise: incremental progress on a handful of issues.

 

Religion and Media News 

Techdirt,  Commentary: Devin Nunes' Family's Bizarrely Stupid Defamation Lawsuit Goes Off The Rails, Mike Masnick, June 18 2021. As you may recall, Rep. Devin Nunes has been involved in a bunch of totally frivolous SLAPP suits that seem designed to try to intimidate journalists from writing stories criticizing Devin Nunes. A key one that seems to have gotten deeply under Nunes' skin is an Esquire piece devin nunes grimacingfrom a few years ago entitled Devin Nunes’s Family Farm Is Hiding a Politically Explosive Secret written by reporter Ryan Lizza. In the fall of 2019 he sued over that article, and a few months later his family sued over it as well.

To say it hasn't gone well for Nunes, left, would be an understatement.

As a reminder, the article claims that the "politically explosive secret" is just the fact that, despite Nunes repeatedly pitching himself as a California farmer, his family packed up the farm and moved it to Iowa a while back. Much of the article is about how they appear to have worked over time to try to hide that:

So here’s the secret:

The Nunes family dairy of political lore—the one where his brother and parents work—isn’t in California. It’s in Iowa. Devin; his brother, Anthony III; and his parents, Anthony Jr. and Toni Dian, sold their California farmland in 2006. Anthony Jr. and Toni Dian, who has also been the treasurer of every one of Devin’s campaigns since 2001, used their cash from the sale to buy a dairy eighteen hundred miles away in Sibley, a small town in northwest Iowa where they—as well as Anthony III, Devin’s only sibling, and his wife, Lori—have lived since 2007. Devin’s uncle Gerald still owns a dairy back in Tulare, which is presumably where The Wall Street Journal’s reporter talked to Devin, and Devin is an investor in a Napa Valley winery, Alpha Omega, but his immediate family’s farm—as well as his family—is long gone.

The article also discusses a bunch of other oddities about the Nunes' farm in Iowa, and while it never comes out and directly claims that the farm hires undocumented workers, it does note that most other farms in the area do. This point has become somewhat important in the case.

Devin Nunes' own part in the case is effectively over as the judge dismissed it last summer, pointing out absolutely nothing Nunes claimed was defamatory actually was defamatory (Nunes is appealing, because of course he is, but it's hard to see much of a chance of the case being reinstated). And while the judge had made it clear that the lawsuit by Nunes' family was on shaky ground, the Nunes' family and their lawyer, the infamous Steven Biss, decided to keep the case going.

The only claim that has survived in the case is the one where Nunes' family says it is defamatory due to the implication that the farm has employed undocumented workers. So, as would be expected, one of the things that Esquire's publisher, Hearst, wished to do was to depose the workers on the farm to establish their documentation. Last month, it became clear that something nutty was going on after Hearst filed quite a document with the court, about its efforts to depose the workers from NuStar farms. Much of the filing is redacted, but you can still get a sense of the frustration:

This Motion comes in the wake of an unusual and troubling series of events in this case, which were previewed for the Court during last week’s telephone conferences with Judge Roberts....

Reading through the details (and especially the declaration of one of Esquire's lawyers) strongly suggests (though the redactions make it a little tricky to parse out) that Biss has played games to try to keep NuStar's employees from giving depositions. This includes questions about whether or not Biss would accept service on behalf of those employees and also whether or not he would represent those employees.

Reading those links suggests the case was already turning into something of a clusterfuck, and apparently on Thursday it all blew up as the magistrate judge on the case benchslapped Biss and told him to stop playing games (first reported by the Fresno Bee, whose parent company was also sued by Nunes, and which has done some great reporting on these cases).

The order from the magistrate judge details what happened when Hearst's lawyers were finally able to depose the NuStar employees and... um... wow.

washington post logoWashington Post, Catholic bishops back document that could limit Communion for Biden, Michelle Boorstein, June 18, 2021. The presidency of the country’s second Catholic president is revealing deep divisions among U.S. bishops. The vote to create guidelines on the meaning of communion could be an early step toward limiting the serving of the eucharist to politicians who support abortion rights.

Catholic bishops on Friday voted to create guidelines on the meaning of Communion, a move that could be an early step toward limiting the serving of the Eucharist to President Biden and other politicians who support abortion rights.

The vote came after a 3½-hour-long emotional discussion Thursday at the annual spring meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Multiple bishops clashed over how, or if, they should single out the church’s teaching on abortion.

The vote on whether to create a draft document about the meaning of the Eucharist, the bread-and-wine rite at the heart of Communion, needed a simple majority. The measure passed 168 to 55, with six abstentions.

Biden’s presidency, the second Catholic to ever hold the position in the nation’s history, is revealing deep divisions among U.S. bishops, and one after another appeared Thursday at their annual meeting to declare their fraternity is at a crossroads..

Embedded in the organization’s agenda this week were explosive, profound differences about theology, pastoring, human nature and a political backdrop that set off a rare public show of division among the bishops . One bishop said the men were meeting at a time of “historic opportunity.” Another said he could not recall a moment like this in 30 years. Yet another said the bishops’ discussion was the most robust discussion in a decade.

Each side said the other was jeopardizing the church’s reputation.

washington post logoWashington Post, One America News is the face of the GOP-led Arizona election audit. Its reporter is also helping pay for it, Paul Farhi and Elahe Izadi, June 18, 2021. The right-wing channel’s Christina Bobb is simultaneously covering, promoting and fundraising for the review of the 2020 election results.

One America News correspondent Christina Bobb had some exciting news to share from the scene of the Arizona GOP-led audit of the 2020 presidential vote in Maricopa County: Republican lawmakers from another battleground state had just paid a visit to see if they might replicate it back home.

“If they like what they see, [they’ll] take it back to Pennsylvania,” she told her audience this month from the floor of a massive Phoenix arena where more than 2 million ballots are being removed from boxes and examined by hand.

“I think we can expect to see a lot more key decision-makers coming out to take a look,” she added, hopefully.

Bobb didn’t mention in her report that she had helped raise money to pay for those lawmakers to visit. Nor that she worked with Arizona Republicans last year to find some of the initial, much-disputed evidence they used to justify the audit.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Hong Kong police raid newspaper offices, arrest editors, Shibani Mahtani, June 18, 2021 (print ed.). The early morning operation underscored the lengths that authorities will go to shut down any remaining space for dissent, including the silencing of media.

hong kong flagPolice on Thursday raided the Apple Daily newspaper, known for its support for Hong Kong's democracy movement, and arrested five executives, including three top editors, on suspicion of violating the city's national security law. Authorities also froze the tabloid's assets.

The early-morning operation highlighted the authorities’ resolve to shut down any residual space for dissent, including silencing media critical of the Chinese government. Press freedom is supposed to be guaranteed under the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution.

The police warrant allowed officers to seize “journalistic materials” — the first time they have exercised such powers under the security law. Police scoured reporters’ computers, files and notes, and cited as the basis for the arrests dozens of Apple Daily articles that called for Western sanctions on Chinese and Hong Kong officials. The United States last year imposed sanctions on city leader Carrie Lam and other figures for eroding freedoms.

Press Run via Substack, Commentary: The New York Times creates another 'Both Sides' fiasco, Eric Boehlert, June 18, 2021. First, Republicans across the country are passing an unprecedented collection of voter suppression laws. But the Times won’t use that clear language, instead opting for the watered down, “curtail voting rules.” The word choice is important because if the Times had framed the article as one about “voter suppression” laws, it would make it much harder for Republicans to “shrug off” the allegations about putting democracy in peril.

Second, the Times places alongside each other the claims that voter suppression is a function of Republican authoritarianism, and that the GOP’s dismissal that it’s all “politics as usual.” In the eyes of the Times those are equally valid and important points for readers to know. Democrats are saying our democracy is in clear danger and Republican says it’s “politics as usual,” which makes no sense. It’s not “usual” for one of the two major political parties in this country to warn that America’s nearly two-and-a-half centuries of democratic rule faces a looming internal and deliberate danger. In fact, that’s the opposite of “usual” — it’s unheard of.

From the outset, the Times frames the article as an impossible-to-solve disagreement between both parties, with the implication being that Both Sides have a valid point. They do not.

The avalanche of current GOP bills aim to shorten the early voting period, reduce the number of hours that people can vote on Election Day, eliminate drive-through voting centers, create stricter deadlines for returning absentee ballots, block early voting on Sunday, limit ballot drop boxes, restrict mail-in voting —basically any possible initiative Republicans can think of that would suppress the vote.

“The playbook that the Republican Party is executing at the state and national levels is very much consistent with actions taken by illiberal, anti-democratic, anti-pluralist parties in other democracies that have slipped away from free and fair elections,” Lee Drutman, senior fellow at the New America think tank recently told the Washington Post.

Still, the Times clings to Both Sides.

 

June 17

Top Headlines

 

Court Upholds Obamacare, Anti-Gay Policy

 

Cutthroat Tactics In State, National U.S. Politics? 

 

Jan. 6 U.S. Pro-Trump Insurrection

 

U.S. Crime, Courts, Law

 

U.S. Politics, Governance, Climate

 

Media News

  

Virus Victims, Responses

 

World News

 

Top Stories

joe biden vladimir putin summit june 16 2021 geneva

ny times logoNew York Times, Putin and Biden Cite Gains From Summit, but Tensions Are Clear, Anton Troianovski, Oleg Matsnev and Ivan Nechepurenko, June 17, 2021 (print ed.). Mr. Putin denied Russian responsibility for a surge in cyberattacks, and rebuffed U.S. criticism of human rights abuses. There were also hints of progress (photo above via Russia's Kremlin).

President Biden and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia emerged from their first in-person summit Wednesday and offered broad claims of good will, but it was clear that on issues ranging from cyberattacks to human rights, the two countries remain profoundly divided.

“There has been no hostility,” Mr. Putin declared as he met with reporters after the summit in Geneva. “On the contrary, our meeting took place in a constructive spirit.”

For his part, Mr. Biden said, “The tone of the entire meeting was good, positive.”

But the tensions remained evident.

Mr. Putin of Russia denied that Russia has played a role in a spate of increasingly bold cyberattacks against U.S. institutions and said it was the United States that is the biggest offender.

The Russian leader also suggested that he was not interested in discussing what Mr. Biden had said was a key objective of the talks: to establish some “guardrails” about what kinds of attacks on critical infrastructure are off limits in peacetime.

Mr. Biden said that he had pressed the Russian president on a variety of issues — and that he would not stop doing so.

“I made it clear to President Putin that we’ll continue to raise issues of fundamental human rights,” he said.

I did what I came to do,” Mr. Biden said.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. Politics Live: Back from first overseas trip, Biden to sign bill making Juneteenth a national holiday, John Wagner June 17, 2021. Federal employees to get Friday off as Biden signs legislation making Juneteenth a national holiday. President Biden, having returned to the White House from his first trip abroad as president, plans Thursday to sign into law legislation creating a federal holiday to commemorate Juneteenth, the day marking the end of slavery in Texas.

joe biden twitterBecause June 19 falls on a Saturday this year, most federal employees will get this Friday off.

Here’s what to know:

  • Prominent voting rights activist Stacey Abrams said she could “absolutely” support compromises floated by Sen. Joe Manchin III (W.Va.), the lone Senate Democrat who is not sponsoring a sweeping elections bill in the chamber.
  • Biden said he pressed Putin over alleged hacking, human rights abuses and other troubling issues in a historic first summit in Geneva.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. surpasses 600,000 deaths from the virus, Katerina Ang, Miriam Berger and Kim Bellware, June 17, 2021 (print ed.). Even as California and New York celebrated loosening the vast majority of their social distancing curbs on Tuesday, the United States marked a morbid milestone: at least 600,000 covid-19 deaths.

The precise number is under debate. As of early Wednesday, Reuters said there had been 600,061 reports of covid-linked fatalities since the start of the pandemic, while a Johns Hopkins University tracker placed the death toll at 600,272. Either way, the United States is closing in on the total death toll of the four-year-long Civil War.

The nationwide death rate, however, has dropped sharply since inoculations became widely available. More than 79,000 people died of covid-19 in January, but it has taken almost four months for the death toll to go from 500,000 to 600,000. 

washington post logoWashington Post, House votes to repeal 2002 authorization for military force with strong bipartisan support, White House endorsement, Karoun Demirjian, June 17, 2021. The House voted Thursday to repeal a 19-year-old military authorization that Congress passed to give legal backing to the Iraq War with the support of Democrats, Republicans and the White House — an unprecedented coalition to end post-9/11 authorities to engage in hostilities that critics argue are outdated.

The 268-to-161 vote reflects growing bipartisan support for the repeal effort and tees up the legislation for the Senate, where Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) this week declared his support for the measure and his intention to bring it to the floor for a vote sometime this year.

“Today’s historic vote is a turning point,” House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Gregory W. Meeks (D-N.Y.) said on the floor just before the vote. “I look forward to Congress no longer taking a back seat on some of the most consequential decisions our nation can make

Court Upholds Obamacare, Anti-Gay Policy  

supreme court resized 2021

ny times logoNew York Times, Affordable Care Act Survives Latest Supreme Court Challenge, Adam Liptak, June 17, 2021. A seven-justice majority ruled that the plaintiffs did not have the standing to sue, but the court did not address the larger issue in the case. The 2010 law, also known as Obamacare, has been the subject of relentless criticism from Republicans and two other major Supreme Court cases.

The Affordable Care Act on Thursday survived a third major challenge in the Supreme Court.

A seven-justice majority ruled that the plaintiffs had not suffered the sort of direct injury that gave them standing to sue.

The court did not reach the larger issues in the case: whether the bulk of the sprawling 2010 health care law, President Barack Obama’s defining domestic legacy, could stand without a provision that initially required most Americans to obtain insurance or pay a penaltydjt hands up mouth open CustomIn the years since the enactment of the law in 2010, Republicans have worked hard to destroy it, and President Donald J. Trump relentlessly criticized it. But attempts to repeal it failed, as did two earlier Supreme Court challenges, in 2012 and 2015. With the passing years, the law gained in popularity and was woven into the fabric of the health care system. Its future now seems secure.

Striking down the Affordable Care Act would have expanded the ranks of the uninsured in the United States by about 21 million people — a nearly 70 percent increase — according to recent estimates from the Urban Institute.

The biggest loss of coverage would have been among low-income adults who became eligible for Medicaid under the law after most states expanded the program to include them. But millions of Americans would also have lost private insurance, including young adults whom the law allowed to stay on their parents’ plans until they turned 26 and families whose income was modest enough to qualify for subsidies that help pay their monthly premiums.

A ruling against the law would also have doomed its protections for Americans with past or current health problems — or pre-existing conditions. The protections bar insurers from denying them coverage or charging them more for it.

The case, California v. Texas, No. 19-840, was brought by Republican officials who said the mandate requiring health insurance coverage became unconstitutional after Congress in 2017 eliminated the penalty for failing to obtain coverage because the mandate could no longer be justified as a tax.

The argument was based on the court’s 2012 ruling, in which Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., joined by what was at the time the court’s four-member liberal wing, said the mandate was authorized by Congress’s power to assess taxes.

The new challenge was largely successful in the lower courts. A federal judge in Texas ruled that the entire law was invalid, but he postponed the effects of his ruling until the case could be appealed. In 2019, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, in New Orleans, agreed that the mandate was unconstitutional but declined to rule on the fate of the remainder of the health law, asking the lower court to reconsider the question in more detail.

Axios Sneak Peek, Analysis: Health care ruling saves Republicans from themselves, Alayna Treene, Caitlin Owens and Sarah Mucha, June 17, 2021. The Supreme Court saved the health care system from imploding today by dismissing a Republican challenge to the Affordable Care Act. But it also saved the GOP itself from another round of intraparty chaos.

axios logoWhy it matters: Most GOP lawmakers privately admit (and some will even say publicly) they don't want to deal with health care again. The issue generally isn't a good one for them with voters — as they learned the hard way after they failed to repeal the ACA in 2017.

Now they're happy instead to make Democrats own problems with the health care system and brand their ideas to improve it as "radical."

The big picture: Years on from their 2017 failure, Republicans haven't gotten any closer to rallying around any alternative health care proposal. Along the way, they've also lost both chambers of Congress — and the White House.

Between the lines: If the Supreme Court had made the opposite ruling, and the ACA had been killed or mortally wounded in court, it would've created chaos not only for the public but within the party.

Heading toward the 2022 midterms, Republicans would be on the hook for any fallout, while having little sway over what Congress did to fix it.

washington post logoWashington Post, Justices unanimously rule for Catholic group in Philadelphia foster-care dispute, Robert Barnes, June 17, 2021. The Supreme Court said Thursday that Philadelphia was wrong to end a contract to provide foster care services to a religious organization that refuses to work with same-sex couples.

All nine justices agreed with the outcome, but Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote for a majority of six in saying Philadelphia violated the Constitution’s guarantee of free exercise of religion in ending a contract with Catholic Social Services to screen potential foster care parents.

“CSS seeks only an accommodation that will allow it to continue serving the children of Philadelphia in a manner consistent with its religious beliefs; it does not seek to impose those beliefs on anyone else,” Roberts wrote. “The refusal of Philadelphia to contract with CSS for the provision of foster care services unless it agrees to certify same-sex couples as foster parents cannot survive strict scrutiny, and violates the First Amendment.”

It was joined by conservative Justices Brett M. Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, as well as the court’s liberals, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

Philadelphia city officials stopped the contract with Catholic Social Services after a 2018 article in the Philadelphia Inquirer described its policy against placing children with same-sex couples. They said the agency’s actions violated the city’s anti-discrimination laws.

The agency and several foster parents sued the city, saying the decision violated their First Amendment rights to religious freedom and free speech.

A unanimous panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit ruled that the city was within its rights to end the contract and was not targeting the Catholic agency for its religious views. Instead, the court said, the city was insisting that those with whom it does business agree with its nondiscrimination policy.

 

Cutthroat Tactics In State, National U.S. Politics 

anna paulina

Business Insider via Yahoo News, A Florida Republican reportedly compared his political rival to a 'f---ing speed bump' and threatened to send a hit squad to make her 'disappear,' Oma Seddiq, June 17, 2021. A Florida congressional candidate threatened to call a "Russian-Ukrainian hit squad" to make his political opponent "disappear," according to a secret phone call recording obtained by Politico.

William Braddock, a Republican running for Florida's 13th Congressional District, attacked one of his rivals, Anna Paulina Luna (shown above in a file photo), in a phone call with a conservative activist recorded last Wednesday, per Politico.

republican elephant logo"I really don't want to have to end anybody's life for the good of the people of the United States of America," Braddock said during the phone call. "That will break my heart. But if it needs to be done, it needs to be done. Luna is a f---ing speed bump in the road. She's a dead squirrel you run over every day when you leave the neighborhood."

Braddock also called Luna "a crazy b----" and "a piece of s---," among other insults during the 30-minute phone call, according to Politico.

At another part of the conversation, Braddock expressed confidence that Luna will lose the upcoming Republican primary election. The candidates are running to replace outgoing Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist, who is running for governor.

"She's gonna be gone. Period. That's end of discussion. Luna is not an issue," Braddock said, per Politico.

"How do we make her go?" the activist who recorded the phone call, Erin Olszewski, asked.

"I call up my Russian-Ukrainian hit squad and within 24 hours they're sending me pictures of her disappearing," Braddock answered. "I'm not joking."

Olszewski told Politico that she recorded the conversation and turned it over to St. Petersburg police.

  

joe manchin smile palmer

washington post logoWashington Post, McConnell vows to block voting legislation, spurning Manchin’s compromise offer, Mike DeBonis and Vanessa Williams, June 17, 2021. Senate Republicans vowed Thursday to block voting legislation from advancing later this month, rejecting a key Democratic senator’s compromise offer that adopted some GOP ideas in a bid to break partisan gridlock on the issue.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosThe pledge from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) all but guarantees that Republicans will filibuster a sweeping voting bill that Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) is sending to the floor Tuesday.

Mitchell_McConnellParts of the bill are meant to overrule provisions contained in a host of GOP-passed state laws that have placed restrictions on early voting, mail-in voting, ballot drop boxes and other policies that make it easier to cast a ballot, in response to former president Donald Trump’s false claims of a stolen 2020 presidential election.

“I’ve taken a look at all the new state laws — none of them are designed to suppress the vote,” McConnell, left, said Thursday. “There is no rational basis for the federal government to take over all of American elections.”

The only remaining question is whether all 50 Democratic senators will unite in support of debating the bill, known as the For the People Act, and how they will react once Republicans block the legislation.

Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), above, has long withheld support for the sprawling bill, which contains dozens of provisions for disparate voting, campaign finance and elections, citing a lack of GOP support. But this week he circulated a three-page memo outlining potential changes that could win his support, including adopting some traditional Republican priorities such as mandating that voters provide identification and giving state and local elections officials a free hand to maintain their voter rolls.

Manchin outlines demands on voting legislation, creating an opening for potential Democratic compromise

After huddling with his fellow Democratic senators Thursday, Manchin suggested that he would join with them to at least start debating the bill next week. “I would think we all would want to do that,” he said. “You could air your differences that you might have or what your concerns are or what your thoughts may be.”

us senate logoBut McConnell said flatly Wednesday that his party would not be joining in.

“All Republicans, I think, will oppose that . . . if that were to be surfaced on the floor,” he said.

McConnell’s remarks came not long after the Manchin proposal won a notable endorsement from Democratic voting-rights activist Stacey Abrams, who said in a morning CNN appearance that she could “absolutely” support his proposal and called it a “first and important step to preserving our democracy.”

Other Democrats also spoke positively about Manchin’s proposal — and several senators said they could be willing to accept a voter ID mandate as part of a broader package.

raphael warnock“I don’t know anybody who believes that people shouldn’t have to prove that they are who they say they are,” said Sen. Raphael G. Warnock (D-Ga.), right, a close ally of Abrams. “But what has happened over the years is people have played with common sense identification and put into place restrictive measures intended not to preserve the integrity of the outcome, but to select certain voters. That’s what I oppose.”

Abrams, a former Georgia state legislative leader and gubernatorial candidate, is an influential figure among Democrats, who credit her efforts with helping deliver Georgia for President Biden in 2020. But she is a reviled figure among the Republican voter base, and McConnell and other GOP leaders immediately used her words of support to cast the Manchin proposal as unacceptable.

In an interview Thursday, Abrams said she did not agree with every piece of Manchin’s proposal but said it “signaled a willingness to engage and to have conversations” about voting legislation. “But this is a process,” she added, “which means others are going to also have a say.”

The most important message Manchin’s engagement has sent, Abrams said, is that the effort to pass federal voting rights legislation still has momentum. And she said the GOP efforts to weaponize her support for the new talks among Democrats did not change the political fundamentals of the partisan clash.

“If I disagreed with it, they were going to oppose it. If I agreed with it, they were going to oppose it,” she said. “There’s nothing in access to the right to vote that will appease Mitch McConnell.”

McConnell gathered about a dozen Republican senators to stand with him in front of reporters Thursday as he lambasted the Democratic voting rights efforts, a show of force that reflected his own long-standing distaste for legislation that puts federal fetters on campaigns and elections as well as the depth of support he has within his caucus for his hard-line approach.

That approach is backstopped by the Senate filibuster — the 60-vote supermajority rule that gives a united minority an effective veto — and the knowledge that Manchin and several other Democratic senators do not currently support changing that rule.

As he rolled out his compromise proposal Wednesday, Manchin simultaneously made clear that he remains unwilling to change Senate rules to pass major legislation with a simple majority. On Thursday, he said he was still hopeful that some Republicans could be convinced to support some type of elections bill.

“McConnell has the right to do whatever he thinks he can do,” Manchin told reporters. “I would hope that there’s enough good Republicans who understand the bedrock of our society is having an accessible, open, fair and secure election.”

Palmer Report, Opinion: Stacey Abrams and Joe Manchin are now on the same page as HR1 comes closer to reality, Bill Palmer, right, June 17, 2021. Yesterday Joe Manchin incrementally caved in two bill palmerimportant ways. First, he submitted revisions under which he would consider supporting HR1 voting rights legislation. Then he suggested lowering the filibuster threshold from 60 votes to 55 votes – still not far enough, but a clear sign that he’s abandoned his previous ‘I’ll never modify the filibuster at all’ position.

Today another major piece of the puzzle came together when leading voting rights advocate Stacey Abrams announced that she supports Manchin’s HR1 revisions. If Abrams thinks that Manchin’s revisions are reasonable, then that means they are.

bill palmer report logo headerChuck Schumer now says he’s holding a preliminary Senate vote on HR1 next Tuesday. It’s not clear if this means he now has the votes, or perhaps more likely, he’s expecting this vote to fail so that more attention will be brought to the matter. If Republican Senators use the filibuster to derail the vote, then the resulting outrage will certainly result in more outrage aimed at them, which in turn will give Manchin more cover to continue incrementally caving on the filibuster.

stacey abrams 2018 CustomAs I’ve said from the very start, HR1 and voting rights legislation are a long game. The next major election isn’t until next year. We have time to do this in the right way and make sure it gets passed. The fact that Stacey Abrams, right, and Manchin are on the same page is a big deal, and it legitimizes where this is headed.

Of course if the preliminary HR1 vote does get derailed next week, the defeatists will come out of the woodwork to insist that “all hope is lost” and “Chuck Schumer is an idiot” and “nothing will happen” and all the other usual doomsday proclamations. But that’s not how anything works. Voting rights legislation is clearly trending in the right direction, and if Schumer is indeed setting up next week’s preliminary vote to fail in order to stoke outrage and move the needle, it’s a good plan. Our job will be to continue applying pressure to people like Manchin, and to shout down the defeatists when they insist that everyone give up and quit

joe oltmann resized amazon.com via proof

Proof via Substack, The Troubling Associations of Insurrection-Week Trump "Command Center" Participant Joe Oltmann—the Man Who Tried to Convince the State Department to Overturn the 2020 seth abramson graphicElection on Insurrection Day, Seth Abramson, left, June 17, 2021. From Eric Trump to the State Department, paramilitaries to pro-Trump rappers, Trump lawyers to Stop the Steal, this seth abramson proof logoportrait of the ties of an invitee to an Insurrection Week "war room" is telling. 

On March 13, 2020, a man named Joe Otto (shown above) took to his podcast, Conservative Daily, to call COVID-19 a “fake story” and assure his listeners that the “real pandemic” was the “mental midget-ness” of a society that—he said—celebrates the idea that “everyone is a victim.”

Joe Otto—real name Joe Oltmann—has now spent the last year identifying himself as the victim of everyone from local Colorado politicians to “antifa journalists”, from mask mandates to the author of Proof, who Oltmann (communicating under his real name) has accused of lying about him in this Proof article, thereafter threatening to “sue [me]…out of existence.”

 

Jan. 6 Pro-Trump Capitol Insurrection Trump attorney and former Justice Department Deputy Attorney Gen. Rudy Giuliani, his colleague and significant other Maria Ryan, and One America Network White House correspondent Christina Bogbb are shown working in a Willard Hotel

Trump attorney and former Justice Department Deputy Attorney Gen. Rudy Giuliani, his colleague and significant other Maria Ryan, and One America Network White House correspondent Christina Bogbb are shown working in a Willard Hotel "War Room" near almost across the street from White House grounds with fellow Trump supporters on Jan. 6, 2021 in a photo by a fellow Trump supporter.

Proof via Substack, Investigation: We Now Know What the Willard Hotel War Room Was For—and You're Not Going to Believe It, Seth Abramson, June 16-17-2021. The revelation of the seventh person in seth abramson graphicTrump's Willard Hotel war room leads to the strangest discovery of the January 6 investigation so far, one so bizarre that it must be read to be believed.

When I discovered that the seventh identifiable figure in the photographs of Donald Trump’s Willard Hotel command center (photographs which had been posted on Instagram by Trump associate Robert Hyde) was Rudy Giuliani girlfriend Maria Ryan, the news meant little to me. It would, I felt, merit little interest from anyone else, either.

I now realize that I couldn’t have been more mistaken, as sometimes mundane discoveries lead to appalling ones—something you’d think I’d recall from my experience as a federal-system criminal investigator and then a state criminal defense attorney.

seth abramson proof logoAs the identification of Maria Ryan as the seventh entrant into the Willard war room was underway, a Proof reader sent me a January 5 “interview” Ryan had conducted with One America News (OAN) propagandist Christina Bobb. I put the word “interview” in quotes here because, as the above photo confirms, and as Proof has already reported at great length, Bobb was, with Ryan, a member of Trump’s secretive insurrection-week team at the Willard — and therefore her on-air discussion with Ryan on January 5 was in no way a real interview. Note: Bobb didn’t disclose her association with Ryan during their chat.

Even odder than the truth of the Bobb-Ryan “interview” was its timing: Insurrection Eve.

Indeed (and this was the first sign of the strange story I was about to find myself immersed in as a journalist and researcher) on January 5, 2021, Maria Ryan was being interviewed from the very war room that Bobb was a member of—meaning that Bobb had at some point left the war room, gone in to work at OAN’s television studio, and then conducted an “interview” with the very legal team she was a part of with a fellow team member who was sitting in the very war room that Bobb herself had been using.

 

andrew clyde left jan 6 201

A frightened U.S. Congressman, Andrew Clyde, left, Republican of Georgia, is defended by Capitol security during the pro-Trump insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021.

washington post logoWashington Post, GOP congressman refuses to shake hands with D.C. police officer who protected the Capitol on Jan. 6, Colby Itkowitz and Peter Hermann, June 17, 2021.Rep. Andrew S. Clyde (R-Ga.), who voted against awarding police officers the Congressional Gold Medal for their bravery in protecting the U.S. Capitol against violent, pro-Trump rioters on Jan. 6, refused to shake hands with D.C. police officer Michael Fanone on Wednesday.

Fanone was beaten unconscious after he voluntarily rushed to the Capitol to help defend it from those who breached the building. He suffered a concussion and a mild heart attack. In the months since, Fanone has been one of the leading voices pushing back against Republicans who have sought to downplay the severity of what happened Jan. 6.

Fanone, joined by Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn, returned to the Capitol on Wednesday, the day after 21 House Republicans voted against the Gold Medal resolution, in an effort to meet them and tell his story.

andrew clydeHe said he recognized Clyde, right, at an elevator and that he and Dunn hopped in with the congressman.

“I simply extended my hand and said, “How are you doing today, Congressman.’ I knew immediately he recognized me by the way he reacted. He completely froze. He just stared at me,” Fanone said in an interview.

Fanone said Clyde did not motion to shake his hand in return.

“I said, ‘I’m sorry, you’re not going to shake my hand?’ ” Fanone said he told Clyde.

He said Clyde answered, “I don’t know who you are.”

Fanone said he responded, “’I’m sorry, sir, my name is Michael Fanone. I’m a D.C. police officer and I fought to defend the Capitol on Jan. 6.” He said he described being stunned repeatedly in the back of the neck and beaten unconscious, stripped of his badge and radio.

capitol riot shutterstock capitol

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Pure insanity’: How Trump and his allies pressed Justice Dept. to help overturn election, Matt Zapotosky, Rosalind S. Helderman, Amy Gardner and Karoun Demirjian, June 17, 2021 (print ed.). New documents and emails reveal how far President Donald Trump and his supporters were willing to go.

Justice Department log circularThe Justice Department leaders were losing their patience.

For weeks, President Donald Trump and his allies had been pressing them to use federal law enforcement’s muscle to back his unfounded claims of voter fraud and a stolen election.

They wanted the Justice Department to explore false claims that Dominion Voting Systems machines had been manipulated to alter votes in one county in Michigan. They asked officials about the jeffrey rosenU.S. government filing a Supreme Court challenge to the results in six states that Joe Biden won. The president’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, even shared with acting attorney general Jeffrey Rosen, left, a link to a YouTube video that described an outlandish plot in which the election had been stolen from Trump through the use of military satellites controlled in Italy.

“Pure insanity,” Rosen’s deputy Richard Donoghue wrote to him privately. The new details laid out in hundreds of pages of emails and other documents released Tuesday by the House Oversight and Reform Committee show how far Trump and his allies were willing to go in their attempts to use the Justice Department to overturn Biden’s win — a campaign whose full contours are still coming into view five months after Trump left office.

The endeavor involved the White House chief of staff and an outside attorney, who peppered department officials with requests that they said came on behalf of Trump himself to investigate baseless claims of election fraud. Their efforts intensified in the days before Congress was set to formally recognize the election results Jan. 6 — and culminated in an Oval Office showdown Jan. 3.

This account is based on those documents as well as interviews with several people involved in or briefed on the events of late 2020 and early 2021. The people spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a politically sensitive matter.

Alan Hostetter, left, with fellow ultra-right advocate Russ Taylor on Jan. 6 in Washington, DC.

Alan Hostetter, left, with fellow ultra-right advocate Russ Taylor on Jan. 6 in Washington, DC.

washington post logoWashington Post, He was at the Capitol on Jan. 6. Now, feds say he used his nonprofit to advocate violence, Jaclyn Peiser, June 17, 2021. A few months before Alan Hostetter stood in triumph on the U.S. Capitol’s upper West Terrace, proclaiming that the people had “taken back their house” as rioters stormed the building, the California native launched a nonprofit that promised to protect citizens’ rights, educate people on vaccines and call out media misinformation.

But in the months that followed, his nonprofit, the American Phoenix Project, instead organized rallies to support President Donald Trump’s false claims of a stolen election and used it “as a platform to advocate violence against certain groups and individuals that supported the 2020 presidential election results,” federal prosecutors said in an indictment filed June 10.

As Hostetter faces felony charges of obstructing official proceedings and breaching restricted government property, federal prosecutors also say the 56-year-old might have run afoul of IRS regulations on nonprofits’ political activities.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Tucker Carlson’s wild, baseless theory blaming the FBI for organizing the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, Aaron Blake, June 17, 2021 (print ed.). The latest Jan. 6 conspiracy theory, courtesy of Carlson: That the FBI was behind the Capitol riot. There is no evidence of this.

It’s been more than five months since President Donald Trump’s supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, and those seeking to deflect blame still can’t figure out exactly how to do so. First, the idea was that the riot was provoked by antifa. Then it was that it was preplanned, so Trump couldn’t have incited it. Then it was that the riots weren’t really that bad or that they were even “peaceful,” despite the violence and deaths. None of those arguments is borne out by the evidence available.

But now we’ve got a new entry in this long-running quest for a conspiracy theory that will stick: That perhaps the riot was actually the work … of the FBI?

tucker carlsonFox News host Tucker Carlson, right, wove just such a tangled, conspiratorial web Tuesday night.

Carlson’s theory is essentially that the presence of unindicted co-conspirators in the Capitol riot indictments means those people are government agents and that this, in turn, means the FBI was involved in organizing the riot. The idea has since caught on with conspiratorially minded congressional Republicans.

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary, America's first "Beer Hall Putsch" meeting may have been as early as July 17, 2016, Wayne Madsen, June 17, 2021. On the evening of July 17, 2016, Tucker Carlson, who is increasingly using his Fox News program to tout lunatic conspiracy theories, hosted a hush-hush strictly invitation-only dinner meeting at the downtown Hilton Hotel (in Cleveland at the Republican National Convention).

From what I was told, Carlson's dinner was no normal "meet and greet" affair. Rather, it involved some key players and provocateurs in the 2016 and 2020 elections, with a few, including Alex Jones, having their fingerprints on the January 6 seditious revolt against Congress.

enrique tarrio mic

Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio (shown above in file photo).

Business Insider, The Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio says he started selling Black Lives Matter and anti-Trump T-shirts after card-processing companies refused to work with his other businesses, Ashley Collman, June 17, 2021.

Protesters at Black Lives Matter and anti-Trump demonstrations could be wearing T-shirts from an unlikely source: the Proud Boys.The far-right group's leader, Enrique Tarrio, told The Wall Street Journal in a report published Wednesday that he set up a secret business to sell T-shirts with liberal slogans after card-processing companies kept refusing to work with his other businesses.

As the Proud Boys gained infamy for taking part in the Capitol riot and other controversial gatherings such as the "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017, banks and card-processing services have taken a stance against the group, making it hard for the Proud Boys to make money.

Tarrio wouldn't share the name of his new business, and The Journal said it was not able to independently verify its existence. Insider has contacted Tarrio for comment.

Tarrio told The Journal that his secret business sells T-shirts with slogans like "Black Lives Matter" and "Impeach 45," a reference to former President Donald Trump.

A reporter for The Journal witnessed Tarrio's assistant printing a shirt that said "Black Lives Matter" during a visit to Tarrio's Miami headquarters.

The Proud Boys operate an online shop called 1776.shop, which sells merchandise with a conservative bent.

But Tarrio said the website was effectively out of commission for months this year because the group couldn't find a card-processing company that would allow it to process credit-card and debit-card payments, according to The Journal.

Tarrio told The Journal that PayPal, Stripe, and a dozen credit-card processors had barred him from their platforms.

He said he got the idea of starting the secret liberal T-shirt company after one card processor stopped working with his business for selling a T-shirt that called one Democratic politician a Communist and an idiot, saying it was "hate propaganda." The Journal did not specify which Democrat the T-shirt referred to.

Tarrio said he's found a card processor to work with him for the time being but doesn't believe it will last long, so he's working to start his own card-processing company, according to The Journal.

Legal Schnauzer, Commentary: Rioters at U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 were driven largely by fears that whites will be replaced as the American majority, according to U of Chicago research findings, Roger Shuler, June 17, 2021. Robert A. Pape, a professor of political science and director of the Chicago Project on Security and Threats, conducted an analysis of 377 Americans arrested or charged in the Capitol insurrection.

His findings were unsettling, showing that rioters largely were driven over concerns about what has become known as "The Great Replacement Theory," a topic Tucker Carlson has ranted about on Fox News recently.

What about specifics from the Pape study? Here they are:

The Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol by a violent mob at the behest of former president Donald Trump was an act of political violence intended to alter the outcome of a legitimate democratic election. That much was always evident.

What we know 90 days later is that the insurrection was the result of a large, diffuse and new kind of protest movement congealing in the United States.

The Chicago Project on Security and Threats (CPOST), working with court records, has analyzed the demographics and home county characteristics of the 377 Americans, from 250 counties in 44 states, arrested or charged in the Capitol attack.

Those involved are, by and large, older and more professional than right-wing protesters we have surveyed in the past. They typically have no ties to existing right-wing groups. But like earlier protesters, they are 95 percent White and 85 percent male, and many live near and among Biden supporters in blue and purple counties.

The charges have, so far, been generally in proportion to state and county populations as a whole. Only Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, and Montana appear to have sent more protesters to D.C. suspected of crimes than their populations would suggest.

Nor were these insurrectionists typically from deep-red counties. Some 52 percent are from blue counties that Biden comfortably won. But by far the most interesting characteristic common to the insurrectionists’ backgrounds has to do with changes in their local demographics: Counties with the most significant declines in the non-Hispanic White population are the most likely to produce insurrectionists who now face charges.

For example, Texas is the home of 36 of the 377 charged or arrested nationwide. The majority of the state’s alleged insurrectionists — 20 of 36 — live in six quickly diversifying blue counties such as Dallas and Harris (Houston). In fact, all 36 of Texas’s rioters come from just 17 counties, each of which lost White population over the past five years. Three of those arrested or charged hail from Collin County north of Dallas, which has lost White population at the very brisk rate of 4.3 percent since 2015.

The same thing can be seen in New York state, home to 27 people charged or arrested after the riot, nearly all of whom come from 14 blue counties that Biden won in and around New York City. One of these, Putnam County (south of Poughkeepsie), is home to three of those arrested, and a county that saw its White population decline by 3.5 percent since 2015.

Here is where it gets really interesting:

When compared with almost 2,900 other counties in the United States, our analysis of the 250 counties where those charged or arrested live reveals that the counties that had the greatest decline in White population had an 18 percent chance of sending an insurrectionist to D.C., while the counties that saw the least decline in the White population had only a 3 percent chance. This finding holds even when controlling for population size, distance to D.C., unemployment rate, and urban/rural location. It also would occur by chance less than once in 1,000 times.

Put another way, the people alleged by authorities to have taken the law into their hands on Jan. 6 typically hail from places where non-White populations are growing fastest.

Pape's deep dive then gets even deeper:

CPOST also conducted two independent surveys in February and March, including a National Opinion Research Council survey, to help understand the roots of this rage. One driver overwhelmingly stood out: fear of the “Great Replacement.” Great Replacement theory has achieved iconic status with white nationalists and holds that minorities are progressively replacing White populations due to mass immigration policies and low birthrates. Extensive social media exposure is the second-biggest driver of this view, our surveys found. Replacement theory might help explain why such a high percentage of the rioters hail from counties with fast-rising, non-White populations.

While tracking and investigating right-wing extremist groups remains a vital task for law enforcement, the best intelligence is predictive. Understanding where most alleged insurrectionists come from is a good starting point in identifying areas facing elevated risks of further political violence. At the very least, local mayors and police chiefs need better intelligence and sounder risk analysis.

To ignore this movement and its potential would be akin to Trump’s response to covid-19: We cannot presume it will blow over. The ingredients exist for future waves of political violence, from lone-wolf attacks to all-out assaults on democracy, surrounding the 2022 midterm elections

washington post logoWashington Post, Paul Gosar demands name of Capitol officer who killed rioter Ashli Babbitt, saying she was ‘executed,’ Julian Mark, June 17, 2021 (print ed.). In a hearing on Tuesday, Rep. Paul A. Gosar (R-Ariz.) abruptly turned his questions for FBI Director Christopher A. Wray toward the Capitol Police officer who fatally shot Ashli Babbitt, below left, an Air Force veteran who tried to leap through a window during the Jan. 6 insurrection.

paul gosarGosar, right, demanded to know why the FBI hasn’t disclosed the name of the officer, who was cleared of wrongdoing by prosecutors in April.

ashli babbitt“It’s disturbing,” Gosar told Wray, while claiming Babbitt was “executed.” “The Capitol Police officer that did that shooting appeared to be hiding, lying in wait and then gave no warning before killing her.”

His comments, which came the same day he joined 20 other House Republicans in voting against awarding Congressional Gold Medals to the officers who protected the Capitol on Jan. 6, have gone viral on social media and drawn swift rebukes from critics and some colleagues who accused him of downplaying the severity of the insurrection.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

ny times logoNew York Times, Why American Women Everywhere Are Delaying Motherhood, Sabrina Tavernise, Claire Cain Miller, Quoctrung Bui and Robert Gebeloff, June 17, 2021 (print ed.). Falling birthrates have led to the slowest growth of the American population since the 1930s, and a profound change in American motherhood.

For decades, delaying parenthood was the domain of upper-middle-class Americans, especially in big, coastal cities. Highly educated women put off having a baby until their careers were on track, often until their early 30s. But over the past decade, as more women of all social classes have prioritized education and career, delaying childbearing has become a broad pattern among American women almost everywhere.

washington post logocovad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Washington Post, 175.9 million U.S. vaccinated, as of June 17, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This includes more than 147.8 million people (44.5 % of the eligible population) fully vaccinated and 53 % with at least one dose. See about your state. 

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated June 17, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here): 

World Cases: 177,885,850, Deaths: 3,850,529
U.S. Cases:     34,365,985, Deaths:    616,150
India Cases:    29,700,313, Deaths:    381,931
Brazil Cases:   17,629,714, Deaths:    493,837

Vice, The woman whom thousands of Canadians believe is their secret ruler isn't afraid to tell her followers she's calling for the executions of the health-care workers and politicians behind the vaccination rollout, Mack Lamoureux, June 17, 2021. QAnons Are Harassing People at the Whim of a Woman They Say Is Canada’s Queen. A woman who claims she is the secret ruler of Canada has, thanks to QAnon influencers, thousands of followers, some of which are extremely active offline and harassing Canadians.

The woman whom thousands of Canadians believe is their secret ruler isn’t afraid to tell her followers she’s calling for the executions of health care workers and politicians behind the vaccination rollout.

canadian flag“At the firing squad, the military firing squad, you will receive not one, but two bullets on your forehead for each child that you have harmed as a result of injecting this experimental vaccine,” said Romana Didulo to those involved in vaccination efforts in a recent video on Telegram. “So when you go home tonight, think about how many bullets.”
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Didulo, a B.C.-based woman in her 50s, has recently built up a following of thousands of people who listen to her claims of having been put in control of the Great White North by the same forces that QAnon believers think are fighting the deep state in America. QAnon, for the uninitiated, is a wide-ranging, wildly unfactual conspiracy centred upon Donald Trump’s secret fight against an international cabal of elitist pedophiles. Didulo was recently thrust into her position by several well-known QAnon figures who helped anoint her as a leader and in turns sent a swarm of followers her way.

But despite her following being only weeks old, Didulo has rallied her Canadian followers to real-life action. They’re in the midst of filing hundreds of “cease and desist” notices demanding businesses, governments, and police forces stop all activities related to combating the pandemic. They have organized themselves into localized groups to email their demands out en masse, send them via registered letter, or simply make their way to stores or police stations in order to physically hand them out.

One particularly riled-up group of conspiracy theorists in Cochrane, Alberta, went to over 30 businesses last week to hand out the notices. On June 10 they decided to go to a K-8 school—while children were present—and hand the notices and anti-vax flyers out. They eventually were kicked out and Cochrane RCMP confirmed to VICE World News that two people received trespassing tickets for their actions. The group complained about its mistreatment by police inside its Telegram chat and mulled over “bombarding” the school’s principal with letters.

Didulo has said that if the people who received the cease and desist orders from her followers break them, they will be executed.

“Peace, prosperity, or perish,” is one of her slogans, after all.

It’s not Didulo who is necessarily important, but her growing and active audience.

QAnon, which may, according to a recent poll, have as many as 30 million followers in the U.S. as well as more outside of it, has contributed to real-world violence, including the Capitol Hill uprising. Only a few short years ago, Didulo could have been simply ignored as someone with a grift or a tenuous grip of reality posting videos, but now, thanks to the new QAnon ecosystem, she’s a figure of consequence. In this modern environment, someone claiming to be the secret ruler of Canada and to be holding military tribunals and executions can rapidly gain thousands of followers, some willing to follow her off the deepest creases of the internet and into the real world.

To know the volatility of her followers, however, you must first know who they’re following. Didulo is the “leader” of an online political party called the Canada1st Party of Canada—which does not appear to have been officially registered anywhere but has been turned into a corporation by Didulo. She began posting about the party and making videos about her policy in late 2020, during the second wave of the pandemic. However, the party never took off, and she languished in obscurity for some time.

That all changed in May when she changed tactics and switched her rhetoric to fit several popular QAnon narratives. After getting noticed by a couple of well-known QAnon figures, her profile has been growing rapidly.

She now has almost 20,000 followers on Telegram, her primary channel, and a growing and engaged audience. The audience consists of an intersection of QAnon believers, anti-lockdown zealots, and “sovereign citizens” (people who think government laws do not apply to them, especially ones related to taxes). And her audience is not a passive one.

“Hello, Canada, I’m Ramona Didulo, I'm the founder and leader of Canada1st. As of February this year, 2021, I am the head of state and commander in chief of Canada, the Republic,” she said in her announcement video. “The people who appointed me are the white hats and the U.S. military, together with the global allied troops and their governments—the same group of people who have helped President Trump.”

She speaks to her audience either through Telegram posts or via poorly produced videos in which she sits on a couch in front of an empty beige wall. In a follow-up video to her initial decree, Didulo declares herself not only the “the head of state,” “commander in chief,” and “head of government,” but also the “Queen of Canada, replacing Queen Elizabeth II of England who has now been executed for crimes against humanity.”

 

 U.S. Politics, Governance, Climate

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Democrats devise a way to finally expand Medicaid in resistant states, Paige Winfield Cunningham, June 17, 2021. Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Tex.) says he has a solution. On Thursday morning, he’ll introduce legislation, co-signed by more than 40 House Democrats, that would let cities and counties bypass the states still refusing to expand their Medicaid programs.

“We’ve got a new, homegrown solution to finally get Medicaid to millions of our most vulnerable citizens by empowering local governments to cover their residents and protect their health," Doggett said in a statement.

washington post logoWashington Post, Extreme heat bakes West, toppling records and reinforcing drought, Matthew Cappucci, June 17, 2021 (print ed.). Sizzling temperatures are baking the West, with readings about 15 to 30 degrees or more above normal bringing dangerous conditions and highs above 100 degrees to 40 million people.

Records have been falling left and right as temperatures reach extreme levels, a number of U.S. cities climbing near or above 110. For many areas, the worst of the heat has yet to set in, particularly across California and the Desert Southwest, where Wednesday through Friday could be markedly hotter than what has already occurred.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Why Biden’s persistent optimism may be warranted, Jennifer Rubin, right, June 17, 2021.  White House reporters cannot stop asking press secretary Jen Psaki why jennifer rubin new headshotPresident Biden has not already concluded deals on giant domestic items. Hasn’t he failed? Wasn’t he wrong about bipartisanship? Didn’t he hear the latest threat from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell? They heckle Psaki about why Russia has not already changed its conduct in response to sanctions.

Chalk some of that up to media’s desire to be aggressive with a Democratic president and to the deleterious impact social media has had on mainstream reporters’ attention spans and patience. Add in a lack of comprehension about the glacial pace of Congress, and it’s clear why so many in the traditional media are prone to premature declarations of defeat.

The media and Biden’s Democratic critics anxious he will “give away” too much in negotiations with Republicans (as if he had much leverage with a 50-50 Senate) might take a deep breath. If they did, they might spot some sunlight peeking through the fog of Republican obstruction, distraction and disinformation.

ny times logoNew York Times, For Republicans, ‘Crisis’ Is the Message as the Outrage Machine Ramps Up, Jonathan Weisman, June 17, 2021. With next year’s midterm elections seen as a referendum on Democratic rule, Republicans are seeking to create a sense of instability and overreach, diverting focus from their own divisions.

House Republican leaders would like everyone to know that the nation is in crisis.

republican elephant logoThere is an economic crisis, they say, with rising prices and overly generous unemployment benefits; a national security crisis; a border security crisis, with its attendant homeland security crisis, humanitarian crisis, and public health crisis; and a separate energy crisis.

steve scalisePressed Tuesday on whether the nation is really so beleaguered, the No. 2 Republican in the House, Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana, right, thought of still more crises: anti-Semitism in the Democratic ranks, “yet another crisis,” he asserted, and a labor shortage crisis.

“Unfortunately they’re all real,” he said capping a 25-minute news conference in which the word “crisis” was used once a minute, “and they’re all being caused by President Biden’s actions.”

As Americans groggily emerge from their pandemic-driven isolation, they could be forgiven for not seeing the situation as quite so dire. They might also be a little confused about which of the many outrages truly needs their focus: the border, perhaps, but what about Dr. Anthony S. Fauci and the Wuhan lab leak theory, the teaching of critical race theory in the nation’s schools, the fact that some schools are not fully reopened, Representative Ilhan Omar, or all those transgender athletes competing in high school sports?

House Republicans, still overwhelmingly in the thrall of Donald J. Trump, have learned over the last four years that grievance, loudly expressed, carries political weight, especially with their core voters. Mr. Trump certainly did not teach members of his party how to express anger over perceived injustices; many of them had been doing it for years. But the House Republican leadership has shifted to Trumpian expressions of outrage since the days of former Speaker Paul D. Ryan, a self-described “policy guy” with a happy-warrior image, and the backslapping bonhomie of his predecessor John A. Boehner.

The idea is that with Democrats in control of the White House, House and Senate, next year’s midterm elections will be a referendum on one-party control, not on Republican governing plans.

washington post logoWashington Post, Congress overwhelmingly votes to make Juneteenth a federal holiday, Mike DeBonis, June 17, 2021 (print ed.). The House vote was the culmination of a long effort to commemorate the day that enslaved Black people in Galveston, Tex., received news in 1865 that they had been freed by the Emancipation Proclamation. The Senate passed the bill by unanimous consent on Tuesday.

 

U.S. Crime, Courts, Law

ny times logoNew York Times, Supreme Court Limits Human Rights Suits Against Corporations, Adam Liptak, June 17, 2021. Six citizens of Mali had sued Nestlé USA and Cargill, accusing the companies of profiting from child slavery on Ivory Coast cocoa farms.

The Supreme Court ruled on Thursday in favor of two American corporations accused of complicity in child slavery on Ivory Coast cocoa farms. The decision was the latest in a series of rulings imposing strict limits on lawsuits brought in federal court based on human rights abuses abroad.

The case was brought by six citizens of Mali who said they were trafficked into slavery as children. They sued Nestlé USA and Cargill, saying the firms had aided and profited from the practice of forced child labor.

Justice Clarence Thomas, writing for the majority, said the companies’ activities in the United States were not sufficiently tied to the asserted abuses.

The plaintiffs had sued under the Alien Tort Statute, a cryptic 1789 law that allows federal district courts to hear “any civil action by an alien for a tort only, committed in violation of the law of nations or a treaty of the United States.”

The law was largely ignored until the 1980s, when federal courts started to apply it in international human rights cases. A 2004 Supreme Court decision, Sosa v. Álvarez-Machain, left the door open to some claims under the law, as long as they involved violations of international norms with “definite content and acceptance among civilized nations.”

Since then, the Supreme Court has narrowed the law in two ways, saying it does not apply where the conduct at issue was almost entirely abroad or where the defendant was a foreign corporation.

In 2013, in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum, the court said there was a general presumption against the extraterritorial application of American law. It rejected a suit against a foreign corporation accused of aiding and abetting atrocities by Nigerian military and police forces against Ogoni villagers.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., writing for the majority, said that even minimal contact with the United States would not be sufficient to overcome the presumption.

“Even where the claims touch and concern the territory of the United States,” he wrote, “they must do so with sufficient force to displace the presumption against extraterritorial application.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Ransomware claims are roiling an entire segment of the insurance industry, Rachel Lerman and Gerrit De Vynck, June 17, 2021. New hacking groups are getting into ransomware attacks to go after what they see as an “endless pot of money” facilitated by insurance companies, says one cybersecurity expert.

Ransomware attacks — in which cybercriminals take over an organization’s computer network and demand a payment to hand back control — have increased in frequency and severity over the past two years. According to blockchain research firm Chainalysis, ransom payments from companies increased 341 percent to a total of $412 million during 2020.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Matt Gaetz just made clear why he’s not going to survive this, Bill Palmer, right, June 17, 2021. With two inside witnesses now formally cooperating against him, Matt Gaetz is all but bill palmercertain to be indicted and arrested on federal criminal charges before much longer. The trouble in the meantime is that he’s still a sitting Congressman.

This led a number of observers to worry that Gaetz might be able to abuse his position in the House of Representatives to somehow get himself off the legal hook or gain a strategic advantage heading into trial.

While it’s wrong that Gaetz is still sitting on a House committee that oversees the same DOJ and FBI that are criminally investigating him, I’ve never worried too much about it. If the Republicans controlled the House committees, it would be one thing. But as things stand, Gaetz would need to be awfully clever to get anywhere – and he’s the opposite of clever. Gaetz just more or less proved me right.

bill palmer report logo headerWhen Matt Gaetz, right, recently had the opportunity to use his position as a Congressman to question FBI Director Christopher Wray, he didn’t manage to make any headway. Now Gaetz matt gaetz o Customis fully blowing the opportunity, by pushing the lunatic conspiracy theory that FBI operatives were somehow behind the January 6th Capitol attack.

To be clear, not a single person outside Gaetz’s deranged base will believe this. So Gaetz is merely playing to his own fans, instead of trying to win over the American mainstream. And that sucks for him, because his only chance of surviving this would be if he could somehow convince the mainstream that he’s being framed, or that he’s the real victim.

Matt Gaetz is pinned against the proverbial wall right now. It would take a herculean effort for him to save himself. Instead he’s busy proving why he’s not going to be able to save himself.

 

Media News

john bolton djt palmer images Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, Justice Dept. drops John Bolton book lawsuit, won’t charge ex-security aide who became Trump’s scathing critic, Spencer S. Hsu and Josh Dawsey, June 17, 2021 (print ed.).The Justice Department has abandoned its effort to claw back profits of a book by former Trump national security adviser John Bolton, above left, and closed a grand jury investigation into whether he criminally mishandled classified information without charging him, according to court filings and Bolton’s defense attorney.

In a one-sentence court filing Wednesday, the Justice Department asked a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit it filed in a failed attempt to block the release last June of Bolton’s White House memoir, The Room Where It Happened. The filing indicated each side would pay its own legal fees.

charles cooperJustice Department officials also notified Bolton’s defense team that it was closing all aspects of his case, his attorney said.

Lead Bolton attorney Charles J. Cooper, right, called the dismissal a complete vindication for the veteran diplomat, repudiating what Bolton said was the Trump White House’s politically motivated attempt to stifle the pre-election publication of his scathingly critical memoir before the 2020 presidential election, using security as a pretext.

washington post logoWashington Post, Hong Kong police raid newspaper offices, arrest editors, Shibani Mahtani, June 17, 2021. The early morning operation underscored the lengths that authorities will go to shut down any remaining space for dissent, including the silencing of media.

Police on Thursday raided the Apple Daily newspaper, known for its support for Hong Kong's democracy movement, and arrested five executives, including three top editors, on suspicion of violating the city's national security law. Authorities also froze the tabloid's assets.

The early-morning operation highlighted the authorities’ resolve to shut down any residual space for dissent, including silencing media critical of the Chinese government. Press freedom is supposed to be guaranteed under the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution.

The police warrant allowed officers to seize “journalistic materials” — the first time they have exercised such powers under the security law. Police scoured reporters’ computers, files and notes, and cited as the basis for the arrests dozens of Apple Daily articles that called for Western sanctions on Chinese and Hong Kong officials. The United States last year imposed sanctions on city leader Carrie Lam and other figures for eroding freedoms.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden apologizes for snapping at CNN reporter over Putin questions: ‘I shouldn’t have been such a wise guy,’ Katie Shepherd, June 17, 2021. As President Biden turned to walk off the stage following a news conference in Geneva after his summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, a reporter shouted out one final question.“Why are you so confident [Putin] will change his behavior, Mr. President?” CNN’s Kaitlan Collins asked.

The president, who had already turned away from the clutch of journalists, threw up his hands and started back toward the reporters while wagging his finger.

“What the hell? … When did I say I was confident?” Biden said as he headed back toward Collins, before launching into a tense back-and-forth with the reporter while defending his approach with the Russian president.

cnn logoBiden’s flash of frustration briefly revived memories of president Donald Trump’s frequent heated exchanges with the White House press corps, though Biden’s staid summit with Putin was in stark contrast to the deference Trump brought to his interactions with the Russian leader. As his exchange with Collins went viral, some critics jumped to defend the reporter, while others argued that her question unfairly reflected the president’s earlier statements.

Soon after the exchange, Biden issued a mea culpa for his tone.

“I owe my last questioner an apology,” the president told reporters on the tarmac as he readied to board Air Force One on Wednesday afternoon. “I shouldn’t have been such a wise guy with the last answer I gave.”

 

World News 

pedro castillo keiko fujimoro

Leftist Pedro Castillo, right, narrowly defeated ultra-right candidate Keiko Fujimoro, left, in Peru's presidential elections this month, according to official counts that Fujimoro is protesting.

washington post logoWashington Post, With election fraud claims, Peru’s Keiko Fujimori takes a page from Trump’s playbook, Anthony Faiola, Claire Parker and Terrence McCoy, June 17, 2021 (print ed.).Fujimori’s approach, after former president Donald Trump’s effort to discredit the outcome of the 2020 U.S. election, could signal the emergence of a trend.

peru flagIn the face of a deficit of tens of thousands of votes in a close count following Peru’s June 6 presidential election, Keiko Fujimori, the 46-year-old doyen of a right-wing political dynasty, declined to concede. Instead, she has appeared to take a page from former president Donald Trump’s playbook, leveling unsubstantiated accusations of fraud.

She is not alone. While politicians the world over have long sought to contest election outcomes, with and without basis, some experts say Fujimori’s approach, following Trump’s effort to discredit the outcome of the 2020 U.S. presidential election over false claims of fraud, could signal the emergence of a trend.

In Peru, Pedro Castillo, Fujimori’s challenger, has claimed victory, but officials say the result could take days or weeks to certify. Citing little evidence, Fujimori has claimed large-scale election fraud, bringing in a small army of lawyers in an attempt to throw out more than 200,000 votes, mainly cast in impoverished, rural areas.

naftali bennett benjamin netanyahu

ny times logoNew York Times, Israelis Wonder When or Whether Netanyahu Will Exit Official Residence, Isabel Kershner, June 17, 2021 (print ed.). Even after the new government took over on Sunday, the outgoing prime minister vowed to be back in office soon and hosted at least one former dignitary as if he were still running the show.

The paparazzi eagerly snap shots of random moving trucks in the vicinity of the prime minister’s official residence in Jerusalem. Political cartoonists are portraying Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s former prime minister, his wife, Sara, and their elder son, Yair, as squatters.

And suspicions that Mr. Netanyahu, above right, might be reluctant to leave the stately home where he has lived for the past 12 years were bolstered this week when he hosted Nikki Haley, the former United States ambassador to the United Nations, at the official residence as if he were still running the show.

Unlike in Washington, there is no set time by which an outgoing Israeli premier must move out and hand the house over to the victor and it can often take weeks, though it’s not as if the Netanyahu family has nowhere to go. Among their private residences is a home in the seaside town of Caesarea.

But their relocation plans, if they exist, have become a subject of feverish speculation for a number of reasons.

For starters, Mr. Netanyahu has accused his successor, Naftali Bennett, above left, who was sworn in on Sunday, of committing the “fraud of the century” by using the votes for his right-wing constituency to lead an ideologically diverse coalition that Mr. Netanyahu has branded as a “dangerous left-wing” government.

He has embraced his new role as a fighting opposition leader with alacrity while at the same time swearing to his own base that he will be back in power “sooner than you think,” making it sound as if it may hardly be worth uprooting the family from the residence that detractors said they had turned into their castle.

Mr. Bennett, for his part, seems in no hurry to move in.

A resident of Ra’anana, a prosperous suburban town in central Israel, he has four children in schools in the area and has made it known that at least initially, he will use the official residence for mostly ceremonial purposes and possibly for family weekends.

Stoking public outrage, Ms. Haley posted on Twitter a photograph of her meeting with Mr. Netanyahu on Monday and wrote: “Time with Prime Minister @netanyahu is always invaluable. His contributions to Israeli security and prosperity are historic. We have not heard the last from him.”

Then a lawyer for “Crime Minister,” a group that campaigned for Mr. Netanyahu’s resignation after he was charged with corruption, sent a letter to the legal adviser of the prime minister’s office demanding that she set a deadline later this month for the family to vacate the mansion or face legal action.

The lawyer, Gonen Ben Izhak, argued that the meeting with Ms. Haley in the house “undermined the elected prime minister and caused real harm to the symbols of government and democracy,” along with Mr. Netanyahu’s campaign to delegitimize Mr. Bennett’s coalition.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden’s strategy of pessimism ekes out a few gains with Putin, John Hudson, June 17, 2021. With expectations set low and pushed lower by the talks’ ending earlier than expected, President Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin emerged with a pleasant surprise: incremental progress on a handful of issues.

joe biden resized oIn a political career spanning four decades, President Biden has seen American presidents from both parties try to transform the U.S. relationship with Russia only to leave office disappointed.

In his first meeting as commander in chief with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Biden intended not to make the same mistake.

He would make no overtures for a reset in relations, and his pessimism about the prospects of changing Putin’s mind on issues such as human rights would inform his actions.

With expectations set low and pushed even lower by the talks’ ending earlier than expected, Putin and Biden emerged from the meetings with a pleasant surprise: incremental progress on a handful of issues.

 

June 16

Top Headlines

 

Jan. 6 Pro-Trump Capitol Insurrection

 

Justice Department Reform

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

More  On U.S. Courts, Crime, Law

 

World News

 

U.S. Governance 

 

U.S. Religion, Philanthropy, Media

 

Top Stories

joe biden vladimir putin summit june 16 2021 geneva

ny times logoNew York Times, Putin and Biden Cite Gains From Summit, but Tensions Are Clear, Anton Troianovski, Oleg Matsnev and Ivan Nechepurenko, June 16, 2021. Mr. Putin denied Russian responsibility for a surge in cyberattacks, and rebuffed U.S. criticism of human rights abuses. There were also hints of progress.

President Biden and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia emerged from their first in-person summit Wednesday and offered broad claims of good will, but it was clear that on issues ranging from cyberattacks to human rights, the two countries remain profoundly divided.

“There has been no hostility,” Mr. Putin declared as he met with reporters after the summit in Geneva. “On the contrary, our meeting took place in a constructive spirit.”

For his part, Mr. Biden said, “The tone of the entire meeting was good, positive.”

But the tensions remained evident.

Mr. Putin of Russia denied that Russia has played a role in a spate of increasingly bold cyberattacks against U.S. institutions and said it was the United States that is the biggest offender.

The Russian leader also suggested that he was not interested in discussing what Mr. Biden had said was a key objective of the talks: to establish some “guardrails” about what kinds of attacks on critical infrastructure are off limits in peacetime.

Mr. Biden said that he had pressed the Russian president on a variety of issues — and that he would not stop doing so.

“I made it clear to President Putin that we’ll continue to raise issues of fundamental human rights,” he said.

“I did what I came to do,” Mr. Biden said.

And he expressed optimism that Mr. Putin would not seek to escalate the tensions between the two nations.

“The last thing he wants now is a Cold War,” Mr. Biden said.

Mr. Putin did suggest that there had been some kind of agreement to establish expert groups to examine these issues, but U.S. officials fear it is little more than a ploy to tie the matter up in committee.

The high-stakes diplomatic engagement came at the end of a whirlwind weeklong European tour for Mr. Biden in which he sought to rebuild and strengthen the traditional alliances that often bolstered the United States’ position during the Cold War.

It was a meeting freighted with history and fraught with challenge.

Mr. Biden has argued that the world is at an “inflection point,” with an existential battle underway between democracy and autocracy. And with Mr. Putin at the vanguard of the autocrats, the American leader faced criticism from some quarters for even taking part in the summit.

In a reflection of the sensitivities of symbolism, the White House insisted that the leaders hold independent news conferences, with Mr. Putin speaking first.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: Putin calls summit with Biden ‘quite constructive,’ says ambassadors will return to posts, Isabelle Khurshudyan, John Wagner, Colby Itkowitz and Eugene Scott, June 16, 2021.

  • Putin suggests a prisoner swap was discussed but not resolved
  • Putin says U.S., Russia reached an agreement to discuss cybersecurity but provides no specifics
  • President Biden and Russia’s Vladimir Putin met Wednesday at a historic lakeside villa in Geneva, as relations between their countries are at their lowest point in 30 years.
  • During an opening session, Putin said he hopes for a “productive” session while Biden said it was important to be meeting face to face. 
  • Both the White House and the Kremlin have attempted to temper expectations and said not to expect any breakthroughs. Some issues expected to be covered include recent cyberattacks that the United States has said originated from Russia, arms control, human rights and climate change.
  • In a chaotic scene witnessed by jostling pools of American and Russian reporters, both Putin and Biden spoke briefly before the journalists were ushered out of the room.
  • Biden was joined by Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and Putin was accompanied by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. The initial session is expected to be limited to those four, plus interpreters.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: An emboldened Biden meets an unbothered Putin, Ishaan Tharoor, June 16, 2021 (print ed.). There are no great expectations for the meeting with Putin. The United States pushed for it to take place not to herald a “reset” with Russia — as Biden and the Obama administration once did more than a decade ago — but, in the words of White House press secretary Jen Psaki, to “restore predictability and stability to the U.S.-Russia relationship.”

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. surpasses 600,000 deaths from the virus, Katerina Ang, Miriam Berger and Kim Bellware, June 16, 2021 Even as California and New York celebrated loosening the vast majority of their social distancing curbs on Tuesday, the United States marked a morbid milestone: at least 600,000 covid-19 deaths.

The precise number is under debate. As of early Wednesday, Reuters said there had been 600,061 reports of covid-linked fatalities since the start of the pandemic, while a Johns Hopkins University tracker placed the death toll at 600,272. Either way, the United States is closing in on the total death toll of the four-year-long Civil War.

The nationwide death rate, however, has dropped sharply since inoculations became widely available. More than 79,000 people died of covid-19 in January, but it has taken almost four months for the death toll to go from 500,000 to 600,000. In related news:

  • Potentially fatal black fungus cases reported in covid-19 patients in Oman, as infections there surge
  • Moscow mayor mandates 60% of hospitality workers must be vaccinated
  • Tokyo hopes to allow up to 10,000 spectators at summer event

 

Jan. 6 Pro-Trump Capitol Insurrection

 

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washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: The nation cannot forget Donald Trump’s betrayal of his oath, Editorial Board, June 16, 2021 (print ed.). Many Republicans want the nation to ignore and forget President Donald Trump’s poisonous final months in office — the most dangerous moment in modern presidential history, orchestrated by the man to whom the GOP still swears allegiance. Yet the country must not forget how close it came to a full-blown constitutional crisis, or worse. Tuesday brought another reminder that, but for the principled resistance of some key officials, the consequences could have been disastrous.

jeffrey rosenThe House Committee on Oversight and Reform on Tuesday released emails showing that the White House waged a behind-the-scenes effort to enlist the Justice Department in its crusade to advance Mr. Trump’s baseless allegations of fraud in the 2020 election.

On Dec. 14, 10 days before Jeffrey Rosen, left, took over as acting attorney general, Mr. Trump’s assistant emailed Mr. Rosen, asserting that Dominion Voting Systems machines in Michigan were intentionally fixed and pointing to a debunked analysis showing what “the machines can and did do to move votes.” The email declared, “We believe it has happened everywhere.”

Later that month, Mr. Trump’s assistant sent Mr. Rosen a brief that the president apparently wanted the Justice Department to submit to the Supreme Court. The draft mirrored the empty arguments that the state of Texas made to the court before the justices dismissed the state’s lawsuit. Piling on the pressure, then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows also dispatched an email asking Mr. Rosen to examine allegations of voter fraud in Georgia. A day later, Mr. Meadows apparently forwarded Mr. Rosen a video alleging that Italians used satellites to manipulate voting equipment. These were just some of the preposterous White House emails claiming fraud in arguably the most secure presidential election ever.

ny times logoNew York Times, F.B.I. Is Pursuing ‘Hundreds’ in Capitol Riot Inquiry, Wray Tells Congress, Luke Broadwater, June 16, 2021 (print ed.). In two separate hearings, the F.B.I. director and Pentagon officials answered questions about the failure to adequately prepare for and respond to the Jan. 6 attack.

The F.B.I. is pursuing potentially hundreds more suspects in the Capitol riot, the agency’s director told Congress on Tuesday, calling the effort to find those responsible for the deadly assault “one of the most far-reaching and extensive” investigations in the bureau’s history.

“We’ve already arrested close to 500, and we have hundreds of investigations that are still ongoing beyond those 500,” Christopher A. Wray, rfight, the F.B.I. director, told the House Oversight Committee.

christopher wray oHis assurances of how seriously the agency was taking the attack by a pro-Trump mob came as lawmakers pressed him and military commanders on why they did not do more to prevent the siege despite threats from extremists to commit violence.

“The threats, I would say, were everywhere,” said Representative Carolyn B. Maloney, a New York Democrat who is the chairwoman of the Oversight Committee. “The system was blinking red.”

Ms. Maloney confronted Mr. Wray with messages from the social media site Parler, which she said referred threats of violence to the F.B.I. more than 50 times before the attack on Jan. 6. One message, which Ms. Maloney said Parler had sent to an F.B.I. liaison on Jan. 2, was from a poster who warned, “Don’t be surprised if we take the Capitol building,” and “Trump needs us to cause chaos to enact the Insurrection Act.”

FBI logo“I do not recall hearing about this particular email,” Mr. Wray replied. “I’m not aware of Parler ever trying to contact my office.”

In hearings before two congressional committees on Tuesday, lawmakers sought new information about the security failures that helped lead to the violence.

At one hearing, Ms. Maloney, right, presented her committee’s research into the delayed response of the National Guard, which showed that the Capitol Police and Washington officials made 12 “urgent requests” for their support and that Army leaders told the National Guard to “stand by” five times as the violence escalated.

carolyn maloney o“That response took far too long,” Ms. Maloney said. “This is a shocking failure.”

Documents obtained by the committee showed that, beginning at 1:30 p.m. on Jan. 6, top officials at the Defense Department received pleas for help from the Capitol Police chief, Mayor Muriel Bowser of Washington and other officials. But the National Guard did not arrive until 5:20 p.m., more than four hours after the Capitol perimeter had been breached.

“The National Guard was literally waiting, all ready to go, and they didn’t receive the green light for a critical time period, hours on end,” said Representative Ro Khanna, Democrat of California and a member of the committee.

Lawmakers had tough questions for Gen. Charles Flynn, who commands the U.S. Army Pacific, and Lt. Gen. Walter E. Piatt, the director of the Army staff, both of whom were involved in a key phone call with police leaders during the riot in which Army officials worried aloud about the “optics” of sending in the Guard, according to those involved. It was the first time lawmakers had heard from either general.

In their testimony, they described the frantic call in which the chiefs of the Capitol Police and the Metropolitan Police became agitated as they tried unsuccessfully to get military support while rioters attacked their officers at the Capitol.

U.S. House logo“Both speakers on the phone sounded highly agitated and even panicked,” General Flynn recalled.

By contrast, he said, General Piatt was a “calm” and “combat-experienced leader.”

General Piatt has defended his caution in initially advising against sending in the National Guard, telling the committee that he was “definitely concerned” in the days before Jan. 6 “about the public perception of using soldiers to secure the election process in any manner that could be viewed as political.”

He told the committee that National Guard forces were “not trained, prepared or equipped to conduct this type of law enforcement operation.”

“When people’s lives are on the line, two minutes is too long,” General Piatt said. “But we were not positioned for that urgent request. We had to re-prepare so we would send them in prepared for this new mission.”

General Flynn is the brother of Michael T. Flynn, President Donald J. Trump’s disgraced former national security adviser who has emerged as one of the former president’s biggest promoters of the lie of a stolen election.

In submitted testimony, General Flynn said he had not participated in the call but merely overheard portions of it when he entered the room while it was in progress. He said that he had not heard any discussion of political considerations with regard to sending in the Guard.

“I did not use the word ‘optics,’ nor did I hear the word used during the call on Jan. 6, 2021,” he said.

washington post logoWashington Post, Paul Gosar demands name of Capitol officer who killed rioter Ashli Babbitt, saying she was ‘executed,’ Julian Mark, June 16, 2021.In a hearing on Tuesday, Rep. Paul A. Gosar (R-Ariz.) abruptly turned his questions for FBI Director Christopher A. Wray toward the Capitol Police officer who fatally shot Ashli Babbitt, an Air Force veteran who tried to leap through a window during the Jan. 6 insurrection.

paul gosarGosar, right, demanded to know why the FBI hasn’t disclosed the name of the officer, who was cleared of wrongdoing by prosecutors in April.

“It’s disturbing,” Gosar told Wray, while claiming Babbitt was “executed.” “The Capitol Police officer that did that shooting appeared to be hiding, lying in wait and then gave no warning before killing her.”

His comments, which came the same day he joined 20 other House Republicans in voting against awarding Congressional Gold Medals to the officers who protected the Capitol on Jan. 6, have gone viral on social media and drawn swift rebukes from critics and some colleagues who accused him of downplaying the severity of the insurrection.

washington post logoWashington Post, 21 House Republicans vote against awarding Congressional Gold Medal to all police officers who responded on Jan. 6, Felicia Sonmez, June 16, 2021 (print ed.). Twenty-one House Republicans on Tuesday voted against awarding the Congressional Gold Medal to all police officers who responded to the Jan. 6 violent attack on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob.

The measure passed the House with overwhelming bipartisan support from 406 lawmakers. But the 21 Republicans who voted “no” drew immediate condemnation from some of their colleagues, and the vote underscored the lingering tensions in Congress amid efforts by some GOP lawmakers to whitewash the events of that day.

Rep. Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-Va.) called the “no” votes “a sad commentary on the @HouseGOP,” while Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) declared, “How you can vote no to this is beyond me.”

“Then again, denying an insurrection is as well,” Kinzinger, a vocal critic of former president Donald Trump, said in a tweet. “To the brave Capitol (and DC metro PD) thank you. To the 21: they will continue to defend your right to vote no anyway.”

In an interview on CNN Tuesday night, Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.) called the 21 “no” votes “a new low for this crowd.”

“They voted to overturn an election. But in their vote today, they kind of sealed the deal of basically affiliating with the mob,” Connolly said. “They now are part of the insurrectionist mob. They brought enormous disrepute and dishonor on themselves in not honoring the brave men and women who defended the Capitol of the United States — everybody in it, but also defending the symbol of democracy in the world, not just here in the United States.”

In March, when an initial version of the legislation was brought to the House floor, a dozen Republicans voted against the measure. Many of those who voted “no” said they objected to the use of the term “insurrectionists” in the resolution.
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Those GOP lawmakers included Reps. Andy Biggs (Ariz.), Thomas Massie (Ky.), Andy Harris (Md.), Lance Gooden (Tex.), Matt Gaetz (Fla.), Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.), Louie Gohmert (Tex.), Michael Cloud (Tex.), Andrew S. Clyde (Ga.), Greg Steube (Fla.), Bob Good (Va.) and John Rose (Tenn.).

On Tuesday, Gooden, one of the 12 House Republicans who voted against the legislation in March, voted in favor of the new bill.

But the number of opposing votes grew, with 10 other House Republicans switching their votes from “yes” to “no.”

Those Republicans are Reps. Lauren Boebert (Colo.), Barry Moore (Ala.), Ralph Norman (S.C.), Matthew M. Rosendale (Mont.), Chip Roy (Tex.), Paul A. Gosar (Ariz.), Warren Davidson (Ohio), Scott Perry (Pa.), Jody Hice (Ga.) and Mary Miller (Ill.). Some of those who voted “no” on Tuesday said they objected to the use of the words “temple” or “insurrection” in the resolution.

Proof via Substack, Investigation: Roger Stone Keeps Lying About the Willard Hotel—and Now We Know Why, Seth Abramson, left, June 15-16, 2021. Roger Stone wasn't where he told America he was on seth abramson graphicJanuary 6th, which is why he keeps changing his story about his stay at the Willard Hotel—where Trump's secret war room was. And Stone's lies matter.

On January 29, 2021, Roger Stone threatened to sue Proof for accurately reporting on his actions before and during the January 6 insurrection.

seth abramson proof logoSince—and including—then, every piece of reporting on Stone this publication has offered has (a) remained consistent over time, and (b) been confirmed. What has not been consistent or confirmed are any of Stone’s alibis for the day of the worst attack on American democracy since the Civil War. Stone’s alibis have drifted this way and that, always in response to some new piece of reporting that gives the lie to what Stone had previously sworn was the truth.

This is no real surprise, of course; Stone takes great pride in his reputation as a “dirty trickster” and, besides being a convicted felon, has a decades-long, carefully stoked reputation for dishonesty. Now that a lifetime of perfidy and misdeeds has caught up to him and Donald Trump is no longer resident in the White House to pardon him, Stone’s philosophy, once ably summarized by the late disgraced attorney Roy Cohn, is simple to understand and even simpler to execute: “Deny, deny, deny.”

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Talking Points Memo, Oath Keepers Leader Spent Group’s Money On Guns and Steaks, Disgruntled Ex-Members Say, Matt Shuham, June 16, 2021. Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes spent thousands of dollars that belonged to the group on things like guns and food, disgruntled members told the Wall Street Journal.

Members of the Oath Keepers make up the largest group of defendants facing conspiracy charges in the Jan. 6 Capitol attack case — they allegedly conspired to interrupt the certification of Joe Biden’s win — and now, tensions within the group have spilled out onto the pages of a lengthy Journal exposé.

Citing current and former Oath Keepers “and some of Mr. Rhodes’ family members,” the Journal reported that Rhodes spent Oath Keepers money on a home deposit, haircuts, liquor, food reserves and “personal riot gear.”

stewart rhodesCiting specific bank records, the Journal listed Oath Keepers funds spent near the town of Rhodes’ former Montana residence: $12,424 in auto repairs, $83.50 at a pet store, $504 at a dentist, $886 at a bar, $9,974 at a gun store, and $229 at Alley Katz Nighties N Naughties, which on its Facebook page describes itself as “A small ADULT shop carrying a lil’ bit of everything. Lingerie, lotions n potions, DVD’s, Adult novelties, Gag Gifts….and more.”

The Oath Keepers also spent $275 on phone games and $256 at Fragrancenet.com, the Journal reported. The Oath Keepers’ former IT manager, Ed Wilson, told the Journal he left the organization after alerting the board to the spending issues and seeing no change.

“He used that thing as a piggy bank,” Wilson said of Rhodes.

Another former Oath Keeper, Billy Simmons, said he discovered upon calling the Oath Keepers’ credit card company that Rhodes had bought an AR-10 rifle for around $1,000, spreading the payment across three days to avoid crossing the card’s daily spending limit.

Former Oath Keepers director Scott Dunn said the group’s board set the $350 daily limit after Rhodes spent $800 on groceries — including more than a dozen steaks — and kettlebells at Walmart. Dunn said Rhodes separately suggested the pair go on Tinder dates and bill the Oath Keepers.

Yet another former board member, Rick Moon, recalled the directors confronting Rhodes about spending Oath Keepers’ money on gas purchases and a “train car load” of rice and beans.

“I created this organization, it’s mine, and I’ll do what I want to do with this,” Rhodes responded, Moon recalled to the Journal.

On top of all that, Dunn told the Journal, Rhodes failed to report a $10,000 donation to the Oath Keepers from Gary Heavin, the founder of Curves, the fitness franchise. Several board members said Rhodes spent supporters’ donations without reporting them.

Rhodes and an Oath Keepers attorney, Kellye SoRelle, had responses to nearly all of the expenses listed in the article: Heavin’s donation may not have been properly recorded, but it was used for Oath Keepers’ purposes, SoRelle said.

The gun purchases, she said, were partly “advertising.” The food, she said, was for Oath Keepers in Virginia. And Rhodes, she said, was merely trying to cheer up the recently divorced Dunn with the Tinder dates suggestion.

Rhodes told the Journal the allegations of misused funds were “petty, stupid and salacious,” and that they came from “disgruntled people that have a bone to pick.”

Rhodes hasn’t been charged in the Jan. 6 attack. There’s no evidence he went inside the Capitol and he has maintained his innocence. But prosecutors frequently refer to his (“Person 1”’s) communications with rioters in court documents.

What’s more, SoRelle told the Journal, federal agents served Rhodes a search warrant and seized his cell phone in April. The warrant, according to the report, sought evidence of “planning, preparation or travel” to breach the Capitol, including weapons procurement or “tactical training.”

 

Justice Department Reform

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

U.S. Justice Department headquarters in Washington, DC.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The Justice Department must recognize how close we came to disaster, Jennifer Rubin, right, June 16, 2021.The revelation that the former president attempted to enlist the jennifer rubin new headshotJustice Department to overthrow the 2020 election results should awaken all Americans to the danger our democracy faces. It should heighten concern about the Republican Party’s continued loyalty to someone who deployed every tactic to keep his grip on the presidency, which in addition to strong-arming the Justice Department, included a disinformation campaign and the incitement of violence.

Given that Republicans are willing to protect their anti-democratic leader from any scrutiny and rebuff a bipartisan commission to conduct a thorough inquiry, the Justice Department should consider the following steps:brad raffenspergerFirst, open a full criminal investigation into post-election actions in which officials were pressured to change election outcomes. This should include all efforts to manipulate the Justice Department and to pressure state officials (e.g., Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, left). Refusing to hold wrongdoers accountable risks more sophisticated efforts to undo election results in the future.
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Second, put together strict guidelines for Justice Department attorneys regarding efforts to undo lawful elections. Department guidelines should include whistleblower protections and an obligation to report such conduct to Congress. The department should make clear that participation in any such scheme is illegal and grounds for termination.

Third, pursue available legal action against the fraudulent Arizona recount (improperly cast as an “audit”) and copycat efforts around the country, which seek to further undermine November’s election results with fraudulent conspiracy theories. All legal theories should be explored.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The Justice Department must be depoliticized, Adam B. Schiff, right, June 16, 2021 (print ed.). Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) is the chairman of the House Permanent Select adam schiff squareCommittee on Intelligence.

Most Americans remember Watergate as a scandal involving the burglary of the Democratic National Committee headquarters and President Richard M. Nixon’s coverup of that crime. But during the course of the subsequent investigation, an even broader range of presidential misconduct was revealed.

The rules established after Watergate to ensure the independence of the Justice Department served our nation well for half a century, until another president shattered them.

Donald Trump had his own enemies list, which included members of the media, elected officials and congressional staff. But while Nixon’s list was held in private, Trump was proud to declare his enemies on Twitter, at rallies and during interviews.

And Trump made no secret of his demand that the Justice Department investigate his opponents, openly demanding his attorneys general go after any number of people. Including — quite frequently — me.

Over his four years in office, Trump baselessly accused me of treason, of leaking classified information, of engaging in unspecified corruption and other offenses. He said I should be investigated and apple logo rainbowprosecuted, and that someone needed to “do something” about me.

Last month, I learned that Apple had been served a subpoena by the Justice Department in 2018 seeking records from more than a dozen accounts belonging to two members of Congress, committee staff and even family members — one of whom was a minor. There is a lot we don’t know, including how the department came to seek those records and whether prosecutors understood what records they were requesting. We still don’t know whether only Democrats were the subjects of these requests or whether the investigation was properly predicated. The department has yet to explain.

william barr new oThe investigation reportedly began under then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his deputy, Rod J. Rosenstein, and was continued under Attorney General William P. Barr, left.

Leak investigations, particularly those involving subpoenas on members of the media, are extraordinarily sensitive and require approval from top DOJ officials. Subpoenaing the records of members of Congress in connection with such an investigation may be unprecedented, since our constitutional doctrine of the separation of powers militates against the executive branch taking such action. In this case, prosecutors also repeatedly sought gag orders so that the media and Congress would not find out. That all three top Justice Department officials at the time now deny any knowledge of the matter strains credulity.

We cannot accept these assertions at face value. Sessions made claims during his confirmation hearing that were not borne out by the facts. Barr has a well-documented history of dissembling, including under oath. Barr willfully misrepresented the Mueller report even as he withheld it and claimed not to know of Mueller’s objections to his “summary” of that report when he did. Barr also made false representations to the court about the process of reaching his conclusion that Trump committed no prosecutable offense — two federal judges have now rebuked him for his lack of candor.

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washington post logoWashington Post, Emails detail Trump’s efforts to have Justice Dept. take up election claims, Karoun Demirjian, June 16, 2021 (print ed.). President Donald Trump’s staff began sending emails to Jeffrey Rosen asking him to embrace Trump’s claims of voter fraud at least 10 days before Rosen assumed the role of acting attorney general, according to emails disclosed by the a House committee in advance of a hearing on the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. 

  

Virus Victims, Responses

ny times logoNew York Times, Why American Women Everywhere Are Delaying Motherhood, Sabrina Tavernise, Claire Cain Miller, Quoctrung Bui and Robert Gebeloff, June 16, 2021.Falling birthrates have led to the slowest growth of the American population since the 1930s, and a profound change in American motherhood.

For decades, delaying parenthood was the domain of upper-middle-class Americans, especially in big, coastal cities. Highly educated women put off having a baby until their careers were on track, often until their early 30s. But over the past decade, as more women of all social classes have prioritized education and career, delaying childbearing has become a broad pattern among American women almost everywhere.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: As U.S. Death Toll Nears 600,000, the Counting Is Complicated, Staff Reports, June 16, 2021. The nation would have surpassed the mark already if not for the removal of hundreds of deaths from California tallies. Many experts say the official U.S. death toll is probably an undercount.

Here’s the latest virus news..

  • American tourists could soon be allowed freer travel to Europe.
  • Regeneron’s antibody drug is found to cut deaths in some hospitalized patients.
  • The C.D.C. designates the Delta version of the virus a ‘variant of concern.’
  • Japan pursues vaccine diplomacy in Asia, even as shots lag at home

washington post logocovad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Washington Post, 175.1 million U.S. vaccinated, as of June 16, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This includes more than 146.5 million people (44.1 % of the eligible population) and 52.7% with at least one dose. See about your state. 

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated June 16, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here): 

World Cases: 177,470,902, Deaths: 3,839,934
U.S. Cases:     34,352,185, Deaths:    615,717
India Cases:     29,633,105, Deaths:    379,601
Brazil Cases:   17,543,853,  Deaths:    491,164

ny times logoNew York Times, Calls Are Growing for an Investigative Commission on the Pandemic, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, June 16, 2021. The lawyer who led the inquiry into the Sept. 11 attacks has quietly laid a foundation for a nonpartisan commission to investigate the pandemic.

Bills have been introduced in both houses of Congress to create a bipartisan panel, but a leader of the Sept. 11 commission thinks a nonpartisan effort would have more success in the current climate.

The lawyer who led the inquiry into the Sept. 11 attacks has quietly laid a foundation for a nonpartisan commission to investigate the coronavirus pandemic, with financial backing from four foundations and a paid staff that has already interviewed more than 200 public health experts, business leaders, elected officials, victims and their families.

philip zelikowThe work, which has attracted scant public notice, grew out of a telephone call in October from Eric Schmidt, the philanthropist and former chief executive of Google, to Philip D. Zelikow, who was the executive director of the commission that investigated Sept. 11. Mr. Schmidt urged Mr. Zelikow, right, to put together a proposal to examine the pandemic, which has caused nearly 600,000 deaths in the United States alone.

Now, with the nation beginning to put the crisis in the rearview mirror, Washington is taking up the idea of a Covid-19 commission. Bipartisan bills have been introduced in both the House and the Senate, and have the backing of three former homeland security secretaries — two Republicans and a Democrat — as well as health groups and victims and their families.

Unlike the rancorous debate that doomed the proposal for a panel to investigate the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, discussion of a Covid-19 commission has not produced partisan discord — at least, not yet. Senator Bob Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey and a lead sponsor of the Senate bill, noted that its work would cover both the Trump and Biden administrations.

“If I can get past what I consider to be the biggest hurdle, which is not to have this viewed through a partisan political lens, then I think there should be strong support for it moving forward,” Mr. Menendez said in an interview on Tuesday.

ny times logoNew York Times, The U.S. Averted One Housing Crisis, but Another Is in the Making, Conor Dougherty and Glenn Thrush, June 16, 2021. A moratorium on evictions did little to address the bigger problem: The country is running out of affordable places for people to live.

Like the broader economy, the housing market is split on divergent tracks, according to the annual State of the Nation’s Housing Report released on Wednesday by Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies.

While one group of households is rushing to buy homes with savings built during the pandemic, another is being locked out of ownership as prices march upward — and those who bore the brunt of pandemic job losses remain saddled with debt and in danger of losing their homes

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump-era hunt for pandemic ‘lab leak’ went down many fruitless paths, Yasmeen Abutaleb and Shane Harris, June 16, 2021 (print ed.). The quest by spy agencies and public health officials relied on public reports and intelligence from foreign governments. Now President Biden has reinvigorated the search, ordering a fresh intelligence review.

Despite the early scientific consensus supporting natural origin, interest in the lab-leak theory never fully abated inside the U.S. government. Public health officials, intelligence officers and officials at the State Department and the National Security Council labored, with varying degrees of intensity and success, to understand the origins of the virus and whether it might have escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, a world-renowned center for coronavirus research.

Most of what they learned came from public sources of information, including news articles, social media and scientific journals. Within the classified realm, a significant amount of the intelligence the United States obtained came from foreign governments, according to former officials with knowledge of the matter.

Last month, President Biden breathed new life into the origin mystery when he ordered intelligence agencies to redouble their efforts to determine whether the virus came from a lab and to report back to him in August.

 

U.S. Courts, Crime, Law

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: I’ve urged Supreme Court justices to stick around — but never to retire. Until now, Ruth Marcus, right, June 16, 2021 (print ed.). If Republicans regain the Senate majority, ruth marcusMinority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) has now said that he will do everything within his power to prevent President Biden from filling any Supreme Court vacancy that arises.

The real news was that McConnell didn’t rule out pulling the same stunt if a vacancy arose in 2023, with, say, 18 months left in Biden’s term. Would a Biden nominee — a “normal mainstream liberal”— “get a fair shot at a hearing,” Hewitt asked?

Note to Justice Breyer: This is not Ted Kennedy’s Senate, where you worked as his chief counsel on the Senate Judiciary Committee four decades ago. This is not the Senate that confirmed you 87-9 in 1994. Those kind of bipartisan votes on Supreme Court nominees are ancient history. That Senate is no more.

And that is why Breyer should retire at the end of the court’s current term, when there is ample time for the Democratic majority to confirm a successor.

washington post logoWashington Post, Woman killed as driver plows into crowd protesting U.S. marshals’ shooting of Black man, Kim Bellware, June 16, 2021 (print ed.). A suspect is in police custody after demonstrators pulled him from his vehicle following the crash late Sunday in Minneapolis, police said. One woman was killed and three people were injured after a man plowed his car into a group of protesters in Minneapolis late Sunday. The suspect is in police custody after demonstrators pulled him from his vehicle following the crash, police said.

Officials had not identified the driver or the victim as of Monday, but Garrett Knajdek told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that his older sister, Deona M. Knajdek, of Minneapolis, was the protester who was killed.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Executive Could Face Charges as Soon as Summer, William K. Rashbaum, Ben Protess and Jonah E. Bromwich, June 16, 2021 (print ed.). An investigation into Allen Weisselberg, the Trump Organization’s finance chief, appears to be heading into its final stages as prosecutors increase pressure on him.

allen weisselberg croppedThe Manhattan district attorney’s office appears to have entered the final stages of a criminal tax investigation into Donald J. Trump’s long-serving chief financial officer, Allen H. Weisselberg, right, setting up the possibility he could face charges this summer, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

In recent weeks, a grand jury has been hearing evidence about Mr. Weisselberg, who is facing intense scrutiny from prosecutors as they seek his cooperation with a broader investigation into Mr. Trump and the Trump Organization, the people with knowledge of the matter said. The prosecutors have obtained Mr. Weisselberg’s personal tax returns, the people said, providing the fullest picture yet of his finances.

Even as the investigation has heated up, it remains unclear whether the prosecutors will seek an indictment of Mr. Weisselberg, which would mark the first criminal charges stemming from the long-running financial fraud investigation into Mr. Trump and his family company.

The investigation into Mr. Weisselberg focuses partly on whether he failed to pay taxes on valuable benefits that Mr. Trump provided him and his family over the years, including apartments and leased cars as well as tens of thousands of dollars in private school tuition for at least one of his grandchildren. In general, those types of benefits are taxable, although there are some exceptions, and the rules can be murky.

washington post logoWashington Post, Asked to adjust his mask, a customer killed a cashier and started a shootout, police say, Kim Bellware, June 16, 2021 (print ed.). A customer who argued over wearing a mask at a Georgia supermarket shot and killed a cashier Monday before engaging in a shootout with an off-duty sheriff’s deputy that left the deputy and a second cashier wounded, officials said.

Police identified the slain cashier as 41-year-old Laquitta Willis.

The shooting unfolded just after 1 p.m. Monday at the Big Bear Supermarket in Decatur, Ga., when investigators say a customer, later identified as 30-year-old Victor Lee Tucker Jr., left the store after the mask dispute without making his purchase. But he immediately returned. Tucker was charged with murder and two counts of aggravated assault, according to court records. He remained hospitalized for his injuries Tuesday and is expected to survive.

washington post logoWashington Post, An officer shot a 16-year-old eight times in an idling car. Now he’s charged with murder, Jaclyn Peiser, June 16, 2021 (print ed.). The white Honda evaded a caravan of Honolulu police cars for about 10 minutes in April before officers finally cornered it at a red light. As police surrounded the idling car, two rear passengers jumped out and ran. The driver and front passenger, though, remained unmoved, ignoring orders from police to exit.

Then came a rapid round of gunfire.

An officer standing behind the vehicle hit Iremamber Sykap, the 16-year-old driver, eight times with his 9mm Glock, killing him. Another fired a shot through the driver’s window. Moments later, a third officer fired four shots, hitting the passenger in the hand and shoulder.

Now, the three officers involved in the shooting have all been charged. Prosecutors said body camera footage contradicted the officers’ claims that the teen had tried to drive into them and that they were protecting nearby pedestrians. The decision by Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Steven S. Alm, which came days after a grand jury declined to indict the officers, stunned local police authorities.

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: Saudi Embassy has helped its citizens facing criminal charges flee the U.S., Shane Harris, June 16, 2021 (print ed.). The Saudi government’s assistance to its citizens who are accused of violent crimes in the United States has drawn scrutiny from federal law enforcement and condemnation from members of Congress.

The FBI has concluded that Saudi government officials “almost certainly assist US-based Saudi citizens in fleeing the United States to avoid legal issues, undermining the US judicial process,” according to an intelligence bulletin issued in August 2019, which was declassified following legislation written by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) to extract more information on the Saudi government’s role.

At the Saudi Embassy in Washington, that assistance has been overseen by a mid-level official who has managed a network of American criminal defense lawyers and self-described “fixers” paid to keep Saudis charged with crimes out of prison, an investigation by The Post has found.

This network has provided traditional consular services such as arranging for bail, interpreters and legal representation for people accused of violent crimes. But it has also gone far beyond the traditional role of embassies and helped the accused evade court-ordered probation, and arranged for travel and flights out of the United States when Saudi nationals have absconded from justice, according to interviews with more than a dozen individuals, as well as hundreds of pages of U.S. court documents, Saudi legal forms and international travel records.

washington post logoWashington Post, Utah prosecutor told door-knocking candidate to ‘die and go to hell.’ He blamed a disturbed nap, Katie Shepherd, June 16, 2021. Salt Lake City Council member Darin Mano returned home Saturday night from passing out fliers for his first-ever campaign to find a profanity-laden email in his inbox. The furious sender claimed Mano’s knock at the door had waked him from a nap.

The emailer said he hated Mano, along with the council member’s family, his campaign team and his supporters. “Kindly die and go to hell,” the note said.

Then Mano saw who had sent it: Steven A. Wuthrich, an assistant attorney general in the Utah attorney general’s office.

The message left Mano and his campaign team shaken. “The part that actually affected me was the ‘I hate your family,’” Mano told The Washington Post, “more than any of the other words that he used.”

Mano, the city’s first Asian American council member, was appointed to fill Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall’s former seat in January 2020. This November will be his first time on the ballot. It will also be the first time the city uses ranked-choice voting, which allows voters to rank candidates in order of preference, to determine its municipal election.

Wuthrich, who did not immediately respond to a request for comment late Tuesday, has since apologized for the email. Mano told The Post that while he appreciated the apology, he felt compelled to share Wuthrich’s email on Facebook this week amid the spate of violent attacks Asian Americans have faced across the country.

washington post logoWashington Post, Portland begins removal of illegal campsites as homelessness rises, Eli Saslow | Photos by Mason Trinca for The Post, June 12, 2021.As homelessness continues to rise, an overwhelmed city issues an ultimatum: 48 hours to clear camp.

After more than a year of allowing most homeless camps to remain intact so as not to displace people during the pandemic, cities across the country are now beginning to confront another public health crisis unfolding on their streets.

The number of Americans who are homeless has increased in each of the past five years, according to government data, and for the first time more than half of homeless adults are living not in shelters but in tents or sleeping bags outside. There has yet to be a nationwide homelessness count since the start of the pandemic, but a quarter of Americans now report being at “imminent risk” of losing their homes, and cities up and down the West Coast say they are overwhelmed by an unprecedented rise in homeless people, hazardous encampments and related trash.

washington post logoWashington Post, Five officers fired over a Black man’s hanging death in custody, which some mocked in a meme, Lateshia Beachum, June 16, 2021 (print ed.). Five police officers in Savannah, Ga., have been fired following the death of a man who committed suicide in their custody in early April, a notably swift step in disciplining officers for misconduct.

The Savannah Police Department announced on Monday that investigations into the details leading up to and after the in-custody hanging death of 60-year-old William Zachery Harvey led to the firings of a corporal and a sergeant, for failing to turn on recording cameras and violating supervisory responsibilities. A second investigation by the Professional Standards Unit looked into a group-chat message with a meme mocking Harvey’s death, resulting in the firings of three other officers based on multiple violations.

The terminations are among the most prompt disciplinary actions taken in recent months after a summer filled with protests against police brutality, racism and injustice where cries for correctional measures for police took longer to lead to action.

 

World News 

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Part of the club’: Biden relishes the revival of alliances that Trump shunned, Ashley Parker, June 16, 2021 (print ed.). On the U.S. president’s first foreign trip abroad since his election, the warm sentiment and desire for belonging seemed mutual. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson enthused that Biden’s approach was like a “breath of fresh air.”

The 46th U.S. president bounded onto the global playground like a kid at recess on the first day of school, eager to rekindle the old friendships that languished over the summer and to introduce himself to the new kids in class as well.

As Biden made his way through Cornwall, Brussels and, finally, Geneva, the enthusiasm for his return to the world stage was palpable, with him declaring, sometimes multiple times a day, that America is back.

And so is he.

“America is back,” Biden said Tuesday at the Europa building in Brussels.

“America is back on the global scene,” affirmed Charles Michel, president of the European Council. “It’s great news for allies, also great news for the world.”

washington post logoWashington Post, A burning ship. Tons of toxic cargo. An ecosystem in the balance, Sarah Cahlan, Ruby Mellen, Atthar Mirza and Elyse Samuels, June 16, 2021 (print ed.).The waters off Sri Lanka’s capital of Colombo seem calmer now, more than two weeks after a blazing 610-foot container ship lit up the coastline. Most of the X-Press Pearl, a four-month-old Singapore-flagged container ship, has settled on the bottom of the sea.

But the ocean has already begun to tell its own story. Lifeless fish are washing up on Sri Lanka’s sands, plastic pellets lodged in their gills. Those pellets have also covered picturesque beaches, lapped ashore by the waves. Dead turtles and birds have been reported on the coast as well, although the connection to the ship is still being investigated.

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Like a murder’: South Korean women face widespread online sex abuse, rights group says, Min Joo Kim, June 16, 2021 (print ed.). There has been a rise in crimes involving intimate images that are captured and shared without consent or manipulated to impersonate the victim in a sexually degrading manner, a Human Rights Watch report said.

South Korea is facing a growing epidemic of online and tech-enabled “digital sex crimes” that is inflicting grave damage on women and girls, but the government has not done enough to stamp out the south korea flag Smallmenace, Human Rights Watch said in a report released Wednesday.

South Korea, a global leader in information and communication technology, is struggling to cope with a rise in crimes involving intimate images — almost always of women — that are captured and shared digitally without consent or manipulated to impersonate the victim in a sexually degrading manner.

“The root cause of digital sex crimes in South Korea is widely accepted harmful views about and conduct toward women and girls that the government urgently needs to address,” said Heather Barr, interim co-director for women’s rights at Human Rights Watch. “The government has tinkered with the law but has not sent a clear and forceful message that women and men are equal, and misogyny is unacceptable.”

washington post logoWashington Post, What offenses did Jeffrey Epstein, Ghislaine Maxwell, commit in Britain? New report forces police to review claims, Jennifer Hassan, June 16, 2021. British police say they will review allegations made in a recent Channel 4 News investigation that convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein and his former partner, Ghislaine Maxwell, sexually abused, trafficked and groomed multiple women and girls in Britain over a period of 10 years.

The claims, of which there are at least half a dozen but the broadcaster said could be “much higher,” aired on Tuesday, prompting fresh calls for the Metropolitan Police Service to fully investigate the Epstein scandal which has thrust Britain’s Prince Andrew, the second-eldest son of Queen Elizabeth II, into the spotlight due to his ties to the disgraced U.S. financier.

The broadcaster said the allegations, including rape and sexual assault, came from evidence collected from “a combination of publicly available documentation (including court papers), witness accounts, and interviews.”

Prince Andrew says he let down royal family by associating with Jeffrey Epstein

The allegations further implicate British socialite Maxwell, who is in jail and awaiting trial in the United States on sex trafficking charges. She has denied enlisting underage girls for Epstein to sexually abuse.

In its report, the broadcaster asked why Britain has been so slow to investigate the allegations when authorities around the world have moved to uncover the truth about the extent of Epstein’s crimes and connections.

“In this country there has been a deafening silence from the metropolitan police,” the investigation said, adding “Scotland Yard has seemingly done very little. Tonight we ask, why?” 

 

naftali bennett benjamin netanyahu

ny times logoNew York Times, Israelis Wonder When or Whether Netanyahu Will Exit Official Residence, Isabel Kershner, June 16, 2021.Even after the new government took over on Sunday, the outgoing prime minister vowed to be back in office soon and hosted at least one former dignitary as if he were still running the show.

The paparazzi eagerly snap shots of random moving trucks in the vicinity of the prime minister’s official residence in Jerusalem. Political cartoonists are portraying Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s former prime minister, his wife, Sara, and their elder son, Yair, as squatters.

And suspicions that Mr. Netanyahu, above right, might be reluctant to leave the stately home where he has lived for the past 12 years were bolstered this week when he hosted Nikki Haley, the former United States ambassador to the United Nations, at the official residence as if he were still running the show.

Unlike in Washington, there is no set time by which an outgoing Israeli premier must move out and hand the house over to the victor and it can often take weeks, though it’s not as if the Netanyahu family has nowhere to go. Among their private residences is a home in the seaside town of Caesarea.

But their relocation plans, if they exist, have become a subject of feverish speculation for a number of reasons.

For starters, Mr. Netanyahu has accused his successor, Naftali Bennett, above left, who was sworn in on Sunday, of committing the “fraud of the century” by using the votes for his right-wing constituency to lead an ideologically diverse coalition that Mr. Netanyahu has branded as a “dangerous left-wing” government.

He has embraced his new role as a fighting opposition leader with alacrity while at the same time swearing to his own base that he will be back in power “sooner than you think,” making it sound as if it may hardly be worth uprooting the family from the residence that detractors said they had turned into their castle.

Mr. Bennett, for his part, seems in no hurry to move in.

A resident of Ra’anana, a prosperous suburban town in central Israel, he has four children in schools in the area and has made it known that at least initially, he will use the official residence for mostly ceremonial purposes and possibly for family weekends.

Stoking public outrage, Ms. Haley posted on Twitter a photograph of her meeting with Mr. Netanyahu on Monday and wrote: “Time with Prime Minister @netanyahu is always invaluable. His contributions to Israeli security and prosperity are historic. We have not heard the last from him.”

Then a lawyer for “Crime Minister,” a group that campaigned for Mr. Netanyahu’s resignation after he was charged with corruption, sent a letter to the legal adviser of the prime minister’s office demanding that she set a deadline later this month for the family to vacate the mansion or face legal action.

The lawyer, Gonen Ben Izhak, argued that the meeting with Ms. Haley in the house “undermined the elected prime minister and caused real harm to the symbols of government and democracy,” along with Mr. Netanyahu’s campaign to delegitimize Mr. Bennett’s coalition.

 

U.S. Governance 

state dept map logo Small

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden names ambassador picks, including diplomats for Israel and NATO, taps C.B. ‘Sully’ Sullenberger for aviation post, Tyler Pager, June 16, 2021 (print ed.). President Biden announced his first slate of political ambassadors Tuesday, selecting longtime Washington hands for key foreign postings.

joe biden twitterBiden will nominate Thomas R. Nides, a former State Department official, to serve as the ambassador to Israel, Julie Smith, a former Biden national security adviser, as the ambassador to North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and Ken Salazar, the former secretary of the interior and senator from Colorado, as the ambassador to Mexico.

The Washington Post previously reported the three were expected in those spots.

Biden will also nominate C. B. “Sully” Sullenberger, III, who safely landed a plane on the Hudson River in 2009, as the representative to the Council of the International Civil Aviation Organization, and Dr. Cynthia Ann Telles, a UCLA professor of psychiatry, to serve as ambassador to Costa Rica.

The announcement comes as Biden is wrapping up his first foreign trip, with stops at the Group of Seven meeting in the United Kingdom and meetings with NATO and the European Union in Brussels. The president will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday in Geneva.

Along with the five political appointees, Biden announced four career members of the Foreign Service to serve as ambassadors. They include Julie Chung for Sri Lanka, Sharon Cromer for Gambia, Troy Damian Fitrell for Guinea and Marc Ostfield for Paraguay.

lina khan resized ftc

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden taps Big Tech critic Lina Khan to chair the Federal Trade Commission, Cat Zakrzewski and Tyler Pager, June 16, 2021 (print ed.). The appointment came shortly after the Senate voted 69-28 to confirm her for a seat on the 5-member commission.

In a move that heralds a growing effort to check the power and influence of Big Tech, President Biden on Tuesday appointed Lina Khan, a top antagonist of the tech industry, to chair the Federal Trade Commission, the federal government’s primary antitrust watchdog.

Biden’s decision to put Khan in charge of the FTC’s agenda is the clearest sign yet that his administration will take a drastically different approach to regulating the tech giants than did President Barack Obama, whose administration took a largely hands-off approach toward Silicon Valley.

Reaction from both supporters and detractors reflected that expectation.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who launched her failed presidential campaign pledging to break up the tech companies, hailed the move as “a huge opportunity to make big, structural change by reviving antitrust enforcement and fighting monopolies that threaten our economy, our society, and our democracy.”

Critics were equally adamant.

chuck grassley o“Lina Khan’s antitrust activism detracts from the Federal Trade Commission’s reputation as an impartial body that enforces the law in a nondiscriminatory fashion,” the tech industry group NetChoice, which counts Amazon, Facebook and Google among its members, said in a statement. It described itself as “disheartened” by the development.

News of Khan’s elevation to the top spot at the FTC came shortly after the Senate, in a rare show of bipartisanship, confirmed her appointment to a seat on the five-member commission on a vote of 69 to 28. Twenty-one Republicans joined 46 Democrats and two independents in backing Khan — another signal of the growing bipartisan interest in reining in tech companies’ power. Sens. Charles E. Grassley (Iowa), right, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, and Roger Wicker (Miss.), the top Republican on the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, were among her supporters.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden administration offers debt relief to some former ITT Tech students, Danielle Douglas-Gabriel, June 16, 2021. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, right, said Wednesday that 18,000 former ITT Technical Institute students defrauded by the defunct for-profit chain will have their federal loans fully canceled, a move miguel cardonathat some advocacy groups say chips away too slowly at an urgent problem.

This is the first significant step the Education Department has taken to address debt relief claims filed by ITT Tech students since the school shut down in 2016. Thirty-four thousand former students have petitioned the department to cancel their debt under a statute known as “borrower defense to repayment,” but were rebuffed by the Trump administration.

“Our action today will give thousands of borrowers a fresh start and the relief they deserve after ITT repeatedly lied to them,” a statement from Cardona said. “Many of these borrowers have waited a long time for relief, and we need to work swiftly to render decisions for those whose claims are still pending.”

ITT Technical Institutes shut down after 50 years in operation

Eligible borrowers will be notified in the coming weeks. The approvals amount to a total of $500 million in debt relief, according to the department. They cover two categories of claims submitted by former ITT Tech students: their ability to transfer credits and likely employment prospects.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Federal Judge Says Biden Cannot Pause New Leases for Drilling on Public Lands, Coral Davenport, June 16, 2021 (print ed.). President Biden suspended new oil and gas drilling leases on federal lands. A judge in Louisiana ruled those leases could not be temporarily halted.

A federal judge in Louisiana has blocked the Biden administration’s suspension of new oil and gas leases on federal lands and waters, in the first major legal roadblock for President Biden’s quest to cut fossil fuel pollution and conserve public lands.

Judge Terry A. Doughty of the United States District Court for the Western District of Louisiana granted a preliminary injunction Tuesday against the administration, saying that the power to pause offshore oil and gas leases “lies solely with Congress” because it was the legislative branch that originally made federal lands and waters available for leasing.

Judge Doughty also ruled that 13 states that are suing the administration over its temporary halt to new leases “have made a showing that there is a substantial likelihood that President Biden exceeded his powers.”

Jeff Landry, the Republican attorney general of Louisiana and attorneys general from 12 other states, all Republicans, filed suit in March to lift the White House executive order that temporarily halted new drilling leases on federal lands and waters. Mr. Biden had signed the order during his first week in office in January, saying he wanted a pause in order to conduct a comprehensive review of the program.

Judge Doughty ruled that Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and her agency “are hereby enjoined and restrained from implementing the pause of new oil and natural gas leases on public lands or in offshore waters.” until the states’ legal case against the administration is decided.

He wrote that the pause on new leasing should end nationwide and noted that such sweeping preliminary injunctions against federal actions were exceedingly rare. But he concluded that the 13 states had demonstrated that their economies could be irreparably harmed by the pause on drilling.

Joining Louisiana were Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, and West Virginia.

The suspension of the leases has been one of the most high-profile and controversial policy moves by a president who has made climate action central to his agenda.

Enviromentalists celebrated the pause as a sign that Mr. Biden is serious about shutting down production of fossil fuels, the burning of which is the chief cause of global warming.

Republicans and the oil industry have criticized it as an example of government overreach that could damage the economy and displace thousands of oil and gas workers.

Judge Doughty agreed. “Millions and possibly billions of dollars are at stake,” he wrote in his decision, noting that the states depend on a share of the lease payments to fund government programs, including conservation projects. “Local government funding, jobs for plaintiff state workers, and funds for the restoration of Louisiana’s coastline are at stake.”

A spokeswoman for the Interior Department, which manages federal oil and gas leases on federal lands and waters, said in a statement that the administration was reviewing the ruling and would comply with it.

The spokeswoman, who declined to be quoted by name, said that the Interior Department continued to work on an interim report to Mr. Biden about the state of the federal oil and gas drilling programs, as well as recommendations on the future of the federal role in drilling on public lands.

Ms. Haaland is expected to send those recommendations to Mr. Biden later this summer.

In a statement, Mr. Landry called the injunction “a victory not only for the rule of law, but also for the thousands of workers who produce affordable energy for Americans. We appreciate that federal courts have recognized President Biden is completely outside his authority in his attempt to shut down oil and gas leases on federal lands.”

Congressional Democrats said they would move forward with legislative efforts to limit oil drilling on public lands.

Politico, Manchin moves shake up Dem strategy for massive elections bill, Laura Barrón-López, Marianne Levine and Burgess Everett, June 16, 2021. During a Zoom meeting the West Virginia Democratic senator organized on Monday, he also talked about policing with a handful of Republicans and civil rights groups.

As progressives hammer Sen. Joe Manchin for opposing Democrats’ signature ethics and election reform bill, the West Virginian is busy working behind the scenes.

After writing an op-ed against the bill earlier this month, Manchin circulated a memo among his colleagues Wednesday that outlines his preferred changes to a proposal his party has billed as essential to prepare for the 2022 midterms. Manchin also organized a Zoom meeting this week with civil rights groups and a handful of Republican senators to find areas of agreement.

His movements come as Senate Democrats prepare for a vote next week on the elections bill. The legislation is a top priority for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, but has little chance of becoming law given opposition from Manchin and the GOP.

The West Virginia senator organized his Monday meeting after a similar conversation with leaders of national civil rights organizations one week earlier. With no change to the filibuster on the horizon, Manchin and the groups know that 10 Republican senators will be needed to support legislation that would achieve two major Democratic goals: reauthorizing key sections of the 1965 Voting Rights Act and approving changes to American elections that lie at the heart of the party's massive but stalled elections bill.

In an interview on Wednesday afternoon, Manchin said he’d done the best he could to put together a proposal he could support. He acknowledged party leaders might not go along: “I couldn’t vote for it in the form it is. Now, whether anybody is going to change it ... [the memo] might not, might not change their mind. I understand that and I respect that.”

Manchin is making clear he’s not against everything in the elections bill: He supports expanded early voting and a ban on partisan gerrymandering, according to a copy of his memo obtained by Politico. But he also wants new voter ID requirements and is pushing for more flexibility for state officials to remove voters from voter rolls, both of which run counter to the design of the elections bill that already passed the House.

Manchin also proposes making Election Day a public holiday, mandating 15 consecutive days of early voting and allowing for automatic registration through the DMV with the ability to opt out.

Among the provisions that Manchin opposes or is uneasy about in the elections bill his party's dubbed S1 are no-excuse absentee voting and public financing of elections. And some senior House Democrats who shepherded the voting bill through their chamber are listening to the Democratic Senate's gregarious 50th voter.

"I like a lot of what I saw," House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) said in a brief interview. He called the memo a "great first step" toward getting something into law.

The memo follows a Monday meeting attended by GOP senators as well as civil rights groups. Attendees of the Monday meeting included Sens. Lindsay Graham (S.C.), Susan Collins (Maine), Mitt Romney (Utah) and Tim Scott (S.C.), according to senators and sources familiar with the meeting. In addition, Manchin invited Sens. Richard Burr (N.C.), Ben Sasse (Neb.), Dan Sullivan (Alaska), Thom Tillis (N.C.), and Todd Young (Ind.)

U.S. Religion, Philanthropy, Media

washington post logoWashington Post, Southern Baptists elect Ed Litton as their president, a defeat for the hard right, Sarah Pulliam Bailey, June 16, 2021 (print ed.).The Southern Baptist Convention elected Ed Litton as its president on Tuesday, signaling a defeat for the hard right within the nation’s largest Protestant denomination.

Litton narrowly defeated Mike Stone, the favored candidate of the far right. For the past few years, the convention has been mired in debates over racism, politics and sexual misconduct that mirror many of the same debates in the Republican Party. The election took place at the convention’s annual meeting in Nashville.

In recent weeks, as leaked letters and backroom deals dominated conversations among Southern Baptists, Litton, pastor of First Baptist Church North Mobile in Alabama, pitched himself as someone who would lead the convention toward more racial reconciliation. Fred Luter, the first and only Black pastor to serve as president of the SBC, nominated Litton for the position. At the meeting Tuesday, Litton spoke fondly of how he and Luter have swapped pulpits. The crowd cheered after Luter’s speech in favor of Litton, in which Luter said Litton “brings a compassionate and shepherding heart. We need a pastor who has a love for God and God’s people.”

Other SBC presidential candidates included Albert Mohler, the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. In the first round of voting, Mohler garnered fewer votes than Litton and Stone. In a runoff, Litton received 52 percent of the vote, while Stone received 47.81 percent.

ny times logoNew York Times, MacKenzie Scott Reveals Another $2.74 Billion in Giving, Nicholas Kulish and David Gelles, June 16, 2021 (print ed.). Ms. Scott’s wealth has continued to grow thanks to Amazon’s soaring stock price. Forbes estimates her net worth at roughly $60 billion. Charitable giving in the U.S. rose to a record level in 2020. Here’s the latest business and economy news.

MacKenzie Scott, one of the richest women in the world, forged ahead with her highly unconventional approach to philanthropy on Tuesday, using a blog post to announce that she and her husband, amazon logo smallDan Jewett, had given away $2.74 billion to 286 organizations including arts nonprofits and groups working to combat racial discrimination.

Ms. Scott was married to Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, for 25 years. When they divorced in 2019, her share of the settlement, 4 percent of Amazon’s stock, was valued at around $36 billion. Despite the huge sums she has given away since then — the latest round brings her total to more than $8 billion — her wealth has only continued to grow, thanks to Amazon’s soaring stock price. Forbes’s most recent estimate of her net worth was roughly $60 billion.

Though Ms. Scott did not list the amount she gave each organization, her blog post included a list of those receiving funds. They included well-known arts groups such as the Apollo Theater and Ballet Hispánico; higher education institutions including schools in the University of California and the University of Texas systems; organizations focused on racial justice, such as Race Forward and Borealis Philanthropy; and groups focused on empowering women and combating domestic violence.

ny times logoNew York Times, New Publisher Says It Welcomes Conservative Writers Rejected Elsewhere, Elizabeth A. Harris and Alexandra Alter, Updated June 16, 2021. All Seasons Press, started by former executives from Simon & Schuster and Hachette, plans to publish books by the former Trump officials Mark Meadows and Peter Navarro.

Jared Kushner, right, has a book deal, joining former White House officials like Kellyanne Conway and Mike Pence who are also writing books.

But others from the Trump administration have had a tougher time with mainstream publishers. Those companies have struggled to find a balance between promoting a range of voices — including conservative authors who can sell a lot of copies — and heeding their employees, readers and authors who consider it morally unacceptable to publish them.

Now there is a new publishing company, All Seasons Press, that wants those conservative authors and is pitching itself as an alternative to mainstream houses.

Donald Trump“The company is open to welcoming those authors who are being attacked, bullied, banned from social media, and, in some cases, outright rejected by politically correct publishers,” it said in a news release on Tuesday.

It isn’t the only outlet for former Trump officials. Mr. Kushner, the former president’s son-in-law and former senior adviser, has signed with Broadside, a conservative imprint at HarperCollins. His memoir, which his publisher says will be “the definitive, thorough recounting of the administration,” is due out early next year, and will cover his work on issues such as Middle East diplomacy, criminal justice reform and the administration’s pandemic response. Simon & Schuster has acquired Mr. Pence and Ms. Conway’s books, and Betsy DeVos, the former education secretary, has also sold a book.

But All Seasons is staking out territory that some mainstream publishers are wary to venture into, by courting former Trump officials who staunchly supported the president through the bitter end of his administration, including those who echoed the president’s false claims that the election was rigged. The company plans to release a book in the fall by Mark Meadows, Mr. Trump’s former chief of staff, and another by Peter Navarro, Mr. Trump’s former trade adviser. Its founding was reported earlier by The Wall Street Journal.

Wayne Madsen Report, Opinion: The press no longer interested in informing the public, Wayne Madsen, left, June 16, 2021. There is a reason why newspapers, even in their digital formats, are going out of wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallbusiness at a breakneck speed across the country. Newspapers once strove to keep the public, particularly their regional area readership, as informed as possible.

wayne madesen report logoToday, the press kowtows so much to corporate special interests, it is impossible to distinguish between actual newsworthy items and “infomercials” placed by public relations firms or, even worse, political action committees.

 

June 15

Top Headlines

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Crime, Race 

 

World News

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

U.S. Politics, Elections, Voting Rights

U.S. Governance 

 

U.S. Media , Business News

 Top Stories

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

U.S. Justice Department headquarters in Washington, DC.

washington post logoWashington Post, Emails detail Trump’s efforts to have Justice Dept. take up election claims, Karoun Demirjian, June 15, 2021. President Donald Trump’s staff began sending emails to Jeffrey Rosen asking him to embrace Trump’s claims of voter fraud at least 10 days before Rosen assumed the role of acting attorney general, according to emails disclosed by the a House committee in advance of a hearing on the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. 

 

djt march 2020 Custom 

Palmer Report, Opinion: What this new Donald Trump – Jeffrey Rosen bombshell really means, Bill Palmer, right, June 15, 2021.  We all recall when Attorney General Bill Barr abruptly “resigned” in mid-bill palmerDecember, and was replaced by Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen.

bill palmer report logo headerNow the New York Times is reporting that Trump began pressuring Rosen to help him try to illegally overturn the election result on the same day that Trump announced Barr was out. Trump then spent a period of weeks trying to push Rosen to have the DOJ ask the Supreme Court to overturn the election. Rosen reportedly kept fending Trump off, and at one point Trump nearly ousted Rosen in favor of pro-Trump DOJ official Jeffrey Clark. There’s a lot to unpack here.

For instance, if this reporting is correct, then Rosen, below left, did a great thing in standing his ground against Trump, and should be commended for it. Of course he’s now likely to spend the next few years having to testify nonstop to congressional committees, grand juries, and trial juries, as he had a front row seat to the biggest criminal scandal in American history.

jeffrey rosenAlso it’s more clear than ever that Trump committed felony election fraud. Former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows was also knee deep in illegally pressuring Rosen. And Rudy Giuliani had his fingerprints all over this scandal, as usual. Given that all three of them were trying to illegally overturn election results in Georgia, and that the Fulton County Georgia District Attorney already has a grand jury going in the Trump election tampering scandal, it’s difficult to imagine any scenario where Trump, Meadows, and Giuliani aren’t criminally indicted in Georgia.

On the federal level, this new revelation is going to make it a whole lot easier for the Department of Justice to bring criminal charges against Donald Trump and the others involved in the scandal. Or to put it another way, this will make it a whole lot harder for the DOJ not to bring federal charges against them.

What’s remarkable is that Donald Trump went this deep into criminal territory in an effort to keep himself in power, and it was such a stupid plan that it still had no chance of working. When you combine this with how stunningly stupid and inept his incitement of the Capitol attack was, Trump will go down as the most brazen criminal in American history, and the stupidest criminal in American history. 

capitol riot shutterstock capitol 

 ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: House Hearings Focus on Jan. 6 Security Failures, Luke Broadwater, June 15, 2021. Two House committees will question law enforcement leaders and generals. Lawmakers plan to focus on the delay in sending in the National Guard after the Capitol had been breached (as shown above) as well as a Capitol Police unit’s training and equipment failures.

Two congressional committees on Tuesday plan to hold simultaneous hearings digging into the attack on the U.S. Capitol by at mob of Trump supporters, asking questions of generals and law enforcement leaders about the security failures that helped led to violence and death on Jan. 6.

carolyn maloney oRepresentative Carolyn B. Maloney, right, Democrat of New York and the chairwoman of the House Oversight Committee, said she planned to unveil her committee’s research into the delayed response of the National Guard, showing that Capitol Police and D.C. officials made 12 “urgent requests” for Guard support during the attack and that Army leaders told the National Guard to “stand by” five times as the violence escalated.

“That response took far too long,” Ms. Maloney said in a statement. “This is a shocking failure, and today we intend to get to the bottom of why it happened.”

Beginning at 2 p.m., members of House Oversight and Reform Committee plan to question Christopher Wray, left, the F.B.I. director; General Charles Flynn, who commands the U.S. christopher wray oArmy Pacific; and Lieutenant General Walter Piatt, director of the Army staff.

General Flynn and General Piatt were involved in a key mid-riot call with police leaders in which Army leaders worried about the “optics” of sending in the Guard, according to those involved in the meeting. It is the first time lawmakers will hear testimony from either man.

General Piatt has defended his caution in advising against sending in the National Guard. “The last thing you want to do is throw forces at it where you have no idea where they’re going, and all of a sudden it gets a lot worse,” he told The New York Times in January.

General Flynn is the brother of Michael T. Flynn, the disgraced former national security adviser under President Donald J. Trump who has emerged as one of the ex-president’s biggest promoters of the lie of a stolen election.

Documents obtained by the committee show that beginning at 1:30 p.m. on Jan. 6, top officials at the Defense Department received at least 12 urgent requests for help from the Capitol Police chief, the mayor of Washington, Muriel Bowser, and other officials. But the National Guard did not arrive until 5:20 p.m., more than four hours after the Capitol perimeter had been breached.

yogananda pittmanThe panel will not hear testimony from the acting chief of the Capitol Police, Yogananda D. Pittman, right, who declined to attend, citing her need to hear testimony at the other committee hearing.

In that hearing, also Tuesday afternoon, the Committee on House Administration plans hear testimony from the Capitol Police inspector general, Michael A. Bolton, and Gretta L. Goodwin, director of Homeland Security and Justice for the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

Mr. Bolton intends to testify about his fourth investigative report into the failures of Jan. 6, which found that the department’s tactical unit did not have access to “adequate training facilities”; did not have adequate policies for securing ballistic helmets and vests (two dozen were stolen during the riot); and the agency’s First Responder Unit was not equipped with adequate less-lethal weapons, among other findings.

His previous reports have found that the Capitol Police had clearer warnings about the Jan. 6 attack than were previously known, including the potential for violence in which “Congress itself is the target.” But officers were instructed by their leaders not to use their most aggressive tactics to hold off the mob.

About 140 officers were injured during the attack, and seven people died in connection with the siege, including one officer who suffered multiple strokes after sparring with members of the mob.

U.S. House logo“It is our duty to honor those officers who have given their lives but also ensuring the safety of all those working and visiting the Capitol Complex by making hard changes within the department,” Mr. Bolton said in written testimony.

At a previous hearings on the attack, some House Republicans have used the venue to attempt to rewrite the history of what happened on Jan. 6, downplaying or outright denying the violence and deflecting efforts to investigate it.

Republicans signaled Monday that they planned to focus on Chief Pittman’s lack of attendance.

In response, the Capitol Police cited Chief Pittman’s need to hear from the inspector general, and said she would testify before the committee another time when there wasn’t a conflict. She has testified in previous committee hearings reviewing the attack, including when she apologized on behalf of the department.

Proof via Substack, Investigation: Roger Stone Keeps Lying About the Willard Hotel—and Now We Know Why, Seth Abramson, left, June 15, 2021. Roger Stone wasn't where he told America he was on seth abramson graphicJanuary 6th, which is why he keeps changing his story about his stay at the Willard Hotel—where Trump's secret war room was. And Stone's lies matter.

On January 29, 2021, Roger Stone threatened to sue Proof for accurately reporting on his actions before and during the January 6 insurrection.

seth abramson proof logoSince—and including—then, every piece of reporting on Stone this publication has offered has (a) remained consistent over time, and (b) been confirmed. What has not been consistent or confirmed are any of Stone’s alibis for the day of the worst attack on American democracy since the Civil War. Stone’s alibis have drifted this way and that, always in response to some new piece of reporting that gives the lie to what Stone had previously sworn was the truth.

This is no real surprise, of course; Stone takes great pride in his reputation as a “dirty trickster” and, besides being a convicted felon, has a decades-long, carefully stoked reputation for dishonesty. Now that a lifetime of perfidy and misdeeds has caught up to him and Donald Trump is no longer resident in the White House to pardon him, Stone’s philosophy, once ably summarized by the late disgraced attorney Roy Cohn, is simple to understand and even simpler to execute: “Deny, deny, deny.”

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washington post logoWashington Post, Novavax’s coronavirus vaccine is 90% effective, study finds, Carolyn Y. Johnson, June 15, 2021 (print ed.). The vaccine is one of six the U.S. bet on but is likely to have its biggest impact globally. Vaccinated people were completely protected against severe and even moderate cases of illness by the two-shot regimen in a 30,000-person trial conducted when variants had begun to complicate the pandemic in the United States and Mexico.

novavax logoNovavax, a Maryland biotechnology company that endured delays in developing a coronavirus vaccine, revealed results Monday showing that the world is close to having another shot that prevents illness and death, stops virus variants — and proves easy to store.

The two-shot regimen was 90 percent effective at preventing people from falling ill in a 30,000-person trial conducted when variants had begun to complicate the pandemic in the United States and Mexico.

Vaccinated people were completely protected against severe and even moderate cases of illness. There were no cases of hospitalization or death among people who received the vaccine. The shots also may be the most tolerable yet tested. Side effects included fatigue, headaches and muscle pain, but reactions tended to be less frequent than those triggered by some already authorized vaccines.

“It’s really very impressive,” said Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, noting the vaccine was on par with the most effective shots developed during the pandemic. “It’s very important for the world’s population to have, yet again, another highly efficacious vaccine that looks in its trial to have a good safety profile.

ny times logoNew York Times, Vatican Warns U.S. Bishops: Don’t Deny Biden Communion Over Abortion, Jason Horowitz, June 15, 2021 (print ed.). Conservative American Catholic bishops are pressing for a debate over whether Catholics who support the right to an abortion should be allowed to take Communion.

The Vatican has warned conservative American bishops to hit the brakes on their push to deny communion to politicians supportive of abortion rights — including President Biden, a faithful churchgoer and the first Roman Catholic to occupy the Oval Office in 60 years.

But despite the remarkably public stop sign from Rome, the American bishops are pressing ahead anyway and are expected to force a debate on the communion issue at a remote meeting that starts on Wednesday.

pope francis uncropped 3 13Some leading bishops, whose priorities clearly aligned with former President Donald J. Trump, now want to reassert the centrality of opposition to abortion in the Catholic faith and lay down a hard line — especially with a liberal Catholic in the Oval Office.

The vote threatens to shatter the facade of unity with Rome, highlight the political polarization within the American church and set what church historians consider a dangerous precedent for bishops’ conferences across the globe.

“The concern in the Vatican,” said Antonio Spadaro, a Jesuit priest and close ally of Francis “is not to use access to the Eucharist as a political weapon.”

Pope Francis, right, who has explicitly identified the United States as the source of opposition to his pontificate, preached this month that communion “is not the reward of saints, but the bread of sinners.” His top doctrinal official, Cardinal Luis Ladaria, wrote a letter to the American bishops, warning them that the vote could “become a source of discord rather than unity within the episcopate and the larger church in the United States.”

The result is a rare, open rift between Rome and the American church.

Opponents of the vote suspect a more naked political motivation, aimed at weakening the president, and a pope many of them disagree with, with a drawn-out debate over a document that is sure to be amplified in the conservative Catholic media and on right-wing cable news programs.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden, E.U. end 17-year trade dispute, seek to calm relations after Trump, Michael Birnbaum, Anne Gearan and David J. Lynch, June 15, 2021.The five-year truce would quell fears that the European Union and the United States could hit each other with tariffs, as they did in recent years as part of the dispute, which targeted Boeing and Airbus.

President Biden and European Union leaders reached a deal Tuesday to put to rest a 17-year-old trade dispute about subsidies for aircraft manufacturers, officials said, a significant step in calming trade relations after the fury of the Trump years.

european union logo rectangleA five-year truce, which was announced at the outset of a Tuesday meeting in Brussels between Biden and the top leaders of E.U. institutions, was the latest effort in a transatlantic reconciliation tour that the new president started last week at the Group of Seven summit in Britain.

At each stop, including at NATO on Monday, Biden has tried to mend ties that were damaged by President Donald Trump, who often sidled up to traditional American adversaries and targeted longtime allies with vitriol.

“It’s overwhelmingly the interest of the United States of America to have a great relationship with NATO and the E.U.,” Biden said Tuesday as he started the meeting with the E.U. leaders. “I have a very different view than my predecessor did.”  state dept map logo Small

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden names ambassador picks, including diplomats for Israel and NATO, taps C.B. ‘Sully’ Sullenberger for aviation post, Tyler Pager, June 15, 2021.  President Biden announced his first slate of political ambassadors Tuesday, selecting longtime Washington hands for key foreign postings.

joe biden twitterBiden will nominate Thomas R. Nides, a former State Department official, to serve as the ambassador to Israel, Julie Smith, a former Biden national security adviser, as the ambassador to North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and Ken Salazar, the former secretary of the interior and senator from Colorado, as the ambassador to Mexico.

The Washington Post previously reported the three were expected in those spots.

Biden will also nominate C. B. “Sully” Sullenberger, III, who safely landed a plane on the Hudson River in 2009, as the representative to the Council of the International Civil Aviation Organization, and Dr. Cynthia Ann Telles, a UCLA professor of psychiatry, to serve as ambassador to Costa Rica.

The announcement comes as Biden is wrapping up his first foreign trip, with stops at the Group of Seven meeting in the United Kingdom and meetings with NATO and the European Union in Brussels. The president will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday in Geneva.

Along with the five political appointees, Biden announced four career members of the Foreign Service to serve as ambassadors. They include Julie Chung for Sri Lanka, Sharon Cromer for Gambia, Troy Damian Fitrell for Guinea and Marc Ostfield for Paraguay. 

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Crime, Race

 

alan hostetter left russ taylor right

Alleged "Three Percenters" leaders  Alan Hostetter, left, a former police chief, and Russell Taylor are shown above in Washington, DC before the January insurrection at the Capitol.

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Administration Forms Blueprint to Combat Domestic Extremism, Zolan Kanno-Youngs, June 15, 2021. The plan synthesizes recommendations throughout the government that would aim to identify extremists in the United States after years of heightened focus on terrorists abroad.

The Biden administration is aiming to bolster information sharing with technology companies, potentially expand hiring of intelligence analysts and improve screening of government employees for ties to domestic terrorism as part of a much-anticipated plan expected to be released on Tuesday detailing how the federal government should combat extremism.

President Biden ordered the review of how federal agencies addressed domestic extremism soon after coming into office, part of an effort to more aggressively acknowledge a national security threat that has grown since the Capitol riot on Jan. 6.

The 32-page plan synthesizes steps that have been recommended by national security officials — including bolstering relationships with social media companies and improving information sharing among law enforcement agencies — into one blueprint on how to more effectively identify extremists in the country after years of heightened focus on foreign terrorists.

“We cannot ignore this threat or wish it away,” Mr. Biden wrote in the strategy document. “Preventing domestic terrorism and reducing the factors that fuel it demand a multifaceted response across the federal government and beyond.”

But the plan, titled “National Strategy for Countering Domestic Terrorism” and issued by the National Security Council, also left some questions unanswered.

The Biden administration’s plan to addressing domestic terrorism.

The new strategy was widely expected to detail a position on whether the government should establish a domestic terrorism law that prosecutors could use to investigate and charge homegrown extremists instead of relying on assault, murder and hate crime charges. The strategy instead indicates that the administration is focused for now on bolstering methods of combating extremism already used by the government, despite Mr. Biden calling for such a law during the presidential campaign.

While there is increasing bipartisan support to equip prosecutors with more laws to crack down on extremists, civil rights advocates have expressed concern that new statutes would lead to government overreach and infringements on privacy rights. The administration referred the issue to the Justice Department for further review, according to the planning document.

“New criminal laws, in particular, should be sought only after careful consideration of whether and how they are needed to assist the government in tackling complex, multifaceted challenges like the one posed by domestic terrorism and only while ensuring the protection of civil rights and civil liberties,” according to the strategy document.

Other efforts to investigate extremism, including a commission to examine the attack on the Capitol, have been stymied by Republicans fearing the potential political damage of increased attention on an attack by a pro-Trump mob.

merrick garland new

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Merrick Garland seems to operate as though the last four years didn’t happen, Jennifer Rubin, right, June 15, 2021. After days of tumult following revelations that the Trump jennifer rubin new headshotadministration deployed warrants to investigate news reporters and members of Congress in leak investigations, Attorney General Merrick Garland (shown above) issued a tepid response on Monday.

Garland’s revelation raises a number of questions:

  • Does this cover conduct by former attorneys general?
  • Does this go beyond subpoenas?
  • Is the department reviewing professional violations and sanctionable conduct (e.g., misrepresentations to courts) by those who assisted Barr in hyperpoliticization of the department?

washington post logoWashington Post, Senate confirms D.C. Circuit nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson to replace Merrick Garland, Ann E. Marimow, June 15, 2021 (print ed.). The Senate confirmed Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson on Monday to the influential federal appeals court in Washington, elevating a trial court judge who is considered a contender for a potential opening on the Supreme Court.

Three Republicans joined Democrats in approving Jackson’s nomination in a 53-to-44 vote.

ketanji brown jackson robe

Jackson, 50, was nominated in March as part of Biden’s first slate of judicial picks from diverse personal and professional backgrounds. She fills the vacancy left on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit by Attorney General Merrick Garland, who served on the bench for 24 years.

A former law clerk to Justice Stephen G. Breyer, Jackson is often mentioned as someone who could fulfill President Biden’s pledge to put the first Black woman on the high court.

Ahead of Monday’s vote, Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) noted that women, especially women of color, have long been underrepresented on the federal bench and said Democrats are “working quickly to close the gap.” He called Jackson an “outstanding, trailblazing nominee” with “all the qualities of a model jurist.”

Jackson’s confirmation was expected. She received support Monday from Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Susan Collins (Maine) and Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.), who all voted to advance her nomination in a procedural vote last week.

The Biden administration is trying to quickly put its imprint on the federal judiciary and take advantage of the Democrats’ slim majority in the Senate. Democrats are playing catch-up to President Donald Trump, who moved quickly to install more than 200 judges — including three Supreme Court justices — in four years.

Biden moves quickly to make his mark on federal courts after Trump’s record judicial nominations

Many Democrats are hoping Breyer, the court’s oldest justice, will retire and create an opening for a younger liberal jurist while the party retains its majority.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) added to the time pressure Monday, refusing in an interview to commit to allowing a vote for a potential Biden nominee to the Supreme Court in 2023 if Republicans regain control of the Senate.

washington post logoWashington Post, Woman killed as driver plows into crowd protesting U.S. marshals’ shooting of Black man, Kim Bellware, June 15, 2021. A suspect is in police custody after demonstrators pulled him from his vehicle following the crash late Sunday in Minneapolis, police said. One woman was killed and three people were injured after a man plowed his car into a group of protesters in Minneapolis late Sunday. The suspect is in police custody after demonstrators pulled him from his vehicle following the crash, police said.

Officials had not identified the driver or the victim as of Monday, but Garrett Knajdek told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that his older sister, Deona M. Knajdek, of Minneapolis, was the protester who was killed.

  

World News 

ny times logoNew York Times, Israeli Planes Bomb Gaza Just Days Into New Government, Patrick Kingsley, Isabel Kershner and Adam Rasgon, June 15, 2021. After a day of rising tensions, which saw a far-right march in Jerusalem and incendiary balloons launched from Gaza, Israel’s new coalition government ordered airstrikes against Hamas.

The Israeli military said early Wednesday that it had conducted airstrikes in the Gaza Strip, after officials said that the militant group Hamas had sent incendiary balloons into southern Israel from Gaza, in the first eruption of hostilities since an 11-day air war between Israel and Hamas ended last month.

The Israeli military said that it “struck military compounds belonging to the Hamas terror organization, which were used as facilities and meeting sites for terror operatives in Hamas’ Khan Yunis and Gaza Brigades.” Palestinian news reports said that one of the strikes caused property damage, but there were no immediate reports of casualties in Gaza, a densely populated urban strip.

The day of rising tensions was the first test of a new Israeli coalition government just three days into its term. It started when the government permitted a far-right Jewish march to pass through Palestinian areas of Jerusalem on Tuesday night, over the objections of Arab and leftist parties in the coalition, and despite threats from Hamas that it would retaliate.

The march was a scaled-down version of an aborted far-right procession originally planned for last month, which Hamas cited to justify firing rockets toward Jerusalem on May 10, setting off the latest air war between the militants and Israel.

Gaza has barely begun to recover from last month’s fighting, which killed at least 250 Palestinians and 13 Israelis, and damaged more than 16,000 homes, according to the United Nations, and as Gaza militants fired more than 4,000 rockets into Israel. Rebuilding has yet to restart in earnest, and Israel and Egypt, which control access to Gaza, are still withholding key financial and material assistance

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ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Calls Collective Defense a ‘Sacred Obligation’ at NATO Summit, Steven Erlanger, June 15, 2021 (print ed.). At President Biden’s first meeting as president with NATO nations, he reiterated his support for the alliance that his predecessor disparaged. Topping the agenda in Brussels is the challenge of a more aggressive Russia and a rising China. Here’s the latest from the summit.

The NATO summit communiqué, a document of 45 pages and 79 complicated paragraphs that leaders will approve on Monday, deals explicitly with China’s military ambitions for the first time, according to a copy obtained by The New York Times.

But while Russia is described as a “threat” to NATO, China is described as presenting “challenges.”

How the 30 member nations agreed to describe the challenge of a more aggressive Russia and a rising China will be of particular interest and will set a tone for the alliance. China is considered more a challenge than a threat, but the wording on Russia is tough.

Both President Biden and President Donald J. Trump before him put more emphasis on the threats that China poses to the international order, partly in terms of its authoritarian system and partly in terms of its military ambitions and spending.

NATO’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, has said that China’s military budget is second in the world only to that of the United States, and that China is rapidly building its military forces, including its navy, with advanced technologies.

In a discussion of “multifaceted threats” and “systemic competition from assertive and authoritarian powers” early in the document, NATO says that “Russia’s aggressive actions constitute a threat to Euro-Atlantic security.” China is not called a threat, but NATO states that “China’s growing influence and international policies can present challenges that we need to address together as an alliance.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Trip Updates: Ahead of Meeting With Putin, Biden Says U.S. Does Not Seek ‘Conflict,’ Steven Erlanger, June 15, 2021 (print ed.). The U.S. leader attended his first NATO summit as president. The 30 member nations singled out China’s rising military power as presenting “challenges.”

As NATO leaders wrapped up a one-day summit and his meeting with Vladimir V. Putin (shown below in a file photo) neared, President Biden said Monday that the United States is not looking for confrontation with the Kremlin.

vladimir putin hand up palmer“What I’ll convey to President Putin is that I’m not looking for conflict with Russia but that we will respond if Russia continues its harmful activities,” Mr. Biden said at a news conference in Brussels. “And we will not fail to defend the trans-Atlantic alliance or stand up for democratic values.”

The two leaders are to meet in Geneva on Wednesday amid a period of rising tensions between the United States and Russia.

Earlier, some NATO leaders were said to have expressed concerns that just by meeting with the Russian president, Mr. Biden risked appearing to reward him, despite Russian aggression in Eastern Europe and elsewhere.

Mr. Biden said that was not the case.

“Every world leader here, as a member of NATO, has spoken today, and most have mentioned it, thanked me for meeting with Putin now,” he said.

Skeptics say that the new United States president, his sights set squarely on the challenges posed by the rise of China, may be “sleepwalking” into an unwise rapprochement with a power that many European leaders view as their principal threat.

NATO leaders, who are gathering at a summit meeting on Monday, have usually gone out of their way to adjust to the strategic priorities of the group’s most powerful member, the United States. But the issue of China is more problematic, because NATO is a regional military alliance of Europe and North America. Its main concern remains a newly aggressive Russia — not distant China.

China is expanding military exercises with Russia, sending its ships into the Mediterranean. It also has a base in Africa. So it has gotten NATO’s attention.

Russia has also developed sophisticated new intermediate-range missiles that can carry nuclear warheads and modernized its armed forces significantly, making Europe more vulnerable.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden will give Putin a list of demands. What happens if the Russian leader ignores them? Ashley Parker, Anne Gearan and Isabelle Khurshudyan, June 15, 2021 (print ed.). President Biden plans to press Vladimir Putin in their upcoming meeting to rein in ransomware attacks launched from Russian soil. He is expected to demand that Russia withdraw from Ukraine. He will almost certainly tell the Russian president to stop interfering in U.S. elections.

But those demands raise a question that is vexing U.S. policymakers and the United States’ European allies: What happens if Putin ignores the demands, as he has signaled he will do?

  • Washington Post, Putin swaggers toward Biden summit as an old hand at dueling with West

 washington post logoWashington Post, Anger in Britain as government confirms four more weeks of coronavirus restrictions, Jennifer Hassan and Jason Partlow, June 15, 2021. Footage showed a BBC journalist being chased and verbally abused by anti-lockdown protesters in London ahead of the announcement.

United Kingdom flagAnger bubbled over in Britain after Prime Minister Boris Johnson delayed England’s final stage of unlocking coronavirus restrictions, citing fears over rising cases of the highly transmissible delta variant which was first identified in India.

Tuesday’s front page of The Daily Mail branded the government’s decision a “bitter blow to millions,” adding “curbs could go on and on,” while The Sun asked “Will we ever be free?”

Footage emerged of prominent BBC journalist Nick Watt being chased and verbally abused at an anti-lockdown protest outside Downing Street just hours before Johnson spoke on Monday. The group hounded him yelling “traitor” and “shame on you” into his face as he ran from them toward police in a bid to seek safety.

washington post logoWashington Post, Nicaragua’s government has arrested a dozen opposition leaders. Their relatives don’t know where they are, Andrea Salcedo, June 15, 2021.President Daniel Ortega’s government moves to detain a wide swath of his opponents. In all, a dozen of Ortega’s opponents have been detained this month, raising questions about the future of the Nov. 7 elections.

washington post logoWashington Post, Myanmar’s military junta puts ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi on trial, Shibani Mahtani, June 15, 2021 (print ed.). The 75-year-old has been held incommunicado since she was detained when the generals seized power in February.

aung san suu kyi 2011 myanmar Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s deposed civilian leader, appeared in court on Monday for the start of a weeks-long trial that is almost certain to find her guilty of politically motivated charges.

The 75-year-old, shown in a file photo at left, is now facing a predicament worse than her 15 years under house arrest, persecuted by a military junta that is determined to keep her myanmar flagisolated as anger and protests rage across the country.

Suu Kyi has been held incommunicado since the military seized power in a coup on Feb. 1, detaining the civilian leader, her chief ministers and advisers. Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy party won elections in a landslide in November for the second time, but the military claimed the vote was fraudulent, canceled the result and took over the government.

pedro castillo keiko fujimoro

Leftist Pedro Castillo, right, narrowly defeated ultra-right candidate Keiko Fujimoro, left, in Peru's presidential elections this month, according to official counts that Fujimoro is protesting.

Wayne Madsen Report, Opinion: Peru heading for showdown with warhawk Samantha Power, Wayne Madsen, June 15, 2021. As Peru's Marxist presumptive president-elect, Pedro Castillo, stands on the verge of being named certified as the official victor of the president election, he is heading for a showdown with the interventionist Samantha Power, the former US ambassador to the United Nations under samantha power oBarack Obama.

peru flagWhile at the UN, Power, right, was a major proponent of U.S. military intervention in the Syrian, Yemeni, and Libyan civil wars.

Castillo has pledged to expel the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) from Peru within his first 100 days in office. Power is currently the director of USAID. Castillo's reasoning is the same that Bolivian President Evo Morales cited in 2013, when he expelled USAID from his nation: USAID has continuously conspired against socialist and progressive governments in Latin America in favor of right-wing and corporatist interests.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: Huge disparities in vaccination rates are creating islands of vulnerability across the country, Editorial Board, June 15, 2021. On Monday, Republican Gov. Phil Scott announced Vermont had become the first state to vaccinate 80 percent of those eligible with at least one dose. Vermont has given out 131,473 doses per 100,000 population.

By contrast, in Mississippi only 35 percent of the overall population has received at least one dose. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention puts the Mississippi vaccination rate at less than half that of Vermont, or 61,278 administered per 100,000.

Where vaccine coverage is strong, the pandemic is receding. In the latest seven-day rolling averages, the Associated Press notes that 10 states with the fewest new infections have all fully vaccinated above the national average of 43 percent. But eight states — Alabama, Arkansas, Hawaii, Missouri, Nevada, Texas, Utah and Wyoming — have seen infections rise from two weeks earlier, and seven of them (all but Hawaii) have vaccination rates lower than the national average.

fda logo

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s FDA commissioner takes job at Moderna backer, Dan Diamond, June 15, 2021 (print ed.). Stephen Hahn joins Flagship Pioneering, which launched Moderna a decade ago and made billions from its coronavirus vaccine.

stephen hahn oFormer Food and Drug Administration commissioner Stephen Hahn, right, is joining the venture capital firm that launched Moderna and remains closely tied to the coronavirus vaccine maker, the firm confirmed on Monday.

Hahn will serve as a chief medical officer at Flagship Pioneering — which incubated Moderna more than a decade ago — as the life sciences venture firm announced its expansion into new projects like pandemic preparedness. The former commissioner’s move is the latest by a federal official to a company that is regulated by the government or that might profit from firms regulated by the moderna logogovernment — what critics call a revolving door that they say undermines trust in federal decisions.

“In my career I have been a doctor and a researcher foremost and it is an honor to join Flagship Pioneering in its efforts to prioritize innovation,” Hahn said in a statement. The Washington Post first reported that Hahn was in talks to join the company.

Flagship and Moderna, which are headquartered near each other in Cambridge, Mass., continue to share ties. Flagship CEO Noubar Afeyan serves as chairman of Moderna; Stéphane Bancel, Moderna’s CEO, serves as a Flagship special partner. Flagship also holds 20 million shares of Moderna stock, which are currently valued at more than $4 billion after the vaccine-maker’s stock price soared during the pandemic; it sold $1.4 billion worth of Moderna shares earlier this year, senior partner Christine Heenan confirmed. Moderna had never turned a profit before the pandemic.

fda logoHahn, a longtime cancer doctor who headed the FDA when it authorized Moderna’s vaccine last year before stepping down at the end of the Trump administration, will start at Flagship on Wednesday, the company said.

There are no rules barring Hahn from taking a role with Flagship, and other FDA officials have taken prominent positions in biotechnology after leaving government service. Scott Gottlieb, who preceded Hahn as FDA commissioner during the Trump administration, joined the board of pharmaceutical giant Pfizer after stepping down from government in 2019. Amy Abernethy, who was the FDA’s top career official under Hahn, this month was hired by Verily, the Google spinoff focused on health-care innovation — the same firm where former FDA commissioner Robert Califf serves as an adviser.

Ethics experts said that Hahn would be limited in communicating with the FDA, including a lifetime ban on particular matters that he worked on and a one-year ban on communicating with the FDA pogo logo squareabout any matters on behalf of his new employer.

But watchdogs raised concerns regardless.

walter shaub“Is it concerning whenever a high-level government official who was instrumental in actions that may have profited a company turns around and goes to work for that company soon thereafter? You bet it is,” said Walter Shaub, right, a senior ethics fellow at the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) and the former director of the Office of Government Ethics. “This is one of many gaps in our weak ethics laws.”

Jeff Hauser, director of the Revolving Door Project at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, said he was specifically concerned that Hahn would take a role with Moderna’s key backer, citing conspiracy theories promulgated by anti-vaccination groups about pharmaceutical companies profiting from the pandemic.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Biden and the G-7 fell short on vaccines, Ishaan Tharoor, June 15, 2021The bloc’s leaders touted a pledge of 1 billion new doses. However, the WHO’s director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said that to vaccinate 70 percent of the world’s population by the next Group of Seven meeting, the world needs 11 billion doses.

washington post logoWashington Post, Federal judge accuses three senior law enforcement officials of criminal obstruction, Devlin Barrett, June 15, 2021 (print ed.). In a fight over vaccinations in the courthouse, a South Dakota judge said U.S. Marshals “kidnapped” defendants to thwart him, and scheduled a trial for September.

U.S. District Judge Charles Kornmann, who sits in Aberdeen, tore into the U.S. Marshals Service for nearly an hour over their reaction to his decision at a hearing last month to question the deputy marshal in attendance about whether she had been vaccinated.

The deputy marshal, according to the judge, refused to answer the question, at which point he ordered her out of his courtroom. The marshals, in turn, took three of the defendants scheduled for hearings that day out of the courthouse. That infuriated the judge, who describes that act as a “kidnapping” that obstructed the work of the court.
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“This was such an outrageous thing to do,” the judge said at a hearing Monday, during which he spent nearly an hour laying out his rationale for accusing the three Marshals Service officials of criminal contempt and obstruction. “Nothing like this that we could find has ever been done in this country. If it is the marshals’ position that they can override court orders, they are badly mistaken.”

The judge’s decision to accuse senior federal law enforcement officials of committing crimes impeding the administration of justice is a remarkable rift not just within federal law enforcement, but for the close working relationship with the judges who run the courts and the marshals who guard them. It also highlights the degree to which no workplace is immune from fights and disagreements surrounding coronavirus safety and vaccinations.

Historically, Congress gives the marshals wide legal authority to make security decisions surrounding the federal judiciary, but the marshals are also typically deferential to the requests and demands of judges.

A spokesman for the Marshals Service declined to comment, citing the ongoing criminal case against some of its officials.

The judge noted that he had made his concerns clear in writing well ahead of the courtroom confrontation, and said his own staff had suggested that the marshals might have planned the confrontation.

The three accused of contempt are John Kilgallon, chief of staff for the U.S. Marshals Service in Washington, D.C., Daniel Mosteller, the marshal for the District of South Dakota, and Stephen Houghtaling, the chief deputy for that district.

washington post logocovad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Washington Post, 174.2 million U.S. vaccinated, as of June 15, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, covering 61.9 % of the eligible population,12 and older and 52.2 % of the total population. This includes more than 144.9 million people who have been fully vaccinated in the United States. See about your state. 

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated June 15, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here): 

World Cases: 177,097,581, Deaths: 3,829,197
U.S. Cases:     34,335,268, Deaths:    615,235
India Cases:    29,570,881, Deaths:    377,061
Brazil Cases:   17,454,861, Deaths:    488,404

 

U.S. Politics, Elections, Voting Rights

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump’s spygate scandal has finally blown up in his face, Robert Harrington, June 15, 2021. Maya Angelou once said “When someone shows you who they are, robert harringtnn portrait believe them the first time.” Trump always showed us who he was. 

Ask E. Jean Carroll about Trump the rapist. Ask all the people whose businesses he ripped off over the years about Trump the criminal. Ask all the people who saw Trump snorting cocaine or adderall over the years about Trump the druggy.

Every slander Trump has hurled at someone else over the years is almost always a criminal or immoral or dishonest thing that he himself is guilty of. It’s what’s known in the world of psychology as projection, one of the ten or so Defense Mechanisms classified in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). And usually in the commission of his moral and statutory crimes Trump outdoes everyone else. And he reveals his hypocrisy through projection. He gives us a view of his own festering, despicable corruption in the insults and lies and calumnies he hurls at others.

bill palmer report logo headerWe now know that Trump’s Department of Justice secretly obtained records about the communications of members of the press, his political enemies in Congress and his own White House counsel Don McGahn. But we knew this already because that’s what Trump accused President Obama of over and over. And he even dared to call it “one of the biggest political scandals in U.S. history.” So why is anyone surprised?

And what does that tell us about Trump’s insistence that the 2020 election was stolen? It tells us that he actively and deliberately participated in stealing the 2016 election, and he tried to steal the 2020 election and he failed, of course. Again, why is anyone surprised?

On October 8th 2019, Trump tweeted, “So why is someone a good or great President if they needed to Spy on someone else’s Campaign in order to win?” In so doing Trump is admitting another thing that we already knew. Despite his constant boasting that he was the “greatest president since Lincoln,” Trump knows perfectly well that he was positively the worst president in American history, out for nobody else but himself, a complete and utter failure, number zero with a bullet, and he told us as much. Because Trump had to spy on others in order to win. Because Trump is a loser.

And now Trump has been caught yet again, caught using the DOJ as his personal Nixon-variety Plumber’s Squad spying on every member of his Nixon-variety Enemies List. Once again, not only was Trump corrupt, not only was Trump criminal, not only was Trump treasonous, Trump was also stupid. How do we know this? Again, listen to Maya Angelou and believe him the first time, because Trump already told us. Way back in 2013 Trump tweeted this: “Fact – all the countries complaining about us spying on them spy on us. They just don’t get caught — stupid!” And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Marjorie Taylor Greene led early in the House’s crazy stakes. But a dark horse has emerged, Dana Milbank, June 15, 2021 (print ed.). It’s a real horse race to determine who will be the looniest House Republican of 2021.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-QAnon) made an early Run for the Roses with talk of Jewish “space lasers,” stalking Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), and claiming that mask mandates are andrew clydetantamount to the Holocaust. 

But the final leg of crazytown’s Triple Crown has just gone to a dark horse, Rep. Andrew S. Clyde, right. The first-term Georgia Republican put himself on the map with his notion that the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol “was a normal tourist visit.” And now Clyde has filed a federal lawsuit on a matter of the most pressing constitutional importance.

Since the insurrection, he and all 434 of his colleagues have been required to walk through metal detectors to get to the House floor. Clyde, a former gun shop owner (in which capacity he fought the IRS), is one of a small few who have refused to cooperate with the Capitol Police’s efforts to keep guns out of the chamber. His refusal cost him $15,000 in fines.

Now, Clyde is suing because he wants “to do everything within my power to expose House Resolution 73 [the magnetometer rule] for the danger it poses to our Republic.”

marjorii taylor greene gun

washington post logoWashington Post, Rep. Greene apologizes for comparing face masks to Holocaust, but stands by comparison of Democrats to Nazi party, Felicia Sonmez, June 15, 2021 (print ed.). Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, shown above in a file photo, on Monday visited the Holocaust Museum and apologized for previously comparing coronavirus face-mask policies to the Nazi practice of labeling Jews with Star of David badges.

But the Georgia Republican declined to walk back other controversial statements she has made, including one in which she compared the Democratic Party to Hitler’s party, the National Socialist German Workers’ Party.

Greene’s latest remarks come days before a fellow House member, Rep. Bradley Schneider (D-Ill.), is set to introduce a resolution to censure her over the Holocaust comparison.

At a Monday afternoon press conference outside the Capitol, Greene acknowledged she had made a mistake and told reporters, “One of the best lessons that my father always taught me was, when you make a mistake, you should own it.”

At an “America First” rally, Greene also compared the Democratic Party to the Nazi party, which went by the full name Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, or the National Socialist German Workers’ Party. 

Despite the name, the Nazi party was not a socialist party; it was a right-wing, ultranationalist party. Even so, Greene told attendees at the rally in May: “You know, Nazis were the National Socialist Party. Just like the Democrats are now a national socialist party.”

 

anna paulina

Raw Story, Matt Gaetz-backed Florida GOP candidate accuses Republican rivals of plotting to murder her, Brad Reed, June 15, 2021. Matt Gaetz-backed Florida GOP candidate accuses Republican rivals of plotting to murder her.

A Republican candidate for the United States House of Representatives in Florida has formally accused her political rivals within the party of plotting her assassination.

The Tampa Bay Times reports that GOP candidate Anna Paulina Luna filed a restraining order last week against fellow Republican William Braddock, who is also planning to run for Congress in her district.

"I received information yesterday (at midnight) regarding a plan (with a timeline) to murder me made by William Braddock in an effort to prevent me from winning the election for FL-13," wrote Luna in a petition for injunction, which also claims that Braddock is conspiring with "political opponents" Matt Tito and Amanda Makki to "take her out."

Braddock, however, strongly denied being involved in any plot to murder Luna, who last year lost to incumbent Rep. Charlie Crist (D-FL) by six points.

"This woman is off her rocker and she does not need to be representing anyone," he said.

Braddock also said he wouldn't even bother to prepare for an upcoming court hearing on his purported plot to kill Luna.

"I don't really have any plans to prepare because I didn't do anything wrong," he explained. "It is a false police report and she's probably going to jail for filing a false police report."

Luna won the 2020 GOP nomination for the congressional seat thanks in part to an endorsement from scandal-plagued Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), who is currently being investigated by the FBI for potentially taking part in a child sex trafficking scandal.

 

U.S. Governance

ny times logoNew York Times, Federal Judge Says Biden Cannot Pause New Leases for Drilling on Public Lands, Coral Davenport, June 15, 2021. President Biden suspended new oil and gas drilling leases on federal lands. A judge in Louisiana ruled those leases could not be temporarily halted.

A federal judge in Louisiana has blocked the Biden administration’s suspension of new oil and gas leases on federal lands and waters, in the first major legal roadblock for President Biden’s quest to cut fossil fuel pollution and conserve public lands.

Judge Terry A. Doughty of the United States District Court for the Western District of Louisiana granted a preliminary injunction Tuesday against the administration, saying that the power to pause offshore oil and gas leases “lies solely with Congress” because it was the legislative branch that originally made federal lands and waters available for leasing.

Judge Doughty also ruled that 13 states that are suing the administration over its temporary halt to new leases “have made a showing that there is a substantial likelihood that President Biden exceeded his powers.”

Jeff Landry, the Republican attorney general of Louisiana and attorneys general from 12 other states, all Republicans, filed suit in March to lift the White House executive order that temporarily halted new drilling leases on federal lands and waters. Mr. Biden had signed the order during his first week in office in January, saying he wanted a pause in order to conduct a comprehensive review of the program.

Judge Doughty ruled that Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and her agency “are hereby enjoined and restrained from implementing the pause of new oil and natural gas leases on public lands or in offshore waters.” until the states’ legal case against the administration is decided.

He wrote that the pause on new leasing should end nationwide and noted that such sweeping preliminary injunctions against federal actions were exceedingly rare. But he concluded that the 13 states had demonstrated that their economies could be irreparably harmed by the pause on drilling.

Joining Louisiana were Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, and West Virginia.

The suspension of the leases has been one of the most high-profile and controversial policy moves by a president who has made climate action central to his agenda.

Enviromentalists celebrated the pause as a sign that Mr. Biden is serious about shutting down production of fossil fuels, the burning of which is the chief cause of global warming.

Republicans and the oil industry have criticized it as an example of government overreach that could damage the economy and displace thousands of oil and gas workers.

Judge Doughty agreed. “Millions and possibly billions of dollars are at stake,” he wrote in his decision, noting that the states depend on a share of the lease payments to fund government programs, including conservation projects. “Local government funding, jobs for plaintiff state workers, and funds for the restoration of Louisiana’s coastline are at stake.”

A spokeswoman for the Interior Department, which manages federal oil and gas leases on federal lands and waters, said in a statement that the administration was reviewing the ruling and would comply with it.

The spokeswoman, who declined to be quoted by name, said that the Interior Department continued to work on an interim report to Mr. Biden about the state of the federal oil and gas drilling programs, as well as recommendations on the future of the federal role in drilling on public lands.

Ms. Haaland is expected to send those recommendations to Mr. Biden later this summer.

In a statement, Mr. Landry called the injunction “a victory not only for the rule of law, but also for the thousands of workers who produce affordable energy for Americans. We appreciate that federal courts have recognized President Biden is completely outside his authority in his attempt to shut down oil and gas leases on federal lands.”

Congressional Democrats said they would move forward with legislative efforts to limit oil drilling on public lands.

washington post logoWashington Post, Haaland urges Biden to restore protection for three national monuments, Juliet Eilperin and Joshua Partlow, June 15, 2021 (print ed). Plan would expand boundaries at Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments, and reimpose fishing restrictions on the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden’s Fed nominations can change the economy. His first is stuck in limbo, Rachel Siegel, June 15, 2021 (print ed.). The holdup is frustrating people who would like to see the administration move more quickly to nominate a Black economist to the Fed board.

federal reserve system CustomIn coming months, the Biden White House will have major opportunities to influence the makeup of the Federal Reserve, including whether to renominate Jerome H. Powell to another term as chair.

But after six months in office, White House hasn’t moved to fill an empty seat on the Fed’s seven-member board of governors, in the midst of the worst economic crisis in a decade. Of the Fed’s top officials, everyone except Lael Brainard are Republicans nominated to their current roles by President Donald Trump. Biden’s first pick would come at a critical time for the economy, as rising inflation and worker shortages complicate the recovery.

 

U.S. Media , Business News

ny times logoNew York Times, The Human Cost of Amazon’s Employment Machine, Staff Report, June 15, 2021. Hundreds of thousands of workers churn through a vast mechanism that hires, monitors, disciplines and fires. During the pandemic, the operation lurched.

ny times logoNew York Times, Power and Peril: 5 Takeaways on Amazon’s Employment Machine, Jodi Kantor, Karen Weise and Grace Ashford, June 15, 2021 Outsiders see a business success story for the ages. Many insiders see an employment system under strain.

amazon logo smallAn Amazon worker tries to return from a Covid-related leave and is mistakenly fired. A wife panics as disability benefits halt for her gravely ill husband. An employee is fired for having a single underproductive day.

An examination by The New York Times into how the pandemic unfolded inside Amazon’s only fulfillment center in New York City, known as JFK8, found that the crisis exposed the power and peril of Amazon’s employment system. The company famously obsessed with satisfying customers achieved record growth and spectacular profits, but its management of hundreds of thousands of warehouse workers was marked at times by critical mistakes, communication lapses and high turnover.

Here are the takeaways: 1. Amazon has been churning through employees.

 ny times logoNew York Times, MacKenzie Scott Reveals Another $2.74 Billion in Giving, Nicholas Kulish and David Gelles, June 15, 2021. Ms. Scott’s wealth has continued to grow thanks to Amazon’s soaring stock price. Forbes estimates her net worth at roughly $60 billion. Charitable giving in the U.S. rose to a record level in 2020. Here’s the latest business and economy news.

MacKenzie Scott, one of the richest women in the world, forged ahead with her highly unconventional approach to philanthropy on Tuesday, using a blog post to announce that she and her husband, Dan Jewett, had given away $2.74 billion to 286 organizations including arts nonprofits and groups working to combat racial discrimination.

Ms. Scott was married to Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, for 25 years. When they divorced in 2019, her share of the settlement, 4 percent of Amazon’s stock, was valued at around $36 billion. Despite the huge sums she has given away since then — the latest round brings her total to more than $8 billion — her wealth has only continued to grow, thanks to Amazon’s soaring stock price. Forbes’s most recent estimate of her net worth was roughly $60 billion.

Though Ms. Scott did not list the amount she gave each organization, her blog post included a list of those receiving funds. They included well-known arts groups such as the Apollo Theater and Ballet Hispánico; higher education institutions including schools in the University of California and the University of Texas systems; organizations focused on racial justice, such as Race Forward and Borealis Philanthropy; and groups focused on empowering women and combating domestic violence.

washington post logoWashington Post, The Barbara Starr question: Why did Trump’s Justice Department want CNN Pentagon reporter’s emails? Paul Farhi, June 15, 2021. Barbara Starr of CNN. “I don’t know what the government was looking for when it snuck into my life,” the Pentagon reporter wrote.

Regular CNN viewers know Barbara Starr as the network’s veteran Pentagon reporter, a straight-shooting correspondent who delivers periodic news reports on topics like NATO, counterterrorism efforts, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

So it was striking when Starr was revealed last month as one of the journalists whose email and phone records were secretly seized by the Justice Department amid a Trump administration push to discover who was providing classified information to journalists.

Striking because Starr isn’t like the others: She wasn’t involved in reporting or investigating the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia during the 2016 campaign, as were seven journalists from The Washington Post and New York Times and two Democratic congressmen, Adam B. Schiff and Eric Swalwell, all of whom were also the targets of secret Justice Department record seizures.
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That disconnect has left a mystery. Why did the Justice Department go after Starr, given that she wasn’t involved in the Russia story and that her stories don’t appear to have been based on leaks of classified material, the crime prosecutors were ostensibly investigating?

Politico via Yahoo News, Publishing houses 'wary' of acquiring a Trump memoir: 'A fact-checking nightmare,' Brendan Morrow, June 15, 2021, 9:49 AM·2 min read
Former President Donald Trump claims he has turned down not one, but two book deals. But according to a new report, he remains "radioactive in the Manhattan publishing world."

Major publishing houses "still are wary of publishing a book" by the 45th president, Politico reported Tuesday, despite the fact that former Vice President Mike Pence has two books on the way from Simon & Schuster. The prime concern, the report says, is that Trump's book "wouldn't be truthful."

"[I]t would be too hard to get a book that was factually accurate, actually," a publishing industry source told Politico. "That would be the problem. If he can't even admit that he lost the election, then how do you publish that?"

Keith Urbahn, president of the literary agency Javelin, also told Politico that the "headaches" such a book would present a publisher would "far outweigh the potential" upside, as "any editor bold enough to acquire the Trump memoir is looking at a fact-checking nightmare, an exodus of other authors, and a staff uprising in the unlikely event they strike a deal with the former president."

Trump, though, claimed last week that he has "turned down two book deals" because he doesn't "want to do such a deal right now," and he reiterated this assertion to Politico, saying the offers came from "two of the biggest and most prestigious publishing houses." Still, Politico reported that after reaching out to sources at Penguin Random House, Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins, Macmillan Publishers, and Simon & Schuster, no one had heard about this happening.

"I'm skeptical," an insider told Politico. "He's screwed over so many publishers that before he ran for president none of the big 5 would work with [him] anymore.

Others said it's possible offers were indeed made, but a source told Politico that one of them might have been "for $100."

 

June 14

Top Headlines

 

U.S. Privacy, Law, Courts 

 

U.S. Politics, Elections, Voting Rights

 

U.S. National Security, Law, Media

 

G7 Summit, Other World News

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

Top Stories

naftali bennett benjamin netanyahu

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Israel Approves Coalition Government, Ending Netanyahu’s 12-Year Reign, Richard Pérez-Peña, June 14, 2021 (print ed.). Naftali Bennett, above left, is sworn in as Israel’s first new prime minister in 12 years. The long and divisive reign of Benjamin Netanyahu, above right, the dominant Israeli politician of the past generation, officially ended on Sunday, at least for the time being, as the country’s Parliament gave its vote of confidence to a precarious coalition government stitched together by widely disparate anti-Netanyahu forces.

Israel’s Parliament, the Knesset, approved the new government by just a single vote — 60 to 59, with one abstention.

After his supporters cheered the announcement of his election, Naftali Bennett then exchanged a brief handshake with Mr. Netanyahu before walking to the rostrum at the front of the parliamentary chamber and taking the oath of office as prime minister.

Israel FlagYair Lapid, a centrist leader, is set to take Mr. Bennett’s place after two years, if their government can hold together that long.

They lead an eight-party alliance ranging from left to right, from secular to religious, that agrees on little but a desire to oust Mr. Netanyahu, the longest-serving leader in the country’s history, and to end Israel’s lengthy political gridlock.

In a speech made before the confidence vote, Mr. Bennett hailed his unlikely coalition as an essential antidote to an intractable stalemate.

“We stopped the train before the abyss,” Mr. Bennett said. “The time has come for different leaders, from all parts of the people, to stop, to stop this madness.”

Before and after the fragile new government was announced on June 2, Mr. Netanyahu and his right-wing allies labored hard to break it before it could take office. They applied intense pressure on right-wing opposition lawmakers, urging them to peel away from their leaders and refuse to support a coalition that includes centrists, leftists and even a small Arab Islamist party.

It was a watershed moment for politics in Israel, where Mr. Netanyahu, 71, had served as prime minister for a total of 15 years, including the last 12 years uninterrupted. But given Mr. Netanyahu’s record as a shrewd political operator who has defied many previous predictions of his political demise, few Israelis are writing off his career.

Even out of government and standing trial on corruption charges, he remains a formidable force who will likely try to drive wedges between the coalition parties. He remains the leader of the parliamentary opposition and a cagey tactician, with a sizable following and powerful allies.

washington post logoWashington Post, Novavax’s coronavirus vaccine is 90% effective, study finds, Carolyn Y. Johnson, June 14, 2021. The vaccine is one of six the U.S. bet on but is likely to have its biggest impact globally. Vaccinated people were completely protected against severe and even moderate cases of illness by the two-shot regimen in a 30,000-person trial conducted when variants had begun to complicate the pandemic in the United States and Mexico.

novavax logoNovavax, a Maryland biotechnology company that endured delays in developing a coronavirus vaccine, revealed results Monday showing that the world is close to having another shot that prevents illness and death, stops virus variants — and proves easy to store.

The two-shot regimen was 90 percent effective at preventing people from falling ill in a 30,000-person trial conducted when variants had begun to complicate the pandemic in the United States and Mexico.

Vaccinated people were completely protected against severe and even moderate cases of illness. There were no cases of hospitalization or death among people who received the vaccine. The shots also may be the most tolerable yet tested. Side effects included fatigue, headaches and muscle pain, but reactions tended to be less frequent than those triggered by some already authorized vaccines.

“It’s really very impressive,” said Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, noting the vaccine was on par with the most effective shots developed during the pandemic. “It’s very important for the world’s population to have, yet again, another highly efficacious vaccine that looks in its trial to have a good safety profile.

washington post logoWashington Post, Judge dismisses lawsuit filed by Houston hospital employees who refused covid-19 vaccine, Brittany Shammas and Paulina Firozi, June 14, 2021 (print ed.). The judge took particular issue with the complaint equating the threat of termination to medical experimentation during the Holocaust, calling the comparison “reprehensible.”

A federal judge on Saturday dismissed a lawsuit filed by 117 staffers at Houston Methodist over the hospital’s coronavirus vaccine requirement for employees, a decision that could have implications in other battles over such mandates.

The hospital system was among the first in the country to require all workers to be inoculated against the virus, which has killed about 600,000 people in the United States. More than 99 percent of its 26,000-strong workforce complied. But a small fraction refused, and chief executive Marc Boom said Tuesday that more than 170 employees had been suspended as a result.

lynn hughesAmong them was Jennifer Bridges, a nurse who became the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit over the vaccine requirement after months of publicly opposing it. The complaint, filed last month, argued that the mandate is unlawful and forces “employees to be human ‘guinea pigs’ as a condition for continued employment.”

But U.S. District Judge Lynn N. Hughes, a Reagan nominee shown at right, rejected that argument. In his ruling, he said the lawsuit’s claim that the vaccines are experimental and dangerous “is false, and it is also irrelevant.” The hospital system’s requirement does not violate state or federal law or public policy, he wrote.
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The judge took particular issue with the complaint equating the mandate to medical experimentation during the Holocaust, calling the comparison “reprehensible.”

“Methodist is trying to do their business of saving lives without giving them the covid-19 virus,” Hughes wrote. “It is a choice made to keep staff, patients and their families safer. Bridges can freely choose to accept or refuse a covid-19 vaccine; however, if she refuses, she will simply need to work somewhere else.”

The lawsuit’s dismissal appears to be one of the first rulings over an issue that has sparked contentious debate across the country as the economy opens up and more people return to school and work. Legal experts expect further litigation as some business, hospitals and universities begin requiring vaccination.

Valerie Gutmann Koch, co-director of the University of Houston’s Health Law & Policy Institute, called the decision “another step in demonstrating the legality of these mandates, particularly in a health crisis like this.”

 

U.S. Privacy, Law, Courts 

ny times logoNew York Times, Apple Is Said to Have Turned Over Data on Trump’s White House Counsel, Michael S. Schmidt and Charlie Savage, June 14, 2021 (print ed.). The company notified Donald McGahn last month that it had been subpoenaed for his account information three years ago and was barred from telling him. Apple told Donald F. McGahn II, the White House counsel to former President Donald J. Trump, last month that the Justice Department had subpoenaed information about an account that belonged to him in February 2018, and that the government barred the company from telling him at the time, according to two people briefed on the matter.

Mr. McGahn’s wife received a similar notice from Apple, said one of the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter.

FBI logoIt is not clear what F.B.I. agents were scrutinizing, nor whether Mr. McGahn was their specific focus. In investigations, agents sometimes compile a large list of phone numbers and email addresses that were in contact with a subject, and seek to identify all those people by using subpoenas to communications companies for any account information like names, computer addresses and credit card numbers associated with them.

Still, the disclosure that agents secretly collected data of a sitting White House counsel is striking as it comes amid a political backlash to revelations about Trump-era seizures of data of reporters and Democrats in Congress for leak investigations. The president’s top lawyer is also a chief point of contact between the White House and the Justice Department.

apple logo rainbowApple told Mr. McGahn that it complied with the subpoena in a timely fashion but declined to tell him what it provided the government, according to a person briefed on the matter. Under Justice Department policy, gag orders for subpoenas may be renewed for up to a year at a time, suggesting that prosecutors went to court several times to prevent Apple from notifying the McGahns earlier.

Spokespeople for Apple and the Justice Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment. A lawyer for Mr. McGahn declined to comment.

Apple told the McGahns that it received the subpoena on Feb. 23, 2018, according to a person briefed on the matter. The other person familiar with the matter said the subpoena had been issued by a grand jury in the Eastern District of Virginia.

It is not clear why prosecutors obtained the subpoena. But several notable events were occurring around that time.

One of the roughly concurrent events was that the federal court in the Eastern District of Virginia was the center of one part of the Russia inquiry led by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, that focused on Paul Manafort, the onetime chairman of the 2016 Trump presidential campaign.

Because Mr. McGahn had been the top lawyer for the Trump campaign in 2016, it is possible that at some earlier point he had been among those in contact with someone whose account the Mueller team was scrutinizing in early 2018.

dan mcgahn djt

Palmer Report, Opinion: The real reason the Trump DOJ was spying on White House Counsel Don McGahn, Bill Palmer, right, June 13, 2021. Back in late 2017 and early 2018, various major news outlets bill palmerpublished a series of inside-sourced articles which depicted Donald Trump repeatedly ordering people in the White House to commit obstruction of justice, and White House Counsel Don bill palmer report logo headerMcGahn, above right, heroically stepping in each time to stop it from happening.

Based on the structure of these articles, it wasn’t difficult to figure out that McGahn was very likely the source; these kinds of leakers always paint themselves as the thinly veiled hero of their own story.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The secret gag orders must stop, Brad Smith, June 14, 2021 (print ed.). Brad Smith, right, is the president of Microsoft. The past seven days marked another bad week for the brad smith microsoftcollision between technology and democracy. We live in an era when private emails and text messages typically are backed up and stored in the cloud by tech companies. When it comes to cybersecurity, the cloud bolsters protection.

But now we’ve learned that the Trump Justice Department exploited this feature as part of a secret effort to obtain emails in investigations of the media and Congress, two institutions where transparency is essential.

microsoft logo CustomThe government cannot justify secrecy in such probes. The abuse of secrecy orders is neither new nor confined to a single administration, and certainly not limited to investigations involving members of Congress or the news media. Democracy rests on a fundamental principle of government transparency. Secrecy should be the rare exception — not the rule.
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Not long ago, if the government wanted to serve a search warrant as part of a criminal investigation, it had to do so in person, with notice. An agent or officer needed to bring a signed warrant to a house or building and hand it to the target of the probe at the front door; only then could the government search the premises for documents, records and computer files. This was true for individuals, businesses and governments alike. If secrecy required getting a “sneak and peek” warrant because evidence would be destroyed in advance or a witness’s safety would be jeopardized, this required a heightened showing, beyond mere probable cause.

Those principles still hold true today. Yet with the expansion of cloud computing in every industry, the federal and state governments know they quickly can obtain data electronically from sources other than the target. So that’s what they do. In secret. By serving search warrants on companies such as Apple, Google and Microsoft to obtain emails and messages that belong to our customers. Government prosecutors also ask courts to impose gag orders on companies such as ours that prevent us from letting people know that copies of their emails are now in the government’s hands. 

djt handwave file

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: There’s no escape from holding Trump accountable, E.J. Dionne Jr., right, June 14, 2021 (print ed.). It was inevitable that the Trump administration’s politically motivated misuse of the investigative arms of government would burst into public view and demand accountability. That moment is upon us.

ej dionne w open neckThe revelation that the Trump Justice Department secretly sought the phone records of two Democratic members of the House Intelligence Committee who were among President Donald Trump’s sharpest critics (along with those of their aides and family members) was the shock that the system needed.

It underscored the tension between two essential goals for the Justice Department under Attorney General Merrick Garland: how to depoliticize a department that effectively became an arm of the White House under Trump without evading the imperative of requiring a lawless presidency to answer for its abuses.

My hunch is that President Biden hoped that legal accountability for at least some of Trump’s abuses would be enforced by state and local prosecutors, saving his Justice Department from having to take the sorts of steps against a predecessor that friends of constitutional democracy try to avoid.

But as the flare-up over the investigation into Schiff and Swalwell made clear, the Biden administration may not have this luxury. Garland is right to do all he can to keep his department out of politics. Unfortunately, the nature of Trump’s presidency will complicate any path back to the old ways and the old rules. It’s Trump’s poisoned chalice.

washington post logoWashington Post, Secret recordings, leaked letters expose backroom dealings and rock the Southern Baptist Convention, Sarah Pulliam Bailey, June 14, 2021 (print ed.). On Tuesday, thousands of Southern Baptists will gather in Nashville to vote on issues that will shape the massive denomination’s future, including the choice of its next president.

Demands for political loyalty. Disputes about racism. A fight between conservatives and ultraconservatives. It sounds like current debates within the Republican Party, but on Tuesday, thousands of Southern Baptists will gather in Nashville to vote on issues that will shape the massive denomination’s future, including the choice of its next president.

More than 16,000 people are expected to attend the denomination’s annual meeting, probably the largest religious gathering since the pandemic, as well as the biggest Baptist meeting in decades.

What is especially unusual about the meeting is infighting at the highest levels of leadership that has become public in recent weeks. New details released to news media outlets have shined a light on the backroom dealings of several of its high-profile leaders

  

U.S. Politics, Elections, Voting Rights

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: This is the Republicans’ back-up plan in case they can’t suppress enough votes, Fred Hiatt (right, Post editorial page editor), June 14, 2021 (print ed.). Like termites, destructive fred hiattbut largely unseen, anti-democracy forces around the country are gnawing at the foundations of America’s free and fair elections.

State by state, the termites are trying to change the rules to allow Donald Trump or someone like him to succeed in 2024 where Trump tried and failed in 2020: to steal an election that he lost.

In April, a report by three nonprofit organizations documented how Republicans in dozens of state legislatures were pursuing a strategy “to politicize, criminalize, and interfere in election administration.”Democratic-Republican Campaign logos

Now, less than two months later, this “Democracy in Crisis” report has an update, and it is alarming. The number of bills raising red flags has grown from 148 in 36 states to 216 in 41 states — and 24 of them have become law.

“The commitment of many state legislatures to attacking the foundations of our democracy appears to have deepened,” says the report from Protect Democracy, States United Democracy Center and Law Forward. “The trend toward threatening election administrators with criminal penalties is more pronounced and aggressive, and attempts by legislatures to perform core elections functions has merrick garlandgrown more brazen.”

For the past half-century, civil rights groups have focused on the right to vote, a right that is once again under threat in many places. Encouragingly, Attorney General Merrick Garland, below right, announced Friday that he will double the Justice Department staff dedicated to protecting that right.

But no less crucial, as Garland noted in his speech, is to ensure “that all lawful votes are counted.” We haven’t paid as much attention to that, because until now we haven’t had to. Election administration in America, overseen in many cases by partisan officials and volunteer poll-watchers, may strike foreigners as odd. But it has worked, because those officials have put election integrity first.

After his decisive loss, Trump tried to undermine that integrity, threatening and cajoling state officials to back up his lie of having won. Shamefully, many Republicans in Congress and state capitals went along and continue to go along with his corrosive claim of election fraud. But the officials who mattered last fall — in Georgia and Michigan, Pennsylvania and Arizona — put duty over party and refused to bend.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Merrick Garland has said some fine words. Now he needs to act, Jennifer Rubin, right, June 14, 2021. Attorney General Merrick Garland on Friday delivered a speech on voting jennifer rubin new headshotrights amid rising fear among voting rights activists that the Senate will not pass any voting reform.

With Congress reaching a possible stalemate, democracy defenders have begun to worry about the lack of executive branch action. They are understandably unnerved that the Justice Department has done virtually nothing about restrictive voting laws that states have already passed and the fraudulent “audit” underway in Arizona.

Garland’s robust rhetoric was reassuring, to a degree.

The attorney general’s speech raises a number of questions:

  • Beyond scrutinizing new anti-voting laws, is the Justice Department prepared to litigate to enjoin new voter suppression laws from going into effect and eventually to strike them down?
    Why has the department not joined private litigants who have filed suits in Iowa, Arkansas, Montana, Georgia, Florida and Kansas?
  • Justice Department log circularWithout the Voting Rights Act’s pre-clearance provisions, what specific legal tools and legal theories under existing law could prevent efforts to make voting less accessible for minorities?
    Is the Justice Department prepared to roll out a comprehensive monitoring process in 2021 and 2022 elections to deter and gather evidence of intimidation? Is it ready to rebut bogus claims of fraud?
  • How will the Justice Department address MAGA groups that threaten to intimidate voters (couching their activities as benign “monitoring” or “observing”)?
  • Has the Justice Department opened an investigation to determine if any federal voting laws were violated when the former president and Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) made phone calls to Georgia voting officials to pressure them to overturn election results? If not, why not?

Moreover, we have yet to see evidence that the Justice Department is investigating those who financially supported, planned and incited the Jan. 6 insurrection. There may not be a bipartisan commission, but the department should be tasked with a comprehensive investigation that encompasses not simply the violent onslaught, but also the circumstances leading up to it and the players who enabled the insurrection. In short, will it determine if the speakers at the “Stop the Steal” rally broke federal laws?

U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley, Republican of Missouri, gives a fist salute to pro-Trump insurrections about to storm the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 to prevent certification of President-elect Biden's victory (Photo by Francis Chung ).

U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley, Republican of Missouri, gives a fist salute to pro-Trump insurrections about to storm the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 to prevent certification of President-elect Biden's victory (Photo by Francis Chung ).

Palmer Report, Opinion: Yet another Donald Trump ally just stupidly used the “Trump playbook” to bring about his own downfall, Bill Palmer, right, June 14, 2021. There’s a lot of mythos built up about the so-bill palmercalled Trump playbook. Much of the media spent four years trying to convince us that Donald Trump was some kind of secret evil genius who was always one savvy step ahead of us. In reality Trump was bumbling and fumbling the entire time, just barely above water. In spite of four years of being President of the United States, he couldn’t figure out how to successfully rig his own reelection or protect himself from criminal charges.

Yet even though the “Trump playbook” has ruined Donald Trump’s life, we still keep hearing about how this or that other politician is using (or is going to use) the Trump playbook in order to get ahead. Of course in the real world, those political figures using the Trump playbook keep managing to sink themselves with it.

bill palmer report logo headerJosh Hawley wanted credit in advance for the insurrection, and then tried to act like none of it happened after it went wrong. That’s straight out of the Trump playbook. And what did it get him? The latest polling has Hawley at zero percent in the 2024 Republican presidential primary race. That’s right, even Republican voters now think he’s damaged goods. But the most telling cautionary tale may be that of Trump ally Benjamin Netanyahu.

Netanyahu has known for several months that he was going to end up being ousted as Prime Minister of Israel. With each snap election, the opposition parties were coming closer to uniting to oust him. It was a matter of time. Netanyahu is facing criminal indictment. He had a window of time where he could have tried to trade his immediate resignation for an immunity or leniency deal. But he didn’t want to do it. Instead he wanted to cling to the false hope that he could somehow magically remain in power forever.

Now Netanyahu has been ousted the hard way. He’s lost what leverage he had. He has nothing left to trade away. If the Israeli legal system completes the indictment process against him, he’ll end up on trial and potentially in prison. He could have just walked away a few months back. But instead he stupidly used the Trump playbook of standing his crumbling ground and trying to incite violence at the end, and it cost him a lot – maybe everything.

washington post logoWashington Post, Rep. Tom Rice tests whether GOP voters will support a conservative who crossed Trump, Marianna Sotomayor, June 14, 2021 (print ed.). Republican Rep. Tom Rice of South Carolina has been a reliable conservative during his five terms in Congress, and he was a strong supporter of former president Donald Trump and his agenda.

tom rice o resized croppedAs a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, Rice helped draft what became the party’s hallmark 2017 tax cut legislation. He supported building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. He supported Trump’s tariffs on Chinese goods. He defended Trump during his first impeachment, saying “he has been the target of an astounding barrage of lies, deceit, and corruption.” And he objected to certifying the 2020 election results from Pennsylvania and Arizona that Trump falsely said were fraudulent.

djt maga hatBut on Jan. 13, Rice shocked Washington and voters here in a district that includes coastal communities that thrive on tourism and rural areas focused on farming: He voted to impeach Trump on charges he incited the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

“It was very clear to me, I took an oath to defend the Constitution. I didn’t take an oath to defend Donald Trump. What he did was a frontal assault on the Constitution,” he said over coffee at Sunshine Pancake House in Loris, S.C., on Wednesday.

Now that vote threatens to end his career as he faces several potential primary opponents who strongly support the former president. And that race will have a broader meaning for his party, serving as a test case for whether a solidly conservative lawmaker, long popular in his district and loyal to the party, can be cast out by GOP voters for the lone sin of crossing Trump.

joe biden kamala harris win mcnamee getty images

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: We should rethink how we think about Vice President Harris, Perry Bacon Jr., right, June 14, 2021 (print ed.). Much of the press coverage and broader narrative about Vice perry bacon jrPresident Harris (shown above in a news report about her selection last summer) is embedded with two assumptions: She is a uniquely interesting figure in U.S. politics, and she is a bad politician.

Both of these are wrong.

News outlets didn’t have beat reporters who focused largely on covering Dick Cheney, Joe Biden or Mike Pence, but they do for Harris. Her every utterance is analyzed, her exact role in the Biden White House scrutinized. But this approach is odd, because Harris is, well, not that interesting — and I don’t mean that as a diss.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Marjorie Taylor Greene led early in the House’s crazy stakes. But a dark horse has emerged, Dana Milbank, June 14, 2021. It’s a real horse race to determine who will be the looniest House Republican of 2021.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-QAnon) made an early Run for the Roses with talk of Jewish “space lasers,” stalking Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), and claiming that mask mandates are andrew clydetantamount to the Holocaust. 

But the final leg of crazytown’s Triple Crown has just gone to a dark horse, Rep. Andrew S. Clyde, right. The first-term Georgia Republican put himself on the map with his notion that the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol “was a normal tourist visit.” And now Clyde has filed a federal lawsuit on a matter of the most pressing constitutional importance.

Since the insurrection, he and all 434 of his colleagues have been required to walk through metal detectors to get to the House floor. Clyde, a former gun shop owner (in which capacity he fought the IRS), is one of a small few who have refused to cooperate with the Capitol Police’s efforts to keep guns out of the chamber. His refusal cost him $15,000 in fines.

Now, Clyde is suing because he wants “to do everything within my power to expose House Resolution 73 [the magnetometer rule] for the danger it poses to our Republic.”

marjorii taylor greene gun

washington post logoWashington Post, Rep. Greene apologizes for comparing face masks to Holocaust, but stands by comparison of Democrats to Nazi party, Felicia Sonmez, June 14, 2021. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, shown above in a file photo, on Monday visited the Holocaust Museum and apologized for previously comparing coronavirus face-mask policies to the Nazi practice of labeling Jews with Star of David badges.

But the Georgia Republican declined to walk back other controversial statements she has made, including one in which she compared the Democratic Party to Hitler’s party, the National Socialist German Workers’ Party.

Greene’s latest remarks come days before a fellow House member, Rep. Bradley Schneider (D-Ill.), is set to introduce a resolution to censure her over the Holocaust comparison.

At a Monday afternoon press conference outside the Capitol, Greene acknowledged she had made a mistake and told reporters, “One of the best lessons that my father always taught me was, when you make a mistake, you should own it.”

At an “America First” rally, Greene also compared the Democratic Party to the Nazi party, which went by the full name Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, or the National Socialist German Workers’ Party. 

Despite the name, the Nazi party was not a socialist party; it was a right-wing, ultranationalist party. Even so, Greene told attendees at the rally in May: “You know, Nazis were the National Socialist Party. Just like the Democrats are now a national socialist party.”

 

U.S. Privacy, Law, Courts, Media

NBC News, Former NSA contractor Reality Winner, jailed for leaking secrets about Russian hacking, released early from prison, Ben Kesslen, June 14, 2021.Winner, 29, was sentenced to five years and NBC News logohree months in prison in 2018 after leaking classified information to The Intercept news outlet.

Reality Winner, the former National Security Agency contractor who was jailed for leaking secrets about Russian hacking, has been released early from prison, her lawyer said Monday.

"I am thrilled to announce that Reality Winner has been released from prison," Alison Grinter Allen, her lawyer, said in a statement posted on Twitter.

reality winner mug CustomWinner, 29, was sentenced to more than five years in prison in 2018 after she leaked classified information to The Intercept news outlet about Russia's attempts to hack the 2016 presidential election. She pleaded guilty to leaking a classified report that detailed the Russian government's efforts to penetrate a Florida-based voting software supplier. At the time, the sentence was the longest ever for a federal crime involving leaks to the media.

Her lawyers filed a formal petition for commutation with the Department of Justice in February 2020, saying she had "suffered enough" and called on then-President Donald Trump to "do the right thing."

The former NSA translator was released for good behavior and is still in custody amid the “residential re-entry process,” Allen said.

“We are relieved and hopeful,” she wrote. “Her release is not a product of the pardon or compassionate release process, but rather time earned from exemplary behavior while incarcerated.”

While Trump did not commute Winner’s sentence, he did say on Twitter in 2018 her punishment was “so unfair...."Gee, this is 'small potatoes' compared to what Hillary Clinton did," he had tweeted.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Top DOJ official abruptly resigns over his role in the Trump DOJ spying scandal, James Sullivan, June 14, 2021. Although the doom and gloom forecasters of Resistance Twitter have gone into a fever pitch over the last week, interpreting even the slightest movement made by the Justice Department as proof of the worst case scenario, things are already in full motion under a new DOJ that is taking on a massive agenda.

bill palmer report logo headerAfter the bombshell that broke last week about Donald Trump’s DOJ being weaponized to spy on his political opponents, Attorney General Merrick Garland stepped up to the plate immediately to begin an investigation of those involved.

Just days later, we’re already seeing results – with Trump appointee John Demers tendering his resignation on Monday morning. There are reports that he was contemplating resignation by the end of the month, but you’d have to consider why Demers decided to leave when he did – seeming that he was one of the few Trumpers left at the DOJ and knew that the story of Justice Department log circularTrump’s people spying on congressional Democrats by subpoenaing companies like Apple and Microsoft in secret was inevitably going to break.

Other developments in the case aren’t likely to happen as fast – but the more problematic people under Garland’s watch are already trying to distance themselves, meaning we’ll probably get a bit more of the story very soon. In a legitimate investigation, things tend to move much slower than most of us want them to – but it’s a sign that things are being done carefully with little room for error.

For Garland to de-politicize a Justice Department that should have never been politicized in the first place, he can’t simply go around locking up Trump and his associates, as much as resistors have been dreaming about it for years. If it were that easy, things right now would be considerably worse – with a good chance that Donald Trump and Bill Barr would still be running the show, and effectively prosecuting their most vehement critics. Today’s news is an important sign that things are going in the right direction, however long they may take.

Press Run, Commentary: It’s worse than Watergate, Eric Boehlert, June 14, 2021. Stunning new abuse-of-power revelations remind us of the Trump administration’s complete disregard for democratic principles. We now know that over a span of years it took extraordinary legal measures, including gag orders and secret tribunals, in pursuit of email records from reporters at CNN and the Washington Post. Team Trump also unleashed the courts on Democratic members of Congress and their families trying to obtain private phone records, as well as secretly targeting a key White House attorney, who possibly fell under suspicion for not being sufficiently loyal to Trump.

djt march 2020 CustomThe disturbing portrait now in focus is one of a Republican White House that for four years worked in tandem with partisan prosecutors to systematically politicize the vast powers of the Justice Department, which often treated Trump’s allies leniently, and used unprecedented tools to target his foes. It was Trump recklessly using the executive branch to gather private information on members of the legislative branch, as well as members of the media.

The emerging scandal already eclipses Richard Nixon’s Watergate in terms of the benchmarks we use to gauge Washington, D.C. abuse of power. It’s “Nixon on stilts and steroids,” Nixon’s former White House Counsel John Dean recently told CNN. "Nixon didn't have that kind of Department of Justice.”

It’s worse than Watergate because the White House abuse of power was purposely powered by the Justice Department. This would have been if U.S. Attorney General John Mitchell had helped plot the Watergate break-in, instead of a band of rogue Nixon sycophants. This is worse because it’s institutional abuse conducted by political entities with boundless authority, such as the White House and the DOJ.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden nominated as many minority women to be judges in four months as Trump had confirmed in four years, Adrian Blanco, June 14, 2021. Sixty-five percent of federal judges confirmed under Donald Trump were non-Hispanic White men. President Biden has launched an early effort to reverse that trend, nominating 11 women who would add diversity to the federal bench. President Biden and the Democrat-led Senate have moved quickly to boost minority and female representation on the federal courts following Donald Trump’s four-year push to remake the judiciary, in which he nominated a large share of White, male justices.

Biden’s early judicial slate represents a departure from his recent predecessors; his initial picks are more diverse, and Biden rolled out more nominations earlier in his presidency than others.

Fifteen of his 19 nominees so far are women, including 11 women from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds. The Senate confirmed U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson — widely considered a Supreme Court contender — to the influential U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit on Monday. Additionally, it gave final approval to Zahid Quraishi, a magistrate judge from New Jersey and the first Muslim confirmed as a federal judge, in a bipartisan vote on Thursday.

[Biden’s court pick Ketanji Brown Jackson has navigated a path few Black women have]
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“This trailblazing slate of nominees draws from the very best and brightest minds of the American legal profession,” Biden said in a statement when announcing the nominees. “Each is deeply qualified and prepared to deliver justice faithfully under our Constitution and impartially to the American people — and together they represent the broad diversity of background, experience, and perspective that makes our nation strong.”

In his first four months, Biden nominated as many minority women to the federal bench as Trump had confirmed in his entire four years. A Washington Post analysis of Federal Judicial Center data shows all women, regardless of race or ethnicity, are underrepresented on the judiciary.
Share of active federal judges by race and ethnicity

Forty-eight women from diverse racial or ethnic backgrounds became federal judges during Barack Obama’s two terms, compared with 21 each in George W. Bush’s and Bill Clinton’s presidencies. His progress stalled when Republicans took back the Senate in 2014 and blocked dozens of judicial nominees, including two who were nominated by Biden and confirmed last week. Following Republican Senate obstruction, Trump came into office with more than 100 vacancies to fill.

 

G7 Summit, Other World News 

joe biden queen elizabeth jill biden resized june 13 2021

President Biden and First Lady Jill Biden met on Sunday UK's Queen Elizabeth, who has greeted every U.S. president beginning with President Truman, excepting 1960s President Johnson.

ny times logog7 logo uk 2021New York Times, G7 Summit Ends in Broad Agreement, With Edges Blunted, Staff Reports, June 14, 2021 (print ed.). The world’s wealthiest large democracies issued a joint communiqué that stressed the need for drastic action to end the pandemic, combat climate change and counter China. But differences on how to meet those challenges remained.

  • Global summit marks a return of international diplomacy.
  • China warns that a ‘small’ bloc of nations does not dictate global policy.
  • President Biden and Jill Biden will meet with the queen at Windsor Castle.
  • In pictures: Queen Elizabeth II’s meetings with U.S. presidents

washington post logoWashington Post, Amid strained U.S.-Turkey relations, Biden and Erdogan to meet on sidelines of NATO summit, Karen DeYoung and Kareem Fahim, June 14, 2021 (print ed.). Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan took the high road at a Sunday news conference as he left home for a meeting with President Biden at the NATO summit in Brussels, dismissing “rumors” about the state of the U.S.-Turkey relationship and suggesting that they “leave all these behind and speak about what we can do together.”

The same Erdogan last month accused Biden of having “bloody hands” for selling arms to Israel, in comments that the State Department called antisemitic.

The last time Biden met with the Turkish leader, during a vice-presidential visit to Ankara in 2016, it was to deny Erdogan’s charges that the United States had helped plot a coup attempt against him. In Istanbul earlier that year, Biden publicly criticized Erdogan’s arrests of journalists, political opponents and academics.

ny times logoNew York Times, Tumult Disrupts Israeli Parliament as Netanyahu Era Ends, Roger Cohen and Adam Rasgon, June 14, 2021 (print ed.). Naftali Bennett, heckled and insulted, replaced Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister by the narrowest of margins.

Heckling and mayhem in the Knesset, an intimate parliamentary chamber transformed by anger, marked the end of Benjamin Netanyahu’s divisive 12-year rule over Israel and the start of Naftali Bennett’s term as prime minister.

Israel FlagMr. Bennett, a hard-right politician whose decision to join an eight-party coalition including left-wing parties has enraged Mr. Netanyahu’s center-right Likud party, struggled for 43 minutes to make himself heard as his opponents hurled abuse and held up posters saying, “Shame on you.”

Mr. Netanyahu gave a 35-minute speech full of venom, contempt for Mr. Bennett and dire warnings about Israel’s security without him.

“Try to damage as little as possible of the magnificent economy we are handing over to you, so that we can fix it as fast as possible when we return,” he said in a typically unapologetic speech that oozed scorn and confidence that he would soon be back.

A measure of calm returned only after several hours as voting began in the 120-member Israeli Parliament. The sound of “Ba’ad,” meaning “in favor,” and “Neged,” meaning “against,” alternated. The vote yielded a razor-thin 60-to-59 victory for the new coalition, with one abstention from a member of the Islamist party Raam, which is joining the government.

Mr. Netanyahu, wearing a black mask, was impassive, even when members of Israel’s new government congregated around its centrist architect, Yair Lapid, and embraced.

An era had ended, just.

Earlier, proceedings had slowed to a crawl as yelling filled the chamber.

At least seven members of Parliament were escorted out. They accused Mr. Bennett of being unfit to lead Israel because his party, Yamina, has only a handful of seats; told him he was “selling” the Negev desert because he has agreed to accommodate some demands made by Arab lawmakers about Bedouin villages; and assailed him as a “liar” and traitor to his right-wing voters.

 

Virus Victims, Response

washington post logocovad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Washington Post, 173.4 million U.S. vaccinated, as of June 14, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, covering 61.9 % of the eligible population,12 and older and 52.2 % of the total population. See about your state. 

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated June 14, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here): 

World Cases: 176,771,427, Deaths: 3,820,729
U.S. Cases:     34,321,158, Deaths:    615,053
India Cases:    29,510,410, Deaths:    374,305
Brazil Cases:   17,413,996, Deaths:    487,476

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Nears 600,000 Virus Deaths Despite Progress From Vaccines,  Dan Levin and Julie Bosman, June 15, 2021. Daily deaths have dropped considerably since their January peak, with about 44 percent of the population now fully vaccinated.

It is a number that once seemed unimaginable.

In the next few days, the United States will surpass 600,000 deaths from Covid-19, the highest known death toll in the world. The milestone approaches even though virus cases and deaths in this country have sharply fallen, vaccinations have been distributed widely, and many people have shed their masks and resumed prepandemic lives, including in New York and California, which both fully reopened on Tuesday.

Yet the coronavirus remains agonizingly present for those who knew the hundreds across the country still dying of it each day.

 

June 13

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U.S. Politics, Governance, Culture

 

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ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: Private Inequity: How a Powerful Industry Conquered the Tax System, Jesse Drucker and Danny Hakim, June 13, 2021 (print ed.). Private equity firms are almost never audited, despite tax-avoidance strategies that have prompted whistle-blowers to file claims alleging illegal tactics. The $4.5 trillion industry’s ability to vanquish the I.R.S. and Congress goes a long way toward explaining the deep inequities in the U.S. tax system.

There were two weeks left in the Trump administration when the Treasury Department handed down a set of rules governing an obscure corner of the tax code.

Overseen by a senior Treasury official whose previous job involved helping the wealthy avoid taxes, the new regulations represented a major victory for private equity firms. They ensured that executives in the $4.5 trillion industry, whose leaders often measure their yearly pay in eight or nine figures, could avoid paying hundreds of millions in taxes.

The rules were approved on Jan. 5, the day before the riot at the U.S. Capitol. Hardly anyone noticed.

irs logoThe Trump administration’s farewell gift to the buyout industry was part of a pattern that has spanned Republican and Democratic presidencies and Congresses: Private equity has conquered the American tax system.

The industry has perfected sleight-of-hand tax-avoidance strategies so aggressive that at least three private equity officials have alerted the Internal Revenue Service to potentially illegal tactics, according to people with direct knowledge of the claims and documents reviewed by The New York Times. The previously unreported whistle-blower claims involved tax dodges at dozens of private equity firms.

But the I.R.S., its staff hollowed out after years of budget cuts, has thrown up its hands when it comes to policing the politically powerful industry.

While intensive examinations of large multinational companies are common, the I.R.S. rarely conducts detailed audits of private equity firms, according to current and former agency officials.

Such audits are “almost nonexistent,” said Michael Desmond, who stepped down this year as the I.R.S.’s chief counsel. The agency “just doesn’t have the resources and expertise.”

One reason they rarely face audits is that private equity firms have deployed vast webs of partnerships to collect their profits. Partnerships do not owe income taxes. Instead, they pass those obligations on to their partners, who can number in the thousands at a large private equity firm. That makes the structures notoriously complicated for auditors to untangle.

Increasingly, the agency doesn’t bother. People earning less than $25,000 are at least three times more likely to be audited than partnerships, whose income flows overwhelmingly to the richest 1 percent of Americans.

The consequences of that imbalance are enormous.

By one recent estimate, the United States loses $75 billion a year from investors in partnerships failing to report their income accurately — at least some of which would probably be recovered if the I.R.S. conducted more audits. That’s enough to roughly double annual federal spending on education.

It is also a dramatic understatement of the true cost. It doesn’t include the ever-changing array of maneuvers — often skating the edge of the law — that private equity firms have devised to help their managers avoid income taxes on the roughly $120 billion the industry pays its executives each year.  

katie logan 2001 currently tim gruber wash post

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: People of Praise, a Christian group tied to Justice Amy Coney Barrett, faces reckoning over sexual misconduct allegations, Beth Reinhard and Alice Crites, June 13, 2021 (print ed.). Barrett’s ascendancy to the Supreme Court spurred former members of the group to speak out and forced People of Praise to hire lawyers to investigate.

In December, Katie Logan called the police in this Minneapolis suburb to unearth a buried secret: Her high school physics teacher had sexually assaulted her two decades earlier, she said. She was 17 and had just graduated from a school run by a small Christian group called People of Praise. He was 35 at the time, a widely admired teacher and girls’ basketball coach who lived in a People of Praise home for celibate men.

Logan (shown above in 2001 photo at left and in a recent Washington Post photo by Tim Gruber) told police she reported the June 2001 incident to a dean at the school five years after it happened. Police records show the dean believed Logan and relayed the complaint to at least one other senior school official.

But the teacher, Dave Beskar, remained at Trinity School at River Ridge until 2011, when he was hired to lead a charter school in Arizona. In 2015, he returned to the Minneapolis area to become headmaster of another Christian school. Beskar denies that any inappropriate sexual activity took place.

“People of Praise leaders failed me,” Logan, 37, said in an interview with The Washington Post. “I think they wanted to protect themselves more than they wanted to protect me and other girls.”

amy coney barrett headshot notre dame photoLogan was encouraged to go to police by a founder of “PoP Survivors,” a Facebook group formed last fall after the Supreme Court nomination of Amy Coney Barrett, left, who has deep roots in People of Praise and who served on the board of its schools years after Beskar left.

Barrett’s ascendancy to the nation’s highest court has forced a painful reckoning in People of Praise, an insular Christian community that emphasizes traditional gender roles. The former members are now demanding that the group acknowledge their suffering and that it mishandled complaints, prompting People of Praise to hire two law firms to investigate allegations of abuse.

The Post interviewed nine people in the Facebook group — all but one of them women — who said they were sexually abused as children, as well as another man who says he was physically abused. In four of those cases, the people said the alleged abuse was reported to community leaders. Logan gave The Post recorded statements and other documents from the police investigation of her complaint.

In response to questions from The Post, Craig Lent, chairman of the religious group’s board of governors, said that the lawyers’ findings will be reviewed by a People of Praise committee of men and women and that “appropriate action” will be taken.

Lent declined in a written statement to respond to specific questions about Logan’s allegation but acknowledged the “serious questions that it raises.” He declined to say how many claims are being investigated.

“People of Praise has always put the safety of children far above any reputational concerns,” said Lent, who is also chairman of the board overseeing three Trinity Schools campuses for middle and high school students — in the Minneapolis area, South Bend, Ind., and Falls Church, Va.

People of Praise grew out of the charismatic Christian movement of the early 1970s, which adopted practices described in the New Testament of the Bible, including speaking in tongues, the use of prophecy and faith healing. The group says it has 1,700 members across the United States, Canada and the Caribbean.

amy coney barrett ap oct 12 2020Barrett, who was raised in a People of Praise community in Louisiana, has long been active in the branch in the South Bend area, where she was a student at Notre Dame Law School. Barrett lived for a time with People of Praise co-founder Kevin Ranaghan and his wife, Dorothy, Dorothy Ranaghan has confirmed. A People of Praise 2010 directory shows Barrett served as a “handmaid,” a key female adviser to another female member. Barrett served on the Trinity Schools board, whose members must belong to People of Praise, from 2015 to 2017.

Barrett was not asked about People of Praise during her confirmation to the Supreme Court (shown at right). At her 2017 Senate confirmation hearing for a federal appeals court, she said she would not put her religious beliefs before the rule of law. “It’s never appropriate for a judge to impose that judge’s personal convictions, whether they derive from faith or anywhere else, on the law,” she said.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden asks G-7 to take a tougher line on China, but not all allies are enthusiastic, Ashley Parker and Anne Gearan, June 13, 2021 (print ed.). President Biden is asking leaders of other wealthy democracies to make a unified front against China’s use of forced labor, arguing Saturday that a stronger line is a moral and practical imperative.

g7 logo uk 2021The Group of Seven economic club is also expected to agree on a joint alternative to heavy-handed Chinese economic expansion tactics that can leave poorer nations saddled with debt.

Countering China is fast becoming a central element of Biden’s foreign policy, despite extensive trade ties and hopes for cooperation to combat climate change and other china flagpriorities.

But some of the leaders Biden is seeing for the annual Group of Seven nations are less eager to prod Beijing over its labor practices, and it was not clear whether Biden could persuade them to fully back his proposal to call out China for its use of forced labor, including of the Uyghur ethnic and religious minority.

Countering China is fast becoming a central element of President Biden’s foreign policy. But some members in the Group of Seven nations are less eager to prod Beijing, and it was not clear whether Biden could persuade them to back his proposal to call out China for its use of forced labor.

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ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Israel Approves Coalition Government, Ending Netanyahu’s 12-Year Reign, Richard Pérez-Peña, June 13, 2021. Naftali Bennett, above left, is sworn in as Israel’s first new prime minister in 12 years. The long and divisive reign of Benjamin Netanyahu, above right, the dominant Israeli politician of the past generation, officially ended on Sunday, at least for the time being, as the country’s Parliament gave its vote of confidence to a precarious coalition government stitched together by widely disparate anti-Netanyahu forces.

Israel’s Parliament, the Knesset, approved the new government by just a single vote — 60 to 59, with one abstention.

After his supporters cheered the announcement of his election, Naftali Bennett then exchanged a brief handshake with Mr. Netanyahu before walking to the rostrum at the front of the parliamentary chamber and taking the oath of office as prime minister.

Yair Lapid, a centrist leader, is set to take Mr. Bennett’s place after two years, if their government can hold together that long.

They lead an eight-party alliance ranging from left to right, from secular to religious, that agrees on little but a desire to oust Mr. Netanyahu, the longest-serving leader in the country’s history, and to end Israel’s lengthy political gridlock.

In a speech made before the confidence vote, Mr. Bennett hailed his unlikely coalition as an essential antidote to an intractable stalemate.

“We stopped the train before the abyss,” Mr. Bennett said. “The time has come for different leaders, from all parts of the people, to stop, to stop this madness.”

Before and after the fragile new government was announced on June 2, Mr. Netanyahu and his right-wing allies labored hard to break it before it could take office. They applied intense pressure on right-wing opposition lawmakers, urging them to peel away from their leaders and refuse to support a coalition that includes centrists, leftists and even a small Arab Islamist party.

It was a watershed moment for politics in Israel, where Mr. Netanyahu, 71, had served as prime minister for a total of 15 years, including the last 12 years uninterrupted. But given Mr. Netanyahu’s record as a shrewd political operator who has defied many previous predictions of his political demise, few Israelis are writing off his career.

Even out of government and standing trial on corruption charges, he remains a formidable force who will likely try to drive wedges between the coalition parties. He remains the leader of the parliamentary opposition and a cagey tactician, with a sizable following and powerful allies.

washington post logoWashington Post, Judge dismisses lawsuit filed by Houston hospital employees who refused covid-19 vaccine, Brittany Shammas and Paulina Firozi, June 13, 2021. The judge took particular issue with the complaint equating the threat of termination to medical experimentation during the Holocaust, calling the comparison “reprehensible.”

A federal judge on Saturday dismissed a lawsuit filed by 117 staffers at Houston Methodist over the hospital’s coronavirus vaccine requirement for employees, a decision that could have implications in other battles over such mandates.

The hospital system was among the first in the country to require all workers to be inoculated against the virus, which has killed about 600,000 people in the United States. More than 99 percent of its 26,000-strong workforce complied. But a small fraction refused, and chief executive Marc Boom said Tuesday that more than 170 employees had been suspended as a result.

Among them was Jennifer Bridges, a nurse who became the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit over the vaccine requirement after months of publicly opposing it. The complaint, filed last month, argued that the mandate is unlawful and forces “employees to be human ‘guinea pigs’ as a condition for continued employment.”

lynn hughesBut U.S. District Judge Lynn N. Hughes, a Reagan nominee shown at right, rejected that argument. In his ruling, he said the lawsuit’s claim that the vaccines are experimental and dangerous “is false, and it is also irrelevant.” The hospital system’s requirement does not violate state or federal law or public policy, he wrote.
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The judge took particular issue with the complaint equating the mandate to medical experimentation during the Holocaust, calling the comparison “reprehensible.”

“Methodist is trying to do their business of saving lives without giving them the covid-19 virus,” Hughes wrote. “It is a choice made to keep staff, patients and their families safer. Bridges can freely choose to accept or refuse a covid-19 vaccine; however, if she refuses, she will simply need to work somewhere else.”

The lawsuit’s dismissal appears to be one of the first rulings over an issue that has sparked contentious debate across the country as the economy opens up and more people return to school and work. Legal experts expect further litigation as some business, hospitals and universities begin requiring vaccination.

Valerie Gutmann Koch, co-director of the University of Houston’s Health Law & Policy Institute, called the decision “another step in demonstrating the legality of these mandates, particularly in a health crisis like this.”

Proof via Substack, Investigation: New Member of Trump's January 6 Willard Hotel "War Room" Revealed, Seth Abramson, left, June 13, 2021. Discovery Leads to Revelation of a National Security Scandal; seth abramson graphicTrump's legal team admits it had a "war room" in a hotel frequented by insurrectionist leaders Alex Jones and Roger Stone during the insurrection. Its roster of attendees could now become a scandal.

Introduction: Thanks to an incredibly sharp Proof reader, Proof can now identify a fifth member of Donald Trump’s January 6 “war room” inside the Willard InterContinental Hotel DC.

The identification has led, moreover, to a large volume of disturbing information about that war room, including how many individuals were inside of it on Insurrection Day, what sort of information it was processing, and what its purpose was. The answers to all of these questions are below, and they demand immediate additional investigation by both Congress and the FBI.

As a brief preface to these answers, Proof notes that the four individuals previously identified as members of Trump’s January 6 war room at the Willard Hotel include Trump-Ukraine scandal co-conspirator Robert Hyde, who allegedly plotted violence against the United States ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovich, as part of Trump’s plot to steal the 2020 presidential election via collusion with pro-Kremlin Ukrainian oligarchs and officials; Trump lawyers John Eastman and Rudy Giuliani, the latter of whom recently saw his home and office raided by the FBI; and Michael Flynn-associated cybersecurity firm owner Russell Ramsland Jr., who was discussed by Proof in detail in a prior report here.

Proof can now add to these prior reports that there is overwhelming evidence of a fifth entrant to Trump’s “communications” center—as it has been described by Eastman.

 

U.S. Politics, Governance, Culture 

ny times logoNew York Times, Apple Is Said to Have Turned Over Data on Trump’s White House Counsel, Michael S. Schmidt and Charlie Savage, June 13, 2021. The company notified Donald McGahn last month that it had been subpoenaed for his account information three years ago and was barred from telling him. Apple told Donald F. McGahn II, the White House counsel to former President Donald J. Trump, last month that the Justice Department had subpoenaed information about an account that belonged to him in February 2018, and that the government barred the company from telling him at the time, according to two people briefed on the matter.

Mr. McGahn’s wife received a similar notice from Apple, said one of the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter.

FBI logoIt is not clear what F.B.I. agents were scrutinizing, nor whether Mr. McGahn was their specific focus. In investigations, agents sometimes compile a large list of phone numbers and email addresses that were in contact with a subject, and seek to identify all those people by using subpoenas to communications companies for any account information like names, computer addresses and credit card numbers associated with them.

Still, the disclosure that agents secretly collected data of a sitting White House counsel is striking as it comes amid a political backlash to revelations about Trump-era seizures of data of reporters and Democrats in Congress for leak investigations. The president’s top lawyer is also a chief point of contact between the White House and the Justice Department.

apple logo rainbowApple told Mr. McGahn that it complied with the subpoena in a timely fashion but declined to tell him what it provided the government, according to a person briefed on the matter. Under Justice Department policy, gag orders for subpoenas may be renewed for up to a year at a time, suggesting that prosecutors went to court several times to prevent Apple from notifying the McGahns earlier.

Spokespeople for Apple and the Justice Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment. A lawyer for Mr. McGahn declined to comment.

Apple told the McGahns that it received the subpoena on Feb. 23, 2018, according to a person briefed on the matter. The other person familiar with the matter said the subpoena had been issued by a grand jury in the Eastern District of Virginia.

It is not clear why prosecutors obtained the subpoena. But several notable events were occurring around that time.

One of the roughly concurrent events was that the federal court in the Eastern District of Virginia was the center of one part of the Russia inquiry led by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, that focused on Paul Manafort, the onetime chairman of the 2016 Trump presidential campaign.

Because Mr. McGahn had been the top lawyer for the Trump campaign in 2016, it is possible that at some earlier point he had been among those in contact with someone whose account the Mueller team was scrutinizing in early 2018.

dan mcgahn djt

Palmer Report, Opinion: The real reason the Trump DOJ was spying on White House Counsel Don McGahn, Bill Palmer, right, June 13, 2021. Back in late 2017 and early 2018, various major news outlets bill palmerpublished a series of inside-sourced articles which depicted Donald Trump repeatedly ordering people in the White House to commit obstruction of justice, and White House Counsel Don McGahn, above right, heroically stepping in each time to stop it from happening. Based on the structure of these articles, it wasn’t difficult to figure out that McGahn was very likely the source; these kinds of leakers always paint themselves as the thinly veiled hero of their own story.

Now it turns out I may not be the only one who spotted the pattern. It turns out that in February of 2018, the Trump DOJ subpoenaed the personal data of McGahn and his wife, according to a new report from the New York Times. The reasoning behind this spying isn’t being revealed. But it wouldn’t be a stretch to hypothesize that someone in the Trump regime suspected McGahn was the source for these various media articles, and went after his personal communications to try to prove as much.

Even if this is the case, then the Trump DOJ’s actions against McGahn were totally unwarranted. Leaking embarrassing true things about your boss to the media might be a fireable offense, but it’s certainly not a criminal offense – meaning the Trump DOJ had no business pursuing it. In fact the DOJ committed a crime against McGahn by spying on his personal data, and particularly his wife’s personal data, just as the DOJ committed a crime by spying on multiple House Democrats.

It’s worth noting that when it comes to today’s New York Times bombshell, Don McGahn once again appears to be the source. How else would the authors of the article know that McGahn and his wife recently received notices from Apple that their personal data had been seized? If this is the case, then let’s hope that McGahn keeps talking, and reveals more about the Trump regime’s criminal antics. McGahn recently testified to Congress about Trump’s obstruction of justice crimes. Let’s hear even more from him.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: My grandparents were stolen from their families as children. We must learn about this history, Deb Haaland (Deb Haaland, below right, the U.S. interior secretary, is the first Native American to serve as a Cabinet secretary), June 13, 2021 (print ed.). The first step toward justice for Native Americans is acknowledging painful truths and understanding their effects.

deb haaland oAs I read stories about an unmarked grave in Canada where the remains of 215 Indigenous children were found last month, I was sick to my stomach. But the deaths of Indigenous children at the hands of government were not limited to that side of the border. Many Americans may be alarmed to learn that the United States also has a history of taking Native children from their families in an effort to eradicate our culture and erase us as a people. It is a history that we must learn from if our country is to heal from this tragic era.

I am a product of these horrific assimilation policies. My maternal grandparents were stolen from their families when they were only 8 years old and were forced to live away from their parents, culture and communities until they were 13. Many children like them never made it back home.

Over nearly 100 years, tens of thousands of Indigenous children were taken from their communities and forced into scores of boarding schools run by religious institutions and the U.S. government. Some studies suggest that by 1926, nearly 83 percent of Native American school-age children were in the system. Many children were doused with DDT upon arrival, and as their coerced re-education got underway, they endured physical abuse for speaking their tribal languages or practicing traditions that didn’t fit into what the government believed was the American ideal.

My great-grandfather was taken to Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania. Its founder coined the phrase “kill the Indian, and save the man,” which genuinely reflects the influences that framed these policies at the time.

My family’s story is not unlike that of many other Native American families in this country. We have a generation of lost or injured children who are now the lost or injured aunts, uncles, parents and grandparents of those who live today. I once spent time with my grandmother recording our history for a writing assignment in college. It was the first time I heard her speak candidly about how hard it was — about how a priest gathered the children from the village and put them on a train, and how she missed her family. She spoke of the loneliness she endured. We wept together. It was an exercise in healing for her and a profound lesson for me about the resilience of our people, and even more about how important it is to reclaim what those schools tried to take from our people.

The lasting and profound impacts of the federal government’s boarding school system have never been appropriately addressed. This attempt to wipe out Native identity, language and culture continues to manifest itself in the disparities our communities face, including long-standing intergenerational trauma, cycles of violence and abuse, disappearance, premature deaths, and additional undocumented physiological and psychological impacts.

Our administration has set out to forge a new path to engage with tribal communities and to live up to its trust and treaty responsibilities.

But that obligation also requires that all Americans listen and learn, that we allow federal boarding school survivors and their families an opportunity to be heard, and that we engage in meaningful tribal consultation to seek justice. Though it is uncomfortable to learn that the country you love is capable of committing such acts, the first step to justice is acknowledging these painful truths and gaining a full understanding of their impacts so that we can unravel the threads of trauma and injustice that linger. We have a long road of healing ahead of us, but together with tribal nations, I am sure that we can work together for a future that we will all be proud to embrace.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Of course the SBC hasn’t fixed its sexual abuse problem. Look at its theology, David Von Drehle, right, June 13, 2021 (print ed.). Mike Stone, former chairman of the Southern david von drehle twitterBaptist Convention (SBC) executive committee and a leading candidate for the denomination presidency, is a firm proponent of complementarianism, which says men and women have separate roles, and men are the ones in charge.

Among the nearly 800,000 words in the Bible, one sentence seems to contain Stone’s thinking on this matter. It’s from a letter the Apostle Paul wrote to his protege, Timothy: “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.”

Hold this in mind as we look at the leaks: No woman has anything to teach a man; the lowliest person with a Y chromosome is superior to every double X. That 2,000-year-old claptrap was rattling around in Stone’s brain when the former head of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, Russell Moore, gave Rachael Denhollander a forum in which to criticize the way the executive committee handled an employee’s sexual assault complaint.

Denhollander is a highly effective teacher. The former gymnast-turned-lawyer was the first person to speak out about the sexual abuse scandal at Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics. Larry Nassar, the longtime team physician for both, abused more than 160 young women under the guise of medical treatment. At Nassar’s trial, an army of witnesses galvanized by Denhollander’s example testified about the abuse, leading the judge to call her “the bravest person I have ever had in my courtroom.”

Denhollander said at a conference arranged by Moore’s influential ethics commission that the SBC’s executive committee, under Stone’s leadership, had twisted facts and altered statements to make it appear that the complaining employee had consented to an affair. According to Moore, who has resigned from the commission and taken a pastorate at a non-SBC church, women complaining of sexual abuse were compared to “Potiphar’s wife,” a character in the Book of Genesis who lodges a false accusation against the biblical hero Joseph.

Moore’s leaked letters charge that Stone’s reaction to Denhollander was about what you’d expect from a complementarian. He was outraged that she was allowed to speak honestly, and he pushed for an investigation into Moore’s commission.

Stone countered with a rather fact-free dismissal of everything Moore charged. “This attack is a deflection from the fact that Russell’s leadership of the ERLC has been an ongoing source of division and distraction for Southern Baptists,” he averred.

That’s a veiled reference to Moore’s outspoken criticism of the evangelicals’ embrace of Donald Trump. But it is a distraction. Respect for women and their right to be free of sexual harassment and assault should not be filtered through politics. It is a matter of basic morals, that foundational principle expressed in Matthew 7:12 and known as the Golden Rule.

More than two years after the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News produced a devastating look at sexual abuse in the SBC, the denomination has not taken the steps necessary to address the problem. Can that really surprise anyone?

washington post logoWashington Post, Secret recordings, leaked letters expose backroom dealings and rock the Southern Baptist Convention, Sarah Pulliam Bailey, June 13, 2021 (print ed.). On Tuesday, thousands of Southern Baptists will gather in Nashville to vote on issues that will shape the massive denomination’s future, including the choice of its next president.

Demands for political loyalty. Disputes about racism. A fight between conservatives and ultraconservatives. It sounds like current debates within the Republican Party, but on Tuesday, thousands of Southern Baptists will gather in Nashville to vote on issues that will shape the massive denomination’s future, including the choice of its next president.

More than 16,000 people are expected to attend the denomination’s annual meeting, probably the largest religious gathering since the pandemic, as well as the biggest Baptist meeting in decades.

What is especially unusual about the meeting is infighting at the highest levels of leadership that has become public in recent weeks. New details released to news media outlets have shined a light on the backroom dealings of several of its high-profile leaders

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: GOP attacks on Biden agenda can’t break through conservative culture wars, Paul Kane, June 13, 2021 (print ed.). It’s harder to build a message against big government spending after Trump officials oversaw a $9 trillion jump in the federal debt.

WMR, Investigative Report: Pentagon UAP Report Debunks the Debunkers, Wayne Madsen (left, commentator, author and former U.S. Navy intelligence officer and National Security Agency analyst), June 13, wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Small2021. Pentagon UAP report debunks the debunkers: The government no longer claims that unexplained aerial objects cannot have extraterrestrial origins.

wayne madesen report logoThe Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force (UAPTF), a Pentagon activity formed on August 4, 2020 on the order of Deputy Secretary of Defense David L. Norquist, informed the Congress in a legislatively requested report, that unidentified flying objects that have been witnessed hovering around U.S. military forces and bases are not the product of any advanced U.S. technology.Axios Sneak Peek, Police union PACs launch text attacks on The Squad, Alayna Treene and Hans Nichols, June 13, 2021. A national police union is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars attacking The Squad, records reviewed by Axios' Lachlan Markay show.

axios logoWhy it matters: The $510,000 in spending by two PACs associated with the International Union of Police Associations is the largest independent political expenditure of the 2022 cycle to date. It appears geared less toward unseating any of the members and more toward raising money for the groups themselves.

What's happening: Both groups — Law Enforcement for a Safer America PAC and Honoring American Law Enforcement PAC — are affiliated with the International Union of Police Associations.

 

More On U.S. Privacy, Elections, Voting Rights  

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washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: I took a vote that cost me my seat. I know what Joe Manchin is facing, Tom Perriello, June 13, 2021 (print ed.). Tom Perriello is a former congressman from Virginia’s 5tCongressional District and a former U.S. Special Envoy for the African Great Lakes Region. He now serves as the U.S. executive director of the Open Society Foundations

“Just promise you will never forget that Judgment Day is more important than Election Day.” That was the advice — directive, really — my father offered when I asked about running for Congress. He was born and raised in Dunbar, W.Va., with the deep faith in the community, the Catholic Church and the New Deal that defined many Italian immigrant families recruited by the coal mines or Union Carbide. My dad died a few months after seeing me sworn in as a member of the 111th Congress in 2009, just three weeks after he retired as a pediatrician. He had cared for so many children of every race, faith and class that more than 1,000 people showed up for his funeral.

When I cast one of the deciding votes to pass the Affordable Care Act that year— a vote many warned might cost me my seat — I wore one of my father’s old wool suits. He had opposed Hillary Clinton’s 1993 health-care plan but watched regretfully as the insurance companies spread like a cancer across his profession, choking out the space between doctor and patient. I felt him nodding with approval from on high.

My dad liked Governor Joe Manchin and would have really loved Sen. Manchin for his decency and determination to fight for forgotten towns and workers. This year, the Democratic senator from West Virginia has shown marked political courage by embracing at least the aspirations of President Biden’s agenda to “build back better,” sending a signal to colleagues on both sides of the aisle that this is a time to unite around solutions rather than hide in the shadow of base politics.

Yes, the Senate is rigged for small states. But not for Republicans

As his colleagues fail to answer this call, Manchin is rapidly approaching a test of his convictions on what he must do to protect America’s historic experiment with democracy.

West Virginia became a state when its citizens had the honor to break away from Virginia to defend our more perfect union. Now, their senior senator may need to break traditions to defend voting rights and the integrity of our elections. Manchin recently indicated his inability to support the For the People Act unless Republican senators show the courage to put democracy over party. He stated no substantive disagreements with the reforms, which would limit partisan gerrymandering, dark money, foreign election interference, and corporate corruption, while adopting existing voting rights and expanded election protections.

 

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ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Garland Confronts Long-Building Crisis Over Leak Inquiries and Journalism, Charlie Savage, June 13, 2021 (print ed.). Prosecutors’ approach to unauthorized disclosures of government secrets has undergone a sea change in the 21st century.

Government leak hunters have been ratcheting up pressure on the ability of journalists to do their jobs for a generation — a push fueled by changing technology and fraught national-security issues that arose after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Now, those tensions have reached an inflection point.Recent disclosures about aggressive steps that the Justice Department secretly took under President Donald J. Trump while hunting for the confidential sources of reporters — at The New York Times, CNN and The Washington Post — prompted a backlash from the top. President Biden ordered prosecutors to stop seizing reporters’ phone and email data.

Justice Department log circularBut Mr. Biden’s sweeping vow to ban a practice he called “simply, simply wrong” left crucial questions unanswered. Among them: How broadly prosecutors will define the journalistic activities that the new protections apply to? And will the changes be easy or difficult for a future administration to roll back?

“The question of how this will be institutionalized or codified is crucial,” said Jameel Jaffer, the director of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University. “These kinds of protections shouldn’t be a matter of executive grace.”

Enshrined in the First Amendment, the role of the free press in bringing to light information beyond what those in power approve for release is a foundational principle of the American system of self-government. In Senate testimony this past week, Attorney General Merrick B. Garland (shown above) said the transparency that comes from investigative journalism about “wrongdoing and error in the government” gives people faith in democracy.

An essential task for journalists who report such material is to talk with officials who are not authorized to publicly speak about government matters and to protect their confidentiality. Leak prosecutions and seizures of journalists’ communications data not only jeopardizes particular sources, but can also frighten others with newsworthy information into staying silent.

But the confluence of recent events — which also include the Trump-era targeting of Democratic lawmakers and aides suspected of being reporters’ sources, and extraordinary gag orders imposed on Times and CNN executives in fights over data that spilled into the Biden era, all of which an inspector general is investigating — has brought into focus how fragile the protections for journalism are in the 21st century.

 

G7 Summit, Other World News 

ny times logog7 logo uk 2021New York Times, Live Updates: G7 Summit Ends in Broad Agreement, With Edges Blunted, Staff Reports, June 13, 2021. The world’s wealthiest large democracies issued a joint communiqué that stressed the need for drastic action to end the pandemic, combat climate change and counter China. But differences on how to meet those challenges remained.

  • Global summit marks a return of international diplomacy.
  • China warns that a ‘small’ bloc of nations does not dictate global policy.
  • President Biden and Jill Biden will meet with the queen at Windsor Castle.
  • In pictures: Queen Elizabeth II’s meetings with U.S. presidents

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: G-7 summit wraps up; Biden to meet Queen Elizabeth II, Amy B Wang, June 13, 2021. Did Biden give Boris Johnson a $6,000 bike and get a Wikipedia printout in return? Not exactly.

President Biden will participate in two more sessions with Group of Seven leaders Sunday in Cornwall, England, wrapping up the final day of the G-7 summit and marking the mid-point of his first trip abroad as president.

On the way to the plenary sessions in Carbis Bay Sunday morning, Biden made an unannounced visit to attend mass at a Catholic church in St. Ives.

After the G-7 sessions conclude, Biden will hold a news conference at Cornwall Airport Newquay, shortly before flying to London. There, he and first lady Jill Biden will meet with Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor Castle. Later Sunday, Biden will travel to Brussels.

Palmer Report, Opinion: A tale of two heads of state, Robert Harrington, right, June 13, 2021. Vanity Fair to the contrary, Joe Biden is the 12th (and not 13th) US President that Her Majesty the Queen has met in robert harringtnn portraitperson. Since ascending to the throne at the death of her father George VI in February of 1952, Queen Elizabeth II has met every president but one, starting with Harry Truman. Somehow Lyndon Johnson never got around to it.

Most of you are like me, in that you have never known a day in your lives when Elizabeth II wasn’t the Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. But say what you will about the monarchy, and I must confess my feelings are mixed, it’s a rare thing for any public figure to go so long without screwing up badly. Second only to the President of the United States in fame and power, Britain’s monarchs occupy a rarified stratosphere of social and political clout.

bill palmer report logo headerThe much-repeated notion that the Queen is a faint vestigial anachronism with little to no actual power is rubbish. The Royal Prerogative includes, among others, the power to appoint and dismiss ministers, declare war, make peace, and direct the actions of the military. In theory, anyway.

All of which is to say that supreme governmental power can and will be abused if it’s ever in the wrong hands, and with the Queen we have been lucky. Her proclivity for keeping her opinions to herself and her weekly meetings with the Prime Minister private are legendary. With Elizabeth you have to look long and carefully to find the smallest crack between her priorities and her antipathies.

For example, Her willingness to come to the G7 and meet Joe Biden is one difference between her treatment of this President and the former one. When Trump came here the Queen was content to remain at home and go through the agonising formalities of entertaining him in situ. But she eagerly seeks out Biden. This is no accident.

Clearly the Queen disliked the Former Guy. But she was devoted to her duties and put aside her personal feelings in the interest of the nation. And it’s also clear she likes Biden. She will probably never come out and say as much expressly, but there is much evidence there if you look carefully at her public actions.

Right now there are no Trumps on the horizon in the immediate succession to the British monarchy. Unfortunately there are plenty of Trumps on America’s horizon. Once again we got lucky with Trump because he was too stupid and lazy to do what he really wanted to do, become President for Life with absolute power. We have to make sure that the law makes another Trump impossible while we have the power to do so.

washington post logoWashington Post, Russia, U.S. and other countries reach new pact against cyber hacking, even as attacks continue, Ellen Nakashima and Joseph Marks, June 13, 2021 (print ed.). President Biden is on an eight-day trip to Europe that will culminate in a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday.

Russia and the United States — along with 23 other countries — recently reaffirmed that states should not hack each other’s critical infrastructure in peacetime or shelter cyber criminals who conduct attacks on other countries.

But Russia, which was among the states originally agreeing to the norms at the United Nations, has violated them repeatedly over the years. Experts are skeptical those violations will halt unless the United States and its allies impose far more serious consequences.

ny times logoNew York Times, Tumult Disrupts Israeli Parliament as Netanyahu Era Ends, Roger Cohen and Adam Rasgon, June 13, 2021. Naftali Bennett, heckled and insulted, replaced Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister by the narrowest of margins.

Heckling and mayhem in the Knesset, an intimate parliamentary chamber transformed by anger, marked the end of Benjamin Netanyahu’s divisive 12-year rule over Israel and the start of Naftali Bennett’s term as prime minister.

Mr. Bennett, a hard-right politician whose decision to join an eight-party coalition including left-wing parties has enraged Mr. Netanyahu’s center-right Likud party, struggled for 43 minutes to make himself heard as his opponents hurled abuse and held up posters saying, “Shame on you.”

Mr. Netanyahu gave a 35-minute speech full of venom, contempt for Mr. Bennett and dire warnings about Israel’s security without him.

“Try to damage as little as possible of the magnificent economy we are handing over to you, so that we can fix it as fast as possible when we return,” he said in a typically unapologetic speech that oozed scorn and confidence that he would soon be back.

A measure of calm returned only after several hours as voting began in the 120-member Israeli Parliament. The sound of “Ba’ad,” meaning “in favor,” and “Neged,” meaning “against,” alternated. The vote yielded a razor-thin 60-to-59 victory for the new coalition, with one abstention from a member of the Islamist party Raam, which is joining the government.

Mr. Netanyahu, wearing a black mask, was impassive, even when members of Israel’s new government congregated around its centrist architect, Yair Lapid, and embraced.

An era had ended, just.

Earlier, proceedings had slowed to a crawl as yelling filled the chamber.

At least seven members of Parliament were escorted out. They accused Mr. Bennett of being unfit to lead Israel because his party, Yamina, has only a handful of seats; told him he was “selling” the Negev desert because he has agreed to accommodate some demands made by Arab lawmakers about Bedouin villages; and assailed him as a “liar” and traitor to his right-wing voters.

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: Why the Mexico City Metro Collapsed, Natalie Kitroeff, Maria Abi-Habib, James Glanz, Oscar Lopez, Weiyi Cai, Evan Grothjan, Miles Peyton and Alejandro Cegarra, June 13, 2021. A New York Times investigation — based on years of government records, interviews with people who worked on the construction, and expert analysis of evidence from the crash site — has found serious flaws in the basic construction of the metro that appear to have led directly to its collapse.

The disaster has already spiraled into a political crisis, threatening to ensnare two of the nation’s most powerful figures: the president’s foreign secretary, Marcelo Ebrard, and one of the world’s wealthiest businessmen, Carlos Slim.

Mr. Ebrard was mayor of Mexico City when the new metro line, known as the “Golden Line,” was built, a heralded expansion of the second largest subway in the Americas that could boost his credentials for a possible presidential run. And Mr. Slim’s construction company, Carso Infrastructure and Construction, built the portion of the line that collapsed — the firm’s first rail project, paving the way for more.

The Times took thousands of photographs of the crash site and shared the evidence with several leading engineers who reached the same conclusion: The steel studs that were vital to the strength of the overpass — linchpins of the entire structure — appear to have failed because of bad welds, critical mistakes that likely caused the crash.

 

Virus Victims, Response

emergent biosolutions logo

ny times logoNew York Times, F.D.A. Details Failures at Baltimore Plant That Led to Unusable Vaccine Doses, Sharon LaFraniere, June 13, 2021 (print ed.). The F.D.A. offered the most extensive explanation to date of why it believes 75 million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine cannot be safely used.

A Baltimore factory that rendered useless 75 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson failed for weeks to seal off a preparation area for vaccine ingredients and allowed production waste to be hauled through the area, the Food and Drug Administration said in a memorandum analyzing the plant’s operations.

The memo, posted on the agency’s website late Friday, offered the most extensive explanation to date of why regulators believe that tens of millions of doses of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine produced at that factory must be discarded.

fda logoThe F.D.A. advised Johnson & Johnson on Friday that it should throw out the equivalent of 60 million doses. That brought to 75 million the total number of doses that cannot be used because of concerns about contamination at a southeastern Baltimore plant, operated by Emergent BioSolutions, Johnson & Johnson’s subcontractor and a longtime government contractor.

johnson johnson logoThe vaccine-making factory has been shut for the past two months while regulators determine the cause of contamination that ruined many doses, whether it is safe to reopen the facility, and what to do with the equivalent of at least 170 million doses of vaccine that Emergent produced for Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca, another vaccine developer.

The F.D.A.’s memo stated that Emergent failed to properly segregate zones in which workers manufactured vaccines developed by Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca in order to prevent cross-contamination that could render doses unsafe or ineffective. It was written by Dr. Peter Marks, the F.D.A.’s top vaccine regulator, and was addressed to Johnson & Johnson.

washington post logocovad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Washington Post, 173.4 million U.S. vaccinated, as of June 13, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, covering 61.9 % of the eligible population,12 and older and 52.2 % of the total population. See about your state. 

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated June 13, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here): 

World Cases: 176,485,053, Deaths: 3,812,244
U.S. Cases:     34,315,873, Deaths:    614,955
India Cases:    29,439,989, Deaths:    370,407
Brazil Cases:   17,376,998, Deaths:    486,358 

  

Pentagon Papers 50th Anniversary 

ny times logoNew York Times, Special Report: The Secrets and Lies of the Vietnam War, Exposed in One Epic Document, Elizabeth Becker, June 13, 2021 (print ed.).  With the Pentagon Papers revelations, the U.S. public’s trust in the government was forever diminished.

Brandishing a captured Chinese machine gun, Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara appeared at a televised news conference in the spring of 1965. The United States had just sent its first combat troops to South Vietnam, and the new push, he boasted, was further wearing down the beleaguered Vietcong.

“In the past four and one-half years, the Vietcong, the Communists, have lost 89,000 men,” he said. “You can see the heavy drain.”

That was a lie. From confidential reports, McNamara knew the situation was “bad and deteriorating” in the South. “The VC have the initiative,” the information said. “Defeatism is gaining among the rural population, somewhat in the cities, and even among the soldiers.”

Lies like McNamara’s were the rule, not the exception, throughout America’s involvement in Vietnam. The lies were repeated to the public, to Congress, in closed-door hearings, in speeches and to the press. The real story might have remained unknown if, in 1967, McNamara had not commissioned a secret history based on classified documents — which came to be known as the Pentagon Papers.

By then, he knew that even with nearly 500,000 U.S. troops in theater, the war was at a stalemate. He created a research team to assemble and analyze Defense Department decision-making dating back to 1945. This was either quixotic or arrogant. As secretary of defense under Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, McNamara was an architect of the war and implicated in the lies that were the bedrock of U.S. policy.

daniel ellsberg umassDaniel Ellsberg (shown in a recent University of Massachusetts photo), an analyst on the study, eventually leaked portions of the report to The New York Times, which published excerpts in 1971. The revelations in the Pentagon Papers infuriated a country sick of the war, the body bags of young Americans, the photographs of Vietnamese civilians fleeing U.S. air attacks and the endless protests and counterprotests that were dividing the country as nothing had since the Civil War.

The lies revealed in the papers were of a generational scale, and, for much of the American public, this grand deception seeded a suspicion of government that is even more widespread today.

Officially titled “Report of the Office of the Secretary of Defense Vietnam Task Force,” the papers filled 47 volumes, covering the administrations of President Franklin D. Roosevelt to President Lyndon B. Johnson. Their 7,000 pages chronicled, in cold, bureaucratic language, how the United States got itself mired in a long, costly war in a small Southeast Asian country of questionable strategic importance.

They are an essential record of the first war the United States lost. For modern historians, they foreshadow the mind-set and miscalculations that led the United States to fight the “forever wars” of Iraq and Afghanistan.

ny times logoNew York Times, Times Insider: Thinking Often of the Pentagon Papers, Terence McGinley, June 13, 2021 (print ed.). This weekend, a special section in The Times commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Pentagon Papers. Here, contributors to the project reflect on how the secret study’s publication influenced their careers.

Fifty years ago today, The Times published the first article in its series on the Pentagon Papers, the Defense Department’s secret study of the United States’ role in Vietnam. The papers, including private revelations that ran counter to the public optimism of leaders, changed American journalism and a nation’s relationship with its government. The Nixon administration’s attempt to stop The Times from printing its series, and the Supreme Court decision that allowed the paper to continue, is a landmark First Amendment case. In a special section, rolled out online last week and in newspapers this weekend, Times journalists and contributors wrote about these themes. Here’s what they think about when the Pentagon Papers come to mind.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Leaking the Pentagon Papers Was an Assault on Democracy, Gabriel Schoenfeld (author of “Necessary Secrets: National Security, the Media, and the Rule of Law”), June 13, 2021 (print ed.). The way we control secrets has been established by Congress and the executive branch, both accountable to the public and the courts. Daniel Ellsberg, accountable to no one, took it upon himself to steer the ship of state.

It is an axiom that governmental secrecy is antithetical to democratic self-rule. But it is also an axiom that secrecy is crucial to the conduct of statecraft. The 50th anniversary of the publication of the Pentagon Papers by The New York Times provides an occasion to consider what happens when the two axioms collide. The case of Daniel Ellsberg, perhaps the most celebrated leaker in our history, reveals the ambiguities stemming from a tension that can never be satisfactorily resolved.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Secrets That Were No Secret, Lessons That Were Not Learned, Andrew J. Bacevich, June 13, 2021 (print ed.). As a soldier in Vietnam, I already knew what the Pentagon Papers revealed. In the years since, America's leaders have repeated the same mistakes.

When The New York Times began publishing the Pentagon Papers 50 years ago, I don’t recall giving the story much attention. As a young Army lieutenant serving in South Vietnam, I did not need a classified account of America’s reckless involvement in the war to tell me that I was participating in a misbegotten enterprise. Abundant evidence was in plain sight.

In the field, a dangerous and elusive enemy lurked. Hardly less dangerous were pathologies imported from a radicalized and bitterly divided home front: drug use, a poisonous racial climate and contempt for authority. Equally disturbing was the average G.I.’s palpably low regard for the Vietnamese people on whose behalf we were ostensibly fighting.

In the ensuing decades, my appreciation for the revelations of the Pentagon Papers has grown. The portrait of fallible policymakers at the highest levels of government rendering judgments based on little more than ill-informed conjecture, while concealing their ignorance behind a veil of secrecy, has lost little of its ability to shock.

Mr. Bacevich is a veteran of the Vietnam War, a retired Army colonel, an emeritus professor at Boston University and the president of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. He is the author of “After the Apocalypse: America’s Role in a World Transformed” and has written extensively on the misuse of American military power.

 

Pro-Trump Capitol Insurrection

washington post logoWashington Post, Chicago officer charged in Jan. 6 riot wore a police sweatshirt to the Capitol, U.S. alleges, Tom Jackman, June 13, 2021 (print ed.). A Chicago police officer was arrested Friday morning and charged with two misdemeanor counts tied to his alleged participation in the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, where he apparently wore a Chicago police sweatshirt and took a selfie inside a senator’s office.

Karol J. Chwiesiuk, 29, was charged after FBI agents learned his phone had been inside the Capitol on Jan. 6 and then found photos he had sent to a friend along with texts such as “We inside the capitol” and “Knocked out a commie last night,” according to court documents.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and a number of civil rights leaders in the city, including Jesse Jackson, appeared at the news conference to denounce the sentiments allegedly expressed by Chwiesiuk, an officer for two years.

“You will not be paid by the taxpayers of this community,” Lightfoot said, “to be a hateful member of our community.”

Chwiesiuk is charged with knowingly entering or remaining on restricted grounds without lawful entry and violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds. He is not accused of attacking police or vandalizing property.

Chwiesiuk appears to be at least the 19th current or former member of law enforcement to be arrested in the investigation into Jan. 6. On Thursday, a former police chief in La Habra, Calif., Alan Hostetter, also was arrested.

 Igor Fruman, top left, and Lev Parnas, two Soviet-born associates of Rudy Giuliani, President Trump’s personal attorney at bottom of a Wall Street Journal graphic above by Laura Kammermann, appear to be deeply involved in the Ukraine scandal.

Trump Counsel Rudolph Giuliani, center, with businessman Lev Parnas, above right, and their colleague Ignor Fruman, with Parnas and Fruman arrested while boarding a flight to Vienna from Dulles Airport.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Actually, Merrick Garland DOJ’s is closing in on the Trump regime, Bill Palmer, right, June 13, 2021. Over the past week or two, a lot of liberal pundits (on TV and online) have decided to bill palmercollectively push the narrative that Attorney General Merrick Garland is either incapable of going after the Trump regime, or working with the Trump regime. This stuff is approaching conspiracy theory levels of ridiculousness, all in the name of garnering ratings and retweets.

Yet in spite of the absurdity, the pundits have driven home the narrative that Garland’s DOJ isn’t doing anything about the Trump regime. Here’s the thing: that’s fictional, and easily disproven.

bill palmer report logo headerBased on publicly available reporting, we all know that the DOJ was closing in on Rudy Giuliani in 2019 – going as far as arresting two of his operatives – before Bill Barr stepped in and killed the criminal case against Rudy.

But now that Barr is gone and Merrick Garland is in charge, the DOJ has clearly brought the Rudy case back to life in aggressive fashion, going so far as to raid his home and seize his devices. Moreover, it’s been widely reported that The DOJ is specifically pursuing Rudy for his role in the Trump-Ukraine scandal.

The only reason Rudy hasn’t been arrested yet is that the courts just recently appointed a special master to parse the seized communications and determine what’s suitable to be turned over to prosecutors. But given the current state of the probe, Rudy will certainly be indicted and arrested sometime this year.

Merrick Garland’s DOJ has also raided the home of another Trump-connected lawyer, Victoria Toensing, who also played a role in the Trump-Ukraine scandal.

You have to go out of your way to ignore the facts in order to claim that “nothing is being done” and that “Trump and his people are getting away with it all.” But then again, the angry mouth foaming defeatist types always ignore the facts that don’t fit their narrative, particularly when they try to convince others to become defeatists.

Should this go faster? Yes. Can it go faster? No. Is enough being done? We don’t know the totality of what all is or isn’t being done. Should we push Garland to do more? Of course. But keep it realistic. If you start demanding magic wand solutions that aren’t even real, such as arresting someone immediately when the criminal case isn’t even complete yet, then no serious person will listen to you.

But why haven’t members of Congress been arrested yet for the insurrection? No jury would convict them based on their words alone. It’s why you arrest 500 capitol invaders and hope one or more of them has proof that the Congress members were directly conspiring with them.

There’s no basis yet for concluding that members of Congress will, or will not, be indicted for January 6th. But if they are going to be indicted, what we’re currently seeing would be the process. That door hasn’t closed, not even by an inch.

In any case, it’s well documented that Merrick Garland’s DOJ is criminally pursuing Team Trump from a number of angles, and in some instances rather aggressively. That’s in addition to any DOJ criminal cases we don’t know about. Keep up the pressure on Garland. But you’re not helping things if you’re making claims about him that are easily disputed by the available facts.

 

 U.S. Crime, Courts, Law

washington post logoWashington Post, Man gets 10-year sentence for attacking and coughing on person who asked him to pull up mask, Timothy Bella, June 13, 2021 (print ed.). Shane Wayne Michael allegedly coughed and spit on an Iowa man and said, referring to covid-19, “If I have it, you have it!”

While shopping for eyeglasses in Des Moines last year, Shane Wayne Michael was approached by a patron and asked what’s become a familiar question during the coronavirus pandemic: Can you pull your mask over your nose? But Michael, whose nose was exposed inside Vision 4 Less, did not take kindly to the question in November, according to a criminal complaint.

What happened next, police say, was a parking-lot fight in which Michael attacked Mark Dinning’s eyes and genitals. Dinning told authorities that Michael then pulled down his mask and began to cough and spit in his face.

washington post logoWashington Post, At least 14 injured in shooting in Austin’s entertainment district, Timothy Bella, June 13, 2021 (print ed.). One suspect is in custody, and another remained at large, the Austin Police Department said. The motive is unclear.

June 12

Top Headlines

 

More On U.S. Privacy, Elections, Voting Rights  

 

G7 Summit, Other World News

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

Media, Religion, Cultural News  

 

Trump Watch

 

U.S. Crime, Courts, Race 

 

Top Stories

g7 group photo uk resized 2021

G7 leaders representing major democracies plus the European Union pose in a socially distanced manner at their meeting at Cornwall, England hosted by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, center. Others, from left, are: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, European Council President Charles Michel, President Biden, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, French President Emmanuel Macron, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and German Chancellor Angela Merkel pose at the start of the G-7 summit in Carbis Bay on June 11 (Patrick Semansky / Pool Photo / via Reuters).

ny times logoNew York Times, G7 Live Updates: Leaders Pledge to Donate 1 Billion Covid Vaccine Doses, Marc Santora, June 12, 2021 (print ed.). The leaders of the world’s wealthiest democracies are expected to pledge one billion doses of Covid vaccines to poor and middle-income countries on Friday as part of a campaign to “vaccinate the world” by the end of 2022.

The stakes could hardly be higher.

g7 logo uk 2021“This is about our responsibility, our humanitarian obligation, to save as many lives as we can,” President Biden said in a speech in England on Thursday evening, before the meeting of the Group of 7 wealthy democracies. “When we see people hurting and suffering anywhere around the world, we seek to help any way we can.”It is not just a race to save lives, restart economies and lift restrictions that continue to take an immeasurable toll on people around the globe.

Since Mr. Biden landed in Europe for the start of his first presidential trip abroad on Wednesday, he has made it clear that this is a moment when democracies must prove that they can rise to meet the world’s gravest challenges. And they must do so in a way the world can see, as autocrats and strongmen — particularly in Russia and China — promote their systems of governance as superior.

Yet the notion of “vaccine diplomacy” can easily be intertwined with “vaccine nationalism,” which the World Health Organization has warned could ultimately limit the global availability of vaccines.

President-elect Joe Biden (Gage Skidmore photo via Flickr).When Mr. Biden, left, announced on Thursday that the U.S. would donate of 500 million Pfizer-BioNTech doses, the president said they would be provided with “no strings attached.”

“We’re doing this to save lives, to end this pandemic,” he said. “That’s it. Period.”

But even as wealthy democracies move to step up their efforts, the scale of the challenge is enormous.

Covax, the global vaccine-sharing program, still remains underfunded and billions of doses short.

 anthony fauci graphic Custom

ny times logoNew York Times, Daily Distortions: No, Fauci is not profiting from a coming book on lessons he’s learned from his public service, Davey Alba, June 12, 2021 (print ed.). In the past few days, after the listing for a coming book by Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the Biden administration’s top adviser on Covid-19, was taken down from Amazon’s and Barnes & Noble’s websites, right-wing outlets and social media commentators spread the rumor that the it had been removed because of public backlash to the idea of Dr. Fauci’s “profiteering” from the pandemic.

In truth, Dr. Fauci (shown above in a file photo) is not making any money from the book, which is about lessons he has learned during his decades in public service, and the listing was pulled for a simple reason: the publisher had posted it too early.

Dr. Fauci “will not earn any royalties from its publication and was not paid” for the book, Expect the Unexpected, said Ann Day, a spokeswoman for National Geographic Books, its publisher. She said Dr. Fauci also would not earn anything for a related documentary. (Dr. Fauci did not respond to a request for comment.)

The book, which compiles interviews and speeches given by Dr. Fauci during his 37 years as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was taken off the websites because “it was prematurely posted for presale,” Ms. Day said. She added that proceeds would “go back to the National Geographic Society to fund work in the areas of science, exploration, conservation and education and to reinvest in content.”

In a statement, the national institute noted that the book had not been written by Dr. Fauci himself. The institute also confirmed that he would not earn any royalties from its publication.

The falsehood about the book and Dr. Fauci spread widely online. On May 31, the right-wing outlet The Daily Caller published an article about the book’s appearing for presale online. Some conservative Republicans, including Representatives Andy Biggs of Arizona and Dan Bishop of North Carolina, seized on the article and claimed without evidence that Dr. Fauci would be profiting from the book.

ny times logoNew York Times, How Severe Is the Western Drought? See for Yourself, Nadja Popovich, June 12, 2021 (print ed.). Maps show that drought conditions are the most widespread and severe in at least 20 years, with reservoirs running dry.

An intense drought is gripping the American West. Extreme conditions are more widespread than at any point in at least 20 years, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, the government’s official drought-tracking service. And the hottest months of summer are still to come.

 

More On U.S. Privacy, Elections, Voting Rights   

ny times logoNew York Times, Justice Dept. Will Investigate Trump-Era Seizure of Lawmakers’ Data, Nicholas Fandos and Charlie Savage, June 12, 2021 (print ed.). Democrats denounced the Trump administration’s seizure of the data as an abuse of power and called on Republicans to back a congressional inquiry.

The Justice Department’s independent inspector general opened an investigation on Friday into the decision by federal prosecutors to secretly seize the data of House Democrats and reporters as investigators hunted down who was leaking classified information early in the Trump administration.

Justice Department log circularAt the same time, top Senate Democrats demanded that the former attorneys general Jeff Sessions and William P. Barr testify publicly before Congress about the leak investigations, including about subpoenas issued to tech companies in 2017 and 2018 for the records of at least a dozen people tied to the House Intelligence Committee. The senators vowed to “vigorously investigate” and called on Republicans to join them.

Apple, which complied with a subpoena for information related to more than 100 email addresses and phone numbers in February 2018, said on Friday that it did not realize that the records belonged to Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, and his associates. Microsoft said it was also subpoenaed by a grand jury as early as November 2017 for data related to an email account for an aide to the panel.

Democrats and privacy advocates denounced the exceedingly unusual seizures related to Congress, reported on Thursday by The New York Times, as an abuse of power. Some called on lawmakers to pursue legal changes to crack down on the kind of gag orders used for years to keep companies from disclosing the subpoenas. Others urged the Justice Department to punish investigators who sought the records.

“I hope every prosecutor who was involved in this is thrown out of the department,” said Representative Eric Swalwell of California, a Democrat on the intelligence panel whose records were also seized. “It crosses the line of what we do in this country.”

The episode added fuel to accusations of politicization in the Trump-era Justice Department, where federal prosecutors seemingly gave lenient treatment to some of the former president’s allies and targeted reporters and Democrats he reviled as the administration sought to stop leaks about Trump associates and Russia.

ny times logoNew York Times, The leak investigation has placed tech giants at the center of a political firestorm, Jack Nicas, Daisuke Wakabayashi and Katie Benner, June 12, 2021 (print ed.). Apple, under fire for turning over the data of two lawmakers to the Trump Justice Dept., said it did so unknowingly, while Google fought a request for New York Times data because it related to a corporate client.

On Feb. 6, 2018, Apple received a grand jury subpoena for the names and phone records connected to 109 email addresses and phone numbers. It was one of the more than 250 data requests that the company received on average from U.S. law enforcement each week at the time. An Apple paralegal complied and provided the information.

This year, a gag order on the subpoena expired. Apple said it alerted the people who were the subjects of the subpoena, just as it does with dozens of customers each day.

But this request was out of the ordinary.

apple logo rainbowWithout knowing it, Apple said, it had handed over the data of congressional staff members, their families and at least two members of Congress, including Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, then the House Intelligence Committee’s top Democrat and now its chairman. It turned out the subpoena was part of a wide-ranging investigation by the Trump administration into leaks of classified information.

The revelations have now plunged Apple into the middle of a firestorm over the Trump administration’s efforts to find the sources of news stories, and the handling underscores the flood of law enforcement requests that tech companies increasingly contend with. The number of these requests has soared in recent years to thousands a week, putting Apple and other tech giants like Google and Microsoft in an uncomfortable position between law enforcement, the courts and the customers whose privacy they have promised to protect.

The companies regularly comply with the requests because they are legally required to do so. The subpoenas can be vague, so Apple, Google and others are often unclear on the nature or subject of an investigation. They can challenge some of the subpoenas if they are too broad or if they relate to a corporate client. In the first six months of 2020, Apple challenged 238 demands from the government for its customers’ account data, or 4 percent of such requests.

google logo customAs part of the same leak investigation by the Trump administration, Google fought a gag order this year on a subpoena to turn over data on the emails of four New York Times reporters. Google argued that its contract as The Times’s corporate email provider required it to inform the newspaper of any government requests for its emails, said Ted Boutrous, an outside lawyer for The Times.

But more frequently than not, the companies comply with law enforcement demands. And that underlines an awkward truth: As their products become more central to people’s lives, the world’s largest tech companies have become surveillance intermediaries and crucial partners to authorities, with the power to arbitrate which requests to honor and which to reject.

“There is definitely tension,” said Alan Z. Rozenshtein, an associate professor at the University of Minnesota’s law school and a former Justice Department lawyer. He said given the “insane amount of data these companies have” and how everyone has a smartphone, most law enforcement investigations “at some point involve these companies.”

On Friday, the Justice Department’s independent inspector general opened an investigation into the decision by federal prosecutors to secretly seize the data of House Democrats and reporters. Top Senate Democrats also demanded that the former attorneys general William P. Barr and Jeff Sessions testify before Congress about the leak investigations, specifically about the subpoena issued to Apple and another to Microsoft.

Fred Sainz, an Apple spokesman, said in a statement that the company regularly challenged government data requests and informed affected customers as soon as it legally could.

“In this case, the subpoena, which was issued by a federal grand jury and included a nondisclosure order signed by a federal magistrate judge, provided no information on the nature of the investigation, and it would have been virtually impossible for Apple to understand the intent of the desired information without digging through users’ accounts,” he said. “Consistent with the request, Apple limited the information it provided to account subscriber information and did not provide any content such as emails or pictures.”

In a statement, Microsoft said it received a subpoena in 2017 related to a personal email account. It said it notified the customer after the gag order expired and learned that the person was a congressional staff member. “We will continue to aggressively seek reform that imposes reasonable limits on government secrecy in cases like this,” the company said.

 Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), WMR also targeted by Trump DoJ, Wayne Madsen, June 12, 2021. As a reminder, WMR was also a target of Donald Trump’s misuse of the Justice Department to seek wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallwayne madesen report logocommunications metadata on CNN, The New York Times, and Democratic members of Congress. We reported on these subpoeanas last May.

Last year, the following emails were received from Microsoft (shown below) and Apple concerning Attorney General William Barr's private communications subpoena action: 

From: Microsoft User Notification <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.;
Date: May 27, 2020 at 12:34:51 PM EDT
To: "This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it." <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.;
Subject: Microsoft Notification of Legal Process – GCC-1160500-V0W7F0

Hello,

Microsoft received a legal demand from the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on 29 March 2019 for data related to your Email account This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. The request was served by U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Microsoft complied with the legal demand by providing responsive data on 10 April 2019.

The legal demand contained a non-disclosure order of limited duration. This non-disclosure prohibition has expired and Microsoft is now able to notify you of the existence of this legal demand.

Pursuant to Microsoft policy found here: https://blogs.microsoft.com/datalaw/our-practices/#does-microsoft-notify-users, Microsoft gives notice to users whose data is sought by a law enforcement agency or other governmental entity, except where prohibited by law.

Regards,

Law Enforcement National Security
Microsoft Corporation

Palmer Report, Opinion: It’s time to start talking about a Special Counsel, Bill Palmer, right, June 12, 2021. When Republican Senators voted down a bipartisan January 6th commission a couple weeks ago, a bill palmernumber of observers called for a Special Counsel to be appointed instead. This made zero sense, given that the Democrats are going to end up appointing a January 6th committee anyway. It was also gibberish, given that Special Counsels run criminal investigations, not congressional probes, and that the Department of Justice is already running a wide scale January 6th investigation that’s already resulted in hundreds of arrests.

As I explained at the time, there is only a very narrow scenario in which a Special Counsel is appropriate: when the DOJ itself has too much of a conflict of interest to be able to properly investigate a criminal scandal. But as these things sometimes go, now we suddenly have a situation where the Special Counsel statute could very much apply.

bill palmer report logo headerThis week we all learned that the Trump-era DOJ illegally spied on the personal data of multiple House Democrats and their families. In response the Deputy Attorney General has asked the DOJ Inspector General to launch an investigation. This is a good step. But what happens once the Inspector General issues a report confirming that certain people who merrick garlandstill work in the DOJ were a part of the spying scandal? What about perpetrators who no longer work at the DOJ, but have friends who do?

There’s where a Special Counsel comes in. Merrick Garland, right, can appoint an outside prosecutor to take the IG report and use it to criminally prosecute any current and former DOJ officials who participated in this spying scandal. That way, if and when the indictments start flying at people like Bill Barr or Rod Rosenstein, it’s coming from an outside Special Counsel, thus avoiding the awkwardness of the DOJ criminally prosecuting its own recent former leaders.

The appointment of a Special Counsel doesn’t necessarily need to happen immediately. The DOJ Inspector General has proven himself to be thorough and fair in previous investigations. But once his work is done, it’ll be difficult to imagine the DOJ prosecuting itself in this scandal. At the least, we’re at a point where we should be talking about a Special Counsel.

nancy pelosi chuck schumer cropped jan 8 2019 screengrab

ny times logoNew York Times, Schumer Demands That Barr Testify About Seizure of Lawmakers’ Data, Staff Reports, June 12, 2021 (print ed.). Democrats including Senator Chuck Schumer  (shown above in a file photo with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi) said the actions by William Barr and other Trump officials were a gross abuse of power.

Top Senate Democrats on Friday demanded that former Attorney General William P. Barr, right, and other Justice Department officials testify before the Judiciary Committee about their extraordinary william barr new odecision to secretly seize data from the accounts of House Democrats and their aides as they hunted for leaks of classified information.

Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, and Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the chairman of the judiciary panel, said they were willing to subpoena for testimony Mr. Barr, former Attorney General Jeff Session and others if necessary. They also announced they would “vigorously investigate” the department’s actions and called on Republicans to join them in the inquiry.

“This issue should not be partisan; under the Constitution, Congress is a coequal branch of government and must be protected from an overreaching executive, and we expect that our Republican colleagues will join us in getting to the bottom of this serious matter,” Mr. Schumer and Mr. Durbin said in a statement.

Their demands came as Democrats in both chambers decried the seizures and aggressive investigative tactics, first reported by The New York Times on Thursday, as a gross abuse of power to target another branch of government. They said the pursuit of information on some of President Donald J. Trump’s most visible political adversaries in Congress smacked of dangerous politicization.

So far, no prominent Republicans have joined Democrats in calling for investigations, which could make fact-finding more difficult. The attempt by Mr. Schumer and Mr. Durbin to put pressure on them to stand up for Congress’s prerogatives reflected the fact that to issue subpoenas or compel testimony in an evenly divided Senate, Democrats would need at least some Republican support.

The Times reported that as it hunted for the source of leaks about Trump associates and Russia, the Justice Department had used grand jury subpoenas to compel Apple and one other service provider to hand over data tied to at least a dozen people associated with the House Intelligence Committee beginning in 2017 and 2018. The department then secured a gag order to keep it secret.

Though leak investigations are routine, current and former officials at the Justice Department and in Congress said seizing data on lawmakers is nearly unheard-of outside of corruption investigations. The Times also reported that after an initial round of scrutiny did not turn up evidence tying the intelligence committee to the leaks, Mr. Barr objected to closing out the inquiry and helped revive it.

Investigators gained access to the records of Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the committee and now its chairman; Representative Eric Swalwell of California; committee staff; and family members, including one who was a minor.

“I hope every prosecutor who was involved in this is thrown out of the department,” Mr. Swalwell, right, said in an interview on Friday. “It crosses the line of what we do in this country.”

“We have to figure out what and how it happened to determine the extent to which D.O.J. misused its powers under Trump for political purposes,” he continued. “I think it was absolutely a frontal assault on the independence of a coequal branch of government.”

Roll Call, Garland zeroes in on voting rights, Todd Ruger, June 11, 2021. Civil Rights Division expected to double size of enforcement staff as states debate and implement new voting laws. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland announced a broad new push Friday to enforce voting rights across the country, touching on politically contentious areas such as post-election audits, early voting, voting by mail, threats against election officials and redistricting after the 2020 census.

 

G7 Summit, Other World News

ny times logoNew York Times, G7 Live Updates: Biden and Putin Won’t Hold a Joint News Conference, Michael D. Shear, June 12, 2021. After President Biden meets his Russian counterpart on Wednesday, the two men will not face the press at a joint news conference, United States officials said on Saturday.

Instead, Mr. Biden will face the press by himself after two private sessions with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, a move designed to deny the Russian leader an international platform like the one he received during a 2018 summit in Helsinki with President Donald J. Trump.

g7 logo uk 2021“We expect this meeting to be candid and straightforward, and a solo press conference is the appropriate format to clearly communicate with the free press the topics that were raised in the meeting,” a U.S. official said in a statement sent to reporters, “both in terms of areas where we may agree and in areas where we have significant concerns.”

Top aides to Mr. Biden said that during negotiations over the meetings, to be held at an 18th-century Swiss villa on the shores of Lake Geneva, the Russian government was eager to have Mr. Putin join Mr. Biden in a news conference. But Biden administration officials said that they were mindful of how Mr. Putin seemed to get the better of Mr. Trump in Helsinki.

At that news conference, Mr. Trump publicly accepted Mr. Putin’s assurances that his government did not interfere with the 2016 election, taking the Russian president’s word rather than the assessments of his own intelligence officials.

The spectacle in 2018 drew sharp condemnations from across the political spectrum for providing an opportunity for Mr. Putin to spread falsehoods. Senator John McCain at the time called it “one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory.”

Mr. Putin has had a long and contentious relationship with United States presidents, who have sought to maintain relations with Russia even as the two nations clashed over nuclear weapons, aggression toward Ukraine and, more recently, cyberattacks and hacking.

President Barack Obama met several times with Mr. Putin, including at a joint appearance during the 2013 Group of 8 summit in Northern Ireland. Mr. Obama came under criticism at the time from rights groups for giving Mr. Putin a platform and for not challenging the Russian president more directly on human rights.

In the summer of 2001 — before the Sept. 11 terror attacks — President George W. Bush held a joint news conference with Mr. Putin at a summit in Slovenia. At the news conference, Mr. Bush famously said: “I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy. We had a very good dialogue. I was able to get a sense of his soul.”

At the time, then-Senator Biden said: “I don’t trust Mr. Putin; hopefully the president was being stylistic rather than substantive.”

Biden administration officials said on Saturday that the two countries were continuing to finalize the format for the meeting on Wednesday with Mr. Putin. They said that the current plan called for a working session involving top aides in addition to the two leaders, and a smaller session.

The news came as the annual Group of 7 leaders summit is underway in Cornwall, England, with the pandemic, climate change, China and Russia on the agenda. Biden will hold a solo news conference rather than pairing with Putin after their summit.

  • The G7 leaders get down to business, taking on climate change and the pandemic.
  • Leaders are set to outline a plan toward lowering the toll of future pandemics.
  • Merkel is the only female leader of a G7 nation at the summit. Again.
  • In pictures: Angela Merkel at summits through the years.
  • These gatherings once drew hundreds of thousands of protesters.
  • As leaders pledge to help the world tackle the pandemic, the U.K. faces its own tough questions. 

 

President Obama and Angela Merkel, at the G7 Summit at Schloss Elmau in Bavaria, Germany, June 8, 2015.

U.S. President Barack Obama talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the G7 Summit at Schloss Elmau in Bavaria, Germany, June 8, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

 ny times logoNew York Times, Angela Merkel, Anchor of European Stability, Stays Focused at Her Final G7, Melissa Eddy and Steven Erlanger, June 12, 2021. The German chancellor, known for her commitment to compromise, is eager to revive deal-making on multilateral policy. Can she be replaced?

german flagWhen Angela Merkel hosted world leaders at a beach resort on Germany’s Baltic Sea Coast in 2007, she was barely into her first term as chancellor, a relative neophyte in global affairs whose vivid green jacket among eight men in dark suits emphasized her status as the only woman in the club.

Angela MerkelBy the time the Group of 8 — Russia was still a member — had wrapped up the summit in Heiligendamm, Ms. Merkel, shown at right in a file photo, had signaled her future influence, putting her stamp on the proceedings by winning agreement from President George W. Bush, once a Texas oilman, that climate change was global threat.

Fourteen years later, Ms. Merkel, who plans to step down as chancellor after the German elections in September, is attending her final G7 summit, this time on the coast of Cornwall. Some things have changed (leaders are not disputing the threat of climate change anymore), and some things have not (Ms. Merkel remains the only elected female leader in the club).

World Crisis Radio, Opinion: Urged on by Biden, G-7 will offer developing countries a superior alternative to Beijing’s insidious Belt and Road debt trap! Webster G. Tarpley, right, June 12, 2021US leads G-7 in webster tarpley 2007pushback against China on human rights, Taiwan security, Covid-19 truth, pandemic preparedness, and supply chains; France’s Macron says he is on “same page” with President.

  • Department of Justice is not an independent state within the state, but must serve the general welfare; Officials who enabled Trump’s enemies’ list operations must be ousted;
  • Virginia and New Jersey primaries are won by moderates; Defund the police slogan losing ground; Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams leads as early voting begins in June 22 contest;
  • Frederick Douglass and Martin Luther King cannot be written out of American history to please ideologues of today!
  • A century after Oswald Spengler’s orgy of historical pessimism, clear signs of the resurgence of the West.

 

Virus Victims, Response

washington post logoWashington Post, YouTube suspends Ron Johnson for a week after GOP senator touts questionable drugs to fight covid-19, Felicia Sonmez and Amy B Wang, June 12, 2021 (print ed.). YouTube has suspended Sen. Ron Johnson, right, from uploading videos for one week after the Wisconsin Republican’s account shared a clip in which he touted the supposed benefits of hydroxychloroquine and another drug in fighting covid-19.

ron johnson oAccording to Fox News Channel, a YouTube spokesperson said the video was in violation of Google’s policy against medical misinformation.

“We removed the video in accordance with our COVID-19 medical misinformation policies, which don’t allow content that encourages people to use Hydroxychloroquine or Ivermectin to treat or prevent the virus,” the spokesperson said, according to Fox News.

For months, President Donald Trump had promoted hydroxychloroquine as a “game changer” for covid-19 and said he had taken the drug himself. But federal regulators have said it should be used only for hospitalized patients or in clinical trials, because of possible side effects, including serious heart-rhythm issues.

washington post logocovad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Washington Post, 172.8 million U.S. vaccinated, as of June 12, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, covering 61.7 % of the eligible population,12 and older and 52 % of the total population. See about your state. 

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated June 12, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here): 

World Cases: 176,104,156, Deaths: 3,802,165
U.S. Cases:     34,306,446, Deaths:    614,738
India Cases:    29,359,155, Deaths:    367,097
Brazil Cases:   17,301,220, Deaths:    484,350

 

Media, Religion, Cultural News  

From left, Sundar Pichai of Google, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Jack Dorsey of Twitter at House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on March 25, 2021 via YouTube.From left, Sundar Pichai of Google, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Jack Dorsey of Twitter testified remotely in March to the U.S. Congress (Photos via House Energy and Commerce Committee).

ny times logoNew York Times, Lawmakers, Taking Aim at Big Tech, Push Sweeping Overhaul of Antitrust, Cecilia Kang, June 12, 2021 (print ed.). A bipartisan group of House members introduced five bills that take direct aim at Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google.

House lawmakers on Friday introduced sweeping antitrust legislation aimed at restraining the power of Big Tech and staving off corporate consolidation across the economy, in what would be the most amazon logo smallambitious update to monopoly laws in decades.

The bills — five in total — take direct aim at Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google and their grip on online commerce, information and entertainment. The proposals would make it easier to break up businesses that use their dominance in one area to get a stronghold in another, would create new hurdles for acquisitions of nascent rivals, and would empower regulators with more funds to police companies.

“Right now, unregulated tech monopolies have too much power over our economy. They are in a unique position to pick winners and losers, destroy small businesses, raise prices on consumers and put folks out of work,” said Representative David Cicilline, Democrat of Rhode Island and chairman of the antitrust subcommittee. “Our agenda will level the playing field and ensure apple logo rainbowthe wealthiest, most powerful tech monopolies play by the same rules as the rest of us.”

The introduction of the bills, which have some bipartisan support, represents the most aggressive challenge yet from Capitol Hill to Silicon Valley’s tech giants, which have thrived for years without regulation or much restraint on the expansion of their business. Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google have a combined market capitalization of $6.3 trillion, four times more than the value of the country’s 10 largest banks.

washington post logoWashington Post, Secret recordings, leaked letters expose backroom dealings and rock the Southern Baptist Convention, Sarah Pulliam Bailey, June 12, 2021.On Tuesday, thousands of Southern Baptists will gather in Nashville to vote on issues that will shape the massive denomination’s future, including the choice of its next president.

Demands for political loyalty. Disputes about racism. A fight between conservatives and ultraconservatives. It sounds like current debates within the Republican Party, but on Tuesday, thousands of Southern Baptists will gather in Nashville to vote on issues that will shape the massive denomination’s future, including the choice of its next president.

More than 16,000 people are expected to attend the denomination’s annual meeting, probably the largest religious gathering since the pandemic, as well as the biggest Baptist meeting in decades.

What is especially unusual about the meeting is infighting at the highest levels of leadership that has become public in recent weeks. New details released to news media outlets have shined a light on the backroom dealings of several of its high-profile leaders.

 

Trump Watch

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden administration keeps long-sought Trump hotel documents under wraps, Jonathan O'Connell and David A. Fahrenthold, June 12, 2021 (print ed.). The Trump administration blocked Democrats’ efforts to unearth documents related to his leased D.C. hotel. Not much has changed under Biden.

For Donald Trump’s entire presidency, top congressional Democrats used every tool at their disposal to investigate the Washington hotel he leased from the federal government, issuing subpoenas, holding hearings and filing a lawsuit to try to bring the inner workings of Trump’s luxury property to light.

The efforts were framed as a defense of democracy itself. Rep. Peter A. DeFazio (D-Ore.) said the Trump administration’s refusal to provide documents “was not just disconcerting but an affront to the democratic institutions that the United States has been founded upon.” Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.) said the lawsuit, filed in federal court, was “in pursuit of justice to make sure our committee can fulfill its duty to the American people.”

None of it worked — a testament to Trump’s willingness to fight at every turn. But now, with the Biden administration in place, Democrats’ efforts to unearth and make public the information haven’t gone much better.

Biden’s team has steadfastly defended some of the protections the Trump administration put in place to conceal Trump’s financial interests. The Justice Department under Biden is appealing a lower court judgment in favor of the congressional Democrats in their suit, another move by the agency to defend Trump-era legal positions. Biden’s General Services Administration, which holds the lease for the Trump International hotel, has provided only a portion of the documents Congress is seeking and asked that none of them be disclosed publicly.

Trump’s company puts D.C. hotel lease up for sale, again

And as an investigation into Trump’s business dealings by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. advances, GSA staff has also declined to say whether the agency has been subpoenaed or contacted by investigators.

Government watchdogs say they are disappointed at the Biden administration’s unwillingness to hold Trump accountable for a unique — and in their view highly problematic — arrangement in which Trump’s administration managed a contract to a business entity he still owned and that his adult sons, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, oversaw.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: New questions about a key GOP impeachment witness for Trump, Aaron Blake, June 12, 2021 (print ed.). When President Donald Trump faced his first impeachment in 2019, Republicans focused on a firsthand witness who they claimed helped exonerate Trump: Kurt Volker, left.

kurt volkerBut new evidence calls into question a key portion of Volker’s testimony, in which he repeatedly downplayed personal knowledge that the investigations the Trump team sought in Ukraine involved now-President Biden.

Volker, who was Trump’s special envoy to Ukraine, was one of the “three amigos” tasked by Trump to work with Ukraine. Despite turning over text messages that detailed the pressure campaign on Ukraine to launch investigations related to the Bidens, Volker’s testimony was frequently highlighted by Trump allies. That’s because he said hadn’t been aware of a quid pro quo in which Ukraine would be given something for launching politically convenient investigations for Trump. And so the GOP called him as its witness.

“Ambassador Volker … confirmed what the President has repeatedly said: there was no quid pro quo,” Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) tweeted at one point.

 

U.S. Crime, Courts, Race  

washington post logo

Washington Post, Opinion: What Washington and Lee has embraced, Colbert I. King, right,June 12, 2021 (print ed.). Washington and Lee University’s board of trustees has decided to leave the school’s name unchanged, which is well within the board’s rights. The private college’s public case for sticking with Robert E. Lee is straightforward: He was a great benefactor who contributed to the colbert king twitterrestoration of the school after personally surrendering the old Confederacy at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865. Some alumni and university staff are groaning. But it’s the board’s business what the college calls itself.

It is the nation’s business, however, to record irrevocably that the Confederate army commander led a bloody fight that cost thousands upon thousands of lives, just to uphold a traitorous insurrection rooted in slavery.

What matters most to the board, so it seems, is Lee’s association with the history, values and traditions of the university. He went all out on behalf of the Lexington, Va., school, just as he was all in for the Union’s defeat.

As for people deprived of basic rights based on skin color, the army general and college president’s contribution to them was: Heap injustice upon injustice.

 

rod rosenstein cropped william barr screenshot april 18 2019

Palmer Report, Opinion: Turns out it was Rod Rosenstein all along, Bill Palmer, June 11, 2021. Over the course of four years, Jeff Sessions and Bill Barr, above left, each gave us an up-close look at their corrupt and villainous nature as Attorney General.

But who was the real heavy of the Trump-era DOJ? It’s really starting to look like it was the Deputy Attorney General who served under them both: Rod Rosenstein, above right.

bill palmer report logo headerNow that we’ve all learned the Trump DOJ illegally spied on multiple House Democrats, the blame game is already underway. A panelist on MSNBC has already stated that Bill Barr says he had nothing to do with it, and for reasons that are still mystifying, the media never does seem to question Barr’s honesty when he says these kinds of things.

But CNN is reporting that Jeff Sessions was not involved in the spying scandal, and while we’re not inclined to ever take Sessions, right, at his word either, this actually lines up with the jeff sessions ag oknown facts. Sessions was forced to recuse himself from the Trump-Russia investigation almost immediately, and because this illegal spying was done in the name of supposedly finding out who was leaking information about the Trump-Russia scandal, it wouldn’t have been Sessions who signed off on it. It would have been his Deputy, Rod Rosenstein.

Rosenstein would also have been responsible for the gag order that the DOJ placed against Apple, preventing it from publicly revealing that it had been forced to turn over the data of Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell. In other words, Rod Rosenstein was the heavy in this scandal, at least during the Sessions era.

This comes after we all learned last year that even though Rod Rosenstein was the one who appointed Robert Mueller as Special Counsel, it was Rosenstein who was secretly limiting and sabotaging Mueller’s investigation all along. So now we know that Rosenstein played a key role in the criminal spying scandal, and committed what appears to have been felony obstruction of justice in the Mueller probe. Rosenstein was the bad guy all along. Lock him up!

 

June 11

Top Headlines

 

More On U.S. Assaults On Elections, Voting Rights  

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

World News

 

Inside DC 

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

 

Trump Watch

 

U.S. Crime, Courts, Race 

 

Media News

 

Top Stories

djt william barr doj photo march 2019

ny times logoNew York Times, Hunting Leaks, Trump Officials Focused on Democrats in Congress, Katie Benner, Nicholas Fandos, Michael S. Schmidt and Adam Goldman, June 11, 2021 (print ed.). The Justice Department seized records from Apple for metadata of House Intelligence Committee members, their aides and family members.

As the Justice Department investigated who was behind leaks of classified information early in the Trump administration, it took a highly unusual step: Prosecutors subpoenaed Apple for data from the accounts of at least two Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee, aides and family members. One was a minor.

adam schiff squareAll told, the records of at least a dozen people tied to the committee were seized in 2017 and early 2018, including those of Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, right, then the panel’s top Democrat and now its chairman, according to committee officials and two other people briefed on the inquiry. Representative Eric Swalwell of California said in an interview Thursday night that he had also been notified that his data had subpoenaed.

american flag upside down distressProsecutors, under the beleaguered attorney general, Jeff Sessions, were hunting for the sources behind news media reports about contacts between Trump associates and Russia. Ultimately, the data and other evidence did not tie the committee to the leaks, and investigators debated whether they had hit a dead end and some even discussed closing the inquiry.

But William P. Barr, shown above, revived languishing leak investigations after he became attorney general a year later. He moved a trusted prosecutor from New Jersey with little relevant experience to the main Justice Department to work on the Schiff-related case and about a half-dozen others, according to three people with knowledge of his work who did not want to be identified discussing federal investigations.

The zeal in the Trump administration’s efforts to hunt leakers led to the extraordinary step of subpoenaing communications metadata from members of Congress — a nearly unheard-of move outside of corruption investigations. While Justice Department leak investigations are routine, current and former congressional officials familiar with the apple logo rainbowinquiry said they could not recall an instance in which the records of lawmakers had been seized as part of one.

Moreover, just as it did in investigating news organizations, the Justice Department secured a gag order on Apple that expired this year, according to a person familiar with the inquiry, so lawmakers did not know they were being investigated until Apple informed them last month.

Prosecutors also eventually secured subpoenas for reporters’ records to try to identify their confidential sources, a move that department policy allows only after all other avenues of inquiry are exhausted.

Palmer Report, Biden-appointed Deputy Attorney General tells DOJ Inspector General to investigate Trump DOJ spying scandal, Bill Palmer, right, June 11, 2021. When the disturbing news bill palmerbroke last night that the Trump DOJ spied on the personal data of multiple Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee, the defeatists insisted that nothing would be done about it. But now they’re already being proven wrong.

bill palmer report logo headerDeputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco has asked Department of Justice Inspector General Horowitz to open an investigation into the scandal, according to NBC News. This is a big deal, because the Inspector General is the highest ranking watchdog in the DOJ, and has independent authority to carry out an investigation that can’t be meddled with by any remaining Trump loyalists within the DOJ. Moreover, Horowitz has already previously demonstrated that he’s fair and honest in his past high profile probes.

The Inspector General’s report on the scandal will lay the groundwork for the firing of any Trump-era DOJ officials who acted improperly in this scandal and are still on the job. It will also lay the groundwork for any criminal charges that might arise from this scandal.

It’s also a big deal that the Deputy Attorney General, the second highest ranking official in the Department of Justice, is the one telling the Inspector General to do this. It will give serious weight and legitimacy to the Inspector General’s findings. And to be clear, the Deputy Attorney General would not be doing this unless she’s acting in concert with her boss, Attorney General Merrick Garland. Finally, the Department of Justice is moving forward with the “Justice” part.

g7 group photo uk resized 2021

G7 leaders representing major democracies plus the European Union pose in a socially distanced manner at their meeting at Cornwall, England hosted by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, center. Others, from left, are: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, European Council President Charles Michel, President Biden, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, French President Emmanuel Macron, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and German Chancellor Angela Merkel pose at the start of the G-7 summit in Carbis Bay on June 11 (Patrick Semansky / Pool Photo / via Reuters).

ny times logoNew York Times, G7 Live Updates: Leaders Will Pledge to Donate 1 Billion Covid Vaccine Doses, Marc Santora, June 11, 2021. The leaders of the world’s wealthiest democracies are expected to pledge one billion doses of Covid vaccines to poor and middle-income countries on Friday as part of a campaign to “vaccinate the world” by the end of 2022.

The stakes could hardly be higher.

g7 logo uk 2021“This is about our responsibility, our humanitarian obligation, to save as many lives as we can,” President Biden said in a speech in England on Thursday evening, before the meeting of the Group of 7 wealthy democracies. “When we see people hurting and suffering anywhere around the world, we seek to help any way we can.”It is not just a race to save lives, restart economies and lift restrictions that continue to take an immeasurable toll on people around the globe.

Since Mr. Biden landed in Europe for the start of his first presidential trip abroad on Wednesday, he has made it clear that this is a moment when democracies must prove that they can rise to meet the world’s gravest challenges. And they must do so in a way the world can see, as autocrats and strongmen — particularly in Russia and China — promote their systems of governance as superior.

Yet the notion of “vaccine diplomacy” can easily be intertwined with “vaccine nationalism,” which the World Health Organization has warned could ultimately limit the global availability of vaccines.

President-elect Joe Biden (Gage Skidmore photo via Flickr).When Mr. Biden, left, announced on Thursday that the U.S. would donate of 500 million Pfizer-BioNTech doses, the president said they would be provided with “no strings attached.”

“We’re doing this to save lives, to end this pandemic,” he said. “That’s it. Period.”

But even as wealthy democracies move to step up their efforts, the scale of the challenge is enormous.

Covax, the global vaccine-sharing program, still remains underfunded and billions of doses short.

In related news:

  • China, charting its own course, plays a key role in vaccinating the world against Covid.
  • Remember the Trump balloon? Now there’s one for Biden, too.
  • Trans-Atlantic relations are friendlier, but are they really different?
  • For Australia’s prime minister, his visit to Cornwall is a homecoming — of sorts.
  • ‘Mount Recylemore’ fashions world leaders’ faces out of trash.
  • What is the G7 summit, and why does it matter?
  • At the G7’s first in-person gathering since the pandemic began, tackling the health crisis is a top priority. President Biden, on his first presidential trip abroad, said it was a pivotal moment for Western democracies.

 anthony fauci graphic Custom

ny times logoNew York Times, Daily Distortions: No, Fauci is not profiting from a coming book on lessons he’s learned from his public service, Davey Alba, June 11, 2021. In the past few days, after the listing for a coming book by Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the Biden administration’s top adviser on Covid-19, was taken down from Amazon’s and Barnes & Noble’s websites, right-wing outlets and social media commentators spread the rumor that the it had been removed because of public backlash to the idea of Dr. Fauci’s “profiteering” from the pandemic.

In truth, Dr. Fauci (shown above in a file photo) is not making any money from the book, which is about lessons he has learned during his decades in public service, and the listing was pulled for a simple reason: the publisher had posted it too early.

Dr. Fauci “will not earn any royalties from its publication and was not paid” for the book, Expect the Unexpected, said Ann Day, a spokeswoman for National Geographic Books, its publisher. She said Dr. Fauci also would not earn anything for a related documentary. (Dr. Fauci did not respond to a request for comment.)

The book, which compiles interviews and speeches given by Dr. Fauci during his 37 years as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was taken off the websites because “it was prematurely posted for presale,” Ms. Day said. She added that proceeds would “go back to the National Geographic Society to fund work in the areas of science, exploration, conservation and education and to reinvest in content.”

In a statement, the national institute noted that the book had not been written by Dr. Fauci himself. The institute also confirmed that he would not earn any royalties from its publication.

The falsehood about the book and Dr. Fauci spread widely online. On May 31, the right-wing outlet The Daily Caller published an article about the book’s appearing for presale online. Some conservative Republicans, including Representatives Andy Biggs of Arizona and Dan Bishop of North Carolina, seized on the article and claimed without evidence that Dr. Fauci would be profiting from the book

ny times logoNew York Times, How Severe Is the Western Drought? See for Yourself, Nadja Popovich, June 11, 2021. Maps show that drought conditions are the most widespread and severe in at least 20 years, with reservoirs running dry.

An intense drought is gripping the American West. Extreme conditions are more widespread than at any point in at least 20 years, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, the government’s official drought-tracking service.

And the hottest months of summer are still to come.

Proof via Substack, Investigation: Trumpist Insurrectionists Have Now Created a Systematized Mechanism for "Cancelling" People and Groups—and It's the Most Comprehensive Cancel Culture America seth abramson graphicHas Ever Seen, Seth Abramson, left, June 10-11, 2021. The number of brands explicitly targeted for cancellation by Patriot.Win is staggering, representing a cultist/militant rejection of both the American free-market system and American democracy itself.

The most ardent adherents to a self-described billionaire’s “populist” movement claim to be animated by what they say is the worrying spread of “cancel culture” in America. If their complaint seems not just hypocritical but even delusionally self-contradictory, do remember that that’s the point: Trumpism is about attributing to one’s opponents whatever it is one is doing oneself that one cannot defend, whether it’s encouraging violent attacks on persons and property, undermining U.S. elections, or “cancelling” so many companies, websites, media outlets and persons through concerted digital action and even (see below) a systematized protocol for cancelling entities that there can no longer be any doubt that Patriot.Win is now the chief “canceller” in the United States.

The Patriot.Win Website: Patriot.Win is an insurrectionist outgrowth of the now-defunct pro-sedition website TheDonald.Win, which latter address now redirects to America.Win. Patriot.Win has two badges it uses to warn its users about companies, sites, media outlets and persons:

    • The Orange “Warning” Badge
    • The Red “Cancellation” Badge 

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

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

 

More On U.S. Assaults On Elections, Voting Rights  

 

capitol noose shay horse nurphoto via getty

A crowd of Trump supporters surrounded a newly erected set of wooden gallows outside the Capitol Building on Jan. 6. "Hang Mike Pence!" members of the crowd shouted at times about the Republican Vice President who had announced that he could not comply with the president's call to block election certification that day. The wooden gallows near the Capitol Reflecting Pool was just one example of the racist and anti-Semitic imagery on display at the riot. The noose is a racist symbol of the lynching of Black Americans. (Photo by Shay Horse  via NurPhoto / Getty).

washington post logoWashington Post, FBI director berated for Jan. 6 failures and Giuliani probe as he testifies before House committee, Matt Zapotosky, June 11, 2021 (print ed.).  Democrats and Republicans lobbed withering questions at the FBI as Director Christopher A. Wray testified before the House Judiciary Committee Thursday, though their concerns diverged significantly along partisan lines. 

Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) blasted Wray for the bureau’s failure to detect in advance and respond to the mob that attacked the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, while ranking Republican Jim Jordan (Ohio) accused the bureau of intruding on Americans’ civil liberties in an eclectic mix of circumstances.

The hearing made clear that Democrats and Republicans could hardly be further apart on what the FBI should and shouldn’t be doing. But on this much, they seemed to agree: the nation’s premier federal law enforcement institution had significant problems that needed to be addressed.

christopher wray oFor his part, Wray, right, sought to highlight how the bureau seeks to root out violence — no matter what motivates it — and is careful not to tread on Americans’ First Amendment rights.

In his opening statement, the FBI director highlighted the “extremist violence” of Jan. 6 in which more than 100 officers were injured in just a few hours and asserted that law enforcement had made more than 500 arrests.

But he also noted the bureau saw extremist violence during last summer’s civil unrest associated with racial justice protests. While he asserted that “most citizens made their voices heard through peaceful lawful, protests,” he said that others attacked federal buildings and left officers injured, and thousands had been arrested across the country.

“That is not a controversial issue that should force anyone to take sides,” he said, adding later in response to questions, “I don’t care whether you’re upset at our criminal justice system, or upset at our election system, violence, assaults on federal law enforcement, destruction of property, is not the way to do it. That’s our position.”

FBI report warned of ‘war’ at Capitol, contradicting claims there was no indication of looming violence

FBI logoNadler and other Democrats pressed Wray on the intelligence the bureau had gathered in advance of Jan. 6, and the actions it took that day as rioters stormed the Capitol. Nadler noted that a report from the bureau’s Norfolk field office from the day before seemed to predict what was going to happen, and it was forwarded to the field office in Washington. He questioned why — in the days after the riot — the head of that office insisted the bureau had no intelligence anything would happen beyond activity protected by the First Amendment.

“Did the FBI simply miss the evidence, or did it see the evidence and fail to piece it together?” Nadler asked.

Wray, as he and others have in the past, said the document was “raw, unverified” intelligence, and asserted that it nonetheless was shared with law enforcement partners, including the Capitol Police, in multiple ways.

“We tried to make sure that we got that information to the right people,” Wray said. He added that, among those arrested and charged so far in the Capitol attack, “almost none” were previously under investigation.

Federal agents execute search warrant at Giuliani’s home

Democrats also sought to get Wray to stress the seriousness of the Jan. 6 attack, while Republicans focused more on the summer’s unrest. Though Wray stressed the seriousness of both, he noted that with the summer’s violence across the country, it was often easier for prosecutors to pursue local charges, while the mayhem at the Capitol produced more federal offenses.

  • Proof via Substack, Investigation: Inside the Willard Hotel on January 6, Seth Abramson, left, June 8-9, 2021. One of Washington's most expensive hotels (above) was the nerve center for theinsurrection—and a playground for seditious kingpins media and the FBI seem content to ignore for now. Proof takes a look inside.

 

rod rosenstein cropped william barr screenshot april 18 2019

Palmer Report, Opinion: Turns out it was Rod Rosenstein all along, Bill Palmer, June 11, 2021. Over the course of four years, Jeff Sessions and Bill Barr, above left, each gave us an up-close look at their corrupt and villainous nature as Attorney General.

But who was the real heavy of the Trump-era DOJ? It’s really starting to look like it was the Deputy Attorney General who served under them both: Rod Rosenstein, above right.

bill palmer report logo headerNow that we’ve all learned the Trump DOJ illegally spied on multiple House Democrats, the blame game is already underway. A panelist on MSNBC has already stated that Bill Barr says he had nothing to do with it, and for reasons that are still mystifying, the media never does seem to question Barr’s honesty when he says these kinds of things.

But CNN is reporting that Jeff Sessions was not involved in the spying scandal, and while we’re not inclined to ever take Sessions, right, at his word either, this actually lines up with the jeff sessions ag oknown facts. Sessions was forced to recuse himself from the Trump-Russia investigation almost immediately, and because this illegal spying was done in the name of supposedly finding out who was leaking information about the Trump-Russia scandal, it wouldn’t have been Sessions who signed off on it. It would have been his Deputy, Rod Rosenstein.

Rosenstein would also have been responsible for the gag order that the DOJ placed against Apple, preventing it from publicly revealing that it had been forced to turn over the data of Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell. In other words, Rod Rosenstein was the heavy in this scandal, at least during the Sessions era.

This comes after we all learned last year that even though Rod Rosenstein was the one who appointed Robert Mueller as Special Counsel, it was Rosenstein who was secretly limiting and sabotaging Mueller’s investigation all along. So now we know that Rosenstein played a key role in the criminal spying scandal, and committed what appears to have been felony obstruction of justice in the Mueller probe. Rosenstein was the bad guy all along. Lock him up!

Roll Call, Garland zeroes in on voting rights, Todd Ruger, June 11, 2021. Civil Rights Division expected to double size of enforcement staff as states debate and implement new voting laws. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland announced a broad new push Friday to enforce voting rights across the country, touching on politically contentious areas such as post-election audits, early voting, voting by mail, threats against election officials and redistricting after the 2020 census.

merrick garland“The Civil Rights Division is going to need more lawyers,” Garland said. “We are scrutinizing new laws that seek to curb voter access, and where we see violations, we will not hesitate to act.”

Garland, right, said the Justice Department will double the enforcement staff for that division in the next 30 days, as a wave of states consider or implement new voting laws ahead of the 2022 election.

Garland, a former judge on the federal appeals court in Washington, pointed to a Supreme Court decision from 2013 that wiped out a key enforcement provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

That provision had allowed the Justice Department to review election changes in states with a history of discriminatory voting laws and stop them before they went into effect, and “had been the department’s most effective tool to protect voting rights over the past half century,” Garland said.

Justice Department log circular“Since that opinion, there has been a dramatic rise in legislative efforts that will make it harder for millions of citizens to cast a vote that counts,” he added.

Now, the Justice Department will have to individually challenge new restrictions on voting rights, which can take longer and require more resources. So far this year, at least 14 states have passed new laws that make it harder to vote, he said.

“Many of the changes are not even calibrated to address the kinds of voter fraud that are alleged as their justification,” Garland said.

The Justice Department also will look at current election laws and practices to determine whether they discriminate against Black voters and other voters of color.

“Particularly concerning in this regard are several studies showing that in some jurisdictions, non-white voters must wait in line substantially longer than white voters to cast their ballots,” Garland said.

Garland also gave warning to states that conduct audits of the 2020 election, such as one ongoing in Arizona, to ensure they abide by federal statutory requirements to protect election records and avoid the intimidation of voters.

“Many of the justifications proffered in support of these post-election audits and restrictions on voting have relied on assertions of material vote fraud in the 2020 election that have been refuted by law enforcement and intelligence agencies, of both this administration and the previous one, as well as by every court, federal and state, that has considered them,” the attorney general said.

As other states consider unusual post-election audits similar to Arizona’s, Garland said the Justice Department will publish guidance explaining the civil and criminal statutes that apply to such audits.

The DOJ will also publish guidance with respect to early voting and voting by mail. And the department will issue new guidance “to make clear the voting protections that apply to all jurisdictions, as they redraw their legislative maps,” Garland said.

This will be the first redistricting cycle without the preclearance provisions of the Voting Rights Act. Texas, Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Virginia, as well as counties and townships in six other states, fell under the preclearance regime and will have their freest hand in decades to draw congressional and legislative maps this cycle.

The Justice Department will also partner with other federal agencies to combat election disinformation that intentionally tries to suppress the vote, Garland said, and federal prosecutors will promptly prosecute threats to election officials.

“We have not been blind to the dramatic increase in menacing and violent threats against all manner of state and local election workers, ranging from the highest administrators to volunteer poll workers,” Garland said. “Such threats undermine our electoral process and violate a myriad of federal laws.”

Garland also called on Congress to pass overhaul bills that include election provisions. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer has said the chamber would vote on the elections, campaign finance and the ethics overhaul, known as S 1, this month. It is not expected to get enough votes to clear a procedural hurdle.

Garland also called on Congress to pass separate voting rights legislation named after the late civil rights icon and Georgia Democratic Rep. John Lewis, that would update the Voting Rights Act and “provide the department with the tools it needs.”

The debate over the Voting Rights Act of 1965 has simmered since the2013 Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision in Shelby County v. Holder, which struck down Section 4 of the law. That section created a formula for how states with a history of discriminatory laws had to get Justice Department preclearance for new laws under Section 5.

The conservative justices who formed the majority called it outdated and said Congress “may draft another formula based on current conditions.” Republicans have opposed legislation to do so.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Merrick Garland’s big day, Bill Palmer, right, June 11, 2021. Merrick Garland has refrained from giving high profile speeches since he became Attorney General, preferring to simply do bill palmerhis job rather than publicly posturing. But his silence has allowed procedural court filings – and a number of really cranky liberal pundits – to write his story for him. Now that’s changing today.

Garlan is giving a major speech this afternoon about how he and the Department of Justice intend to take specific legal steps to protect the voting rights of all Americans. It sounds a lot like he’s going to announce legal action against the red states that have passed blatantly unconstitutional voter suppression laws thus far this year.

bill palmer report logo headerThis will be a huge swing for Garland, , below at right, because he’ll be trying fix the voting rights mess through the court system that Congress is still struggling to fix through legislation. It’s Garland’s responsibility to go this route, as the DOJ has a legal duty to challenge the actions of states that it feels are unconstitutional. It’ll also prove to be very popular with liberalactivists, who have been demanding that “somebody do something” about voting rights.

Of course Merrick Garland’s speech today very likely won’t address why the DOJ has made a series of procedural court filings that have been interpreted by liberal activists as protecting Donald Trump and Bill Barr. In reality these court filings may be mere formalities, as the judge in each instance is likely to rule against the DOJ anyway. But with Garland now about to very publicly tackle voting rights and voter suppression, this should take the heat off him long enough for us to all find out where he really stands on bringing the previous regime to justice.

alan hostetter left russ taylor right

Alleged "Three Percenters" leaders  Alan Hostetter, left, a former police chief, and Russell Taylor are shown above in Washington, DC before the January insurrection at the Capitol.

ny times logoNew York Times, 6 Men Said to Be Tied to Three Percenters Movement Charged in Capitol Riot, Alan Feuer and Matthew Rosenberg, June 11, 2021 (print ed.). The indictment marks the first charges lodged against conspirators linked to the radical gun rights group.

Federal prosecutors filed a wide-ranging conspiracy indictment on Thursday accusing six California men said to be connected to a radical gun rights movement called the Three Percenters with plotting to assault the Capitol on Jan. 6, in the first charges lodged against anyone involved with planning any of the political events held the week of the attack.

Justice Department log circularThe 20-page indictment was also the first to be brought against a group of alleged Three Percenters, a loosely organized movement that takes its name from the supposed 3 percent of the U.S. colonial population that fought against the British. The new charges, filed in Federal District Court in Washington, came on the same day that Christopher A. Wray, the F.B.I. director, testified in front of a House committee that prosecutors were pursuing additional conspiracy charges against some of the rioters who stormed the Capitol.

Investigators have said for months that several extremist groups were involved in the attack, but while the Three Percenters have been occasionally mentioned in court filings, most accused extremists have come from two other groups: the Oath Keepers militia and the far-right nationalist group the Proud Boys. The new charges could suggest that prosecutors have started to pay attention not only to those who directly took part in the Capitol attack, but also to those who helped foment the assault.

The two top defendants in the indictment — Alan Hostetter, 56, a former police chief turned yoga instructor; and Russell Taylor, 40, a wealthy graphic designer with a taste for red Corvettes — were already under scrutiny by the government after the F.B.I. raided their homes in January. Mr. Hostetter and Mr. Taylor were leaders of a group called the American Phoenix Project, which was founded to fight the “fear-based tyranny” of coronavirus-related restrictions. The group later embraced former President Donald J. Trump’s lies about a stolen election, and helped organize a well-attended rally outside the Supreme Court on Jan. 5, where the speakers included Roger J. Stone Jr., a former adviser to Mr. Trump.

Mr. Hostetter’s wife, Kristine, a schoolteacher, also attracted national attention this year after she attended “Stop the Steal” rallies in Washington, setting off a furor in their hometown, San Clemente, Calif., that prompted an investigation by the school board into whether she had attacked the Capitol. She was cleared by the district in March.

seth pendley facebook

washington post logoWashington Post, He brought a sawed-off rifle to the Capitol on Jan. 6. Then he plotted to bomb Amazon data centers, Katie Shepherd, June 11, 2021 (print ed.). For weeks this spring, 28-year-old Seth Aaron Pendley had plotted an attack on Amazon data centers in Virginia. He had already taken a sawed-off rifle to the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Now, he hoped to cripple much of the Internet and take down government networks.

Last April, he finally arranged a meeting with a man promising to provide the C-4 explosive devices. When they met in Fort Worth, Tex., the man showed Pendley how to arm and detonate the powerful bombs.But just as Pendley placed the devices into his Pontiac, federal agents swarmed in and arrested him. The bomb seller was actually an FBI plant who had helped unravel a plan Pendley believed could “kill off about 70 percent of the internet.”

On Wednesday, Pendley (shown above in a Facebook photo) pleaded guilty to planning to bomb Amazon facilities in an attempt to undermine the U.S. government and to spark a rebellion against the “oligarchy” he believed to be running the country.

amazon logo smallThe case underscores the dramatic rise in domestic terrorism driven by right-wing extremists and raises concerns about those who participated in the Jan. 6 insurrection plotting new attacks. Domestic attacks peaked in 2020, mostly driven by white-supremacist, anti-Muslim and anti-government extremists. Those far-right attacks have killed 91 people since 2015, according to an analysis by The Washington Post.

Justice Department officials on Wednesday said Pendley’s plans could have injured or killed workers at the Amazon facilities if the FBI hadn’t intervened.

“Due in large part to the meticulous work of the FBI’s undercover agents, the Justice Department was able to expose Mr. Pendley’s twisted plot and apprehend the defendant before he was able to inflict any real harm,” Prerak Shah, the acting U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Texas, said in a statement. “We may never know how many tech workers’ lives were saved through this operation — and we’re grateful we never had to find out.”

Pendley’s plot against the government began to take shape in January, according to investigators. He said he traveled to D.C. on Jan. 6 with a sawed-off rifle concealed in a backpack. As a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol, he decided to leave the gun in his car and never entered the building, according to court records. But he later boasted about taking a piece of broken glass from the federal building home to Texas with him.

Under his plea agreement, Pendley faces between five and 20 years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000, and three years of probation and will be banned from owning firearms.

ny times logoNew York Times, Texas Attorney General Is Being Investigated by State Bar Association, Dave Montgomery, June 11, 2021 (print ed.). Attorney General Ken Paxton is accused of filing a frivolous lawsuit when he challenged President Biden’s victory.

The State Bar of Texas is investigating whether Attorney General Ken Paxton committed professional misconduct by challenging President Biden’s victory in the courts, which a complaint called a “frivolous lawsuit” that wasted taxpayer money.

texas mapThe investigation, which could result in discipline ranging from a reprimand to disbarment, is the latest obstacle for Mr. Paxton, who has been at the center of bribery and corruption accusations and was indicted in 2015 on allegations of securities fraud in a case that has not been resolved.

Mr. Paxton, left, a Republican, is also being challenged by a member of the Bush family in next year’s primary for attorney general, the state’s highest law enforcement office ken paxton mugand a position that has served as a political springboard. He was preceded in office by Gov. Greg Abbott and Senator John Cornyn.

After it became clear that Mr. Biden won the election, Mr. Paxton filed a lawsuit in early December that was ridiculed by many legal experts and ultimately rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court. He had asked the court to extend a deadline for the certification of presidential electors, arguing that election irregularities in four other states — Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — warranted further investigation.

That month, Kevin Moran, a retired Houston Chronicle reporter and president of the Galveston Island Democrats, filed a grievance to the Texas State Bar. In his filing, Mr. Moran contended that Mr. Paxton knew the lawsuit lacked legal merit and that any unelected lawyer would face disciplinary action for filing a frivolous lawsuit.

“Knowing that the national election had NOT been rigged or stolen, he acted in a way to stoke those baseless conspiracy theories nationwide,” Mr. Moran wrote.

The State Bar of Texas said it was prohibited by statute from discussing any pending matters, and the attorney general’s office did not reply to a request for comment.

Mr. Paxton’s campaign spokesman, Ian Prior, denounced the complaint as a “low-level stunt” and “frivolous allegation,” adding that “Democrats in Texas keep showing just how much they can’t stand election integrity.”

The complaint was initially dismissed by the state bar’s chief disciplinary counsel’s office but later revived by its Board of Disciplinary Appeals, which is appointed by the Texas Supreme Court. The 12-member board notified Mr. Moran in late May that it had granted his appeal after “finding that the grievance alleges a possible violation” of the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Misconduct.

Mr. Moran, 71, said on Thursday that he had filed the complaint as “an upset citizen” — not as a Democratic official — because he was outraged by the attorney general’s lawsuit, particularly after a multitude of judges had upheld Mr. Biden’s victory.

“With his track record, I believe he should be disbarred,” he said of Mr. Paxton.

After receiving a letter from the state bar in January that dismissed his complaint, Mr. Moran filed an appeal that he said he was somewhat surprised to see granted.

Mr. Paxton, in his second term as the Texas attorney general, faces a tough re-election campaign against George P. Bush, the state’s land commissioner as well as the grandson of former President George H.W. Bush and the son of Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida. Both candidates are vying for an endorsement from former President Donald J. Trump, who still wields influence over Texas Republicans.

 

Virus Victims, Response

ny times logoNew York Times, The F.D.A. extends the shelf life of J.&J.’s vaccine by six weeks, giving states more time to use expiring supply. Noah Weiland, June 11, 2021 (print ed.).  The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday authorized an extension of the expiration date of Johnson & Johnson’s coronavirus vaccine, the company said in a statement, expanding the shelf life by six weeks shortly before millions of doses were set to possibly go to waste.

johnson johnson logo“The decision is based on data from ongoing stability assessment studies, which have demonstrated that the vaccine is stable at 4.5 months when refrigerated at temperatures of 36 – 46 degrees Fahrenheit,” Johnson & Johnson said in a statement.

The move gives states extra time to figure out how to use up supply of the single-dose vaccine, even as local officials have struggled to use up stockpiles of the shot, which has lately faced sagging demand. Since it was authorized by the F.D.A. in late February, it has been a critical resource in reaching more isolated communities and people who prefer to receive just one shot.

But the vaccine took a major hit in April when the F.D.A. and C.D.C. recommended a pause in its use after a rare blood clotting disorder occurred in recipients of the vaccine. State officials have said that decision significantly curtailed interest in the vaccine, and roughly ten million doses delivered to states remain unused, according to data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The pace of vaccinations has fallen in recent weeks for all three federally authorized shots, and the Biden administration has shifted its strategy from relying on mass vaccination sites to highlighting more targeted approaches, some with incentives.

ny times logoNew York Times, Which Groups Are Still Dying of Covid in the U.S.? Denise Lu, June 11, 2021 (print ed.). Deaths from Covid-19 have dropped 90 percent in the United States since their peak in January, according to provisional data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

As the nation reopens and restrictions are lifted, however, the virus continues to kill hundreds of people daily. By late May, there were still nearly 2,500 weekly deaths attributed to Covid-19.

Those 50 and older continue to make up the bulk of Covid-19 deaths. Among that cohort, white Americans are driving the shifts in death patterns. At the height of the pandemic, those who were white and aged 75 and older accounted for more than half of all Covid-19 deaths. Now, they make up less than a third.

The remaining deaths are mainly driven by those who have yet to be vaccinated, Dr. Kuppalli said, describing two main groups within this population: those who choose to not get vaccinated because of misinformation and politicization around the vaccine, and those who remain unvaccinated because of other factors, including access.

washington post logocovad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Washington Post, 172.1 million U.S. vaccinated, as of June 11, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, covering 61.4 % of the eligible population,12 and older and 51.8 % of the total population. See about your state. 

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated June 11, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here): 

World Cases: 175,685,855, Deaths: 3,790,448
U.S. Cases:     34,275,783, Deaths:    614,007
India Cases:    29,274,823, Deaths:    363,097
Brazil Cases:   17,215,159, Deaths:    482,135

The Hill, Vaccinated lawmakers no longer required to wear masks on House floor, Cristina Marcos, June 11, 2021. Lawmakers who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 will no longer be required to wear masks in the House chamber, Democratic leaders announced Friday.

thehill logoThe change reflects updated guidance from the Capitol's attending physician released Friday to only retain the mask requirement for people who aren't fully vaccinated or are "vaccination-indeterminate."

The new guidance means that most House members will no longer need to wear masks while in the House chamber when they return to Washington on Monday, weeks after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) first announced that fully vaccinated people can forgo facial coverings in most settings.

A recent CNN survey found that all 219 Democrats in the House confirmed they are vaccinated against COVID-19, compared to only 97 of the 211 Republicans. Many GOP offices did not respond to CNN's survey.

In the days following the CDC announcement last month, several Republican lawmakers staged protests by refusing to wear masks in the House chamber. At least six Republicans were issued $500 fines for refusing to comply with the mask requirement, including some who have declined to publicly confirm if they are vaccinated.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) first instituted the mask requirement last July in response to dozens of House Republicans refusing to wear masks on the floor and in committees — including one who subsequently tested positive for COVID-19.

 

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, Anatomy of Japan’s joyless Olympics: A hyper-cautious bureaucracy and slow vaccine rollout, Simon Denyer, June 11, 2021 (print ed.).There will be joy and drama, glory and grief, olympics tokyo logoamong Olympic competitors. But this summer's pandemic-era Games in Tokyo are destined to go down as the most joyless of modern times with athletes sequestered and cheering banned.

In the past few weeks, Japan's government has dramatically accelerated its slow coronavirus vaccination program. Confidence is growing that at least some domestic spectators might be able to attend events.

Yet this awakening appears to have come too late to alter the lockdown atmosphere. As other rich nations move closer to a return to post-pandemic normalcy, Tokyo is still laboring under a state of emergency.

Instead of basking in anticipation of the Opening Ceremonies on July 23, the buildup to the Games sees Japan mired in blame, recriminations and laments that it didn't have to be this way.

washington post logoWashington Post, Russia to supply Iran with advanced satellite system, officials say, Joby Warrick, June 11, 2021 (print ed.) Russia is preparing to supply Iran with an advanced satellite system that will give Tehran an unprecedented ability to track potential military targets across the Middle East and beyond, according to current and former U.S. and Middle Eastern officials briefed on details of the arrangement.

Iran FlagThe plan would deliver to the Iranians a Russian-made Kanopus-V satellite equipped with a high-resolution camera that would greatly enhance Iran’s spying capabilities, allowing continuous monitoring of facilities ranging from Persian Gulf oil refineries and Israeli military bases to Iraqi barracks that house U.S. troops, the officials said. The launch could happen within months, they said.

While the Kanopus-V is marketed for civilian use, Iranian military officials have been heavily involved in the acquisition, and leaders of Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps have made multiple trips to Russia since 2018 to help negotiate the terms of the agreement, the officials said. As recently as this spring, Russian experts traveled to Iran to help train vladimir putin hand up palmerground crews that would operate the satellite from a newly built facility near the northern city of Karaj, the officials said.

Details of the agreement were described by a current and a former U.S. official as well as a senior Middle Eastern government official briefed on the sale. The three officials spoke on the condition of anonymity, citing sensitivities surrounding ongoing intelligence collection efforts. The Russian Foreign Ministry in Moscow did not respond to an email request for comment.

Iran’s biggest warship mysteriously burns and sinks

The disclosures came as President Biden is preparing for his first meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, shown in a file photo. The imminent launch of a Russian-made Iranian satellite could add to a long list of contentious issues that have strained relations between Moscow and Washington, including most notably recent Russian hacking operations and efforts to interfere with U.S. elections. Opponents of the U.S. reentering the nuclear accord with Iran are also likely to seize on the disclosure to argue against any engagement with Tehran that doesn’t address its military ambitions in the region.

washington post logoWashington Post, Under President Biden, global approval of U.S. has rebounded, survey finds, Claire Parke, June 11, 2021 (print ed.). President Biden has promised the world that “America is back.” As he takes his first trip abroad as president, a Pew Research Center global survey released Thursday shows that many in advanced economies believe it. Trust in the U.S. president fell to historic lows in most countries surveyed during Donald Trump’s presidency, according to Pew.

Under Biden, it has soared. In the 12 countries surveyed both this year and last, a median of 75 percent of respondents expressed confidence in Biden to “do the right thing regarding world affairs,” Pew found, compared with 17 percent for Trump last year. Sixty-two percent of respondents now have a favorable view of the United States vs. 34 percent at the end of Trump’s presidency.

“The election of Joe Biden as president has led to a dramatic shift in America’s international image,” the Pew report reads.

 

Inside DC

 

nancy pelosi chuck schumer cropped jan 8 2019 screengrab

 ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Schumer Demands That Barr Testify About Seizure of Lawmakers’ Data, Staff Reports, June 11, 2021. Democrats including Senator Chuck Schumer  (shown above in a file photo with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi) said the actions by William Barr and other Trump officials were a gross abuse of power.

Top Senate Democrats on Friday demanded that former Attorney General William P. Barr, right, and other Justice Department officials testify before the Judiciary Committee about their extraordinary william barr new odecision to secretly seize data from the accounts of House Democrats and their aides as they hunted for leaks of classified information.

Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, and Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the chairman of the judiciary panel, said they were willing to subpoena for testimony Mr. Barr, former Attorney General Jeff Session and others if necessary. They also announced they would “vigorously investigate” the department’s actions and called on Republicans to join them in the inquiry.

“This issue should not be partisan; under the Constitution, Congress is a coequal branch of government and must be protected from an overreaching executive, and we expect that our Republican colleagues will join us in getting to the bottom of this serious matter,” Mr. Schumer and Mr. Durbin said in a statement.

Their demands came as Democrats in both chambers decried the seizures and aggressive investigative tactics, first reported by The New York Times on Thursday, as a gross abuse of power to target another branch of government. They said the pursuit of information on some of President Donald J. Trump’s most visible political adversaries in Congress smacked of dangerous politicization.

So far, no prominent Republicans have joined Democrats in calling for investigations, which could make fact-finding more difficult. The attempt by Mr. Schumer and Mr. Durbin to put pressure on them to stand up for Congress’s prerogatives reflected the fact that to issue subpoenas or compel testimony in an evenly divided Senate, Democrats would need at least some Republican support.

The Times reported that as it hunted for the source of leaks about Trump associates and Russia, the Justice Department had used grand jury subpoenas to compel Apple and one other service provider to hand over data tied to at least a dozen people associated with the House Intelligence Committee beginning in 2017 and 2018. The department then secured a gag order to keep it secret.

Though leak investigations are routine, current and former officials at the Justice Department and in Congress said seizing data on lawmakers is nearly unheard-of outside of corruption investigations. The Times also reported that after an initial round of scrutiny did not turn up evidence tying the intelligence committee to the leaks, Mr. Barr objected to closing out the inquiry and helped revive it.

Investigators gained access to the records of Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the committee and now its chairman; Representative Eric Swalwell of California; committee staff; and family members, including one who was a minor.

“I hope every prosecutor who was involved in this is thrown out of the department,” Mr. Swalwell, right, said in an interview on Friday. “It crosses the line of what we do in this country.”

“We have to figure out what and how it happened to determine the extent to which D.O.J. misused its powers under Trump for political purposes,” he continued. “I think it was absolutely a frontal assault on the independence of a coequal branch of government.”

More on the latest in politics:

  • Policing reform negotiations sputter in Congress amid partisan bickering.
  • Biden plans to restore protections for Tongass National Forest that were stripped away by Trump.
  • Afghan interpreters, in the Taliban’s cross hairs, fear being left behind when the U.S. withdraws.
  • U.S. lifts some sanctions on Iranians before nuclear talks

 ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Why Won’t Republicans Rebuild America? Paul Krugman, right, June 11, 2021 (print ed.). On June 26, 1956, Congress approved the Interstate Highway Act. Dwight Eisenhower signed the paul krugmanbill three days later. The legislation allocated $24.8 billion in federal funds for a down payment on the construction of an interstate highway system.

That’s not a lot of money by current standards, but prices are far higher now than they were then, and the economy is vastly bigger. Measured as a share of gross domestic product, the act was the equivalent of around $1.2 trillion today. And the interstate highway system wasn’t the only major federal investment program; the government was also spending substantial sums on things like dam-building and the creation of the St. Lawrence Seaway.

It was, in short, a time when politicians were willing to make bold investments in America’s future. And there was remarkable consensus on the need for those investments. The highway act — paid for with higher taxes on gasoline and user fees — passed the House on a voice vote and in the Senate received only one dissent.

But that was a different America — or, not to obscure the reality of what has changed, a different Republican Party.

I felt an urge to cheer when President Biden declared an end to discussions with Senate Republicans over infrastructure. Some news reports described it as a “blow” to Biden’s agenda. I took it as a welcome sign that Biden’s overtures to Republicans were pro forma, that he was just waiting for a suitable moment to move on.

For it was obvious to anyone who remembered the 2009-2010 fight over health care that the G.O.P. wasn’t negotiating in good faith, that it was simply dragging the process out and would eventually reject anything Biden might agree to. The sooner this farce ended, the better.

But how and why did Republicans become the party of “build we won’t”? I see it as a mix of partisanship, ideology and profiteering.

washington post logoWashington Post, 10 Senate Democrats and Republicans say they reached five-year, nearly $1 trillion infrastructure deal, Tony Romm and Seung Min Kim, June 11, 2021 (print ed.). They plan to present the deal to the White House in hopes of reviving bipartisan negotiations.

washington post logoWashington Post, Al Gore pressed Biden to stick with climate plans as liberals fear White House is softening its agenda, Jeff Stein, Juliet Eilperin and Tyler Pager, June 11, 2021 (print ed.).The private phone call came amid concerns the White House might strip climate measures from an infrastructure deal.A number of Democrats are growing increasingly nervous that the White House could agree to a bipartisan infrastructure deal that scales back key climate-change initiatives, prompting a lobbying push that has included former vice president Al Gore making his case directly to President Biden.

The private warning last month from the climate hawk and Democratic grandee comes as Biden faces growing unease among liberals — including many administration officials — about his pursuit of Republican support for his next major spending package.