HCR: Letters from an American III

Go Bama

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July 1, 2022 (Friday)

It has been a very long seven days, a week that will certainly show up in the history books. What may not make such a splash in the books, though, is how freaking exhausting it is to be living through this moment.

I, anyway, am ready for a good night's sleep.

Sending you all a picture I snapped from the kayak a couple of weeks ago when we went inland for a change.

It was such a calm moment....

Reflection.jpg
 

JDCrimson

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I agree with her it's a very exhausting time to live. Unbridled power is being exercised everywhere. Politics and college sports alike.
 
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Go Bama

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July 2, 2022 (Wednesday)


Summer 1964 was known as the “Freedom Summer.”

Americans, Black and white, southern and northern, eager to defend the right of all Americans to vote, planned to register Black people for the upcoming election. Because only 6.7% of Black Mississippians were registered, Mississippi became a focal point. Under Bob Moses, a New York City teacher who began voting work in Mississippi in 1961, volunteers set out. Just as they were getting underway, on June 21, three voting rights workers, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner, disappeared near Philadelphia, Mississippi.

No one knew where they had gone, but although some white people tried to argue they had chosen to disappear simply to call attention to their cause, no one with a grip on reality in that racially charged era imagined they had gone anywhere good.

President Lyndon B. Johnson, who as Senate majority leader had wrestled the Civil Rights Act of 1957 through Congress, was determined to pass the stronger civil rights bill his predecessor President John F. Kennedy had advocated in 1963. Indeed, just five days after Kennedy’s murder, Johnson had told Congress: “No memorial oration or eulogy could more eloquently honor President Kennedy’s memory than the earliest possible passage of the civil rights bill for which he fought so long.”

Southern white men passionately defended their right to rule over their Black neighbors through state legislation, but Johnson, for all that he hailed from Texas, wanted none of that. “We have talked long enough in this country about equal rights. We have talked for one hundred years or more. It is time now to write the next chapter, and to write it in the books of law.”

The House of Representatives had been considering a civil rights bill since June 1963 but had left for winter recess without its being moved out of the Rules Committee, where the chair, staunch segregationist Howard Smith (D-VA), bottled it up. During the recess, so many congressmen heard from constituents angry the bill hadn’t passed that Smith backed down and let it out of committee. The House passed the bill on February 10 and sent it on to the Senate, where everyone knew the southern segregationists would not give up easily.

And they didn’t. The Senate began to debate the bill on March 30, and southern Democrats launched a filibuster. In those days before the Senate rules change, filibusters required that senators actually hold the floor to talk a bill to death, so they made up squads of senators who rested and spoke in teams. The head of the southern bloc, Richard Russell (D-GA), said: “We will resist to the bitter end any measure or any movement which would have a tendency to bring about social equality and intermingling and amalgamation of the races in our states.”

Meanwhile, the northern Democrats in favor of the bill held their own. At stake were the votes of those Republicans who liked the idea of civil rights in principle but didn’t want to increase the power of the government, whose business regulation they opposed.

As the spring wore on, Black people and their white neighbors demonstrated their support for civil rights by integrating formerly segregated spaces, while opponents of the bill attacked them. On June 18, when Black and white people jumped into a whites-only swimming pool at the Monson Motor Lodge in St. Augustine, Florida, the hotel’s owner, James Brock, poured acid into the pool. While the water diluted the acid enough that the swimmers were not injured, law enforcement arrested them. News crews covered the incident. Seeing a white man pour acid into a swimming pool to drive out Black people was the last straw.

The next day, Republican Everett Dirksen (R-IL), the Senate minority leader, managed to deliver enough Republican votes to Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield (D-MT) to break the filibuster. Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater, who said, “I am unalterably opposed to discrimination or segregation on the basis of race, color or creed, or on any other basis,” voted against ending the filibuster, saying he believed it was “a grave threat to the very essence of our basic system of government, namely, that of a constitutional republic in which 50 sovereign states have reserved to themselves and to the people those powers not specifically granted to the central or Federal Government.”

The Senate passed the bill on June 19 and sent their version back to the House. Meanwhile, rage over the three missing voting rights workers grew, and Johnson used that anger to pressure the House to pass the bill.

It did. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 into law on July 2.

Just before he wrote his name, Johnson addressed the American people on television “to talk to you about what that law means to every American.”

Keenly aware of the bill’s timing, he noted: “One hundred and eighty-eight years ago this week, a small band of valiant men began a long struggle for freedom. They pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor not only to found a nation, but to forge an ideal of freedom—not only for political independence, but for personal liberty; not only to eliminate foreign rule, but to establish the rule of justice in the affairs of men.”

That was a triumph, but “those who founded our country knew that freedom would be secure only if each generation fought to renew and enlarge its meaning…. Americans of every race and color have died in battle to protect our freedom. Americans of every race and color have worked to build a nation of widening opportunities. Now our generation of Americans has been called on to continue the unending search for justice within our own borders.”

Johnson celebrated that the bill had bipartisan support of more than two thirds of the lawmakers in Congress and that it enjoyed the support of “the great majority of the American people.”

“The purpose of the law is simple. It does not restrict the freedom of any American, so long as he respects the rights of others. It does not give special treatment to any citizen…. It does say that…those who are equal before God shall now also be equal in the polling booths, in the classrooms, in the factories, and in hotels, restaurants, movie theaters, and other places that provide service to the public.”

“Its purpose is not to punish. Its purpose is not to divide, but to end divisions—divisions which have lasted all too long. Its purpose is national, not regional. Its purpose is to promote a more abiding commitment to freedom, a more constant pursuit of justice, and a deeper respect for human dignity.”

“We will achieve these goals because most Americans are law-abiding citizens who want to do what is right,” he said. “My fellow citizens, we have come now to a time of testing. We must not fail.”

It was indeed a time of testing. When the American people came together to push Congress to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964, opponents of it saw a call to arms. Two weeks after Johnson signed the bill, a little more than three weeks after Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner disappeared and while they were still missing, Goldwater strode across the stage at the Republican National Convention to accept the nomination. On July 16, he told delegates that “extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And…moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.” The votes of the delegates from South Carolina were the ones that put him over the top for the nomination.

On August 4, the U.S. had a powerful example of what certain Americans thought of as “extremism in the defense of liberty” when the missing bodies were found buried in an earthen dam near Philadelphia, Mississippi, and it turned out that Ku Klux Klan members, at least one of whom was a law enforcement officer, had murdered them.

Voters in the 1964 election continued to back Johnson’s vision of the world, rejecting Goldwater by a landslide. And those voters perhaps took false hope that their will had triumphed when Goldwater won only his own state of Arizona and five states of the Deep South—Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina. They didn’t see there was a shift underway that would transform first the Republican Party, and then the nation itself.
 

Go Bama

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July 3, 2022 (Sunday)


And on July 4, 1776, the Second Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence, declaring: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

For all the fact that the congressmen got around the sticky little problem of Black and Indigenous slavery by defining “men” as “white men,” and for all that it never crossed their minds that women might also have rights, the Declaration of Independence was an astonishingly radical document. In a world that had been dominated by a small class of rich men for so long that most people simply accepted that they should be forever tied to their status at birth, a group of upstart legislators on the edges of a continent declared that no man was born better than any other.

America was founded on the radical idea that all men are created equal.

What the founders declared self-evident was not so clear eighty-seven years later, when southern white men went to war to reshape America into a nation in which African Americans, Indigenous Americans, Chinese, and Irish were locked into a lower status than whites. In that era, equality had become a “proposition,” rather than “self-evident.”

“Four score and seven years ago,” Abraham Lincoln reminded Americans, “our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” In 1863, Lincoln explained, the Civil War was “testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.”

It did, of course. The Confederate rebellion failed. The United States endured, and Americans began to expand the idea that all men are created equal to include Black men, men of color, and eventually to include women.

But just as in the 1850s, we are now, once again, facing a rebellion against our founding principle, as a few people seek to reshape America into a nation in which certain people are better than others.

The men who signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776 pledged their “Lives, [their] Fortunes and [their] sacred Honor” to defend the idea of human equality. Ever since then, Americans have sacrificed their own fortunes, honor, and even their lives, for that principle. Lincoln reminded Civil War Americans of those sacrifices when he urged the people of his era to “take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Words to live by in 2022.
 

Go Bama

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July 4, 2022 (Manday)

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed....”
 

NationalTitles18

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It's more interesting than it appears at first glance.

 

Go Bama

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It's more interesting than it appears at first glance.

I'll have to listen later. I don't have 45 minutes right now.

Is there a pdf of these podcasts available?
 

Go Bama

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July 5, 2022 (Tuesday)


Traditionally, Americans have celebrated the Fourth of July with barbecues, picnics, celebrations, and parades as people come together to celebrate our democracy without regard to political party. In Highland Park, Illinois, yesterday morning, a gunman opened fire on a Fourth of July parade with a high-powered rifle, killing 7, physically wounding at least 47 others, and traumatizing countless more. There were more than a dozen other mass shootings over the holiday weekend, as well. All told, mass shootings this weekend caused at least 15 deaths and injured at least 91.

Police arrested the alleged Highland Park shooter, a white 21-year-old, without incident, inspiring comparisons to the police shooting of 25-year-old Jayland Walker of Akron, Ohio, last week after a stop for a minor traffic violation. Walker fled from the scene in his car and then fled from the car. Officers shot him, saying now they believed he was reaching for a gun. A medical examiner found 60 bullet wounds (not a typo) in Walker’s body, which a medical examiner said was handcuffed when it arrived at the coroner’s office. Walker was unarmed. He was Black.

Today, prosecutors charged the suspect in the Highland Park shooting with 7 counts of murder and said more charges will be forthcoming.

Last month, in the wake of the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, that killed 19 children and 2 teachers, Congress passed the first gun safety law in almost 30 years. The law provides incentives to encourage states to expand background checks before people aged 18 to 21 can buy a gun. It prohibits those who have been convicted of domestic violence from owning a gun, although it clears their record after 5 years without incident. It sets aside money for mental health resources and incentivizes states to create red flag laws. It also clarifies who requires a federal license to sell firearms.

Republicans rejected the reinstatement of an assault weapon ban such as we had between 1994 and 2004, federal background checks, and an end to the law shielding gun manufacturers from being sued when their guns cause deaths. But enough Republicans joined the Democrats to break a filibuster, and the bill passed, 65 to 33, with all Republicans in the minority.

President Biden signed the law on June 25, saying, “While this bill doesn’t do everything I want, it does include actions I’ve long called for that are going to save lives.”

Meanwhile, New York legislators responded to the Supreme Court’s recent decision in New York State Rifle and Pistol Association, Inc., v. Bruen, which struck down the state’s 100-year-old law for concealed-carry permits and newly asserted that individuals have a constitutional right to carry a gun in public, by tightening gun safety laws. A new New York law prohibits concealed carry on private property unless property owners explicitly say it’s okay. It also makes it a crime to carry a concealed weapon in “sensitive locations,” which include schools, hospitals, demonstrations, bars, and Times Square, among other places. It requires background checks, training, and good moral character, and it provides an appeals process for applicants whose requests for a concealed carry license are denied.

The Supreme Court said the old New York law was not sufficiently uniform; the new one is designed to work within the court’s parameters. New York governor Kathy Hochul signed the law on Friday. It will go into effect on September 1, 2022.

New Jersey governor Phil Murphy today signed a package of more stringent gun laws for his state, too. Seven new laws, passed largely along party lines, regulate and track the sale of ammunition, require those moving to New Jersey to register their guns within 60 days, permit the attorney general to sue gun industry participants, and so on.

Today, a grand jury in Fulton County, Georgia, issued a stack of subpoenas as part of the investigation into whether Trump and his allies illegally tried to influence the 2020 election in that state. Fulton County district attorney Fani Willis opened the investigation after a recording of Trump pressing Georgia secretary of state Brad Raffensperger came to light in early 2021.

The grand jury subpoenaed Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Trump lawyers Rudy Giuliani, John Eastman, Cleta Mitchell, Kenneth Chesebro, Jacki Pick Deason, and Jenna Ellis, who is now working for Trump-endorsed Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano. In 2021, Ellis declared she was leaving the Republican Party because it was no longer “conservative” enough for her.

The grand jury is looking at the creation of the fake electors from Georgia and at the various fake claims Trump allies put forward about the election being “stolen.” Eastman’s subpoena refers to his December 3, 2020, appearance before the Georgia State Senate, where he told lawmakers “that they had both the lawful authority and a ‘duty’ to replace the Democratic Party’s slate of presidential electors, who had been certified as the duly appointed electors for the State of Georgia after the November 2020 election, due to unfounded claims of widespread voter fraud within the state. There is evidence that the Witness’s appearance and testimony at the hearing was part of a multi-state, coordinated plan by the Trump Campaign to influence the results of the November 2020 election in Georgia and elsewhere.”

At least two phone calls Graham made to Georgia secretary of state Brad Raffensperger or his staff in which Graham apparently asked about “reexamining certain absentee ballots cast in Georgia in order to explore the possibility of a more favorable outcome for former President Donald Trump,” are at the heart of the subpoena to Graham.

Representatives Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), Adam Schiff (D-CA), and Liz Cheney (R-WY) of the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol said this weekend that more witnesses have come forward since Cassidy Hutchinson testified last week. The aide to Trump’s White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows offered explosive testimony directly tying Trump and Meadows to planned violence on January 6.

Sarah Matthews, deputy press secretary in the Trump administration, will testify at a future hearing. Matthews jumped to Hutchinson’s defense after her testimony last week, tweeting, “Anyone downplaying Cassidy Hutchinson’s role or her access in the West Wing either doesn’t understand how the Trump (White House) worked or is attempting to discredit her because they’re scared of how damning this testimony is.” Matthews resigned on January 6, saying in a statement, “I was honored to serve in the Trump administration and proud of the policies we enacted. As someone who worked in the halls of Congress I was deeply disturbed by what I saw today. I’ll be stepping down from my role, effective immediately. Our nation needs a peaceful transfer of power.”

After Hutchinson’s testimony, we learned that the Trump organization and his allies have been paying for lawyers to represent those called by the January 6 committee as witnesses. Hutchinson offered much more information to the committee when she got rid of the lawyer Trump’s team provided and engaged her own lawyer. Immediately, Trump complained that “[h]er story totally changed!” suggesting that the Trump team might be pressuring witnesses not to cooperate with the committee.

“What they said to me is as long as I continue to be a team player, they know that I’m on the team, I’m doing the right thing, I’m protecting who I need to protect, you know, I’ll continue to stay in the good graces in Trump world,” one witness told the committee. “And they have reminded me a couple of times that Trump does read transcripts and just keep that in mind as I proceed through my depositions and interviews with the committee.”

The committee has planned the next public hearing for July 12 at 10:00 am.
 
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Go Bama

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July 6, 2022 (Wednesday)


Eighteen months ago today, rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to stop Congress from counting the electoral votes that would make Democrat Joe Biden president. Thanks to the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol, we are learning more about just how deep that plot ran, and more evidence is dropping almost daily.

Yesterday, for example, Politico revealed a two-minute trailer for the documentary about the Trump family by British filmmaker Alex Holder. With extraordinary access to the family, Holder witnessed what the trailer portrays as the attempt of the Trump family to create an American dynasty, and its determination to hold onto power even if it meant the destruction of American democracy.

Today, Maggie Haberman and Luke Broadwater of the New York Times reported that the committee has secured an agreement with Trump’s White House counsel Pat A. Cipollone to testify in a videotaped, transcribed interview. Last week’s testimony by Cassidy Hutchinson put great pressure on Cipollone to testify. She said that she and Cipollone had had several conversations about the illegality of the things Trump and his chief of staff Mark Meadows were doing.

She recounted Cipollone’s determination to prevent Trump from going to the Capitol with the rioters he sent there, alleging that if Trump went, Cipollone said, “We’re going to get charged with every crime imaginable.” He also insisted that Trump must call off the rioters, even after Meadows said the president didn’t want to.

He will testify privately the day after the January 6 committee’s next public hearing.

There is movement on other issues surrounding the attempt to overturn the 2020 election, as well. Yesterday, a Fulton County, Georgia, grand jury issued a subpoena for Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), among others, and today Graham’s lawyers said they will challenge the subpoena. They say the investigation is a “fishing expedition” and that any information it turns up would go straight to the January 6th committee. They assert that as then-chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Graham “was well within his rights to discuss with state officials the processes and procedures around administering elections.”

The subpoena refers not to processes and procedures around administering elections, of course, even if it were in fact appropriate for a senator from South Carolina to ask questions about such procedures in Georgia. It refers to at least two phone calls Graham made to Georgia secretary of state Brad Raffensperger or his staff in which Graham apparently asked about “reexamining certain absentee ballots cast in Georgia in order to explore the possibility of a more favorable outcome for former President Donald Trump.” And, in November 2021, Graham admitted he reached out not only to officials in Georgia, but to those in Arizona and Nevada as well.

This outreach had nothing to do with the Senate Judiciary Committee; Graham was plainly working for Trump’s campaign. Further undercutting this argument is that it is not the Senate Judiciary Committee that oversees elections; it is the Senate Rules Committee.

Former federal prosecutor Shanlon Wu tweeted that Graham is challenging the subpoena on the grounds that the grand jury is working for the congressional committee, and thus the subpoena will “erode the constitutional balance of power and the ability of a Member of Congress to do their job.” Wu said the legal course is as follows: Graham’s challenge will lose in state court and then his lawyers will try to get a federal court to stop the enforcement of a state subpoena. Wu said that the Supreme Court is unlikely to agree that the state of Georgia is a branch of the federal government. He called it “an arrogant[,] pompous and legally weak argument from Graham [that] should be slam-dunk rejected by any court that hears it.”

Representative Eric Swalwell (D-CA) was more succinct. He tweeted: “It’s a subpoena. Not a request to RSVP.”

There are more subpoenas in the news. Today, New York state judge Arthur F. Engoron held Cushman & Wakefield, the real estate firm that valued the Trump properties under investigation by New York attorney general Letitia James, in contempt of court for failing to comply with subpoenas about the valuation of certain Trump properties. A spokesperson for the company says that the company has gone to “extreme lengths” to comply with the subpoena, although it has not managed to produce the documents yet. The delay of the documents is crucial because Trump and two of his children are scheduled to testify about the valuations next week under oath.

The firm will be fined $10,000 a day until it provides the documents the subpoenas require.

What all these demands for information under oath do is establish what really happened, in contrast to the false narratives political operatives have spun in front of television cameras and on the internet, where they are not bound by any requirement to tell the truth.

The slow accumulation of facts over fiction might well become a financial crisis for those who participated in Trump’s narrative. The Fox News Corporation, One America News Network, and Newsmax are currently facing multibillion dollar lawsuits from Dominion Voting Systems and Smartmatic, a voting machine company and an election software company, that those channels claimed had stolen the 2020 election for Biden.

Smaller companies OAN and Newsmax are financially vulnerable to lawsuits alone, to say nothing of an adverse judgment, but according to an article by Adam Gabbatt in The Guardian, FNC has more to worry about than money. We already know that FNC hosts and White House officials were in contact about the January 6 insurrection, and in the discovery phase of a lawsuit, FNC could have to hand over documents that might tell us more about that connection.

Angelo Carusone, chief executive officer of Media Matters for America, told Gabbatt: “I think once you start to pull the discovery material, what you’re going to find is there was a lot of communication between the Trump people both internally and externally about pushing very specific lies and narratives.”

The role of fact versus narrative is on display elsewhere in our government as well.

Both the Organization of American Historians and the American Historical Association, the flagship organizations of professional historians in the U.S., along with eight other U.S. historical associations (so far), yesterday issued a joint statement expressing dismay that the six Supreme Court justices in the majority in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health decision that overturned Roe v. Wade ignored the actual history those organizations provided the court and instead “adopted a flawed interpretation of abortion criminalization that has been pressed by anti-abortion advocates for more than thirty years.” Although the decision mentioned “history” 67 times, they note, it ignored “the long legal tradition, extending from the common law to the mid-1800s (and far longer in some states, including Mississippi), of tolerating termination of pregnancy before occurrence of ‘quickening,’ the time when a woman first felt fetal movement.”

The statement focuses less on politics than on the perversion of history, noting that “[t]hese misrepresentations are now enshrined in a text that becomes authoritative for legal reference and citation in the future,” an undermining of the “imperative that historical evidence and argument be presented according to high standards of historical scholarship. The Court’s majority opinion…does not meet those standards.”
 
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Go Bama

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July 7, 2022 (Thursday)


Today, President Joe Biden awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to 17 individuals who Biden says “demonstrate the power of possibilities and embody the soul of the nation—hard work, perseverance, and faith. They have overcome significant obstacles to achieve impressive accomplishments in the arts and sciences, dedicated their lives to advocating for the most vulnerable among us, and acted with bravery to drive change in their communities—and across the world—while blazing trails for generations to come.”

The seventeen appear to have been chosen quite deliberately to provide a snapshot of a multicultural, nonpartisan society in which people work to overcome hardship and contribute to the public good.

Biden praised decorated gymnast Simone Biles, who has won 19 World Championship gold medals and 4 Olympic gold medals, for her advocacy for the mental health and safety of athletes, children in the foster care system, and victims of sexual assault.

Sister Simone Campbell is “a prominent advocate for economic justice, immigration reform, and healthcare policy.” Dr. Julieta García “was the first Hispanic woman to serve as a college president and dedicated her career to serving students from the Southwest Border region.” Former Member of Congress Gabrielle “Gabby” Giffords, the youngest woman ever elected to the Arizona State Senate and later a U.S. representative, survived gun violence and co-founded a nonprofit organization dedicated to gun violence prevention.

Attorney Fred Gray “represented Rosa Parks, the NAACP, and Martin Luther King, who called him ‘the chief counsel for the protest movement.’” Steve Jobs, who died in 2011, led both Apple, Inc., and Pixar. “His vision, imagination and creativity led to inventions that have, and continue to, change the way the world communicates, as well as transforming the computer, music, film and wireless industries.” Father Alexander Karloutsos has been a Greek Orthodox priest for more than 50 years, “providing counsel to several U.S. presidents.” Khizr Khan is a Gold Star father (which means he lost his son Captain Humayun Khan in the military service of the U.S.) and “is a prominent advocate for the rule of law and religious freedom.”

Sandra Lindsay was prominent in the early months of the Covid-19 pandemic, working as a critical care nurse in New York. She was “the first American to receive a COVID-19 vaccine outside of clinical trials and is a prominent advocate for vaccines and mental health for health care workers.” Senator John McCain, who died in 2018, was a prominent Republican politician from Arizona, famous as an independent thinker who often bucked his party to do what he considered right. Diane Nash helped to found the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) that “organized some of the most important civil rights campaigns of the 20th century.”

Olympic and two-time World Cup champion soccer player Megan Rapinoe works “for gender pay equality, racial justice, and LGBTQI+ rights.” Former Wyoming senator Alan Simpson, a Republican, has been “a prominent advocate on issues including campaign finance reform, responsible governance, and marriage equality.” Richard Trumka, who died in 2021, led the AFL-CIO for more than a decade and worked for social and economic justice. Brigadier General Wilma Vaught broke gender barriers as she rose through the ranks of the U.S. Air Force. “When she retired in 1985, she was one of only seven women generals in the Armed Forces.” Award-winning actor, director, and producer Denzel Washington has “served as National Spokesman for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America for over 25 years.”

And civil rights advocate Raúl Yzaguirre, who was a U.S. ambassador to the Dominican Republic, led the National Council of La Raza for 30 years.

“Decorated athletes and military heroes, artists, civil rights giants, activists and trailblazing representatives, intellectuals, and innovators,” Biden tweeted. “That’s America. And these are our 2022 Presidential Medal of Freedom recipients.”

President John F. Kennedy established these awards for “especially meritorious contributions to… [t]he security or national interests of the United States, or…world peace, or…cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.” “In a period when the national government must call upon an increasing portion of the talents and energies of its citizens,” Kennedy said, “it is clearly appropriate to provide ways to recognize and reward the work of persons, within and without the Government, who contribute significantly to the quality of American life.” And yet for all their apparent civic-minded origins, a 2018 study by political scientists E. Fletcher McClellan, Christopher Devine, and Kyle C. Kopko showed that the medals have become increasingly political since 1981 as presidents seek to reward donors and associate their presidencies with individuals who will appeal to their voters or show their administrations in a good light.

The difference between Biden’s first 17 award recipients and those former president Trump honored reflects their different visions of the country. Trump favored white people and focused on athletes, especially golfers; cultural icons (Babe Ruth and Elvis Presley); or icons in the Republican Party’s rightward swing (media figure Rush Limbaugh, economist Arthur Laffer, jurist Antonin Scalia). Trump also awarded a medal to Representative Devin Nunes (R-CA) on January 4, 2021 and, on January 11, 2021, to Representative Jim Jordan (R-OH).

That vision of the government as a way to reward loyalists might have moved past legal boundaries. New York Times journalist Michael S. Schmidt yesterday reported that both former FBI director James Comey and his deputy Andrew McCabe were tapped for extremely rare invasive tax audits by the Internal Revenue Service during the Trump administration. Those audits are supposed to be random, and the chances that both Comey and McCabe, whom Trump singled out as enemies for their role in the Russia investigation, were randomly chosen seem small. The two men were unaware the other had gone through the deep audit until a reporter told them.

Today, the IRS director Charles Rettig, the Trump appointee under whom the audits took place, asked the inspector general of the Treasury Department to investigate the matter.

There was international condemnation of right-wing policies in the U.S. today, when the European Parliament voted 324 to 155, with 38 abstaining, to condemn the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, overturning the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision recognizing the constitutional right to abortion. It also demanded that the European Union recognize the right to abortion in its charter, and to provide “safe, legal and free abortion services, pre-natal and maternal healthcare services, voluntary family planning, youth-friendly services, and HIV prevention, treatment and support, without discrimination.”

U.S. Secret Service director James Murray announced his retirement from the agency today to take a position as security chief at Snapchat’s parent company, Snap. Former president Trump appointed Murray to the head of the Secret Service in May 2019. Questions about the loyalties of certain Secret Service agents have swirled since January 6, but the White House said the resignation was not connected to the recent testimony of Cassidy Hutchinson, aide to Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows, who mentioned hearing of a physical altercation between Trump and an agent after Trump spoke at the Ellipse on January 6.

In the U.K. today, Prime Minister Boris Johnson stepped down as head of the Conservative Party after dozens of officials in his government resigned over repeated scandals. He says he will step down as prime minister when the party chooses his replacement, likely this fall. Party leaders may force him out sooner. In a statement, Biden said that “the special relationship between our people remains strong and enduring…. I look forward to continuing our close cooperation with the government of the United Kingdom, as well as our Allies and partners around the world, on a range of important priorities. That includes maintaining a strong and united approach to supporting the people of Ukraine as they defend themselves against Putin's brutal war on their democracy, and holding Russia accountable for its actions.”

Tonight, former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe was shot in the chest while he was giving a campaign speech in the city of Nara. His condition is critical. Police have arrested a male suspect in the shooting. Washington Post Tokyo/Seoul bureau chief Michele Ye Hee Lee tweeted: “Can't overstate how shocking this shooting is—not only because Abe is very popular and prominent, but also because gun violence is extremely rare incident in Japan, a country with some of the world's strictest gun laws.”

President of the European Council Charles Michel tweeted that Abe is “a true friend, fierce defender of multilateral order [and] democratic values.” He promised that the European Union stands with Japan and Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.

Finally, former president Jimmy Carter and Rosalynn Carter celebrated their 76th wedding anniversary today. Theirs is the longest presidential marriage in our history. They were married in Plains, Georgia on this date in 1946.
 

Go Bama

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July 8, 2022 (Friday)

Today, President Joe Biden signed an executive order to protect access to reproductive health care services two weeks after the Supreme Court overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. For almost 50 years, that decision protected the constitutional right of women to make health care decisions without the interference of the state. Without that protection, the president noted, states across the country have outlawed abortion, threatening the lives and health, as well as the economic security, of women across the country, especially women of color, poor women, and rural women.

Both the president and the Department of Justice have come out strongly for legislation to protect reproductive rights, saying that the government should not interfere in such a personal decision. Until the Democrats have enough senators to break a Republican filibuster in the Senate, though, Republicans will prevent any such measure from passing. In the meantime, Biden says he will use the power of the executive branch to protect women’s constitutional rights.

The executive order requires the Department of Health and Human Services to protect and expand access to abortion medication that the Food and Drug Administration approved more than 20 years ago. It will try to ensure that all patients have access to emergency medical treatment and to birth control. It will work to inform people about their right to reproductive health services, and convene volunteer lawyers to protect the rights of pregnant patients to travel from one state to another for medical care.

It will protect patient privacy by asking the Federal Trade Commission to fight the exchange of health-related data, including guiding consumers on how to protect their health care data on mobile apps.

It will protect those seeking access to doctors and clinics and will provide an additional $3 million in funding for them. It will provide leave for federal workers who need to travel for health care, and will continue to provide health care for military families and Department of Defense workers.

Today was a fitting day for Biden’s executive order, since tomorrow is the anniversary of the day in 1868 that Americans changed the U.S. Constitution for the fourteenth time, giving the federal government power to guarantee that state governments could not pass laws that treated some people worse than others.

The background to this constitutional amendment was that in the wake of the Civil War, former Confederates in the southern states had done their best to force their Black neighbors back into subservience. Through a series of laws known collectively as the “Black Codes,” state legislators in summer 1865 regulated how Black Americans worked, lived, worshiped, and conducted themselves, without any recourse to the law for protection when they were robbed, assaulted, raped, and killed.

But there was no way northern members of Congress were going to permit southern lawmakers, who only months before had been shooting at U.S. soldiers, to discriminate against the very men who had fought to save the United States.

Their solution was the Fourteenth Amendment.

The amendment overturned the infamous 1857 Dred Scott decision that, in addition to declaring that Black men were not citizens and did not have the rights of citizens, declared that democracy was created at the state level by those people in a state who were allowed to vote. In 1857, this meant white men, almost exclusively. If those people voted to do something widely unpopular—like adopting human enslavement, for example—they had the right to do so. People like Abraham Lincoln pointed out that such state power would eventually mean that an unpopular minority could take over the national government, forcing their ideas on everyone else, but defenders of states’ rights stood firm.

And so, the Fourteenth Amendment gave the federal government the power to protect individuals even if their state legislatures had passed discriminatory laws. “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws,” it said. And then it went on to say that “Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.”

But the amendment had to be ratified. In the midterm elections of 1866, the driving issue was the election of state legislators who would either pass or reject the Fourteenth Amendment. President Andrew Johnson, who had stepped into the presidency when an actor had murdered President Abraham Lincoln the year before, stood against the amendment and backed throwing power to the state legislatures. His support gave southern terrorists the confidence to attack formerly enslaved people not only in private, but also in deadly public riots that killed as many as 1000 people before the election.

For their part, the Republicans who wanted federal protection of equal rights also turned to the people, but appealed to voters’ commitment to the principle of equality before the law. Senator James G. Blaine, Republican of Maine, later recalled, “The one…point…echoed and re-echoed by every speaker…was the adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment. It was evidently the unalterable determination of the Republicans to make that the leading feature of the campaign…to urge it though the press, to present it on the stump, to proclaim it through every authorized exponent of public opinion.”

Voters sided with the Republicans and the Fourteenth Amendment by a landslide against Johnson and the Black Codes. The Republicans won 143 representatives to Congress to the Democrats’ 49. The Republicans maintained similar control over the state houses.

“The importance…of the political struggle of 1866 cannot be overestimated,” Blaine recalled. “If the contest had ended [differently] the history of the subsequent years would…have been radically different. There would have been no further amendment to the Constitution,” and southern legislators would “sustain all the State laws already passed for the practical re-enslavement” of Black Americans, “with such additional enactments as would have made them cruelly effective…. [T]he result must have been a deplorable degradation of the National character and an ignoble surrender to the enemies of the Union,” who would then direct the government.

The state legislatures ratified the Fourteenth Amendment and added it to the Constitution in 1868, and in 1870 the federal government set out to enforce national equality before the law with the creation of the Department of Justice, whose first job was to bring down the Ku Klux Klan terrorists in the South who were assaulting and murdering their Black neighbors.

In the post–World War II era, the federal government again used the Fourteenth Amendment to protect citizens against discrimination at the state level when the Supreme Court began to use the equal protection clause and the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment aggressively to apply the protections in the Bill of Rights to the states. The civil rights decisions of the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, including the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision that outlawed segregation in public schools and the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, come from this doctrine. Under it, the federal government took up the mantle of protecting the rights of individual Americans in the states from the whims of state legislatures.

Opponents of these new civil rights protections quickly began to object that such decisions were “legislating from the bench,” rather than permitting state legislatures to make their own laws. They began to call for “originalism,” the idea that the Constitution should be interpreted only as the Framers had intended when they wrote it, an argument that focused on the creation of law at the state level. That theory is now dominant in the Supreme Court. Two weeks ago, on June 24, 2022, it rejected the federal government’s power to protect civil rights in the states, and more than a dozen state legislatures have rushed to outlaw abortion procedures.

Today, Biden reached for the power embodied by the Fourteenth Amendment for the federal government to overrule state laws discriminating against citizens within their borders. But he also echoed the electoral fight to put that amendment in place when he told Americans: “We need two additional pro-choice senators and a pro-choice House to codify Roe as federal law. Your vote can make that a reality. I know it's frustrating, and it made a lot of people very angry. But the truth is this.... [The] women of America can determine the outcome of this issue.”
 

Go Bama

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July 9, 2022 (Saturday)

I started this clear but somewhat chilly summer day reading a young adult novel on a sunny corner of the porch with my coffee, pitted about a gazillion cherries for pies, worked for a few hours on the new book, and then my sister and I kayaked up the Sound until we almost got eaten by a giant blue whale... or--depending on your version of events, and mine most definitely involves the mythic blue whale-- we saw from a distance quite a large fish rising as it chased a school of mackerel. And then we paddled home for pizza as the sun set.

And now, to make the day perfect, I'm going to go to bed and sleep for a week, and so will leave you with another of Buddy's sunrises, taken when he’s hitting the office, just about the time I’m hitting the bed.

I'll see you tomorrow.

[Photo by Buddy Poland.]

Sunrise in Maine.jpeg
 

Go Bama

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July 10, 2022 (Sunday)

With the recent Supreme Court decisions gutting federal enforcement of civil rights and business regulation and the public hearings of the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol, economic news has been pushed out of the center of public conversation. That’s a shame for two reasons.

First, Democratic president Joe Biden appears to be centering his presidency around the idea of rebuilding the middle class through government investment in ordinary Americans. This is a major shift—a sea change—from the past 40 years of Republican policy saying that the economy would prosper if only the government slashed taxes and regulation, leaving more money and power in the hands of business leaders, those “makers” who would invest in new industries and provide more jobs. Watching the effect of his policies is a window into what works and what doesn’t.

Second, the Republicans are counting on anger over inflation, shortages, and gas prices to win control over the House of Representatives and the Senate in the fall elections. It’s worth paying attention to what’s really going on with those issues, as well as to what policies the Democrats and the Republicans are putting on the table to address them.

On the first point: Biden has focused on rebuilding the American middle class that has been so terribly hollowed out in the past 40 years. While he appears to be driven by his belief in the dignity of all Americans and their right to be able to make ends meet with a decent job, historians will tell you that in the U.S., race and gender tensions are significantly lower when income and wealth are more evenly distributed than when a few people at the top of the economic ladder control most of the nation’s capital. The rise of lynching in the U.S. in the late 1880s, just as trusts came to monopolize the economy, was not a coincidence.

The Republican economic promise since Reagan has been that cutting regulation and taxes would create a healthy economy in which everyone who is willing to work can thrive. But political commentator Thom Hartmann marshaled the statistics in a crystal clear Twitter thread a week ago, revealing just how badly that argument has failed.

Hartmann noted that after World War II, “the nation had hummed along for 40 years on a top income tax bracket of 91% and a corporate income tax that topped out around 50%.” Business was growing faster than at any other previous time, and businessmen stayed out of politics. The country had great public schools, research laboratories, trade schools, airports, interstate highways, and small businesses, as well as unions that protected America’s workers.

The election of Ronald Reagan meant radical tax cuts (from a top marginal rate of 74% in 1980 to the 27% it is today), business deregulation, and the gutting of social safety nets. Forty-two years later, Hartmann notes, more than $50 trillion has been transferred from the bottom 90% to the top 1%. In 1980, 60% of us were in the middle class; now fewer than half of us are. Republicans promised that permitting business concentration would lead to innovation and opportunity; instead, we have seen an end to competition, along with price gouging and profiteering from the giant companies that choke out small business. Stock buybacks were supposed to mean that senior executives would care more about the future of their companies, but instead they have become a means for them to pocket cash.

Since the beginning of his term, Biden has tried to take on the concentration of wealth and power among a few elites. Biden’s investment in the U.S. economy through the American Rescue Plan and the bipartisan infrastructure bill has produced significant results. On Friday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released the nonfarm job numbers for June, which show that employment continues to rise. The economy added 372,000 jobs in June, mostly in “professional and business services, leisure and hospitality, and health care.” We are still 524,000 jobs down from February 2020, before the pandemic. Unemployment remains at 3.6%, with about 5.9 million folks unemployed.

There were some interesting trends in the data. There are 880,000 more jobs in business, computer design, administration, and research than there were in February 2020. There are 260,000 more jobs in outpatient health care now than in February 2020, but hospitals have lost 57,000 workers, and nursing and residential care have lost 379,000. Leisure and hospitality—restaurants, for example—have lost a whopping 1.3 million jobs, or 7.8% of their workers, since February 2020 (although the sector is growing again).

But look at this: transportation and warehousing have grown fast, with 759,000 more jobs than in February 2020. Manufacturing is back to where it was in February 2020, suggesting that President Joe Biden’s emphasis on repairing supply chains is paying off.

And in the past year, wages have gone up 5.1%. That, along with increased pressure for unionization, suggests workers have more power than they did before the pandemic.

This data suggests that people are moving away from work in restaurants, leisure, and nursing—all professions hit terribly hard during the pandemic—and toward transportation and office work. The increase in wages reflects more bargaining power on the part of employees. All of this is hardly rocket science, I know, but it does suggest that the economy is reorganizing at least temporarily into new forms since the pandemic.

This is of interest as we try to figure out what’s going on with inflation, which is currently afflicting not just the U.S. but the rest of the world as well. That story tells us something about the success of the Republican program Hartmann identified.

One of the reasons for inflation has been the concentration of corporate power since the 1980s. A June report by three economists for the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston noted that “[t]he US economy is at least 50 percent more concentrated today than it was in 2005,” and that such concentration amplifies the degree to which companies pass price hikes onto consumers as businesses overcompensate for rising production costs. In the oil industry, the report notes, as prices have spiked, companies have posted jaw-dropping profits.

The price of gasoline has been coming down from its crazy high for the past 25 days. In the past two weeks, the average price of gas has dropped 19 cents a gallon, and as the price of crude oil continues to fall, consumers can expect to see prices continue to fall as well, although they fall more slowly than they rise in a phenomenon researchers call “rocket and feathers.” That term refers to the fact that gas prices go up like a rocket along with the cost of crude oil but fall more slowly as the cost of crude oil comes down, in part because consumers are so happy to see any relief at the pump that they don’t shop around to drive prices lower.

One of the reasons for the crazy highs is speculation by largely unregulated energy traders that creates massive volatility in prices. Lack of regulation is in the news today in another industry, too, as journalists from media organizations including the Guardian, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, and the Washington Post revealed how Uber evaded regulators by using a “kill switch” that shut down regulators’ access to the files they needed to monitor the company.

There is a coming showdown between the Democrats’ approach to the economy and the old Republican approach. Biden and the Democrats are trying to pass a $52 billion U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (USICA) that would invest in U.S. science and technology to boost American industry, support research, and fund the manufacture of semiconductor chips to free the U.S. from relying on Chinese products. But Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has vowed to kill the measure unless the Democrats back off on a budget package that would fund Medicare by placing a 3.8% tax on income “pass throughs” taken by individuals making more than $400,000 a year and would allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices, significantly lowering costs to consumers.
 

JDCrimson

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Great content in this article. It's disconcerting that I only learn about it here. The Democrats are woefully losing the messaging war.
 

Go Bama

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July 11, 2022 (Monday)

Tomorrow’s public hearing of the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol, beginning at 1:00 p.m. ET, will be managed by Representatives Jamie Raskin (D-MD) and Stephanie Murphy (D-FL). It will focus on domestic violent extremists, members of Congress who joined Trump’s pressure campaign on legislators to overturn the election, and Trump’s activity focusing on January 6 itself.

That activity includes the infamous tweet of December 19, 2020, in which Trump announced: “Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!” According to The Guardian’s Hugo Lowell, investigators will demonstrate that the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys, as well as other activists, interpreted Trump’s tweet as a signal to come to Washington for the counting of the certified ballots on January 6.

The tweet came the day after a White House meeting in which Trump allies, including former national security advisor Michael Flynn and Trump lawyer Sidney Powell, urged then-president Trump to seize voting machines and make Powell a special counsel to look into alleged voter fraud. Instead, Trump focused on January 6 and called supporters to the city. By December 20, Proud Boys leaders and Oath Keepers made plans for military training and stockpiling weapons. Activists applied for a permit in Washington to protest.

As we gear up for tomorrow’s public hearing by the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol, there are more stories about the days surrounding that event.

Last Friday, July 8, Trump’s White House counsel Pat Cipollone testified before the committee for more than 8 hours under oath, privately but on video. According to Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), who is a member of the committee, Cipollone did not contradict anything that Cassidy Hutchinson, aide to White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, said in her explosive testimony. Those who have suggested they disagree with that testimony have not, so far, testified under oath. Lofgren also suggested that Cipollone had given the committee new information that it would produce for the public later in a later hearing.

Also on Friday, a Justice Department court filing revealed that the Oath Keepers had extensive plans for violence in the days surrounding January 6. Prosecutors say that at least three chapters of the gang held military training camps focusing on “military-style basic” training, “unconventional warfare,” and “hasty ambushes.” At least one of the Oath Keepers brought explosives, including grenades, to the quick reaction force (QRF) site outside Washington, D.C. One of the gang, Thomas Caldwell, had a “DEATH LIST” that included the name of a Georgia election official and that person’s family member, both of whom had been falsely targeted as part of alleged voter fraud. (Caldwell told CNN that it was a “100% false and disgusting lie” that he “sought to assassinate election workers.”)

Nine of the Oath Keepers have been charged with seditious conspiracy. At least seven of the gang’s members, three of whom pleaded guilty to seditious conspiracy and who were close to those under indictment, are cooperating with the government.

On Saturday, Trump confidant Steve Bannon, who is facing a trial for contempt of Congress on July 18, says he is now willing to testify before the committee. To add drama to that statement, former president Trump made a statement waiving the executive privilege Bannon has cited in his refusal to cooperate. This was pure theater: Trump no longer exercises executive privilege—President Joe Biden does—and since Bannon wasn’t an employee, he couldn’t have been covered anyway. Nonetheless, some media outlets fell for it and repeated it breathlessly, as if we might now hear honest testimony from Bannon.

Not happening.

Bannon’s “offer” to testify seemed clearly to be an attempt to muddy the increasingly clear waters of the committee’s hearings. In the first impeachment hearings, Representatives Jim Jordan (R-OH) and John Ratcliffe (R-TX) used their positions to shout and badger witnesses and to create sound bites for right-wing media that put forward a completely misleading narrative of what the hearings were actually showing. As Josh Kovensky of Talking Points Memo pointed out today, Trump has complained bitterly that his people are unable to get their own narrative out, even as evidence against the president and his allies coming from his own inner circle is painting a damning picture of an attempt to overturn our democracy.

Public “testimony” would enable loyalists like Bannon to “flood the zone with sh*t,” as he has called his method of disinformation. Not only Bannon, but also the leader of the Oath Keepers, Stewart Rhodes, has offered to “testify.” So, too, has Representative Mo Brooks (R-AL). In each case, though, the men have tried to put limits on what they will talk about and the conditions under which they will talk, revealing both an attempt to demonstrate that they still have power to make demands (they don’t) and that they are not making good faith offers. Rhodes’s lawyer told Politico: “He wants to confront them.”

As CBS News congressional correspondent Scott MacFarlane tweeted, their determination to skew the narrative also undermines the argument that no one is paying attention to the hearings.

Today, the Department of Justice pulled the rug out from under the whole scene when it filed a document revealing that Trump’s attorney, Justin Clark, had confirmed to the department on June 29 that Trump had never made an attempt to invoke executive privilege over Bannon’s testimony or documents. After a long litany of Bannon’s antics, the department said that “[a]ll of the above-described circumstances suggest the Defendant’s sudden wish to testify is not a genuine effort to meet his obligations but a last-ditch attempt to avoid accountability.”

Bannon’s moves lately were almost certainly designed to delay his trial for contempt of Congress, due to start next Monday. He vowed to make the case the “misdemeanor from hell,” for the Justice Department, and he tried to subpoena House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and members of the January 6 committee. Bannon’s lawyers were in court today to try to postpone his trial for three months. U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols, who was appointed by Trump, ruled against Bannon across the board. “It seems clear that Mr. Bannon’s trying to turn this into a circus that cannot be allowed,” House counsel Douglas Letter said, and the judge apparently agreed. Bannon’s trial will begin as scheduled.

Bannon is not the only one who has wanted to avoid legal procedures. A grand jury in Fulton County, Georgia, has subpoenaed Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and seven other witnesses to testify about the attempt to overturn the 2020 election in Georgia. Graham allegedly made at least two phone calls to Georgia secretary of state Brad Raffensperger asking him to find votes for Trump. Graham vowed to fight the subpoena. Today, Fulton County Superior Judge Robert McBurney ordered him to testify, saying he was a “necessary witness” to the investigation. He is supposed to testify on August 2 but will continue to battle the order.

And today, news broke that Cushman & Wakefield, the company that appraised some of Trump’s New York properties, has struck a deal with New York attorney general Letitia James, who has subpoenaed documents in her investigation of the Trump organization. The company will hand over “priority” overdue documents by midnight Monday and has until July 20 to deliver more of the documents James wants. If they do so, both sides will ask the judge to get rid of the $10,000-a-day fine the company incurred by missing past deadlines.
 

Go Bama

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June 12, 2022 (Tuesday)

Today the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol held its seventh public hearing. This one focused on how former president Trump summoned right-wing extremists to Washington, D.C., on January 6, 2021, in a last ditch effort to overturn the 2020 election.

Committee members reiterated that Trump’s advisors had told him repeatedly that there was no evidence for his claims that the election had been corrupt. Again and again, White House officials demanded of Trump’s allies that they produce evidence of their accusations of fraud, and they never produced anything, choosing instead to attack those demanding evidence as disloyal to Trump. There is no doubt that Trump knew quite well there had been no fraud that would have changed the outcome of the election, and that he was lying when he continued to insist the election had been stolen.

Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY), the committee’s co-chair, began the hearing by noting that there had been a change recently in those defending Trump’s actions as it has been established that Trump’s advisors had made it clear to him the election was not stolen. From arguing that he didn’t know the election was fair, they have switched to suggesting that he was misled by bad actors like John Eastman, who articulated the plan to have Vice President Mike Pence refuse to count certain of Biden’s electors, or Trump lawyer Sidney Powell.

But, Cheney said in words carefully calculated to infuriate the former president: “This is nonsense. Trump is a 76-year-old man. He is not an impressionable child. Just like everyone else in this country, he is responsible for his own actions…. [He] [c]annot escape responsibility by being willfully blind.”

The focus in today’s hearing was on Trump’s actions between December 14, when the Electoral College met in all 50 states and in the District of Columbia to certify the ballots that elected Democrat Joe Biden, and the morning of January 6, when Trump pointed the rally-goers at the Ellipse toward the U.S. Capitol.

With the electoral votes certified for Biden on December 14, even then–Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell congratulated Biden publicly on his election, and numerous White House officials, including White House counsel Pat Cipollone, Attorney General Bill Barr, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, and White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, either urged Trump to concede or began looking for new jobs on the assumption the White House would change hands on January 20.

But Trump and his allies looked to January 6, when those electoral votes would be counted, as the last inflection point at which they might be able to overturn the election.

On December 18, 2020, four days after the electors met, Trump’s outside advisors, including lawyers Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, former national security advisor Michael Flynn, and Patrick Byrne, former chief executive officer of Overstock, got access to the White House through a junior staffer and met with Trump. They brought an executive order that had been drafted on December 15, the day after the electors had certified the votes for Biden. It called for Trump to order the Defense Department to seize state voting machines, and it appointed Powell as special counsel to investigate voter fraud, giving her broad powers. They wanted Trump to implement it.

Cipollone got wind of the meeting and crashed it about 15 minutes in. Over the next six hours, White House officials and the Trump team members who insisted the election was stolen faced off, exchanging personal insults, accusations of disloyalty to the president, even challenges to fight physically. Cipollone, White House lawyer Eric Herschmann, and their team demanded evidence to support the theories Trump’s outside team insisted were true. In turn, the outside team repeated conspiracy theories and accused the others of being wimps: Powell told the committee the White House team all should have been fired, and Giuliani told the committee he told them all they were “a bunch of p*ssies.”

In the end, Trump was convinced not to follow the direction of the outside advisors. But he didn't take the advice of those officials telling him to concede, either. Instead, shortly after the meeting broke up, Meadows walked Giuliani out of the White House to make sure he didn’t sneak back into Trump’s company. Then, at 1:42 on the morning of December 19, Trump reiterated to followers that the election had been stolen and that there was no statistical way that he could have lost.

Then he typed the words: “Big protest in D.C. on January 6. Be there, will be wild!”

Immediately, his most loyal supporters recognized this tweet as a call for armed resistance. “Trump just told us all to come armed,” one tweeted. “F*cking A, this is happening.”

Far-right media, including Alex Jones of InfoWars, amplified Trump's tweet with calls to violence. The committee introduced testimony from a former Twitter moderator who said: “We had not seen that sort of direct communication before” in which Trump was speaking directly to supporters and inciting them to fight. After the December 19 tweet, it was clear, the person said, “not only were these individuals ready and willing, but the leader of their cause was asking them to join him in this cause and in fighting for this cause in DC on January 6 as well.”

Supporters wrote comments like: “Why don’t we just kill them? Every last democrat, down to the last man, woman, and child?” and, making the link between Trump’s determination to stay in office and white supremacy: “It’s time for the DAY OF THE ROPE! WHITE REVOLUTION IS THE ONLY SOLUTION!”

As Trump continued to post about January 6 on Twitter and continued to insist he had won the election, militias, white supremacists, and conspiracy theorists began to work together to coordinate an attack on the Capitol. The Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, along with other extremists groups, worked with Trump allies to plan the attack. Those allies included Michael Flynn and Patrick Byrne.

Another ally was Trump confidant Roger Stone, who talked both to the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers “regularly.” The committee got access to an encrypted chat of the “Friends of Stone,” or “FOS,” including Stone, Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes, Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio and agitator Ali Alexander. Kelly Meggs, the leader of the Florida Oath Keepers, spoke directly with Stone about security on January 5 and 6. Stone was guarded on January 6 by two Oath Keepers who have been indicted for seditious conspiracy.

Stone was also close enough to the Proud Boys to have “taken their so-called fraternity creed required for the first level of initiation to the group.” The clip of that oath shows him saying: “Hi, I’m Roger Stone. I’m a Western chauvinist, and I refuse to apologize for creating the modern world.”

The committee made it clear that Trump deliberately created the crisis on January 6. Katrina Pierson, organizer of the Ellipse rally, was so worried about Stone, Jones, and Alexander as speakers at the rally, that she talked to Meadows on January 2 about them, warning a fellow organizer that Trump “likes the crazies.” On that same day, Meadows warned his assistant Cassidy Hutchinson that things could get “real, real bad” on January 6.

The committee produced evidence from a number of emails and tweets from Trump and other organizers saying that after the rally, Trump would urge attendees to march to the Capitol, undercutting the argument that the move was spontaneous. In fact, it was long planned.

Continued below.
 
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