March 2021 News

 

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

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

 

March 3

Top Headlines

 

U.S. Capitol Riot, Insurrection Followups

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

 U.S. Elections, Politics, Governance

 

U.S. Law, Regulation, Disasters

 

Biden Transition

 

U.S. Foreign Policy

 

World News

 

Top Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden promises enough coronavirus vaccine for ‘every adult in America’ by the end of May, William Wan, Brittany Shammas, Ashley Parker and Laura Meckler, March 3, 2021 (print ed.). But federal officials worry pandemic progress might stall as states nationwide lift restrictions

joe biden oPresident Biden, facing mounting pressure on various fronts to gain control of the coronavirus pandemic, placed even more of his administration’s hopes in a “stepped-up” vaccine process, promising Tuesday that there will be enough coronavirus vaccine doses for “every adult in America” by the end of May — a two-month acceleration of his previous projection of July.

Biden said pharmaceutical giant Merck will help make Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot coronavirus vaccine, adding that at the administration’s urging, Johnson & Johnson’s manufacturing facilities will now “operate 24/7.” In the same remarks, the president also said he would use federal authority to offer vaccinations to K-12 teachers and child-care workers, with the aim of getting at least the first shot administered to all educators by the end of March.

Ending the pandemic has been Biden’s top priority since before he took office, and his announcements Tuesday came as his administration is facing myriad setbacks and challenges in combating the virus — and the U.S. pandemic is at an inflection point.

Cases and deaths have steadily and dramatically fallen since January, but the nation’s numbers are now stalled at a worrisome level as more-transmissible variants spread. Federal officials have warned that Americans should remain cautious as the rate of vaccinations continues to rapidly increase.

washington post logoWashington Post, Merck will help make Johnson & Johnson vaccine, boosting supply, Laurie McGinley and Christopher Rowland, March 3, 2021 (print ed.). The arrangement, which was brokered by the White House, was reached amid concerns about Johnson & Johnson production delays.

President Biden will announce Tuesday that pharmaceutical giant Merck will help make Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot coronavirus vaccine — an unusual pact between fierce merck logocompetitors that could sharply boost the supply of the newly authorized vaccine, according to senior administration officials.

johnson johnson logoThe officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a matter that has not been announced, said they began scouring the country for additional manufacturing capacity after they realized in the first days of the administration that Johnson & Johnson had fallen behind in vaccine production. They soon sought to broker a deal with Merck, one of the world’s largest vaccine makers, which had failed to develop its own coronavirus vaccine.

Under the arrangement, Merck will dedicate two facilities in the United States to Johnson & Johnson’s shots. One will provide “fill-finish” services, the last stage of the production process during which the vaccine substance is placed in vials and packaged for distribution. The other will make the vaccine, and has the potential to vastly increase supply, perhaps even doubling what Johnson & Johnson could make on its own, the officials said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grassley didn’t go as far as Sen. Ron Johnson did last week, when the Wisconsin Republican used a similar hearing to float conspiracy theories about Jan. 6 provocateurs based on a single, speculative account from a witness at a right-wing think tank. Grassley instead essentially set Jan. 6 aside and suggested the FBI might be giving left-leaning extremists and anarchists comparatively short shrift by not equally investigating last summer’s protests against police violence.

greg abbott screengrab

ny times logoNew York Times, Texas Drops Virus Restrictions Amid a Wave of U.S. Reopenings, Julie Bosman and Lucy Tompkins,March 3, 2021 (print ed.). As virus cases fall, states are rescinding mask mandates and reopening businesses and schools despite uncertainty about the pandemic’s future.

texas mapTexas said Tuesday that it was lifting its mask requirement and would allow businesses to fully reopen, the most expansive step by any state to remove coronavirus restrictions as Americans across the country are eager to emerge after a year of isolation in the pandemic.

The move by Texas, with its 29 million residents, goes further than similar actions in other states and cities that are rushing to ease as many limits as they can.

“It is now time to open Texas 100 percent,” Gov. Greg Abbott said, adding that “Covid has not suddenly disappeared,” but state mandates are no longer needed.

All around the country, governors and mayors are calibrating what is feasible, what is safe and what is politically practical.

washington post logoWashington Post, Democrats eye an overhaul of elections as GOP moves to restrict polling access, Mike DeBonis and Amy Gardner, March 3, 2021 (print ed.). The turbulent debate over the nation’s elections reached Congress’s doorstep this week, with House Democrats poised to pass sweeping nationwide standards for voter access Wednesday just as Republican lawmakers in dozens of states move to restrict polling access after Donald Trump’s November loss.

Both parties have mobilized for the fight in unprecedented ways, reflecting the immense public attention on election issues — thanks to Trump’s months-long campaign of falsehoods and the subsequent attack on the Capitol, as well as the stakes for the 2022 midterm elections.

But it appears unlikely that the matter will be quickly settled at the federal level, with the narrow Democratic Senate majority and firm GOP opposition spelling apparent doom for any type of new voting rights legislation in the near term.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: As crucial pandemic vote approaches, Democrats guard their slim Senate majority, Paul Kane, March 3, 2021. If one Democrat has a fever, breaks an ankle or takes a bad fall, the legislative process would come to a stop. Worse, Democrats are fully aware that a death could end their majority at any moment.

In late January, Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), left, fell ill and was briefly hospitalized. A day later, Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) went into quarantine for a few days after coming in close pat leahy hscontact with someone who tested positive for the coronavirus.

Both senators returned to work quickly, but their brief absence served as a stark reminder of just how perilous the Democratic majority is in a 50-50 Senate, particularly as they plan to push through a $1.9 trillion pandemic rescue package later this week.

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) intends to have Vice President Harris cast the tiebreaking vote, but first he needs to make sure all 50 members of his caucus are on hand to vote yes.

If one Democrat has a fever, breaks an ankle or takes a bad fall, the legislative process would come to a stop until all 50 were able to vote for President Biden’s first critical legislative agenda item.

Worse, Democrats are fully aware that a death could end their majority at any moment, particularly given the increasingly old nature of today’s Senate.

“We are one heartbeat away, and I remind myself every day: I’m not putting off anything until June that I can do today,” Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin (Ill.), the top Democratic vote counter, told reporters Tuesday. “And I want to get as much done as possible.”

Durbin, 76, is one of 18 members of the caucus who are at least 70 years old, six of whom come from states with laws allowing Republican governors to appoint a GOP successor. Two more 70-something Democrats come from states where laws would leave the seat vacant until a special election is held to replace them.

 

U.S. Capitol Riot, Insurrection Followups

 capitol noose shay horse nurphoto via getty

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

ethan nordean WSJ

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. alleges Proud Boys planned to break into Capitol on Jan. 6 from many different points, Spencer S. Hsu, March 3, 2021 (print ed.). U.S. prosecutors alleged for the first time that a Washington state leader of the Proud Boys was nominated by members of the group to take charge of the U.S. Capitol breach on Jan. 6 and carried out a plan to split into groups to break into the building from as many points as possible.

In a 24-page filing Monday, U.S. prosecutors asked a federal judge in Washington, D.C., to keep Ethan Nordean, 30, of Seattle, in jail pending trial, appealing a lower court’s Feb. 8 release order.

Nordean was “nominated from within to have ‘war powers’ ” to lead activities at the Capitol after the group’s chairman, Henry “Enrique” Tarrio, was arrested by D.C. police upon arriving in the city two days earlier, Assistant U.S. Attorneys James B. Nelson and Jason B.A. McCullough alleged. They do not state whether Nordean and/or others were formally selected to lead events that day.

The prosecutors also asserted that Nordean led the group by positioning Proud Boys members — carrying encrypted two-way Chinese-made Baofeng radios and wearing military-style gear — at an entrance to the Capitol grounds that was guarded by only a handful of Capitol Police officers and spreading out others to different locations to avoid triggering police interest.

“By blending in and spreading out, Defendant and those following him on January 6 made it more likely that either a Proud Boy — or a suitably-inspired ‘normie’ [nonmilitant Trump supporter] — would be able to storm the Capitol and its ground in such a way that would interrupt [Congress’s] Certification of the Electoral College vote,” prosecutors said.

Nordean was scheduled for a detention hearing on Tuesday.

Nordean, also known as Rufio Panman online, was arrested Feb. 3 on charges of aiding and abetting the destruction of government property, obstructing an official proceeding, trespassing and disorderly conduct on restricted Capitol grounds. The charges include an offense of violence and a charge defined as a federal crime of terrorism — destroying property to intimidate or coerce the government — punishable by up to 10 years in prison, prosecutors said.

washington post logoWashington Post, A Capitol rioter said he posed as antifa, feds say, then boasted he beat police who ‘got exactly what they deserved,’ Katie Shepherd, March 3, 2021 (print ed.). The day before a pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol, William Robert Norwood III texted a group of friends and family to boast he had traveled to D.C. with a plan to fool the police.

william norwood“I’m dressing in all black,” Norwood, right, texted a group chat on Jan. 5, according to images included in a federal criminal complaint filed last week. “I’ll look just like ANTIFA. I’ll get away with anything.”

Then, after joining in the mob, assaulting police officers and storming the Capitol rotunda, federal agents said, Norwood texted the group again to boast that his ploy had been a success.

william norwood mug“It worked,” Norwood texted, along with photos of himself wearing a police officer’s vest that he allegedly took from the Capitol. “I got away with things that others were shot or arrested for.”

Norwood, shown at left in a mug shot, was arrested in Greer, S.C., on Feb. 25 and charged with violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds, obstruction of justice and Congress, theft of government property and other charges. He does not yet have an attorney listed in court records.

Federal agents buttressed the criminal complaint against Norwood with text messages he allegedly sent about joining in the riot — including contradictory messages taking credit for attacking police, while also blaming the violence on antifascists.

washington post logoWashington Post, Internal DHS documents warned of potential for violence at Jan. 6 rally, Shane Harris, Aaron C. Davis, Nick Miroff and Nate Jones, March 3, 2021.  Internal reports and emails from the Homeland Security Department show that federal law enforcement authorities were alert to the potential for violence by extremist groups attending a pro-Trump rally in Washington on Jan. 6, which preceded the attack on the Capitol.

us dhs big eagle logo4A security bulletin, along with other reports on protests, was compiled by the department’s Federal Protective Service (FPS) a day before the attack and warned that anti-government and racially motivated extremists were likely to participate in the rally near the White House and “use the activities as an opportunity to promote their ideologies and motivate followers to promote violence.”

President Donald Trump spoke at the rally and encouraged his followers to march to the Capitol, where lawmakers were meeting to certify electoral college votes confirming Joe Biden’s victory.

Republicans push false and misleading accounts of Capitol riot

The documents, which were obtained by The Washington Post under the Freedom of Information Act, made no predictions about specific violent acts or an attack on the Capitol, and they don’t indicate any response from other law enforcement agencies about what intelligence the government may have possessed ahead of the Jan. 6 attack.

The bulletin indicates that it was shared with other DHS security teams. It’s not clear whether it was provided to the FBI, D.C. police or Capitol Police.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: ‘I’ll get away with anything’: What Capitol rioters said before their arrests, Aaron Blake, March 3, 2021. Former president Donald Trump’s culpability for the Jan. 6 Capitol riot is a question that’s now for the history books (and potentially courts of law). But to the extent Trump did send supporters into the Capitol that day, court documents increasingly show, much like Trump said of Mexico in 2015, he wasn’t sending his best.

The Washington Post’s Katie Shepherd on Tuesday detailed the story of William Robert Norwood III. According to a criminal complaint, Norwood texted a group of friends and family that he was going to attend the day’s events and fool police by dressing in all black. “I’ll look just like ANTIFA,” he said. “I’ll get away with anything.” He allegedly followed up later with a photo showing him holding a police vest, apparently acquired during the riot. “It worked,” Norwood said. “I got away with things that others were shot or arrested for.”

He was arrested last week.

Another story revealed in recent days deals with Richard Michetti, a Pennsylvania man who allegedly texted with his ex-girlfriend about being in the Capitol. At one point, he told her she was a “moron” if she didn’t understand the election was stolen. She later turned him in.

The pace of arrests stemming from the Capitol riot has slowed in recent weeks. That’s both to be expected and also a reflection of how many people made it rather easy to identify them — in many cases taking selfies or appearing in videos of the siege helpfully captured by themselves or others. The Post’s Travis M. Andrews wrote in mid-January about some of the most brazen and ultimately foolhardy participants at that point.

Now that the number of arrests has grown to about 280, the examples have grown. And nearly two months later, it’s worth a look back at some of those whose alleged actions — apart from, you know, trying to overturn a democratic vote based on falsehoods — cast them in a particularly dim light. Below are 13 of them, in ascending order, that stand out.

washington post logoWashington Post, Senate hearings to focus on failures ahead of Capitol riot, Matt Zapotosky and Devlin Barrett, March 3, 2021. Two Senate committees are scheduled to take testimony from four FBI and military officials.

Lawmakers are scheduled to take testimony Wednesday from several U.S. defense and law enforcement officials, as Congress continues to investigate the intelligence and other failures that precipitated the Jan. 6 attack at the Capitol.

It’s the second such hearing before the Senate’s Rules and Administration Committee and Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which together have been probing the attack and questioning those who responded to it. Starting at 10 a.m., the event could shed more light on the discussions between defense and law enforcement agencies, both before the riot and during it.

Last week, current and former officials responsible for security that day — including acting D.C. police chief Robert J. Contee III, former Capitol Police chief Steven A. Sund, former House sergeant-at-arms Paul D. Irving and former Senate sergeant-at-arms Michael C. Stenger — sought to explain why they did not respond more aggressively to intelligence that anticipated possible violence, such as a Jan. 5 FBI report warning of “war” at the Capitol.

“An online thread discussed specific calls for violence to include stating ‘Be ready to fight. Congress needs to hear glass breaking, doors being kicked in, and blood from their BLM and Pantifa slave soldiers being spilled,’ ” the report stated. “‘Get violent. Stop calling this a march, or rally, or a protest. Go there ready for war. We get our President or we die. NOTHING else will achieve this goal.’ ”

BLM is a common reference to the Black Lives Matter movement for racial justice. Pantifa is a derogatory term for antifa, a loosely knit group of far-left anti-fascist activists whose adherents sometimes engage in violent clashes with right-wing extremists.

Former Capitol security officials blame intelligence lapses for deadly Jan. 6 riot

The hearing Wednesday will allow lawmakers to press the FBI about the intelligence that the agency gathered, as well as military and homeland security officials about their response to the possible threat. Scheduled to testify are Maj. Gen. William J. Walker, the commanding general of the D.C. National Guard; Jill Sanborn, the assistant director of the FBI’s counterterrorism division; Melissa Smislova, a senior official in the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis; and Robert Salesses, a senior Defense Department official.

washington post logoWashington Post, Military reaction was ‘sprint speed,’ top officer says as Pentagon takes heat for Capitol riot response, Missy Ryan and Dan Lamothe, March 3, 2021 (print ed.). Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, gave his first public comments on the events of Jan. 6.

mark milley army chief of staffThe Pentagon acted as quickly as possible when asked to help respond to rioting at the Capitol on Jan. 6, the top U.S. military officer said, calling the turnaround “sprint speed” in his first public comments about the Pentagon’s reaction to the lethal siege.

Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, right, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said defense officials approved a police request for assistance in about 60 minutes as a mob smashed into Congress in an effort to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s presidential win. It then took several hours for D.C. National Guard members to mobilize and get in place, he said.

Milley spoke as lawmakers prepared to hold another hearing on the riot, which has become a defining moment in President Donald Trump’s months-long attempt to remain in office and overturn the Biden victory.

Maj. Gen. William Walker, the commanding general of the D.C. National Guard, will be among those testifying Wednesday as part of a joint hearing by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration, part of a larger congressional effort to reckon with the violence.

Milley defended the military’s efforts before and during the attack, saying that criticism in the aftermath of the events did not take into account the Pentagon’s decision-making process and the steps involved with calling up part-time troops.

His account diverged from that of current and former police officials who have placed a large share of the blame on the Pentagon, saying that officials there dragged their feet or even initially refused to send additional troops as the violent crowd overpowered a small police force.

As the situation turned chaotic, acting D.C. police chief Robert J. Contee III and Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund, who resigned after the attack, spoke to Pentagon officials and requested additional support.

Sund later told lawmakers that he was “very surprised at the amount of time and the pushback I was receiving when I was making an urgent request for their assistance.”

Contee went further, saying he was “stunned” by the response from the Department of the Army, calling senior Army officials “reluctant” to send the D.C. National Guard to the Capitol.

Asked about Trump’s claim that he told Pentagon leaders they should have 10,000 National Guard personnel on the National Mall to help manage the planned protests, Milley also said he was not aware of any request.

“As chairman of the Joint Chiefs, if there was an order for 10,000 National Guardsmen, I would like to believe I would know that,” he said. “I know that that was never transmitted to me by anyone — the president or secretary of defense or anyone else — for 6th of January.”

 

Virus Victims, Responses

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: March 3), with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):

World Cases: 115,418,917, Deaths: 2,562,876
U.S. Cases:     29,370,805, Deaths:   529,222

washington post logocovad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Washington Post, 51.8 million vaccinated: The number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, covering 42.5% of the prioritized population and 15.6 % of the total population. This includes more than 26.2 million people (7.9 %) who have been fully vaccinated. 102.4 million doses have been distributed. See about your state.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Virus Reporting: Global infection numbers edging back up after weeks of decline, WHO says, Erin Cunningham and Derek Hawkins, March 2, 2021.

  • Austria, Denmark team up with Israel on vaccines as Europe falters
  • Global focus on pandemic led to fewer casualties in conflict zones, report says
  • Delayed coronavirus response by D.C. psychiatric hospital caused 18 deaths, report says

ny times logoNew York Times, Should Your School Be Fully Open? Here’s What the C.D.C. Says, John Keefe, March 3, 2021 (print ed.). Few counties in the United cdc logo CustomStates meet the guidelines to avoid major restrictions on reopening schools, according to a New York Times analysis.

Only 4 percent of the nation’s schoolchildren live in counties where coronavirus transmission is low enough for full-time in-person learning without additional restrictions, according to the guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and an analysis of the agency’s latest figures.

ny times logoNew York Times, Return-to-Office Plans Are Set in Motion, but Virus Uncertainty Remains, Julie Creswell, Gillian Friedman and Peter Eavis, March 3, 2021. Many employers are not making a decision until many workers are vaccinated. And some are making plans for “hybrid” work arrangements.

While coronavirus cases are declining and vaccinations are rising, many companies have not committed to a time and strategy for bringing employees back. The most important variable, many executives said, is how long it will take for most employees to be vaccinated.

Another major consideration revolves around the children of workers. Companies say they can’t make firm decisions until they know when local schools will reopen for in-person learning.

Then there is a larger question: Does it make sense to go back to the way things were before the pandemic given that people have become accustomed to the rhythms of remote work?

 ny times logoNew York Times, Empty Office Buildings Squeeze City Budgets as Property Values Fall, Alan Rappeport, March 3, 2021. Dormant offices, malls and restaurants foreshadow a fiscal time bomb for municipal budgets, which are heavily reliant on property taxes. Local officials from both parties are pleading with the Biden administration and members of Congress to approve relief for local governments quickly.

 

U.S. Elections, Politics, Governance

washington post logoWashington Post, Supreme Court appears to favor upholding voting laws lower court found unfair to minorities, Robert Barnes, March 3, 2021 (print ed.). The justices are reviewing protections provided by the Voting Rights Act, which forbids laws that result in discrimination based on race.

washington post logoWashington Post, House ethics office says there’s ‘substantial reason to believe’ Rep. Steven Palazzo misused campaign, congressional funds, Felicia Sonmez, March 3, 2021 (print ed.). A House ethics panel says there is “substantial reason to believe” that Rep. Steven M. Palazzo (R-Miss.) misused his campaign and congressional funds, according to a report made public Monday.

The Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE), which produced the 47-page report last summer after a months-long probe, also said that Palazzo “may have performed official actions to assist his brother,” Kyle Palazzo, in potential violation of House rules and federal law.

steven palazzoThe probe was prompted by a complaint last March from the nonprofit Campaign Legal Center, which accused Rep. Palazzo, right, of using his campaign contributions as a “personal slush fund” through which he paid “himself and his spouse nearly $200,000,” including $60,000 in rent to his own farm.

In its report, the OCE said that it had found “limited evidence of campaign use of the property, especially to justify $60,000.00 in rent and thousands of dollars of additional charges to maintain the home and improve its marketability.”

The ethics office also said there was evidence that Palazzo “may have asked official staffers to perform campaign work and personal errands during the congressional workday.”

“And finally,” the report states, “the OCE found evidence that Rep. Palazzo may have used his official position and congressional resources to contact the Assistant Secretary of the Navy in order to assist his brother’s efforts to reenlist in the military.” It notes that, according to a former Palazzo staffer, Kyle Palazzo “was separated from the Navy for affecting a fraudulent enlistment.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Vernon E. Jordan Jr. (1935–2021): Lawyer and political power broker who became the confidant of presidents dies at 85, Matt Schudel, March 3, 2021 (print ed.). Jordan was one of the most influential figures in Washington, reaching the peak of his quiet authority during the 1990s, when he had Bill Clinton’s ear through two terms as president, including when Clinton faced an investigation and impeachment over a relationship with a White House intern.

vernon jordanVernon E. Jordan Jr., right, never held elective office, was never a member of the Cabinet and never even worked for the federal government. He was a lawyer who rarely appeared in court, a corporate kingmaker who was not a registered lobbyist, a political strategist who did not direct a campaign.

Yet Mr. Jordan was, for years, one of the most influential figures in Washington. With a commanding presence, personal charm and an inviolable sense of discretion, he had a rare combination of talents that made him the confidant of presidents, congressional leaders, business executives and civil rights figures.

Mr. Jordan was the consummate Washington power broker, reaching the peak of his quiet authority during the 1990s, when he was, with the possible exception of Hillary Clinton, President Bill Clinton’s closest adviser.

Mr. Jordan brought a smooth manner and elegant style to Beltway dealmaking, anchored in his youth in a housing project in the segregated South. He had the moral authority of a veteran of the civil rights movement — he nearly died in a 1980 shooting by a racially motivated would-be assassin — and was adept at navigating corporate boardrooms and golf course fairways, as well as gospel-filled churches.

Earlier generations of Washington insiders had given advice from the sidelines, including Tommy “the Cork” Corcoran, Bryce Harlow, Clark Clifford, Lloyd Cutler and Robert Strauss — Mr. Jordan’s mentor at the Akin Gump law firm. But one significant way in which Mr. Jordan differed from his predecessors was he was among the few African Americans at the top of Washington’s power structure.

ny times logoNew York Times, Cuomo Losing Power and Allies as Crisis Deepens, Jesse McKinley, Luis Ferré-Sadurní and Katie Glueck, March 3, 2021 (print ed.). Gov. Andrew Cuomo faced more calls for his resignation, and a Republican congressman, Lee Zeldin, said he was exploring a challenge to him next year.

With allegations of unsettling behavior toward women spilling into the public eye, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo spent Tuesday fending off calls for his resignation, with few voluble defenders in a moment of unparalleled weakness in his decade-long tenure in Albany.

Signs of the governor’s diminished sway were everywhere.

A small, but expanding, coterie of Democratic lawmakers called on Mr. Cuomo to step down, as did the state Working Families Party, which has frequently clashed with the governor. Among some donors, there was an increasing sense of discomfort with reports of Mr. Cuomo’s behavior and uncertainty around his future, with one active Democratic donor describing a growing instinct to “hedge their bets.”

Representative Lee Zeldin, a Long Island Republican, announced on Tuesday that he was “actively exploring” a run for governor.

Still, for all that, one major bulwark to any forced departure — the Democrat-dominated statehouse, which could impeach him — appeared to be holding, for now at least. Impeachment would require mass defections by Democrats in both the State Assembly and the Senate, which seemed unlikely as of Tuesday.

kweisi mfume and kimberly klacik

washington post logoWashington Post, Donors gave a House candidate more than $8 million. A single firm took nearly half of it, Meagan Flynn and Michael Scherer, March 3, 2021 (print ed.). Baltimore Republican Kim Klacik’s viral ads were touted by President Donald Trump and his son Donald Trump Jr.

U.S. House candidate Kim Klacik, above right, walked onto Mike Huckabee’s cable talk show last August as the latest conservative celebrity, riding high on a viral campaign ad that had attracted 10 million views and was shared on social media by President Donald Trump and his eldest son.

“We raised close to $2 million,” the Republican congressional hopeful said of the three-minute spot, which showed her marching in a red dress and high heels past abandoned buildings in Baltimore, asserting that Democrats do not care about Black lives.

But later that night, Klacik’s staff told her it would be best to stop disclosing how much money the ad had raised for her campaign against Rep. Kweisi Mfume (D, above left) — because she wouldn’t be keeping much of it, Klacik recounted in an interview.

republican elephant logoHer campaign is an example of how some consulting firms are profiting handsomely from Republican candidates who have robust appeal in today’s politically charged environment — even when they are running in deep-blue districts where it is virtually impossible for them to win. The more viral the candidate goes, the more money the companies make — a model possible only through the online outrage machine of hyperpartisan politics.

Fundraising companies say their fees are well-earned and still leave candidates with more money than they would have if their ads had not been shared widely. But critics, including Klacik and some other 2020 candidates, say the system is deceptive, trapping first-time politicians in onerous contracts that siphon away cash their donors intended for them.

“It sounds like part of the swamp that needs to be drained,” said Bruce Dale, a Klacik donor from Michigan, who was aghast to learn that a chunk of his $800 in donations may not have made it to her. “They can say it’s legal, but there are a lot of things that are legal that are wrong. This is wrong.”

High-margin fundraising fees — sometimes in excess of 90 percent of a donor’s first contribution — have sucked resources out of conservative politics ever since the movement organized in the 1970s around the costly medium of direct mail. Social media, email and text-message fundraising brought those same steep margins online.

 

U.S. Law, Regulation, Disasters

bureau of prisons logo horizontal

washington post logoWashington Post, Study: 1 in 7 U.S. prisoners is serving life, and two-thirds of those are people of color, Tom Jackman, March 3, 2021 (print ed.). A criminal justice advocacy group recommends that states and the federal government implement a 20-year maximum prison term except in rare circumstances.

In America, over 203,000 people are serving life sentences in prison, more than the country’s entire prison population in 1970. Of the lifers, 30 percent are at least 55 years old. And, according to a new study by the Sentencing Project, more than two-thirds of those serving life in prison are people of color.

As part of an effort to end mass incarceration in the American justice system and remedy decades of racial inequity, experts are focusing on the number of aging inmates essentially sentenced to die in prison. And the study by the Sentencing Project shows that, while the number of people incarcerated as juveniles or for nonviolent offenses has declined, the number sentenced to life in prison continues to make up a significant portion of the population behind bars, with an estimated cost of $1 million per inmate for those who spend 40 years in prison.

 

Biden Transition

washington post logoWashington Post, Rhode Island Gov. Raimondo is confirmed as commerce secretary, David J. Lynch, March 3, 2021 (print ed.). New Commerce Dept. chief faced little opposition. Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) won Senate confirmation Tuesday as the next U.S. commerce secretary, a post that will thrust her into some of the most contentious economic and security questions confronting the Biden administration.

The Senate easily approved her nomination by a vote of 84 to 15. She is expected to be sworn in Wednesday.

gina raimondo 2019 CustomRaimondo, 49, right, a former venture capitalist who was reelected to her second term as Rhode Island’s chief executive in 2018, will assume command of a federal agency with sweeping responsibilities and an increasingly important portfolio. Long seen as simply a business-friendly outpost in Washington, the department in recent China Flagyears emerged as an active player in President Donald Trump’s trade wars, while carrying out the decennial census and managing the nation’s weather-monitoring systems.

Commerce repeatedly tightened Chinese access to top U.S. technologies and employed a novel interpretation of American trade law to impose tariffs on imported steel and aluminum, citing national security risks.

ny times logoNew York Times, White House Drops Push for Neera Tanden to Be Top Budget Official, March 3, 2021 (print ed.). Ms. Tanden had drawn bipartisan criticism for social media posts that lambasted lawmakers in both parties. Here’s the latest in politics.

neera tanden twitterThe White House on Tuesday abandoned its push to install Neera Tanden as the director of President Biden’s budget office after senators in both parties had opposed confirming her, making her nomination the first casualty of the evenly split Senate.

In a statement, Mr. Biden said that he had accepted Ms. Tanden’s request to withdraw herself from consideration for the post but said he planned for her to have a “role” in his administration.

“I have accepted Neera Tanden’s request to withdraw her name from nomination for Director of the Office of Management and Budget. I have the utmost respect for her record of accomplishment, her experience and her counsel, and I look forward to having her serve in a role in my Administration. She will bring valuable perspective and insight to our work,” Mr. Biden said.

 washington post logoWashington Post and Parftnership for Public Service, Biden Political Appointee Tracker, Harry Stevens and Madison Walls, March 3, 2021. Joe Biden has picked 58 nominees to fill key roles in his administration so far.

We are tracking 791 government positions among about 1,250 that require Senate confirmation. 484 positions have no nominee yet. Additionally, we have identified 249 appointees so far who are serving in termed positions or who were held over from previous administrations.

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

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

 

U.S. Foreign Policy

washington post logoWashington Post, Media advocacy group accuses Saudi crown prince, aides of crimes against humanity in Khashoggi death, Missy Ryan and Loveday Morris, March 3, 2021 (print ed.). A media advocacy group has filed a criminal complaint with a German prosecutor alleging that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and top aides committed crimes against humanity in the killing of Washington Post contributing columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

The submission by Paris-based Reporters Without Borders also alleges that Saudi officials are responsible for “widespread and systematic” persecution of journalists in the kingdom, citing what it characterizes as the arbitrary detention of more than 30 journalists.

The other officials named in the complaint include Saud al-Qahtani, a top aide to the crown prince; and Maj. Gen. Ahmed al-Assiri, a former deputy intelligence chief. Both men are accused of “organizational or executive responsibility” in the death of Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist and U.S. resident who was brutally killed inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul in October 2018.

 

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, Sexual Assault Allegations Divide Mexico’s Governing Party, Maria Abi-Habib and Natalie Kitroeff, March 3, 2021 (print ed.). President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has backed a candidate accused of sexual assault, testing his promise to create a more egalitarian Mexico.

Basilia Castañeda said she was such a fervent believer in Mexico’s president that she founded the first chapter of his political party in her small town and stumped with the president’s son on the campaign trail.

Then, in December, the man she has accused of raping her when she was just 17 years old was nominated by the president’s party to run for governor of her state, Guerrero.

In statements to prosecutors, Ms. Castañeda and at least one other woman have accused the candidate for governor, Félix Salgado Macedonio, a former senator who is favored to win the election in June, of rape. Local news media have reported that another woman made sexual assault allegations against him in 2007.

andrés lópez obrador wOne of the criminal investigations is still open, yet Mr. Salgado has enjoyed weeks of public support from President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, right, who has defended the candidate by calling the accusations politically motivated.

The president’s backing of Mr. Salgado is creating significant cracks inside the governing party, presenting a potential challenge to Mr. López Obrador’s popularity and promised transformation of Mexican society.

During a news conference on Tuesday, Mr. López Obrador once again blamed the political opposition for the outcry over Mr. Salgado, claiming that it is “such a shame that the feminist movement is used for other purposes.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Catholic clergy in France abused more than 10,000 child victims, independent commission estimates, Rick Noack, March 3, 2021 (print ed.). The independent commission, set up two years ago with the approval of French church officials, has so far received more than 6,500 calls from people providing testimony on incidents over the past seven decades.

French FlagThe head of a commission examining sexual abuse in France’s Catholic Church put the possible number of child victims at more than 10,000 on Tuesday, portending a public reckoning in a country where church officials long stalled efforts to investigate complicity.

The Independent Commission on Sexual Abuse in the Church, set up two years ago with the approval of French church officials, has so far received more than 6,500 testimonies from victims and witnesses on incidents alleged to have happened in the past seven decades.

“The big question for us is: How many victims came forward? Is it 25 percent? 10 percent, 5 percent or less?” commission leader Jean-Marc Sauvé told journalists.

 

March 2

Top Headlines

 

U.S. Capitol Riot, Insurrection Followups

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

U.S. Elections, Politics, Governance

 

U.S. Law, Regulation, Disasters

 

Biden Transition

 

U.S. Foreign Policy

 

World News

Media News

 

Top Stories

ny times logojoe biden oNew York Times, Politics Live Updates: Enough Vaccine Will Be Available for Every U.S. Adult by May 31, Biden Says, Staff Reports, March 2, 2021. But it will take longer to actually inoculate everyone, President Biden said, and he urged people to remain vigilant by wearing masks. Mr. Biden said the faster timeline was in part the result of Merck’s agreement to help manufacture Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine. Read the latest on Covid-19.

washington post logoWashington Post, Merck will help make Johnson & Johnson vaccine, boosting supply, Laurie McGinley and Christopher Rowland, March 2, 2021. The arrangement, which was brokered by the White House, was reached amid concerns about Johnson & Johnson production delays.

President Biden will announce Tuesday that pharmaceutical giant Merck will help make Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot coronavirus vaccine — an unusual pact between fierce merck logocompetitors that could sharply boost the supply of the newly authorized vaccine, according to senior administration officials.

johnson johnson logoThe officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a matter that has not been announced, said they began scouring the country for additional manufacturing capacity after they realized in the first days of the administration that Johnson & Johnson had fallen behind in vaccine production. They soon sought to broker a deal with Merck, one of the world’s largest vaccine makers, which had failed to develop its own coronavirus vaccine.

Under the arrangement, Merck will dedicate two facilities in the United States to Johnson & Johnson’s shots. One will provide “fill-finish” services, the last stage of the production process during which the vaccine substance is placed in vials and packaged for distribution. The other will make the vaccine, and has the potential to vastly increase supply, perhaps even doubling what Johnson & Johnson could make on its own, the officials said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Wray delivers a big blow to Jan. 6 conspiracy theories, but the GOP keeps feeding them, Aaron Blake, March 2, 2021. Two months ago, supporters of then-President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to overturn the 2020 election. Ever since then, Trump’s allies have sought — in multiple ways and without real evidence — to poke holes in or call into question the idea that those rioters were truly inspired by Trump or acting on his behalf. They’ve suggested the rioters were provocateurs or antifa, or that evidence of preplanning efforts precludes pointing the finger at Trump.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grassley didn’t go as far as Sen. Ron Johnson did last week, when the Wisconsin Republican used a similar hearing to float conspiracy theories about Jan. 6 provocateurs based on a single, speculative account from a witness at a right-wing think tank. Grassley instead essentially set Jan. 6 aside and suggested the FBI might be giving left-leaning extremists and anarchists comparatively short shrift by not equally investigating last summer’s protests against police violence.

greg abbott screengrab

ny times logoNew York Times, Texas Drops Virus Restrictions Amid a Wave of U.S. Reopenings, Julie Bosman and Lucy Tompkins March 2, 2021. As virus cases fall, states are rescinding mask mandates and reopening businesses and schools despite uncertainty about the pandemic’s future.

texas mapTexas said Tuesday that it was lifting its mask requirement and would allow businesses to fully reopen, the most expansive step by any state to remove coronavirus restrictions as Americans across the country are eager to emerge after a year of isolation in the pandemic.

The move by Texas, with its 29 million residents, goes further than similar actions in other states and cities that are rushing to ease as many limits as they can.

“It is now time to open Texas 100 percent,” Gov. Greg Abbott said, adding that “Covid has not suddenly disappeared,” but state mandates are no longer needed.

All around the country, governors and mayors are calibrating what is feasible, what is safe and what is politically practical.

ny times logoNew York Times, Prosecutors Investigating Trump Focus on His Finance Chief, Ben Protess, William K. Rashbaum and Maggie Haberman, March 2, 2021 (print ed.). State prosecutors in Manhattan who are investigating former President Donald J. Trump and his family business are sharpening their focus on the company’s long-serving chief financial officer, asking witnesses questions about his dealings at the company, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

allen weisselberg croppedThe increased focus on the executive, Allen H. Weisselberg, right, could step up pressure on him to cooperate with the investigation if the prosecutors unearth evidence of wrongdoing on his part. He has served as the Trump Organization’s financial gatekeeper for more than two decades and could be a vital source of information for the government about the inner workings of the company.

In recent weeks, the prosecutors working for the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., shown above at right, have been interviewing witnesses who know Mr. Weisselberg and have asked at least one witness about Mr. Weisselberg’s sons, Barry and Jack Weisselberg, according to two of the people with knowledge of the matter.

Barry Weisselberg has been the property manager of Trump Wollman Rink in Central Park, and Jack works at Ladder Capital, one of Mr. Trump’s biggest lenders.

The district attorney’s office has not accused Mr. Weisselberg or his sons of any wrongdoing, and there is no indication that the sons are a focus of the investigation.

If the prosecutors were to secure Allen Weisselberg’s cooperation, it might provide a significant boost to the long-running investigation and deliver a blow to Mr. Trump, who has long depended on Mr. Weisselberg’s unflinching loyalty.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. announces sanctions on Russia over Navalny poisoning and jailing, Anne Gearan, March 2, 2021. The sanctions are the first by alexey navalny 2017the Biden administration targeting Russia. Opposition leader Alexei Navalny, right, has been a fierce critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Russian FlagThe sanctions block access to financial or other assets in the United States for seven top figures around Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The sanctions are largely symbolic, but represent the first Biden administration action against Russia. U.S. officials who described the measures said they are a signal that the new administration will treat Russia differently than the Trump administration did.

The Biden administration also announced new export restrictions on items that could be used to manufacture chemical weapons and a widening of existing sanctions under a law controlling use of such weapons.

 

U.S. Capitol Riot, Insurrection Followups

 capitol noose shay horse nurphoto via getty

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

ethan nordean WSJ

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. alleges Proud Boys planned to break into Capitol on Jan. 6 from many different points, Spencer S. Hsu, March 2, 2021. U.S. prosecutors alleged for the first time that a Washington state leader of the Proud Boys was nominated by members of the group to take charge of the U.S. Capitol breach on Jan. 6 and carried out a plan to split into groups to break into the building from as many points as possible.

In a 24-page filing Monday, U.S. prosecutors asked a federal judge in Washington, D.C., to keep Ethan Nordean, 30, of Seattle, in jail pending trial, appealing a lower court’s Feb. 8 release order.

Nordean was “nominated from within to have ‘war powers’ ” to lead activities at the Capitol after the group’s chairman, Henry “Enrique” Tarrio, was arrested by D.C. police upon arriving in the city two days earlier, Assistant U.S. Attorneys James B. Nelson and Jason B.A. McCullough alleged. They do not state whether Nordean and/or others were formally selected to lead events that day.

The prosecutors also asserted that Nordean led the group by positioning Proud Boys members — carrying encrypted two-way Chinese-made Baofeng radios and wearing military-style gear — at an entrance to the Capitol grounds that was guarded by only a handful of Capitol Police officers and spreading out others to different locations to avoid triggering police interest.

“By blending in and spreading out, Defendant and those following him on January 6 made it more likely that either a Proud Boy — or a suitably-inspired ‘normie’ [nonmilitant Trump supporter] — would be able to storm the Capitol and its ground in such a way that would interrupt [Congress’s] Certification of the Electoral College vote,” prosecutors said.

Nordean was scheduled for a detention hearing on Tuesday.

Nordean, also known as Rufio Panman online, was arrested Feb. 3 on charges of aiding and abetting the destruction of government property, obstructing an official proceeding, trespassing and disorderly conduct on restricted Capitol grounds. The charges include an offense of violence and a charge defined as a federal crime of terrorism — destroying property to intimidate or coerce the government — punishable by up to 10 years in prison, prosecutors said.

washington post logoWashington Post, A Capitol rioter said he posed as antifa, feds say, then boasted he beat police who ‘got exactly what they deserved,’ Katie Shepherd, March 2, 2021. The day before a pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol, William Robert Norwood III texted a group of friends and family to boast he had traveled to D.C. with a plan to fool the police.

“I’m dressing in all black,” Norwood texted a group chat on Jan. 5, according to images included in a federal criminal complaint filed last week. “I’ll look just like ANTIFA. I’ll get away with anything.”

Then, after joining in the mob, assaulting police officers and storming the Capitol rotunda, federal agents said, Norwood texted the group again to boast that his ploy had been a success.

“It worked,” Norwood texted, along with photos of himself wearing a police officer’s vest that he allegedly took from the Capitol. “I got away with things that others were shot or arrested for.”

Norwood was arrested in Greer, S.C., on Feb. 25 and charged with violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds, obstruction of justice and Congress, theft of government property and other charges. He does not yet have an attorney listed in court records.

Federal agents buttressed the criminal complaint against Norwood with text messages he allegedly sent about joining in the riot — including contradictory messages taking credit for attacking police, while also blaming the violence on antifascists.

washington post logoWashington Post, Military reaction was ‘sprint speed,’ top officer says as Pentagon takes heat for Capitol riot response, Missy Ryan and Dan Lamothe, March 2, 2021. Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, gave his first public comments on the events of Jan. 6.

mark milley army chief of staffThe Pentagon acted as quickly as possible when asked to help respond to rioting at the Capitol on Jan. 6, the top U.S. military officer said, calling the turnaround “sprint speed” in his first public comments about the Pentagon’s reaction to the lethal siege.

Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, right, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said defense officials approved a police request for assistance in about 60 minutes as a mob smashed into Congress in an effort to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s presidential win. It then took several hours for D.C. National Guard members to mobilize and get in place, he said.

Milley spoke as lawmakers prepared to hold another hearing on the riot, which has become a defining moment in President Donald Trump’s months-long attempt to remain in office and overturn the Biden victory.

Maj. Gen. William Walker, the commanding general of the D.C. National Guard, will be among those testifying Wednesday as part of a joint hearing by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration, part of a larger congressional effort to reckon with the violence.

Milley defended the military’s efforts before and during the attack, saying that criticism in the aftermath of the events did not take into account the Pentagon’s decision-making process and the steps involved with calling up part-time troops.

His account diverged from that of current and former police officials who have placed a large share of the blame on the Pentagon, saying that officials there dragged their feet or even initially refused to send additional troops as the violent crowd overpowered a small police force.

As the situation turned chaotic, acting D.C. police chief Robert J. Contee III and Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund, who resigned after the attack, spoke to Pentagon officials and requested additional support.

Sund later told lawmakers that he was “very surprised at the amount of time and the pushback I was receiving when I was making an urgent request for their assistance.”

Contee went further, saying he was “stunned” by the response from the Department of the Army, calling senior Army officials “reluctant” to send the D.C. National Guard to the Capitol.

Asked about Trump’s claim that he told Pentagon leaders they should have 10,000 National Guard personnel on the National Mall to help manage the planned protests, Milley also said he was not aware of any request.

“As chairman of the Joint Chiefs, if there was an order for 10,000 National Guardsmen, I would like to believe I would know that,” he said. “I know that that was never transmitted to me by anyone — the president or secretary of defense or anyone else — for 6th of January.”

washington post logoWashington Post, FBI director faces senators demanding answers about Capitol riot, Devlin Barrett and Matt Zapotosky, March 2, 2021. D.C. National FBI logoGuard leader to testify at Capitol attack hearing Wednesday.

FBI Director Christopher A. Wray testifies during the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearing on domestic terrorism and the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.

washington post logoWashington Post, Fact Checker Analysis: Trump’s four-Pinocchio claim he ‘requested’ 10,000 troops for Jan. 6, but it was rejected by Pelosi, Glenn Kessler, March 2, 2021 (print ed.).

“I requested … I definitely gave the number of 10,000 National Guardsmen, and [said] I think you should have 10,000 of the National Guard ready. They took that number. From what I understand, they gave it to the people at the Capitol, which is controlled by Pelosi. And I heard they rejected it because they didn’t think it would look good. So, you know, that was a big mistake.”

Former president Donald Trump, in an interview with Steve Hilton of Fox News, Feb. 28, 2021

On the day before the Jan. 6 rally, Trump appears to have mentioned 10,000 National Guard troops at a White House meeting on an unrelated matter. Contrary to his statement, he did not make a request or any sort of order to dispatch the troops. Otherwise, his comment would not have been regarded as typical Trump hype. Presumably if he had issued an order, he would have followed up to make sure it was carried out.

Trump goes further afield when he claims that his number was raised with the Capitol Police and that Pelosi, in “a big mistake,” rejected the offer of so many troops. That’s just fantasy.

Like many of Trump’s falsehoods, there’s a seed of reality here. But then the former president nurtures it into a bush of fictions as part of his continuing effort to evade responsibility for how his own actions led to the Capitol Hill riot. He earns Four Pinocchios.

wayne madesen report logo

cpac nazi symbol odal rune

Wayne Madsen Report, Opinion: Far-right terrorist leader IDs Republicans in Congress to “get rid of,” Wayne Madsen, left, March 2, 2021. Speaking to wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallthe Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on February 28, while standing on a stage modeled after a Nazi SS symbol, [above] Trump exorted the group of far-right extremists to take revenge on anti-Trump Republicans in Congress.

Based on the storming of the U.S. Capitol, Trump’s urging his supporters to “get rid” of his 17 identified Republicans should be taken as a death threat against elected members of Congress.

Responding to Trump’s past violence-inducing vitriol, his militia supporters plotted the assassinations of Michigan Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer, Virginia Democratic Governor Ralph Northam, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and former Vice President Mike Pence.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: March 2), with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):

World Cases: 115,115,087, Deaths: 2,552,720
U.S. Cases:    29,315,639, Deaths:    527,386

washington post logocovad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Washington Post, 51.8 million vaccinated: The number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, covering 42.5% of the prioritized population and 15.6 % of the total population. See about your state.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Virus Reporting: Global infection numbers edging back up after weeks of decline, WHO says, Erin Cunningham and Derek Hawkins, March 2, 2021.

  • Austria, Denmark team up with Israel on vaccines as Europe falters
  • Global focus on pandemic led to fewer casualties in conflict zones, report says
  • Delayed coronavirus response by D.C. psychiatric hospital caused 18 deaths, report says

ny times logoNew York Times, Should Your School Be Fully Open? Here’s What the C.D.C. Says, John Keefe, March 2, 2021. Few counties in the United cdc logo CustomStates meet the guidelines to avoid major restrictions on reopening schools, according to a New York Times analysis.

Only 4 percent of the nation’s schoolchildren live in counties where coronavirus transmission is low enough for full-time in-person learning without additional restrictions, according to the guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and an analysis of the agency’s latest figures.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. must stick with two-shot strategy for Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, Fauci says, Dan Diamond, March 2, 2021 (print ed.). Delaying a second dose to inoculate more Americans creates risks, infectious-disease expert says.

The government’s top infectious-disease expert on Monday reiterated that the United States will stick to a plan to inoculate tens of millions of Americans with two doses of coronavirus vaccine, as calls mount to protect more people by letting them get one shot now.

anthony fauci Custom“There’s risks on either side,” Anthony S. Fauci, right, told The Washington Post, warning that shifting to a single-dose strategy for the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines could leave people less protected, enable variants to spread and possibly boost skepticism among Americans already hesitant to get the shots.

moderna logo“We’re telling people [two shots] is what you should do … and then we say, ‘Oops, we changed our mind’?” Fauci said. “I think that would be a messaging challenge, to say the least.”

Fauci said he spoke on Monday with health officials in the United Kingdom, who have opted to delay second doses to maximize giving more people shots more quickly. He said that although he understands the strategy, it wouldn’t make sense in America. “We both agreed that both of our approaches were quite reasonable,” Fauci said.

 

U.S. Elections, Politics, Governance

washington post logoWashington Post, Supreme Court appears to favor upholding voting laws lower court found unfair to minorities, Robert Barnes, March 2, 2021. The justices are reviewing protections provided by the Voting Rights Act, which forbids laws that result in discrimination based on race. Related story, a preview, shown below:

washington post logoWashington Post, Supreme Court to again consider federal protections for minority voters, Robert Barnes, March 2, 2021. The increasingly conservative court’s decisions on election rules will affect new laws and new congressional and legislative districts taking shape in states.

With one contentious election behind it, the Supreme Court this week will consider the rules for the next and how federal law protects minority voters as states across the nation race to revamp their regulations.

supreme court graphicThe court on Tuesday will review the shield provided by the Voting Rights Act (VRA), first passed in 1965 to forbid laws that result in discrimination based on race.

The cases at the Supreme Court involve two voting regulations from Arizona that are in common use across the country. One throws out the ballots of those who vote in the wrong precinct. The other restricts who may collect ballots cast early for delivery to polling places, a practice then-President Donald Trump denounced as “ballot harvesting.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The Senate parliamentarian did Democrats a favor on the minimum wage, Catherine Rampell, right, March 2, 2021 (print ed.). catherine rampellEven if the parliamentarian had allowed the provision to remain, or even if Dems nuked the filibuster and could more easily pass any bill with a simple majority, a $15 federal minimum wage probably still wouldn’t receive enough votes to become law.

Firing or overruling the ref won’t help you if your own team can’t decide where the goal posts are.

This has been obvious for a while. Yet Democratic leaders chose to ignore the discord rather than adopt a compromise policy that might be acceptable to moderates — and still achieve, say, 90 percent of the left’s objectives. Which are, presumably, to raise living standards for as many of the working poor as possible.

Raising the federal hourly minimum wage from $7.25 — where it has remained since 2009 — is broadly popular among both voters and Democratic lawmakers. There’s disagreement, though, about what level it should be raised to.

The “Fight for 15” movement, launched in 2012 by fast-food workers with backing from organized labor, cultivated political support for this round-numbered, alliterative goal. The movement has had successes in places such as New York and Seattle, and the left wing of the Democratic Party has worked to expand the minimum to $15 nationwide.

But this policy’s economic and political effects might look different in areas where wages and costs of living are lower. In Mississippi, for instance, the most recent data available show that the median wage is $15 per hour. So if implemented immediately, a federal minimum at that level would apply to half of the state’s wage-earning workforce.

washington post logoWashington Post, House ethics office says there’s ‘substantial reason to believe’ Rep. Steven Palazzo misused campaign, congressional funds, Felicia Sonmez, March 2, 2021 (print ed.). A House ethics panel says there is “substantial reason to believe” that Rep. Steven M. Palazzo (R-Miss.) misused his campaign and congressional funds, according to a report made public Monday.

The Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE), which produced the 47-page report last summer after a months-long probe, also said that Palazzo “may have performed official actions to assist his brother,” Kyle Palazzo, in potential violation of House rules and federal law.

steven palazzoThe probe was prompted by a complaint last March from the nonprofit Campaign Legal Center, which accused Rep. Palazzo, right, of using his campaign contributions as a “personal slush fund” through which he paid “himself and his spouse nearly $200,000,” including $60,000 in rent to his own farm.

In its report, the OCE said that it had found “limited evidence of campaign use of the property, especially to justify $60,000.00 in rent and thousands of dollars of additional charges to maintain the home and improve its marketability.”

The ethics office also said there was evidence that Palazzo “may have asked official staffers to perform campaign work and personal errands during the congressional workday.”

“And finally,” the report states, “the OCE found evidence that Rep. Palazzo may have used his official position and congressional resources to contact the Assistant Secretary of the Navy in order to assist his brother’s efforts to reenlist in the military.” It notes that, according to a former Palazzo staffer, Kyle Palazzo “was separated from the Navy for affecting a fraudulent enlistment.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Vernon E. Jordan Jr. (1935–2021): Lawyer and political power broker who became the confidant of presidents dies at 85, Matt Schudel, March 2, 2021. Jordan was one of the most influential figures in Washington, reaching the peak of his quiet authority during the 1990s, when he had Bill Clinton’s ear through two terms as president, including when Clinton faced an investigation and impeachment over a relationship with a White House intern.

vernon jordanVernon E. Jordan Jr., right, never held elective office, was never a member of the Cabinet and never even worked for the federal government. He was a lawyer who rarely appeared in court, a corporate kingmaker who was not a registered lobbyist, a political strategist who did not direct a campaign.

Yet Mr. Jordan was, for years, one of the most influential figures in Washington. With a commanding presence, personal charm and an inviolable sense of discretion, he had a rare combination of talents that made him the confidant of presidents, congressional leaders, business executives and civil rights figures.

Mr. Jordan was the consummate Washington power broker, reaching the peak of his quiet authority during the 1990s, when he was, with the possible exception of Hillary Clinton, President Bill Clinton’s closest adviser.

Mr. Jordan brought a smooth manner and elegant style to Beltway dealmaking, anchored in his youth in a housing project in the segregated South. He had the moral authority of a veteran of the civil rights movement — he nearly died in a 1980 shooting by a racially motivated would-be assassin — and was adept at navigating corporate boardrooms and golf course fairways, as well as gospel-filled churches.

Earlier generations of Washington insiders had given advice from the sidelines, including Tommy “the Cork” Corcoran, Bryce Harlow, Clark Clifford, Lloyd Cutler and Robert Strauss — Mr. Jordan’s mentor at the Akin Gump law firm. But one significant way in which Mr. Jordan differed from his predecessors was he was among the few African Americans at the top of Washington’s power structure.

ny times logoNew York Times, Cuomo Losing Power and Allies as Crisis Deepens, Jesse McKinley, Luis Ferré-Sadurní and Katie Glueck, March 2, 2021. Gov. Andrew Cuomo faced more calls for his resignation, and a Republican congressman, Lee Zeldin, said he was exploring a challenge to him next year.

With allegations of unsettling behavior toward women spilling into the public eye, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo spent Tuesday fending off calls for his resignation, with few voluble defenders in a moment of unparalleled weakness in his decade-long tenure in Albany.

Signs of the governor’s diminished sway were everywhere.

A small, but expanding, coterie of Democratic lawmakers called on Mr. Cuomo to step down, as did the state Working Families Party, which has frequently clashed with the governor. Among some donors, there was an increasing sense of discomfort with reports of Mr. Cuomo’s behavior and uncertainty around his future, with one active Democratic donor describing a growing instinct to “hedge their bets.”

Representative Lee Zeldin, a Long Island Republican, announced on Tuesday that he was “actively exploring” a run for governor.

Still, for all that, one major bulwark to any forced departure — the Democrat-dominated statehouse, which could impeach him — appeared to be holding, for now at least. Impeachment would require mass defections by Democrats in both the State Assembly and the Senate, which seemed unlikely as of Tuesday.

washington post logoWashington Post, Massive investment in civics education proposed to address eroding trust in democratic institutions, Joe Heim, March 2, 2021. For many close observers, a direct line can be drawn from today’s civics crises to a long-standing failure to adequately teach American government, history and civic responsibility. Breadth has been emphasized over depth, they say, and the cost is a citizenry largely ignorant of the work needed to sustain a democracy.

Now, a diverse collection of academics, historians, teachers, school administrators and state education leaders is proposing an overhaul of the way civics and history are taught to American K-12 students. And they’re calling for a massive investment of funds, teacher training and curriculum development to help make that happen.

The Educating for American Democracy (EAD) initiative will release a 36-page report and an accompanying 39-page road map Tuesday, laying out extensive guidance for improving and reimagining the teaching of social studies, history and civics and then implementing that over the next decade.

Work on the report began two years ago with $650,000 in grants from the Education Department and the National Endowment for the Humanities to come up with a plan to address what some have described as an existential issue for the country. The grant was later increased to $1.1 million. More than 300 individuals with experience at all levels of civics, political science and social studies education contributed to the project, including many with disparate views and ideas about how the work should be done.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Politics: Biden to continue push for pandemic relief packageP, Staff Reports, March 2, 2021. President Biden plans to deliver public remarks on the pandemic from the White House and call into the weekly private Senate Democratic lunch on Capitol Hill as he continues a push Tuesday for passage of his $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package.

  • Former White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany joins Fox News, John Wagner
  • Analysis: Many Republicans don’t want the coronavirus vaccines. Trump could change that, Olivier Knox
  • House Democrats unveil ambitious legislative agenda for March, Colby Itkowitz

peter navarro fox Custom

Politico, Navarro penned 15-page memo falsely accusing Coates of being Anonymous, Daniel Lippman, March 2, 2021. Victoria Coates, then a deputy national security adviser, was politico Customtransferred out of the White House amid a whisper campaign that she was the author of the op-ed and book.

Former President Donald Trump’s trade adviser Peter Navarro (shown above in a file photo) penned a 15-page dossier falsely accusing his colleague Victoria Coates of being Anonymous, according to a copy of the document that was obtained by POLITICO and captures the backbiting that was rife in the Trump White House.

The December 2019 memo goes into great detail to make the case that Coates — who was then a deputy national security adviser — was the author of both the New York Times op-ed and a tell-all book that described a resistance force within the administration aiming to undermine President Donald Trump.

Coates, who is not named in the memo but is clearly identified through specific information, was transferred out of the White House to the Department of Energy in February, just weeks after Navarro wrote and circulated the document.

The dossier lists fifteen bullet points as the likely profile of the author, and several of them turned out to be wrong, including that the person was a “Female With Several Children,” a “Middle East Expert, Pro-Israel, Iran Hawk,” an “Experienced Writer” who had ties to former national security adviser John Bolton and who worked at the National Security Council and not at a Cabinet agency.

The Dec. 2, 2019, memo, entitled “Identity of Anonymous” and which has never been published publicly, seems to reverse-engineer the search for Anonymous and cherry-pick clues to pin the blame on Coates.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The GOP is now just the party of white grievance, Michael Gerson (right, former chief speechwriter for Republican President George W. Bush), March 2, 2021 (print ed.). One of the poisonous legacies of michael gerson file photoDonald Trump’s presidency has been to expand the boundaries of expressible prejudice.

Through the explicit practice of White-identity politics, Trump has obviated the need for code words and dog whistles. Thus his strongest supporters during the Jan. 6 riot felt free to carry Confederate battle flags and wear “Camp Auschwitz” sweatshirts without fear of reproof from their political allies.

Many in the crowd surely didn’t consider themselves racists, but they were perfectly willing to make common cause with racists. In social effect, it is a distinction without a difference.

washington post logoWashington Post, Donors gave a House candidate more than $8 million. A single firm took nearly half of it, Meagan Flynn and Michael Scherer, March 2, 2021. Baltimore Republican Kim Klacik’s viral ads were touted by President Donald Trump and his son Donald Trump Jr.

U.S. House candidate Kim Klacik walked onto Mike Huckabee’s cable talk show last August as the latest conservative celebrity, riding high on a viral campaign ad that had attracted 10 million views and was shared on social media by President Donald Trump and his eldest son.

“We raised close to $2 million,” the Republican congressional hopeful said of the three-minute spot, which showed her marching in a red dress and high heels past abandoned buildings in Baltimore, asserting that Democrats do not care about Black lives.

But later that night, Klacik’s staff told her it would be best to stop disclosing how much money the ad had raised for her campaign against Rep. Kweisi Mfume (D) — because she wouldn’t be keeping much of it, Klacik recounted in an interview.

republican elephant logoHer campaign is an example of how some consulting firms are profiting handsomely from Republican candidates who have robust appeal in today’s politically charged environment — even when they are running in deep-blue districts where it is virtually impossible for them to win. The more viral the candidate goes, the more money the companies make — a model possible only through the online outrage machine of hyperpartisan politics.

Fundraising companies say their fees are well-earned and still leave candidates with more money than they would have if their ads had not been shared widely. But critics, including Klacik and some other 2020 candidates, say the system is deceptive, trapping first-time politicians in onerous contracts that siphon away cash their donors intended for them.

“It sounds like part of the swamp that needs to be drained,” said Bruce Dale, a Klacik donor from Michigan, who was aghast to learn that a chunk of his $800 in donations may not have made it to her. “They can say it’s legal, but there are a lot of things that are legal that are wrong. This is wrong.”

High-margin fundraising fees — sometimes in excess of 90 percent of a donor’s first contribution — have sucked resources out of conservative politics ever since the movement organized in the 1970s around the costly medium of direct mail. Social media, email and text-message fundraising brought those same steep margins online.

 

ronny jackson resized civilian palmer

Palmer Report, Opinion: Trump doctor Ronny Jackson, now a House Republican, swallowed by huge scandal, Daniel Cotter, March 2, 2021. U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Ronny Jackson served as physician to President Donald J. Trump for several years and issued medical reports about Trump that obviously were made out of whole cloth. It turns out, we might have some insights into the materials that Trump held over Jackson. According to a CNN exclusive, the Department of Defense report from its inspector general found:

bill palmer report logo headerJackson made “sexual and denigrating” comments about a female subordinate, violated the policy for drinking alcohol while on a presidential trip and took prescription-strength sleeping medication that prompted concerns from his colleagues about his ability to provide proper care.

The report is scathing. Jackson, who is now a member of the House of Representatives, said the report was politically motivated and “resurrected” old allegations against him because he refused to “turn my back on President (Donald) Trump.”

We have wondered what caused so many to continue to stoop so low in light of Trump’s misconduct and misdeeds, but the picture gets clearer. Just as Trump used the National Enquirer to capture and kill stories and hurt enemies, we see that he had leverage over Jackson that likely impugned his impartiality. We will continue to see others being exposed in similar fashion.

 

U.S. Law, Regulation, Disasters

washington post logoWashington Post, In Jackson, Miss., two weeks with no running water and no end in sight, Sarah Fowler, March 2, 2021 (print ed.). Residents are filling pots with whatever water they can find after devastating storms.

On Feb. 15, residents across Mississippi woke up to a blanket of ice, uncommon in this part of the South. The ice trapped many residents in their homes and rendered roads impassable. Days later, another winter storm made its way through the state, leaving residents in central Mississippi without power and ultimately resulting in six deaths.

While power was eventually restored, the city of Jackson soon faced another problem: lack of running water. On Feb. 17, the system lost power, and officials immediately issued a boil-water notice to 43,000 connections, including households and businesses.

ny times logoNew York Times, At Least 13 Killed in Crash in Southern California, Officials Say, Christine Hauser, Miriam Jordan and Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, March 2, 2021. The crash, involving an S.U.V. and a tractor-trailer, took place near Holtville, Calif., about 40 miles west of the Arizona border.

At least 13 people were killed on Tuesday morning when a tractor-trailer slammed into the side of an S.U.V. that was carrying more than two dozen people in Southern California, the authorities said.

The crash took place just after 6 a.m. local time on the outskirts of Holtville, Calif., about 42 miles west of the Arizona border and near the border with Mexico, Omar Watson, the chief of the California Highway Patrol’s border division, said at a news conference.

Chief Watson said the tractor-trailer had been traveling north along State Route 115 when the driver of the S.U.V., a maroon Ford Expedition, pulled into its path. The tractor-trailer struck the S.U.V. on the driver’s side, which caused several passengers to be thrown from vehicle, he said.

There were 25 people inside the S.U.V., Chief Watson said, and 12 were dead when police arrived on the scene shortly after 6:15 a.m. One more died at a hospital, bringing the total fatalities to 13, two fewer than hospital officials had reported earlier on Tuesday.

51.8 million vaccinated The number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, covering 42.5% of the prioritized population and 15.6% of the total population.

 

Biden Transition

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden picks for SEC, CFPB to face senators in joint confirmation hearing, Tory Newmyer, March 2, 2021. President Biden’s team of Wall Street regulators remains a securities exchange commission sealwork in progress, but it is set to take a step forward today.

Two of his key picks — Gary Gensler, tapped to head the Securities and Exchange Commission, and Rohit Chopra, in line to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau — will appear before the Senate Banking Committee for a joint hearing on their nominations.

Both are progressive darlings expected to take a tough line against the financial services interests they would oversee.

washington post logoWashington Post and Parftnership for Public Service, Biden Political Appointee Tracker, Harry Stevens and Madison Walls, March 2, 2021. Joe Biden has picked 58 nominees to fill key roles in his administration so far.

We are tracking 791 government positions among about 1,250 that require Senate confirmation. 484 positions have no nominee yet. Additionally, we have identified 249 appointees so far who are serving in termed positions or who were held over from previous administrations.

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

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

 

U.S. Foreign Policy

ICE logo

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden meets with Mexican president amid pressure on immigration, Anne Gearan, Mary Beth Sheridan, Nick Miroff and Kevin Sieff, March 2, 2021 (print ed.). President Biden has faced criticism from liberals for not fixing a broken immigration system faster and from conservatives who say he recklessly opened the border.

President Biden met with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador on Monday amid growing pressure to find a workable immigration policy, as he faces criticism from liberal Democrats for detaining migrant children and accusations from Republicans that he is recklessly throwing open the nation’s borders amid a pandemic.

Biden and López Obrador issued a joint declaration affirming their will to cooperate on migration issues, particularly the long-term goal of creating more jobs in southern Mexico and Central America. But whether Biden can get Mexico’s immediate help to contain the growing border influx was not clear.

A surge of unaccompanied minors at the border has put an early strain on Biden’s presidency as he pushes to reverse the immigration policies of former president Donald Trump. Biden has frozen construction of the border wall, curbed deportations and welcomed asylum seekers that his predecessor sought to keep in Mexico.

  • Washington Post, Mexico border presents a ‘challenge’ but not a crisis, DHS chief says

washington post logoWashington Post, Inside the Biden team’s deliberations over punishing the Saudi crown prince, John Hudson and Karen DeYoung, March 2, 2021 (print mohammed bin salman al sauded.). Even before President Biden took office, his top advisers began examining how to make good on his campaign promise to treat Saudi Arabia as a “pariah” for the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, left, without destroying America’s long-standing relationship with the oil-rich monarchy.

The results of those deliberations came Friday with the release of a report concluding that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, right, approved the 2018 assassination and a clarification that the United States would sanction lower-level Saudi officials but not Mohammed jamal kahshoggihimself.

The reaction in Washington was swift and condemnatory.

Republicans and Democrats in Congress called the response insufficient and urged the Biden administration to directly punish the crown prince. Human rights groups pushed for a broader freeze on weapons to Saudi Arabia until the crown prince faces justice. A torrent of criticisms came in from prominent columnists and editorial boards, including The Washington Post, for which Khashoggi wrote columns, which said Biden granted “what amounts to a pass to a ruler who has sown instability around the Middle East.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Media advocacy group accuses Saudi crown prince, aides of crimes against humanity in Khashoggi death, Missy Ryan and Loveday Morris, March 2, 2021. A media advocacy group has filed a criminal complaint with a German prosecutor alleging that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and top aides committed crimes against humanity in the killing of Washington Post contributing columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

The submission by Paris-based Reporters Without Borders also alleges that Saudi officials are responsible for “widespread and systematic” persecution of journalists in the kingdom, citing what it characterizes as the arbitrary detention of more than 30 journalists.

The other officials named in the complaint include Saud al-Qahtani, a top aide to the crown prince; and Maj. Gen. Ahmed al-Assiri, a former deputy intelligence chief. Both men are accused of “organizational or executive responsibility” in the death of Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist and U.S. resident who was brutally killed inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul in October 2018.

 

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, 279 Nigerian schoolgirls released days after raid on boarding school, officials say, Adam Taylor, March 2, 2021. Hundreds of Nigerian schoolgirls abducted from a boarding school in the country’s northwest last week have been released, officials said Tuesday.

Zamfara state governor Bello Matawalle said that all 279 students taken Friday morning from Government Girls Junior Secondary School in the town of Jangebe had been freed.

In messages posted to Twitter, Matawalle shared images of the girls as they returned on buses in the state capitol of Gusau and called on “all well-meaning Nigerians to rejoice with us as our daughters are now safe.”

“This news bring overwhelming joy,” Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari wrote on Twitter. “I am pleased that their ordeal has come to a happy end without any incident.”

Though local authorities initially said that 317 girls had been abducted, the number came down as some girls were found to have escaped their captors by running away from the school. Nigerian officials did not provide a detailed account of how the Zamfara students had been freed. Speaking at a news conference on Tuesday, Matawalle suggested the government had worked in some way with “repentant bandits.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Sexual Assault Allegations Divide Mexico’s Governing Party, Maria Abi-Habib and Natalie Kitroeff, March 2, 2021. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has backed a candidate accused of sexual assault, testing his promise to create a more egalitarian Mexico.

Basilia Castañeda said she was such a fervent believer in Mexico’s president that she founded the first chapter of his political party in her small town and stumped with the president’s son on the campaign trail.

Then, in December, the man she has accused of raping her when she was just 17 years old was nominated by the president’s party to run for governor of her state, Guerrero.

In statements to prosecutors, Ms. Castañeda and at least one other woman have accused the candidate for governor, Félix Salgado Macedonio, a former senator who is favored to win the election in June, of rape. Local news media have reported that another woman made sexual assault allegations against him in 2007.

One of the criminal investigations is still open, yet Mr. Salgado has enjoyed weeks of public support from President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who has defended the candidate by calling the accusations politically motivated.

The president’s backing of Mr. Salgado is creating significant cracks inside the governing party, presenting a potential challenge to Mr. López Obrador’s popularity and promised transformation of Mexican society.

During a news conference on Tuesday, Mr. López Obrador once again blamed the political opposition for the outcry over Mr. Salgado, claiming that it is “such a shame that the feminist movement is used for other purposes.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Catholic clergy in France abused more than 10,000 child victims, independent commission estimates, Rick Noack, March 2, 2021. The independent commission, set up two years ago with the approval of French church officials, has so far received more than 6,500 calls from people providing testimony on incidents over the past seven decades.

The head of a commission examining sexual abuse in France’s Catholic Church put the possible number of child victims at more than 10,000 on Tuesday, portending a public reckoning in a country where church officials long stalled efforts to investigate complicity.

The Independent Commission on Sexual Abuse in the Church, set up two years ago with the approval of French church officials, has so far received more than 6,500 testimonies from victims and witnesses on incidents alleged to have happened in the past seven decades.

“The big question for us is: How many victims came forward? Is it 25 percent? 10 percent, 5 percent or less?” commission leader Jean-Marc Sauvé told journalists.

 

Media News

ny times logoNew York Times, 6 Dr. Seuss Books Will No Longer Be Published Over Offensive Images, Jenny Gross, March 2, 2021. The company that oversees the children’s author’s estate said that the titles contained depictions of groups that were “hurtful and wrong.”

Six Dr. Seuss books will no longer be published because of their use of offensive imagery, according to the business that oversees the estate of the children’s author and illustrator.

In a statement on Tuesday, Dr. Seuss Enterprises said that it had decided last year to end publication and licensing of the books by Theodor Seuss Geisel. The titles include his first book writing under the pen name Dr. Seuss, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street (1937), and If I Ran the Zoo (1950).

“These books portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong,” Dr. Seuss Enterprises said in the statement. The business said the decision came after working with a panel of experts, including educators, and reviewing its catalog of titles.

Mr. Geisel, whose whimsical stories have entertained millions of children and adults worldwide, died in 1991. The other books that will no longer be published are McElligot’s PoolOn Beyond Zebra! Scrambled Eggs Super! and The Cat’s Quizzer.

Mr. Geisel’s stories are loved by fans for their rhymes and fantastical characters but also for their positive values, like taking responsibility for the planet. But in recent years, critics have said some of his work was racist and presented harmful depictions of certain groups.

In And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, a character described as “a Chinaman” has lines for eyes, wears a pointed hat, and carries chopsticks and a bowl of rice. (Editions published in the 1970s changed the reference from “a Chinaman” to “a Chinese man.”)

The decision to stop the publication of some Dr. Seuss books helps revive a debate over classic children’s titles that do not positively represent minority groups. In France, the latest in a series of beloved comic books, Lucky Luke, features a Black hero and a narrative that reimagines the role of the cowboy, drawing criticism that the book was caving to an American-inspired obsession with race.

 

March 1

Top Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

More On Pro-Trump Jan. 6 Capitol Riot

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Crime

 

World News

 

Biden Nominations

 

Top Stories

 
tiffany yuen theodora yu feb 28 2021 twitter

Washington Post reporter Theodora Yu via Twitter: Hong Kong District Councilor and activist Tiffany Yuen (@tiffanyykw) at Aberdeen Police Station, shown above. She did interviews with the press and said goodbye to friends before reporting to the police and was charged just now under the national security law for “inciting subversion” along with 46 others. “On the taxi ride to the station, Yuen was calm and said little; she patiently guided the driver to the police station in Tin Wan, the district where she was elected Councilor and moved in a year ago to be closer with the community she serves.”

washington post logoWashington Post, With new mass detentions, every prominent Hong Kong activist is now either in jail or exile, Shibani Mahtani, Timothy McLaughlin and Theodora Yu, March 1, 2021 (print ed.). More than 40 activists were charged Sunday under the national security law — the widest use of the draconian measure to date — and all face life in prison.

China FlagSome sat down for one last long meal with their partners. Another went to a tattoo artist to ink a Buddhist mantra on his forearm. One purchased new pink-rimmed glasses to replace her contact lenses, dropped off her two cats to a friend, and swapped sneakers for wool slip-on shoes.

Then, on Sunday afternoon, the Hong Kong pro-democracy activists fanned out to police stations across the territory, where more than 40 of them were officially charged with “conspiracy to commit subversion” under the national security law, according to police. They were detained immediately, will be held overnight for a court session on Monday, and face life in prison if found guilty.

Palmer Report, Opinion: New York criminal prosecutors look to flip Trump Organization CFO against Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, right, March 1, 2021. / If Donald bill palmerTrump’s barely-there CPAC speech and weak CPAC straw poll numbers served as a reminder that he’s finished in political life, then the news coming out of New York tonight serves as a reminder that he’s just getting started in the criminal justice world.

The Manhattan District Attorney has had a widely documented grand jury in the process of criminally indicting Donald Trump for more than a year now, and by all accounts, that process has accelerated since Trump left office. Trump’s tax returns have been acquired. A special outside prosecutor has been hired to lead bill palmer report logo headerthe way. And last week the news surfaced that the DA is focusing not just on Donald Trump, but also on Donald Trump Jr. and Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg.

Now the New York Times is reporting tonight that Manhattan prosecutors are looking to nail Weisselberg on something so they can flip him against Donald Trump and the Trump family. This wouldn’t be the first time that Weisselberg has cut a deal.

After the news broke, Michael Cohen posted a tweet reminding everyone of the last time Allen Weisselberg flipped: “Remember that Allen Weisselberg received (federal) immunity from the SDNY to provide information and testify against me for the Stormy Daniels payment.”

That SDNY case labeled Donald Trump as “Individual 1” but never did reach his doorstep, presumably because the SDNY is overseen by the DOJ, and Trump had control of the DOJ at the time. But now the Manhattan District Attorney is building a much broader criminal case against Trump. There’s more than enough paper trial evidence to put Trump in prison. If Weisselberg flips and testifies against him, it’ll be icing on the cake.

 

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 Donald Trump at CPAC on Feb. 28 in Orlando, Florida. Photo: Courtesy of C-SPAN.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump rules out third party as he moves to firm up control of GOP, David Weigel and Michael Scherer, March 1, 2021 (print ed.). Making his first speech since leaving the White House, former president Donald Trump hinted he was contemplating another run in 2024.

Former president Donald Trump declared Sunday that he is considering a presidential run in 2024, has ruled out forming a third party and will devote himself to building up Republican efforts to take on Democrats and others he claimed have targeted his movement.

The address before an ebullient crowd at the Conservative Political Action Conference marked Trump’s first political speech since leaving the White House. It was staged as a public declaration of Trump’s intention to play a dominant political role in controlling the GOP through the 2022 election — and to potentially set himself up for a third campaign for the White House.

“We began it together four years ago, and it is far from being over,” Trump said of the political journey launched by his 2016 campaign. “Let there be no doubt we will be victorious, and America will be stronger and greater than ever before.”

republican elephant logoTrump’s speech came as he has been putting the finishing touches on a new political structure that he intends to use to cement his dominance over the GOP.

“We are not starting new parties,” he said. “We have the Republican Party. It is going to unite and be stronger than ever before.”

Trump also launched an expected attack on President Biden, echoing many of the themes of the Republican’s winning 2016 presidential campaign and its losing sequel in 2020. He alleged that Biden had “the most disastrous first month of any president in modern history,” before attacking the president for his position on border security policy, his erasure of Trump executive orders and his energy policies.

He predicted withering Democratic losses in the 2022 midterms and a Democratic loss of the White House four years from now, prompting a standing ovation and chants of “USA!” and “Four more years!”

He repeated his false claims about the outcome of the 2020 presidential election, which Biden won.

ny times logoNew York Times, Cuomo Accused of Unwanted Advance at a Wedding: ‘Can I Kiss You?’ Matt Flegenheimer and Jesse McKinley, March 1, 2021. A young woman’s account follows two separate accusations that Gov. Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed two female state employees.

Anna Ruch had never met Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo before encountering him at a crowded New York City wedding reception in September 2019. Her first impression was positive enough.

The governor was working the room after toasting the newlyweds, and when he came upon Ms. Ruch, now 33, she thanked him for his kind words about her friends. But what happened next instantly unsettled her: Mr. Cuomo put his hand on Ms. Ruch’s bare lower back, she said in an interview on Monday.

When she removed his hand with her own, Ms. Ruch recalled, the governor remarked that she seemed “aggressive” and placed his hands on her cheeks. He asked if he could kiss her, loudly enough for a friend standing nearby to hear. Ms. Ruch was bewildered by the entreaty, she said, and pulled away as the governor drew closer.

anna ruch andrew cuomoAnna Ruch, shown at right, said she felt “uncomfortable and embarrassed” when Mr. Cuomo, shown at far right, placed his hands on her face and asked to kiss her (Personal photo).

“I was so confused and shocked and embarrassed,” said Ms. Ruch, whose recollection was corroborated by the friend, contemporaneous text messages and photographs from the event. “I turned my head away and didn’t have words in that moment.”

Ms. Ruch’s account comes after two former aides accused Mr. Cuomo of sexual harassment in the workplace, plunging his third term into turmoil as the governor’s defenders and Mr. Cuomo himself strain to explain his behavior.

A spokesman for the governor did not directly address Ms. Ruch’s account, referring to a general statement that Mr. Cuomo released on Sunday night in which he acknowledged that some things he has said “have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation.”

“To the extent anyone felt that way, I am truly sorry about that,” the statement said.

Ms. Ruch’s example is distinct from those of the former aides: A former member of the Obama administration and the 2020 Biden campaign, Ms. Ruch has never been employed by the governor or the state. But her experience reinforces the escalating concerns and accusations about Mr. Cuomo’s personal conduct — a pattern of words and actions that have, at minimum, made three women who are decades his junior feel deeply uncomfortable, in their collective telling.

Exactly a year after the state’s first confirmed coronavirus case — the dawn of a crisis that eventually propelled Mr. Cuomo to national Democratic stardom — the governor was silent on Monday, even as the fallout continued to shadow his beleaguered administration.

His accusers were not quiet, however: Charlotte Bennett, a former aide who accused Mr. Cuomo of sexual harassment, issued her first public statement since outlining her claims in a New York Times article, saying that the apology and attempted explanation issued by the governor on Sunday night was woefully inadequate.

“These are not the actions of someone who simply feels misunderstood,” Ms. Bennett wrote. “They are the actions of an individual who wields his power to avoid justice.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Why Democrats Aren’t Asking Cuomo to Resign, Michelle Goldberg, right, March 1, 2021. The diminishing power of MeToo. It seems obvious enough that Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York did what his former aide Charlotte Bennett said he did. Bennett, 25, told The New York Times that, michelle goldberg thumbamong other things, Cuomo asked her if she ever had sex with older men, complained about being lonely and wanting a hug, and said he would date someone in her 20s.

“I understood that the governor wanted to sleep with me, and felt horribly uncomfortable and scared,” she said.

Bennett memorialized her discomfort in texts to friends and family. She met with Cuomo’s chief of staff, after which she accepted a transfer to a job on the other side of the Capitol from the governor’s office. She said she gave a statement to a special counsel to the governor, Judith Mogul, and she showed The Times a text from Mogul alluding to their meeting, if not its content.

And Cuomo hasn’t denied Bennett’s claims. Instead, he’s issued a sort-of apology that seems to confirm some of them: “I now understand that my interactions may have been insensitive or too personal and that some of my comments, given my position, made others feel in ways I never intended.” He acknowledged comments that “have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation.”

The New York attorney general, Letitia James, will oversee an investigation into all these charges, but that will only delay an eventual reckoning. Given what we know of Bennett’s story, it’s hard to imagine how an inquiry could exonerate the governor; it can probably only determine the degree and prevalence of his apparent harassment. So eventually, Cuomo’s fate will tell us whether there’s still power in the #MeToo movement.

My guess is that if this scandal had broken a few years ago, high-profile Democrats would have felt no choice but to call for Cuomo’s resignation. Since then, however, a few things have happened. Most significantly, among many Democrats, there’s tremendous bitterness toward those who pressured Al Franken to leave the Senate in 2018 after he was accused of grabbing several women’s butts.

But eventually the results of the investigation are going to come out, and unless they show that Cuomo is innocent of behavior he himself seemed to admit, Democrats will have to pick a side.

washington post logoWashington Post, Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy found guilty of corruption and sentenced to at least one year in prison, Rick Noack, March 1, 2021. Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy was found guilty of corruption and influence peddling on Monday and sentenced to one year in prison. Sarkozy was also given a two-year suspended sentence.

French Flag

Prosecutors had demanded a four-year sentence for the 66-year old with a requirement to serve at least two years. In justifying the requested sentence, they cited the damage Sarkozy had inflicted on the French presidency.

nicolas sarkozy resized in 2010Monday’s sentence can still be appealed and it remained unclear if Sarkozy, shown at left in 2010, would have to spend any time in prison even if an appeal were to fail.

The charges against Sarkozy, who was president between 2007 and 2012, were centered around the question whether the former French leader was behind a deal with a magistrate to illegally receive information on inquiries linked to him, using false names and unofficial phone lines.

According to the prosecution, Sarkozy and his then-lawyer and longtime friend Thierry Herzog attempted to bribe the magistrate, Gilbert Azibert, by offering him a high-profile position in return for information. The incident took place after Sarkozy had left office.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

ny times logoNew York Times, Virus Did Not Bring Financial Rout That Many States Feared, Data Shows, Mary Williams Walsh, Graphics by Karl Russell, March 1, 2021.  Throughout the debate over stimulus, one question has produced repeated deadlock in Washington: Should the states get no-strings federal aid?

Republicans have mostly said no, casting it as a bailout for spendthrift blue states. Democrats have argued the opposite, saying that states face dire fiscal consequences without aid, and included $350 billion in relief for state and local governments in President Biden’s $1.9 trillion federal stimulus bill, which narrowly passed the House this past weekend. It faces a much tougher fight in the Senate.

As it turns out, new data shows that a year after the pandemic wrought economic devastation around the country, forcing states to revise their revenue forecasts and prepare for the worst, for many the worst didn’t come. One big reason: $600-a-week federal supplements that allowed people to keep spending — and states to keep collecting sales tax revenue — even when they were jobless, along with the usual state unemployment benefits.

By some measures, the states ended up collecting nearly as much revenue in 2020 as they did in 2019. A J.P. Morgan survey called 2020 “virtually flat” with 2019, based on the 47 states that report their tax revenues every month, or all except Alaska, Oregon and Wyoming.

Grim forecasts held up for a few states, but many took in about as much tax revenue as before the pandemic — sometimes a lot more.
Democrats have included $350 billion in relief for state and local governments in President Biden’s stimulus bill, which faces a tough fight in the Senate.

washington post logoWashington Post, Johnson & Johnson vaccine deepens worries over racial and geographic inequities, Isaac Stanley-Becker, March 1, 2021. Decisions to johnson johnson logoend the shots to harder-to-reach communities make practical sense, because the single-shot vaccine is easier to store and use. But they could drive perceptions of a two-tiered system.Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: March 1), with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):

World Cases: 114,766,140, Deaths: 2,544,637
U.S. Cases:    29,256,870, Deaths:    525,780

washington post logocovad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Washington Post, 49.8 million vaccinated: The number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, covering 40.9% of the prioritized population and 15 % of the total population. See about your state.

ny times logoNew York Times, Thousands of Farmworkers Are Prioritized for the Coronavirus Vaccine, Miriam Jordan, March 1, 2021. A landmark initiative in California is taking vaccines to the fields, targeting a high-risk immigrant work force, many of whom are undocumented.

Ending the virus’s rampage through farm country has been one of the nation’s biggest challenges. Undocumented immigrants are notoriously wary of registering for government programs or flocking to public vaccination sites, and the idea of offering the Covid-19 vaccine to immigrants who are in the country illegally ahead of other Americans has spurred debate among some Republican members of Congress.

But a landmark effort is underway across the Coachella Valley to bring the vaccine directly into the fields. Thousands of farm workers are being pulled into pop-up vaccination clinics hosted by growers and run by the county Health Department.

washington post logoWashington Post, Once Trump’s ‘enemy,’ Fed emerges as White House ally in rejecting concerns about overdoing stimulus, Rachel Siegel, March 1, 2021 (print ed.). Federal Reserve Chair Jerome H. Powell is waving off concerns about an over-torqued economy producing long-feared inflation, federal reserve system Customsaying the job market has a long way to heal before such fears are justified.

In recent weeks, the position has been repeatedly embraced and cited by top Biden officials who make a similar argument when they say Congress needs to “go big” to ensure an economic revival.

 

Pro-Trump Jan. 6 Capitol Riot

washington post logoWashington Post, Rewriting January 6th: Republicans push false accounts of Capitol riot, Mike DeBonis and Jeremy Barr, March 1, 2021. Instead of an attempt to overturn the election by radicalized Donald Trump supporters, it was a choreographed attack staged by antifa provocateurs. Rather than an armed insurrection, it was a good-natured protest spoiled by a few troublemakers.

And instead of a deadly event that put the lives of hundreds of lawmakers, police officers and others at risk, the riot was no big deal at all.

A legion of conservative activists, media personalities and elected officials are seeking to rewrite the story of what happened at the Capitol on Jan. 6, hoping to undermine the clear picture of the attack that has emerged from video and photo evidence, law enforcement officials, journalistic accounts and the testimonials of the rioters themselves: that a pro-Trump mob, mobilized by the former president’s false claims of a stolen election, stormed the seat of American government to keep Trump in power through violent means.

Six weeks after the attack, some are taking advantage of fading memories and unanswered questions to portray the riot in a different, more benign light. The effort comes as federal authorities begin prosecuting scores of alleged marauders, congressional committees seek to plug obvious security failures, and lawmakers consider establishing an outside commission to examine the matter.

On his top-rated Fox News Channel program last week, commentator Tucker Carlson told his audience that the attack did not constitute an “armed insurrection” and accused Democrats of a “relentless and coordinated” campaign to misrepresent the riot.

The next day, during the first public appearance of top Capitol security officials in charge during the riot at a Tuesday hearing, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) spent much of his allotted time reading a firsthand account from Jan. 6 suggesting the violence was perpetrated by a small cadre — including left-wing extremists — who were out of character in an otherwise jovial crowd.

ny times logoNew York Times, How Pro-Trump Forces Pushed a Lie About Antifa at the Capitol Riot, Michael M. Grynbaum, Davey Alba and Reid J. Epstein, March 1, 2021. On social media, on cable networks and even in the halls of Congress, supporters of Donald J. Trump tried to rewrite history in real time, pushing the fiction that left-wing agitators were to blame for the violence on Jan. 6.

Nearly two months after the attack, the claim that antifa was involved has been repeatedly debunked by federal authorities, but it has hardened into gospel among hard-line Trump supporters, by voters and sanctified by elected officials in the party. More than half of Trump voters in a Suffolk University/USA Today poll said that the riot was “mostly an antifa-inspired attack.” At Senate hearings last week focused on the security breakdown at the Capitol, Senator Ron Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican, repeated the falsehood that “fake Trump protesters” fomented the violence.

For those who hoped Mr. Trump’s don’t-believe-your-eyes tactics might fade after his defeat, the mainstreaming of the antifa conspiracy is a sign that truth remains a fungible concept among his most ardent followers. Buoyed by a powerful right-wing media network that had just spent eight weeks advancing Mr. Trump’s baseless claims of voter fraud, pro-Trump Republicans have succeeded in warping their voters’ realities, exhibiting sheer gall as they seek to minimize a violent riot perpetrated by their own supporters.

If anyone was responsible for desecrating the Capitol, Mr. Johnson said in a radio interview as the violence was unfolding that day, “I would really question whether that’s a true Trump supporter or a true conservative.”

In a telephone interview last week, Mr. Johnson delivered a handful of unsubstantiated or false statements that dovetail with much of the right-wing disinformation about the riot circulating online and on conservative radio and television programs. The senator said that while most of the people arrested at the Capitol were right-wing Trump supporters, he had not reached any conclusions about the political affiliations of those responsible for planning it.

On Jan. 6, supporters of former President Trump tried to rewrite history in real time on social media, on cable networks and in the halls of Congress.

In the first 12 hours after a false tweet, a disinformation machine seized on a lie that served its political interests and quickly spread it as truth.

ny times logoNew York Times, Far-Right Groups Are Splintering in Wake of the Capitol Riot, Neil MacFarquhar, March 1, 2021. The breakdown of larger organizations sets the stage for small groups or lone offenders, who are more difficult to track.

Just eight weeks after the Capitol riot, some of the most prominent groups that participated are fracturing amid a torrent of backbiting and finger-pointing. The fallout will determine the future of some of the most high-profile far-right organizations and raises the specter of splinter groups that could make the movement even more dangerous.

“This group needs new leadership and a new direction,” the St. Louis branch of the Proud Boys announced recently on the encrypted messaging service Telegram, echoing denunciations by at least six other chapters also rupturing with the national organization. “The fame we’ve attained hasn’t been worth it.”

Similar rifts have emerged in the Oath Keepers, a paramilitary group that recruits veterans, and the Groyper Army, a white nationalist organization focused on college campuses and a vocal proponent of the false claim that Donald J. Trump won the 2020 presidential election.

The shake-up is driven in part by the large number of arrests in the aftermath of the Capitol riot and the subsequent crackdown on some groups by law enforcement. As some members of the far right exit more established groups and strike out on their own, it may become even more difficult to track extremists who have become more emboldened to carry out violent attacks.

“What you are seeing right now is a regrouping phase,” said Devin Burghart, who runs the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights, a Seattle-based center that monitors far-right movements. “They are trying to reassess their strengths, trying to find new foot soldiers and trying to prepare for the next conflict.”

The top leaders of the Groyper Army, Nick Fuentes and Patrick Casey, have been in a bitter public dispute in the weeks since the riot. Mr. Casey accused Mr. Fuentes of putting followers at risk of arrest by continuing high-profile activities. Mr. Fuentes wrote on Telegram, “It’s not easy but it is important to keep pushing forward now more than ever.”

Among the Proud Boys, a far-right fight club that claims to defend the values of Western civilization, the recriminations were compounded by revelations that Enrique Tarrio, the organization’s leader, once worked as an informant for law enforcement. Despite denials from Mr. Tarrio, the news has thrown the organization’s future into question.

“We reject and disavow the proven federal informant, Enrique Tarrio, and any and all chapters that choose to associate with him,” the Alabama chapter of the Proud Boys announced on Telegram using language identical to other chapters.

After the Capitol siege on Jan. 6, accusations about informants and undercover agents have been particularly pointed. “Traitors are everywhere, everywhere,” wrote one participant on a far-right Telegram channel.

The chapters breaking away accused Mr. Tarrio of leading the group astray with high-profile clashes with far-left demonstrators and by storming the Capitol.

“The Proud Boys were founded to provide brotherhood to men on the right, not to yell slogans at the sky” and “get arrested,” the St. Louis chapter said in its announcement.

Extremist organizations tend to experience internal upheaval after any cataclysmic event, as seen in the case of the 2017 rally in Charlottesville, Va., that left one woman dead, or the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, which killed 168 people, including 19 children.

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

washington post logoWashington Post, Senior Democrats abandon backup plan on $15-per-hour-minimum wage hike, Jeff Stein, March 1, 2021 (print ed.). Senior Democrats are abandoning a backup plan to increase the minimum wage through a corporate tax penalty, after encountering numerous practical and political challenges in drafting their proposal over the weekend, according to two people familiar with the internal deliberations.

On Thursday, the Senate parliamentarian said that the $15-an-hour minimum wage included in President Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus plan was inadmissible under the rules Democrats are using to pass the bill through the Senate.

After that decision, Senate Finance Chair Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Senate Budget Chair Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said they would instead seek to add tax penalties on large corporations that fail to pay $15 an hour — an idea viewed as less likely to be struck down by the parliamentarian and still helpful to some minimum-wage workers.

But now senior Democrats — including Wyden and Sanders — are walking away from that backup effort, according to two people who spoke on the condition of anonymity to share internal discussions.

Economists and tax experts have said that the tax outlined by Sanders and Wyden could be easily avoided and difficult to implement, with large corporations able to reclassify workers as contractors to avoid potential penalties. “I would be extremely nervous about trying out a brand new idea like this with virtually no vetting,” Jason Furman, a former Obama administration economist, said on Twitter on Friday.

ny times logoNew York Times, At CPAC, a Golden Image, a Magic Wand and Reverence for Trump, Elaina Plott, March 1, 2021 (print ed.). The faithful who flocked to the conference of conservatives made it clear that their allegiance was more to former President Trump than to the party.

Tommy Zegan was appalled by the few sculptures of Donald J. Trump in existence — the life-size nude statue that popped up in major cities in America, the golden toilet in London. So in 2018, he got to work.

Mr. Zegan, a Trump supporter who had recently moved to Mexico from the United States, created a six-foot-tall fiberglass mold of the former president and painted it gold. Mr. Zegan’s Trump carried a magic wand in his left hand, a reference to Barack Obama’s quip in 2016 about Mr. Trump’s needing one to bring back manufacturing jobs. The sculpted Trump wore his customary suit jacket and red tie, American flag shorts — and flip-flops — “because technically he should be retired,” Mr. Zegan explained, “but he chose to be a servant.”

djt maga hatThe final product, titled “Trump and His Magic Wand,” was among the more popular attractions at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Fla. On Saturday, attendees flocked to the event’s merchandise hall for photos with the golden sculpture, the scene an almost literal rendering of the Republican Party, which continues to reserve its reverence not for ideas or elected officials but for one man.

“It’s definitely not an idol,” Mr. Zegan insisted. (“I was a youth pastor for 18 years,” he noted.) “An idol is something somebody worships and bows down to. This is a sculpture. It’s two different things.”

The defiantly pro-Trump mood at CPAC represented a culmination of a cycle that began in 2016, when Republican leaders publicly supported Mr. Trump’s nomination for president while privately presuming a landslide defeat and subsequent irrelevance. It was a pattern that held firm over the four years that followed, with many lawmakers continuing to indulge the president, all while confident that a breaking point — whether a loss in 2020 or, most recently, the riot at the Capitol by Trump supporters on Jan. 6 — was imminent.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Trump’s Republican Hit List at CPAC Is a Warning Shot to His Party, Jonathan Martin and Maggie Haberman, March 1, 2021 (print ed.). In his first public appearance since leaving office, Donald Trump went through, by name, every Republican who voted in support of his second impeachment.

After days of insisting they could paper over their intraparty divisions, Republican lawmakers were met with a grim reminder of the challenge ahead on Sunday when former President Donald J. Trump stood before a conservative conference and ominously listed the names of Republicans he is targeting for defeat.

As Democrats pursue a liberal agenda in Washington, the former president’s grievances over the 2020 election continue to animate much of his party, more than a month after he left office and nearly four months since he lost the election. Many G.O.P. leaders and activists are more focused on litigating false claims about voting fraud in last year’s campaign, assailing the technology companies that deplatformed Mr. Trump and punishing lawmakers who broke with him over his desperate bid to retain power.

In an address on Sunday at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, his first public appearance since he left the White House, Mr. Trump read a sort of hit list of every congressional Republican who voted to impeach him, all but vowing revenge.

“The RINOs that we’re surrounded with will destroy the Republican Party and the American worker and will destroy our country itself,” he said, a reference to the phrase “Republicans In Name Only,” adding that he would be “actively working to elect strong, tough and smart Republican leaders.”

Mr. Trump took special care to single out Representative Liz Cheney, the third-ranking House Republican, and Senator Mitch McConnell, the minority leader. He called Ms. Cheney “a warmonger” and said her “poll numbers have dropped faster than any human being I’ve ever seen.” Then he falsely claimed he had helped revive Mr. McConnell’s campaign last year in Kentucky.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The GOP is trapped in Trump’s rendezvous with yesterday, E.J. Dionne Jr., right, March 1, 2021 (print ed.). Donald Trump, the ej dionne w open neckSequel, drew a predictably ecstatic response at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Orlando on Sunday as he assailed President Biden and made clear in a torrent of invective that hatred of immigration will be as important to any attempted comeback as it was to his rise.

Back were the “coyotes,” “the vicious evil smugglers,” “the illegal aliens,” “mass amnesty,” “chain migration” and every other epithet and catchphrase that form his tapestry of nativism. Back also were the throwback forms of McCarthyism as he accused Biden of moving the country toward “radicalism, socialism and indeed it all leads to ­communism.”

Yet if the CPAC conclave was a Trump revival, complete with a golden Trump statue, there was some quiet dissent just beneath the surface. When the results of the CPAC straw poll for 2024 came in, Trump received just 55 percent of the ballots. Imagine Tom Brady receiving 55 percent for MVP from Tampa Bay fans.

ny times logoNew York Times, CPAC Takeaways: Trump Dominates, and DeSantis and Noem Stand Out, Shane Goldmacher and Elaina Plott, March 1, 2021 (print ed.). Any lingering belief that Donald J. Trump would fade from the political scene like other past presidents evaporated fully on Sunday as he spoke for more than 90 minutes in a grievance-filled and self-promoting address that sought to polish up his presidential legacy, take aim at his enemies and tease his political future.

“I am not starting a new party,” Mr. Trump declared, nixing rumors and making news in the first moments of the first speech of his post-presidency.

And why would he? Mr. Trump remains the most influential Republican politician in the nation. The three-day CPAC gathering in Orlando showed how fully the Republican Party has been remade in his image in the five years since he boycotted the conference in 2016 en route to capturing the party’s nomination.

In a meandering speech guided by a teleprompter and interrupted with cheering that at times read more obligatory than enthusiastic, Mr. Trump lashed out at President Biden and outlined his vision of a culture- and immigration-focused Republican Party while relitigating his specific grievances from 2020.

Pro-Trump conservatives tried to turn “cancel culture” into their new “fake news” and spent little time on policy (either their own or President Biden’s).

The speech came right after Mr. Trump won a CPAC 2024 presidential straw poll, finishing with 55 percent of the vote — more than double the percentage ron desantis oof his closest runner-up. But that victory was dampened by the fact that only 68 percent of the attendees at the conference said they wanted him to run again.

A second straw poll, without Mr. Trump, was carried by Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, right, who received 43 percent on his home turf, followed by Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota with 11 percent.

Those results showcased the challenge that senators face in edging ahead of governors in the 2024 pack of potential presidential candidates. Both Mr. DeSantis and Ms. Noem highlighted their efforts to keep the economy open during the coronavirus pandemic, which proved a more popular résumé point than the legislative fights that senators in Washington have been engaged in.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: The most important thing Trump said in his CPAC speech, Aaron Blake, March 1, 2021 (print ed.). It was a message Trump avoided as president: Get a coronavirus vaccine. Former president Donald Trump sought to retain his hold on the Republican Party on Sunday at the Conservative Political Action Conference with his usual blend of falsehoods, grievances and provocations. It was a surprisingly typical speech for Trump, given that it was his first big post-presidential address.

Perhaps the most significant thing he said, though — for the country — was something he avoided forcefully advocating for when he actually commanded the most powerful office in the world:

Get a coronavirus vaccine.

Trump, as he is wont to do, couched it in an attack on his successor, President Biden. Trump claimed that Biden hadn’t actually won the election, and he used the vaccine to cast Biden as weak and indebted to Trump for the vaccines being developed on his watch — but not, notably, for actually getting it, which Trump encouraged people to do.

“We took care of a lot of people — including, I guess, on December 21st, we took care of Joe Biden, because he got his shot, he got his vaccine,” Trump said, before suggesting that Biden’s vaccination shows how few side effects come with the vaccine. “It shows you how unpainful that vaccine shot is.”

“So everybody, go get your shot,” Trump added.

Clip that.

These quotes with the juvenile Biden attacks contained within — as though Biden is scared of getting a shot — are newsworthy, because this is the kind of thing Trump avoided pushing as president, in a very conspicuous way. While he repeatedly and constantly sought to take credit for the production of the vaccines, he did little to actually encourage people — especially Republicans, who were more skeptical of the vaccines — to actually get them.

Lurking in the background was not just the GOP’s skepticism of the need for or efficacy of the vaccine, but also Trump’s past baseless linking of other vaccines to autism, including during the 2016 campaign. Reports indicated as the vaccines were rolled out that Trump wanted credit for them but also feared that actively pushing them would alienate some of the more extreme portions of his base. Trump, who had the coronavirus in the fall, did not get the vaccine on camera, unlike then-Vice President Mike Pence.

ny times logoNew York Times, Under Siege Over Sex Harassment Claims, Cuomo Offers Apology, Jesse McKinley and Dana Rubinstein, Updated March 1, 2021. Gov. Andrew Cuomo sought to stem the growing political fallout over the allegations, acknowledging that he may have made inappropriate remarks. Here’s what we know so far about the sexual harassment claims.

andrew cuomoGov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Sunday sought to stem the growing political fallout over fresh allegations of sexual harassment, acknowledging that he may have made inappropriate remarks that could “have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation” to a young female aide during private meetings last spring.

Mr. Cuomo, right, 63, said his comments — including those which emerged in an account from the aide, Charlotte Bennett — were an extension of life spent at work, where he sometimes “teased people about their personal lives and relationships.”

“I now understand that my interactions may have been insensitive or too personal and that some of my comments, given my position, made others feel in ways I never intended,” Mr. Cuomo said in a statement. “I acknowledge some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation. To the extent anyone felt that way, I am truly sorry about that.”

The response from the governor seemed to reflect the gravity of Ms. Bennett’s accusations, and those of another former aide last week, as well as the potential damage that they could cause to Mr. Cuomo, a third-term Democrat.

Mr. Cuomo, who emerged as a national leader during the pandemic, also repeated his calls for an independent investigation of his own behavior, though the decision over who would oversee that inquiry has already proved torturous. His initial choice of a former federal judge to lead the investigation was met with overwhelming criticism, as was his second suggestion that Letitia James, New York’s attorney general, be paired with Janet DiFiore, the chief judge on New York State’s highest court, to jointly pick someone to investigate the matter. Ms. James rejected that proposal.

Finally, late Sunday, Mr. Cuomo relented again, saying in a statement that he would grant subpoena power to whomever Ms. James designated as the outside investigator, as Ms. James had demanded.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Andrew Cuomo’s survival in office looks doubtful, Karen Tumulty, right, March 1, 2021 (print ed.). It is starting to look as if the karen tumulty resize twitterquestion will soon be not if but when New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo will be forced to resign.

The New York Times has published a blockbuster story in which a second former aide to the governor has accused him of making unwanted sexual overtures. The account given to the paper by Charlotte Bennett, 25, is devastating and thoroughly corroborated.

Wayne Madsen Report, Opinion: The Batistafication of Florida, Wayne Madsen (left, author of 18 books, former Navy intelligence officer and NSA analyst), March 1, 2021. Thanks to the Central Intelligence Agency, which made Florida wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smalla safe haven for Cuba’s moneyed and military classes to settle after Fidel Castro’s rise to power some sixty years ago, and the Republican Party, which has catered to the right-wing whims wayne madesen report logoof the Cuban expats and their offspring, Florida has turned into an oligarchy resembling that of fascist Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista, ousted by Castro some sixty years ago.

The political and social effect of the Cubans in south Florida and Miami’s “Little Havana,” has resulted in the “Batistafication” of Florida.

Palmer Report, Opinion: The rise and fall of Ron DeSantis, Bill Palmer, right, March 1, 2021. The straw poll at CPAC this weekend revealed two things. First, bill palmerDonald Trump is finished. Even though the conference was set up as a worship session for him and attendees were straight out of his base, only 55% of them picked Trump as their first choice for 2024. Second, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is now the Republican flavor of the month, finishing a distant second in polling, but far ahead of the rest of the field.

I’m here to tell you that Ron DeSantis won’t be the 2024 Republican nominee for President. How do I know? For one thing, we wouldn’t get that lucky. The guy is completely in over his head in Florida. He has scandal after ugly scandal, and no idea how to deal with any of it. He’s trying to be Trump, but without any of Trump’s guile. If DeSantis were the Republican nominee, the Democrats would have a much easier time of beating him than just about anyone else the Republicans could pick.

bill palmer report logo headerOn top of that, DeSantis is going to have a difficult time even so much as winning reelection as Governor of Florida in 2022 – and if he loses that race, then his presidential ambitions obviously die along with it. If DeSantis does get as far as launching a 2024 presidential bid, his endless scandals and inept idiocy will finish him off during the primary race.

ron desantis oHere’s the thing, though. Ron DeSantis, right, is the most corrupt, dishonest, inept, and disastrous Governor in the nation. Yet the mainstream media has largely refused to bust him for it. Why is this? A cynic would argue that the media is afraid of knocking DeSantis out of politics before he can run for President, precisely because his corrupt ineptitude would make him a ratings goldmine in a presidential race.

The real threat in 2024 isn’t Donald Trump; even his own base is beginning to look for a new con artist to take his place. Nor is it Ron DeSantis, whose fall will be as ugly as his rise will be brief. The real threat is the 2024 Republican candidate that no one saw coming in advance, who’s new enough to politics not to have to take responsibility for Trump, and who hasn’t been around long enough for us to have a running head start on exposing their scandals.

 donald mcneil

ny times logoNew York Times, Ex-Times Reporter Who Used Racial Slur Publishes a Lengthy Defense, Marc Tracy, March 1, 2021. Donald G. McNeil Jr., above, a science and public health reporter at The New York Times who resigned under pressure last month after 45 years at the paper, published an account on Monday describing the circumstances of his departure, in a four-part essay that was often critical of Times leadership.

A leading reporter on the coronavirus pandemic, Mr. McNeil announced his departure last month in the wake of an article in The Daily Beast about his comments and behavior during a Times-sponsored trip for high school students to Peru in 2019. Several students and their parents complained that Mr. McNeil, who was serving as an expert guide on the trip, had used a racial slur and made other insensitive remarks.

Shortly after his return, The Times investigated the matter and disciplined him, saying he had shown poor judgment in using the slur in a conversation about racist language. The Times’s investigation of Mr. McNeil’s behavior on the trip did not become public until The Daily Beast reported on it.

After the publication of the Daily Beast article, a group of Times employees sent a letter to Times leaders, questioning how the paper had handled Mr. McNeil. On Feb. 5, Dean Baquet, the executive editor, and Joe Kahn, the managing editor, announced his departure in a memo to the staff. As part of the announcement, Mr. McNeil apologized and said in a statement, “Originally, I thought the context in which I used this ugly word could be defended. I now realize that it cannot. It is deeply offensive and hurtful.”

In his four-part essay, published on the online platform Medium at more than 20,000 words, he wrote that his attempts to discuss serious issues with the students had sometimes fallen flat. He again acknowledged having used the slur, saying his use of it had occurred during a conversation with a trip participant about a student who had been suspended from a high school after a video from two years earlier had surfaced showing the student using the slur.

“Am I a racist?” Mr. McNeil wrote. “I don’t think so — after working in 60 countries over 25 years, I think I’m pretty good at judging people as individuals. But ‘am I a racist?’ is actually a harder question to answer about yourself than some self-righteous people think.”

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Crime

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: Two of Biden’s top DOJ nominees are subjected to baseless smear campaigns, Editorial Board, March 1, 2021 (print ed.). Vanita Gupta and Kristen Clarke, tapped for top jobs at Justice, become targets.

Vanita Gupta is among the nation’s most esteemed civil rights lawyers, revered by liberals for her decades of effective, levelheaded advocacy, and by many of the nation’s biggest police and law enforcement groups for her measured, constructive approach. That rare combination has evidently triggered a case of the vapors among extremists opposed to progress on voting rights, mass incarceration, systemic racism and law enforcement abuse.

How else to explain the categorically dishonest video hit job by a far-right outfit that labels Ms. Gupta, President Biden’s nominee for associate attorney general, the No. 3 Justice Department job, a “dangerous appointee”? In fact, that is an apt characterization only for those terrified at the prospect of expanding justice for the most vulnerable in American society.

Even in an era of florid mendacity, the ad, an $800,000 buy sponsored by the Judicial Crisis Network, is a doozy, mainly notable for the magnitude of the lies and distortions it crams into 30 seconds.

It states that Ms. Gupta, chief of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division under the Obama administration, supports defunding the police. Awkwardly, there’s zero proof of that, including in the ad’s own footnoted citation. The ad states she “led a group that wants to reduce punishments on white supremacists, even terrorists.” In fact, Ms. Gupta and the group she led until her nomination, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, are simply opposed to capital punishment, in line with 25 states that have ended it, including 10 since 2007. (Virginia is now on the verge of eliminating it, too.) In the absence of executions, federal death-row inmates would likely spend the rest of their lives in prison.

Finally, the ad charges that instead of supporting law and order during last summer’s violence following the killing of George Floyd, Ms. Gupta advocated “to let convicts out of jail.” As “evidence,” it cites her factually accurate tweet, in August, that the pandemic was “killing people in federal prison who could be released” — a stance then-Attorney General William P. Barr had embraced months earlier.

The idea that Ms. Gupta is a radical police-hater is risible given the positive reviews her nomination received from an alphabet soup of law enforcement groups, including the National Fraternal Order of Police, which endorsed Donald Trump twice. In HuffPost, the FOP’s director, Jim Pasco, blasted the Judicial Crisis Network ad as “partisan demagoguery.” And on its Facebook page, the FOP praised Ms. Gupta, who led efforts to reform police departments in her time at the Civil Rights Division, as having “worked with us to find common ground even when that seemed impossible.”

The smears against Ms. Gupta are of a piece with attacks on another woman of color, Kristen Clarke, nominated to lead the Civil Rights Division. In Ms. Clarke’s case, the allegations concern antisemitism — so what if the evidence is tissue-thin and there is no record she has ever uttered an antisemitic remark?

In another era, we might have opted not to dignify these attacks with a rebuttal. But in a time when elected officials have been known to embrace lies and conspiracy theories, it’s worth stating sooner rather than later: Both these nominees have serious, distinguished track records as champions of civil rights. For their opponents, that is the real rub.

 

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, Myanmar security forces open fire on protesters, killing at least 18, according to U.N., Andrew Nachemson, March 1, 2021 (print ed.). Security forces on Sunday intensified their crackdown on protests in Myanmar with the bloodiest day of demonstrations since the Feb. 1 military coup, killing at myanmar flagleast 18 and using lethal force for the first time in the main city of Yangon.

The clashes — tear gas, stun grenades, rubber bullets and live rounds — turned Yangon and other cities across the country into battlegrounds as the military moved to crush resistance to its deeply resented seizure of power.

The United Nations’ Human Rights Office on Myanmar said at least 18 people died and 30 others were wounded in several cities across the country, including Yangon, Dawei, Mandalay and Bago. Deaths, the office said, occurred “as a result of live ammunition fired into crowds.”

 

Biden Nominations

washington post logoWashington Post, Senate confirms Miguel Cardona as education secretary, Laura Meckler and Danielle Douglas-Gabriel, March 1, 2021. miguel cardonaThe Senate confirmed Miguel Cardona to serve as education secretary Monday, vaulting the little-known Connecticut educator into the center of the national debate over how to reopen schools for face-to-face classes.

The Senate vote was a bipartisan 64 to 33 for Cardona, whose nomination moved through the chamber without any significant controversy — in contrast with the confirmation of his immediate predecessor, Betsy DeVos, who needed the tiebreaking vote of Vice President Mike Pence to win confirmation.

“At this moment of crisis, Dr. Cardona is exactly the leader we need at the Department of Education,” said Sen. Patty Murray (D.-Wash.), chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. “He has the experience, principles and perspective that we need in this critical role.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Chart: Who Joe Biden is picking to fill his White House and Cabinet, Staff reports, March 2, 2020. One of President-elect Joe Biden’s very first tasks will be filling the top positions in his White House and Cabinet. In contrast to President Trump’s notably White and male Cabinet, Biden has joe biden kamala harris campaign shotpromised to be “a president for all Americans” and build a Cabinet that reflects its diversity.

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

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

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

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

 

 

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