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Tucker Carlson repeatedly interviewed a man he described as a disabled veteran. The FBI is accusing the same man of organizing an Oath Keepers militia to aid the Capitol insurrection.

Thomas Caldwell was indicted Thursday on charges of seditious conspiracy and faces up to 20 years in prison. Tucker Carlson speaks during the Mathias Corvinus Collegium (MCC) Feszt on August 7, 2021 in Esztergom, Hungary.Photo by Janos Kummer/Getty Images Tucker Carlson has interviewed Thomas Caldwell three times since January 6. Caldwell has been indicted on charges of seditious conspiracy and faces up to 20 years in prison. Caldwell organized the Oath Keepers' quick reaction force teams, according to an unsealed indictment. Since the Capitol insurrection, Fox News commentator Tucker Carlson has repeatedly interviewed Thomas Caldwell, who was indicted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation on Thursday on charges of seditious conspiracy for his role in coordinating the Oath Keepers' attack, Media Matters reported.Caldwell first joined "Tucker Carlson Tonight" in October 2021. During his appearance, he said he never entered the Capitol and was not part of the Oath Keepers, a far-right, anti-government paramilitary organization, according to Media Matters.An FBI affidavit from January 2021 revealed the extent of Caldwell's participation in the insurrection through records collected from his Facebook account."Us storming the castle. Please share. Sharon was right with me! I am such an instigator! She was ready for it man! Didn't even mind the tear gas," Caldwell said in a Facebook message on the evening of January 6. "We need to do this at the local level. Lets storm the capitol in Ohio. Tell me when!"The affidavit also included several messages exchanged between Caldwell and two others accused of being his co-conspirators in the weeks leading up to January 6, including:"Driving in with my wife from Berryville VA but am soending night before at Comfort Inn Arlington/Ballston on Glebe Road. Meeting up with Oathkeepers from North Carolina and Patriot group from the Shenandoah Valley.""This is a good location and would allow us to hunt at night if we wanted to. I don't know if Stewie has even gotten out his call to arms but its a little friggin late. This is one we are doing on our own. We will link up with the north carolina crew.""Paul has a room and is bringing someone. He will be the quick reaction force. Its going to be cold. We need a place to spend the night before minimum."In the following months, Carlson continued to push a "false flag" narrative about the insurrection and interviewed Caldwell twice more on his Fox shows, once in November and again this past Thursday, following Caldwell's indictment by the FBI.According to the indictment, Caldwell was one of the coordinators of the Oath Keepers' quick reaction force teams on January 6, readying members to rapidly transport stockpiled firearms into Washington, DC, "in support of operations aimed at using force to stop the lawful transfer of presidential power."The indictment said Caldwell sent a text message on January 2 seeking out boats to ferry weapons across the Potomac River."If we had someone standing by at a dock ramp (one near the Pentagon for sure) we could have our Quick Response Team with the heavy weapons standing by, quickly load them and ferry them across the river to our waiting arms," Caldwell said, according to the indictment.If convicted, Caldwell faces up to 20 years in prison under the charge of seditious conspiracy, the Department of Justice said in a press release.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: dealsSource: nytJan 15th, 2022

January 6: A Legacy Of Troubling Questions

January 6: A Legacy Of Troubling Questions Authored by Joseph Hannemann via The Epoch Times, The hardened-steel baton made the most disturbing sound as it bounced off Victoria White’s skull. It varied between a hollow click and a deeper snap, depending on where on her head the metal weapon made contact. “Please don’t beat her!” a man in the crowd yelled. It was chaos in the West Terrace tunnel entrance of the U.S. Capitol on the afternoon of Jan. 6, 2021. Outside, thousands who had attended President Donald Trump’s “Save America” rally milled about the terrace, while groups of rioters battled police near the tunnel. An almost demonic cacophony emanated from under the tunnel arch. “I didn’t even touch you,” a woman cried. “I need help! I need help,” a man shouted. “Stand up, dammit!” intoned a police officer in riot gear. “Get out!” boomed another. Then a blood-curdling scream, followed by the ear-splitting sound of an emergency siren. Victoria White appears prone or near-collapse in several parts of a five-minute video. (Screen Captures/Joseph McBride) After repeatedly striking White in the head, the officer in white holstered his baton. Then he made a fist with his bare left hand and punched White in the face. “Oh, no-no-no! Please! Please don’t beat her!” someone shouted, to no effect. After three full-force knuckle shots to White’s head, the officer in white paused. Then he went in for two more blows. He grabbed the hair at the back of her head and pulled it hard. White looked dazed and confused. She wore a blank stare. Another officer reached in with his baton in an apparent attempt to prevent more blows. The officer in white grabbed his colleague’s arm and shoved it back at him. The almost unbelievable violence meted out on the unarmed, 5-foot-4-inch White provides a stark contrast to the often-preached narrative that Jan. 6 was strictly an insurrection carried out by mobs of Trump supporters wanting to overthrow the government. White was a victim of brutality. Her lawyer is preparing a civil suit. Hers is one of the hidden stories of Jan. 6, exposed only after a federal judge ordered that three hours of surveillance video held by the U.S. Department of Justice be released to White’s attorney. Political Divide Widens The voluminous media coverage in the weeks leading up to the one-year anniversary of Jan. 6 demonstrates the substantial and growing divide between Americans of differing political stripes. The prevailing narrative is that supporters of Trump, whipped into a frenzy by his Jan. 6 speech at the Ellipse, descended on the U.S. Capitol in a violent attempt to upend democracy. A large crowd of Trump supporters—estimates ranged from 30,000 on the low end to 2 million on the high end—crowded the Ellipse to hear the president rail against the 2020 presidential election. Trump contended, along with millions of supporters, that widespread election fraud in key states like Pennsylvania, Michigan, Georgia, Arizona, and Wisconsin had robbed him of a second term and placed Democrat Joe Biden in an illegitimate presidency. The speech started approximately an hour later than scheduled. Well before Trump concluded his remarks, a group of protesters breached a lightly guarded barrier on the Capitol’s pedestrian walkway. They quickly headed for the Capitol building. By the time the throngs of rally-goers made the long walk to the Capitol grounds, the perimeter fencing and security signs indicating the site was restricted had been methodically removed. As tens of thousands of protesters surrounded the Capitol, pockets of violence broke out. Windows were broken, and protesters climbed inside, just after 2 p.m. At other entrances, protesters found doors propped open and proceeded inside like tourists. The circumstances of the worst violence are hotly contested, but the results were real. Trump supporter Ashli Babbitt, 35, was shot and killed by a Capitol Police officer as she attempted to enter the Speaker’s Lobby. White and others were beaten by police in or near the West Terrace tunnel, attorneys say. Aaron Babbitt with his wife, Ashli, who was killed at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. “She loved life,” he said. (Courtesy of Aaron Babbitt) Some 140 police were injured during battles with rioters. Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick died on Jan. 7, 2021, although his death was eventually determined to be from natural causes. Capitol Police Officer Howard Liebengood and Washington Metropolitan Police Officer Jeffrey Smith—both of whom were on duty at the Capitol—took their own lives in the weeks after Jan. 6. President Joe Biden described Jan. 6 as the “worst attack on our democracy since the Civil War.” The Associated Press asserted it was “the most sustained attack on the seat of American democracy since the War of 1812.” Steven Sund, former U.S. Capitol Police chief, called it “a coordinated violent attack on the United States Capitol by thousands of well-equipped armed insurrectionists.” Many Americans don’t see those words as hyperbole, insisting Trump-fueled mobs fully intended to disrupt the U.S. Congress and overthrow the federal government. Across the political chasm are those who reject that dominant narrative, and assert that while Jan. 6 was many things, it was no insurrection. They view that characterization as a convenient way to suppress the truth. The real Jan. 6 story, they believe, remains hidden on some 14,000 hours of surveillance video from around the Capitol grounds. Portions of that video will undoubtedly be unsealed as some of the more than 725 people arrested for alleged Jan. 6-related crimes go on trial. Whatever the chaos of that infamous day is called, one thing seems clear. The full Jan. 6 story hasn’t been told. One year later, the legacy of Jan. 6 is a trail of troubling questions—the answers to which could rock American politics and deepen the divide between its citizens. Is There Evidence of Treason or Sedition? In response to the violence at the Capitol, the FBI launched one of the most sweeping investigations in its history. Agents pored over cell phone video, social media postings, surveillance video, and police bodycam footage to identify those who were at the Capitol that day. The FBI opened a national tip line and posted videos and photographs of protesters. Tips came from many sources, including neighbors and family members who turned in their relatives. Of the more than 725 people arrested over the past year, no one was charged with treason or sedition. At least 225 defendants were charged with assaulting, resisting, or impeding police, including 75 who allegedly used a deadly or dangerous weapon, or caused serious bodily injury to an officer. Two men climb over other protesters and lunge at police officers guarding the entrance to the West Terrace tunnel at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. (Screen Capture via The Epoch Times) The most common charge issued by federal prosecutors—involving 640 individuals—was for entering or remaining in a restricted federal building or grounds. About 40 percent of all those arrested were charged with impeding or attempting to impede an official proceeding—the certification of the Electoral College votes from the 2020 presidential election. Of the 165 people who have pleaded guilty to date, nearly 90 percent of the cases involved misdemeanors. The rest were felonies. Are There Any Investigative Conclusions? House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) appointed a select committee to investigate the Jan. 6 breach and subsequent violence. That group’s work is ongoing. Preliminary findings could be made public by summer. Republican House members are conducting their own probe, but complain that Democrats refuse to cooperate or share records with their GOP colleagues. The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, and the Committee on Rules and Administration, issued a report on the Capitol breach that cited a range of intelligence and law enforcement failures that enabled the violence. Among the findings in the Senate report was that neither the FBI nor the Department of Homeland Security issued formal intelligence bulletins about the potential for violence at the Capitol on Jan. 6. The FBI’s Norfolk field office sent out a situational information report late on Jan. 5, warning of individuals traveling to Washington for “war” at the Capitol, but the agency overall didn’t view as credible online posts calling for violence. Capitol Police didn’t have a department-wide operational plan or staffing plan for the Jan. 6 joint session of Congress, the report said. It faulted a lack of training in civil disturbances and a failure to provide basic protective equipment to rank-and-file officers. Who Incited the Capitol Breach and Violence? Independent media and online sleuths sounded alarms about the presence of unindicted individuals among those who first breached the Capitol at about 12:50 p.m. These men played a central role in the breach, encouraged protesters to go to the Capitol, and directed people into the building. Yet they haven’t been arrested, indicted, or identified by the FBI as among the wanted. Who were they? A man—now known to be Ray Epps of Queen Creek, Arizona—was captured on video on Jan. 5, 2021, attempting to recruit Trump supporters to assault the Capitol the next day. “Tomorrow, we need to go into the Capitol,” Epps says, as seen in a video clip. “Into the Capitol!” A man near him says, “What?” and others are heard shouting, “No!” Then the crowd breaks into a chant: “Fed! Fed! Fed! Fed!”—accusing Epps of being a federal agent. Ray Epps seen on Jan. 5, 2021, trying to recruit men to attack the Capitol. They accuse him of being a federal agent. (CapitolPunishmentTheMovie.com/Bark at the Hole Productions) Epps gets into verbal sparring with some of the Trump supporters. “You’re counterproductive to our cause,” one young man shouts. Epps shouts back, staying on message: “It doesn’t matter. … That’s not what we’re here for. … You’re getting off the subject. … We’re here for another reason.” Another video shows Epps saying, “Tomorrow—I don’t even like to say it because I’ll be arrested,” prompting a man nearby to reply, “Then let’s not say it.” Epps responds: “I’ll say it. We need to go into the Capitol!” A young man in the crowd, wearing an American flag neck gaiter, replies, “I didn’t see that coming!” On Jan. 6, as crowds milled about the Washington Monument in long lines to get in to watch Trump’s speech, Epps could be heard shouting through a megaphone: “As soon as our president is done speaking, we are going to the Capitol, where our problems are. It’s that direction. Please spread the word!” Epps is seen again in video footage taken at the metal barricades outside the Capitol at 12:50 p.m., as a small crowd chants, “USA! USA!” He whispers something in the ear of a man wearing a backward Make America Great Again cap. A few seconds later, the young man helps push over the barricade as Epps steps back to watch. This first breach of the security perimeter was 20 minutes before Trump finished his speech. Epps is then seen sprinting with the crowd up the steps toward the Capitol. A few days after the Jan. 6 violence, the FBI placed a photo of Epps on a “Seeking Information” poster, asking for the public’s help in identifying those who breached the Capitol. He could be seen in Photograph No. 16. That photo has since been scrubbed from the FBI website. Ray Epps is shown at lower left on an early FBI wanted poster, but his photo has since been scrubbed from the FBI website. (FBI.gov/Wayback Machine) On the current list of 1,559 photographs of people the FBI wants to identify, there is no longer a No. 16. The list skips from Photograph No. 15 to Photograph No. 17. Epps hasn’t been arrested or charged. John Guandolo, a former FBI agent and counter-terrorism expert who was on the Capitol grounds on Jan. 6, said he saw FBI agents dressed as protesters. “For a good portion of the day, I was with law enforcement, FBI, etcetera,” Guandolo said in an interview for the documentary “Capitol Punishment.” “Guys would walk by, and we’d look at each other and be like, ‘Two more right there. Here comes another. There’s another one.’ They were everywhere.” Revolver, an alternative news outlet, identified others around the Capitol grounds who were active participants in the breach but whose photos weren’t included on the FBI’s wanted list. One man, wearing a grey Bulwark jacket, knit cap, and sunglasses, is seen on video rolling up the green plastic fencing around the security perimeter. He pulls up the stakes and removes the “Area Closed” signs. A man in a blue cap with a blue bullhorn is seen in multiple videos atop the media tower erected for the inauguration. Dubbed “Scaffold Commander” by online researchers, he barks out directives and encouragement for 90 minutes. “Don’t just stand there! Keep moving!” “Move forward! Help somebody over the wall!” Once the crowd filled in around the Capitol, Scaffold Commander switched gears. “We’re in! Come on! We gotta fill up the Capitol! Come now, we need help!” Revolver’s video investigation said that whether or not Epps and Scaffold Commander knew each other, their words and actions worked well together. “So we have Scaffold Commander directing the body of the crowd from the tower above, and Ray Epps directing the vanguard front-liners at the police line below,” the Dec. 18 story read. “Yet neither one of them has been prosecuted, nor is either presently ‘wanted’ by the FBI.” Revolver founder Darren Beattie took to Twitter to ask Epps to expose who his handlers were. “But now, it is time to think for yourself, Ray. Forget about your boat and your ranch and your grill. If you make the right move and tell the truth, you change everything,” Beattie wrote on Dec. 29. Neither Epps, the FBI, nor federal prosecutors have commented on Epps’s actions that day, on whether he worked for the FBI, or on why he hasn’t been indicted. Epps told an Arizona Republic reporter on Jan. 12, 2021, “I didn’t do anything wrong.” Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) asked Attorney General Merrick Garland on Oct. 21 to dispel concerns about the Epps videos, but Garland wouldn’t comment. I just played this video for AG Merrick Garland. He refused to comment on how many agents or assets of the federal government were present in the crowd on Jan 5th and 6th and how many entered the Capitol. pic.twitter.com/lvd9n4mMHK — Thomas Massie (@RepThomasMassie) October 21, 2021 “You’ve said this was one of the most sweeping investigations in history,” Massie said during a public hearing. “Have you seen that video, those frames from that video?” Garland began talking about a standing practice of not commenting on investigative specifics, before Massie interrupted him: “How many agents or assets of the federal government were present on January 6th, whether they agitated to go into the Capitol, and if any of them did?” Garland’s reply: “I’m not going to comment on an investigation that’s ongoing.” What Is the Significance of Unindicted Actors? Attorneys who represent Jan. 6 defendants say if Epps or other participants were FBI informants or agents, then it blows a hole in the idea that Trump supporters were solely responsible for violence at the Capitol. Participation by government actors could legally invalidate conspiracy charges, they say. Attorney Jonathon Moseley, who represents Jan. 6 defendant Kelly Meggs of Dunnellon, Florida, a member of the Oath Keepers, issued subpoenas to Epps, Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes, and other men who played visible roles on Jan. 6. As Meggs’s April trial on conspiracy charges approaches, Moseley wants to know why Epps was at the Trump rally and Capitol, and whether he was working for the government. Moseley said Epps was seen at the first breach of a police line at the pedestrian walkway, about 200 yards from the Capitol building. Video shows Epps as he appears to rush the makeshift barricade erected by police, “then stops short,” Moseley said. Ray Epps at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, shortly before pepper gas is shot into the crowd. “Been a long time,” he says after coughing. “Aah, I love it!” (Screen Capture/Rumble) “It’s like he’s head-faking people to rush with him, but then he never touches it,” he said. “A police officer falls—I think it may be a woman—and his immediate instinct is to go help her, and he thinks better of it and steps back. It really looks like he’s undercover.” Moseley said the involvement of government-paid actors in facilitating or inciting the breach of the Capitol complex would create reasonable doubt in just about any of the Jan. 6 cases. “There are legal consultants who keep emphasizing that, legally, you can’t conspire with the government. So if he’s working directly or indirectly for the government, then people are innocent of the conspiracy,” Moseley said. “It’s a legal rule. If there are 10 people conspiring and one of them is with the government, not only could it be entrapment, but it also may invalidate a conspiracy.” That type of legal issue has been raised in a Michigan case in which a group of men stand accused in federal court of a plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat. Defense attorneys recently filed a motion to dismiss the case, contending that government agents and informants concocted the kidnapping plan and pushed to convince the defendants to participate. Are Jan. 6 Detainees Political Prisoners? Third-world banana republics are notorious for terrible prison conditions and brutal treatment of the accused and convicted alike. Some lawyers, family members, and defendants believe the District of Columbia operates a jail that would be at home in any of those countries. The jail is sometimes called “DC-GITMO,” after the U.S.-run terrorist detention camp in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. The poor accommodations at the D.C. jail have long been the subject of discussion in the nation’s capital. The Washington Post said conditions there were “deplorable,” an ironic descriptor, considering who the jail’s primary occupants are these days. The issue got national attention in 2021 because of repeated allegations of brutal, abusive treatment of men accused of Jan. 6 crimes. A 28-page report issued in late 2021 by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) said treatment of Jan. 6 detainees was “inhumane.” (Document Cover/Marjorie Taylor Greene) “American citizens are being tortured right now within five miles of the White House,” said Joseph McBride, a New York attorney who represents a half-dozen Jan. 6 defendants. “America does not punish its citizens pre-trial,” McBride wrote on Twitter. “Authoritarian regimes do.” McBride said his clients have suffered treatment that should never happen in America, all because they supported Trump by being at the U.S. Capitol on that fateful day. During incarceration, they’ve suffered—among other things—severe beatings by guards; the denial of medical attention, including medications for chemotherapy; and refusal of food, McBride said. Christopher Quaglin, charged with assaulting police officers during the riot, suffers from celiac disease, but the jail feeds him only food with gluten, McBride said. He has been refused medical treatment. “Yes, we are extremely concerned that he will die,” McBride wrote on Twitter on Dec. 27. Ted Hull, the superintendent of Northern Neck Regional Jail, where Quaglin is housed, said McBride’s assertions are wrong. Christopher Quaglin with his wife, Moria, who fears her husband could die without medical attention in federal custody. (Courtesy Quaglin Family) “Regardless of Mr. McBride’s fictitious assertions,” Hull told The Epoch Times, “inmate Quaglin is and has been receiving the appropriate dietitian-designed diet consistent with his specific dietary requirements and the appropriate level of medical services consistent with his diagnosis.” Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) toured the D.C. jail with Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) in November, then issued a 28-page report titled “Unusually Cruel.” The report said the conditions for the Jan. 6 detainees were “inhumane.” Couy Griffin, the founder of Cowboys for Trump who attended the Jan. 6 Trump rally and was on the Capitol grounds, never went inside the Capitol building. He was charged with entering and remaining in a restricted building, and disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building. He was arrested and jailed, but eventually released while awaiting trial. “I spent the next nine days in that cell in total solitary confinement. No shower, no phone, no attorney,” Griffin said in the film “Capitol Punishment.” The guards, he said, often chanted “F Trump! F Trump!” and called him an “[expletive] white cracker.” He complained about his treatment to the deputy warden, who he said told him, “The only job these guards have is to keep your chest moving up and down.” Richard Barnett of Gravette, Arkansas, faced seven charges for his alleged actions on Jan. 6, including sitting in the office chair of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, captured in a now-iconic news photograph. One day during his four-month detention, Barnett experienced tightness in his chest and arm pain. He called for help, but the guard who responded only mocked and laughed at him. Barnett then called out to a female staff member, who said she would get help. “Richard [lay] there for a significant period of time—certainly enough for him to die,” read McBride’s report on jail conditions, which he sent to Amnesty International. After being given a medical checkup and returned to his cell, Barnett fell asleep. A guard began pounding on the glass door to his cell, jolting him awake so quickly he stood up and then fainted, hitting his head on the sink. Now bleeding from a head wound, Barnett screamed for an hour before help came, the report said. One day, Barnett’s cell door opened, and some nine officers entered, cuffing his wrists and shackling his legs. Guards violently shook him back and forth, lifted him off his feet by the shackles, and slammed him headfirst into the concrete floor, according to McBride’s report, a copy of which was also sent to the American Civil Liberties Union. The U.S. Marshals Service conducted a surprise inspection of the D.C. jail facilities in October and interviewed 300 detainees. Conditions at the jail “do not meet the minimum standards of confinement,” the Marshals report said. As a result, the Marshals Service removed all of its detainees and transferred them to facilities in the federal Bureau of Prisons. This didn’t include the Jan. 6 detainees. Emery Nelson, spokesperson for the Bureau of Prisons, said the agency doesn’t comment on “anecdotal allegations” or provide information about individual inmates. “The Bureau of Prisons (BOP) is committed to accommodating the needs of federal offenders and ensuring the safety and security of all inmates in our population, our staff, and the public,” Nelson said. “The BOP takes seriously our duty to protect the individuals entrusted in our care.” Who Died at the Capitol on Jan. 6? One person was killed at the hands of U.S. Capitol Police, and police action might have contributed to the death of two others, but the four other deaths related to Jan. 6 were either from natural causes or suicides. Ashli Babbitt was shot in the left shoulder and killed as she crawled through a broken window at the entry to the Speaker’s Lobby. Ashli’s husband, Aaron Babbitt, said a careful examination of video footage from the hallway indicates Ashli was upset with rioters who smashed glass in the double doors. He thinks she panicked and sought escape through the window, only to be shot by Lt. Michael Byrd as a result. She was unarmed and presented no threat to anyone, Aaron Babbitt said. Capitol Police Lt. Michael Byrd aims his Glock 22 at the window where Ashli Babbitt was about to appear. (CapitolPunishmentTheMovie/Bark at the Hole Productions) Rosanne Boyland, 34, of Georgia, died in or near the West Terrace tunnel at the Capitol. McBride says surveillance video shows Boyland was beaten by a police officer as she lay on the ground. The D.C. medical examiner ruled the death accidental: intoxication from a prescription medication. Kevin Greeson, 51, of Georgia, died on the Capitol grounds of a heart attack brought on by cardiovascular disease, the medical examiner ruled. Benjamin Phillips, 50, of Pennsylvania, died of atherosclerosis, heart disease characterized by fatty plaques that build up in the arteries, the medical examiner ruled. Of the three police officers who died in the weeks following Jan. 6, Sicknick died from natural causes, and Liebengood and Smith died from suicide. Did Democrats Weaponize Jan. 6? Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), ranking member of the Committee on House Administration, accused House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Democrats of “weaponizing events of January 6th against their political adversaries.” Davis sent a letter to Pelosi on Jan. 3, 2022, complaining that House Democrats repeatedly obstructed attempts by Republican lawmakers to investigate security vulnerabilities at the U.S. Capitol before and during Jan. 6 violence. The obstruction came through denial of House records and ignoring repeated requests for documents, Davis wrote. “Unfortunately, over the past twelve months, House Democrats have been more interested in exploiting the events of January 6th for political purposes than in conducting basic oversight of the security vulnerabilities exposed that day,” Davis wrote. Specifically, lawmakers want to know about a request that former U.S. Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund said he made to then-House Sergeant-at-Arms Paul Irving prior to Jan. 6 for “the assistance of the National Guard,” Davis wrote. Sund reported that Irving was “concerned about the ‘optics’ of a National Guard presence at the Capitol.” During violence on Jan. 6, when Sund asked about getting authorization for the National Guard, Irving responded that he “needed to run it up the chain of command,” the letter said. Former U.S. Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund testifies at a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and Senate Rules and Administration committees joint hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington on Feb. 23, 2021. (Erin Scott/Pool/AFP via Getty Images) In February 2021 testimony before the U.S. Senate, Irving denied Sund’s claims. Republican lawmakers then requested access to Irving’s communications to substantiate that denial. Davis said he wrote to House General Counsel Douglas Letter to request those records, but Letter never replied. “Both the Sergeant at Arms and the chief administration officer failed to produce any documents to Republicans pursuant to our requests,” Davis wrote, “suggesting that these House officers may be providing documents only to Democrats on a partisan basis.” Davis said Republicans want to know why Sund’s Jan. 4, 2021, request for National Guard support on Jan. 6 was denied, and whether Pelosi or her staff ordered the refusal. They also want to know what conversations occurred during Capitol violence on Jan. 6, when Sund again asked for National Guard help. Finally, they want to know why the select committee on Jan. 6, appointed by Pelosi, won’t examine the speaker’s role “in ensuring the proper House security preparations,” the letter said. When asked whether the speaker had responded to Davis, Henry Connelly, Pelosi’s communications director, referred The Epoch Times to a statement issued by House Administration Committee Chair Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.). “The Ranking Member’s letter is pure revisionist fiction. The Chief Administrative Officer and House Sergeant at Arms have already notified Ranking Member Davis they are complying with preservation requests and will fully cooperate with various law enforcement investigations and bonafide congressional inquiries,” Lofgren said in the statement. From the inception of the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol, Republican leadership discounted its work because Pelosi rejected two of the five Republicans chosen by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) for the probe. McCarthy then withdrew his picks. Pelosi appointed Reps. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) and Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) to serve on the nine-member panel. The select committee could issue at least an interim report by mid-2022 and a final report in the fall, committee sources told several media outlets. Committee chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) said in December that there was no set schedule for public hearings to release the group’s findings. The Epoch Times asked the Department of Justice for comment on the presence of federal agents on Jan. 6, but didn’t receive a reply by press time. The Epoch Times contacted Epps through his business for comment, but didn’t receive a reply by press time. Tyler Durden Thu, 01/06/2022 - 16:20.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeJan 6th, 2022

Victor Davis Hanson: The Left Got What It Wanted - So Now What?

Victor Davis Hanson: The Left Got What It Wanted - So Now What? Authored by Victor Davis Hanson via AmGreatness.com, There is no schadenfreude in seeing the Left destroy everything it touches - because its claws tear all of us as well... What was the purpose for the insane opposition of the Left between 2017 and 2021? To usher in a planned nihilism, an incompetent chaos, a honed anarchy to wreck the country in less than a year? Then No sooner had Donald Trump entered office than scores of House Democrats filed motions for impeachment, apparently for thought crimes that he might, some day, in theory, could possibly commit. Foreign Policy published an article by a liberal Obama Administration lawyer outlining all the ways to remove an elected president as soon as possible—including consideration of a military coup.  The FBI and the entrenched bureaucrats at the Justice Department continued their prior failed efforts during the campaign to seed the lies of the fabricated Steele dossier and Fusion GPS. A 22-month-long and $40 million hoax ended with the special counsel himself, a doddering Robert Mueller, swearing under oath that he essentially knew nothing about the dossier or Fusion GPS—the twin catalysts that had prompted his very own investigation.  Fired FBI Director James Comey—a lion on Twitter, and a lamb when under oath—on over 240 occasions testified to the Congress that he either did not know or could not remember, when asked details about the collusion fraud that the philosopher G-man had helped perpetuate.  No one worried about the weaponization of government. So, we went right from the nefarious legacy of John Brennan (who lied under oath to Congress twice), James Clapper (who lied under oath to Congress once), James Comey (who leaked confidential presidential memos), Andrew McCabe (who gave false testimony to federal investigators), Lisa Page (who was fired from the special counsel’s legal team for various unprofessional conduct), Peter Strzok (about whom there is not enough space to detail his transgressions), and the now convicted felon Kevin Clinesmith onto the next round of impeachments.  Two of them followed. Neither was conducted by a special counsel. There was no array of witnesses, no prosecutorial report. Much less were there formal charges of a specific high crime or misdemeanor, or bribery or treason, as specified by the Constitution.  In the end, both farces ended in trials—but not before the Left had established lots of baleful precedents. Impeachment is now simply a tool to embarrass a president in his first term when he has lost the House. A Senate trial could hound an innocent president, even as a private citizen out of office. And a chief justice need not preside over the Senate trial. If and when Joe Biden loses the House, the Left should applaud any attempt to impeach him—given it established the new model of opposition. Of the January 6 debacle, we were not told that it was a riot involving lawbreakers who would be punished. Instead, we were lied to that it was an “armed insurrection,” a “coup,” and “a rebellion” of massive proportions.  Our esteemed retired military and civil libertarians who had damned the mere thought of using federal troops to quell the prior four summer months of continuous rioting were suddenly happy to see 25,000 federal soldiers patrol Washington to hound out fantasy second-wave insurrectionists. In Animal Farm fashion, there were now to be good federal troops deterring mythical violent domestic extremists, but bad federal troops who should never stop real, ongoing mayhem in the streets. It mattered nothing that “armed” in the case of January 6 meant that no firearms were used or even found among the protestors. No one was charged with conspiracy, insurrection, or racketeering. But many were placed in solitary confinement without specific charges being filed—to the utter delight of liberal groups like the ACLU and human rights organizations. The FBI—recently known mostly for spreading Hillary Clinton’s campaign collusion hoax—found no premeditated grand plot. The remaining media narratives were also untrue: Capitol police officer Brian Sicknick was not murdered, but died tragically of a stroke the next day. Five persons were not “killed.” Four who died were Trump supporters. Only one of the five deaths occurred at the hand of a known other—a 14-year military veteran, unarmed, 110-pound female Ashli Babbitt. She was fatally shot while attempting to enter through a window of the Capitol by a law-enforcement officer—to the frequent approbation of the left-wing commentariat. The officer’s name was hidden for months from the public—something conspicuously uncharacteristic in other cases where law enforcement officers are involved in shooting unarmed suspects.  Videos surrounding the entire melee still have been repressed. They likely will never be released. That infamous day remains in dire contrast to the prior 120 days of continuous rioting, looting, and arson. In the election-year summer 2020, federal courthouses and iconic buildings were torched. Nearly $2 billion worth of property was destroyed and 28 were killed.  Yet current Vice President Kamala Harris rallied the public to help bail out the arrested. And the architect of the “1619 Project” reassured Americans that crimes against property like arson and looting are not really violence per se. The weeks of “spontaneous” mayhem magically vanished after November 3, 2020. Note that esteemed medical professionals argued that BLM protestors who flooded the streets were exempt from quarantine, social distancing, and mask requirements, given their higher morality. There are now good riots and bad ones, and noble sustained silence about a noble officer who lethally shoots an unarmed suspect, and noble immediate outing of an ignoble officer who lethally shoots an unarmed suspect. These were merely the main media distortions and fixations over the last four years. We forget the daily craziness such as a president’s calls to foreign heads of state routinely leaked or the FBI director passing on confidential memos of private presidential conversations to the liberal press, or the “whistleblower” who was not a whistleblower as much as a Democratic operative. The media nadir came when the press bellowed that Trump had overfed a fish. An array of retired four-stars damned their president as Hitlerian, Mussolini-like, and deserving an early exit from office. Their superior morality naturally excused them from abiding by the Uniform Code of Military Justice.  The New York Times falsely identified a minor Trump Administration bureaucrat (“anonymous”) as a major conservative truth-teller—once he thrilled the media by lying that a large, morally superior, inside cabal was devoted to obstructing the implementation of a president’s orders. Everyone from Hillary Clinton to an active FBI lawyer bragged of joining the “Resistance,” with plenty of conspiratorial retro-accusations that the 2016 election was “rigged.” All that was a warm-up for the plague year in which Donald Trump was blamed for every COVID death. His medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci was deified, due largely to his coy opposition to the president he was supposed to serve.  Both the current president and vice president had, less than a year ago, urged Americans not to be vaccinated, given their own reluctance to take a “Trump” vaccine. At least the anti-vaxxers had consistent opposition to the experimental inoculations; in contrast, the anti-Trumper anti-vaxxers merely saw sabotaging the 2020 vaccination program as necessary to be in a position to claim it as their own in 2021. Now What did all that madness achieve? Mostly, the first election in U.S. history in which over 100 million ballots were not cast on Election Day. Strangely, with such an avalanche of ballots, the usual error rate of absentee balloting dived from around 2-4 percent to 0.2-0.4 percent. You see, when we suddenly must count tens of millions more paper ballots then it becomes easier, not harder, to spot errors. So, the Left won its Pyrrhic victory.  The nation was done with the demonized Trump and now the Left controlled the presidency, and both houses of Congress. Somnolent Ol’ Joe Biden from Scranton pledged to heal the nation as he overturned his predecessor’s supposedly disastrous policies and went on a rampage of slandering his opponents. If Donald Trump was once damned as non compos mentis, the same media and academic accusers kept mum as Biden shuffled, fell, went mute, slurred words, and went off on angry, disjointed, and incoherent riffs. What followed was a concerted effort to destroy the Trump record: the greatest level of combined annual natural gas and oil production in any nation’s history, record low minority unemployment and near record peacetime, general unemployment, a border secure and illegal immigration finally under control, and a New Middle East in which Israel and its Arab enemies concluded neutrality pacts. China was put on notice for its past mockery of global norms. Inflation was low, growth was good. “Stagflation” was still a rarely remembered word from the past. And again, what was all that Pavlovian nihilism to achieve?  Within eight months the following was finalized: Joe Biden utterly destroyed the idea of a border. Some 2 million were scheduled to cross illegally in the current fiscal year. The sheer inhumanity of deplorable conditions at the border surpassed any notion of the “cages” Donald Trump, in fact, had inherited from the humanitarian Barack Obama.  A war almost immediately broke out in the Middle East, once Biden distanced the United States from Israel and rebooted the radical Palestinian cause.  The Taliban defeated the 20-year effort of the United States in Afghanistan, in the most humiliating withdrawal of the American military in over 45 years. Tens of billions of dollars of abandoned military equipment now arm the Taliban and have turned Afghanistan into a world arms mart for terrorists. Iran is emboldened and speeds up its nuclear proliferation efforts. China brags that the United States has been Afghanistanized and will not defend its allies, Taiwan in particular.  At home, gas prices have soared. Prior trillion-dollar deficits now seem financially prudent in comparison to multitrillion-dollar red ink. The nation is more racially polarized than at any time in the last half-century. A bleak and venomous woke creed has outdone the hate and fear of the McCarthyism of the 1950s, as it wages war on half the nation for various thought crimes and the incorrect idea that the United States was, is, and always will be a kind and humane place. More will likely have died each day from COVID by year’s end during the Biden first 12 months than during Trump’s last 12 months. That statistic perhaps might have been meaningless had Biden himself not demagogued the idea that a president is strangely responsible for all pandemic deaths on his watch.  But then again, Biden had warped the pandemic narrative only after he had inherited the Trump vaccination program (17 million vaccinated by Inauguration Day). Biden was wrongly and prematurely convinced that vaxxes were a permanent prophylaxis to any sort of COVID variants that would simply disappear once he took office. Depending on the occasion, Biden claims none, or just 4 million, were vaxxed until he took office, as truth and fantasies waft through his cloudy cognition. With Biden came not just woke polarization, stagflation, a subsidized ennui that erodes the work ethic, and selective nonenforcement of existing laws: Worse, still, we got a bankrupt ideological defense of these insanities. Critical legal theory, critical race theory, and a new monetary theory were all dreamed up by parlor academics to justify the nihilism.  Did America ever believe that the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff would trash his commander in chief as Hitlerian to journalist hitmen, or allegedly denounce news organizations as “terrorists,” or interrupt the chain of command on a prompt by the Speaker of the House, or warn the Chinese military that he believed there was enough instability in the White House to justify a promise to warn of any impending U.S. military action against Beijing deemed offensive? Was General Milley suffering from the very “white rage” he sought to ferret out? With Biden, China is now omnipresent in the halls of power. A task of our chief COVID advisor, Anthony Fauci, seems to be to deny repeatedly that his stealthy funding of gain-of-function research at the Wuhan virology lab in China had anything to do with the likely accidental release of a likely human engineered and energized coronavirus. Americans still cannot even imagine that their government might have helped subsidize the plague germ that has wrought such havoc upon them. Meanwhile the president’s son still owns a 10 percent cut in a communist Chinese government-affiliated financial venture, apparently due to his prior drug-addled record of financial mismanagement. The media still insists Hunter Biden’s laptop was “Russian disinformation,” while his paint-by-numbers art is auctioned off to foreign lobbyists expecting a return of the old days when Hunter and Joe grandly arrived on Air Force Two to do their bidding.  What did the Left leave as the proper model for conservatives now to deal with Biden?  Impeach him when he loses the House? Get a special counsel, lavish said counsel with $40 million, a dream team of right-wing lawyers, and 22 months to find real Chinese collusion?  Start seeding a conservative version of Lt. Colonel Alexander Vindman and an “anonymous” whistleblower inside the Biden octopus?  Get retired four-star generals on TV to swear Biden is a Chinese “asset,” or have them retweet the idea of sending Biden supporters to China, or swear that he is a fascist? Bring back Woodward and Bernstein to find out whether Biden, Inc. ever paid taxes on all that Chinese and Ukrainian cash?  Call in the ubiquitous Dr. Bandy X. Lee from Yale to administer the Montreal Cognitive Assessment to prove that Biden can distinguish a camel from an elephant or a train from a bike or count backwards from five?  Will the Right prod General Mark Milley’s replacement to collude with soon-to-be Speaker Kevin McCarthy and call the Russians to warn them that Biden is demented, democracy is “messy,” Kamala Harris is crazy, and thus Moscow might need a warning from us about any Biden preemptive aggression? And what of the people who voted for this change and the media that empowered it? In the latest Quinnipiac poll, known for its liberal affinities, Biden now earns a 38 percent approval rating. We should add a few extra negative points given media bias. Do they suffer buyer’s remorse or angst that they were lied to by the hard Left that Joe Biden was cognizant and not a mere vessel for a two-year push for overt socialism? Meanwhile the media is reduced to explaining why an undocumented activist has an understandable right to chase a liberal Democratic senator into a public restroom, hector her, and then video her as she enters a stall to relieve herself and then post the grotesqueness on the internet—a felony in the state of the Arizona, though just part of the “process” for the president of the United States. We could call the above insanity nemesis for woke hubris. Or maybe it is karma, “payback’s a bitch,” or “what goes around comes around.” But there is no schadenfreude in seeing the Left destroy everything it touches—because its claws tear all of us as well. Tyler Durden Wed, 10/13/2021 - 20:45.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeOct 13th, 2021

How Facebook Forced a Reckoning by Shutting Down the Team That Put People Ahead of Profits

Facebook's civic-integrity team, where whistle-blower Frances Haugen worked, pledged to put people ahead of profits. Facebook shut it down, but some former members are still honoring their promise. Facebook’s civic-integrity team was always different from all the other teams that the social media company employed to combat misinformation and hate speech. For starters, every team member subscribed to an informal oath, vowing to “serve the people’s interest first, not Facebook’s.” The “civic oath,” according to five former employees, charged team members to understand Facebook’s impact on the world, keep people safe and defuse angry polarization. Samidh Chakrabarti, the team’s leader, regularly referred to this oath—which has not been previously reported—as a set of guiding principles behind the team’s work, according to the sources. [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] Chakrabarti’s team was effective in fixing some of the problems endemic to the platform, former employees and Facebook itself have said. But, just a month after the 2020 U.S. election, Facebook dissolved the civic-integrity team, and Chakrabarti took a leave of absence. Facebook said employees were assigned to other teams to help share the group’s experience across the company. But for many of the Facebook employees who had worked on the team, including a veteran product manager from Iowa named Frances Haugen, the message was clear: Facebook no longer wanted to concentrate power in a team whose priority was to put people ahead of profits. Illustration by TIME (Source photo: Getty Images) Five weeks later, supporters of Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol—after some of them organized on Facebook and used the platform to spread the lie that the election had been stolen. The civic-integrity team’s dissolution made it harder for the platform to respond effectively to Jan. 6, one former team member, who left Facebook this year, told TIME. “A lot of people left the company. The teams that did remain had significantly less power to implement change, and that loss of focus was a pretty big deal,” said the person. “Facebook did take its eye off the ball in dissolving the team, in terms of being able to actually respond to what happened on Jan. 6.” The former employee, along with several others TIME interviewed, spoke on the condition of anonymity, for fear that being named would ruin their career. Paul Morris—Bloomberg/Getty ImagesSamidh Chakrabarti, head of Facebook’s civic-integrity team, stands beside Katie Harbath, a Facebook director of public policy, in Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park, California, on Oct. 17, 2018.   Enter Frances Haugen Haugen revealed her identity on Oct. 3 as the whistle-blower behind the most significant leak of internal research in the company’s 17-year history. In a bombshell testimony to the Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security two days later, Haugen said the civic-integrity team’s dissolution was the final event in a long series that convinced her of the need to blow the whistle. “I think the moment which I realized we needed to get help from the outside—that the only way these problems would be solved is by solving them together, not solving them alone—was when civic-integrity was dissolved following the 2020 election,” she said. “It really felt like a betrayal of the promises Facebook had made to people who had sacrificed a great deal to keep the election safe, by basically dissolving our community.” Read more: The Facebook Whistleblower Revealed Herself on 60 Minutes. Here’s What You Need to Know In a statement provided to TIME, Facebook’s vice president for integrity Guy Rosen denied the civic-integrity team had been disbanded. “We did not disband Civic Integrity,” Rosen said. “We integrated it into a larger Central Integrity team so that the incredible work pioneered for elections could be applied even further, for example, across health-related issues. Their work continues to this day.” (Facebook did not make Rosen available for an interview for this story.) Impacts of Civic Technology Conference 2016The defining values of the civic-integrity team, as described in a 2016 presentation given by Samidh Chakrabarti and Winter Mason. Civic-integrity team members were expected to adhere to this list of values, which was referred to internally as the “civic oath”. Haugen left the company in May. Before she departed, she trawled Facebook’s internal employee forum for documents posted by integrity researchers about their work. Much of the research was not related to her job, but was accessible to all Facebook employees. What she found surprised her. Some of the documents detailed an internal study that found that Instagram, its photo-sharing app, made 32% of teen girls feel worse about their bodies. Others showed how a change to Facebook’s algorithm in 2018, touted as a way to increase “meaningful social interactions” on the platform, actually incentivized divisive posts and misinformation. They also revealed that Facebook spends almost all of its budget for keeping the platform safe only on English-language content. In September, the Wall Street Journal published a damning series of articles based on some of the documents that Haugen had leaked to the paper. Haugen also gave copies of the documents to Congress and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The documents, Haugen testified Oct. 5, “prove that Facebook has repeatedly misled the public about what its own research reveals about the safety of children, the efficacy of its artificial intelligence systems, and its role in spreading divisive and extreme messages.” She told Senators that the failings revealed by the documents were all linked by one deep, underlying truth about how the company operates. “This is not simply a matter of certain social media users being angry or unstable, or about one side being radicalized against the other; it is about Facebook choosing to grow at all costs, becoming an almost trillion-dollar company by buying its profits with our safety,” she said. Facebook’s focus on increasing user engagement, which ultimately drives ad revenue and staves off competition, she argued, may keep users coming back to the site day after day—but also systematically boosts content that is polarizing, misinformative and angry, and which can send users down dark rabbit holes of political extremism or, in the case of teen girls, body dysmorphia and eating disorders. “The company’s leadership knows how to make Facebook and Instagram safer, but won’t make the necessary changes because they have put their astronomical profits before people,” Haugen said. (In 2020, the company reported $29 billion in net income—up 58% from a year earlier. This year, it briefly surpassed $1 trillion in total market value, though Haugen’s leaks have since knocked the company down to around $940 billion.) Asked if executives adhered to the same set of values as the civic-integrity team, including putting the public’s interests before Facebook’s, a company spokesperson told TIME it was “safe to say everyone at Facebook is committed to understanding our impact, keeping people safe and reducing polarization.” In the same week that an unrelated systems outage took Facebook’s services offline for hours and revealed just how much the world relies on the company’s suite of products—including WhatsApp and Instagram—the revelations sparked a new round of national soul-searching. It led some to question how one company can have such a profound impact on both democracy and the mental health of hundreds of millions of people. Haugen’s documents are the basis for at least eight new SEC investigations into the company for potentially misleading its investors. And they have prompted senior lawmakers from both parties to call for stringent new regulations. Read more: Here’s How to Fix Facebook, According to Former Employees and Leading Critics Haugen urged Congress to pass laws that would make Facebook and other social media platforms legally liable for decisions about how they choose to rank content in users’ feeds, and force companies to make their internal data available to independent researchers. She also urged lawmakers to find ways to loosen CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s iron grip on Facebook; he controls more than half of voting shares on its board, meaning he can veto any proposals for change from within. “I came forward at great personal risk because I believe we still have time to act,” Haugen told lawmakers. “But we must act now.” Potentially even more worryingly for Facebook, other experts it hired to keep the platform safe, now alienated by the company’s actions, are growing increasingly critical of their former employer. They experienced first hand Facebook’s unwillingness to change, and they know where the bodies are buried. Now, on the outside, some of them are still honoring their pledge to put the public’s interests ahead of Facebook’s. Inside Facebook’s civic-integrity team Chakrabarti, the head of the civic-integrity team, was hired by Facebook in 2015 from Google, where he had worked on improving how the search engine communicated information about lawmakers and elections to its users. A polymath described by one person who worked under him as a “Renaissance man,” Chakrabarti holds master’s degrees from MIT, Oxford and Cambridge, in artificial intelligence engineering, modern history and public policy, respectively, according to his LinkedIn profile. Although he was not in charge of Facebook’s company-wide “integrity” efforts (led by Rosen), Chakrabarti, who did not respond to requests to comment for this article, was widely seen by employees as the spiritual leader of the push to make sure the platform had a positive influence on democracy and user safety, according to multiple former employees. “He was a very inspirational figure to us, and he really embodied those values [enshrined in the civic oath] and took them quite seriously,” a former member of the team told TIME. “The team prioritized societal good over Facebook good. It was a team that really cared about the ways to address societal problems first and foremost. It was not a team that was dedicated to contributing to Facebook’s bottom line.” Chakrabarti began work on the team by questioning how Facebook could encourage people to be more engaged with their elected representatives on the platform, several of his former team members said. An early move was to suggest tweaks to Facebook’s “more pages you may like” feature that the team hoped might make users feel more like they could have an impact on politics. After the chaos of the 2016 election, which prompted Zuckerberg himself to admit that Facebook didn’t do enough to stop misinformation, the team evolved. It moved into Facebook’s wider “integrity” product group, which employs thousands of researchers and engineers to focus on fixing Facebook’s problems of misinformation, hate speech, foreign interference and harassment. It changed its name from “civic engagement” to “civic integrity,” and began tackling the platform’s most difficult problems head-on. Shortly before the midterm elections in 2018, Chakrabarti gave a talk at a conference in which he said he had “never been told to sacrifice people’s safety in order to chase a profit.” His team was hard at work making sure the midterm elections did not suffer the same failures as in 2016, in an effort that was generally seen as a success, both inside the company and externally. “To see the way that the company has mobilized to make this happen has made me feel very good about what we’re doing here,” Chakrabarti told reporters at the time. But behind closed doors, integrity employees on Chakrabarti’s team and others were increasingly getting into disagreements with Facebook leadership, former employees said. It was the beginning of the process that would eventually motivate Haugen to blow the whistle. Drew Angerer—Getty ImagesFormer Facebook employee Frances Haugen testifies during a Senate hearing entitled ‘Protecting Kids Online: Testimony from a Facebook Whistleblower’ in Washington, D.C., Oct. 5, 2021. In 2019, the year Haugen joined the company, researchers on the civic-integrity team proposed ending the use of an approved list of thousands of political accounts that were exempt from Facebook’s fact-checking program, according to tech news site The Information. Their research had found that the exemptions worsened the site’s misinformation problem because users were more likely to believe false information if it were shared by a politician. But Facebook executives rejected the proposal. The pattern repeated time and time again, as proposals to tweak the platform to down-rank misinformation or abuse were rejected or watered down by executives concerned with engagement or worried that changes might disproportionately impact one political party more than another, according to multiple reports in the press and several former employees. One cynical joke among members of the civic-integrity team was that they spent 10% of their time coding and the other 90% arguing that the code they wrote should be allowed to run, one former employee told TIME. “You write code that does exactly what it’s supposed to do, and then you had to argue with execs who didn’t want to think about integrity, had no training in it and were mad that you were hurting their product, so they shut you down,” the person said. Sometimes the civic-integrity team would also come into conflict with Facebook’s policy teams, which share the dual role of setting the rules of the platform while also lobbying politicians on Facebook’s behalf. “I found many times that there were tensions [in meetings] because the civic-integrity team was like, ‘We’re operating off this oath; this is our mission and our goal,’” says Katie Harbath, a long-serving public-policy director at the company’s Washington, D.C., office who quit in March 2021. “And then you get into decisionmaking meetings, and all of a sudden things are going another way, because the rest of the company and leadership are not basing their decisions off those principles.” Harbath admitted not always seeing eye to eye with Chakrabarti on matters of company policy, but praised his character. “Samidh is a man of integrity, to use the word,” she told TIME. “I personally saw times when he was like, ‘How can I run an integrity team if I’m not upholding integrity as a person?’” Do you work at Facebook or another social media platform? TIME would love to hear from you. You can reach out to billy.perrigo@time.com Years before the 2020 election, research by integrity teams had shown Facebook’s group recommendations feature was radicalizing users by driving them toward polarizing political groups, according to the Journal. The company declined integrity teams’ requests to turn off the feature, BuzzFeed News reported. Then, just weeks before the vote, Facebook executives changed their minds and agreed to freeze political group recommendations. The company also tweaked its News Feed to make it less likely that users would see content that algorithms flagged as potential misinformation, part of temporary emergency “break glass” measures designed by integrity teams in the run-up to the vote. “Facebook changed those safety defaults in the run-up to the election because they knew they were dangerous,” Haugen testified to Senators on Tuesday. But they didn’t keep those safety measures in place long, she added. “Because they wanted that growth back, they wanted the acceleration on the platform back after the election, they returned to their original defaults. And the fact that they had to break the glass on Jan. 6, and turn them back on, I think that’s deeply problematic.” In a statement, Facebook spokesperson Tom Reynolds rejected the idea that the company’s actions contributed to the events of Jan. 6. “In phasing in and then adjusting additional measures before, during and after the election, we took into account specific on-platforms signals and information from our ongoing, regular engagement with law enforcement,” he said. “When those signals changed, so did the measures. It is wrong to claim that these steps were the reason for Jan. 6—the measures we did need remained in place through February, and some like not recommending new, civic or political groups remain in place to this day. These were all part of a much longer and larger strategy to protect the election on our platform—and we are proud of that work.” Read more: 4 Big Takeaways From the Facebook Whistleblower Congressional Hearing Soon after the civic-integrity team was dissolved in December 2020, Chakrabarti took a leave of absence from Facebook. In August, he announced he was leaving for good. Other employees who had spent years working on platform-safety issues had begun leaving, too. In her testimony, Haugen said that several of her colleagues from civic integrity left Facebook in the same six-week period as her, after losing faith in the company’s pledge to spread their influence around the company. “Six months after the reorganization, we had clearly lost faith that those changes were coming,” she said. After Haugen’s Senate testimony, Facebook’s director of policy communications Lena Pietsch suggested that Haugen’s criticisms were invalid because she “worked at the company for less than two years, had no direct reports, never attended a decision-point meeting with C-level executives—and testified more than six times to not working on the subject matter in question.” On Twitter, Chakrabarti said he was not supportive of company leaks but spoke out in support of the points Haugen raised at the hearing. “I was there for over 6 years, had numerous direct reports, and led many decision meetings with C-level execs, and I find the perspectives shared on the need for algorithmic regulation, research transparency, and independent oversight to be entirely valid for debate,” he wrote. “The public deserves better.” Can Facebook’s latest moves protect the company? Two months after disbanding the civic-integrity team, Facebook announced a sharp directional shift: it would begin testing ways to reduce the amount of political content in users’ News Feeds altogether. In August, the company said early testing of such a change among a small percentage of U.S. users was successful, and that it would expand the tests to several other countries. Facebook declined to provide TIME with further information about how its proposed down-ranking system for political content would work. Many former employees who worked on integrity issues at the company are skeptical of the idea. “You’re saying that you’re going to define for people what political content is, and what it isn’t,” James Barnes, a former product manager on the civic-integrity team, said in an interview. “I cannot even begin to imagine all of the downstream consequences that nobody understands from doing that.” Another former civic-integrity team member said that the amount of work required to design algorithms that could detect any political content in all the languages and countries in the world—and keeping those algorithms updated to accurately map the shifting tides of political debate—would be a task that even Facebook does not have the resources to achieve fairly and equitably. Attempting to do so would almost certainly result in some content deemed political being demoted while other posts thrived, the former employee cautioned. It could also incentivize certain groups to try to game those algorithms by talking about politics in nonpolitical language, creating an arms race for engagement that would privilege the actors with enough resources to work out how to win, the same person added. Graeme Jennings—Bloomberg/Getty ImagesMark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer and founder of Facebook, speaks via video conference during a House Judiciary Subcommittee hearing in Washington, D.C., on, July 29, 2020. When Zuckerberg was hauled to testify in front of lawmakers after the Cambridge Analytica data scandal in 2018, Senators were roundly mocked on social media for asking basic questions such as how Facebook makes money if its services are free to users. (“Senator, we run ads” was Zuckerberg’s reply.) In 2021, that dynamic has changed. “The questions asked are a lot more informed,” says Sophie Zhang, a former Facebook employee who was fired in 2020 after she criticized Facebook for turning a blind eye to platform manipulation by political actors around the world. “The sentiment is increasingly bipartisan” in Congress, Zhang adds. In the past, Facebook hearings have been used by lawmakers to grandstand on polarizing subjects like whether social media platforms are censoring conservatives, but this week they were united in their condemnation of the company. “Facebook has to stop covering up what it knows, and must change its practices, but there has to be government accountability because Facebook can no longer be trusted,” Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, chair of the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, told TIME ahead of the hearing. His Republican counterpart Marsha Blackburn agreed, saying during the hearing that regulation was coming “sooner rather than later” and that lawmakers were “close to bipartisan agreement.” As Facebook reels from the revelations of the past few days, it already appears to be reassessing product decisions. It has begun conducting reputational reviews of new products to assess whether the company could be criticized or its features could negatively affect children, the Journal reported Wednesday. It last week paused its Instagram Kids product amid the furor. Whatever the future direction of Facebook, it is clear that discontent has been brewing internally. Haugen’s document leak and testimony have already sparked calls for stricter regulation and improved the quality of public debate about social media’s influence. In a post addressing Facebook staff on Wednesday, Zuckerberg put the onus on lawmakers to update Internet regulations, particularly relating to “elections, harmful content, privacy and competition.” But the real drivers of change may be current and former employees, who have a better understanding of the inner workings of the company than anyone—and the most potential to damage the business. —With reporting by Eloise Barry/London and Chad de Guzman/Hong Kong.....»»

Category: topSource: timeOct 7th, 2021

Trump calls the Capitol Police officer who shot Ashli Babbitt a "disgrace" and claims the FBI was behind the insurrection

Trump said Democrats "protected" the officer who fatally shot riot Ashli Babbitt and added that the officer was "proud of himself." Former President Donald Trump reacts to the crowd as he arrives to speak at a Save America Rally Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022, in Florence, Ariz.AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin Trump held his first rally of 2022 in Arizona on Saturday.  The former president spewed falsehoods about the January 6 insurrection in his speech.  Trump called the officer who fatally shot Ashli Babbitt a "disgrace" and an "out-of-control dope." Former President Donald Trump called the Capitol Police officer who shot and killed Ashli Babbitt during the January 6 riot at the US Capitol a "disgrace" and claimed the FBI was behind the insurrection. In the first rally of the year in Florence, Arizona, Trump falsely claimed that Democrats wanted to "protect" the officer exonerated of wrongdoing in Babbitt's killing following an internal investigation."I watched this guy being interviewed, they wanted to protect him so they wanted to keep him. He couldn't get on television fast enough. The guy who shot Ashli Babbitt for no reason," Trump said. Trump called the officer an"out-of-control dope" and a "disgrace.""He's so proud of himself. Let's see how he could do without the protections that he got. And by the way, if that happened the other way around they'd be calling 'let's bring back the electric chair,'" Trump added, referencing Democrats. Lt. Michael Byrd, a 28-year-veteran of the force, revealed his identity in an interview with NBC News in August, months after the insurrection. Babbitt, who the night before the attack tweeted "Nothing will stop us. They can try and try and try but the storm is here and it is descending upon DC in less than 24 hours," was shot while trying to climb through a shattered window in front of the Speaker's Lobby.Trump, however, went on to allege that the "real insurrection happened on Election Day" and alleged the FBI was behind the riot. "They never talk about that crowd. They talk about the people that walked down to the Capitol. They don't talk about the size of that crowd. I believe it was the largest crowd I've ever spoken [to] before and they were there to protest the election," Trump said. He added: "The fake news never talks about it. They never talk about it. Exactly how many of those present at the Capitol complex on January 6 were FBI confidential informants, agents, or otherwise directly or indirectly with an agency of the United States government. People want to hear this."  Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: dealsSource: nytJan 15th, 2022

The Oath Keepers: What The Indictment Says (And Does Not Say) About "Jan 6"

The Oath Keepers: What The Indictment Says (And Does Not Say) About 'Jan 6' Authored by Jonathan Turley, The indictment of eleven individuals associated with the “Oath Keepers” produced an immediate deluge of the postings that an insurrection had finally been established on the January 6th attack at the Capitol. The charges do not establish an insurrection. It does reveal how extremist groups show the protest as an opportunity and hoped that it might trigger greater unrest. However, the indictment does not offer the long-sought proof of an insurrection to fulfill the narrative of many commentators and politicians. While I would not be surprised by additional charges against other co-conspirators and more details could emerge, the indictment does not support the prior allegations of a coordination or collusion with the Trump campaign. Here is a first take on what the indictment says and does not say. Is this the Insurrection? Before addressing the details of the indictment, it is important to state the obvious about this indictment and how it is already being spun as proof of an insurrection. It is not.  These are charges of seditious conspiracy based on efforts to disrupt the proceedings. There was discussion among some of the defendants about the prospects of civil war, particularly after January 6th. However, the charge itself is much broader. The provision in 18 U.S.C. 2384 has long been controversial because it is so sweeping and includes any effort to “prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law”: If two or more persons in any State or Territory, or in any place subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, conspire to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States, or to levy war against them, or to oppose by force the authority thereof, or by force to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States, or by force to seize, take, or possess any property of the United States contrary to the authority thereof, they shall each be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both. Most of us discussed the riot previously noted that there were people who clearly came to the Hill that day to commit violent acts and interrupt the legislative process. Indeed, most of us predicted that a small group of people would receive the more serious charges. I have never had much sympathy for those who rioted or those who recklessly fueled such anger. Saying that this was not an insurrection does not mean that this was not a desecration of our constitutional process and values. I publicly condemned Trump’s speech while it was being given and I called for a bipartisan vote of censure over his responsibility in the riots. The charges of a relatively small number of extremists in this large protest belies rather than supports the broader allegations of an actual insurrection. This remains a protest that became a riot — a view shared by the vast majority of the public. Over seven hundred people have been charged and most face relatively minor charges of trespass and unlawful entry. The fact that there were a small number of people intent on violence does not convert the intent or actions of the thousands in the protest into an insurrection. FBI sources previously told the media that, despite months of intense investigation, they could find “scant evidence” of any “organized plot” and instead found that virtually all of the cases are “one-offs.” One agent explained: ”Ninety to 95 percent of these are one-off cases. Then you have 5 percent, maybe, of these militia groups that were more closely organized. But there was no grand scheme with Roger Stone and Alex Jones and all of these people to storm the Capitol and take hostages.” This is clearly part of that five percent that the FBI and most of us have been discussing. Their views or intentions do not convert hundreds of defendants from trespassers into insurrectionists. The same is true for rioters in prior summers. We have seen groups anarchist and extremist groups like Antifa come to protests to fuel violence. This small number of individuals often discuss (as did these defendants) a desire to see an overthrow of the government. They tried to further such objectives by burning police stations and trying repeatedly to burn down a federal courthouse. However, their intentions did not convert the thousands of other protesters into rioters or insurrectionists. Even these extremist groups have not been called domestic terrorists or seditionists by the media or Democratic politicians. The Indictment and Likely Trial Issues The indictment itself details the same extremist rhetoric and calls that we have seen from extremist groups on both the left and right in past years. It is an unsettling part of this age of rage. The defendants adopted pseudo military jargon and beat their chests about the coming civil war. It is important not to dismiss the danger that such groups pose. They come across at points as clowns but this is why clowns can be so scary. They are clowns who openly discussed storing weapons and fostering a civil war. The indictment details evidence that most of these men entered the Capitol and encouraged the rioting. Most of the charges are similar to those in other cases in that respect and seem well-based. It is really the first charge that has drawn the most attention and is likely to draw the most litigation.  However, as discussed above, keep in mind that a conspiracy requires only two people to conspire to hinder the executive of any law. Nevertheless, the Justice Department works hard to reinforce the view of this group as launching a military attack, using their own military jargon. It divides the group into “stacks” that “marched” on the Capitol. Thus, Stack 2 (composed of just three people) is described as not walking but marching around the crowded grounds: “[Stack Two] breached the Capitol grounds, marching from the west side to the east side of the Capitol building and up the east stairs.” The defense is likely to question these characterizations in pre-trial motions. Each “stack” was composed of a handful of people. Stack 1 was composed of Kelly Meggs, Kenneth Harrelson, Jessica Watkins, and Jospeh Hasckett, and David Moerschel. Stack 2 was composed of just Joshua James and Robero Minuta. Then there is the ominous sounding “Quick Reaction Force,” which the indictment said was composed of only Thomas Caldwell and Edward Vallejo. The indictment is strong on detailing the alleged violent rhetoric and machinations of the defendants. It shows men who speak of civil war and actively acquire weapons in the anticipation that they might be used. However, as a criminal defense attorney, there are some gaps and disconnects that I expect could cause difficulties at trial on the sedition conspiracy charge. (The rest of the charges will be more difficult to contest on things like obstructing an official proceeding). These are eleven people who were not armed with guns and some apparently never entered the Capitol. While the Justice Department discussed plans for river landings and arsenals of weapons and forces held in reserve, the individuals in Stack 2 were equipped with: “battle apparel and gear, including hard-knuckle tactical gloves, tactical vests, ballistic goggles, radios, chemical sprays, a paracord attachment, fatigues, goggles, scissors, a large stick, and one of the Stack Two member’s 82-pound German Shepherd named ‘Warrior.’” That is undistinguishable (and in some cases less lethal) than material seized from Antifa, Proud Boys, and other rioters in prior summer.  Despite buying and storing weapons, they did not bring them to the Hill, did not use them, and left the Hill with many others. Only one, Joshua James, is charged with the broad offense of “assaulting, resisting, or impeding certain officers.” (Count 8). The rest are charged with the common crimes of trespass, obstruction, and unlawful entry. The indictment details discussions of a civil war after the riot. On January 12, 2021, James messages “after this, … if nothing happens, its war … Civil War 2.0.” There was no apparent follow through after January 6th with an actual attack or rebellion against the government. The indictment also does not allege the broader conspiracy often raised by politicians and pundits. The defendants themselves appeared to acknowledge that they were acting without coordination with the Administration or President Trump. Rhodes messages “All I see Trump doing is complaining. I see no intent by him to do anything. So the Patriots are taking it into their own hands. They’ve had enough.” There may be more charges coming given the references to unnamed “co-conspirators.” For example, on page 18, Watkins is quoted in discussions with someone who is only referenced as a “co-conspirator.” It is not clear if that person is a cooperating witness or a soon-to-be-charged defendant. There are other glaring issues for defense counsel, including the possibility that  a couple of the defendants who did not even participate in the actual riot at the Capitol building. That does not mean that they cannot be guilty of a conspiracy but it contradicts earlier published accounts. The government, for example, previously held Caldwell as a key organizer of the attack and claimed that he entered the Capitol with this co-conspirators.  The indictment, however, omits that allegation and now lists Caldwell with the two-man “Quick Reaction Force.” A federal judge ultimately refused to continue to hold Caldwell over the objections of the Justice Department. Those issues will have to be hashed out in the forthcoming criminal indictments. After such charges are brought, defendants are under overwhelming pressure to cooperate and reach a plea deal. We will have to see if that proves the case here or with any additional indictments. Conversely, these defendants will be able to demand exculpatory evidence from the government. Indictments always look more ominous before they are subject to adversarial challenge. However, it will be difficult to rebut some of these charges on obstructing the process or damaging government property. It will be the seditious conspiracy count that will produce the greatest factual and legal challenges in the months to come. Here is the indictment: Rhodes et al indictment Tyler Durden Sat, 01/15/2022 - 13:30.....»»

Category: worldSource: nytJan 15th, 2022

Decoding Donald Trump ahead of his speech in Arizona, according to an expert in his political rhetoric

What to listen for as former President Donald Trump returns to hosting political rallies, starting with a speech in Arizona. Former President Donald Trump waves to the crowd at the end of a rally on September 25, 2021 in Perry, Georgia.Sean Rayford/Getty Images Donald Trump's stump speeches have been few and far between since he left office. Hitting the road again means getting reacquainted with his rhetorical moves. Casting doubt on everything about the insurrection in DC is his latest rallying cry. The return of over-the-top "Save America" rallies on January 15 in Arizona gives embattled former President Donald Trump another chance to publicly deny any responsibility for the deadly January 6, 2021 attack at the US Capitol.Here's how Jennifer Mercieca, author of "Demagogue for President: The Rhetorical Genius of Donald Trump," said the twice-impeached, revenge-seeking, presumed front-runner for the GOP nomination in 2024 has sought to bend reality to his will in the past. Mercieca, a communications professor at Texas A&M University, said Trump typically plays defense by sowing confusion in any way possible. For instance, while he told attendees at his fiery Ellipse address on January 6, 2021, to "fight like hell" to keep him in office, Trump's lawyers said in a civil suit filed against him by US Capitol Police Officers James Blassingame and Sidney Hemby that he was actually calling for "an effective, peaceful, and patriotic demonstration." Blassingame and Hemby were two of the law enforcement officials who defended the Capitol from roving MAGA invaders. Mercieca said the easiest way to tell that Trump's slipping into "apologia" mode during what's sure to be an hours-long airing of grievances in Florence, Arizona, is to listen for complaints about the "rigged" and "stolen" election, as well as arguments that he and his devoted followers are wildly misunderstood. Expect Trump to cloud the issue from there using the following techniques:Ad hominem: attack the personMercieca said deflection is a given. "I/we did no wrong. But do you know who did? The Bidens. And the Democrats. And the Deep State," she said of Trump's penchant for passing the buck. "He will likely use name-calling to accuse them of lying, subversion, and treason." Trump has repeatedly called Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell a "loser" and recently called Republican Sen. Mike Rounds of South Dakota a "jerk" for saying the 2020 presidential election was "as fair as we've seen." Ad populum: appeal to the wisdom of the crowd"He will portray himself as a righteous victim/hero who clearly sees the corruption, hypocrisy, and conspiracy against him, his people, and the American government," Mercieca said of the familiar role-playing. The second phase involves recasting the insurrection as "his 'good Americans' asserting their democratic rights against corruption" or a government plot to deny him a coveted second term. An image of former President Donald Trump appears on video screens before his speech to supporters from the Ellipse at the White House on January 6, 2021.Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty ImagesDenial: it wasn't meThe problem with claiming ignorance of this particular subject — as Trump often does by disavowing that he's ever seen/met/spoken to politically inconvenient associates — is that the whole world watched it happen. "He can't deny that the insurrection took place, but he can try to re-frame how we understand it," Mercieca said. Differentiation: it isn't how it looksThis one works in tandem with denial to warp understanding. Mercieca said. "Taken together these strategies are designed to deal with the accusations made against him and his followers by trivializing them, accusing the accusers, and indicting the democratic and legal process itself," she told Insider, adding that any nods to actual reality will immediately be couched by comments about "what it all means." Transcendence: look at the bigger picture"He'll try to make his base feel better and show that he should be remembered as a great president," Mercieca said of any Trump-led walk down memory lane. The flipside is he now has to tear everything down to build himself back up. "He was so successful at making America great again, he'll say, that they had to cheat to get him out of office because they want America to fail," Mercieca said. Tu quoque: appeal to hypocrisyPointing fingers is one thing. Mercieca said Trump typically takes things further by accusing his accusers of doing the same —  so it seems like everyone is crooked. "I think we'll see a lot of him trying to blame the Democrats or the FBI or others for what happened on January 6th," Mercieca said. This weekend's rally marks Trump's return to in-person appearances outside the secretive fundraisers he routinely hosts at his pricey private golf clubs in Palm Beach, Florida, and Bedminster, New Jersey.It's possible he'll do two more of these a month in battleground states from now until the midterm elections. Politico reported Thursday.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: personnelSource: nytJan 14th, 2022

The DOJ has its work cut out after charging 11 Capitol riot defendants with seditious conspiracy, "the closest crime we have to treason"

The DOJ's critics "have to be quieted today," said one ex-prosecutor. "Seditious conspiracy is about as serious as it gets." Surveillance footage shows David Moerschel (red arrow) walking towards the eastern facade of the Capitol at 2:27 pm on January 6.Department of Justice The DOJ's Capitol riot probe took a big step forward when 11 people were charged with seditious conspiracy. One legal expert said the charge represents "the closest crime we have to treason." There are few historical examples of seditious conspiracy convictions, and the DOJ has an uphill battle. The Justice Department on Thursday silenced critics who accused it of being too lenient in the Capitol riot investigation when it charged the leader of the far-right extremist group Oath Keepers and ten others with seditious conspiracy.It's the most significant charge yet in the department's sprawling investigation into the deadly Capitol siege on January 6, 2021 that resulted in the deaths of at least seven people.The 48-page indictment alleges that the defendants planned the Capitol siege in advance and accuses them of attempting to use force to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power. In bringing seditious conspiracy charges, experts said, the Justice Department confirmed that it sees at least some elements of the Capitol riot as a coup attempt.The federal seditious conspiracy statute makes it a crime for two or more people to conspire to overthrow, put down, or destroy by force the United States government. It's also a crime to use force to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States.Barbara McQuade, the former US attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan, told Insider that it's a "very serious charge and is rarely used."In charging Oath Keepers leader Elmer Stewart Rhodes and ten others with seditious conspiracy, the Justice Department is acknowledging that the January 6 riot "was a threat to our democracy, not a simple protest that got out of hand," McQuade added.Asha Rangappa, a director of admissions at Yale University's Jackson Institute for Global Affairs, noted that seditious conspiracy is "the closest crime we have to treason."Harry Litman, a longtime former federal prosecutor, also pointed out that the charges fly in the face of those who have criticized the Justice Department for showing too much leniency toward those involved in the failed insurrection."Those who say DOJ hasn't delivered on the most serious charges have to be quieted today," Litman wrote after the charges were unsealed. "Seditious conspiracy is about as serious as it gets."The seditious conspiracy indictment alleged that Rhodes and other co-defendants conspired to "oppose by force the lawful transfer of presidential power."It went on to say that core members of the Oath Keepers not only forced their way into the Capitol but also extensively planned for the siege beforehand, communicating on encrypted messaging apps from December 2020 onward, keeping a "quick reaction force" on standby at a Virginia hotel, and in some cases bringing weapons to Washington, DC, on January 6.Neama Rahmani, a former federal prosecutor, told Insider that a seditious conspiracy indictment "requires an agreement to overthrow the United States government or to prevent the execution of United States law by force, and one overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy."In this case, he added, the US Capitol was breached, which would "easily satisfy" the overt act element.Rhodes, for his part, repeatedly said during interviews with the right-wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones that he and others were prepared to take extraordinary measures to keep then-President Donald Trump in power.Shortly after the November 2020 election, for instance, he said on Jones' Infowars show that he had armed men stationed outside Washington, DC, who were "prepared to go in if the president calls us up."And on January 20, 2021, two weeks after the failed insurrection and on the day Joe Biden was sworn into office, Rhodes again appeared on Jones' show and urged "local militias" to "get together" and fight the "illegitimate" Biden administration.The DOJ has its work cut out for itThat said, there have been relatively few federal cases involving the Civil War-era charge in US history, and the Justice Department has an uphill battle to fight in making the case against Rhodes and his co-defendants.The last time federal prosecutors secured a seditious conspiracy conviction was in 1995, when Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman, known as the "blind Sheikh," and nine others were found guilty in connection to their plan to blow up a bridge and two tunnels between New York and New Jersey, the United Nations headquarters, and the FBI's headquarters.Four decades earlier, four Puerto Rican activists and more than a dozen others were convicted of seditious conspiracy after they stormed the US Capitol in 1954 and opened fire on the floor of the House of Representatives, the Associated Press reported.The Justice Department also brought seditious conspiracy charges in a 2010 case in which nine members of a Michigan militia were accused of planning to kill a member of local law enforcement and attack law enforcement officers who would gather for the funeral. According to the AP, a judge ordered acquittals on the seditious conspiracy charges because he didn't believe prosecutors had proven that the defendants explicitly planned for a rebellion.McQuade told Insider that although there are few seditious conspiracy cases in US history that resulted in convictions, "the evidence here looks strong."She noted that the encrypted communications between Rhodes and others which appear to show them planning ahead for the Capitol riot "will make for devastating evidence."The next question, legal scholars said, is whether any of the defendants will strike cooperation deals, and who else may have been involved."The question that I have moving forward from this indictment is just how high does this conspiracy go?" Joyce Vance, a former federal prosecutor and a professor at the University of Alabama School of Law, told MSNBC after Thursday's charges were revealed. McQuade echoed that, saying, "Were any Trump advisors working with the Oath Keepers to plan the attack? Who funded their travel and equipment? With a potential 20-year sentence for seditious conspiracy, DOJ now has leverage to see if they can obtain evidence from these defendants against others higher up in the chain."Rhodes' plea hearing is set to take place Friday afternoon, where he's expected to plead not guilty. He has said he never entered the US Capitol on January 6, and his lawyer, Jon Moseley, told a local CBS affiliate that his client was arrested as part of a political fishing expedition by Democrats."I don't think any of these charges can be proven at trial," Moseley told CBS 11.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderJan 14th, 2022

Cop Who Killed Ashli Babbitt Was Cleared Of Criminal Wrongdoing Without Interview

Cop Who Killed Ashli Babbitt Was Cleared Of Criminal Wrongdoing Without Interview Authored by Paul Sperry via RealClearInvestigations, When U.S. Capitol Police Lt. Michael Byrd went on “NBC Nightly News” to tell his side of shooting and killing unarmed Jan. 6 rioter Ashli Babbitt, he made a point to note he’d been investigated by several agencies and exonerated for his actions that day. “There’s an investigative process [and] I was cleared by the DOJ [Department of Justice], and FBI and [the D.C.] Metropolitan Police,” he told NBC News anchor Lester Holt in August, adding that the Capitol Police also cleared him of wrongdoing and decided not to discipline or demote him for the shooting. Above, Lt. Michael Byrd, the officer who shot Ashli Babbitt, told NBC News he gave fair warning, but under penalty of perjury he refused to say anything to investigators. Byrd then answered a series of questions by Holt about the shooting, but what he told the friendly journalist, he likely never told investigators. That’s because he refused to answer their questions, according to several sources and documents reviewed by RealClearInvestigations. Ashli Babbitt: Her family calls the rushed Byrd investigation a “whitewash" and a "coverup" of misconduct by the officer.  Maryland MVA/Calvert County Sheriff's Office/AP In fact, investigators cleared Byrd of wrongdoing in the shooting without actually interviewing him about the shooting or threatening him with punishment if he did not cooperate with their criminal investigation. “He didn’t provide any statement to [criminal] investigators and they didn’t push him to make a statement,” Babbitt family attorney Terry Roberts said in an RCI interview. “It’s astonishing how skimpy his investigative file is." Roberts, who has spoken with the D.C. MPD detective assigned to the case, said the kid-glove treatment of Byrd raises suspicions the investigation was a “whitewash.” The lawyer's account appears to be backed up by a January 2021 internal affairs report, which notes Byrd "declined to provide a statement,” D.C. MPD documents show. Terry Roberts, Babbitt family attorney:  “It’s astonishing how skimpy his investigative file is." Roberts & Wood Asked about it, a D.C. MPD spokeswoman confirmed that Byrd did not cooperate with internal affairs agents or FBI agents, who jointly investigated what was one of the most high-profile officer-involved shooting cases in U.S. history. “MPD did not formally interview Lt. Byrd,” deputy D.C. MPD communications director Kristen Metzger said. And, “He didn’t give a statement while under the U.S. Attorney’s Office investigation.” Lt. Michael Byrd: Pistol drawn in the House chamber just before the Babbitt shooting. Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg News After Byrd declined to cooperate with D.C MPD Internal Affairs Division’s investigation, which was led by Det. John Hendrick, his case eventually was turned over to the USCP for a final administrative review of whether or not his actions conformed with department policies and training. Still, USCP concluded in August that “the officer’s conduct was lawful and within department policy.” The agency launched its administrative investigation after the criminal investigation was closed. In April, within four months of the shooting, Byrd was cleared of criminal wrongdoing by the Justice Department, which declined to impanel a grand jury to hear evidence in a departure from other lethal police-shooting cases involving unarmed citizens. Taking deadly aim: Byrd was cleared after refusing to answer investigators' questions. nbcsandiego.com Justice ruled there “was not enough evidence” to conclude Byrd violated Babbitt’s civil rights or willfully acted recklessly in shooting her.  Byrd remains the commander in charge of security for the House of Representatives. Neither the FBI nor the Justice Department would comment on whether they pressed Byrd after he insisted on remaining silent. The D.C. police force, which shares some jurisdiction with the Capitol Police, takes the lead in internal affairs probes like this one. Roberts questioned how investigators could find that Byrd acted in self-defense and properly followed his training procedures, including issuing warnings before shooting Babbitt, since he refused to talk about it while the investigation was open -- and his statements, unlike those made to NBC, would have been taken under penalty of perjury. “How would they know if they never interviewed him?” he said, adding that it’s not enough to say an officer did nothing wrong without showing how it reached such a finding. Troy Nehls, Texas Republican and former sheriff: “Many officers in the USCP I have spoken to believe the investigations of Lt. Boyd were dropped because of his position and other political considerations." nehls.house.gov By avoiding an interrogation, he said Byrd avoided saying anything that could have been used to incriminate him, including making false statements to federal agents, which would be a felony. Remarkably, he did not formally invoke his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent, according to people familiar with his case, which makes the reluctance of authorities to lean on him or sanction him for not cooperating all the more puzzling. By law, federal agencies can use leverage short of termination, such as an unwelcome duty reassignment, to persuade employees to cooperate with investigators. Byrd was put on paid administrative leave during the investigative process. Byrd waited to speak publicly until after his statements could no longer be used against him in a criminal probe. The heavily promoted NBC “exclusive” told only his account of what happened with no opposing viewpoints. “I believe I showed the utmost courage on Jan. 6,” Byrd said. In defending his actions, Byrd told Holt things he evidently wouldn’t tell investigators, including his claim that he shot as “a last resort” and only after warning Babbitt to stop. However, documents uncovered by Judicial Watch reveal that eyewitnesses — including three police officers at the scene — told investigators they did not hear Byrd give Babbitt any verbal warnings prior to firing, contradicting what Byrd told NBC. The Babbitt family has maintained that the rushed investigation amounted to a "coverup" of misconduct by the officer. It says the federal probe was conducted under political pressure, arguing that Byrd was not put through the normal rigors of a police shooting investigation to avoid making a martyr of Babbitt, an avid Donald Trump supporter. An Air Force veteran from California, Babbitt died while wearing a Trump flag as a cape. The former president has demanded the Justice Department reinvestigate her death. Rep. Troy Nehls of Texas, a former sheriff, argued Babbitt’s shooting should have been presented to a federal grand jury. “This case was mishandled from the very beginning,” the Republican lawmaker told the U.S. attorney who led the probe for the Justice Department in a recent letter. In a separate letter to the Capitol Police chief, Nehls wrote: “Many officers in the USCP I have spoken to believe the investigations of Lt. Boyd were dropped because of his position and other political considerations." Use-of-Force Experts Skeptical Some use-of-force experts are skeptical Byrd did the right thing, even after watching his largely sympathetic NBC interview. “The limited public information that exists raises serious questions about the propriety of Byrd’s decision to shoot, especially with regard to the assessment that Babbitt was an imminent threat,” said police consultants and criminologists Geoffrey Alpert, Jeff Noble and Seth Stoughton in a recent Lawfare article.“We have serious reservations about the propriety of the shooting,” they wrote. They said they doubted Byrd’s claims that he reasonably believed Babbitt “was posing a threat” and had the ability and intention to kill or seriously injure Byrd or other officers or lawmakers and therefore had to be stopped with lethal force. They noted that he admitted to Holt that he never actually saw Babbitt, who stood 5-foot-2 and weighed 110 pounds, brandish a weapon. Babbitt was shot by Byrd a year ago when she and other pro-Trump rioters breached the Capitol amid efforts to stop Congress from certifying the state results of the 2020 election of Joe Biden. They sought to pressure then-Vice President Mike Pence to reject electors from Arizona and other states, where narrow results were challenged by Trump and his lawyers over allegations of voter fraud and other election irregularities.Roberts and the Babbitt family are preparing to sue Byrd and the Capitol Police in a wrongful-death claim seeking at least $10 million in damages. Asked why his client chose not to go on the record and cooperate with investigators, Byrd’s attorney, Mark Schamel, declined comment. In an earlier interview, Schamel maintained the shooting was justified and that there is no basis for a civil case against his client. The federal investigation of the lethal shooting was marked by secrecy and other irregularities. Unlike other officers involved in fatal shootings of unarmed civilians, Byrd was long shielded from public scrutiny after shooting Babbitt as she tried to climb through a broken window of a barricaded door at the Capitol. For eight months D.C. police officials withheld Byrd’s identity, first revealed by RealClearInvestigations, and they have not released a formal review of the shooting, or the 28-year veteran's disciplinary records. Nor did the Capitol Police hold a briefing on Babbitt's death. Records uncovered by Judicial Watch reveal authorities ordered her body cremated two days after the shooting, without her husband's permission. No Babbitt probe yet: Chairman Bennie Thompson, left, with Republicans Liz Cheney, Adam Kinzinger. AP/Scott Applewhite Meanwhile, the feds have thrown the book at suspected Jan. 6 rioters — publicly identifying them on a Justice Department website — and are still engaged in a national manhunt for suspects. More than 725 defendants have been charged mostly for relatively minor offenses ranging from trespassing to disorderly conduct.So far, the select House committee set up to investigate the Jan. 6 siege at the Capitol has not explored the most lethal violence that occurred that day. Byrd was responsible for the only shot fired during the riot – all other armed officers showed restraint, including 140 who were injured confronting rioters -- and Babbitt was the only person directly killed on that day. Like the other rioters, she carried no firearm — no guns were recovered from the Capitol. Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., has pledged to “investigate fully the facts and circumstances of these events.” Asked if the police shooting is on the agenda for public hearings planned for this winter, or whether it will be addressed in a final report scheduled for release before November’s congressional elections, a committee spokesman declined comment. Trump and GOP leaders have accused the panel, which is composed of seven Democrats and two Republicans, of trying to damage pro-Trump Republicans ahead of the midterms by claiming they helped orchestrate an “insurrection” and continue to pose "a threat to democracy." ‘Point-Blank Range’ Unlike in a criminal investigation, there is no right to remain silent in a civil case. Wrongful-death litigation claiming negligence may hinge on whether Byrd warned Babbitt before opening fire on her. Roberts said Babbitt, a former military police officer who served tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan, would have complied with commands to stop and peacefully surrendered had Byrd or other Capitol officers attempted to arrest her. But he said additional eyewitnesses he’s interviewed say Byrd never gave her such verbal commands. He said Babbitt wasn’t even aware that the officer was nearby because he was positioned in a doorway of a room off to the side of the Speaker’s Lobby doors. Byrd, whose mouth was covered with a surgical mask, took aim outside her field of vision and fired as her head emerged through the window. Roberts compared her shooting to an “execution.” “Killing her by shooting her at point-blank range was completely unnecessary,” he said. “This alone renders the shooting legally unjustified.” Roberts pointed out that Byrd had mishandled his firearm in the past. He was the subject of a previous internal investigation for leaving his loaded service pistol in a Capitol restroom. It’s not clear if he was disciplined. At the time, the lieutenant reportedly told officers he would not be punished due to his high rank, which he kept despite the incident. But in the NBC interview, he said he was “penalized” for the 2019 misstep, without elaborating. A USCP spokeswoman declined to respond to repeated requests for information about any discipline administered for his misconduct. Byrd could not be reached for comment, but in the NBC interview he denied receiving special treatment. “Of course not,” he said. “No way." Before filing a lawsuit naming a federal agency, Roberts has to send a formal complaint for a claim for “damage, injury or death” — known as a federal form SF-95 — to USCP and wait for a response. He sent the notice in May and is still waiting for the Capitol Police to reply. “We have received the SF-95 from Ms. Babbitt’s family attorney,” USCP General Counsel Tad DiBiase confirmed to RCI in an email. He declined to say how the department plans to respond: “I cannot comment on that." In the meantime, Roberts said he is interviewing witnesses and also building a case from documents acquired through the Freedom of Information Act.“I am still reviewing records obtained in FOIA action and there are more coming,” he said. “I am in no rush." Tyler Durden Wed, 01/12/2022 - 22:20.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeJan 13th, 2022

Almost no Republican lawmakers were on Capitol Hill on the anniversary of the January 6 attack

Rep. Pramila Jayapal slammed GOP lawmakers who refuse to address the riot and "have just completely undermined that it even happened." Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) walks to the Senate Chamber on Capitol Hill on November 3, 2021.Joshua Roberts/Getty Images Almost no Republican lawmakers were on Capitol Hill on the anniversary of the January 6 attack. Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and her father Dick Cheney were the only two Republicans who attended a moment of silence in the House. GOP Reps. Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene used the day to spin conspiracy theories and rewrite history. On the anniversary of the deadly January 6 insurrection, Republicans were scarce on Capitol Hill. Democrats organized and attended the day's events, which included President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris' speeches at the Capitol, a conversation about January 6, 2021, with historians Doris Kearns Goodwin and Jon Meacham, testimonials from House Democrats, and a prayer vigil on the Capitol steps.Former Vice President Dick Cheney and his daughter, Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, were the only two Republicans seen by reporters on the House floor for a moment of silence commemorating the Capitol siege led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi.Both the House and Senate were in session today for events commemorating January 6, 2021, though no votes were scheduled.Democratic lawmakers told Insider they were appreciative of the Cheneys attending the Capitol riot commemoration and disturbed by Republicans' absence.  "I just went to thank Liz Cheney who was in the chamber," Rep. Pramila Jayapal, a Washington Democrat and chair of House progressive caucus, said after she exited the House chamber. "I said one of the hardest things has been not only what happened on the day but the fact that there has been no recognition, and worse than that, people who have just completely undermined that it even happened. That they're not here today. That there's no presence marking the duty that we all have to the same Constitution." Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, a veteran Texas Democrat, told Insider that she was "delighted" Dick Cheney had attended Pelosi's remarks and moment of silence. "I think we have some of the same views about the love of this country," she said. But Rep. Andy Kim, who was famously photographed picking up debris left by the rioters in the Capitol rotunda last year, told Insider he wasn't thinking about who attended the events on Thursday and was instead focused on law enforcement and Hill staffers who were impacted.  "I really don't think about them today," Kim said of his GOP colleagues. "The reason I came here was to pay tribute and express my gratitude to the Capitol police and the staff. And that's how I wanted to spend my January 6. A lot of my Democratic colleagues aren't here, either." When reporters asked Liz Cheney what she thought about the fact that so few Republicans showed up for the anniversary, she responded, "I think it's a reflection where our party is," adding that it was "very concerning."The only other House Republican lawmakers Insider spotted on the Hill on Thursday were Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Matt Gaetz of Florida, who held a press conference to promote false and unsubstantiated claims about the federal government's involvement in the riot.They attacked Sen. Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican, for calling the Capitol riot a "violent terrorist attack" and said it was a mistake for former President Donald Trump to cancel his scheduled Thursday press conference. Reps. Cheney and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois are the only two Republicans serving on the House select committee investigating the Capitol riot, which led to the deaths of at least seven people. Both lawmakers have fielded sharp criticism from their pro-Trump colleagues, and Cheney was removed from her House GOP leadership position after giving a defiant speech in May saying she would not "sit back and watch in silence" while Trump peddled lies about the 2020 election.GOP senators were a no-showMany Senate Republicans spent the day in Georgia at the funeral of former GOP Sen. Johnny Isakson, who died last month at 76. Their offices released statements from the lawmakers largely condemning the riot and praising the Capitol police and other law enforcement who responded to the attack. Some Republican lawmakers, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, took the opportunity to accuse Democrats of trying to "exploit this anniversary" for political gain, specifically in their push to reform the filibuster."It is especially jaw-dropping to hear some Senate Democrats invoke the mob's attempt to disrupt our country's norms, rules and institutions as a justification to discard our norms, rules and institutions themselves," McConnell said in a statement. "Senators should not be trying to exploit this anniversary to damage the Senate in a different way from within."McConnell attended Isakson's funeral services on Thursday and was not at the Capitol.Some Republicans slammed President Joe Biden's speech at the Capitol commemorating the anniversary, accusing him of politicizing the event. They said Biden did so by specifically blaming Trump for inciting the violence by, among other things, urging thousands of his supporters to "fight like hell" to stop Congress from certifying Biden's 2020 election victory."What brazen politicization of January 6 by President Biden," tweeted Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican who did not publicly recognize Biden's victory until after the siege. "I wonder if the Taliban who now rule Afghanistan with al-Qaeda elements present, contrary to President Biden's beliefs, are allowing this speech to be carried?"Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis called the day Democrats' and the media's "Christmas." "This is their Christmas: January 6," he said at a press conference on Thursday in response to a question from an Insider reporter. "They are going to take this and milk this for anything they can to be able to smear anyone who ever supported Donald Trump."But a few Republican lawmakers issued harsh condemnations of their own party on Thursday. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, an Alaska Republican who voted to impeach Trump for inciting the insurrection, called out Trump in a statement and blamed him for the violence.  "Today marks one year since the U.S. Capitol was stormed by a mob incited by our former president," she said. "Those of us who were there to fulfill our constitutional responsibilities can never erase what we saw and heard."Trump has endorsed a Republican challenger to Murkowski. Far-right lawmakers rewrite historyGaetz and Greene used the anniversary of the deadly attack to spin conspiracy theories and attack GOP colleagues who acknowledged the extent of the violence that unfolded on January 6. The far-right lawmakers appeared on former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon's podcast on Thursday, where Gaetz defended the rioters as "patriotic Americans" and falsely claimed they had "no intent of breaking the law or doing violence."The two lawmakers also peddled the bogus claim that some of the Trump supporters who stormed the Capitol were "trapped" into doing so by government actors and left-wing activists. There is no evidence to support this theory.At a news conference shortly after their podcast appearance, Gaetz and Greene also taunted Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who on Wednesday described the riot as a "violent terrorist attack.""I think Senator Cruz is smart enough to know, since he's an attorney, that no one's been charged with terrorism, just like no one has been charged with insurrection," Greene said.Gaetz tacked on: "The establishment will never love you, Ted. You know, you can bend over and bend a knee for them, but they're just not going to love you."Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderJan 6th, 2022

Biden is expected to highlight Trump"s "singular responsibility" for the Capitol attack in his January 6 address, White House says

He may not call Donald Trump by name, but the reference will be clear, the White House press secretary Jen Psaki said. President Joe Biden is expected to lay blame for the Capitol attack on his predecessor in his January 6 address.L: Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images, R: Michael Zarrilli/Getty Images President Joe Biden is expected to blame his predecessor for the Capitol attack, the White House said. He may not call Donald Trump by name, but the reference will be clear, the White House said. Meanwhile, Trump recently canceled a January 6 press conference at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. President Joe Biden is set to blame the "chaos and carnage" of the Capitol attack on his predecessor, former President Donald Trump, when he speaks publicly to Americans about January 6 on Thursday, the White House said."I would expect that President Biden will lay out the significance of what happened at the Capitol and the singular responsibility President Trump has for the chaos and carnage that we saw," White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a Wednesday press briefing."And he will forcibly push back on the lie spread by the former President in an attempt to mislead the American people and his own supporters, as well as distract from his role in what happened," Psaki continued.When asked if Biden would single Trump out by name, Psaki said the speech was still in the works, but added that "people will know who he's referring to."The Capitol insurrection on January 6, 2021, left five dead after a pro-Trump mob stormed the building while Congress was in session.A bipartisan House committee established to investigate the attack has sought to determine the exact role that Trump and his allies played in the siege. The former president urged his supporters that day to "peacefully" march on the Capitol, but also told attendees: "If you don't fight like hell, you're not going to have a country anymore."Psaki said Biden has been "clear-eyed" on the "threat the former President represents to our democracy and how the former President constantly works to undermine basic American values and rule of law."The president, she added, has repeatedly said that Trump "abused his office, undermined the Constitution, and ignored his oath to the American people in an effort to amass more power for himself and his allies."Trump, who on Tuesday abruptly canceled a press conference scheduled for the anniversary of the attack, has regularly trashed the January 6 House committee as the "Unselect Committee."The former president blamed the cancelation on what he said was the "total bias and dishonesty of the January 6th Unselect Committee of Democrats, two failed Republicans, and the Fake News Media," planning instead to give his public remarks on January 15 at a rally in Arizona.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderJan 6th, 2022

Trump just canceled his January 6 press conference. Legal experts said it would have been "boneheaded" to hold the Mar-a-Lago event.

Donald Trump faces the risk of creating bigger legal problems the more he speaks in public about January 6 and the Capitol attack, experts said. Donald Trump canceled a press conference at Mar-a-Lago just days before a court hearing over claims he incited the January 6 attack.Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images Donald Trump canceled a press conference set for the first anniversary of the Capitol attack. Legal experts said Trump's remarks would have run the risk of digging him a deeper legal hole. Trump will now speak about January 6 and the 2020 election at a rally in Arizona on January 15. Donald Trump has spent his post-presidency embroiled in lawsuits and investigations, a swirl of legal scrutiny that would keep a more careful person quiet.But on the first anniversary of the January 6 insurrection, Trump wanted to do just the opposite and hold a press conference — until he didn't.Trump late Tuesday abruptly canceled the planned event at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, blaming "the total bias and dishonesty of the January 6th Unselect Committee of Democrats, two failed Republicans, and the Fake News Media." He did not indicate whether his lawyers advised him against the event. Still, legal experts told Insider that the twice-impeached former president would have run the risk of talking himself into deeper trouble."It is a really boneheaded move because we know he does not pull any punches. He is very reckless when he speaks in front of an audience," said Rizwan Qureshi, a former prosecutor in the US attorney's office in Washington, DC, which is handling the hundreds of criminal cases stemming from the Capitol riot.Trump now plans to share his views about January 6 and the 2020 election during a rally on January 15 in Arizona. But the cancellation of the January 6 press conference means that Trump will not deliver public remarks just days before a crucial court hearing in cases alleging that he encouraged his supporters to storm the Capitol.Any remarks at the press conference would almost surely have complicated the hearing, scheduled for January 10 in Washington, DC, federal court, where a judge is set to hear Trump's arguments for dismissing lawsuits filed by Democratic lawmakers and Capitol police. Trump's lawyers have argued that his comments at the Save America rally nearly a year ago — in which he said, "If you don't fight like hell, you're not going to have a country anymore" — are protected by the "absolute immunity" afforded to presidents and by the First Amendment. Lawyers for House Democrats have countered that "the carefully orchestrated series of events that unfolded at the Save America rally and the storming of the Capitol was no accident or coincidence" but rather the foreseeable result of a campaign to interfere with the certification of now-President Joe Biden's electoral victory. Judge Amit Mehta, an Obama appointee, is set to hear arguments on Trump's motions to dismiss the lawsuits.Sen. John Thune said he hoped Trump's remarks would be "helpful, not harmful."Kevin Dietsch/Pool/AFPAn 'ill-advised' and legally dangerous moveThe plans for a Mar-a-Lago press conference had been panned as politically ill-conceived, with one former advisor pointing to it as evidence he is getting "terrible advice" from his inner circle. Hill Republicans were also bracing for the remarks. In his December 21 statement initially announcing the Mar-a-Lago press conference, Trump denounced the House committee investigating the Capitol attack and indicated he planned to continue to deny the outcome of the 2020 election. "Hopefully his comments will be helpful, not harmful," Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, the Senate's second-ranking Republican, told reporters at the Capitol earlier in the day on Tuesday.  In addition to being in bad taste politically, legal experts said the press conference and Trump's penchant for off-the-cuff remarks create the risk that the former president would have dug himself a deeper legal hole as he faces criminal and congressional investigations.Qureshi, now a partner at the law firm Reed Smith, said any of Trump's remarks could be used against him and potentially shed further light on the roles of advisors and associates already facing scrutiny over their conduct on January 6 and in the buildup to the Capitol attack."He needs to be careful because he could incriminate himself or at least give prosecutors and law enforcement the opportunity to make derivative use of his statements to further explore the roles others close to him may have played," Qureshi added."From a political standpoint, it is ill-advised. But secondarily, it is just going to be an additional source of scrutiny into his conduct on that day."Trump's office did not immediately respond to questions about why he canceled the event or whether he planned to take questions from the press.Rep. Liz Cheney has spoken specifically about the January 6 committee's interest in Trump's criminal culpability.Olivier Douliery/Pool via AP'No upside' legally to holding public eventsThe House committee has moved aggressively in its investigation into the January 6 attack, motivated in part by the expectation that Republicans would shut down the inquiry if they regain the majority in this year's midterm elections. The panel hired a pair of former US attorneys as lead investigators and, in the past several months, obtained thousands of records and questioned multiple former administration officials and other close Trump associates.In recent weeks, the panel has grown increasingly vocal about Trump's potential criminal culpability stemming from January 6. As the committee took steps in December to hold former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows in contempt, Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming appeared to make a direct reference to a criminal statute that has been used to prosecute hundreds of accused participants in the January 6 attack: "corruptly obstructing an official proceeding.""Mr. Meadows' testimony will bear on a key question in front of this committee: Did Donald Trump, through action or inaction, corruptly seek to obstruct or impede Congress's official proceeding to count electoral votes?" said Cheney, the top-ranking Republican on the committee.The Justice Department has charged more than 700 accused members of the pro-Trump mob that overtook the Capitol on January 6. In November, prosecutors brought contempt of Congress charges against the Trump ally Steve Bannon over his defiance of the House January 6 committee, but critics of the Justice Department under Attorney General Merrick Garland have voiced frustration with the lack of visible steps to investigate Trump while local prosecutors in New York and Atlanta have undertaken inquiries into the former president and his business."He's under investigation in several different places. Any defense lawyer with a client in that situation would discourage him from making any kind of public statements. There's no upside, and all you can do is potentially make things worse for yourself by something you say," said Randall Eliason, a George Washington University law professor and former public corruption prosecutor. "But Trump seems to be incapable of following that kind of advice, even if he gets it."Meanwhile, Trump has defended himself against civil lawsuits accusing him of inciting the violence that caused about $1.5 million in damage to the Capitol building, left more than 100 officers injured, and resulted in the deaths of five people. The latest of those lawsuits came Tuesday from Marcus Moore, a 10-year veteran of the Capitol police force, who sued Trump under the more than 150-year-old Ku Klux Klan Act.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderJan 4th, 2022

Ashli Babbitt repeatedly rammed her SUV into the car of her future husband"s girlfriend, report says

The woman, Celeste Norris, was dating Aaron Babbitt, with whom the then Ashli McEntee was having an affair. Ashli Babbitt is pictured in her driver's license photo.Maryland MVA/Courtesy of the Calvert County Sheriff’s Office via AP Ashli Babbitt was married to another man when she had an affair with future husband Aaron Babbitt. At the time of the affair, Aaron Babbitt was in a six-year relationship with Celeste Norris. Babbitt later drove her SUV into Norris' vehicle, who she stalked and harassed after the incident. Ashli Babbitt was fatally shot by police on January 6 as she climbed through a window into the Speaker's Lobby during the Capitol insurrection.Four years earlier, Babbitt repeatedly rammed her SUV into the vehicle of Celeste Norris, whose boyfriend of six years she was having an extramarital affair with, the Associated Press reported.Speaking publicly for the first time on the incident with the Associated Press, Norris stated that she found out in 2015 that her longtime boyfriend Aaron Babbitt was cheating on her with his coworker, Ashli McEntee, who then went by the last name of her then-husband, Timothy McEntee.When Norris found out about the affair, she told Timothy McEntee, which prompted the future Mrs. Babbitt to chase down and ram her vehicle just a few weeks later, according to the Associated Press.Deputies responded to the incident and Babbitt was issued a criminal summons on charges of reckless endangerment and malicious destruction of property, which were later updated to include reckless driving, negligent driving, and failure to control a vehicle's speed to avoid a collision, according to a case report from the Calvert County Sheriff's Office in Maryland, which was obtained by the Associated Press.While Norris obtained a peace order, legal protection for victims of abuse but who are not eligible to file for a protective order, Babbitt was acquitted by a judge on the criminal charges after admitting under oath that she had tried to portray the vehicular collision as an accident, the Associated Press reported.Norris obtained a second peace order in February 2017 against Babbitt, who she said had been harassing and stalking her, according to the Associated Press. She wrote in her petition that she had been receiving repeated calls in the middle of the night from an unlisted number and that Babbitt had recently followed her home from work, the Associated Press reported.Ashli eventually moved to San Diego, California, took over a local business, and married Aaron Babbitt after a divorce from her ex-husband was granted by the state of Maryland. Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderJan 3rd, 2022

An 81-year-old Army veteran — one of the oldest Capitol riot defendants — was sentenced to 3 years of probation

Gary Wickersham, 81, admitted to entering the US Capitol during the insurrection but said he was allowed to do so because he paid taxes. Gary Wickersham captured on security camera footage during the January 6 Capitol riot.The Department of Justice An 81-year-old Capitol rioter was sentenced to 3 years of probation and 90 days of home confinement. Gary Wickersham expressed remorse at the Tuesday hearing, where a judge commended him for his regret.  Wickersham initially told investigators he thought the riot was staged to make Trump supporters look bad.  One of the oldest known defendants charged in the January 6 Capitol riot was sentenced to three years of probation this week, months after an acquaintance reported him to the FBI for his participation in the insurrection.Gary Wickersham, an 81-year-old Pennsylvania Army veteran, was also ordered to pay a $2,000 fine and $500 in restitution for his role in the attack.Judge Royce Lamberth, 78, at the Tuesday hearing, commented on Wickersham's age, saying he is "the first defendant I've had that's older than me in quite some time," according to CNN. During the hearing, Wickersham acknowledged and apologized for his participation in the siege."It's not like me to do that," Wickersham said, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer. "In my whole 81 years, that 22 minutes I spent in there, it was a dark blot … I regret doing it. I shouldn't have been in there."Lamberth commended Wickersham for his contrition, telling the defendant he would "get some credit" for admitting his faults. But on top of the probationary punishment, the judge also sentenced Wickersham to 90 days of home confinement.An attorney for Wickersham had previously argued against any home detention, telling the judge doing so would inhibit Wickersham from being able to visit his grandkids during his "golden years," CNN reported. Prosecutors were first alerted to Wickersham's presence at the Capitol on January 6 when an anonymous source brought forth a text message Wickersham had sent to a different acquaintance claiming to be inside the Capitol, according to charging documents.Investigators eventually located photographic and video evidence of Wickersham inside the building wearing a leather jacket and backward baseball cap, a criminal complaint said. When investigators first interviewed Wickersham about his participation in the attack, the Army veteran appeared to show little remorse, telling FBI agents he believed the riot was full of "antifa" protesters aiming to make Trump supporters look bad. Wickersham also alleged that Capitol Police officers were purposefully unprepared to allow the rioters to easily storm the Capitol and be arrested, according to charging documents.Wickersham told investigators he stayed inside the Capitol for about 22 minutes and initially argued that he was able to do so because he paid US taxes, according to prosecutors. During Tuesday's hearing, Wickersham's attorney said his client's comments were poor phrasing, The Inquirer reported."I regret doing it, I shouldn't be in there. I think the remarks I made that it was public property, I don't remember if I said that or not, I still shouldn't have been in there," Wickersham reportedly said during the hearing.Michael Noone, an attorney for Wickersham, told Insider that his client respects the sentence and is very sorry for his conduct."Mr. Wickersham expressed his genuine remorse and accepted responsibility for his actions," Noone said. Nearly 730 people have been charged in connection to the Capitol riot so far, and more than 150 people have pleaded guilty.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderDec 24th, 2021

Several Capitol riot defendants under home confinement have been granted permission to travel for the holidays

Of the five men granted a reprieve, two are charged with attacking police during the insurrection and two have alleged ties to an extremist group. Insurrectionists loyal to President Donald Trump breach the Capitol in Washington on January 6.AP Photo/John Minchillo At least five accused Capitol rioters who are under home confinement can travel for Christmas. The leniency comes nearly one year after a mob of Trump supporters laid siege to the Capitol. At least two men charged with attacking police officers had their requests for travel approved. Christmas came early for at least five Capitol riot defendants currently under home confinement.Several US judges overseeing the slate of pending Capitol attack cases granted multiple accused rioters the opportunity to leave their homes and spend time with their loved ones for the holidays, according to a Bloomberg report.The temporary leniency comes nearly one year after a mob of Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol in an attempt to stop the certification of the 2020 presidential election, which saw President Joe Biden beat former president Donald Trump by more than 7 million votes. Of the five men granted a festive reprieve from home detention, two are charged with attacking police officers during the insurrection and two have alleged ties to an extremist militia group.Thomas Caldwell, a Virginia man accused by prosecutors of holding a leadership role in the Oath Keepers, an anti-government group, was arrested in February and released to home confinement in March. Prosecutors have charged Caldwell in connection with one of the largest conspiracy cases stemming from the Capitol riot and he has been restricted to electronic monitoring in his Virginia home for the past seven months. On Monday, Us District Judge Amit P. Mehta granted Caldwell's request to leave his home on Christmas day to attend a holiday party at his neighbor's house with his wife, according to court documents. Donovan Crowl, who prosecutors say stormed the Capitol with other members of the Oath Keepers, has been under house arrest since he was released from jail in March, following his January arrest. The former Marine was already granted a holiday reprieve from his confinement over Thanksgiving, and Judge Mehta also approved Crowl's most recent December request, according to Bloomberg.Christopher Grider has been under GPS-ankle monitoring since he was released from jail after his January arrest. The Texas wine-maker is accused of helping to break a window outside the House chamber. In a conditions request made last week, Grider asked for permission to leave his Texas home to visit family in both Houston and Dallas for the holidays, as well as an extension of his 11:59 p.m. curfew for work purposes. US District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly granted all the requests, court documents show. Federico Klein, a former Trump State Department-appointee who is accused of assaulting police with a riot shield during the siege, was released to home confinement in April. Prosecutors asked Judge Trevor McFadden to alter the conditions of Klein's release to home incarceration in June, accusing the defendant of missing curfew, but the judge declined. McFadden on Tuesday granted Klein's request to travel to visit his brother for the holidays, according to Bloomberg.George Pierre Tanios, of West Virginia, was charged in March with conspiring to injure Brian Sicknick, the Capitol Police officer who died the day after the insurrection. Last month, a federal judge eased Tanios' pre-trial release provisions, ending his home confinement and placing him on a curfew instead, according to court documents. The defendant filed an unopposed motion earlier this month to travel to New Jersey for Christmas. Nearly 730 people have been charged in connection to the Capitol riot so far, and more than 150 people have pleaded guilty.Correction 12/22/2021: This story was corrected to reflect that Adam Johnson was not under house confinement.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderDec 23rd, 2021

Roger Stone is set to plead the 5th and not answer questions in his deposition before the January 6 Committee

The longtime GOP operative received protection from members of the right-wing Oath Keepers movement who later participated in the Capitol riot. In this Nov. 15, 2019, photo, Roger Stone exits federal court in Washington.AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File Roger Stone will invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination to the January 6 panel. The longtime GOP operative received protection from Oath Keepers the day before the riot. Other figures subpoenaed by the committee, John Eastman and Jeffrey Clark, also pleaded the Fifth.  Roger Stone will invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in his Friday deposition with the House Select Committee investigating the January 6 insurrection, his lawyer confirmed to Reuters. CNN first reported on December 8 that Stone would plead the Fifth and not answer any questions in his deposition or turn over any subpoenaed documents.Stone was present in Washington, D.C., and received protection from members of the Oath Keepers, a right-wing paramilitary group on January 5, the day before the Capitol riot. Six of those who protected Stone later participated in the breach of the Capitol, The New York Times found.Federal prosecutors have charged multiple members of the militia group in connection with the riot at the Capitol and the January 6 committee is examining the role of extremist right-wing movements in the insurrection.  Two other major figures who pushed baseless claims of election fraud and participated in the ultimately-unsuccessful efforts to overturn Trump's Electoral College loss have also pleaded the Fifth in response to subpoenas from January 6 committee. John Eastman, the legal scholar who wrote memos arguing that former VP Mike Pence could unilaterally reject entire states' slates of electoral votes, and Jeffrey Clark, a former official at the Department of Justice who served as a top cheerleader for baseless election fraud conspiracy theories, also both invoked their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination to the Committee. Stone, a longtime Republican operative, and "dirty trickster," served as an informal advisor to Trump over the course of 40 years and briefly held a role on Trump's 2016 presidential campaign. And Stone subsequently found himself in the crosshairs of congressional probes and federal investigations over that campaign. In 2019, a federal jury convicted Stone on seven counts of making false statements under oath, obstruction of justice, and witness tampering over his obstructions of multiple congressional probes into Russian interference in the 2016 election and the Trump campaign's contacts with Russia. A federal judge sentenced Stone to 40 months in prison, but former President Donald Trump first commuted Stone's sentence in July of 2020 and then issued Stone a full presidential pardon in December 2020 shortly before he left office. Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderDec 17th, 2021

Trump"s allies are trashing Mitch McConnell for reaching a deal with Democrats to avert a catastrophic debt-ceiling default

McConnell's solution to the crisis allows him to stay true to his promise that Republican senators would not vote to raise the debt ceiling. A side-by-side image of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and former president Donald Trump.Getty Images; Getty Images Allies of Donald Trump attacked Mitch McConnell over his newly brokered debt-ceiling deal.  Fox News host Tucker Carlson attacked McConnell as an "instrument of the left."  McConnell faces increasing pressure from the hard right of the GOP ahead of next year's midterms. Allies of former President Donald Trump have turned on Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell over a deal with Democrats paving the way for the government's debt ceiling to be raised. McConnell's deal, crafted over weeks of painstaking negotiation, saw 14 Republicans vote with Democrats on Tuesday for a one-time exemption to the filibuster, allowing the debt ceiling to be increased in a simple majority vote, rather than the 60-40 split normally required to break a filibuster.The maneuver means that voting to raise the debt ceiling will require Democratic support only. The Senate is split 50-50, but in the event of ties, Vice President Kamala Harris has the casting vote.McConnell's move makes good on his pledge that Republicans would not vote for a debt ceiling increase, while allowing the party to evade the blame for not reaching a deal, which could result in an economically catastrophic default. But the move has drawn criticism from allies of Trump on the Republican hard right — who favor a scorched earth policy allowing for no compromise with Democrats.In an interview on the right-wing OAN network, Trump spokeswoman Liz Harrington called on McConnell to resign. "It's hard to say who's giving the Democrats more cover, Mitch McConnell or the fake news media. This is absolutely appalling. We need new Republican leadership. He's given the country away," she said.Harrington then went on to accuse him of folding to Democrats on the debt-ceiling deal, which she described as a "monstrosity." —Ron Filipkowski (@RonFilipkowski) December 9, 2021Sen. Lindsey Graham, an ally of the former president, told Republican senators in a closed-door meeting on Thursday that Trump was watching to see who would vote for McConnell's debt-ceiling deal, according to a report from The Hill.At the same meeting Graham also criticized McConnell for placing Republicans in a position where they could get "shot in the back" over the move. In the wake of the vote, a key senate ally of Trump also attacked the deal Thursday."I have repeatedly said I will not support raising the debt ceiling for the Democrats' radical agenda that is causing inflation and driving up our national debt," said Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin in a statement.Fox News host Tucker Carson, a prominent media ally of Trump, devoted a segment of his Thursday night show to attacking McConnell, describing him as an "instrument of the left," and saying he is known as "the nastiest old woman in town." Trump himself had criticized McConnell in a statement earlier in the week, accusing him of giving the Democrats cover to pass large spending bills through a debt-ceiling deal, though the two are not linked. The subject of Carlson's monologue wasn't the debt-ceiling deal, but McConnell allegedly barring a January 6 rally organizer from having a role in organizing Sen. Bob Dole's funeral. The timing of the attack, however, was notable. The attacks on McConnell highlight the perilous political landscape facing him in the new year. Lawmakers clamoring for Trump's approval ahead of the mid-terms likely won't want to be allied too closely with McConnell, at least publicly. Trump's rancor against the senate minority leader stems from the January 6 riot, when McConnell blamed Trump for the chaos. In a series of statements Trump has insulted McConnell, labelling him an "old crow", and has sought to undermine his Senate strategy. Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderDec 10th, 2021

Bovard Blasts The Biden Crackdown On Thought Crimes

Bovard Blasts The Biden Crackdown On Thought Crimes Authored by Jim Bovard, The Biden administration is seeking to radically narrow the boundaries of respectable American political thought. The administration has repeatedly issued statements and reports that could automatically castigate citizens who distrust the federal government. We may eventually learn that the new Biden guidelines spurred a vast increase in federal surveillance and other abuses against Americans who were guilty of nothing more than vigorous skepticism. Biden is Nixon on steroids The Biden team is expanding the federal Enemies List perhaps faster than any time since the Nixon administration. In June, the Biden administration asserted that guys who are unable to score with women may be terrorist threats due to “involuntary celibate–violent extremism.” That revelation was included in the administration’s National Strategy for Countering Domestic Terrorism, which identified legions of new potential “domestic terrorists” that the feds can castigate and investigate. The White House claims its new war on terrorism and extremism is “carefully tailored to address violence and reduce the factors that …infringe on the free expression of ideas.” But the prerogative to define extremism includes the power to revile disapproved beliefs. The report warns that “narratives of fraud in the recent general election … will almost certainly spur some [domestic violent extremists] to try to engage in violence this year.” If accusations of 2020 electoral shenanigans are formally labeled as extremist threats, that could result in far more repression (aided by Facebook and Twitter) of dissenting voices. How will this work out any better than the concerted campaign by the media and Big Tech last fall to suppress all information about Hunter Biden’s laptop before the election? And how can Biden be trusted to be the judge after he effectively accused Facebook of mass murder for refusing to totally censor anyone who raised doubts about the COVID-19 vaccine? The Biden administration is revving up for a war against an enemy which the feds have chosen to never explicitly define. According to a March report by Biden’s Office of the Director of National Intelligence, “domestic violent extremists” include individuals who “take overt steps to violently resist or facilitate the overthrow of the U.S. government in support of their belief that the U.S. government is purposely exceeding its Constitutional authority.” But that was the same belief that many Biden voters had regarding the Trump administration. Does the definition of extremism depend solely on which party captured the White House? The Biden report writers were spooked by the existence of militia groups and flirt with the fantasy of outlawing them across the land. The report promises to explore “how to make better use of laws that already exist in all fifty states prohibiting certain private ‘militia’ activity, including … state statutes prohibiting groups of people from organizing as private military units without the authorization of the state government, and state statutes that criminalize certain paramilitary activity.” Most of the private militia groups are guilty of nothing more than bluster and braggadocio. Besides, many of them are already overstocked with government informants who are counting on Uncle Sam for regular paychecks. Some politicians and pundits might like to see a new federal crime that labels any meeting of more than two gun owners as an illegal conspiracy. The Biden report promises that the FBI and DHS will soon be releasing “a new edition of the Federal Government’s Mobilization Indicators booklet that will include for the first time potential indicators of domestic terrorism–related mobilization.” Will this latest publication be as boneheaded as the similar 2014 report by the National Counterterrorism Center entitled “Countering Violent Extremism: A Guide for Practitioners and Analysts”? The new Red Guard As the Intercept summarized, that report “suggests that police, social workers and educators rate individuals on a scale of one to five in categories such as ‘Expressions of Hopelessness, Futility,’ … and ‘Connection to Group Identity (Race, Nationality, Religion, Ethnicity)’ … to alert government officials to individuals at risk of turning to radical violence, and to families or communities at risk of incubating extremist ideologies.” The report recommended judging families by their level of “Parent-Child Bonding” and rating localities on the basis in part of the “presence of ideologues or recruiters.” Former FBI agent Mike German commented, “The idea that the federal government would encourage local police, teachers, medical, and social-service employees to rate the communities, individuals, and families they serve for their potential to become terrorists is abhorrent on its face.” Biden’s “National Strategy for Countering Domestic Terrorism” report also declared that “enhancing faith in American democracy” requires “finding ways to counter the influence and impact of dangerous conspiracy theories.” In recent decades, conspiracy theories have multiplied almost as fast as government lies and cover-ups. While many allegations have been ludicrously far-fetched, the political establishment and media routinely attach the “conspiracy theory” label to any challenge to their dominance. According to Cass Sunstein, Harvard Law professor and Oba- ma’s regulatory czar, a conspiracy theory is “an effort to explain some event or practice by reference to the machinations of powerful people, who have also managed to conceal their role.” Reasonable citizens are supposed to presume that government creates trillions of pages of new secrets each year for their own good, not to hide anything from the public. “Conspiracy theory” is a magic phrase that expunges all previous federal abuses. Many liberals who invoke the phrase also ritually quote a 1965 book by former communist Richard Hofstadter, The Paranoid Style in American Politics. Hofstadter portrayed distrust of government as a proxy for mental illness, a paradigm that makes the character of critics more important than the conduct of government agencies. For Hofstadter, it was a self-evident truth that government was trustworthy because American politics had “a kind of professional code … embodying the practical wisdom of generations of politicians.” The rise of conspiracy theories In the early 1960s, conspiracy theories were practically a non-issue because 75 percent of Americans trusted the federal government. Such credulity did not survive the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Seven days after Kennedy was shot on November 22, 1963, President Lyndon Johnson created a commission (later known as the Warren Commission) to suppress controversy about the killing. Johnson browbeat the commission members into speedily issuing a report rubber-stamping the “crazed lone gunman” version of the assassination. House Minority Leader Gerald Ford, a member of the commission, revised the final staff report to change the location of where the bullet entered Kennedy’s body, thereby salvaging the so-called “magic bullet” theory. After the Warren Commission findings were ridiculed as a whitewash, Johnson ordered the FBI to conduct wiretaps on the report’s critics. To protect the official story, the commission sealed key records for 75 years. Truth would out only after all the people involved in any coverup had gotten their pensions and died. The controversy surrounding the Warren Commission spurred the CIA to formally attack the notion of conspiracy theories. In a 1967 alert to its overseas stations and bases, the CIA declared that the fact that almost half of Americans did not believe Oswald acted alone “is a matter of concern to the U.S. government, including our organization” and endangers “the whole reputation of the American government.” The memo instructed recipients to “employ propaganda assets” and exploit “friendly elite contacts (especially politicians and editors), pointing out … parts of the conspiracy talk appear to be deliberately generated by Communist propagandists.” The ultimate proof of the government’s innocence: “Conspiracy on the large scale often suggested would be impossible to conceal in the United States.” The New York Times, which exposed the CIA memo in 1977, noted that the CIA “mustered its propaganda machinery to support an issue of far more concern to Americans, and to the C.I.A. itself, than to citizens of other countries.” According to historian Lance deHaven-Smith, author of Conspiracy Theory in America, “The CIA’s campaign to popularize the term ‘conspiracy theory’ and make conspiracy belief a target of ridicule and hostility must be credited … with being one of the most successful propaganda initiatives of all time.” In 2014, the CIA released a heavily-redacted report admitting that it had been “complicit” in a JFK “cover-up” by withholding “incendiary” information from the Warren Commission. The CIA successfully concealed a wide range of assassinations and foreign coups it conducted until congressional investigations in the mid-1970s blew the whistle. “Conspiracy theory” allegations sometimes merely expose the naivete of official scorekeepers. In April 2016, Chapman University surveyed Americans and announced that “the most prevalent conspiracy theory in the United States is that the government is concealing information about the 9/11 attacks with slightly over half of Americans holding that belief.” That survey did not ask whether people believed the World Trade Centers were blown up by an inside job or whether President George W. Bush secretly masterminded the attacks. Instead, folks were simply asked whether “government is concealing information” about the attacks. Only a village idiot, college professor, or editorial writer would presume the government had come clean. Three months after the Chapman University survey was conducted, the Obama administration finally released 28 pages of a 2003 congressional report that revealed that Saudi government officials had directly financed some of the 9/11 hijackers in America. That disclosure shattered the storyline carefully constructed by the Bush administration, the 9/11 Commission, and legions of media accomplices. (Lawsuits continue in federal court seeking to force the U.S. government to disclose more information regarding the Saudi government role in the attacks.) Conspiracy theories a tool for control “Conspiracy theory” is often a flag of convenience for the political-media elite. In 2018, the New York Times asserted that Trump’s use of the term “Deep State” and similar rhetoric “fanned fears that he is eroding public trust in institutions, undermining the idea of objective truth and sowing widespread suspicions about the government and news media.” However, after allegations by anonymous government officials spurred Trump’s first impeachment in 2019, New York Times columnist James Stewart cheered, “There is a Deep State, there is a bureaucracy in our country who has pledged to respect the Constitution, respect the rule of law…. They work for the American people.” New York Times editorial writer Michelle Cottle proclaimed, “The deep state is alive and well” and hailed it as “a collection of patriotic public servants.” Almost immediately after its existence was no longer denied, the Deep State became the incarnation of virtue in Washington. After Biden was elected, references to the “Deep State” were once again labeled paranoid ravings. Much of the establishment rage at “conspiracy theories” has been driven by the notion that rulers are entitled to intellectual passive obedience. The same lèse-majesté mindset has been widely adopted to make a muddle of American history. Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., the court historian for President John F. Kennedy and a revered liberal intellectual, declared in 2004, “Historians today conclude that the colonists were driven to revolt in 1776 because of a false conviction that they faced a British conspiracy to destroy their freedom.” What the hell is wrong with “historians today”?! Was the British imposition of martial law, confiscation of firearms, military blockades, suspension of habeas corpus, and censorship simply a deranged fantasy of Thomas Jefferson? The notion that the British would never conspire to destroy freedom would play poorly in Dublin, where the Irish suffered centuries of brutal British oppression. Why should anyone trust academics who were blind to British threats in the 1770s to accurately judge the danger that today’s politicians pose to Americans’ liberty? How does the Biden administration intend to fight “conspiracy theories?” The Biden terrorism report called for “enhancing faith in government” by “accelerating work to contend with an information environment that challenges healthy democratic discourse.” Will Biden’s team rely on the “solution” suggested by Cass Sunstein: “cognitive infiltration of extremist groups” by government agents and informants to “undermine” them from within? Does the Biden administration also propose banning Americans from learning anything from the history of prior federal debacles? Nixon White House aide Tom Charles Huston explained that the FBI’s COINTELPRO program continually stretched its target list “from the kid with a bomb to the kid with a picket sign, and from the kid with the picket sign to the kid with the bumper sticker of the opposing candidate. And you just keep going down the line.” A 1976 Senate report on COINTELPRO demanded assurances that a federal agency would never again “be permitted to conduct a secret war against those citizens it considers threats, to the established order.” Actually, the FBI and other agencies have continued secretly warring against “threats,” and legions of informants are likely busy “cognitively infiltrating” at this moment. Permitting politicians to blacklist any ideas they disapprove won’t “restore faith in democracy.” Extremism has always been a flag of political convenience, and the Biden team, the FBI, and their media allies will fan fears to sanctify new government crackdowns. But what if government is the most dangerous extremist of them all? Tyler Durden Sat, 11/27/2021 - 22:45.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeNov 28th, 2021

Trump was upset at connection to Sean Parnell"s faltering Senate campaign, blamed Don Jr. for fallout after endorsement: report

Parnell suspended his campaign on Monday after a judge awarded his estranged wife sole legal custody of their children amid abuse allegations. Sean Parnell.AP Photo/Keith Srakocic Trump in recent weeks was dismayed at his connection to the faltering Parnell campaign, per Politico. Trump had endorsed Parnell in September and reportedly blamed Don Jr. for this connection to the candidate. Parnell on Monday suspended his Senate campaign after losing custody of his children amid abuse allegations. Former President Donald Trump had in recent weeks expressed dismay at the state of Sean Parnell's Senate candidacy in Pennsylvania and blamed his son, Don Jr., for tethering him to the faltering campaign, according to a Politico report.Parnell, an Army veteran and former congressional candidate who was highly touted by Trump's son and endorsed by the former president in September, suspended his campaign on Monday after losing a child custody battle. A judge in Butler County, Pennsylvania, awarded Parnell's wife, Laurie Snell, primary custody and sole legal custody of their three children, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.Earlier this month, Snell testified under oath that Parnell choked her until she fought back to escape his wrath, while also stating that he hit their children and repeatedly hurled obscenities at her, per The Inquirer.With the ensuing turmoil surrounding Parnell, the Republican candidate chose to end his once-promising campaign."There is nothing more important to me than my children, and while I plan to ask the court to reconsider, I can't continue with a Senate campaign," he said in a statement on Monday. "My focus right now is 100% on my children, and I want them to know I do not have any other priorities and will never stop fighting for them."Before Parnell's exit, Trump was reportedly "fixated" on the situation, expressing disappointment with being connected to the campaign, and was in disbelief over the developments in Parnell's very public custody battle, according to a source who spoke with Politico. Donald Jr. had been a catalyst for his father's endorsement of Parnell, and the deterioration of the Pennsylvania Republican's campaign frustrated the former president, per Politico.However, despite the damning allegations from Snell earlier this month, Trump did not withdraw his support of Parnell.Trump's team had even continued to move forward with a January 2022 fundraiser for Parnell at the former president's Mar-a-Lago club in South Florida, according to Politico.But now the GOP must get a handle on the still-fluid Senate race in Pennsylvania, as they seek to rally behind a potential successor to retiring two-term Sen. Pat Toomey.With Parnell in the rearview mirror, the remaining Republican candidates include Jeff Bartos, a real estate developer, and Carla Sands, who served as the US ambassador to Denmark under Trump. David McCormick, a combat veteran who runs the prominent hedge fund Bridgewater Associates, has also been mentioned as a potential candidate. Former Rep. Ryan Costello, a moderate Republican from the vote-rich Philadelphia suburbs who served in Congress from 2015 to 2019, might also jump into the race, according a source who spoke with Politico.And Dr. Mehmet Oz, the cardiothoracic surgeon and longtime television personality, has made some behind-the-scenes moves to potentially enter the race.Democrats see Pennsylvania — a state narrowly carried by President Joe Biden in 2020 — as one of their best pickup opportunities in their quest to retain control of the Senate next year.Democratic candidates in the race include Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, Montgomery County Commissioner Val Arkoosh, state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, and US Rep. Conor Lamb.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderNov 23rd, 2021

Starbucks Union Vote Sets Up a Watershed Moment for U.S. Labor

Winning a unionization vote at one of the country’s signature non-union firms, Starbucks, would be an audacious coup. U.S. workers have authorized strikes in a wide swath of industries and quit jobs in record numbers but could soon pull off an even more audacious coup: Winning a unionization vote at one of the country’s signature non-union firms, Starbucks. On Wednesday, the National Labor Relations Board will mail ballots to employees at three Starbucks Corp. coffee shops in and around Buffalo, New York, who will vote over the next four weeks on whether to establish the first-ever unionized locations among the chain’s thousands of corporate-run U.S. stores. The elections involve only around 100 employees, but a vote to unionize would be among the embattled U.S. labor movement’s highest-profile organizing victories in years, creating a foothold at an iconic global brand. It would also extend U.S. workers’ recent momentum into a new arena — the company’s ubiquitous coffee shops, visited by millions of Americans each day, where past organizing efforts have repeatedly fizzled. [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] “It’s a much bigger deal than the number of people would suggest,” said former NLRB chair and union attorney Wilma Liebman, given how a union victory at Starbucks would create new inroads in the broader restaurant industry. “Winning is contagious, and it could spread like wildfire.” Read More: U.S. Workers Are Realizing It’s the Perfect Time to Go on Strike Baristas at several Buffalo-area Starbucks say they’ve been talking casually with a union organizer over the past couple years, but more-serious conversations began in earnest this summer, after workers were exposed to new pressures and risks by the pandemic and then emboldened by a tightening labor market. After a swift series of confidential conversations, including at rival coffee shops, employees in August publicly announced their campaign to join Workers United, an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union. Employees say they love the company but want to secure a say to address issues like schedules that sometimes provide inadequate hours and wages that don’t sufficiently reward longer-serving staff, as well as security to speak up when confronted with hazards like harassment from customers about masks. “You can’t tell us that we’re essential workers and then also tell us that we shouldn’t have a voice or equal say,” said Jaz Brisack, an activist barista who before getting hired last year at Starbucks was employed by Workers United as an organizer on a successful unionization campaign at another Buffalo-area coffee chain, Spot Coffee. Starbucks asking staff to vote against unionization More than its peers, Starbucks has cultivated a progressive brand, closing stores nationwide to hold trainings on racial bias, pledging to achieve “carbon neutral green coffee,” offering health benefits to part-timers and recently announcing it would implement a nationwide $15 wage floor. Some pro-union employees say they hope the Seattle-based company will eventually come to see how collective bargaining could advance the company’s mission too. Asked about the campaign, a Starbucks spokesperson provided an October open letter to employees from the coffee chain’s North America president, Rossann Williams, in which she said she recognized that workers in the Buffalo region “have not had the Starbucks experience that we work so hard to create for you,” and that she and other managers were “here to ensure that we can give them just that.” Starbucks is asking employees to vote against unionization, Williams wrote, “because we believe we will best enhance our partnership and advance the operational changes together in a direct relationship.” Read More: The GM Strike Is Also a Protest Against the Gig Economy On Saturday, Starbucks closed Buffalo-area stores early and paid employees to attend a gathering with its former CEO Howard Schultz, the billionaire who is its chairman emeritus and largest individual shareholder. Schultz told employees that Starbucks had already built “a different kind of company,” and that no outsiders had successfully “pressured us, maneuvered us, threatened us to do anything other than what we felt in our heart and our conscience we needed to do and should do for the people who wear the green apron.” In a letter to employees published on Starbucks’ website in conjunction with his visit, Schultz said he was “saddened and concerned” to hear that any employee would think they need to have “a representative seek to obtain things we all have as partners at Starbucks.” Stephen Brashear/Getty Images CEO Howard Schultz speaks during the Starbucks annual meeting of shareholders on March 22, 2017 in Seattle, Washington. Employee concerns at Starbucks Still, Schultz was escorted away after the speech when Gianna Reeve, a pro-union employee at one of the stores slated to vote, asked him if he would support principles proposed by the union to restrict union-busting, she said. Starbucks has said that workers already have a say in scheduling, that more senior workers already get extra pay, and that it prioritizes workers’ and customers’ safety. The company also shared a September message to Buffalo-area employees from a regional vice president, Allyson Peck, saying that Starbucks was “bringing additional recruiters and managers to help with staffing, finalizing dedicated training plans for new baristas and repairing store issues quickly.” The steps, she said, are “actions only Starbucks can deliver on — versus an outside third party like the Workers United union.” Read More: Why the Biden Administration Could Be Good for Organized Labor On Aug. 30, after unsuccessfully petitioning Starbucks headquarters to make a deal restricting anti-union campaigning, employees moved ahead at the U.S. labor board, submitting signatures that organizers say represented at least four-fifths of the eligible staff at each of three Buffalo-area stores. The NLRB rejected Starbucks’ argument that the appropriate voter pool would instead consist of employees at all 20 of its stores in the region and granted the union’s request to hold store-by-store votes at the three sites, boosting the organizers’ chance of success. Since each store’s employees are voting separately, Starbucks will be legally required to negotiate if a majority of eligible staff at even one of them votes for the union. U.S. workers are having their moment Richard Bensinger, the former AFL-CIO organizing director spearheading the Buffalo Starbucks campaign for Workers United, said it was born out of a regional effort to organize restaurants, not a national strategy to target Starbucks. He’s found organizing Starbucks both easier and harder than he’d predicted: He thought he might find executives at the company, known for comparatively generous pay and benefits, eager to avoid a bitter struggle, along with workers who were tepid about organizing. Instead, he said, employees have proven highly motivated to seek changes but the company, as much as any other he’s gone up against, has been steadfast in seeking to defeat the drive. The Starbucks campaign is unfolding at a moment of unusual leverage for U.S. workers. They’ve been emboldened by a tight labor market and inspired to demand payback for the risks and sacrifices they shouldered during the pandemic, and to reverse concessions they acceded to in past years’ contract talks. Union members have recently authorized potential strikes involving over 100,000 workers in a slew of different industries, while workers in general have been quitting their jobs in record numbers. Read More: Workers Are Furious. Their Unions Are Scrambling to Catch Up Over the past week, striking workers at farm equipment maker Deere & Co. voted to continue a 10,000-strong work stoppage rather than accepting a tentative deal that included a 10% immediate wage hike, while unions representing over 30,000 health-care workers at Kaiser Permanente announced plans to strike starting Nov. 15. But Workers United’s NLRB election effort remains a gamble. While U.S. law promises employees the right to collectively bargain if a majority of their co-workers cast ballots in the affirmative, the law also gives companies wide latitude to campaign aggressively against unionization. Companies generally face only minimal penalties for engaging in illegal efforts to stymie the union or obstruct negotiations once a union is victorious. Toby Scott/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images Starbucks’ corporate headquarters seen in Seattle on Apr. 27, 2021. Winning a union contract In recent years, NLRB election victories at the top U.S. companies in union-scarce industries have been almost unheard of, except for where organizers could cut a deal beforehand with management to limit anti-union tactics, as the Starbucks workers tried and failed to do. The “Fight For $15 and a Union” campaign, another SEIU project, has spent about a decade organizing and mobilizing fast-food workers without ever filing for NLRB elections in any restaurants. Instead, they’ve opted for pressure campaigns targeting companies like McDonald’s Corp. in hopes — so far unrealized — of securing a national agreement easing unionization. Under U.S. law, companies can require workers to attend numerous group or one-on-one meetings about why they shouldn’t unionize, and make dire predictions about what could happen if they do. If workers are proven to be illegally fired for their union activism, the worst penalty a company usually faces is eventually being required to reinstate them with back pay, without punitive damages or personal liability for executives. If a group of workers does vote to unionize, companies can delay the process with extensive legal challenges. If a union’s victory is upheld, management is required to hold contract talks “in good faith,” but has no obligation to concede much on the issues workers want addressed. The majority of the time, workers still haven’t reached a contract one year after voting to unionize, according to a 2009 study. Read More: Beyond Labor Day—Three Ways Unions Have Helped American Workers “Typically, all the board does when an employer fails to bargain in good faith is order the employer to bargain in good faith,” said Columbia University law professor Kate Andrias. “Employees’ ability to win a good first contract is usually not a result of the law, but rather of workers’ decision to stick together, to demand improvements in their workplace, to mobilize public and political pressure on employers, and to engage in collective action by protests and strikes.” Winning a union contract for a small number of employees at a mammoth, otherwise union-free company is particularly difficult, Andrias said, because those workers have less direct economic leverage over management. Executives also have ample incentive to take a tough stance, knowing that if workers who unionized in one place succeed in securing improvements, organizing would be more appealing to others elsewhere. Angus Mordant/Bloomberg via Getty Images A person wearing a protective mask collects a pickup order from a Starbucks Corp. coffee shop in Newark, New Jersey, U.S., on Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020. Starbucks workers say they are pressured In New York, Starbucks workers say they’ve been pressured to attend frequent anti-union meetings in which the company issues warnings, such as that unionization could cause them to lose existing benefits. The employees also say their stores have been visited by out-of-town managers and higher-ups like Rossann Williams who show up to press the anti-union case. “We want you to vote no,” Peck, the Starbucks regional vice president, told staff in a Nov. 1 email viewed by Bloomberg. “Unless you are positive you want to pay a union to represent you to us, you must vote no.” Last week, the union and barista Michelle Eisen filed a complaint, now pending with the NLRB, accusing Starbucks of “engaging in a campaign of threats, intimidation, surveillance” and other illegal tactics such as store closings in its effort to defeat the Buffalo organizing campaign. Starbucks declined to comment specifically on the NLRB filing. The company has said that workers are expected to attend its meetings but aren’t punished if they refuse; that it’s not uncommon for higher-ups to visit its stores; that its temporary conversion of one store to a training site and closure of another for remodeling were unrelated to union organizing; and that it strictly adheres to U.S. labor law. Read More: Pandemic Fuels Union Interest Among Front Line Workers Tia Corthion, a shift supervisor at a Buffalo-area store, said in an interview arranged by a Starbucks spokesperson that she’s received necessary information in the company’s meetings about unionization. In union contract talks, “there are things that we have to give up to get the things that they’re negotiating,” said Corthion, whose pay and benefits at Starbucks exceed the ones she had in prior jobs. “I don’t know what the outcome could be. It doesn’t sound like any good outcomes.” Activist employees in New York say they’ve built organizing bonds among co-workers that can withstand an anti-union campaign, and that they’re already hearing from colleagues around the country who want to support them or start organizing themselves, despite management’s efforts to dissuade them. “They think three stores in Buffalo is bad — they’re going to love the next year,” said local shift supervisor Alexis Rizzo. “Because the interest that we’ve had is mind-blowing.” Bensinger, the Workers United Buffalo organizer, said he feels good about workers soon getting to vote. “We don’t have to win a hundred stores, we have to win one,” he said. “If you can win one store, then I think the whole world will rally behind bargaining for a contract like people have never seen.”.....»»

Category: topSource: timeNov 7th, 2021

Facebook ranks countries into tiers of importance for content moderation, with some nations getting little to no direct oversight, report says

Facebook looks very different depending on where you live, new documents reveal, as moderation resources focus on the US, India, and Brazil. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images Facebook isn't moderated equally in every country, new documents reveal. Facebook reportedly divides countries into tiers to decide how moderation is handled per country. The US, India, and Brazil are all given highest priority, while most of the world receives few resources. With nearly 3 billion people using its service, Facebook has to make some major choices when it comes to content moderation.Rather than applying resources equally across the planet, company leaders reportedly decide where to focus the most resources - and have repeatedly focused on a few countries where Facebook is most popular.In one example from internal Facebook documents reviewed by The Verge, a group at Facebook met in late 2019 to discuss how best to focus moderation resources around the world ahead of several major elections. The documents were part of the Facebook Papers, a series of reports published by a consortium of 17 US news organizations that said they had reviewed leaked internal documents obtained by whistleblower Frances Haugen.The United States, Brazil, and India were all given so-called "tier zero" consideration - the most resources, and the most proactive, continuous oversight. Countries including Israel, Iran, Italy, and Germany all occupied a step down on "tier one," according to the report.According to The Verge, 30 countries are provided extra resources through Facebook's tier-based moderation system, while the rest of the world is left with comparatively paltry oversight. The only way for Facebook to see any issues for countries in tier three would be for moderators to surface it directly, the documents reportedly said. Facebook has faced criticism for years over issues with moderation, most recently for the service's use as a tool in organizing the attempted insurrection on January 6. Trump supporters clash with police and security forces as people try to storm the US Capitol on January 6. Brent Stirton/Getty Images In 2018, Facebook admitted it didn't do enough to stop the spread of hate speech and violence in Myanmar."I think it is clear that people were trying to use our tools in order to incite real harm," Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told Vox in April 2018. Worse: In countries like Myanmar, where Facebook is the main form of internet, those issues are amplified."Everything is done through Facebook in Myanmar," the UN's Myanmar investigator, Yanghee Lee, told the UN Human Rights Council in March 2018. "The ultra-nationalist Buddhists have their own Facebooks and are really inciting a lot of violence and a lot of hatred against the Rohingya or other ethnic minorities ... I'm afraid that Facebook has now turned into a beast, and not what it originally intended."For its part, Facebook said it is more flexible with moderation resources than the documents indicated."In a crisis, we will determine what kind of support and teams we need to dedicate to a particular country or language, and for how long we need to keep them in place," Facebook director of human rights policy Miranda Sissons and international strategic response director Nicole Isaac wrote in a Monday morning blog post responding to the report.Separately, when reached for comment, a Facebook spokesperson provided Insider the following statement: "We have dedicated teams working to stop abuse on our platform in countries where there is heightened risk of conflict and violence. We also have global teams with native speakers reviewing content in over 70 languages along with experts in humanitarian and human rights issues. They've made progress tackling difficult challenges - such as evolving hate speech terms - and built new ways for us to respond quickly to issues when they arise. We know these challenges are real and we are proud of the work we've done to date."Got a tip? Contact Insider senior correspondent Ben Gilbert via email (bgilbert@insider.com), or Twitter DM (@realbengilbert). We can keep sources anonymous. Use a non-work device to reach out. PR pitches by email only, please.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderOct 25th, 2021