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December 2, 2021 at 1:14 am #1204619018
Five revealing quotes from Supreme Court abortion case
BY JOHN KRUZEL 12/01/21 05:16 PM EST
A tense Supreme Court hearing Wednesday over Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban suggested the conservative-majority court is willing to place new restrictions on abortion.
Less clear is how far the court might go in unwinding the legal regime that emerged from Roe v. Wade, which bars states from prohibiting abortion before a fetus is viable, typically around 24 weeks.
“My sense is that it is clear that there is a majority to uphold the Mississippi law,” said Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law. “I think the only thing that is unclear is whether the court will flat-out overrule Roe or uphold the Mississippi law without speaking to laws that prohibit abortions even earlier.”
Here are five quotes from the justices that reflect the dynamics of Wednesday’s oral arguments.
Roberts: “At issue before us today is 15 weeks.”
Chief Justice John Roberts, seen as one of the key conservative votes in the case, seemed to be searching Wednesday for an incremental path. In contrast to some of the court’s more stalwart conservatives, Roberts appeared interested in a ruling that might uphold Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban without explicitly overruling Roe.
His colloquy with the U.S. solicitor general, who argued against the Mississippi law, may have given a window into Roberts’s thinking.
Elizabeth Prelogar, the solicitor general, argued that removing the viability standard would embolden states that seek to restrict abortion even more than Mississippi’s 15-week ban does, further upending the long relied-upon Roe regime “with six-week bans, eight-week bans, 10-week bans and so on.”
“Well, that may be what they’re asking for,” Roberts said. “But the thing that is at issue before us today is 15 weeks.”
Alito: “A case can never be overruled simply because it was egregiously wrong?”
Justice Samuel Alito, on the other hand, seemed more receptive to Mississippi’s bolder arguments calling for overruling Roe.
Alito is among the justices viewed as most hostile to the court’s abortion precedent, alongside fellow conservative stalwarts Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch.
“Is it your argument that a case can never be overruled simply because it was egregiously wrong?” Alito asked Prelogar.
“I think that, at the very least, the state would have to come forward with some kind of materially changed circumstance or some kind of materially new argument, and Mississippi hasn’t done so in this case,” she replied.
“Really? So suppose Plessy v. Ferguson was reargued in 1897, so nothing had changed,” Alito said, referring to the case that endorsed legal segregation by race before being overturned in 1954 by Brown v. Board of Education. “Would it not be sufficient to say that was an egregiously wrong decision on the day it was handed down and now it should be overruled?”
Kavanaugh: “Why should this court be the arbiter rather than … the people?”
Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who along with Roberts and Justice Amy Coney Barrett is considered a key vote, seemed focused on Mississippi’s argument that abortion is a matter best left to the states.
More than once Kavanaugh asked why the court is the best-suited branch of government to balance the interests of pregnant people seeking abortion against the interest of fetal life.
“Why should this court be the arbiter rather than Congress, the state legislatures, state supreme courts, the people, being able to resolve this?” he asked Prelogar. “And there’ll be different answers in Mississippi than New York, different answers in Alabama than California, because they’re two different interests at stake and the people in those states might value those interests somewhat differently.”
Many Republican officials would prefer this approach, including a dozen GOP governors who urged the justices in a friend-of-the-court brief to use the Mississippi case to eliminate federal abortion protections and let states regulate the procedure. In fact, the 2018 Mississippi law, which has been paused during litigation, is just one of hundreds of abortion measures that state legislatures passed in recent years.
Barrett: “Stare decisis … is obviously the core of this case.”
One of the overarching themes in the case is “stare decisis,” the legal doctrine that generally binds courts to abide by their past rulings. Strictly applied, this concept would leave the court no wiggle room to depart from Roe.
For the court’s conservatives, their specific concern seemed to center on when the court can abandon stare decisis and break with past rulings.
Barrett, probing the contours of the doctrine, said that while stare decisis was “obviously the core of this case,” it’s not an “inexorable command.” “There are some circumstances in which overruling is possible,” she said.
Sotomayor: “Will this institution survive the stench?”
Midterm elections loom over Supreme Court abortion fight
Supreme Court seems poised to consider new limits on right to abortion
Justice Sonia Sotomayor, perhaps the court’s most outspoken liberal, minced no words in describing the repercussions if the court were to uphold Mississippi’s controversial 15-week abortion ban.
She suggested the court would be perceived as highly politicized were it to overrule or seriously undermine Roe because such a decision would be viewed as merely a reflection of the court’s new lopsided 6-3 conservative majority.
“Will this institution survive the stench that this creates in the public perception that the Constitution and its reading are just political acts?” she asked Mississippi’s solicitor general. “I don’t see how it is possible.”December 2, 2021 at 1:21 am #1204619028
First US omicron case detected in California
BY NATHANIEL WEIXEL AND MORGAN CHALFANT 12/01/21 01:58 PM EST
The U.S. has detected the nation’s first case of the omicron variant of the coronavirus in California, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said Wednesday.
The individual is a fully vaccinated San Francisco resident who returned from South Africa on November 22, the CDC said. The person had mild symptoms, which are improving, and is self-quarantining.
All close contacts have also tested negative, the CDC added.
During a press briefing shortly after the case was disclosed, chief White House medical adviser Anthony Fauci urged Americans to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and said that those who are eligible should get their booster shots, describing the vaccines as the best protection against the virus and the omicron variant.
“We know what we need to do to protect people,” Fauci told reporters while encouraging Americans to wear masks in congregate settings to prevent the spread of the virus.
“[T]he fact is that people should wind up getting vaccinated and boosted if they’re eligible for a boost. I keep coming back to that because that’s really the solution to this problem,” Fauci said.
He said the infected individual had not received a booster.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki also told reporters that President Biden has been briefed on the omicron variant, noting that he meets with his medical team on a daily basis. Biden is slated on Thursday to outline plans to combat the coronavirus, and particularly the omicron and delta variants, during the winter months.
The person entered the U.S. four days before South Africa announced the discovery of the variant, and tested positive on Nov. 29, the same day the Biden administration’s ban on travelers from eight African countries took effect.
The ban has come under fire from prominent health experts and former administration officials who say it is ineffective and punitive against African countries, especially as Western countries have failed to deliver needed vaccine supplies and logistics to the continent.
Fauci, however, defended the policy as necessary to buy time to better understand the new variant but said it was only temporary.
“We did struggle with that,” Fauci said on Wednesday in response to a question from a reporter for Today News Africa. “We wanted to see if we could buy time, temporarily, so I do hope that this gets sorted out and lifted before it has any significant impact on your country.”
Fauci also said he doesn’t think Americans should be doing anything differently with their lives, and emphasized the importance of the mitigation strategies that are known to be effective—getting vaccinated, masking in crowded public spaces, and physical distancing.
In a joint statement, California and San Francisco public health officials said the case was identified “thanks to California’s large-scale testing and early detection systems.”
The agencies said they are increasing testing at airports for arrivals from several countries identified by the CDC.
“We must remain vigilant against this variant, but it is not a cause for panic,” the agencies said.
It was widely expected that the variant would be detected in the U.S. It has already been identified in other countries, including the U.K. and Canada, even after many nations moved to restrict travel from southern African countries, where the first known case was discovered at the end of last week.
“As the President said last Friday, it was only a matter of time before the first case of Omicron was detected in the U.S. We are prepared to meet this challenge with science and speed,” White House COVID-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients said in a statement.
“The President’s medical team continues to believe that existing vaccines will provide some level of protection against severe illness from Omicron, and individuals who have gotten boosters have even stronger protection. As such, we urge all adults to get their booster shots and to get themselves and their kids vaccinated, if they haven’t already,” Zients continued.
Officials say it will take at least two weeks to have a better understanding of the transmissibility and severity of omicron and the degree to which vaccines protect against it.
In the meantime, the Biden administration is working with the three vaccine manufacturers to prepare for the possibility that vaccines will need to be adjusted in order to provide protection against the new variant, but any changes will take time.December 2, 2021 at 1:43 am #1204619040
Stacey Abrams launches campaign for Georgia governor
BY MAX GREENWOOD 12/01/21 03:25 PM EST
Stacey Abrams, the Democrat who came within striking distance of winning the Georgia governor’s mansion in 2018, announced on Wednesday that she would run once again to be the state’s chief executive.
Abrams has been expected for months to launch a second bid for governor. No other Democrat has entered the Georgia gubernatorial race and with Abrams’s announcement on Wednesday, it’s unlikely that any other candidate will seek the party’s nomination.
Abrams announced her campaign in a video touting her work in Georgia since her 2018 loss to Gov. Brian Kemp (R) by a scant 1.4 percentage points.
“Our values are still strong, no matter where we come from in Georgia or how long we’ve been here, we believe in this place and our people; folks who deserve to be seen and heard and have a voice,” Abrams says in the video. “Because in the end we are one Georgia.”
Unlike when she launched her first bid for governor in 2017, Abrams begins her latest campaign as a household name. She gained superstar status among Democrats in 2018 when she nearly beat Kemp and even landed on President Biden’s shortlist of potential running mates in 2020.
She has been an outspoken advocate for new federal voting rights legislation, as well as a particularly vocal critic of recent efforts by Republican-controlled state legislatures to impose new voting restrictions.
Her candidacy sets the stage for one of the most competitive governor’s races of the 2022 midterm elections. It also tees up a potential rematch with Kemp, though he’ll first have to make it through a primary of his own.
A handful of Republicans have launched primary campaigns against Kemp so far. While he has yet to draw a heavyweight challenger, former Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) is said to be considering a run for governor. If he does, Kemp could be in for a long and bruising primary campaign.
Despite Abrams’s broad popularity among Democrats and proven fundraising ability, she’s heading into the 2022 governor’s race amid a difficult political environment for her party.
Unlike in 2018 when Republicans controlled Washington, Democrats now hold the White House and majorities in both chambers of Congress. What’s more, Biden’s approval rating has plummeted in recent months and polling shows that most Americans believe the country is on the wrong track.
Antjuan Seawright, a Democratic strategist, said that those political headwinds will inevitably affect the kind of campaign Abrams will have to run if she hopes to flip the Georgia governor’s mansion next year.
“What happens upstream is going to matter downstream,” Seawright said. “There are some factors that are out of her control that she has to consider in the process.”December 3, 2021 at 2:02 am #1204622293
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Former Sen. Bob Dole dies at 98
BY CAROLINE VAKIL 12/05/21 11:49 AM EST
Former Republican Sen. Bob Dole died early Sunday at the age of 98, the Elizabeth Dole Foundation said in a statement.
“Senator Robert Joseph Dole died early this morning in his sleep. At his death, at age 98, he had served the United States of America faithfully for 79 years,” foundation said.
The former presidential candidate said earlier this year that he had been diagnosed with stage four lung cancer.
“While I certainly have some hurdles ahead, I also know that I join millions of Americans who face significant health challenges of their own,” he said in a statement in February.
Dole served as U.S. senator to Kansas between 1969 and 1996, including two stints as the Senate majority leader from 1985 to 1987 and from 1995 to 1996. Dole also went head-to-head with then-Democratic presidential candidate Bill Clinton during the 1996 election, but ultimately lost the race.
“Bob Dole never forgot where he came from,” Dole’s family said in a statement. “He embodied the integrity, humor, compassion, and unbounded work ethic of the wide open plains of his youth. He was a powerful voice for pragmatic conservatism, and it was that unique Kansan combination of attributes and values that made him such a giant of the Senate.”
“America has lost one of its heroes; our family has lost its rock. We will smile as we recall his gifted sense of humor. We will take comfort from the extraordinary moments of our lifetimes together,” his family added.
Drew Hammill, deputy chief for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), announced that she had ordered the flags at the Capitol to be flown at half-staff following the news.
Dole was a longtime storied lawmaker and well-respected Republican who had been involved in politics right up to former President Trump’s presidential campaign.
He was awarded the congressional gold medal in 2018, which was attended by lawmakers from both sides of the aisle including Trump, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), and former Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.).
“I want to thank all those who’ve said such kind words about me,” Dole said during the award ceremony. “They’re probably not true, but they were nice.”
Lawmakers and former officials started pouring in their tributes to the former Republican senator on Sunday.
“Senator Bob Dole was a truly great man who lived an extraordinary life of service to America and he will be deeply missed by all of us who had the privilege to know him…” former Vice President Mike Pence tweeted.
“Senate Republicans and the entire Senate were better off for Bob’s stewardship. But more importantly, his beloved Kansas and the entire nation reaped huge rewards from his service. Bob was a steady leader and a legislative master. He unlocked both conservative victories and big bipartisan achievements,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement.
“@SenatorDole was an American hero, a statesman of the highest order & one of the greatest legislators of all time. Most importantly, he was forever a Kansan who always put service above self. Laina & I join Kansans in holding Elizabeth, Robin, & the entire Dole family in our prayers,” Sen. Roger Marshall (R-Kansas) tweeted on Sunday.
Democrats also poured in their tributes for the World War II army service member who was hit by German ammunition in 1945, which had left him seriously wounded.
“Our deepest condolences to family and loved ones of Senator Bob Dole. Thank you for your service to our country—in combat and as a statesman,” the Arizona House Democrats tweeted.December 5, 2021 at 12:26 pm #1204628132
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David Perdue announces bid for Georgia governor, setting up primary against Kemp
BY MAX GREENWOOD 12/06/21 09:48 AM EST
Former Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) launched a challenge to Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) on Monday, setting up a primary fight between two Republican titans in one of the most competitive political battlegrounds of the 2022 election cycle.
Perdue has been weighing a bid for office ever since he lost a runoff election to Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.) in January. He ruled out another Senate bid earlier this year, but had grown more serious in recent months about challenging Kemp, a one-time ally of former President Trump who irked the former president last year after he refused to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in Georgia.
In recent weeks, Perdue has spoken with Georgia Republican leaders and donors about a gubernatorial bid. A website for Perdue’s campaign appeared online on Sunday.
Perdue announced his campaign on Monday in a video message taking direct aim at Kemp, blaming the Georgia governor for costing the GOP the state’s two Senate seats and, consequently, the party’s majority in the upper chamber.
He also accused Kemp of caving to Stacey Abrams, the voting rights activist and 2018 Democratic nominee for Georgia governor who launched another gubernatorial campaign last week.
“Look, I like Brian. This isn’t personal,” Perdue said. “It’s simple: He has failed all of us and cannot win in November. Instead of protecting our elections, he caved to Abrams and cost us two Senate seats, the Senate majority, and gave Joe Biden free reign. Think about how different it would be today if Kemp fought Abrams first instead of fighting Trump.”
He enters the GOP primary with the support of Trump, who encouraged Perdue to challenge Kemp and is expected to throw his full political weight behind the former senator’s campaign.
While Perdue’s entrance into the governor’s race is a win for Trump and his allies, it sets the stage for a potentially long and bruising primary fight that some Republicans worry will hamper them in the 2022 general election.
Democrats scored a major win last week when Stacey Abrams, the voting rights activist and 2018 nominee for Georgia governor, jumped into the gubernatorial race. She’s the only Democrat to have entered the contest, and she’s expected to face a glide path to the nomination next year.
Perdue also homed in on Abrams in his announcement video on Monday, casting his campaign as a direct effort to prevent Abrams from taking the Georgia governor’s mansion.
“I’m David Perdue. I’m running for governor to make sure Stacey Abrams is never governor of Georgia,” he said. “Make no mistake, Abrams will smile, lie, and cheat to transform Georgia into her radical vision of a state that would look more like California or New York.”
A former Republican stronghold, Georgia has become a key battleground in recent years. Abrams came within 1.5 percentage points of winning the governor’s mansion in 2018, while 2020 saw President Biden become the first Democratic presidential candidate since 1992 to win the state.
Democrats scored another pair of wins in January, when Ossoff and Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) emerged victorious from two runoff elections that effectively handed Democrats control of the Senate.
Republicans are eager to regain ground in Georgia next year, when Warnock will face election to his first full term in the Senate. Former NFL star Herschel Walker is running to unseat Warnock and already has the backing of Trump.
But the governor’s race is likely to draw particular attention. For one, Abrams is a superstar among Democrats and commands a following both in Georgia and nationally. What’s more, the primary contest between Kemp and Perdue is expected to act as a stress test for Republicans ahead of a contentious general election against Abrams.
While Democrats see Abrams as offering them their best shot at capturing the Georgia governor’s mansion, the party also faces strong headwinds in 2022, given that midterm elections are typically seen as a referendum on the party in power.
Democrats went on the offensive against Perdue on Monday, casting the GOP nominating contest as a “messy, race-to-the-right gubernatorial primary.”
“Republicans like Brian Kemp and David Perdue have failed Georgians at every level of leadership, and voters can clearly see that the GOP has no real ideas to help working families or move Georgia forward–just conspiracy theories and divisiveness,” Scott Hogan, the executive director of the Georgia Democratic Party, said in a statement.December 9, 2021 at 4:00 pm #1204640860
Senate passes bill to avoid filibuster on debt ceiling hike
BY JORDAIN CARNEY 12/09/21 06:32 PM EST
The Senate on Thursday voted to approve a one-time exemption to the filibuster on raising the debt ceiling, capping off a months-long fight over the nation’s borrowing limit.
Senators voted 59-35 on the legislation, which also prevents cuts to Medicare. Ten GOP senators voted with Democrats to pass the legislation. GOP Sens. Joni Ernst (Iowa) and Roger Wicker (Miss.), who helped advance the bill earlier, voted against it on Thursday night.
The bill cleared the House earlier this week and now goes to President Biden’s desk.
Once he signs it, Democrats will be able to bring up and pass a debt ceiling increase with only a simple majority, instead of the normal 60 votes needed for most legislation.
“This is the responsible path forward. No brinkmanship, no default on the debt, no risk of another recession. We still have a few more steps to take before we completely resolve this matter, but I’m optimistic that after today’s vote we’ll be on a glide path to avoid a catastrophic default,” Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on Thursday.
Democrats haven’t yet said how much they will increase the nation’s borrowing limit but they will need to specify a number in the debt ceiling bill.
Democrats are expected to pass the debt ceiling bill before Dec. 15, when Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has told Congress they need to act in order to keep the government solvent.
Under the agreement struck by Schumer and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), and passed on Thursday, the Senate will need to have up to 10 hours of debate before they can pass legislation to increase the debt ceiling.
Democrats will need to pass the debt ceiling hike on their own, with no Republicans expected to support the legislation next week.
The vote will take a massive item off the end-of-year to do list. Congress funded the government last week and still needs to pass a sweeping defense policy bill. Democrats also want to pass Biden’s climate and social spending bill by Christmas, though they are still deep in talks with each other and the Senate parliamentarian.
But Thursday’s vote largely brings the debt ceiling drama to an end.
Congress initially passed a short-term debt ceiling hike in early October after a months-long bitter fight between McConnell and Schumer. And McConnell vowed in a letter to Biden sent a day after the October vote that “I will not provide such assistance again if your all-Democrat government drifts into another avoidable crisis.”
But the two took a markedly different tone heading into the December debt ceiling fight.
Sources told The Hill shortly before Christmas that the two leaders were holding talks and they soon held a rare in-person meeting in Schumer’s office.
Schumer and McConnell kept a tight lid on their negotiations, with even close McConnell allies and members of his leadership team telling The Hill that they had little insight into the talks.
The talks weren’t without hiccups. An initial trial balloon floated to tie the debt ceiling increase to a sweeping defense bill quickly hit steep headwinds with House leadership and Senate Republicans batting it down. House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) left a meeting with McConnell and told reporters that he didn’t think that the idea would pass muster.
And McConnell faced pushback from former President Trump — who blasted him saying the “old crow,” his preferred nickname for the GOP leader, “is a disaster.”
Conservatives in his caucus pushed back privately during back-to-back closed-door lunches and publicly, arguing that the deal was lose-lose for Republicans because they were either at risk of being seen as helping Democrats on the debt ceiling or, if they vote, opening themselves up to attacks accusing them of supporting cuts to Medicare.
“I think it was a mistake,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said of the agreement between Schumer and McConnell.
But in the end McConnell was able to get a slight uptick in GOP support for the deal compared to the October vote. Fourteen GOP senators helped advance the debt limit deal earlier Thursday compared to 11 in October.
GOP Sens. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) each helped advance the bill earlier Thursday after voting no in October. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) also voted yes on the procedural hurdle after missing October’s vote.
“I don’t like the position that we’re in. I don’t like the deal that’s been done. But that’s the only deal we have in front of us,” Romney said. “We have to raise the debt limit and I don’t want to cut Medicare.”December 14, 2021 at 12:43 pm #1204655723
Mark Meadows moves to center of Jan. 6 probe
BY SCOTT WONG AND MIKE LILLIS 12/14/21 06:00 AM EST
As House investigators charge ahead with their probe into the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, their focus has shifted to a contentious former colleague they increasingly see as a crucial witness: Mark Meadows.
Former President Trump’s ex-chief of staff, Meadows turned over thousands of text messages, emails and other correspondences—sent and received by GOP lawmakers, Trump family members, and Jan. 6 organizers—that have illuminated behind-the-scenes events before and during the deadly insurrection.
Those messages included shocking pleas from Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump, Jr., and leading conservative superstars at Fox News, all of whom were texting Meadows during the Capitol siege in hopes he could convince the president to talk the rioters into leaving the building peacefully—an explosive disclosure that was publicized only Monday night by the select committee investigating the attack.
The trove of documents, delivered to the select committee in recent weeks, reveals that Meadows played a pivotal role in the planning of the failed effort by some Trump supporters to overturn the results of President Biden’s election victory, either through Congress or other means.
Yet Meadows, a former House lawmaker from North Carolina, has refused to appear before the panel to discuss those communications. And he’s also declined to submit any documents related to his correspondences with Trump himself, citing the executive privilege powers of the former president. That stonewalling has created plenty of holes in the narrative of Jan. 6, particularly when it comes to Trump’s actions—gaps the investigators want filled in as soon as possible.
“As the White House chief of staff, he was communicating with members of Congress, with members of the press, with the president’s family directly on the 6th; he was communicating with the organizers,” said a congressional source familiar with the Jan. 6 probe.
“If you want to know what Trump was doing as the Capitol was under attack, you have to understand what was happening at the White House, what Mark Meadows was doing, who he was communicating with, and what he was telling Donald Trump.”
Though Meadows has volunteered reams of information to investigators, the special Jan. 6 panel on Monday night voted to recommend that he be held in contempt of Congress for refusing to testify before the panel. That sets up a vote by the full House on Tuesday to refer Meadows to the Justice Department for prosecution, making him the second member of Trump’s inner circle under threat of criminal charges for noncooperation, after Stephen Bannon was found in contempt in October.
Meadows is no stranger to controversy. The former four-term Tea Party lawmaker arrived in Congress in 2013 and quickly built a reputation as a conservative firebrand willing to challenge his own leadership. As a leader of the far-right House Freedom Caucus, he helped to send then-Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) into an early retirement in 2015, then fought successfully to block Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), the House minority leader, from succeeding him.
Meadows is fond of saying that he’s always calculating his next move, a strategy he’s likened to playing “10-dimensional chess.” In Congress, his sharp-elbowed tactics—and his devotion to Trump—won him praise from fellow Trump loyalists and ultimately landed him a job in the West Wing as Trump’s right-hand man.
But he has infuriated Democrats, the Republican brass and more moderate lawmakers in the GOP, who characterize him as an unscrupulous operator hell-bent on advancing his own personal interests at the expense of anyone who stands in his way.
A 51-page report released Sunday by the select House committee investigating the Capitol attack uncovered a host of details about Meadow’s actions on and around Jan. 6, revealing that he was on the front lines of the campaign to keep Trump in office against the wishes of voters. Among the most striking revelations:
• One email from Jan. 5 revealed that Meadows wanted to call up the National Guard, not to protect members of Congress but to “protect pro Trump people” protesting the election results.
• Meadows received text messages and emails about a push to encourage GOP state legislators to send to Congress alternate slates of electors who favored Trump over Biden. One member of Congress called the plan “highly controversial”; Meadows responded: “I love it.”
• The documents show Meadows used personal Gmail accounts, a Signal account and a personal cellphone to conduct official business as White House chief of staff. The Jan. 6 panel said it would have asked Meadows about emails to Justice Department leaders from Dec. 29 to Jan. 1 encouraging probes of suspected voter fraud, claims that had been rejected by federal investigators and the courts.
• Meadows traveled to Georgia to observe an audit of the votes, a trip that the Jan. 6 panel says precipitated Trump’s call to the Georgia secretary of state directing him to find enough votes to put him ahead of Biden. Meadows participated in the call.
• On Dec. 12, Meadows sent and received text messages from a prominent media personality about the negative impact of Trump’s election challenges on the Senate runoff elections in Georgia, as well as Meadows’s possible employment by a news network.
“Mr. Meadows has shown his willingness to talk about issues related to the Select Committee’s investigation across a variety of media platforms—anywhere, it seems, except to the Select Committee,” the Jan. 6 panel wrote in its report.
The Jan. 6 panel is also poring over a 38-page PowerPoint presentation that detailed “Options for 6 JAN” and was circulated by Phil Waldron, a retired Army colonel who was working with Trump aides to promote debunked voter fraud claims. That presentation made its way to Meadows’s email box on Jan. 5, days after Waldron met with Meadows at the White House.
One of those options was for Trump to declare a national security emergency and seize paper ballots. Waldron told The Washington Post he met with Meadows “maybe eight to 10 times” before the Jan. 6 riot; Meadows’s attorney George Terwilliger say he doesn’t believe his client did anything with the PowerPoint.
And in a seven-page letter to the Jan. 6 committee on Monday, Terwilliger argued that executive privilege covers former executive branch officials and that Congress’s criminal referral of Meadows would be “contrary to law” and precedent.
“Mr. Meadows’s choice to decline a deposition is an attempt to comply with his legal obligations as a former advisor to the president. History and the law teach that this attempt is not a crime,” Terwilliger wrote to the committee.December 18, 2021 at 4:07 am #1204664079
Trump Admin Sabotaged COVID Efforts to Score Political Points, House Probe Finds
Updated Dec. 17, 2021 3:31PM ET Published Dec. 17, 2021 2:23PM ET
Decisions made by Trump officials “contributed to one of the worst failures of leadership in American history,” the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis said.
A House oversight panel found former President Donald Trump and his administration routinely undermined efforts to fight the coronavirus pandemic last year, prolonging a deadly public health disaster in the hopes of winning an election he eventually lost.
The conclusion was part of a 46-page report released Friday by the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis. The report collated documents that had largely been released in the preceding months, including documents showing that the Trump administration prevented public officials from giving public briefings on the virus and attempted to play down the importance of testing.
But it also showed the Trump administration’s malfeasance throughout the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic in new ways, including the ways they infuriated public health officials who felt they couldn’t do their jobs.
Dr. Jay Butler, the deputy director for infectious diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), told the panel how he felt the directive to change mask guidance for churchgoers in May 2020 may have put them at unnecessary risk. He wrote in one email that he felt “very troubled … that there will be people who will get sick and perhaps die because of what we were forced to do.”
The beleaguered COVID-19 response coordinator, Dr. Deborah Birx, also attempted to express her frustration with the administration’s lack of effort. She said she refused to participate in a meeting with a “fringe groups” of officials who pushed the idea of herd immunity.
“These are people who believe that all the curves are predetermined and mitigation is irrelevant—they are a fringe group without grounding in epidemics, public health or on the ground common sense experience,” she wrote in an August 2020 email to Marc Short, the then-chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence. “I am happy to go out of town or whatever gives the WH cover.”
Birx also told the committee that Dr. Scott Atlas, the conspiracy theorist turned Trump adviser, worked to change guidance to avoid testing asymptomatic individuals exposed to COVID-19—even though it contradicted the science surrounding the virus.
The committee said these and other examples proved the Trump administration placed a heightened focus on its policies’ political impact over public health effects, resulting in a “pattern of political interference” that put lives in jeopardy. More than 800,000 Americans have died of COVID-19.
“These decisions placed countless American lives at risk, undermined the nation’s public health institutions, and contributed to one of the worst failures of leadership in American history,” it wrote.December 18, 2021 at 4:35 am #1204664088
Shark Proteins Can Act as Antibodies Against COVID and Its Variants
Neel V. Patel
Senior Editor, Science & Innovation
Updated Dec. 17, 2021 11:21AM ET Published Dec. 17, 2021 10:43AM ET
They might even be able stop future coronaviruses from igniting another pandemic.
Turns out the most COVID-free place on the planet might just be shark-infested waters. In new findings published in Nature Communications, researchers say they have discovered that a protein unique to sharks is able to neutralize the COVID-19 virus and its variants. “These small antibody-like proteins can get into nooks and crannies that human antibodies cannot access,” Aaron LeBeau, a pathologist from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a co-author of the new study, said in a statement. “They can form these very unique geometries. This allows them to recognize structures in [coronavirus] proteins that our human antibodies cannot.”
The proteins, called VNARs, are produced by shark immune systems naturally. They’re about one-tenth of the size of human antibodies, making them small and nimble enough to edge their way into binding with proteins produced by infectious pathogens and halting their function.
LeBeau and his team tested the antibody function of shark VNARs against infectious and non-infectious versions of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19). Out of billions of VNARs, they found three that were especially effective at stopping the virus from infecting human cells.
One version in particular, called 3B4, is able to attach on a viral spike protein that is common across different types of coronaviruses and different SARS-CoV-2 variants, like Delta. This mechanism meant 3B4 was highly successful in neutralizing other coronaviruses in the lab, including WIV1-CoV (which is endemic to bats but can also infect human cells, and is thought to be the origin of SARS-CoV-2), SARS-CoV-1 (responsible for the SARS outbreak in 2003), and the MERS virus.
VNARs haven’t been tested in humans yet, and it’s unlikely that clinical trials will be completed in time to make VNARs available to fight the current COVID pandemic (though at the rate things are going, never say never). More likely, the authors emphasized, VNARs could be turned into a tool to combat future coronavirus outbreaks in humans and stop a new pandemic from forming. It could be quite easy and affordable to make a cocktail of multiple shark VNARS and deploy it as an early treatment, especially if a vaccine isn’t available.
“The big issue is there are a number of coronaviruses that are poised for emergence in humans,” said LeBeau. “What we’re doing is preparing an arsenal of shark VNAR therapeutics that could be used down the road for future SARS outbreaks. It’s a kind of insurance against the future.”December 19, 2021 at 6:45 pm #1204667643
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Biden announces free tests and defends the White House response as COVID cases surge
Updated December 21, 2021 4:52 PM ET
JACLYN DIAZ | BRIAN NAYLOR | NPR
President Biden told Americans that he understands “how tired, worried, and frustrated you are” about the latest COVID-19 case surge in the U.S. and announced several new steps to deal with the highly contagious omicron variant.
Most notably, the government plans to buy a half-billion at-home COVID test kits and mail them to people who want them, with deliveries beginning in January.
Biden defended his administration’s performance in dealing with the fast-spreading variant against criticism the White House had not acted quickly enough. The administration’s response, Biden said “was not a failure,” and he asserted that “I don’t think anybody anticipated it would spread as rapidly as it did.”
The president also sought to reassure Americans that despite the latest wave of the virus, the nation is better off than it was last March.
“This is not March of 2020. Two hundred million people are fully vaccinated. We’re prepared. We know more,” he said.
Biden also said he was “considering” reversing the travel ban he imposed on South Africa and other southern African nations after the omicron variant began spreading. “I’m going to talk to my team in the next couple days,” Biden said.
Responding to a question, Biden said that the administration imposed the ban “to see how much time we had before it hit here so we could begin to decide what we needed by looking at what was happening in other countries.”
Biden said “we’re past that now, and so it’s something that’s being raised with me by the docs and I’ll have an answer for that soon.”
Biden said that the ability to fight off the omicron variant largely rests on people getting vaccinated and he blasted those spreading misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines on social media and cable TV.
“We should all be concerned about omicron, but not panic,” he said.
To those wondering if they can safely celebrate the holidays with family and friends, Biden said, “The answer is yes, you can”—as long as everyone has been vaccinated. And he said those who have not gotten boosters and are eligible should do so. He received the booster, he said, and he pointed to comments by former President Trump that he, too, had been boosted.
“May be one of the few things he and I agree on,” Biden said.
Biden did not announce new restrictions on schools or businesses, but he defended his mandate that large employers require workers to get vaccinated or tested, or face dismissal.
Biden also announced new federal testing sites across the country, including some in New York City that will open before Christmas. And in January, the government will also start a website where people can order at-home tests to be delivered for free. This will augment plans announced earlier this month to require private insurance companies to reimburse people for the tests.
Biden will also continue using the Defense Production Act and other powers to make sure the U.S. is producing as many tests as quickly as possible.
These are all steps the administration should have made a while ago, said Dr. Robert M. Wachter, a professor and chairman of the Department of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco.
Testing will only become more important as the U.S. continues to power through this surge, Wachter told NPR.
“It just needs to be freely available in the same way that vaccines have been,” he said of COVID-19 tests. “So that part is great. But because they are just starting now, it’s going to be a little bit late.”
Wachter said it will take some time for the government to gear up production and mail them out.
“Omicron is going to peak by mid-January, so it may miss a fair amount of this surge,” he said. “But better late than never. We have no idea how long this surge will last. This surge could go on for a couple of months.”
Dr. Carlos del Rio, the executive associate dean of the Emory School of Medicine & Grady Health System, calls the move “a step in the right direction,” but warns that it falls short.
He also insists that the U.S. needs a nationwide mask mandate.
Like other physicians contacted by NPR, Dr. Leana Wen doesn’t think 500 million tests will be enough.
“Half a billion, though impressive-sounding, does not come even close to what’s needed,” she says.
Wen, an emergency physician and professor of health policy and management at George Washington University, says the Biden administration needs to provide enough tests “for all American families to be able to test twice a week, every week.”
“It needs to become the norm to test before going to school and work, and before families and friends have dinner together,” she says.
As part of this multipronged effort, the Federal Emergency Management Agency is deploying planning officials to assess needs across the country and preposition supplies like masks, gloves, and ventilators.
The president also announced that FEMA is standing up new pop-up vaccination clinics across the country. There are plans so far for a new mobile unit in Washington, D.C., and four new mobile units across New Mexico. FEMA will help set up additional sites in areas of high demand over the coming weeks.
And Biden said the government will beef up support for hospitals seeing high numbers of unvaccinated people who get sick from COVID.
The government will send ambulances and EMS workers to hot spots to help move people to places where there are open beds. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will mobilize 1,000 doctors, nurses, medics and other military medical personnel to deploy to hospitals in January and February.
For Wachter, this number of medical personnel feels like a “drop in the bucket.”
“Starting with that number will be fine, but if it turns out to be woefully inaccurate, then everyone will be scrambling,” he said. “It’s going to be a bit of a free-for-all to figure out how we staff hospitals. If this hits hard, I doubt this will suffice.”
The U.S.’s hard-hit areas will get a proper sense of what is needed in terms of additional medical personnel in a week or two, Wachter said.
“It may be that number will need to be 5,000 to 10,000,” he said. “The question is whether the number will be there.”December 22, 2021 at 3:44 am #1204673186
News & Politics Thread (Part 5) – GoldDerby – Page 32
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Ex-officer Kim Potter found guilty in fatal shooting of Daunte Wright
BY CAROLINE VAKIL 12/23/21 02:32 PM EST
Kim Potter, the former Brooklyn Center, Minn., police officer who fatally shot 20-year-old Daunte Wright earlier this year after shouting “Taser,” on Thursday was found guilty of first- and second-degree manslaughter.
Judge Regina Chu required that Potter be taken into custody and held without bail. Potter’s sentencing date was set for Feb. 18.
Officers said they pulled Wright over in April after noticing that he had been driving with an expired tag and an air freshener illegally hanging from his rearview mirror. Officers tried to arrest him after learning that there was a warrant out for his arrest regarding a misdemeanor weapons violation.
Wright reportedly struggled against officers who tried to get him out of the car. Potter could be heard saying “Taser” in body camera footage while brandishing her gun toward him. Potter could later be heard saying “I just shot him” after the 20-year-old drove away.
Shortly after the fatal shooting, Potter resigned from the Minnesota police department.
Potter took the witness stand last week, breaking down at one point and saying “I’m sorry” as she was being cross-examined by prosecutors.
She said she had made a mistake and had sought to use her stun gun against Wright instead of her gun. The defense team claimed that an officer could have been dragged by Wright’s car, saying Potter would have been within her rights to use such force.
A use-of-force expert testifying for the prosecution argued otherwise during the trial.
“The use of deadly force was not appropriate and the evidence suggests a reasonable officer in Officer Potter’s position could not have believed it was proportional to the threat at the time,” University of South Carolina School of Law professor Seth Stoughton said on the stand.
The trial was also emotional for the family of Wright, whose father reminisced about his son and noted their close relationship.
“He was me and my wife’s first child,” Arbuey Wright said during emotional testimony on Wednesday, USA Today reported.
“I miss him a lot. Every day.”Not now
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