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News & Politics Thread (Part 6)

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    Trump heads for big rebuke in Tuesday’s elections
    Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp has been leading in primary polls against Trump-endorsed David Perdue.
    by STEVEN SHEPARD, Politico
    05/24/2022 04:30 AM EDT

    BK

    Donald Trump wants Georgia Republicans to ditch their governor on Tuesday.

    If the polls are even remotely in the right ballpark, they’re about to tell Trump to take a hike.

    The Republican base is poised to take a turn delivering Trump a stinging rebuke in a state where, during his presidency, the GOP lost two Senate seats, two House seats and the state’s Electoral College votes for the first time since the mid-1990s.

    Since that 2020 defeat, Trump has trained his sights on GOP Gov. Brian Kemp, blaming Kemp for certifying instead of subverting the results of that election after multiple recounts. Trump recruited former Sen. David Perdue, whose 2021 runoff election loss was declared by news organizations amid news coverage of the ongoing Jan. 6 Capitol riot, to challenge Kemp. But the incumbent has led throughout the race, including final polls showing him easily clearing the 50-percent mark needed to win without a runoff.

    Trump could suffer another defeat, of sorts, in Alabama—where his one-time ally, Rep. Mo Brooks, is making a late charge to get into a Senate primary runoff with frontrunner Katie Britt, even after Trump left Brooks for dead earlier this spring.

    And Democrats have important and fractious primaries of their own on Tuesday: one in South Texas, where the last anti-abortion-rights Democrat in Congress was dragged into a runoff by a liberal primary challenger, and another between the two women who flipped Georgia’s House seats in the past two elections.

    Kemp and Perdue haven’t agreed on much during their primary, but they’ve seen eye-to-eye on this: The most important thing for Republican voters is to stop Stacey Abrams from winning the governorship.

    Each has framed his campaign around it: Perdue has said that Kemp can’t win a rematch with Abrams without the Trump base. Kemp’s allies, meanwhile, ridicule Perdue for his loss to Jon Ossoff last year and say the GOP’s best bet is the man who already beat Abrams four years ago.

    It’s a striking realization of Georgia’s continued move toward Democrats—a drift Republicans hope will stop amid a favorable national environment for the GOP. It’s one reason Trump’s orbit and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s political operation have united behind former football star Herschel Walker in the Georgia Senate race: the likelihood of a close election in November against Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock.

    Walker is the heavy favorite in his primary on Tuesday, despite his opponents litigating some of his past scandals: accusations of domestic violence and a business record that doesn’t match some of Walker’s heady claims. But watch his percentage on Tuesday night: Even though he is virtually certain to win the nomination, a middling percentage could suggest the hits on Walker moved the needle.

    By contrast, a dominant vote for Walker could mean Republican primary voters were willing to look past some of the attacks—and, by litigating them in a primary, it may have inoculated Walker before Warnock and Democrats try to tackle him in the general election.

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    18 children, 3 adults dead in Texas school shooting
    BY LEXI LONAS, CAROLINE VAKIL, AND MONIQUE BEALS 05/24/22 3:54 PM ET

    UVS

    The death toll from a shooting at a Texas elementary school has risen to 18 children and 3 adults, according to a state senator.

    Sen. Roland Gutierrez told The Associated Press that he got the information from a briefing with state police.

    Earlier on Tuesday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott identified the suspected shooter as 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, who was believed to have entered Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, with a handgun, as well as possibly a rifle.

    “He shot and killed—horrifically, incomprehensibly—14 students, and killed a teacher,” Abbott said at the time, adding that the shooter himself “is deceased and is believed that responding officers killed him.”

    The reported death toll makes Tuesday’s shooting the deadliest school shooting since the one that took place at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., in 2018.

    Uvalde Memorial Hospital had said earlier on Facebook shortly before 3 p.m. local time that two individuals had died as part of a group of more than a dozen children taken to a hospital after the shooting at the school, about 85 miles west of San Antonio.

    The ages and identities of those who died was not immediately released.

    Uvalde has a population of roughly 15,000 people, over 80 percent of which are Hispanic and roughly 21 percent who live under the poverty line, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

    White House communications director Kate Bedingfield said over Twitter that President Biden had been in contact with Abbott over the shooting.” President Biden just spoke with Governor Abbott to offer any and all assistance he needs in the wake of the horrific shooting in Uvalde, TX,” she tweeted.

    The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) also said Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas had been briefed on the situation.

    The school went into lockdown earlier Tuesday, saying there was an active shooter on the premises. Parents were allowed to pick up their children from a reunification center.

    During a brief press conference on Tuesday, Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District Chief of Police Pete Arredondo said that the shooting took place at approximately 11:32 a.m. at the elementary school, which has students in the second, third and fourth grades.

    “I can confirm right now that we have several injuries, adults and students, and we do have some deaths. The suspect is deceased,” Arredondo said, adding more information would be released as the investigation continues.

    He also noted that, at this point in the investigation, it appeared the shooter acted alone.

    Some Texas lawmakers said they were monitoring the situation.

    “Heidi & I are fervently lifting up in prayer the children and families in the horrific shooting in Uvalde. We are in close contact with local officials, but the precise details are still unfolding. Thank you to heroic law enforcement & first responders for acting so swiftly,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) tweeted.

    “This is a horrific & heartbreaking situation,” Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan (R) tweeted. “Please pray for the students, teachers, families and everyone else involved.”

    The development comes just several days before the National Rifle Association (NRA) is set to hold meetings this weekend in Houston beginning Friday, which include guests like Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and John Cornyn (R-Texas), former President Trump and Abbott.

    The Hill has reached out to Uvalde Police Department for further comment.

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    McCormick concedes to Oz in Pennsylvania Senate GOP primary
    BY TAL AXELROD AND CAROLINE VAKIL 06/03/22 6:44 PM ET

    MCOZ

    Businessman David McCormick has conceded to rival Mehmet Oz in the Republican Senate primary in Pennsylvania, capping off a confusing and narrowly divided process.

    McCormick said during a media availability on Friday that he had “came so close” on election night and had spent more than two weeks “making sure that every Republican vote was counted in a way that would result in the will of Pennsylvanian voters being fulfilled” after a recount was called with Oz leading by fewer than 1,000 votes.

    “But it’s now clear to me, with the recount largely complete, that we have a nominee. And today I called Mehmet Oz to congratulate him on his victory,” he said. “And I told him what I always said to you—that I will do my part to try to unite Republicans and Pennsylvanians behind his candidacy, behind his nomination for the Senate.”

    In a brief Twitter thread, Oz confirmed that McCormick had called him and said he was “tremendously grateful” for his support.

    “Now that our primary is over, we will make sure that this U.S. Senate seat does not fall into the hands of the radical left, led by John Fetterman,” he wrote.

    “I look forward to campaigning in every corner of the Commonwealth for the next five months to earn the support of every Pennsylvanian,” Oz added.

    The surprise concession comes after Pennsylvania acting Secretary of State Leigh Chapman last week ordered a recount in the race with Oz and McCormick divided by just 902 votes, or roughly 0.1 percentage points.

    The recount was to be finished by June 7, and the results were to be released the following day. However, McCormick said he didn’t need to wait to see the final results.

    The former hedge fund manager instead turned focus to the general election, in which Oz will be facing off against Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (D), who is currently recovering from a stroke, in one of the most pivotal Senate races this year.

    “It is so important that we beat John Fetterman, and it’s so important for the country that we take back the Senate in 2022. So [Oz] has my full support,” he said.

    Fetterman took the announcement as an opportunity to take a jab at Oz over his Pennsylvania residency.

    “<checks notes> I ACTUALLY LIVE IN PENNSYLVANIA!!!” Fetterman tweeted with a photo of Oz posing next to his Walk of Fame star and referred to him as “New Jersey’s Dr. Oz.”

    The show of unity marks a stark contrast to much of the campaign since the two candidates jumped into the field earlier this year.

    McCormick and Oz swiftly became the two primary front-runners due largely to the massive amounts of their own money they dumped into boosting their candidacies.

    McCormick, who is from Pennsylvania but lived in Connecticut until recently, made Oz’s ties to Turkey and thin connection to the Keystone State a prominent attack line, while Oz responded by hammering McCormick’s ties to Wall Street and his old hedge fund’s links to China.

    The personal back-and-forth became so bitter that it opened up a lane for conservative commentator Kathy Barnette to surge in the late stages of the primary, though she ultimately came in third place.

    The development marks a major win for former President Trump, who offered his endorsement to Oz in a surprise announcement in April. Trump after the primary urged the celebrity doctor to say he had won despite the fact that votes were still being counted at the time.

    Oz’s win is only more significant for Trump given the recent hits the former president’s brand took during the May primaries, with his chosen candidates in the Georgia and Nebraska GOP gubernatorial primaries as well as some House primaries falling short.

    The race to replace retiring Sen. Pat Toomey (R) is anticipated to be among the most expensive and heavily fought of the entire cycle, and both parties immediately began ramping up their general election messaging.

    Republicans began falling in line behind Oz following McCormick’s announcement, with the Senate Leadership Fund, the Senate GOP’s top super PAC, touting his presence on television as a longtime talk show host—and reminding journalists in a press release of its previous reservation of $24 million in Pennsylvania advertising time beginning this fall.

    “Dr. Oz became a household name because families across America trust his empathetic approach to their health. Now entering a new arena, Oz is bringing that same bedside manner to earn the vote of Pennsylvanians across the Commonwealth,” said Senate Leadership Fund President Steven Law. “It’s why Dr. Oz will make an excellent U.S. Senator, and we will be there every step of the way making that case to the voters of Pennsylvania.”

    Democrats, for their part, seized on McCormick’s concession, tying Oz to Trump and highlighting past claims that the doctor has pushed questionable diet supplements and other remedies.

    “Mehmet Oz is a fraud and a scam artist who will do, say and sell anything to help himself—no matter who gets hurt. He’s been called out as ‘a quack and a fake and a charlatan’ whose bogus claims ‘endanger patients.’ He is a different, more dangerous kind of Republican: he wants to make abortion illegal and has pushed Donald Trump’s Big Lie about the 2020 election,” said Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesperson Patrick Burgwinkle.

    “A self-serving millionaire with no real connection to the Commonwealth, Pennsylvania voters will send him back to Hollywood in November.”

    Meanwhile, Fetterman is continuing to recover from a stroke he suffered last month and said in a statement released earlier on Friday that he “almost died.” He also disclosed a previous heart condition in 2017, all this with just months left before the November general election.

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    Democrats frustrated by flat-footed White House
    BY AMIE PARNES AND MORGAN CHALFANT 06/08/22 5:15 AM ET

    JB

    Democrats are growing increasingly frustrated by what they say is a flat-footed White House that is slow to catch up on solving a seemingly never-ending cascade of problems in the face of an unrelenting news cycle.

    They point to the recent baby formula shortage as the latest example of how President Biden has failed to get ahead of the story, allowing Republicans to set the narrative as yet another failure for the White House. But they also highlighted Biden’s lag on other issues at the top of voter’s minds: inflation and gas prices.

    Democrats were also miffed when the White House was caught off guard when a federal judge in Florida lifted the mask mandate on airlines in April and also when a leaked draft of the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade was made public, even though both were events that surprised Washington more broadly — not just the White House.

    “It’s really simple: ‘Be the f—ing president!,” said one Democratic strategist frustrated by the administration. “I realize it’s tough and you’re drinking out of a fire hose every single day, but there are things you can do to control the public perception and they haven’t done any of that.”

    Democratic strategist Christy Setzer said the White House has shown some naivete in recent months in trying to control the message.

    “It may come down to not understanding what they’re up against—both the media environment and today’s GOP,” Setzer said. “Biden did speak out on guns, on baby formula, on inflation … but the traditional tactics aren’t breaking through, and it doesn’t seem as though they’re taking in that information, re-trenching, and trying new approaches when it’s falling flat.”

    The White House routinely defends Biden and the administration’s response to the baby formula shortage, highlighting his invoking of the Defense Production Act to have baby formula flown into the U.S. at least five times in recent weeks.

    “The President has led with urgency and solutions needed to deliver for American families due to Abbott’s recall,” a White House official said.

    Speaking to reporters during a briefing last week, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre acknowledged that Biden is juggling “multiple crises” at one time.

    Biden’s polling numbers began to fall last August, around the time he withdrew the last military forces out of Afghanistan after 20 years of war. The chaotic and deadly U.S. exit, marked by the Taliban’s swift and sudden takeover of Kabul, was labeled by both Democrats and Republicans as poorly executed. It was compounded by a terrorist bombing that took the lives of 13 American service members.

    Biden hasn’t recovered since.

    Most polls have Biden’s approval rating stuck in the low 40s. A Reuters-Ipsos poll released last week showed that Biden’s approval rating had jumped up 6 points to 42 percent from a record low the previous week.

    After Biden delivered his prime-time address calling for congressional action on an assault weapons ban and other reforms following the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, Democrats—who praised the tone and tenor of the speech—criticized the timing.

    “It should have been done sooner,” one strategist said. “It felt like it was too late by the time he’d delivered the speech. The moment was already passing.”

    Biden did deliver a speech the night of the shooting after returning from the White House from a multiday trip to Asia, but it was less focused on pushing for specific legislative actions and more about pleading with the public to find an end to mass shootings devastating the country.

    The Biden White House is no stranger to crises. The president came into office with the primary goal of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, a response that has broadly been commended by health experts, particularly when it came to effectively distributing the vaccine to the general public.

    Larry Gostin, a public health law professor at Georgetown University, said the White House’s recent hiring of Ashish Jha as Biden’s new COVID-19 coordinator was a “really smart move” and credited him with his ability to speak to the public.

    But other problems have piled up on Biden’s desk since his first day in office, many of them as difficult as inflation and gun violence, over which the president has limited control.

    The nationwide baby formula shortage stemming from the February closure of an Abbott Nutrition factory is the latest acute crisis to test the White House. In response, Biden has invoked the Defense Production Act to boost domestic production of formula and authorize military flights to transport formula from overseas.

    But Biden himself took attention off those moves when he acknowledged last week in an exchange with reporters that he wasn’t aware of the severity of the baby formula shortage until early April—weeks after the Abbott plant in Michigan was shuttered due to safety concerns and after Americans were already facing empty store shelves.

    “My jaw really dropped,” said William Galston, chairman of the governance studies program at the Brookings Institution. “It was someone’s job to warn him, and not some low-level flunky.”

    The first Democratic strategist said Biden’s admission that he only found out about the baby formula shortage in April “seems like bad staff work.”

    “You should be able to see what’s coming down the pike,” the strategist said.

    Still, the White House highlights that officials at the Food and Drug Administration and elsewhere have been working since the plant closed in February to address the issue.

    A memo released by the White House earlier this week showed that in-stock rates for formula started to decline in early March from about 90 percent and now stand at about 74 percent. The memo also said infant formula sales have actually increased this year compared to last year, rising about 24 percent than average sales in 2021.

    The administration, however, has garnered some praise, particularly for its handling of Russia’s war in Ukraine, the way in which officials have used intelligence, and the fact that Biden has unified allies behind a common approach to punishing the Kremlin.

    Galston, a former domestic policy aide in the Clinton White House, noted that the Biden administration has been “consistently ahead of the curve” when it comes to the conflict in Ukraine, something he said has served Biden well.

    “Part of competence and good management is setting up a system that to the greatest extent possible—it’s never perfect—to the greatest extent possible enables you to get ahead of events,” Galston said. “The name of the game is to avoid unforced errors.”

    The first Democratic strategist suggested Biden needs to “stop trying to put out 20 fires.”

    “Pick four or five and do them really well,” the strategist said. “Dive in on baby formula, dive in on gas prices.”

    To be sure, the White House is trying to get ahead of other challenges, including the impending Supreme Court ruling expected to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark ruling that said abortion rights were protected by the Constitution.

    The White House has been holding listening sessions with state lawmakers, advocacy organizations and other stakeholders to better understand abortion laws on the ground ahead of the decision, which is expected later this month.

    And in a sign that the baby formula shortage is likely to ease, Abbott reopened its plant in Michigan over the weekend.

    Rodell Mollineau, the Democratic strategist who served as an aide to the late Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, said there aren’t “quick fix solutions” to many of the issues Biden faces.

    But Mollineau said Biden should be doing what he does best to help drive his message. Mollineau advised that Biden should be hitting the road more to speak directly to the public, something the president has tried to do more of since the start of the year.

    “The more he’s out there, the more he’s talking to people, the more he’s visiting real Americans and sharing in their pain and frustration and being Scranton Joe, the better off it is,” Mollineau said. “It’ll remind people again why they voted for him in the first place. It plays to his strengths.”

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    Jan. 6 panel to put Trump at center of “coordinated, multistep effort” to overturn election
    BY REBECCA BEITSCH AND HARPER NEIDIG 06/09/22 5:22 AM ET

    1/6

    The Jan. 6 committee will rely on recorded testimony from former Trump officials and even family members of the ex-president as it uses its first primetime hearing to connect Donald Trump to the riot at the Capitol and the broader effort to keep him in power.

    The 8 p.m. hearing is the committee’s first public event in months and represents a chance to share some of what it has learned from interviews with more than 1,000 people.

    “We will be revealing new details showing that Jan. 6 was the result of a coordinated, multistep effort to overturn the results of the 2020 election and stop the transfer of power from Donald Trump to Joe Biden,” a select committee aide said on a call with reporters on the eve of Thursday’s primetime hearing.

    “And indeed, that former President Donald Trump was at the center of that effort,” the aide added.

    Some of the videotaped depositions shared will be those with “Trump White House officials, senior Trump administration officials, Trump campaign officials and indeed Trump family members,” the aide said.

    The panel has repeatedly emphasized its plans to share “never before seen” footage and hired a veteran ABC producer to assist with assembling a package it will air tomorrow.

    It will also feature live testimony from Nick Quested, a documentarian who was working on a project about the Proud Boys and was present at a Jan. 5 meeting between leaders of that group and the Oath Keepers, a militia group whose members participated in the Capitol breach.

    Viewers will also hear from U.S. Capitol Police Officer Caroline Edwards, one of the first officers wounded in the attack that ultimately injured some 150 officers.

    “You’re talking about two witnesses who were there at the very initial breach,” the aide said. “We’re going to hear about their experiences from that day—particularly sort of what they heard, what they saw from the rioters.”

    “We will remind people what happened on that day. We will bring the American people back to the reality of that violence and remind them just how horrific it was,” the aide added.

    The primetime hearing is the first of two bookends—designed to offer an overarching view of what the committee has learned and what it will review in the handful of hearings ahead.

    It will differ from the bulk of congressional hearings in appearance and in tone.

    While the panel includes two Republicans, the committee is aligned in its goal, and it will likely avoid the partisan squabbling that is a feature of both standard hearings and even those dedicated to major investigations.

    Its video clips and live witness testimony are also designed not just to relay information, but, much like with a panel of Capitol Police officers in July, to bring viewers back to a time when both sides of the aisle were unified in expressing horror over the images of the riot.

    Its witnesses can also help shed light on the extent the violence was part of the plan.

    Edwards was manning a barricade with other officers on the west side of the Capitol when a group of Trump supporters pushed back the barricade, throwing her to the ground. Edwards suffered a concussion in the fall, according to court documents, but rejoined her fellow officers in trying to fight back the rioters.

    Later, amid the mayhem, Edwards blacked out and was rushed to the hospital. In the aftermath of the attack, according to a New York Times story published earlier this year, she suffered fainting spells and had trouble with her speech.

    Quested was with the Proud Boys at pivotal moments.

    He went over hours of footage with the Jan. 6 committee when he met with the panel in April, but his cameras captured far more than the violence playing out at the Capitol.

    He has footage of the Jan. 5 meeting between Enrique Tarrio, the leader of the Proud Boys, and Stewart Rhodes, the head of the far-right Oath Keepers militia. The duo met in a parking garage the day before Oath Keepers members were seen using a military-style stack formation to work their way through the crowds and force their way into the Capitol.

    His footage shows Tarrio meeting with Rhodes and other pro-Trump figures in the parking garage, though the audio catches little in the way of substantive discussions.

    Later in the afternoon of Jan. 6, he was also with Tarrio in Baltimore, filming the leader—who was not present for the attack—and capturing his reactions as the riot played out.

    His testimony comes as the Justice Department has added new charges for the group, announcing Monday that Tarrio and other members would face counts of seditious conspiracy—the same charge the agency already filed against members of the Oath Keepers that carries a sentence of up to 20 years in prison.

    Tarrio, much like Rhodes, was not at the Capitol on Jan. 6. He had been arrested Jan. 4 and was ordered to stay outside D.C.

    But the indictment alleges he led “the advance planning and remained in contact with other members of the Proud Boys during their breach of the Capitol” and “nonetheless continued to direct and encourage the Proud Boys prior to and during the events of Jan. 6, 2021.”

    The new indictment unsealed this week noted that one of the Proud Boys defendants, Joseph Biggs, could be seen in a video taken the day of the riot putting his arm around an individual, identified as Ryan Samsel, confronting officers in an early clash between Capitol Police and the rioters. Biggs could be seen saying something to him just moments before Samsel and others clashed at a barricade with officers, including Edwards.

    Samsel was later charged with multiple counts of assaulting a police officer, and prosecutors have accused him of pushing the barricade into Edwards and causing her fall.

    The committee has not yet announced who will testify at its next two hearings, scheduled during daytime hours on Monday and Wednesday, or what other videotaped testimony might be shared.

    Committee Chair Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) on Wednesday said testimony from Ivanka Trump would not air in the first hearing, but “there’s a possibility” it may surface in later hearings.

    The big question that remains for the committee is how receptive the public will be, including the roughly half of the nation that has told pollsters it’s time to “move on.”

    “In terms of those who want to ‘move on’ from Jan. 6 we’re going to lay out answers for people in a way they haven’t been answered before,” the aide said.

    “What the select committee is also going to lay out is clear indication of ongoing threats to American democracy.”

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    Dishonor, Trump’s and His Party’s, Is the Real January 6th Takeaway
    Liz Cheney, defying the G.O.P., offered a searing indictment of the former President at Thursday’s hearing.

    by Susan B. Glasser
    THE NEW YORKER
    June 10, 2022

    LC

    There were many memorable lines, and even a few revelations, in the long-awaited House select committee prime-time hearing on the harrowing events of January 6, 2021. Viewers on Thursday night learned that Donald Trump’s own Attorney General, Bill Barr, had dismissed his “rigged election” claims as “bullshit.” They learned that Trump’s own daughter Ivanka agreed with Barr. And they learned that Trump’s White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, had been informed of the complete and utter emptiness of Trump’s false election claims by one of Trump’s own campaign lawyers. “There’s no there there?” Meadows asked the lawyer.

    But the most unforgettable words were those of Liz Cheney, the Wyoming Republican who, in defiance of her party, is helping to lead the investigation by the House panel. Speaking directly to her fellow-Republicans in Congress, the vast majority of whom have continued to support and promote Trump even after a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol and sent them fleeing for their lives, she concluded her presentation with a warning: “There will come a day when Donald Trump is gone, but your dishonor will remain.”

    In the course of a searing forty minutes, Cheney was given the starring role in laying out the select committee’s case against Trump. She marshalled the evidence—much of it new, much of it devastating—to show how the former President knew that his claims about the election were a lie but used them to inflame his followers and summon them to the Capitol anyway. She nailed it.

    It was, in the end, appropriate that it should be a Republican who emerged as the most brutally effective prosecutor of Trump, the former President who has not only escaped being banished and disgraced by his party but remains its leader and the putative front-runner for its Presidential nomination, should he run again in 2024.

    At the end of her presentation, Cheney showed what might have been the night’s most revealing witness statement—a short clip of Jared Kushner. In it, Kushner was asked about the repeated threats to resign made by Trump’s White House counsel, Pat Cipollone, and his staff, as they sought to stop Trump from unconstitutionally seeking to overturn the election. Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, who served as one of the former President’s close advisers throughout his four disruptive years in the White House, said that he did not take Cipollone’s threats to resign seriously. He thought that Cipollone was just “whining.”

    It was a brutal moment. Kushner did not believe Trump’s false claims about the election. But he, like so many others surrounding Trump, like so many of Cheney’s Republican colleagues on Capitol Hill, who knew full well that everything Trump said about the election was a lie, chose to wash his hands of the matter. Instead of trying to stop the President, he and Ivanka purchased a 32.2-million-dollar lot on an exclusive private island near Miami, in December, 2020, and he started writing his memoir. Whining, indeed.

    The hearing began and ended, as it should have, with Trump himself. “President Trump summoned the mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack,” Cheney said, consciously echoing an interview that she gave to Fox News on the afternoon of January 6th, while she and her colleagues were still in hiding from the pro-Trump mob. It said everything about where American politics are today that on Thursday night, a year and a half after the events in question, Fox News did not dare to broadcast Liz Cheney’s remarks—or to air the full hearing live, as the other networks did. Instead, it chose to run its regular evening programming of Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, and the rest of the Trump propaganda machine.

    There is a moment, often replayed in the various January 6th retrospectives, that always hits me like a gut punch. It is the frantic call over a police radio at around 2:30 p.m. on January 6th. “We lost the line! We’ve lost the line,” an officer screams. It was the moment when the Capitol was overrun, ransacked, and occupied by a hostile force for the first time since the War of 1812. I wanted to cry listening to it again on Thursday night.

    The January 6th committee hearings will continue throughout June and have been a year and a half in the making. The panel has reportedly interviewed a thousand witnesses and reviewed many thousands of pages of documents. It has chronicled what the committee’s chairman, the Mississippi Democrat Bennie Thompson, said on Thursday was a “sprawling, multipart conspiracy aimed at overturning the Presidential election.” Cheney declared it a “sophisticated seven-part plan,” and future hearings will dive deeper into its components: Trump’s spreading of election misinformation; his plot to fire the acting Attorney General in order to get the Justice Department to further his false claims; his pressure on Vice-President Mike Pence to block the counting of the electoral votes; his pressure on Republican-led state legislatures to switch their electoral votes and scheme to send fake electoral certificates to Congress; his summoning of the mob to the Capitol on January 6th; and his refusal to do anything to stop them once they were there, rampaging.

    Thursday’s hearing suggested that there is still much to be learned from the investigation, as the evening offered only a glimpse of what the testimony has uncovered. One of the night’s more tantalizing nuggets was Cheney’s revelation that Trump, when told about rioters chanting “Hang Mike Pence,” seemed to agree with the sentiment, telling his staff, “Maybe our supporters have the right idea.” Another came when she noted that multiple Republican members of Congress who had participated in Trump’s plotting had unsuccessfully sought Presidential pardons for their roles.

    After less than two hours, it was clear that much of the most damaging information from the committee’s probe will come from Trump’s aides, advisers, and even family members. Jason Miller, a Trump campaign adviser, was shown testifying that Trump had been clearly and unambiguously informed by his campaign’s data expert that he would certainly lose. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified that he had not heard from Trump himself on January 6th but had received a call from Meadows. The White House chief of staff expressed no interest in the attack on American democracy, according to the nation’s top military officer, but offered only concern that Trump, not Pence, still be seen as in control. “We have to kill the narrative that the Vice-President is making all the decisions,” Milley testified that Meadows told him. “We need to establish the narrative that the President is still in charge.” To Milley—and to all of us listening at home—the conclusion was obvious. As Milley said, it was just “politics, politics, politics.”

    Before the hearings began, committee members had promised stunning revelations. Jamie Raskin, the Maryland Democrat and lead House prosecutor of Trump during his second impeachment trial, memorably said that they would “blow the roof off the House.” I’m not sure we know yet whether he was right. Already it is clear that the information gathered by this remarkable investigation will keep historians busy for years, sifting through the wreckage of an American political system battered by the former President’s unprecedented and unpresidential actions. But, unfortunately, the true scandal of January 6th had always been apparent, long before the House select committee made it clear once again on Thursday night: the mob never would have been there had Donald Trump not lied about the election he lost.

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    Dr. Fauci tests positive for COVID-19
    BY PETER SULLIVAN 06/15/22 2:54 PM ET

    AF

    Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious diseases expert, tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday but is experiencing “mild symptoms,” the National Institutes of Health (NIH) said.

    “He is fully vaccinated and has been boosted twice,” the agency said. “He is currently experiencing mild symptoms. Dr. Fauci will isolate and continue to work from his home. He has not recently been in close contact with President Biden or other senior government officials.”

    Fauci has been the face of the government’s response to COVID-19 for more than two years and has previously avoided testing positive for the virus. But he is the latest in a long string of high-profile cases among lawmakers and government officials in Washington, D.C.

    Biden is so far one of the few top government officials who has avoided getting it, though the White House acknowledges he could.

    While Fauci is 81, cases are significantly less worrisome today than in the early days of the pandemic, before vaccines and booster shots were available, though there remains some risk.

    Pfizer’s treatment pill, Paxlovid, also lowers the risk for high-risk people who test positive.

    Fauci’s positive case illustrates how widespread infections have become, with many people having tested positive at least once. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra tested positive a second time in less than a month this week.

    New subvariants of omicron have shown an increased infectiousness and an ability to evade vaccines to a certain degree, such that there is far from complete protection against getting infected. Vaccines and booster shots still provide valuable protection against severe disease, which many experts view as the most crucial.

    The White House has maintained that tools like boosters and Paxlovid mean the country is in a new era of the virus where cases have been defanged to some degree.

    “Dr. Fauci will follow the COVID-19 guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and medical advice from his physician and return to the NIH when he tests negative,” the NIH said.

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    Sarah Palin will advance in Alaska’s wild House special primary election, CNN projects
    by Eric Bradner, CNN
    Updated 8:50 AM ET, Sun June 12, 2022

    AKR

    Former Alaska governor and vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin took a step toward a political comeback Saturday, finishing in the top four of a 48-person special primary election and advancing to the August general election to fill the House seat of the late Rep. Don Young, according to a CNN projection.

    Palin will be joined in the special general election on August 16 by Republican Nick Begich III, the grandson of former Democratic Rep. Nick Begich, whose plane went missing in 1972 and has never been found, as well as independent Al Gross, who lost a 2020 Senate race and has said he would caucus with Democrats, CNN projects.

    Votes are still being tallied to determine the fourth slot, with two candidates who each could make history as the first Alaska Native elected to Congress–former Democratic state Rep. Mary Peltola and Republican Tara Sweeney, who was backed by a coalition of the state’s Native corporations–in fourth and fifth place among the ballots tallied so far. Santa Claus, a North Pole councilman and democratic socialist, is in sixth place.

    Lawyer and gardening columnist Jeff Lowenfels, former Republican state Sen. John Coghill, Democratic Anchorage Assembly member Christopher Constant, Democratic state Rep. Adam Wool and Republican state Sen. Josh Revak, who was endorsed by Young’s widow, are also among the contenders.

    The results came after one of the nation’s wildest primaries–one that featured Palin; Claus; Begich III, the Alaska Republican Party-endorsed conservative from the state’s most prominent Democratic family; and a host of former Young aides and allies.

    Under Alaska’s new election system, candidates of all parties, and those with no party affiliation, run on the same primary ballot, and the top four vote-getters, regardless of party, advance to the general election.

    Identifying the four candidates who will advance in the special House race could take time: Alaska mailed ballots to every voter and will continue counting those postmarked by June 11 in the coming days. Final results won’t be tabulated until a final count 10 days after the primary.

    The top four finishers in the primary will face off in a ranked-choice special general election on August 16, with the winner going to Congress. It’ll be Alaska’s first ranked-choice election since the state’s voters narrowly approved an initiative in 2020 to make the switch. Under the ranked-choice system, if no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote in the first round, then a second round of counting will take place, with the last-place finisher’s first-place votes then going to those voters’ second choice, and so on.

    The task could be fraught for Palin: She is by far the best-known candidate in the race, but she could suffer if large numbers of voters who are Democrats or who remain angry at her decision to quit the governor’s office in 2009, less than three years into her only term, rank her last.

    Filling the former House seat of Young, who represented the state in the House from 1973 until his death in March, is a complicated process.

    The winner on August 16 will serve the remaining months of his term through January. But August 16 is also the date of Alaska’s regular primary, in which voters will cast ballots once again to determine which four candidates advance to November’s regular general election for the full two-year term. It’s possible the outcomes of the two races, featuring many of the same major candidates, could be different.

    Palin launched her campaign with an almost-immediate endorsement from former President Donald Trump, who said he was repaying her for her early support of his 2016 presidential bid. She held a rally in Anchorage in early June that Trump called into. But she has been a relatively quiet presence on the campaign trail and has not made clear how she sees herself fitting into today’s GOP in Washington.

    Begich III launched his campaign for Congress before Young died. He had criticized Young’s penchant for attracting federal dollars to projects in Alaska, arguing for a more fiscally conservative approach to spending.

    He is the nephew of former US Sen. Mark Begich, a Democrat, and the grandson of Nick Begich, the Democratic congressman who held the seat until 1972, when a plane he was traveling on disappeared. Young replaced him and has been the only person to represent Alaska in the House since then.

    Gross was backed by Democrats in his unsuccessful 2020 Senate race against Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan. This time, though, the Alaska Democratic Party harshly criticized Gross after he suggested he might caucus with Republicans. He has since reversed course, with his campaign citing the leaked draft Supreme Court opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade, but the state Democratic Party continued to urge voters to select one of the six registered Democrats in the race.

    Peltola, a Democrat who spent 10 years in Alaska’s legislature, once represented a district that is roughly the size of Oregon. If elected, she would become the first Indigenous person to represent Alaska in Congress.

    “Whether it’s me or someone else, I just think it’s high time that an Alaska Native be part of our congressional delegation,” Peltola said in an interview last week.

    Sweeney, the former assistant secretary of Indian affairs at the US Interior Department, is backed by Alaska’s Native corporations. Sweeney was Young’s campaign co-chair. She would also become the first Indigenous person elected to represent Alaska in Congress.

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    White House counsel Dana Remus to leave role next month
    BY BRETT SAMUELS 06/15/22 12:03 PM ET

    DR

    White House counsel Dana Remus will leave the administration next month, the latest in a string of key officials to depart their posts ahead of the midterm elections.

    Remus has served as President Biden’s top lawyer since he took office in early 2021. Remus previously worked as general counsel on the Biden campaign and in Obama White House. She also worked as a clerk to Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito.

    Remus will be replaced by Stuart Delery, who has served as her deputy counsel and has advised on issues like the COVID-19 response and the American Rescue Plan, the $1.9 trillion stimulus passed by Democrats last year.

    Delery previously served as acting associate attorney general and he will be the first openly gay person to hold the role of White House counsel.

    Delery and his team at the White House counsel’s office will likely have their hands full should Republicans retake the majority in the House or Senate, as GOP lawmakers have pledged to investigate Biden’s decisionmaking on Afghanistan, business dealings by his son, Hunter, and more.

    Remus’s departure is the latest from a key official who has been with the White House since the beginning of Biden’s tenure. Jen Psaki departed as press secretary last month, Cedric Richmond left his role as senior adviser and head of the Office of Public Engagement, and a handful of assistants in the press office have taken other jobs within the administration.

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    White House scrambles to solve gas price surge
    BY AMIE PARNES AND MORGAN CHALFANT 06/15/22 6:30 PM ET

    G

    The White House is scrambling to help solve a massive surge in gas prices that increasingly is seen as a weight that could leave Democrats suffering a rout in this fall’s midterm elections.

    Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm is expected to convene an emergency meeting in the coming days. Meanwhile on Wednesday, President Biden’s economics team gathered alongside outside advisers to discuss various options. More meetings are expected again on Thursday.

    The White House is also flirting with endorsing a federal gas tax holiday while readying for a controversial summit with Saudi Arabia where the global fuel supply is expected to be a major point of discussion.

    Robert Wolf, the former CEO of UBS Americas who served as an economic adviser to former President Obama, was spotted at the White House on Wednesday two days after The Hill wrote he was in support of the gas tax holiday.

    “All options are being considered obviously,” said one administration official without specifying if the idea was gaining traction.

    In a sign of a more aggressive approach to the crisis, the White House on Wednesday released a letter that Biden sent to seven major oil executives chiding them for making large profits amid the spike in gas prices and demanding they take actions to boost the supply of gasoline, diesel and other refined products on the market to help ease the burden on American consumers.

    “I understand that many factors contributed to the business decisions to reduce refinery capacity, which occurred before I took office. But at a time of war, refinery profit margins well above normal being passed directly onto American families are not acceptable,” Biden wrote in letters to executives at Shell, Exxon Mobil and other companies.

    Rising gas prices exacerbated by Russia’s war in Ukraine topped $5 per gallon on average nationally over the weekend, a major political liability for Democrats ahead of the fall midterm elections.

    One Democratic strategist said something had to be done quickly to help ease the soaring costs or Democrats would pay heavily at the polls.

    “I know we’re still months out but everyone is hurting and people are blaming Democrats for this. If they don’t do something quickly we’re completely f—-d and they know it,” the strategist said. “Trump was insane, but people weren’t facing this kind of economic turmoil and this is the kind of stuff that voters deeply care about.”

    The National Republican Congressional Committee released a new set of advertisements Wednesday trying to tie vulnerable Democrats to high gas prices.

    Signaling the urgency facing the administration, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre kicked off Wednesday’s briefing by talking about Biden’s efforts to lower gas prices, including ordering the largest-ever release from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve earlier this year and allowing sales of higher-ethanol gasoline during the summer.

    Jean-Pierre also highlighted Biden’s letter to oil companies and argued they have a patriotic duty to work with the administration to lower gasoline prices during the war.

    “We are calling on them to do the right thing, to be patriots here,” she told reporters.

    Jean-Pierre also said the president was willing to use emergency powers to boost refinery output and capacity, though she provided few specifics on what that could look like.

    In a statement responding to Biden’s letter, Exxon Mobil suggested the federal government waive the Jones Act and other fuel requirements in order to boost supplies over the short term, and to streamline approval for pipelines and support domestic investment in the long term.

    But the Biden administration has limited options when it comes to assuaging high gas prices and inflation more broadly. And calling for more oil production in the short term seems inherently at odds with Biden’s climate change and clean energy agenda.

    “It’s insane, but they cannot do much,” one Biden ally said. “It’s a global market and the perfect storm hit from big demand post-COVID, lower supply, and the war.”

    Inflation is being fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting supply chain issues, as well as the government spending in response to the pandemic during the Trump and Biden administrations. Russia’s war in Ukraine has disrupted global energy markets and food supplies, driving up prices further.

    The Federal Reserve, which plays the primary role in responding to inflation, announced Wednesday it would hike interest rates by 0.75 percent–the biggest increase in nearly 30 years–in a bid to quash inflation.

    Speaking to reporters Wednesday afternoon, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell noted that the Fed can’t do much to affect energy and food prices, however, noting that they are largely set by global commodity prices.

    Biden next month will travel to Saudi Arabia as part of his first presidential trip to the Middle East, a stop that is expected to focus in part on energy prices. Saudi Arabia is the informal leader of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and a major oil producer, and the administration has tried to persuade the country to pump more oil to help alleviate gas prices.

    Rachel Ziemba, an adjunct senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, said that it would send an important signal if Saudi Arabia were to commit to bringing additional supplies online more quickly somewhere in the neighborhood of half a million barrels per day.

    But it’s unlikely that the visit, even if it’s fruitful, will solve the current crisis. Biden has also been criticized for a planned meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who the U.S. intelligence community says approved the 2018 assassination of U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

    Experts say that gas prices are likely to continue to rise in the coming weeks. Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, predicted that domestic gasoline prices would peak in the next few weeks and begin to level off around the July 4 holiday, before starting to decline in the fall months.

    Another Democratic strategist was frustrated and said the worst is yet to come.

    “We’re not in a recession yet. We’re not looking at 10,000 people laid off, 15,000 laid off. It’s going to get so much worse,” the strategist said. “These guys have f—-d things up and they know it. The midterms are decided, and that’s against a party that’s too dumb for their own good.”

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    State Republicans say Trump wanted them to break law to keep him in power
    BY MIKE LILLIS AND REBECCA BEITSCH 06/21/22 5:54 PM ET

    H

    Former President Trump’s campaign to press GOP state officials to overturn the results of the 2020 election violated state laws, defied the Constitution and led directly to violent threats that continue to this day, a number of Republicans testified Tuesday on Capitol Hill.

    Appearing before the House committee investigating last year’s attack on the Capitol, the Republican election officials said Trump’s team, led by the president himself, made fantastic allegations of voter fraud—all of them false—and asked numerous state figures to break the law to keep Trump in power despite his clear defeat.

    “The numbers are the numbers, and the numbers don’t lie,” said Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, whom Trump had pressed to “find” 11,780 votes—the number that would have made him the winner in that state.

    Raffensperger noted that three separate recount efforts in the Peach State all found Joe Biden to be the winner by a “remarkably” similar margin.

    “What I knew is we didn’t have any votes to find,” he said.

    Their testimony provided the latest affirmation of the select committee’s central accusation against the former president: Trump had abused the powers of the White House to promote a lie—that the election was stolen — and nullify the wishes of voters in several key states where the margins were slimmest. It was that campaign, in the committee’s telling, that led directly to the violence at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

    “The president’s lie was and is a dangerous cancer on the body politic,” said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), a member of the select committee. “If you can convince Americans that they cannot trust their own elections, that any time they lose it is somehow illegitimate, then what is left but violence to determine who should govern.”

    To make their case, the committee returned to a tactic that’s practically defined the public-hearing phase of their investigation: allowing Republicans to provide the details of Trump’s alleged wrongdoing.

    The GOP officials—representing Arizona and Georgia, two battlegrounds that became a focus of Trump’s efforts—said they all supported his reelection, but couldn’t comply with his demands for the simple reason that they were illegal.

    Central to Trump’s campaign was the farming out false claims of election fraud to state officials asking them to intervene in delaying the certification of vote totals, a move that included an effort to send fake certificates to Washington signed by “alternate” electors.

    The committee showed Trump played a central role in that effort.

    Ronna McDaniel, head of the Republican National Committee (RNC), told investigators that it was the former president who initiated a call asking the RNC to help with the fake electors scheme.

    Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows called or texted 18 times to arrange Trump’s now infamous call with Raffensperger.

    And it was Trump, along with his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, who reached out to Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers (R) asking him to “replace” electors.

    “I didn’t want to be used as a pawn,” Bowers said.

    “You are asking me to do something that is counter to my oath when I swore to the Constitution to uphold it, and I also swore to the Constitution and the laws of the state of Arizona. And this is totally foreign as an idea or a theory to me, and I would never do anything of such magnitude without deep consultation with qualified attorneys,” Bowers said.

    Bowers said Trump and Giuliani phoned him directly after the election with claims that, between undocumented immigrants and dead people, hundreds of thousands of illegal votes had been cast in the Grand Canyon State. Giuliani, Bowers said, claimed to have ready evidence of the fraud, but never provided it. And he later acknowledged that there was no evidence, only “theories.”

    “[Giuliani] said, ‘We’ve got lots of theories. We just don’t have the evidence,’” Bowers said. “And I don’t know if that was a gaffe or maybe he didn’t think through what he said.”

    Other Trump campaign attorneys acknowledged as much, testifying they sought to distance themselves as Giuliani and another pro-Trump lawyer, Kenneth Chesebro, pushed what they deemed to be an illegal effort.

    Trump campaign lawyer Justin Clark said he told others, “I don’t think this is appropriate or, you know, this isn’t the right thing to do. I don’t remember how I phrased it, but I got into a little bit of a back and forth,” he said, before adding “I’m out.”

    Another campaign attorney, Matt Morgan, said he had an associate reach out to Chesebro “politely to say, ‘This is your task. You are responsible for the Electoral College issues moving forward.’ And this was my way of taking that responsibility to zero.”

    Those roped into the false elector scheme voiced regret—and resentment—to the committee.

    Robert Sinners, who was Trump’s election day operations director in Georgia, said he and others involved were just “kind of useful idiots or rubes at that point.”

    “I’m angry. I’m angry because I think in a sense no one really cared if people were potentially putting themselves in jeopardy,” Sinners said in a taped deposition.

    But Sinners was unaware that many of the campaign lawyers had advised against the strategy.

    “I absolutely would not have [participated] had I known that the three main lawyers for the campaign that I’d spoken to in the past and were leading up were not on board.”

    Andrew Hitt, a former Wisconsin Republican Party chair who was subpoenaed due to his role in the scheme, said he was told the fake certificates “would only count if a court ruled in our favor.”

    “So that would have been using our electors—well, it would have been using our electors in ways that we weren’t told about and we wouldn’t have supported,” he said in a video clip of his deposition shared by the committee.

    Other revelations offered by the committee Tuesday were the previously unknown efforts by two lawmakers the morning of Jan. 6 in forwarding the false electors scheme, which were evidently going to be flown to D.C.

    Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) tried to hand deliver two of the certificates to Trump’s vice president, Mike Pence, as he arrived at the Capitol that morning to oversee the electoral vote count, according to one of the select committee’s lawyers.

    “Johnson needs to hand something to VPOTUS please advise … alternate slate of electors for MI and WI because archivist didn’t receive them,” Johnson aide Sean Riley texted to a Pence staffer in an exchange the committee displayed.

    “Don’t give that to him,” Chris Hodgson, Pence’s aide, responded.

    A spokeswoman for Johnson tweeted Tuesday that Johnson had “no foreknowledge” of the scheme and called the texts “a staff to staff exchange.”

    Bowers also testified that he heard from Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) that morning.

    “He asked if I would sign on both to a letter that had been sent from my state, and/or that I would support the decertification of the electors,” Bowers said.

    “I said I would not,” Bowers added.

    The officials also described how their decision to buck Trump’s demands led to a fierce backlash from Trump’s supporters, including protests outside their homes, violent threats against themselves and their families—including death threats—and a wave of calls, emails and texts that have forced them to reimagine how they conduct their everyday lives.

    One poll worker in Georgia, whom Trump and Giuliani wrongly accused of cheating the system to pad Biden’s numbers, said she’s afraid to go to the grocery store for fear of being recognized, won’t give out business cards and gained 60 pounds.

    “This turned my life upside down,” said Wandrea ArShaye ‘Shaye’ Moss. “All because of lies. For me doing my job.”

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    Senate passes gun-safety bill, breaking years-long stalemate
    BY ALEXANDER BOLTON 06/23/22 10:22 PM ET

    CM

    The Senate voted 65 to 33 Thursday evening to pass a bill to strengthen background checks for gun buyers younger than 21, provide billions of dollars in money for mental health treatment, and help states administer red flag laws, setting up a vote in the House as soon as Friday.

    The strong bipartisan vote for the bill is expected to give it enough momentum to sail through the House and make it to President Biden’s desk, giving him one of the biggest domestic policy achievements of his first two years in office.

    Senators hailed passage of the legislation, which cracks down on straw purchasers and illegal gun traffickers and closes the boyfriend loophole to deny guns to romantic partners convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence offenses, as a bipartisan breakthrough.

    Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle praised it as the most significant anti-gun-violence legislation to pass the Senate in nearly 30 years. Congress has done little to crack down on gun violence since it passed the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act in 1993 and the crime bill in 1994.

    The legislation also provides money for school resource officers and hardening school buildings from attack.

    It’s a moment of victory and redemption for Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and other Democrats who tried and failed to pass legislation to curb violence after a 20-year-old gunman killed 20 children and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in 2012.

    This time around, Democrats led by Murphy scaled back their demands for bold gun-control reforms such as universal background checks and bans on assault-style rifles and high-capacity magazines.

    Instead they sought to work with Republicans in private meetings, hoping to hash out a bipartisan compromise, before bringing legislation to the floor.

    The strategy worked as 15 Republican senators, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), voted for the legislation, which Republicans say won’t infringe on the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding gun owners.

    “The American people want their constitutional rights protected and their kids to be safe in school. They want both of those things at once, and that is just what the bill before the Senate will have accomplished,” McConnell said on the floor Thursday.

    “This is the sweet spot,” he said. “Making America safer, especially for kids in school, without making our country one bit less free.”

    McConnell told reporters shortly before the vote that passage of the bill would help Republicans make up lost ground with suburban voters, a crucial bloc of voters they need to win back a Republican majority in the Senate.

    “It’s no secret that we lost ground in suburban areas. We pretty much own rural and small- town American and I think this is a sensible solution to the problem before us, which is school safety and mental health,” he said. “I hope it will be viewed favorably by voters in the suburbs we need to regain in order to hopefully be in the majority next year.”

    Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) called the legislation a “breakthrough.”

    “Few could have anticipated we’d reach this point just a few weeks ago,” Schumer said, acknowledging the strong skepticism among Democrats about the prospects of reaching a deal with Republicans.

    He called it “a long overdue step in the right direction.”

    “It’s significant, it’s going to save lives, and it’s been a long time,” he said.

    The final vote capped weeks of intense negotiations led by Murphy and Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), a senior member of the Judiciary Committee well-versed in gun policy.

    A turning point in the Senate debate came two days after the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, when McConnell tapped Cornyn to lead the negotiations for Republicans. GOP senators saw it as a sign that McConnell wanted a result, something the senior Kentucky senator later confirmed.

    Biden on Thursday applauded the Senate’s action and urged the House to get the bill to his desk quickly.

    “I am glad to see Congress has moved significantly closer to finally doing something—passing bipartisan legislation that will help protect Americans,” he said. “I call on Congress to finish the job and get this bill to my desk.”

    Schumer and other Democrats have expressed frustration and fatigue with votes to hold Republicans accountable on the issues but fail to change the law.

    Soon after the Uvalde mass shooting, in which an 18-year-old gunman killed 19 children and two teachers, Schumer said he didn’t have much appetite to bring a bill to the floor that would be destined to fail.

    “I believe that accountability votes are important but sadly this isn’t a case of the American people not knowing where their senators stand. They know. They know because my Republican colleagues are perfectly clear on this issue,” Schumer said the morning after the Uvalde massacre.

    Not all senators hailed the legislation as a positive development.

    Conservative Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) took to the floor Thursday evening to voice their opposition to the legislation.

    Cruz slammed it for funding red flag laws, which allow courts to seize firearms from people deemed to be a threat to themselves or others.

    “These so-called red flag laws have been implemented in multiple states, and they enable the state to take away the right to keep and bear arms from law-abiding citizens. They render you vulnerable,” he declared in an impassioned floor speech, during which he raised his voice and banged his lectern.

    Cruz said provisions in the bill “satisfy the Democrat political priority to go after the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms of law-abiding citizens,” repeatedly calling it a “Democrat bill” even though it was negotiated by Democratic and Republican colleagues.

    Lee criticized negotiators for not revealing the bill’s text until Tuesday evening, shortly before the Senate voted to proceed to the measure.

    “No one except a small gang of senators and a few favorite members of the news media—no one was allowed to view the legislation until Tuesday evening,” he complained.

    Asked to respond to Cruz’s pointed criticism of the legislation and whether it augurs a conservative backlash down the road, McConnell declined to comment.

    McConnell previously pointed to polling that showed a majority of gun owners supported to the provisions of the bill.

    He noted that 79 percent of gun owners support federal funding for states to implement red flag laws, 86 percent support prohibiting someone from purchasing or owning firearms who has been convicted of domestic violence against a boyfriend, girlfriend, spouse, or significant other and 87 percent support making criminal and mental health records of juveniles available to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

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    Supreme Court strikes down Roe v. Wade
    BY JOHN KRUZEL 06/24/22 10:13 AM ET

    RvW

    The Supreme Court on Friday struck down Roe v. Wade, eliminating the nearly 50-year-old constitutional right to abortion and handing states authority to drastically limit or ban the procedure.

    The 6-3 decision by a majority of conservative justices to fundamentally reshape American society by overturning the landmark 1973 precedent is certain to ignite a political firestorm and yield a complex patchwork of state laws that will effectively block large swathes of the population from terminating unwanted pregnancies.

    The ruling upholds Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban, which directly clashed with Roe’s requirement that states permit abortion up to the point of fetal viability, around 24 weeks, as well as Planned Parenthood v. Casey, a 1992 decision that reaffirmed Roe’s core holding.

    “Roe was egregiously wrong from the start,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote for the majority. “Its reasoning was exceptionally weak, and the decision has had damaging consequences. And far from bringing about a national settlement of the abortion issue, Roe and Casey have enflamed debate and deepened division.”

    “It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives,” he continued.

    More than two dozen states, primarily in the South and Midwest, are expected to tighten abortion access as a result of Roe falling, including 13 states with “trigger bans” set to take effect automatically or through minimal effort by state officials.

    For conservatives, the toppling of Roe marks the crowning achievement of a carefully orchestrated and well-funded movement that for decades has sought to elevate reliable allies to the Supreme Court and erase federal protections under Roe that conservatives have long considered an infringement of states’ rights.

    Chief Justice John Roberts joined in the majority’s judgment but said he would have preferred a more incremental approach that would not have required overturning Roe and Casey outright.

    “If it is not necessary to decide more to dispose of a case, then it is necessary not to decide more,” Roberts wrote in a concurring opinion. “Perhaps we are not always perfect in following that command, and certainly there are cases that warrant an exception. But this is not one of them.”

    The blockbuster decision comes after a stunning breach of Supreme Court secrecy last month led to the public release of a draft version of the opinion, offering a glimpse at the coming dismantlement of abortion rights as well as the likely upheaval over a ruling that most Americans said they would oppose.

    Writing for the majority, Alito emphasizes that his ruling was a narrow one and would not spillover to decisions on issues like same-sex marriage (Obergefell v. Hodges), sex between gay couples (Lawrence v. Texas), and the right to contraception (Griswold v. Connecticut).

    “Nothing in this opinion should be understood to cast doubt on precedents that do not concern abortion,” Alito wrote.

    But the opinion will be almost certain to fuel questions about whether rights that are seen as having a thin historical record and which are not explicitly referenced in the Constitution—so-called “unenumerated rights”—remain on a firm footing.

    Justice Clarence Thomas, in a concurring opinion, wrote that the reasoning underlying Friday’s opinion should call into question constitutional protections for same-sex marriage, sex between gay couples and contraception, as they are currently understood. These rights are rooted in the well-established principle that the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment protects not only procedural safeguards but also substantive rights—a doctrine that Thomas has long rejected.

    “For that reason, in future cases, we should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell. Because any substantive due process decision is demonstrably erroneous, we have a duty to correct the error established in those precedents,” Thomas wrote. “After overruling these demonstrably erroneous decisions, the question would remain whether other constitutional provisions guarantee the myriad rights that our substantive due process cases have generated.”

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    White House aide testifies Trump sent armed mob to Capitol
    BY MIKE LILLIS AND REBECCA BEITSCH 06/28/22 4:51 PM ET

    CH

    Former President Trump, well aware his supporters were heavily armed on Jan. 6, was so determined to join them at the Capitol that he lunged at the head of his security detail after his driver refused to transport him there, according to a former high-level White House aide testifying before Congress on Tuesday.

    The revelation of a physical confrontation between a frustrated president and his own security detail was just one of many bombshells disclosed by Cassidy Hutchinson, a former top aide to Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows, who painted an extraordinary portrait of a White House in chaos as the attack on the Capitol unfolded, aides scrambled to convince the president to intervene and Trump refused to do so.

    Hutchinson, the first White House employee to testify publicly before the House committee investigating last year’s riot, suggested there was nothing spontaneous about the events of Jan. 6, 2021. She described a series of meetings in early January when members of Trump’s inner circle were planning for the protests and depicted Meadows and Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, as practically complicit in the riot.

    Both had suggested ahead of time that they knew the protests of Jan. 6 would turn violent, she testified, and both of them would later request presidential pardons.

    “We’re going to the Capitol. It’s going to be great. The president is going to be there, he’s going to look powerful,” Giuliani told Hutchinson on Jan. 2, she testified.

    When Hutchinson approached Meadows about it, he said, “There’s a lot going on, Cass, but I don’t know. Things might get real, real bad on Jan. 6.”

    Hutchinson, with a West Wing office, had a bird’s eye view of Jan. 6, operating at the intersection of a lame-duck White House, Trump’s desperate efforts to remain in power and the inner workings of the pressure campaign on Mike Pence, Trump’s vice president, to overturn the election results.

    “As an American, I was disgusted. It was unpatriotic. It was un-American,” she said of Trump’s encouragement of the violence. “We were watching the Capitol building get defaced over a lie.”

    Hutchinson painted a picture of a president unhinged during his Jan. 6 rally on the Ellipse and eager to get more protesters closer to the stage—so the event wouldn’t look empty—by removing the metal detectors that are virtually compulsory at all presidential events.

    The committee showed evidence, in the form of police call logs, that a number of the protesters that day were carrying weapons, including Glock pistols and AR-15-style semi-automatic rifles. Hutchinson added to that record, saying top White House officials knew, as early as 10 a.m. on Jan. 6, that Trump supporters had knives, guns, bear spray, body armor, and spears attached to the ends of flagpoles.

    She and Tony Ornato, Trump’s deputy chief of staff, went to inform Meadows of the threat. Meadows, she said, was unmoved.

    “I remember distinctly Mark not looking up from his phone. I remember Tony finishing his explanation and it taking a few seconds for Mark to say something. Because I almost said, ‘Mark, did you hear him?’ And then Mark chimed in. It was like, ‘Alright, anything else?’ Still looking down at his phone,” Hutchinson said.

    That information did not disturb Trump, who was apparently furious the magnetometers, or mags for short, were evidently limiting his crowd size as many protesters with weapons elected to watch the speech from outside the screened area, so their arms wouldn’t be confiscated.

    “He felt the mags were at fault for not letting everybody in. But another leading reason and likely the primary reason is because he wanted it full and he was angry that we weren’t letting people through the mags with weapons,” Hutchinson said.

    In an earlier interview with the House investigators, Hutchinson had relayed Trump’s pleas to staff and security at the time: “ ‘They’re not here to hurt me. Take the fucking mags away. Let my people in. They can march to the Capitol from here. Let the people in. Take the fucking mags away,’ ” she said.

    But perhaps the most shocking detail of Tuesday’s proceedings came following his Ellipse speech, when Trump insisted on joining his supporters as they marched to the Capitol—something Meadows appeared to be organizing at the last minute.

    White House lawyers had warned against making such a journey, with White House counsel Pat Cipollone warning it would look like Trump was seeking to obstruct justice or incite a riot.

    “Please make sure we don’t go up to the Capitol, Cassidy,” Hutchinson said, relaying Cipollone’s message to her that morning. “We’re going to get charged with every crime imaginable if we make that movement happen.”

    House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) also harbored deep concerns that Trump would, in fact, come to the Capitol. He called Hutchinson and Ornato in the middle of Trump’s Ellipse speech, alarmed that the president had vowed to march down Pennsylvania Ave. with his supporters.

    “’You told me this whole week you aren’t coming up here. Why would you lie to me?’” Hutchinson said, relaying McCarthy’s remarks to her.

    But a national security chat log indicates they were trying to arrange the trip—despite a 12:57 p.m. warning that Capitol fencing had been breached.

    Ultimately it was the Secret Service who would push back against Trump’s demands to be transported to the Capitol, Hutchinson was told by Ornato and Robert Engel, the special agent in charge for Secret Service on Jan. 6.

    “I’m the fucking president, take me up to the Capitol now,” Trump said when Engel informed him they could not safely make the unscheduled journey.

    “The president reached up towards the front of the vehicle to grab at the steering wheel. Mr. Engel grabbed his arm, said, ‘Sir you need to take your hand off the steering wheel, we’re going back to the West Wing, we’re not going to the Capitol.’”

    “Mr. Trump then used his free hand to lunge towards Bobby Engel,” Hutchinson testified.

    Trump’s explosive anger was a theme that persisted throughout the day, with Meadows repeatedly being largely uninterested in intervening to push back against Trump’s demands.

    Cipollone burst into Meadows office shortly after rioters entered the Capitol determined to get some kind of response from Trump.

    “He doesn’t want to do anything, Pat,” Meadows said.

    “Mark, something needs to be done or people are going to die and the blood is going to be on your fucking hands,” Cipollone responded.

    Cipollone, whom Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), the select committee vice chair, pleaded in a recent hearing to likewise publicly testify, would clash again with Meadows just minutes later after Trump sent a tweet saying Pence “didn’t have the courage” to buck the election results.

    The crowd at the Capitol was chanting “Hang Mike Pence.” Cipollone again approached Meadows to say they needed to do something more.

    “You heard him, Pat. He thinks Mike deserves it. He doesn’t think they’re doing anything wrong,” Meadows responded.

    The committee and Hutchingson detailed a number of other revelations during the hearing.

    It played clips of a videotaped deposition with Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security advisor, pleading the fifth multiple times, including when asked if he believes violence was justified on Jan. 6 and if he believes in the peaceful transition of power.

    It alluded to future hearings where they will delve into the connections with extremist groups, with Hutchinson noting that she would hear more about groups like the far-right Oath Keepers and Proud Boys when Giuliani was around.

    And Cheney also displayed various intimidating messages sent to those testifying before the committee, including one where a witness was told they would stay in good graces in Trump world if they “protect[ed] who I need to protect” and stayed on the “right team.”

    “I think most Americans know that attempting to influence witnesses to testify untruthfully presents very serious concerns,” Cheney said, noting the committee would be considering next steps.

    The committee also detailed in the aftermath Jan. 6 White House lawyers were huddling to review a speech Trump was to give on Jan. 7. Hutchinson said Trump was opinionated about the speech and lines about prosecuting rioters were ultimately removed.

    “Unlike many of his other speeches, he did not ad-lib much,” Cheney said of his delivery that day.

    “He recited them without significant alteration except one. Even then on Jan. 7 2021, the day after the attack on the U.S. Capitol, the president still could not bring himself to say, ‘But this election is now over.’”

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