10:21 AM 1/16/2021 - Attack on the Capitol and the German far right - Audio Posts – SharedNewsLinks℠
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As more people are charged in connection with the attack, it has become clear that many of those who went to Washington last week were not only angry but heavily armed and, in some cases, dangerous. That point was driven home by court papers filed on Wednesday in the case of Cleveland G. Meredith Jr., who wrote in a text message that he wanted to put a bullet in the “noggin” of Speaker Nancy Pelosi on “live TV,” prosecutors said.
According to the papers, Mr. Meredith drove across the country with a Tavor X95 assault rifle, a 9 mm pistol painted to resemble an American flag and about 2,500 rounds of ammunition, including at least 320 armor-piercing 5.56 caliber rounds. Prosecutors say Mr. Meredith, who has a history of drug abuse and mental illness, also threatened to kill Mayor Muriel E. Bowser of Washington.
“I may wander over to the Mayor’s office and put a 5.56 in her skull,” he wrote in a text message, the court papers said.
This mood of outrage found an echo in the tumultuous congressional debate on impeachment, which stretched throughout the day. The sense of recrimination went beyond the boundaries of Washington as local politicians in other states lobbed accusations at each other.
A group of Arizona state lawmakers released a letter on Wednesday that they had sent a day earlier to Mr. Rosen and Mr. Wray, calling for an investigation into two of their own colleagues, Mark Finchem and Anthony Kern, who, according to social media posts, were at the riot at the Capitol.
The lawmakers also mentioned that two congressmen from Arizona, Paul Gosar and Andy Biggs, both Republicans, had planned the rally that preceded the riot with the organizer of the so-called Stop the Steal movement, Ali Alexander. A spokesman for Mr. Biggs has denied that he had any role in organizing the rally. Mr. Gosar appeared to be on friendly terms with Mr. Alexander, frequently tagging him in Twitter posts. At a rally last month outside the Arizona State Capitol at which Mr. Gosar spoke, Mr. Alexander called the congressman “the spirit animal of this movement.”
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WASHINGTON (AP) — A law enforcement news conference this week on the U.S. Capitol riot was notable not only for news that sedition charges were being contemplated but also because of who was not there: the highest-ranking leaders of the FBI and the Justice Department.
Since loyalists of President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol last week, neither FBI Director Chis Wray nor acting Attorney General Jeff Rosen has appeared in public or joined lower-level officials at news conferences or on calls updating the public on the case.
Their absence from the spotlight is striking given the gravity of an attack that has drawn round-the-clock law enforcement attention and bipartisan condemnation. It means that neither official, in a time of national crisis, has appeared on live TV to answer questions or try to reassure the public.
Top FBI and Justice Department leaders might be expected on the podium in more conventional times, but some former officials said they were sympathetic to Rosen and Wray in light of the president’s volatile persona and the politically charged nature of this particular investigation.
“If I were in the position that Jeff Rosen is in right now, I would think about not how I could show off but how most effectively I could do the job and turn these dockets over to the next administration for prosecution,” said Stuart Gerson, who served as acting attorney general in the early weeks of President Bill Clinton’s administration.
Both Rosen and Wray are known for their low-key style, and they could always become more visible in coming days or weeks. But for now the public faces of the Justice Department have largely been Michael Sherwin, the acting U.S. attorney in Washington, and Steven D’Antuono, the head of the FBI’s Washington field office. They stood alone at a department news conference Tuesday to announce the creation of a specialized task force to examine sedition charges and to describe FBI warnings about the potential for more violence.
Officials with direct supervision of an investigation are routinely the featured speakers at news conferences, but they are often joined by higher-level department officials, particularly in matters of great public interest and especially for an event in Washington.
That did not happen Tuesday. When Rosen spoke, he did it through a nearly four-minute prerecorded video released at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday by the Justice Department. In it, he called the siege an “intolerable, shocking and tragic episode” and vowed to hold the rioters accountable.
Rosen has not once addressed Justice Department reporters since becoming acting attorney general late last month. His spokesman released three statements on his behalf about the rioting and the death of a Capitol police officer injured during the attack.
Beyond those statements, Justice Department spokesman Marc Raimondi said, the department has issued “significant” amounts of information through the offices that are running it.
“This is completely consistent with the way the Department releases information following incidents,” he said.
Wray issued a statement last week condemning the violence but has otherwise not spoken publicly. An FBI spokesman said Wray prefers to let the work speak for itself and has been deeply involved behind the scenes, sharing information with local law enforcement officials and giving multiple briefings to lawmakers, including the leadership members who make up the Gang of Four. He has also remained in close contact with senior officials responding to the riot and spent time in a specialized operations center at headquarters.
Still, the low public profile of the leaders contrasts with how previous episodes have been handled. One day after the 2016 rampage at a gay nightclub in Orlando, then-FBI Director James Comey updated reporters on the investigation in a televised briefing and revealed how the FBI had prior contacts with the gunman.
More recently, after authorities used pepper balls and smoke bombs to clear peaceful protesters from Lafayette Square near the White House, then-Attorney General William Barr held news conferences and discussed the Justice Department’s decisions in interviews with reporters.
At those times, both Comey and Barr enjoyed high public profiles and White House support. Rosen, by contrast, is just weeks into a short-term job, and Wray has had to carefully navigate years of attacks from the president on both him and the FBI.
Gerson, who became acting attorney general after Barr left the department at the end of George H.W. Bush’s administration, said he was visible during his brief span leading the department, which included catastrophes like the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
“I didn’t have any political problems. I was empowered to speak for the Department of Justice in the administration that I was in,” Gerson said. But, he said, “that was me, and that was then. And now it’s Donald Trump.
“I can understand why the deputy attorney general and the director of the FBI want to refrain from putting themselves out in public when you have such an uncertain president right now,” he added.
He said he was heartened by the business-as-usual approach to Tuesday’s news conference and the message that many more charges were expected. David Gomez, a former FBI national security official in Seattle, said that even without the involvement of the top officials, the department has still communicated to the public that it takes the investigation seriously.
“They’re probably just being careful to keep the politics out of it and make it more of a criminal case,” Gomez said. “When you inject the director of the FBI into the mix, even though that’s the expectation as the head of the agency, this situation is so volatile that I think they probably said, ‘Discretion is the better part of valor,’ and let’s just let” other officials handle it.
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The details, emerging from researchers who have combed the service in recent days, shed new light on how Facebook services were used to bring attention to and boost attendance at the rally, which turned violent when a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol while Congress was in session. The attack resulted in the death of a Capitol Police officer and four other people.
Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg has sought to deflect blame, noting the role of smaller, right-leaning services such as Parler and Gab.
“I think these events were largely organized on platforms that don’t have our abilities to stop hate, don’t have our standards and don’t have our transparency,” Sandberg said in an interview Monday that was live-streamed by Reuters.
She noted that last week the company took down content affiliated with the baseless QAnon conspiracy theory and the Proud Boys extremist group, as well as content affiliated with the pro-Trump “Stop the Steal” movement seeking to delegitimize election results. She said there was likely to be some content on Facebook because the company’s enforcement was “never perfect.”
A growing body of evidence shows Facebook played a much larger role than Sandberg suggested.
The #StopTheSteal hashtag was widely used on the service until Monday, when a search on Facebook reported that 128,000 people were talking about it and in many cases using it to coordinate for the rally, according to Eric Feinberg, a vice president with the Coalition for a Safer Web.
And two dozen Republican Party officials and organizations in at least 12 states posted on Facebook to coordinate bus trips to the rally, according to research by the left-leaning media watchdog group Media Matters for America, which published screenshots of the fliers and memes.
“BUS TRIP to DC … #StoptheSteal. If your passions are running hot and you’re intending to respond to the President’s call for his supporters to descend on DC on Jan 6, LISTEN UP!” wrote the Polk County Republican Party of North Carolina in a Facebook post that is no longer publicly available.
In a statement, Facebook spokeswoman Liz Bourgeois said, “Sheryl began by noting these events were organized online, including on our platforms — with the clear suggestion we have a role here.”
“She was making the point, which has been made by many journalists and academics, that our crackdowns on QAnon, militia and hate groups has meant large amounts of activity has migrated to other platforms with fewer rules and enforcement,” Bourgeois added. She denied that Sandberg sought to deflect blame.
Facebook has been at the center of controversies over its role in the organizing of far-right events since at least 2017, when the service played a central role in the promotion of a white-supremacist rally in Charlottesville in which a woman was killed.
Throughout 2020, Facebook was a hub for organizers of protests against government restrictions related to the coronavirus — including when armed demonstrators entered the Michigan Capitol — and other pro-Trump rallies calling for election results to be decertified.
Facebook banned several far-right figures from its service after the Charlottesville violence and last year belatedly blocked organizing for protests that opposed government orders related to the pandemic. And immediately after the November election, Facebook said it was banning or labeling misinformation about election results, including taking action against the term “Stop the Steal” and banning a large group affiliated with it.
Bourgeois said that the actions taken to limit the reach of the term “Stop the Steal” in the election’s immediate aftermath were temporary. She said the hashtag was blocked again Monday, five days after the Capitol event.
The proliferation of such events raises questions about the lines between misinformation and real-world action. The company may act to limit the spread of false information, but has been hesitant to restrict people from organizing events based on their beliefs — even when those beliefs are based on misinformation.
Feinberg’s searches for the banned hashtag #StopTheSteal and the affiliated hashtags #DoNotCertify, #WildProtest and #FightForTrump on Facebook and Instagram as recently as Monday revealed hundreds of posts promoting the rally, according to a review by The Washington Post.
Some of that promotion included Instagram posts with detailed maps of the Capitol and a guide to the speakers there.
A meme posted on Facebook on Jan. 5 called for “Operation Occupy the Capitol” and promoted the hashtag #1776Rebel, according to a screenshot posted by Media Matters, referencing the year America freed itself from British rule. The post also included a quote from Abraham Lincoln: “We the people are the rightful masters of both Congress and the Courts, not to overthrow the Constitution but to overthrow the men who would pervert the Constitution.”
The existence of the post was first reported by NBC News. Media Matters showed that it was circulated by Republican Party officials in Georgia, Texas, North Carolina and Oregon.
On Dec. 28, a Facebook account called Women for America First posted about a march for Trump in Huntington Beach, Calif., with a photo of a bus and a link to a website at trumpmarch.com.
And the New Hanover County GOP of North Carolina wrote in a Facebook post advertising bus seats: “This is a call to ALL patriots from Donald J Trump for a BIG protest in Washington DC! TAKE AMERICA BACK! BE THERE, WILL BE WILD!”
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The most striking position came from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who said Wednesday that he will consider convicting Trump on inciting the attempted insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6 — a remarkable break between the two men who worked in lockstep for four years, even as the majority leader continually deflected questions about Trump’s untoward conduct and rhetoric.
It was also a dramatic shift from his position during Trump’s first impeachment a year ago, when he publicly stressed that he was “not an impartial juror” and privately worked in concert with White House officials to map out the president’s eventual acquittal in the Senate.
“While the press has been full of speculation, I have not made a final decision on how I will vote and I intend to listen to the legal arguments when they are presented to the Senate,” McConnell said in a message to his colleagues, an excerpt of which was released by his office.
McConnell also pressed pause on an impeachment trial that would occur before Trump leaves the White House on Jan. 20, slowing the rapid momentum and furor that snowballed in Congress as the scale and potential catastrophe of the Jan. 6 siege continued to sharpen.
Even with McConnell’s position giving senators cover on a conviction, multiple senior GOP officials said it was too early to determine whether a critical mass of Senate Republicans would vote to punish Trump for his role in inciting a violent mob of his supporters to storm and rampage the Capitol, leaving five people dead.
To convict Trump, 17 of the 50 Republicans in the new Senate would have to join the chamber’s 50 Democrats to meet the necessary two-thirds threshold. While a few GOP senators are now considered likely to oppose Trump, others across the spectrum of the party would face enormous pressure to abandon their years-long support of him and publicly rebuke him. Twenty GOP-held seats are on the ballot in 2022.
Most Republican senators have not expressed a public position on impeachment, leaving colleagues and others to try to parse their words for any hint of how they might feel. Some have directly criticized Trump for his role in inciting the riot, including Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina, who said Trump “bears responsibility” for the mayhem, and Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, who made similar comments.
If two-thirds of the Senate convicted Trump, a second vote would determine whether he would be barred from ever seeking federal office again. A simple majority would determine that outcome.
Given the parameters that guide Senate impeachment proceedings of a president, McConnell said Wednesday that Trump had “simply no chance” of a “fair or serious trial” before President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in. His office informed aides to Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) earlier Wednesday that he would not agree to immediately reconvene the Senate this week, according to a person familiar with the matter, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity to freely discuss internal GOP dynamics, despite pressure from Schumer to invoke rarely used emergency powers that allow the two Senate leaders to unilaterally reconvene.
“Even if the Senate process were to begin this week and move promptly, no final verdict would be reached until after President Trump had left office,” McConnell said in a statement after the House impeached Trump on a bipartisan, 232-to-197 vote. “This is not a decision I am making; it is a fact.”
McConnell is poised to remain majority leader until at least Jan. 22, when election results from the two Senate runoff races in Georgia will be certified and Democratic Sens.-elect Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff will be eligible to be sworn in. McConnell and Schumer could jointly work out the rules that would govern Trump’s second impeachment trial, although once Democrats formally take the majority, Schumer and his ranks could formalize a rules package on a party-line vote.
It’s also unclear who would preside during a Senate impeachment trial of a former president. A Supreme Court spokeswoman declined to comment Wednesday about whether Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. has been in contact with Senate leaders about any Senate proceedings, and Vice President-elect Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), in her role as president of the Senate, could conceivably preside.
With no apparent effort on McConnell’s part as of now to actively persuade or dissuade his colleagues on an impeachment vote, it was unclear how much political cover his position would provide — particularly as various Republican senators navigate their own personal home-state political dynamics as they weigh a Trump conviction.
For nearly 24 hours, the outgoing majority leader had remained quiet to other GOP senators — even those seen as some of his closest lieutenants — on reports that he was pleased with the House’s move to rapidly impeach Trump and was leaning in favor of convicting him, according to Republican officials.
That silence, people familiar with the matter said, frustrated some Senate Republicans who were seeking guidance or at least some insight into the majority leader’s thinking on what would be an unprecedented second impeachment trial of a U.S. president.
While other increasingly vocal critics of the president emphasized that they, too, were open to conviction, allies of Trump within the Senate Republican Conference continued to line up in his defense — deepening a rift among GOP senators that began as Trump falsely amplified baseless claims about widespread voter fraud in the presidential election that he lost.
Trump will almost certainly face a bigger rebuke than just the one Senate Republican — Mitt Romney of Utah — who voted to convict him last February. But the views of other GOP senators who flocked to Trump’s defense Wednesday underscored just how difficult it appeared to be as of now for 17 Republicans to ultimately decide to find him guilty of inciting an insurrection.
Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) said Wednesday after the House impeachment vote that for the past week, “it’s been obvious that the President was derelict in his duty to defend the Constitution and uphold the rule of law.”
“Everything that we’re dealing with here — the riot, the loss of life, the impeachment, and now the fact that the U.S. Capitol has been turned into a barracks for federal troops for the first time since the Civil War — is the result of a particular lie,” Sasse said.
He added that while he would not weigh in on the merits of impeachment because he is a juror, “President Trump has consistently lied by claiming that he ‘won the election by a landslide,’ and by promoting fanciful conspiracy theories about dozens of topics and people connected to the Nov. 3 election.”
Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pa.), who has emerged as one of the president’s fiercest critics since Trump lost reelection to Biden in November, said he continues to believe the outgoing president should immediately resign and, like McConnell, made clear he was also weighing a conviction.
“Whether or not the Senate has the constitutional authority to hold an impeachment trial for a president that is no longer in office is debatable,” said Toomey, who plans to retire after his term. “Should the Senate conduct a trial, I will again fulfill my responsibility to consider arguments from both the House managers and President Trump’s lawyers.”
But a faction of the GOP conference continued to line up behind Trump, contending that a fraught impeachment fight would only be divisive and risk antagonizing supporters of the president who will still retain backing from a significant part of the party’s base.
Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), who had remained an ardent Trump ally despite the turbulence of last week, reiterated that he opposes impeachment and said in a veiled reference to McConnell that “as to Senate leadership, I fear they are making the problem worse, not better.”
“To my Republican colleagues who legitimize this process, you are doing great damage not only to the country, the future of the presidency, but also to the party,” Graham said. “The millions who have supported President Trump and his agenda should not be demonized because of the despicable actions of a seditious mob.”
In private, some GOP senators questioned Democrats’ level of commitment in impeaching Trump, pointing to comments made by Rep. James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.), the third-ranking House Democrat, that suggested the House could simply hold off sending the article of impeachment to the Senate to delay a trial and free up floor time for members of Biden’s Cabinet to be confirmed.
In McConnell’s message to senators Wednesday, obtained by The Washington Post, he acknowledged that he did not know when the House will transmit the articles to the Senate, though McConnell added that it could be shortly after it is adopted.
Still, House Democrats want the Senate to act “as soon as possible,” House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) said, signaling that the impeachment article was likely to be transmitted without delay. In a statement, Schumer promised that Trump will get a “fair trial” but added that Trump’s conduct “cannot and must not be tolerated, excused, or go unpunished.”
Some Senate Republicans were also concerned that House Democrats were setting a precedent for a rushed impeachment of future presidents, according to people familiar with the conversations.
“The House impeachment process seeks to legitimize a snap impeachment totally void of due process,” Graham said. “No hearings. No witnesses. It is a rushed process that, over time, will become a threat to future presidents.”
Erica Werner and Robert Barnes contributed to this report.
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BERLIN (AP) — Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right party is choosing a new leader this weekend, a decision that will help shape German voters’ choice of a successor to Merkel at the helm of the European Union’s biggest economy after her 16-year reign.
Merkel, now 66, has steered Germany, and Europe, through a series of crises since she took office in 2005. But she said over two years ago that she won’t seek a fifth term as chancellor.
Now her Christian Democratic Union party is seeking its second new leader since she quit that role in 2018. That person will either run for chancellor in Germany’s Sept. 26 election or have a big say in who does run.
Current leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer announced her resignation last February after failing to impose her authority on the party. A decision on her successor was delayed repeatedly by the coronavirus pandemic. Eventually, the CDU decided to hold an online convention this weekend.
Delegates from Germany’s strongest party can choose Saturday between three main candidates who differ markedly, at least in style. There’s no clear favorite.
Friedrich Merz, 65, would mark a break from the Merkel era. The party has dominated the center ground, ending military conscription, enabling if not embracing same-sex marriage, and allowing in large numbers of migrants, among other things.
He has a more traditionally conservative and pro-business image, and recently wrote in Der Spiegel magazine that “the CDU must, whether it wants to or not, step out from the shadow of Angela Merkel.”
Merz has said he wants to give a “political home” to disillusioned conservatives, but won’t move “one millimeter” toward the far-right Alternative for Germany party.
This is Merz’s second bid for the party leadership after he lost narrowly last time to Kramp-Karrenbauer, considered Merkel’s preferred candidate. He led the center-right group in parliament from 2000 to 2002, when Merkel pushed him out of that job, and left parliament in 2009 — later practicing as a lawyer and heading the supervisory board of investment manager BlackRock’s German branch.
Merz has sought to portray his decade out of politics as a strength but lacks government experience. Armin Laschet, the governor of Germany’s most populous state, North Rhine-Westphalia, offers that.
Laschet, 59, is a more liberal figure, elected as governor in 2017 in a traditionally center-left stronghold, and viewed as likely to continue Merkel’s centrist approach. In a debate among the candidates last week, he said: “What I bring is government experience, the leadership of a big state, balancing different interests and — this perhaps doesn’t hurt for a CDU leader — having won an election.”
The third contender, Norbert Roettgen, lost the 2012 state election in North Rhine-Westphalia. Merkel subsequently fired him as Germany’s environment minister. Roettgen, 55, says he has learned from that experience. He has proclaims himself a candidate for the “modern center” who emphasizes issues such as fighting climate change.
Roettgen, now chairman of parliament’s foreign affairs committee, was long considered the outsider but surveys have showed him gaining ground among CDU supporters. He suggested last week he would be a palatable alternative to backers of both Merz and Laschet.
“I am not in one camp,” he said. “I stand for everyone, and I think those who don’t vote for me will be able to live with me and will accept me if I am elected.”
Laschet is the only candidate who had to make big decisions in the coronavirus pandemic. That’s both a strength and a weakness: it has raised his profile, but he has garnered mixed reviews, notably as a vocal advocate of loosening restrictions after the pandemic’s first phase.
The CDU as a whole has benefited from the coronavirus crisis, taking a strong poll lead into an unusually uncertain election year thanks to good reviews for Merkel’s pandemic leadership. Whether any of these candidates could take those ratings through to the election is uncertain. Saturday’s decision won’t be the final word on the center-right candidate for chancellor.
That’s partly because the CDU is part of the Union bloc, which also includes its sister party, the Bavaria-only Christian Social Union. The two parties will decide together who runs for Merkel’s job, though no timetable has been set.
CSU leader Markus Soeder is himself considered a potential candidate. The Bavarian governor has gained in stature during the pandemic as a strong advocate of tough restrictions to curb the coronavirus, and his poll ratings outstrip those of the CDU candidates.
And some consider Health Minister Jens Spahn, who is running to become the CDU’s deputy leader under Laschet, a possible contender.
Whoever runs will face Finance Minister Olaf Scholz, the candidate of the struggling center-left Social Democrats, currently Merkel’s junior coalition partner as well as a candidate from the environmentalist Greens, who plan to make their first run for the chancellery.
The CDU leader will be chosen by 1,001 delegates. If no candidate wins a majority, there will be a runoff. Under German law, the online result has to be confirmed by a postal ballot, whose results are expected Jan. 22.
The plan is that only Saturday’s winning candidate will be on that ballot.
Unity “is the top priority for everyone,” outgoing leader Kramp-Karrenbauer told the dpa news agency. “And it is also my big request to the party.”
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The idea of an insurrection is unheard of in modern US history, and the possibility that lawmakers or allies inside the Capitol were helping only contributes to the uncertainty and worry about the event and what’s to come.
At least one protest organizer said he coordinated with three House Republicans. There are unverified accusations of a “reconnaissance” mission one day before the attack. And more than a dozen US Capitol Police officers
for allegedly helping rioters.
While President Donald Trump’s role in inciting the violence is clear, there are some early indications and accusations that other insiders may have more actively aided the mob.
Ali Alexander, a right-wing conspiracy theorist who led one of the “Stop The Steal” groups,
that he planned the rally that preceded the riot with three GOP lawmakers: Reps. Paul Gosar and Andy Biggs of Arizona, and Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama.
Brooks spoke at the rally before Trump took the stage, and urged the crowd to “start taking down names and kicking ass.” In a
about his involvement, Brooks said he was only telling the crowd to fight back at the ballot box. (Brooks also revealed that a White House official called him one day earlier and invited him to speak at the rally.)
CNN previously reported that Gosar associated himself with Alexander’s group in recent months. A spokesman for Biggs told CNN that he hasn’t ever met or worked with Alexander.
Alexander said he hoped his “mob” would pressure lawmakers to block President-elect Joe Biden’s victory through the Electoral College. After the riot was quelled, the three lawmakers voted to throw out Biden’s electoral votes from Arizona and Pennsylvania. Their effort failed.
“Those three members of Congress are going to need to lawyer up, very fast,” former GOP Rep. Charlie Dent, a CNN contributor, told CNN’s Erin Burnett on Wednesday, adding that he thinks the lawmakers will face scrutiny from federal prosecutors and the House Ethics Committee.
Alleged ‘reconnaissance’ mission
Rep. Mikie Sherrill, a New Jersey Democrat, made waves Tuesday night when she
unnamed Republican lawmakers of helping rioters by bringing them into the Capitol one day earlier for a “reconnaissance” mission of sorts. CNN has not yet verified those allegations.
Sherrill said there were “members of Congress who had groups coming through the Capitol that I saw on January 5th for reconnaissance for the next day.” CNN has repeatedly asked Sherrill’s office for details about her accusation, but they have not provided any additional information.
She is a former Navy helicopter pilot and federal prosecutor, and is seen as a moderate member of the Democratic caucus, and not a firebrand who would make accusations without merit. She said Wednesday that she was “requesting an investigation” with “certain agencies,” presumably to look into possible coordination between Republican lawmakers and rioters.
Separately, Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado was criticized for
about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s whereabouts while the attack unfolded. Boebert, who is affiliated with the QAnon movement and regularly spreads right-wing conspiracy theories, tweeted that Pelosi had been “removed from the (House) chambers” while rioters were still in the building.
Prosecutors probe conspiracy charges
More than 70 people have already been charged with federal crimes related to the attack. Most of the publicly disclosed cases involve people who fought with police officers inside the Capitol, made violent threats against Democrats, or were found near the complex with guns or bombs.
Prosecutors haven’t yet accused any of those Trump supporters of coordinating with Republican lawmakers or sympathetic police officers, but the massive investigation is
“We’re looking at significant felony cases tied to sedition and conspiracy,” Michael Sherwin, the acting US attorney for Washington, DC, told reporters on Tuesday, without specifically saying whether any lawmakers or members of law enforcement were under investigation.
But Sherwin added, “Our office organized a strike force of very senior national security prosecutors and public corruption prosecutors. Their only marching orders from me are to build seditious and conspiracy charges related to the most heinous acts that occurred in the Capitol.”
Insider help from police and military
At least two US Capitol Police officers have already been suspended, and at least 10 more are under investigation, for allegedly playing some sort of role in the insurrection,
There was immediate speculation after the attack that some sympathetic police officers may have helped the rioters, given the fact that the raucous and at-times violent crowd seemed to mill about the Capitol complex with little resistance. One rioter even
with a cop.
Current and former US military members also
, according to news reports and court records. One of the men who infiltrated the Senate floor during the attack is a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, and the Army is
one psychological operations officer who led a group of North Carolinians to the Trump rally before the attack.
Ashli Babbitt, the 35-year-old woman who was
while trying to breach the House chamber, was an Air Force veteran who later became consumed by conspiracy theories.
CNN’s Daniella Diaz and Annie Grayer contributed to this story.
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from The National Interest.
Researchers at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and College of Medicine have announced the discovery of new variants of the novel coronavirus that likely originated here in the United States.
The new variants carry a mutation identical to the strain first seen in the United Kingdom, but they likely arose in a virus strain already present in the country, according to the study’s findings that are currently under review for publication in BioRxiv as a pre-print.
The university noted that it has been sequencing the genome of SARS-CoV-2 viruses in coronavirus-positive patients since March 2020 in order to monitor the evolution of the contagion.
One of the new variants has been identified in only one patient from Ohio, so the researchers admitted that they do not yet know the prevalence of the strain in the general population. In contrast, the evolving strain with the three new mutations has become the dominant virus in the city of Columbus.
Will Turkey Really Get an Aircraft Carrier Armed with F-35s?
“This new Columbus strain has the same genetic backbone as earlier cases we’ve studied, but these three mutations represent a significant evolution,” the study’s leader Dr. Dan Jones, the vice-chairman of the division of molecular pathology, said in a news release.
“We know this shift didn’t come from the UK or South African branches of the virus.”
The researchers added that the mutations affect the spikes that stud the surface of SARS-CoV-2. These spikes are what enable the virus to attach to and eventually enter human cells.
Like the UK strain, the mutations appear to make the virus more contagious but do not seem more deadly or diminish the effectiveness of vaccines that already have received regulatory approval, the researchers said.
“The big question is whether these mutations will render vaccines and current therapeutic approaches less effective. At this point, we have no data to believe that these mutations will have any impact on the effectiveness of vaccines now in use,” the study’s co-author Peter Mohler, chief scientific officer at the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center and vice dean for research at the College of Medicine, said in a statement.
“It’s important that we don’t overreact to this new variant until we obtain additional data. We need to understand the impact of mutations on transmission of the virus, the prevalence of the strain in the population, and whether it has a more significant impact on human health. Further, it is critical that we continue to monitor the evolution of the virus so we can understand the impact of the mutant forms on the design of both diagnostics and therapeutics. It is critical that we make decisions based on the best science.”
Along with the discovery of the Columbus variant, the researchers now believe that the same mutation may be occurring independently in many parts of the world.
“Viruses naturally mutate and evolve over time, but the changes seen in the last two months have been more prominent than in the first months of the pandemic,” Jones said.
Ethen Kim Lieser is a Minneapolis-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.
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» Angela Merkel blames ‘Brit virus’ for German lockdown amid fears Covid deaths could be TEN TIMES higher after – The Sun
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» Conspiracy theories collide online as Parler goes dark – CNET
» The CIA’s Entire Collection of Declassified UFO Documents Is Now Available to Download – Mental Floss
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» Republicans continue to defy metal detectors as Capitol security ramps up
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» The National Interest: Study: Harmful Toxins Found in Marijuana Smoke
» NYT > United States Defense and Military Forces: Armed National Guard Members Surround U.S. Capitol
» New York City is latest to cut ties with Trump businesses – Financial Times
» McCarthy says Trump ‘bears responsibility’ for attack on Capitol
» Germany: What to Expect as Merkel’s Party Elects a New Leader – Stratfor Worldview
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» The state of the pandemic in America.
» GOP Leader McCarthy: Trump ‘Bears Responsibility’ For Violence, Won’t Vote To Impeach
» Russian Officers Were Near Navalny When He Was Poisoned, Report Says – The New York Times
» Al-Qaeda calls on Muslims to target Israeli visitors to Arab countries – Cleveland Jewish News
» Germany: Some Moderna shots may have spoiled – KATV
» Creator Of World Wide Web Says Internet Needs ‘Do-Over’ – UNILAD
» Trump urges ‘NO violence’ and appeals for calm in US | AFP
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» NYT > World > Europe: Another French Intellectual Falls After Comments on Abuse Accusations
» US Covid-19 deaths hit daily record as China rushes to contain outbreaks – The New Indian Express
» Documentary finds contemporary echoes in FBI’s persecution of Martin Luther King Jr. – Washington Post
» House Democrats Raise Questions On Whether Capitol Rioters Had ‘Inside Assistance’ | MSNBC
» McConnell won’t have an early Senate trial
» Joint Chiefs of Staff remind us of our duty to defend the Constitution (and what that means) – We Are The Mighty
» 20,000 National Guard troops expected in Washington for Biden’s inauguration – CNN
» Pelosi calls Trump ‘clear and present danger’
» Donald Trump’s Twitter ban is ‘problematic,’ says Angela Merkel – Euronews
» Covid-19: Angela Merkel reportedly cites Ireland in warning to party – The Irish Times
» Covid Germany: Angela Merkel says ‘BRITISH virus’ must be stopped – Daily Mail
» CDU to pick new leader in key vote for Merkel succession ahead of German polls – The New Indian Express
» CDU leadership vote: German party eyes post-Merkel future – Al Jazeera English
» The Vote to Replace Merkel as CDU Chair Will Decide the Future of Conservatism in Germany – Foreign Policy
» Who will fill Europe’s post-Merkel vacuum? – OMFIF
» German CDU on verge of electing divisive figure to replace Angela Merkel – The Guardian
» German prosecutor closes bribery investigation into Submarine Affair
» Pelosi brands Trump ‘clear and present danger,’ says ‘he must go’ | AFP
» Telegram tries, and fails, to remove extremist content
» FOX News: These House Republicans support Trump’s impeachment
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» CDC to require all air travelers to US to show negative coronavirus test – KCRA Sacramento
» Jared Kushner scrambled to stop Trump from joining neo-Nazis’ favorite social media app: report – Raw Story
» Army won’t investigate all National Guard troops for extremist sympathizers ahead of inauguration
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» Head of US vaccine effort resigns at request of incoming Biden administration but will stay through transition
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» South Korea developing submarine-launched ballistic missile, says report
» “clinton trump debate” – Google News: How Donald Trump’s 2nd impeachment will unfold – PBS NewsHour
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» Metal detectors infuriate lawmakers as some Republicans erupt over new measures
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» Israel struck Syria ‘with U.S. intel after Pompeo, Mossad head met in D.C.’ – Haaretz.com
» The Coronavirus Games: A Geopolitical Spy Story – Lawfare
» Pelosi uses Ehud Manor lyric in appeal to get GOP colleagues to vote for impeachment
» US Chamber of Commerce called Trump’s Capitol actions ‘inexcusable’ – Business Insider – Business Insider
» Pentagon authorizes arming of National Guard members supporting Capitol security
» Chinese start-up leaked 400GB of scraped data exposing 200+ million Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn users
» NYC to terminate Trump contracts after Capitol insurrection – The Associated Press
» Report: Israel strikes Iranian targets in Syria; dozens killed or wounded – Yahoo News
» Letters to the Editor: Democracies fail without compromise. Germany is a warning – Yahoo News
» Trump’s actions in last days as President increase his legal jeopardy – CNN
» Intel CEO Bob Swan to be replaced with VMWare’s Pat Gelsinger – Yahoo Finance
» “2016 Presidential Election Investigation” – Google News: FL Firefighter Arrested for Participating in Capitol Riot – Firehouse.com
» “Clock Is Ticking” – FBI Races To Track Down Insurrectionists Ahead Of Biden’s Inauguration
» Live: Trump impeachment vote in the House
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» 2020 election: Trump administration announces new sanctions, blaming Ukraine for releasing edited audio recordings of President-elect Joe Biden – KGO-TV
» US gov’t carries out first execution of female inmate since 1953
» Top Capitol Security Officials Resign After Insurrection Under Pressure From Lawmakers – KAWC
» U.S. ‘insurrectionists’ should be added to no-fly list, top Senate Democrat says – Reuters
» The Latest: Military leaders decry Capitol attack to forces – KOKI FOX 23
» The National Interest: NATO Has Launched a New Special Operations Facility in the Baltics
» ‘Wild West’: Who regulates social media and what’s Parler? – Sydney Morning Herald
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» Germany will have coronavirus restrictions beyond January – minister – ZAWYA
» Biden Will Restore White House Pet Tradition With 2 German Shepherds – NPR
» Forest loss ‘hotspots’ bigger than Germany: WWF – Phys.org
» Democracy vs. unity? Local House members differ on why they support, or oppose, impeaching Trump – OCRegister
» Amazon says violent posts prompted Parler shutdown – Axios
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» Putin tells Russian officials to begin mass coronavirus vaccinations next week – Yahoo News
» Protester not linked to Capitol police officer’s death, person of interest in separate incident – FOX 5 DC
» Police investigating shots fired incident at Ferndale Airbnb – C&G Newspapers
» Concerns for hospital staff as violent incidents increase – 9News
» Glenn Beck on social media crackdowns: ‘This is like the Germans with the Jews’ – Yahoo Sports
» Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny says, despite facing arrest, he’s returning to Russia on Sunday
» AssociatedPress’s YouTube Videos: Trump: Wants ‘no violence’ as impeachment nears
» The FBI is also tracking money, travel records, movements of people and communications in addition to following tips from the public and footage and photos from the scene last Wednesday. Investigation into Capitol attack
» Russia Starts Mass Vaccinations in Cosmonaut Center – The Moscow Times
» US counter-intelligence chief worries about China, Russia threats to vaccine supply chain – ABS-CBN News
» Gillette Stadium to become first mass COVID-19 vaccination site in Massachusetts – Yahoo News
» Trump Says He’s at ‘Zero’ Risk of Removal Under 25th Amendment – Bloomberg
» YouTube takes action against Trump, bans uploads for at least 7 days – NBC News
» VIDEO: Heckler interrupts Schumer’s midtown press conference – RADIO.COM
» Opinion | Are you an anti-Fascist? (Hint: the answer should be yes) – NiagaraFallsReview.ca
» Tickle The Wire » James Comey Thinks FBI Christopher Wray is Trying to Avoid Agitating Trump in Final Days – ticklethewire.com
» Tickle The Wire » James Comey Thinks FBI’s Christopher Wray is Trying to Avoid Agitating Trump in Final Days – ticklethewire.com
» Trump says riot remarks were ‘totally appropriate,’ takes no responsibility for his supporters attacking Capitol – Yahoo Entertainment
» Former Berlin maestro Simon Rattle will quit UK to return to Germany – Reuters
» Germany’s confirmed coronavirus cases rise by 19600 – RKI – Reuters
» Rep. Himes: Impeachment Process Necessary For Trump’s ‘Incitement Of Insurrection’ | The Last Word
» «Вы не представляете, на что он способен». Тихановский в письме рассказал о встрече с Лукашенко
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» WATCH LIVE: Acting U.S. Attorney Michael Sherwin and FBI provide update on Capital attack charges
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» Trump and FBI – News Review from Michael_Novakhov (10 sites): FBI from Michael_Novakhov (35 sites): Michael Novakhov – SharedNewsLinks℠: FBI report warned of ‘war’ at Capitol, contradicting claims there was no indication of looming violence
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» Sweden records 17,395 new COVID-19 cases to take total above 500,000 – Yahoo News
» A theater of propaganda: The Capitol, cameras and selfies
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» Google Alert – fbi reform: CT Prepares After FBI Memo Warns Of Armed State Capitol Protests
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» Germany set to tighten travel rules to limit spread of Covid-19 variants – The Local Germany
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» Germany’s Scholz upbeat on transatlantic ties with Biden – Reuters
» German investigators shut down big darknet marketplace – KLBK | KAMC | EverythingLubbock.com
» One day until Trump’s second impeachment vote: What happens now
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» Parler, a Platform Favored by Trump Fans, Struggles for Survival – The Wall Street Journal
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» 3:05 AM 1/12/2021 – Michael Novakhov – @mikenov – In MyOpinion
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» China spokesman: History will punish Pompeo’s legacy as Trump’s Secretary of State – Stars and Stripes
» 3:05 AM 1/12/2021 – Michael Novakhov – @mikenov: Much more than any internal divisions, these are the planned, calculated actions by the “Bad Players”: The New Abwehr – German Russian Intelligence Services that traditionally rule the TOC – Russian Jewish
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WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — More than 30 Democratic members of Congress are calling for an investigation into what they believe were suspicious tours of the U.S. Capitol, alleging that the visitors to the Capitol Complex on Tuesday appeared to be “associated” with the Wednesday rally ahead of the breach of the Capitol building.
NewsNation affiliate PIX11 reports Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ) in a Facebook Live Tuesday night alleged unidentified colleagues had groups walking around the Capitol in “reconnaissance for the next day.”
On Wednesday, Sherrill, along with more than 30 other lawmakers, formally requested an investigation from the Acting House Sergeant at Arms, the Acting Senate Sergeant at Arms, and the Acting Chief of the U.S. Capitol Police into what they called “suspicious behavior and access given to visitors to the Capitol Complex” on Tuesday, the day before the Complex was breached as Congress certified the Electoral College vote for President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.
According to the letter, tweeted by Sherrill Wednesday afternoon, she and other lawmakers noticed tours conducted on Tuesday, Jan. 5, that were “a noticeable and concerning departure from the procedures in place as of March 2020 that limited the number of visitors to the Capitol.” The letter continues to say the tours were “so concerning” they were reported to the Sergeant at Arms that Tuesday.
“The visitors encountered by some of the Members of Congress on this letter appeared to be associated with the rally at the White House the following day,” the letter alleges in part, before stating “Given the events of January 6, the ties between these groups inside the Capitol Complex and the attacks on the Capitol need to be investigated.”
The letter concludes, before laying out a number of questions, “the fact remains that there were unusually large groups of people throughout the Capitol who could only have gained access to the Capitol Complex from a Member of Congress or a member of their staff.”
No Republican lawmakers signed the letter calling for the investigation.
The letter doesn’t provide any evidence of the allegations.
Read the full letter below:
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from Yahoo News – Latest News & Headlines.
WASHINGTON — On Dec. 8, someone made a simultaneous transfer of 28.15 bitcoins — worth more than $500,000 at the time — to 22 different virtual wallets, most of them belonging to prominent right-wing organizations and personalities.
Now cryptocurrency researchers believe they have identified who made the transfer, and suspect it was intended to bolster those far-right causes. U.S. law enforcement is investigating whether the donations were linked to the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol.
While the motivation is difficult to prove, the transfer came just a month before the violent riot in the Capitol, which took place after President Trump invited supporters to “walk down Pennsylvania Avenue” and “take back our country.”
Right-wing figures and websites, including VDARE, the Daily Stormer and Nick Fuentes, received generous donations from a bitcoin account linked to a French cryptocurrency exchange, according to research done by software company Chainalysis, which maintains a repository of information about public cryptocurrency exchanges and whose tools aid in government, law enforcement and private sector investigations. Chainalysis investigated the donations after Yahoo News shared the data points about the transaction.
According to one source familiar with the matter, the suspicious Dec. 8 transaction, along with a number of other pieces of intelligence, has prompted law enforcement and intelligence agencies in recent days to actively investigate the sources of funding for the individuals who participated in the Capitol insurrection, as well as their networks. The government is hoping to prevent future attacks but also to uncover potential foreign involvement in or support of right-wing activities, the source said.
During a press conference on Tuesday on the investigation into the Capitol riot, acting U.S. Attorney Michael Sherwin said the “scope and scale of this investigation in these cases are really unprecedented.” At this time, Sherwin added, prosecutors are treating the matter as a “significant counterterrorism or counterintelligence investigation” involving deeper dives into “money, travel records, disposition, movement, communication records.”
One of the ways extremist groups have made money in recent years is online through cryptocurrency and crowdfunding. Bitcoin, which was anonymously released online in 2009 as open-source software, exists only virtually. It does not utilize a central bank or administrator to disburse funds, nor does any government control or distribute it. While bitcoin has fluctuated in value in recent years, and continues to do so, it gained mainstream popularity around 2017, the same year prominent alt-right figure Richard Spencer tweeted, “Bitcoin is the currency of the alt right.”
A 2017 Washington Post investigation explored how far-right groups turned even more aggressively toward bitcoin following the deadly August 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va. The story cited research by the nonprofit Southern Poverty Law Center that identified a large bitcoin donation to Andrew Anglin, the editor of the Daily Stormer, a prominent neo-Nazi website that accepts bitcoin donations. At the time, the donation was worth around $60,000.
A “newfound expertise in online messaging and recruitment, coupled with the fact that modern extremist groups are generally young and digitally savvy, means that these organizations and individuals have fundamentally altered the way that extremists raise money,” wrote Alex Newhouse, a data analyst at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, in a 2019 report that explored the links between white supremacists and digital currency.
Some prominent right-wing groups or sites display their bitcoin wallets prominently, the report noted. “The lack of regulation over Bitcoin has driven its adoption by white supremacists,” it said.
While cryptocurrency has been used by extremist groups and criminals to raise funds while shielding their identities, bitcoin is pseudonymous rather than anonymous. Bitcoin wallet addresses are permanent, and the digital ledger of transactions, called the blockchain, is public and can’t be changed. That means if people identify their bitcoin wallet addresses, as many right-wing groups do to raise funds, transactions can be traced, which is what allowed Chainalysis to uncover information about the source of the large December donations.
The source of the funding, according to research conducted by Chainanalysis, appears to be a computer programmer based in France who created an account in 2013 — and who maintained a personal blog, which was not updated between 2014 and Dec. 9, 2020, the day after the “donations.”
Chainalysis researchers discovered a blog post from the bitcoin user that reads like an apparent suicide note, bequeathing his money to “certain causes and people” in light of what he describes as “the decline of Western civilization,” though the researchers were unable to confirm that the user was in fact dead. Chainalysis declined to publish the user’s name, citing privacy concerns due to the inability to conclusively confirm his death and out of concerns over ongoing law enforcement investigations.
An email to the apparent French donor did not immediately receive a reply.
Chainalysis investigators relied on openly available information, or public bitcoin transactions, to investigate and map out the large transaction. The original donor was registered on NameID, an internet service that allows bitcoin users to tie their online pseudonym or email address with their bitcoin profile — information the original donor included. Investigators tracked that email address to the blog, and to several cryptocurrency forum posts going back to 2013.
According to their research, Fuentes, a popular right-wing commentator who was suspended from YouTube last winter for violating its policies on hate speech, received the largest chunk of funding on Dec. 8 — about $250,000 in bitcoin. The Daily Stormer and the anti-immigration website VDARE were among the other recipients.
Yahoo News reached out to the recipients named in this article to confirm whether they had received the funding, what information they had about the donor and what they planned on doing with the funds. None returned a request for comment, although Fuentes tweeted an obscene gesture, naming several journalists, including this reporter, shortly after the inquiry was sent.
While the Daily Stormer website openly requests cryptocurrency donations, it also includes a disclaimer that says it is “opposed to violence” and that “anyone suggesting or promoting violence in the comments section will be immediately banned.”
While there’s no evidence that Fuentes directly participated in the Capitol riot, something he has so far denied, the financial resources of prominent right-wing actors are of growing interest to law enforcement.
“I’d be stunned if both nation-state adversaries and terrorist organizations weren’t figuring out how to funnel money to these guys,” one former FBI official who reviewed the data for Yahoo News said. “Many of them use fundraising sites (often in Bitcoin) that are virtually unmonitored and unmonitorable. If they weren’t doing it, they’d be incompetent.”
Additionally, much like conversations that took place on social media in the weeks leading up to the Capitol riot, the digital currency transactions are happening in plain sight. While cryptocurrency has the reputation of being anonymous and shadowy, that’s actually a common misconception, explained Maddie Kennedy, Chainalysis’s communications director. “With the right tools you can follow the money,” she said. “Cryptocurrency was designed to be transparent.”
While there are methods that cryptocurrency users can deploy to obfuscate their identities — including using “privacy coins” such as Monero, which are difficult to trace, or using a “mixer” that allows various users to combine their bitcoins and mix them together to disguise their origin — there’s no indication the French programmer utilized those tools, Kennedy said.
Though the donations are not a smoking gun or indicative of a crime, and it remains unclear to what extent the Capitol riot was coordinated in advance, the activity is nonetheless revealing, according to Kennedy.
“These extremist groups are probably more well organized and well funded than what was previously believed,” she said. Chainalysis maintains a database of “domestic extremists” who have cryptocurrency accounts, and while the company has traced donations to right-wing groups over the years, the December deposit was “the single biggest month we’ve ever observed” directed toward these causes, the researchers wrote.
“This is evidence to show they’re raising money,” Kennedy said. Additionally, the fact that the donor was outside the United States suggests “this has international scope,” she continued, a fact that “law enforcement should be paying attention to.”
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from Elizabeth Elizalde – New York Post.
January 14, 2021 | 8:42pm | Updated January 14, 2021 | 9:24pm
A massive fire ripped through a Brooklyn building Thursday evening, authorities said.
The five-alarm blaze broke out at 244 Montrose Avenue in Bushwick just after 6 p.m., the FDNY said.
Videos on social media show the flames bursting out of the top floors of the building as black smoke billowed into the night sky.
Firefighters can be seen on the roof of an adjacent building trying to put out the blaze, video shows.
Another video shows firefighters finally extinguishing the flames, which left the top of the building charred and destroyed.
Fire officials said no injuries were reported.
It’s unknown what caused the large fire. An investigation is ongoing.
Firefighters battle the five-alarm blaze at 244 Montrose Avenue in Bushwick, Brooklyn.
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Updated: Jan 14, 2021 10:53 IST
Washington [US], January 14 (ANI): Former FBI Director James Comey on Wednesday said that the evidence he has seen so far suggests the attack on the US Capitol was a ‘planned assault’.
“The FBI would be doing two things simultaneously — going immediately to find the bad actors all over the country that they can lay hands on and charging them but also exploring the question of conspiracy,” Comey told CNN.
“There is no doubt that there were at least some conspiracy. People wandering around exercising First Amendment rights do not bring ropes and ladders and sledgehammers to a spontaneous event. This was a planned assault like going after a castle,” he added.
His remarks come after it was reported that enforcement officials believed that the attack was premeditated rather than a protest that spiraled out of control.
CNN further reported that among the evidence the FBI is examining are indications that some participants at the Trump rally at the Ellipse, outside the White House, left the event early, perhaps to retrieve items to be used in the assault on the Capitol.
On January 6, a group of Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol to protest legislators confirming electoral slates from battleground US states they thought were invalid.
Trump had made a speech among thousands of supporters earlier that day reiterated his claim a massive voter fraud had robbed his election victory and encouraged supporters to maintain support to “stop the steal.”
Five people died in the riot, including one police officer as well as one Air Force veteran and Trump supporter who was shot dead by police. (ANI)
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Among the evidence the FBI is examining are indications that some participants at the Trump rally at the Ellipse, outside the White House, left the event early, perhaps to retrieve items to be used in the assault on the Capitol.
A team of investigators and prosecutors are also focused on the command and control aspect of the attack, looking at travel and communications records to determine if they can build a case that is similar to a counterterrorism investigation, the official said.
The belief, early in the probe, will demand significant investigation.
The presence of corruption prosecutors and agents is in part because of their expertise in financial investigations. “We are following the money,” the official said.
By Wednesday morning, the FBI reported that it had received more than 126,000 digital tips from the public regarding the attack on the Capitol — more than three times the number of tips received on Monday.
Among the thousands of tips the FBI received are some that
with people who later showed up at the Capitol riot, two law enforcement officials said. This doesn’t mean members of Congress and staff are under investigation, but the FBI is checking the veracity of the claims, the officials said.
Counterterrorism strategy for arrests
At least some of the arrests already made are part of a strategy used in counterterrorism investigations, to find even a minimal charge and try to take a person of concern off the streets. That helps ease the possible threat amid concern about possible attacks on the inauguration, officials believe.
On January 4, for example, local police arrested the leader of the Proud Boys, Henry “Enrique” Tarrio, in Washington, DC.
Tarrio was taken into custody for allegedly burning a Black Lives Matter banner taken from a Black church last month during protests in the city after an earlier “Stop the Steal” rally. The Miami resident was charged with destruction of property related to the banner, however, federal authorities say they found Tarrio in possession of two high-capacity firearm magazines, prompting them to add a charge of Possession of High Capacity Feeding Device.
On Tuesday, federal authorities in New York City arrested Eduard Florea, 40, on at least one weapons charge after law enforcement, including the FBI and NYPD, responded to a Queens home in response to online postings about an armed caravan heading to the US Capitol, two law enforcement officials with knowledge of the investigation tells CNN.
Law enforcement sources told CNN that the man claims to be a Proud Boy and was arrested with live ammunition in the home.
Already, the public efforts by prosecutors and the FBI to encourage people who participated In the riot to turn themselves in is yielding fruit. Some attorneys have reached out to arrange for safe surrender of their clients in order to gain a measure of leniency and lessen the chance of a police raid on their homes, two officials said.
For instance, a counterterrorism prosecutor even appeared in court for an early hearing for one of the defendants on Tuesday, signaling how integrated the Justice Department’s effort already is between the typical criminal prosecutors who handle initial criminal hearings and with the units focused on more complex crimes.
“With this strike force that was established to focus strictly on sedition charges, we’re looking at in treating this just like a significant international counterterrorism or counterintelligence operation,” DC US Attorney Michael Sherwin said Tuesday.
“We’re looking at everything: money, travel records. Looking at disposition, movement, communication records. So no resource related to the FBI, or the US Attorney’s Office will be unchecked in terms of trying to determine exactly if there was a command and control how it operated and how they executed these, these activities.”
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Last week, Americans were shocked as a large group of Donald Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol Building in protest of his 2020 election loss, following a rally that included a speech from Trump himself. Five people died, including two police officers, and significant damage was done to the building, including to many congressional representatives’ offices. Several prominent members of the alt-right either took part in the raid or were present just outside the Capitol, including internet personality Nick Fuentes.
It’s unclear to what degree the attack on the Capitol was planned in advance. ProPublica reports that in the weeks leading up, many Trump supporters discussed turning the event violent on Parler, a rightwing social media app now banned by most major tech platforms. However, we now have evidence that many alt-right groups and personalities, including Fuentes, received large Bitcoin donations in a single transaction that occurred a month before the riot on December 8. We have also gathered evidence that strongly suggests the donor was a now-deceased computer programmer based in France.
While we won’t share the donor’s identity publicly, we’ll walk you through how we made the identification and provide details on the donations below. The information we’ve uncovered shows that domestic extremism isn’t strictly domestic. International networks play a role as well, which we see reflected in the nationality of this extremist donor. The donation, as well as reports of the planning that went into the Capitol raid on alt-right communication channels, also suggests that domestic extremist groups may be better organized and funded than previously thought.
On December 8, 2020, a donor sent 28.15 BTC — worth approximately $522,000 at the time of transfer — to 22 separate addresses in a single transaction. Many of those addresses belong to far-right activists and internet personalities.
Nick Fuentes received 13.5 BTC — worth approximately $250,000 at the time of the transfer — making him by far the biggest beneficiary of the donation. However, several others received significant funds as well, including anti-immigration organization VDARE, alt-right streamer Ethan Ralph, and several addresses whose owners are as yet unidentified.
While there’s no evidence yet that Fuentes entered the Capitol — in fact, he explicitly denies entering the building — he was present at the initial rally and seen outside the Capitol as the rioting began. Fuentes promoted the rally that preceded the violence in the month before on social media. PBS notes that in the days leading up, Fuentes encouraged his audience to engage in extreme behavior to prevent Joe Biden’s election from being certified, even implying that they should kill state legislators. Fuentes had previously been banned from YouTube for hate speech, including Holocaust denial and promotion of other conspiracy theories.
The December 8 donation of over $250,000 worth of Bitcoin is by far the largest cryptocurrency donation Fuentes has ever received. Previously, the most he had ever received in a single month was $2,707 worth of Bitcoin.
In fact, as we see in the graph above, this multi-recipient donation made December 2020 the single biggest month we’ve ever observed in terms of cryptocurrency received by addresses associated with domestic extremism. Still, this donation isn’t a one-off. The data shows that domestic extremists have been receiving a steady stream of cryptocurrency donations since 2016.
Who is the extremist donor?
The extremist donor funded his donation wallet with cryptocurrency from a French exchange, which he moved to the donation wallet via an intermediary we’ve labeled “Extremist Legacy Wallet.”
The Extremist Legacy Wallet first became active in 2013, suggesting that the extremist donor is a relatively early adopter of Bitcoin whose holdings have grown in value significantly. Using open-source intelligence, we discovered one BTC address associated with the Extremist Legacy Wallet is registered on NameID, a service that allows users to associate their online identity, email address, and other information with their Bitcoin address. In this case, the extremist donor associated his Bitcoin address with the pseudonym “pankkake.”
In addition to his Bitcoin address, the extremist donor also listed an email address and an OpenPGP signature.
Searching for information on the email address led us to a personal blog we believe belongs to the extremist donor, and which identifies him as a French computer programmer. The blog had been inactive since 2014 until a new post was published on December 9, 2020 — the day after the donations were made. Shockingly, the post appears to be a suicide note. You can read it in the screenshot below.
Most of the note details the author’s health difficulties, which he says prompted him to commit suicide, but the sections we’ve highlighted provide strong evidence that the author is the extremist donor. He mentions that he has “bequeathed [his] fortune to certain causes and certain people,” and cites several alt-right talking points in his analysis of the world today. For instance, he states his belief that “Western civilization is declining,” and claims that Westerners are encouraged to hate their “ancestors and heritage.” He also seemingly alludes to his belief that George Floyd died of a drug overdose rather than due to the actions of the police officer who violently apprehended him. All of these are common beliefs on the alt-right, and paint a picture of the donor’s motivations for sending cryptocurrency to so many far right extremist figures.
Standing together against domestic extremism
While we don’t know if these donations directly funded last week’s violent gathering at the Capitol or any associated activity, the timing certainly warrants suspicion. As the Biden administration gears up to fight domestic extremism, these donations are a reminder of the need to track the cryptocurrency activity of all groups and individuals designated as terrorists, including those operating on U.S. soil. As mainstream payment platforms remove extremist groups and figures, we may see them embrace cryptocurrency more as a donations mechanism. Luckily, thanks to the inherent transparency of cryptocurrency blockchains, law enforcement can track these transactions in real time and work with cryptocurrency businesses to prevent funds from reaching violent groups who may use them to fund their operations and commit acts of violence. Chainalysis is actively looking to identify any additional extremist payments and activity and will keep our customers updated.
This blog is an excerpt from the Chainalysis 2021 Crypto Crime Report. Click here and sign up to get the full document emailed to your inbox when it’s released in February!
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No headline I’ve ever written, no headline I’ve ever read, has brought me greater joy than the one my father held up at Victoria train station one August afternoon in 1991: THE COUP COLLAPSES.
Nearly 30 years later, I can still recall the angle of the summer light illuminating the Evening Standard, the broad grin on Dad’s face, the sheer relief flooding through my brain. Suddenly it didn’t matter that I was late meeting my family on this, the first day I’d been allowed to roam London on my own. I was late because I’d dawdled in the crowd outside Downing Street, waiting for news. “It’s such a shame,” a voice in the crowd had said. In those pre-just-pull-out-your-phone days, the voice sounded like confirmation of our deepest collective fear.
The fear in August 1991 was exactly the same as our fear in January 2021: that an anti-democratic insurrection in one of the world’s superpowers would cement its position, then drag us all back down the path towards global annihilation.
But the 1991 insurrection failed. The scales tipped. The bloody authoritarianism seen in Tiananmen Square two years earlier would not be replicated, not yet; the democratic movement that toppled the Berlin Wall two years earlier would roll on for now. The 1990s, one of the most hopeful decades in human history, truly began that summer day. Bliss it was in that dawn to be alive, as Wordsworth wrote of the French Revolution, but to be young was very heaven.
And I didn’t even know then that I was about to see the U.S.S.R. first hand, in its last weeks of existence.
These days, if it is recalled at all, the one-week coup in the U.S.S.R. is remembered as a brief blip in the decline of Communism. When the Soviet Union dissolved itself at the end of 1991, the whole thing started to feel inevitable. Of course the hardliners in the Kremlin would fail; of course Russian president Boris Yeltsin would succeed in standing against them. Hindsight, once again, was 20/20.
In the heartland of America — where many didn’t know about or distrusted the democratic reforms of the last Soviet president, Mikhail Gorbachev — a dangerous myth began to take hold. It wasn’t the failure of a right-wing Russian coup, they said, but the unwavering rhetoric of the Reagan-Bush right, that had forever ended the threat of the Cold War. Besides, how dare you call the plotters right-wing, just because they looked backwards to an anti-democratic authoritarian past? Commies are all extreme leftists, aren’t they?
Now we’ve witnessed a coup attempt in the United States where more people actually died (five) than during its Soviet counterpart (three). So it’s a good time to revisit this half-forgotten week that shook the world and ended the “evil empire”. Then as now, the battle was really between authoritarians and (small-d) democrats. Then as now, democracy was fragile. Then as now, democrats were outraged and emboldened by the attempt to silence their voices. Then as now, countering the regime’s lies was key.
And then as now, the authoritarian threat wasn’t as defeated as it seemed. Arguably, you can draw a direct line between the KGB-backed coup of 1991 and the election in 2000, under suspicious circumstances, of former KGB officer Vladimir Putin.
There’s another connection between the coups: no matter how much anyone said afterwards that we didn’t see it coming, we saw it coming. Even teenage me saw it coming. “It had always been talked about, a coup by hardliners,” I wrote in my diary on the coup’s first day. “I suppose everyone was hoping old soldiers would fade away.”
Here’s what the old soldiers were fighting against. Gorbachev was the first Soviet leader who wasn’t a doddering old relic from the Bolshevik Revolution. He turned out to be a cautious reformer. He introduced glasnost, a policy that increased freedom of speech, and perestroika, which let people own private businesses. In spring 1989 he said he wouldn’t interfere in the politics of Eastern European countries under Soviet rule; this led directly to the wave of revolutions that toppled the Berlin Wall that November. And he brought democracy to the Soviet Union, allowing each republic (like Russia) to elect its own leadership (like Yeltsin, a former protege of Gorbachev’s).
In August 1991, Gorbachev and Yeltsin were about to sign the Union treaty, which would allow republics to control their own resources, including oil. The U.S.S.R. was about to become a collection of federal states like the U.S.A.; allowing non-communist parties was the obvious next step on the road to full democracy. The KGB put Gorbachev under surveillance.
On Aug. 18, the president was in his holiday home on the Black Sea, putting finishing touches on the treaty. If right-wing reactionaries wanted to maintain their stranglehold on Soviet society, it was now or never — just as Republicans told themselves that Jan. 6, 2021, was their last chance to hold on to power.
In America, we have just seen a mob that wanted to kill the Vice President for carrying out his legal duty of certifying an election. The Soviet coup, by contrast, was led by a Vice President who wanted to end elections. Gennady Yanayev was a hardliner who’d been forced on Gorbachev by the Communist parliament in 1990. On the morning of Aug. 19, state radio announced Yanayev had taken over because Gorbachev wasn’t feeling well, when he was in fact under house arrest. A fake 25th Amendment situation, if you will.
An “emergency committee” composed of other Soviet bosses, including the head of the KGB, was formed to deal with a manufactured crisis. They moved to control state radio and TV, and shut down non-state newspapers. They arrested Gorbachev allies whom they thought might cause trouble. But in the committee’s first and greatest error, it failed to arrest Boris Yeltsin. The Russian republic’s president barricaded himself inside his parliament building, known as the White House, and dared the regime’s tanks to come at him.
They did, rolling across Moscow just as they had rolled in to Budapest in 1956, and Prague in 1968, and Beijing in 1989 — all cities where Communist reformers seemed to have the upper hand for a brief shining moment. The crackdown was the norm, and that’s why the world expected a successful coup in 1991. We in the pro-democracy West were used to having our hopes dashed.
But in this case, sympathetic tank commanders stopped just short of the White House.
Yeltsin was an amateur politician, but he wasn’t yet the drunken oaf he became in later years. He had charisma. He had fearlessness, which he demonstrated on the coup’s first day by clambering atop a Soviet tank, surrounded by supporters, calling the coup illegitimate, and demanding a general strike. No Russians saw that on TV, but Yeltsin did an end-run around state media by broadcasting from ham radios inside the White House and dropping frequent news leaflets from its windows to the crowds below — a paper-based Twitter.
Yanayev didn’t get out in front of the cameras until later that day. He seemed every inch the lifelong bureaucrat he was, not a leader. (My sister thought he looked like Windom Earle, a rumpled FBI agent in the recently-cancelled Twin Peaks.) He wouldn’t appear without five other coup plotters beside him. Afterwards, it became increasingly clear that he was a figurehead; his fellow hardliners were pulling the strings.
But losing the charisma contest was no guarantee that the coup would fail. After all, a popular reformer, Nikita Khrushchev, had been deposed by a bunch of Communist bureaucrats in 1963. The committee still had the tanks, and history, on their side. Pro-democracy protesters tried lying in the street in front of the tanks, but lost the game of chicken, pulling themselves up at the last minute.
Watch this report from Aug. 19 to get a sense of the somber, stomach-churning mood on that day. Note how the people in the report describe the military leaders arrayed against them: “Fascists.” It was very, very clear which political wing they thought the coup belonged to.
The next day, Aug. 20, hardline victory and a return to the Cold War still seemed the most likely outcome. Leningrad was still holding out against the coup, but for how long? In Moscow, Yeltsin talked to world leaders like George Bush and John Major, but there wasn’t anything they could do. “Don’t write my obituary yet,” Yeltsin joked with a visiting American journalist. Then they filled his office with sandbags. That night, tanks fired on protesters, killing three. The most obvious comparison was to the recent deaths in Beijing.
On the night of the 20th, “I prayed this wouldn’t be another Tiananmen Square,” I wrote in my diary. “Me, an atheist!” The prayers were answered, not by heavenly intervention, but by the people of Russia. Thousands defied curfew to surround the Russian parliament. The deaths of demonstrators only made them more determined to resist the reactionaries.
More and more, the tank crews began to display the Russian flag, not the Soviet one, to show sympathy with the demonstrators. The emergency committee wavered as the military argued over its support for the coup, which the Air Force had always been against. Was this, perhaps, the beginning of a new civil war? The future seemed to hang in the balance.
Then in one day, Aug. 21, the Defense Ministry announced it was withdrawing from Moscow. Its leader, Dimitry Yazov, seemed to be unavailable with some sort of bug. That was it; the coup committee had lost its trump card. One committed suicide; the others fled the capital by air before being arrested.
Gorbachev, released from his dachau, returned to Moscow that night. But as he soon discovered, the city had changed forever. It was Yeltsin territory now. Reform could no longer proceed at Gorbachev’s slow pace.
That same week, Yeltsin humiliated Gorbachev live on state TV. It was during a meeting at the Russian Parliament which Gorbachev hoped would restore the status quo. In fact, Yeltsin started lecturing him publicly. Before the delegates, before the world, Yeltsin forced Gorbachev to read an account of the coup — revealing that only one man in Gorbachev’s entire cabinet had defended him. His voice cracked reading it. He immediately announced the appointment of Yeltsin men to replace them.
By the end of that incredible meeting, Yeltsin did something none of us alive had ever expected to see in our lifetimes. He effectively dissolved the Soviet Communist party by signing an official decree suspending all its activities in Russia. Gorbachev could only look on and splutter about how, surely, there were still some good Communists left. He may have been back in power, but most of that power evaporated at the stroke of Yeltsin’s pen.
All other parties were now legal. The Communists were not. The Republics that were ready to break away followed suit, arresting Communist officials. Statues fell like ninepins, starting with that of the hated founder of Russia’s secret police, long a symbol of KGB power. Without fear of the KGB to keep the Republics in line, the official breakup of the Soviet Union that December was set in motion.
Before the coup, Gorbachev had a shot at keeping the U.S.S.R. together in a U.S.A.-style multicultural federal democracy. Now that dream was dead. The coup had failed so hard, it had done what decades of Cold War rhetoric had failed to do. It wasn’t Reagan or Bush who ended the U.S.S.R. It was a parliament full of anger at right-wing insurrectionists, a parliament fearful that they might try to bring down their legitimate leaders again.
That October, a few of us from my school district had the good fortune to go on an exchange trip to the U.S.S.R. two months before it ceased to exist. In the conservative countryside of Kostroma, we saw a strange land of contrasts. A lot of people were getting religion, but hadn’t yet celebrated Christmas. Our hosts were Yeltsin people who eagerly devoured independent news, yet Communist symbols persisted. The neighbors gave us old Red Army medals. The statues of Lenin, always in that taxi-hailing pose, were gone in Moscow, but there were no plans yet to remove them here. But they wouldn’t be celebrating Revolution Day in November for the first time ever.
My host family’s youngest boy gave me the gift of a toy tank; his contribution to disarmament, they laughed. Meanwhile a giant statue of a tank in the center of Kostroma commemorated a local regiment that was wiped out not once, not twice, but three times in the Great Patriotic War against the Nazis. Reminders that this war had cost 20 million Russian lives were everywhere. When you’re living with the weight of that much history, even a coup must seem small potatoes.
And yet it had still been a big deal. My hosts recalled their sudden glumness in those days of the coup when suddenly, around town, everyone stopped feeling like they could talk openly again. Now they were as hopeful as Russians ever got. “God saved us from the coup,” insisted a girl my age in a pink Jesus top. The new economic reality had not yet begun to bite. Everything was on the table for the newly unshackled country. My hosts wouldn’t even rule out the appointment of a new Tsar. A purely constitutional monarch, of course.
I thought of them often in the decades since, as we saw a new kind of Tsar rise — one not bound by any constitution. Putin, an obscure former KGB officer, was suddenly appointed Prime Minister at the alcohol-soaked end of Yeltsin’s presidency. In the wake of terrorist-style apartment bombings in Moscow, the truth about which is still murky, Putin won the 2000 Presidential election. He invited his former KGB boss — yes, one of the coup plotters — to the inauguration.
The coup still reverberated in Russian culture as the country plunged into its increasingly authoritarian nightmare under Putin. If Americans have anything to learn from it all, it’s this: Don’t go easy on insurrection. The top plotters were pardoned after their treason trial by the Russian parliament, which was eager to turn the page and promote unity, in 1994.
Ten years after the coup, the plotters gathered in public again, insisting they had been right all along. Dmitry Yazov, the defense minister who had become conveniently ill towards the end of the coup, became a chief military aide to Vladimir Putin, who gave him a medal. Yazov died in 2020.
The anniversary in later years has been a source of regret for some Russians, meaning regret that it didn’t succeed. Their numbers likely include Vladimir Putin, whose sympathies are not hard to guess. Putin has called the 1991 breakup of the Soviet Union the “biggest geopolitical catastrophe” of the 20th century. And it was Putin’s KGB that helped initiate the coup in the first place — a coup that Russians still call an act of fascism.
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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President-elect Joe Biden on Friday continued to fill out top roles for his administration, naming former Deputy CIA Director David Cohen to reprise his role at the U.S. intelligence agency and choosing New York City’s emergency coordinator to lead the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Biden’s transition team, in a statement, also named deputy level officials for the Environmental Protection Agency and the Office of Management and Budget.
Reporting by Susan Heavey; Editing by Lisa Lambert
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
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from The News And Times.
Biden taps former deputy CIA director David Cohen for spy agency again | Reuters
Capitol rioters included highly trained ex-military and cops
Rioters intended to ‘capture and assassinate’ elected officials, prosecutors allege. – The New York Times
US transition latest: Capitol rioters intended to kill officials, prosecutors say – Nikkei Asia
US now says no evidence of ‘kill capture teams’ at US Capitol – The Jerusalem Post
FBI Assistant Director in Charge Steven M. D’Antuono’s Remarks on Press Call Regarding Violence at U.S. Capitol — FBI
Biden should resist pursuing Trump once he leaves office: ex-FBI director James Comey | CBC Radio
James Comey and Truth in Government – The New York Times
Retired Air Force officer at Capitol riot intended “to take hostages,” prosecutor says – CBS News
Left-wing activist seen at Capitol wore gas mask, said he had knife during riot: feds | Fox News
Virginia National Guard corporal arrested and charged in connection with Capitol riot
It’s Trump’s Money, Not His Brand, That Should Worry Him – Bloomberg
Graham releases Russia probe docs, slams probe as ‘one of the most incompetent, corrupt’ in FBI, DOJ history | Fox News
Opinion | Trump Swings and Misses – The New York Times
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In the final days of his presidency, Donald Trump may have exposed himself to a criminal prosecution after he leaves the White House.
First he repeatedly pressured a state official to “find” enough votes to overturn his defeat in Georgia in the 2020 election. Then he incited a violent pro-Trump mob Wednesday to storm and ransack the U.S. Capitol in an unsuccessful attempt to prevent Congress’ counting of electoral votes confirming President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. Five people died in the rioting, including one Capitol Police officer.
Even after repeatedly pushing the limits of presidential power and surviving an impeachment, his last-ditch bid to hold on to power through intimidation and insurrection has dramatically increased the odds he will face a criminal investigation and possibly the first-ever prosecution of an ex-president.
Legal experts say only a criminal prosecution could hold Trump fully accountable for his actions.
Though the Democratic-led House is moving toward a possible second impeachment this week, chances of a Senate conviction of Trump — which would bar him from running for office again — remain unclear and would almost certainly occur only after he left office.
“The facts currently known warrant a criminal investigation of the president and others who were involved in inciting the insurrection at the Capitol,” said Mary B. McCord, a former Justice Department official and Georgetown University law professor. “Whether charges should be brought will depend on the results of that investigation and considerations of prosecutorial discretion, but accountability is important in the face of such grievous and dangerous abuses of power and privilege.”
But pressing criminal charges against a former U.S. president would take the nation into uncharted territory.
The law against “seditious conspiracy” makes it a crime for “two or more persons … in any place subject to the jurisdiction of the United States to conspire to overthrow, put down or to destroy by force the government of the United States … or by force to prevent, hinder or delay the execution of any law of the United States, or by force to seize, take or possess any property of the United States.” A conviction could lead to fines or up to 20 years in prison.
Federal law also makes it a crime to fraudulently tamper with the “tabulation of ballots.” In an hourlong recorded phone call Jan. 2, Trump pressed Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “recalculate” votes to make him the winner.
The Justice Department has long maintained that a president may not face criminal prosecution while in office because it would interfere with his duties. But constitutional experts say a former president has no such immunity.
“I think it’s clear that after a president leaves office, he can be tried for a crime he committed while he was president,” said University of Chicago law professor David A. Strauss. “The Constitution itself says that if he’s impeached, convicted and removed from office, he can then be tried for a crime.”
The Supreme Court in the 1982 case of Nixon vs. Fitzgerald ruled an ex-president cannot be sued for damages for his official actions — in this instance, for the firing of a Pentagon whistleblower. But the justices have not confronted the question of whether an ex-president is shielded from being charged with criminal conduct committed while in office.
Until this month, many lawyers who were highly critical of Trump were nevertheless opposed to prosecuting him for actions he had taken up to that point in his tenure, such as allegations he obstructed justice in special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s inquiry into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. They feared such charges would be seen by many as partisan and politically divisive.
But Trump’s use of his office to attempt to overturn his electoral defeat crossed the line for many.
“We have a long history, developed most recently from the aftermath of the Nixon administration, of keeping politics separate from federal law enforcement and not using the power of the federal government to investigate and punish one’s political opponents. That norm needs to be taken seriously,” said Elizabeth Wydra, president of the Constitutional Accountability Center, a progressive legal group in Washington.
“But Trump’s lawlessness is so blatant, and so threatening to our constitutional democracy, that letting him escape accountability could be even worse for the country.”
“One step in the right direction,” she said, “is Biden’s repeated commitment to keep the White House separate from the Justice Department’s charging decisions.” Biden has said the Justice Department will have the independent capacity to decide who gets prosecuted.
Randall Eliason, a former prosecutor who teaches at George Washington University, said he changed his mind about the wisdom of prosecuting Trump over the last two weeks.
“Generally we should be very reluctant to suggest that a new administration should prosecute an outgoing president for actions taken while in office. That’s routinely done in some other countries, but has never been done here,” he said. “If we are going to break that precedent, there has to be a very compelling reason. I think Trump’s actions in inciting the riot meet that standard. Not only are they outrageous and potentially criminal, but they have nothing to do with the legitimate exercise of his presidential powers. There’s no risk here that we would be criminalizing mere policy or political differences.”
Biden may not share that view. He said often during the campaign that he wanted to look forward, not back, and that he would leave any decision on whether to prosecute Trump to his attorney general. He has appeared cool to Democratic calls for a second impeachment.
Last week, Biden named veteran Judge Merrick Garland, a respected former federal prosecutor, to lead the Justice Department, which presumably will make any final decision about whether to prosecute Trump.
Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank), a former federal prosecutor who led the Democrats’ 2019 impeachment, said the incoming attorney general will face a complex decision. “He’ll have to examine issues of proof. And he’ll have to consider the gravity of the offense and the need for the country to heal,” he said in an interview Saturday.
The acting U.S. attorney in Washington, Michael Sherwin, a Trump appointee, said his office is already building a criminal case around Wednesday’s attack, starting with those who stormed the Capitol.
“Those are the people that obviously breached the Capitol, created violence and mayhem there and then exited,” he told reporters last week. “But yes, we are looking at all actors here, OK? Not only the people that went into the building. All options are on the table.”
Trump has reportedly considered granting himself a pardon for any crimes he committed. Legal scholars are divided on whether the president’s power extends that far. Many predict such a move would backfire.
Trump would be seen as admitting he committed serious crimes necessitating a pardon. And the Justice Department is not likely to stand aside and allow such a precedent to go unchallenged because it might suggest that a future president with criminal tendencies could steal billions, sell national secrets or even murder opponents, and then walk away scot-free.
In fact, if Trump were to pardon himself, federal prosecutors might be more likely to charge him with a crime, some experts say. Doing so would then require judges and ultimately the Supreme Court to decide whether the president has an absolute power to commit crimes with impunity.
Times staff writer Noah Bierman contributed to this report.
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