1:51 AM 2/23/2021 - FBI swept up lawmakers' phone data, is treating some as suspects - Daily Mail | Fmr. Federal Prosecutor: SCOTUS Ruling On Trump Taxes Possible ‘Gold Mine’ | The Last Word | MSNBC

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FBI swept up lawmakers' phone data, is treating some as suspects  Daily Mail
Fmr. Federal Prosecutor: SCOTUS Ruling On Trump Taxes Possible ‘Gold Mine’ | The Last Word | MSNBC

Andrew Weissmann tells Lawrence O’Donnell that Donald Trump’s tax returns will provide a wealth of information to the Manhattan District Attorney’s criminal investigation of the former president. “The government is going to need to show not only that tax returns or bank loan applications were wrong, but that Donald Trump or whoever they’re focusing on knew they were wrong and filed them nevertheless. Accounting records can be a gold mine in terms of proving all of that.” Aired on 02/23/2021.
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Fmr. Federal Prosecutor: SCOTUS Ruling On Trump Taxes Possible ‘Gold Mine’ | The Last Word | MSNBC

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FBI swept up lawmakers' phone data, is treating some as suspects

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FBI is 'treating members of Congress as suspects in the MAGA riot probe and'has swept up lawmakers' phone data during investigation'

  • The FBI is reportedly investigating members of Congress as 'suspects' in a probe of the January 6 insurrection and has swept up lawmakers' phone data
  • The Intercept reported Monday that within hours of the MAGA riot the FBI began securing thousands of phone and electronic records connected to people there
  • Through special emergency powers, the FBI collected reams of private cell phone communications, some of which were from lawmakers and Hill staff 
  • 'The data is also being used to map links between suspects, which include members of Congress,' The Intercept said 
  • This could pose a problem, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse said, because the executive branch is restricted from probing Congress 
  • Whitehouse suggested last month that the Senate Judiciary and Homeland Security Committee probe whether lawmakers were involved in the riot 
  • The Rhode Island Democrat told The Intercept that he's also asked the Senate Ethics panel to look into whether members of Congress aided the rioters 

By Nikki Schwab, Senior U.S. Political Reporter For Dailymail.com

Published: Updated:

The FBI is reportedly investigating members of Congress as 'suspects' in a probe of the January 6 insurrection and has swept up lawmakers' phone data. 

The Intercept reported Monday that within hours of the Capitol break-in the FBI began securing thousands of phone and electronic records connected to people at the scene. 

Through special emergency powers, the FBI collected reams of private cell phone communications, some of which were from lawmakers and their staff.  

The FBI is reportedly investigating members of Congress as 'suspects' as part of the bureau's probe into the January 6 insurrection, The Intercept reported Monday, detailing the amount of cell phone data investigators have collected
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The FBI is reportedly investigating members of Congress as 'suspects' as part of the bureau's probe into the January 6 insurrection, The Intercept reported Monday, detailing the amount of cell phone data investigators have collected 

The Intercept reported Monday that the FBI gathered a ton of cell phone data from the January 6 insurrection, though there could be legal issues with collecting data from members of Congress because there are protections insulating the legislative branch from the executive
  • Copy link to paste in your message

The Intercept reported Monday that the FBI gathered a ton of cell phone data from the January 6 insurrection, though there could be legal issues with collecting data from members of Congress because there are protections insulating the legislative branch from the executive

FBI opens over 160 cases related to the storming of the Capitol

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Investigators are 'searching cell towers and phones pinging off cell sites in the area to determine visitors to the Capitol,' a retired senior FBI official told the news site.  

The Intercept said investigators have relied on data 'dumps' from cell phone towers in the D.C. area to map out who was there. 

From there, they are able to trace call records - but not the content of the conversations - from phones. 

'The data is also being used to map links between suspects, which include members of Congress,' The Intercept said.    

A number of Democrats suggested after the MAGA riot that some of their Republican colleagues may have been involved.

GOP lawmakers have denied these allegations.  

A 2007 corruption case against former Rep. William Jefferson, a Louisiana Democrat, reinforced protections against the executive branch sweeping up records from Congress.  

An appeals court ruled the FBI improperly seized material from Jefferson's office. 

In a statement released on January 11, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse warned the Justice Department against investigating members of Congress' role in the attack, saying that the Senate should do so instead. 

'Separation of powers principles generally, and the speech and debate clause particularly, restrict the executive branch’s ability to investigate members of Congress. That's why the Constitution puts the houses of Congress in charge of disciplining their members,' Whitehouse elaborated to the Intercept. 

'In the case of the January 6 insurrection, I’ve asked the Senate ethics panel to take a hard look at certain members’ behavior, including whether they coordinated or conspired with, aided and abetted, or gave aid and comfort to the insurrectionists,' the Rhode Island Democrat continued. 

In the original statement, Whitehouse suggested that the Senate Judiciary and perhaps Homeland Security Committees probe colleagues' role in the insurrection. 

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Whitehouse also said that Republican Sens. Josh Hawley, Ted Cruz and Ron Johnson need to be removed from the committees investigating the insurrection. 

Hawley and Cruz were among the GOP senators to back a House GOP effort to challenge Electoral College vote counts in certain states during the January 6 joint session to certify that President Joe Biden won the 2020 presidential election.

Senator Josh Hawley objects to the verification of ballots

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A U.S. senator has to sign on to a House challenge in order for it to be debated. 

Their actions gave what Democrats call 'the big lie' - that President Donald Trump was cheated out of a second term due to widespread voter fraud - more weight. 

Since the insurrection, Johnson has downplayed the assault. 

The FBI refused to comment to the Intercept on specific tools investigators were using in the probe of the January 6 insurrection, except to say the bureau received more than 200,000 tips. 

The Justice Department declined to comment. 

'As with all our operations, the FBI conducts itself according to our legal requirements and established policies,' the FBI told The Intercept.   


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Opinion | The U.S. should reveal its intelligence about the Wuhan laboratory

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Then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and President Donald Trump missed no opportunity to bash China over the virus, trying to divert attention from Mr. Trump’s disastrous pandemic response. Setting aside this scapegoating, the origins of the coronavirus remain unknown. Did the virus leap directly from an animal host in nature to humans, which many scientists believe is highly likely, or from an inadvertent leak or accident at a Chinese laboratory, possibly the WIV? The answers will be important to prevent a future pandemic and must be pursued vigorously, even though China covered up the early stages of the pandemic and has advanced dubious theories to suggest it originated beyond China’s borders.

Mr. Pompeo issued a statement and fact sheet on Jan. 15 claiming the U.S. government “has reason to believe that several researchers inside the WIV became sick in autumn 2019, before the first identified case of the outbreak, with symptoms consistent with both COVID-19 and common seasonal illnesses.” Mr. Pompeo does not categorically claim the workers had covid, only raising the possibility of that or seasonal illnesses, such as influenza. Both are respiratory illnesses.

If true, it would be useful to know if any workers were quarantined or if there is cellphone mobility data to track what happened to them.

Mr. Pompeo said the U.S. information “raises questions” about Chinese denials that the laboratory was the source. A senior researcher at the WIV, Shi Zhengli, was working on “gain of function” experiments, which involve modifying viral genomes to give them new properties, including the ability to infect lung cells of laboratory animals that had been genetically modified to respond as human respiratory cells would. Mr. Pompeo noted that China “prevented independent journalists, investigators, and global health authorities from interviewing researchers at the WIV, including those who were ill in the fall of 2019.” Matthew Pottinger, who was deputy national security adviser under Mr. Trump and is a China specialist, said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” Sunday the Jan. 15 statement was “very carefully crafted” and “scrubbed” by the administration. The statement also claimed the WIV had been engaged in secret projects with China’s military involving laboratory animal experiments.

When a World Health Organization team recently wrapped up its initial investigative visit to Wuhan, the team leader said the laboratory leak scenario was highly unlikely. However, State Department spokesman Ned Price said Feb. 9 that the Biden administration would “draw on information collected and analyzed by our own intelligence community to evaluate the report” from the WHO. Mr. Price emphasized the need for “full transparency.”

Full transparency is needed from China but also from the United States. The intelligence behind Mr. Pompeo’s statements should be declassified, with proper protection for sources and methods. The truth matters, and the United States should not hide any relevant evidence.

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Why New York’s Last COVID Surge Was Far Less Deadly Than Its First

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For those who find themselves stuck inside worrying about the new variants of COVID-19 going around, the second wave of the virus in New York City might feel like deja vu.

Yet in some ways, this new surge has been much milder than the first. Far fewer New Yorkers have been hospitalized or died from COVID-19 this fall and winter than last spring, even though the number of total cases over the last three months was 40% more than the opening stanza of the pandemic. As the winter wave overwhelmed hospitals nationwide and thrust America's death toll toward 500,000, medical centers in New York have been able to handle the surge.

So, what has changed? The fact that severe outcomes are less common raises thoughts of the city nearing herd immunity, but hospital leaders and infectious disease experts say the life-saving switch is due to more testing, better knowledge of the disease, and stronger preparation.

Better Medicine

“We look at it in our breakdown of data as three phases,” said Dr. David Reich, president and chief operating officer of Mount Sinai Hospital. Spring saw a massive surge of COVID-19 patients before cases slowed--but didn’t cease--over the summer. October ushered in a second flood of cases that began cresting in early January.

But mortality rates in New York City steadily declined after peaking in May at 11%. The case-fatality rate kept dropping even during the last surge, and by early February, was down to 4%.

“There are a few possible reasons for that,” Reich said. “The first is that in the spring there was just nothing in the way of therapeutics and we had no idea what to do. People were given drugs that turned out to be useless like hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin and a few others.”

Now, Reich said, health care providers have a better sense of what works, even though research on certain practices and medicines remain ongoing. For instance, Mount Sinai has started giving some patients blood thinners because its staff observed clotting in a portion of COVID-19 patients.

“Even though the literature is still evolving, it looks like at least a subset of patients do better with anticoagulation,” Reich said. Similarly, he said, “The drugs people commonly refer to as steroids...seem to be effective to a certain extent in patients who are more advanced in the disease.”

Better Preparation

Another factor in improved outcomes is that hospitals are less overwhelmed this time around because they are better prepared.

Per state criteria, hospitals had to maintain a certain number of empty beds in order to have surge capacity for a second wave. And hospital systems have also implemented new plans for moving patients between facilities in order to balance the patient load.

NYC Health + Hospitals, the city’s public hospital system, transferred nearly 500 patients among its 11 hospitals between November and the end of January.

This “steady movement of patients has helped the system manage capacity as facilities convert units to COVID-19-only units or move into the additional surge spaces that are part of our plan,” Dr. Mitchell Katz, President and CEO of NYC Health + Hospitals, wrote in a January 28th report to the hospital system’s Board of Directors.

“[In the spring], there weren’t enough critical care facilities in many circumstances to take care of acutely ill patients, so on top of everything else, the overwhelming of the hospital system was one of the contributing factors [in patient outcomes],” Reich said.

Katz noted that the city health system didn’t see the same spike in COVID-19 patients as it did in the spring, but rather a steady increase over recent months, which “has made this surge much different and more manageable.”

Patients arriving at the hospital are also generally less sick than they were at the start of the pandemic, Katz said. He noted that this, “combined with new therapeutics and other interventions, has reduced mortality significantly.”

Widely available testing for COVID-19 has likely made a difference in transmission and hospitalization rates.

“It’s the first step to actually interrupting further spread,” Dr. David Chokshi, the city health commissioner, said in December, adding, “Once someone tests positive, we very quickly help them isolate.”

A much smaller share of COVID-19 tests are coming back positive now than in the spring, although that figure is impacted by the fact that, early on, the few tests that were available were primarily given to people who were already experiencing severe COVID-19 symptoms.

Herd Immunity? Not quite yet.

Fewer positive tests and lower rates of severe symptoms raise the question of whether the New York region is close to achieving herd immunity. The more immune systems build defenses against COVID-19, the closer a community comes to interrupting the coronavirus’s ability to cause worse outcomes or spread from person to person. The vaccine campaign is aiding this quest, but a number of New Yorkers gained immunity last spring when the virus swept through essentially unimpeded.

“If there were no immunity by natural infection, we would be seeing a lot more people who have already been infected getting infected again,” said Jeffrey Shaman, an infectious disease specialist at Columbia University.

It’s still unclear exactly how much natural immunity comes with a coronavirus infection, or how long that immunity lasts. But so far, reinfections have been extremely rare, with one recent large-scale study of U.K health care workers reporting a rate of 1%. Among this group, the researchers estimated that prior infection reduced the odds of a second bout by 83%. While there have been documented instances of people getting reinfected with COVID-19, for the most part people getting sick now did not have it before, experts say.

As of February 19th, about 684,630 people have had confirmed cases of COVID-19 in New York City, but Shaman and other infectious disease experts say these diagnostic tests likely only capture a fraction of total cases. Based on a predictive model Shaman developed with other researchers at Columbia University, the total number of cases in New York City may be five times that amount.

That would mean some 2.8 million people in the city, or about a third of the population, have already been infected. Viviana Simon, a professor of microbiology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, says her research lab also reports an estimate in that ballpark, with between 20% and 25% of city residents infected. Add another 400,000 city residents who’ve been fully vaccinated as of February 22nd, and you’re only tacking on another 3 percent or so.

“That’s not enough for herd immunity. It needs to be at least 75% to 80% for herd immunity, so vaccines will be essential for us,” Simon said.

Simon and Shaman attribute the milder second surge primarily to an increased volume of testing, meaning cases can be caught earlier before the disease spreads, and clinical interventions at hospitals. Better compliance with measures like social distancing and mask wearing may also have made a difference.

“The problem is that in winter the virus is more transmissible,” Shaman said. “It innately appears to transmit more efficiently in drier, colder air and people are indoors more and may be more complacent with controls.”

He said it’s still unclear whether COVID-19 will end up being a seasonal virus like the flu or follow another pattern.

Reich said that while the second wave hasn’t been as bad and Mount Sinai’s surge has already plateaued, it hasn’t been a picnic either. He added that more research on effective treatments is still needed because it is “still a scary disease” that kills one of every 10 hospitalized patients. “I wouldn’t want to take those odds for anyone I love,” Reich added.

“It’s hard on staff because it’s just such a long marathon for them,” he said. “There’s no light at the end of the tunnel just yet.”

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· · · · ·

3:49 PM 2/22/2021 - Opinion—How will we look back on the Capitol breach?

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3:49 PM 2/22/2021

Michael Novakhov's favorite articles on Inoreader
In twenty years, thirty years, how will we look back at the beginning of 2021? I think the breach of the U.S. Capitol will be one of the most significant ... police or other law enforcement officers who attended the demonstration on Jan. ... Each of the rioters will continue to be under investigation until they are ...
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Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin said that Merrick Garland, the nominee for attorney general, if confirmed, would oversee a Justice Department at an 'existential moment’ after it became the ‘Trump Department of Justice’ in the last four years.

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Judge Merrick Garland, President Joe Biden's pick to be attorney general, arrives on Capitol Hill for his confirmation hearing, in Washington, Monday, ...
At his confirmation hearing on Monday, Judge Merrick B. Garland promised to focus on prosecuting the Jan. 6 Capitol riot attack with the same ...
What’s the Justice Department Actually For?

This time around, Judge Merrick Garland is getting his hearing.

Not only is President Joe Biden’s nominee for attorney general receiving a Senate audience, but his confirmation seems very likely, a second difference from his 2016 nomination to the Supreme Court, which was stymied by then–Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

But there’s still an important question at stake in Garland’s nomination, and if confirmed, in his work as attorney general. The Trump presidency has both underscored and made more urgent a running debate over what exactly the U.S. Department of Justice is for.

“I think being attorney general has got to be the toughest job in the United States government, because you serve at pleasure of president, but you also have an obligation … to equal justice and impartial enforcement of the law,” Senator John Cornyn, the Republican from Texas, told Garland during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing this morning.


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