Posts tagged with "CNN"

Two men charged with conspiracy to attack Democratic HQ in Sacramento

july 19, 2021

On July 16, federal authorities announced they had arrested two men in California who allegedly wanted to organize a movement to overthrow the government—and who had discussed blowing up the Democratic headquarters in Sacramento—in a new, major case of would-be domestic terrorists motivated by former President Donald Trump’s election defeat, CNN reports.

Five days before the presidential inauguration on January 20—which prosecutors believe was to be a key date in the planning of the attack—the Justice Department apprehended one of the men, who had amassed a large arsenal. Ian Benjamin Rogers, 45, of Napa, California, showed strong support for White supremacy and for Trump, and said in text messages he realized he would be labeled a domestic terrorist, according to Justice Department court filings.

A man Rogers communicated with, Jarrod Copeland, 37, of Vallejo, California, was arrested in Sacramento this week, DOJ said.

According to CNN, court records citing extensive encrypted messages between Rogers and Copeland raise the alarm of how the men sought to inspire domestic terrorism toward Democrats—and how their anti-government motivations may still persist.

In January, Rogers had told Copeland, “I want to blow up a democrat building bad,” and Copeland responded in agreement, writing, “Plan attack.”

The pair discussed “war” after President Joe Biden’s inauguration, the Justice Department said. They also discussed attacking George Soros, a billionaire donor who supports liberal causes; and Twitter, which by then had removed Trump from the social media platform.Enter your email to sign up for CNN’s “What Matters” newsletter.”I hope 45 goes to war if he doesn’t I will,” Rogers allegedly wrote.

The larger idea, the FBI and prosecutors say, was for Rogers to become violent near where he lived, to prompt others into similar actions nationwide, according to the court record.

Both men are charged with conspiracy to destroy by fire or explosive a building used or in affecting interstate commerce.

Rogers also faces weapons charges after investigators found 49 firearms, thousands of rounds of ammunition and five pipe bombs at his home and business in January, shortly after they discussed the plan but before January 20, according to court records. One of the guns, investigators noted, appeared to be a replica of a fully automatic machine gun that Nazi troops had used during World War II, according to a charging document for Rogers. Rogers told investigators after his arrest the pipe bombs were for “entertainment.”

Secret Service intel briefings ahead of January 6 concluded there was no indication of civil disobedience

Rogers and Copeland are currently being held in custody and have yet to be arraigned, and a federal prosecutor said Thursday they remain a threat. “All of the political and social conditions that motivated them to plan what they themselves described as a terrorist attack remain,” the prosecutor write in a court filing.

Rogers’ attorney declined to comment, and it was not immediately clear if Copeland had a lawyer. Copeland is due in court in San Francisco on July 20.

Prosecutors, national security officials and politicians have warned that after Trump and his allies ramped up his lies of a stolen election in November and after a mob of hundreds of Trump supporters attacked the US Capitol on January 6, their inflammatory rhetoric could lead to violence.

An FBI agent specializing in domestic terrorism wrote in court about the messages, “I believe that these latter messages indicate Rogers’ belief that Trump (“45″) actually won the presidential election and should ‘go to war’ to ensure he remained in power.”

Prosecutors also say Rogers had written to Copeland months before, in November, that he wanted to “hit the enemy in the mouth” with homemade explosives attacking the Governor’s Mansion and the Democratic headquarters building in Sacramento, according to DOJ.

Copeland had told Rogers he was in touch with an anti-government militia group and also had made contact with a militia leader after Rogers’ arrest, who advised him to delete his communications, which he allegedly did, the Justice Department also said.

In various searches, investigators found Copeland had rifles, a “go bag” with a helmet, elbow and knee pads, ammunition magazines and zip tie handcuffs, and anabolic steroids.

The zip ties, prosecutors say, were intended for the men’s plot. “The fact that he still had them six months later indicates that he still believed a situation would arise where he would need to take prisoners,” a Justice Department court filing said. “His sentiments are deeply felt and long-standing and reflect a belief that the government is illegitimate. He is not likely to obey rules imposed on him by someone he views as part of a tyrannical government.”

Prosecutors note that Copeland served in the military but had deserted in 2016 under an “other than honorable” discharge.

“It doesn’t matter for our purposes whether the steroids make Copeland more violent and aggressive, or he seeks out steroids because he tends to be more violent and aggressive. Either way, he is a greater danger to the community,” prosecutors noted about the steroids.

At first, CNN reports, Rogers’ idea was to use Molotov cocktails and gasoline, and his a “first target” of the governor’s mansion, because he believed it was empty and there would be no casualties. “Would send a message,” Rogers allegedly wrote to Copeland, according to the court record. “That’s the best target I think too,” Copeland responded.

Prosecutors say Rogers then decided to change the target to the Democratic headquarters building in Sacramento. The two men allegedly made plans over the next two months, prosecutors say. The discussed pipe bombs and gallons of gasoline, among other violence at the building, according to their messages included in court records.

Research contact: @CNN

Justice Stephen Breyer says he isn’t planning to retire; he is happy as SCOTUS’s top liberal

July 16, 2021

The liberals in Congress may say that he has worn out his welcome, but  Justice Stephen Breyer still feels very much at home at SCOTUS. He has not decided when he will retire and is especially gratified with his new role as the senior liberal on the bench, he told CNN in an exclusive interview—his first public comments amid the incessant speculation of a Supreme Court vacancy.

Indeed, amid the pressures of the recently completed session and chatter over his possible retirement, Breyer, a 27-year veteran of the high court, told CNN on Wednesday, July 14, that two factors will be overriding in his decision: “Primarily, of course, health,” said Breyer, who will turn 83 in August. “Second, the court.”

Liberal advocates, law professors, and some Democratic members of Congress have tried in public statements to persuade Breyer to leave the bench. They want Democratic President Joe Biden to be able to name a younger liberal while the Senate, which has the constitutional “advice and consent” power, holds a thin Democratic majority.

Some liberals were urging Breyer to announce a departure as the justices released their final opinions the first week in July. But Breyer has shown no desire to leave the bench at this point, especially as he has obtained more power as the ranking justice on the left after the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg last year..

When asked directly over coffee in rural New Hampshire whether he had decided when to step down, Breyer said simply, “No.”

He brushed aside questions about the timing of a decision but was willing to speak about the factors that would influence him, including regard for the court. He also elaborated on the satisfaction his leadership role on the left wing has brought.

Breyer said his new seniority in the justices’ private discussion over cases “has made a difference to me. … It is not a fight. It is not sarcasm. It is deliberation.”

During the recent session, Breyer assumed a leading role on several major cases, including to reject a third challenge to the Affordable Care Act, to bolster student speech rights, and to give Google a victory in a multibillion-dollar copyright infringement case brought by Oracle.

He also undertook a new role in internal debate, speaking sooner in the justices’ private conferences, steered by the rhythms of seniority.

When the justices meet in private to decide how to vote on cases, the nine are alone. They call these collective sessions, the “conference.” And according to longstanding tradition, Chief Justice John Roberts, speaks first, giving his thoughts about a case and casting his vote. Next comes Justice Clarence Thomas, on the court for 30 years. Breyer is now next in the order, and the first liberal to have a shot at influencing a case and any cross-ideological consensus.

“You have to figure out what you’re going to say in conference to a greater extent, to get it across simply,” Breyer said. “You have to be flexible, hear other people, and be prepared to modify your views. But that doesn’t mean (going in with) a blank mind.”

Breyer has tried to minimize the politics of a 6-3, conservative-liberal bench in these especially polarized times. A lengthy speech he gave at Harvard Law School last April has been turned into a book that will be published in September entitled, “The Authority of the Court and the Peril of Politics.”

Liberals beyond the court praise his record but, as they did of Ginsburg for years, say he should make way for a new justice, particularly while Biden has a Democratic Senate.

Unlike when Ginsburg died and the 5-4 conservative-dominated court transformed to a 6-3 bench, a new Biden appointee would not change the current ideological split.

Theoretically, the Democrats should retain their one-vote advantage through at least the 2022 November midterm elections. But activists worry about any sudden change in that margin. Their concerns arise against the backdrop of 2016, when then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell prevented any hearing of Obama’s choice of Merrick Garland to succeed Justice Antonin Scalia, and of 2020, when Ginsburg died and McConnell helped rush through Amy Coney Barrett as a successor in October— just days before President Donald Trump was voted out of office, CNN notes.

When the court rules in the familiar 6-3 conservative-liberal pattern, Breyer, as the senior member of the left, has the power to assign the opinion for that wing. He said his goal is a fair distribution of the dissents in prominent cases among himself, Kagan and the third liberal, Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

At an institution bound by rank, Breyer knows what it is like to be on the downside of the seniority order. He spent more than 11 years as the most junior justice (nearly the court record), simply by virtue of a dearth of associate-justice appointments in that period. Samuel Alito joined in January 2006, an appointee of President George W. Bush, after Bush’s choice of Roberts to be chief justice in 2005.

Ginsburg was named to the bench in 1993, the year before Breyer. Her tenure as the senior justice on the left ran for a decade, from 2010 (when Justice John Paul Stevens retired) to 2020.

Breyer’s duration is unlikely to reach a decade, but he plainly decided it would not be a single term.

Research contact: @CNN

Justice Department says Trump’s talk of reinstatment could fuel more violence from his supporters

July 12, 2021

The Justice Department is warning that former President Donald Donald Trump’s delusional claims that he’ll be reinstated to the White House could fuel more political violence from his supporters, CNN reports.

Trump and some of his allies on the right-wing fringe have pushed what CNN characterizes as “the ridiculous theory” that he could be reinstated as president in August. There is no legal or constitutional mechanism for that to happen, and Trump’s claims of a “stolen” 2020 election have been fully debunked.

Federal prosecutors brought up Trump’s rhetoric this week in one of the US Capitol riot cases.

The rioter, Marine Corps veteran Alex Harkrider, asked a judge to discontinue his GPS tracking and remove his ankle monitor. The Justice Department opposes this request, saying Trump’s rhetoric could inspire Harkrider to become violent in the future. Harkrider has pleaded not guilty.

“Former President Trump continues to make false claims about the election, insinuate that he may be reinstalled in the near future as President without another election, and minimize the violent attack on the Capitol,” prosecutors wrote in the filing. “Television networks continue to carry and report on those claims, with some actually giving credence to the false reporting.”

Prosecutors continued, linking Trump’s rhetoric to the Capitol rioter’s case: “The defendant in this case is not a good candidate to be out in the community without electronic monitoring to ensure the safety of the community and the safety of democracy in the current environment.”

Indeed, according to CNN, this isn’t the first time Trump’s post-presidency lying about the 2020 election has become an issue for some of his ardent supporters who were charged in connection with the Capitol insurrection.

Earlier this spring, federal judges and prosecutors cited Trump’s rhetoric during detention hearings for some of the Capitol rioters. Judges and prosecutors alike were concerned that Trump’s words could once again incite political violence. Trump’s language made it more difficult for some of his supporters to argue that they could safely be released from jail before trial.

In the Harkrider case, prosecutors say he tried to “obstruct the historically peaceful transition of power and overthrow the government” on January 6. He brought a tomahawk ax to the Capitol that day—his lawyers claimed it was only for self-protection from Black Lives Matter and Antifa.

He asked the judge to remove his GPS tracking. His lawyer says he’s paying a monthly fee of $110 for the monitoring, which is difficult because he “lives on a small pension from the Government, which he receives for his total disability” from his military service. He was a lance corporal in the Marines and served in Iraq and Afghanistan before exiting the military in 2012.

“This is a financial, emotional and physical hardship for Mr. Harkrider,” his lawyer wrote.

As of Friday morning, federal Judge Thomas Hogan hasn’t issued a decision about the GPS monitoring. He released Harkrider from jail in April after he spent three months behind bars.

Research contact: @CNN

Fox’s News changes the climate for weather TV

July 7, 2021

Weather is taking the media industry by storm. In fact, later this year, Rupert Murdoch is set to debut Fox Weather, a 24-hour streaming channel that promises to do for seven-day forecasts what Fox has done for American politics, financial news and sports, The New York Times reports.

Not to be outdone, the Weather Channel—the granddaddy of television meteorology, broadcasting from Atlanta since 1982—has announced the creation of a new streaming service, Weather Channel Plus, that the company believes could reach 30 million subscribers by 2026.

Amid a waning appetite for political news in the post-Trump era, media executives are realizing that demand for weather updates is ubiquitous—and for an increasing swath of the country, a matter of urgent concern, the Times notes.

In the past week alone, temperatures in the Pacific Northwest broke records, wildfires burned in Colorado and Tropical Storm Elsa strengthened into a hurricane over the Atlantic Ocean.

At CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News, average viewership for the first half of 2021 fell 38% from a year prior. Concurrently, the audience for the Weather Channel was up 7%.

“All the networks are ramping up for this,” Jay Sures, a co-president of United Talent Agency who oversees its TV division, told the Times, adding, “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that climate change and the environment will be the story of the next decade.”

 One of his firm’s clients, Ginger Zee, the chief meteorologist at ABC News, now has 2.2 million Twitter followers — more than any ABC News personality besides George Stephanopoulos.

Fox Weather’s impending debut opens a new front in the media wars, but Byron Allen, the comedian-turned-media-baron whose Allen Media Group bought the Weather Channel for $300 million in 2018, insists that he welcomes the competition. “Rupert Murdoch is very smart; he is the best of the best,” Allen said in an interview. “I am not surprised he’s coming into the weather space. Honestly, I would have been disappointed if he didn’t.”

Allen told the Times that he and Murdoch recently met for an hour in the latter mogul’s office on the Fox lot in Los Angeles. “We had a great time together,” he recalled. “Now the world will understand how big of a business the weather business is and how important it is.” (A spokesperson for Murdoch did not comment on the meeting.)

The weather media ecosystem—from iPhone apps to localized subscription sites and umbrella-toting personalities on the local 10 o’clock news—is a lucrative, if often overlooked, corner of the industry, where the battle for attention is increasingly fierce. Advertisers weary of the choppy politics and brand boycotts of the Trump years see weather as a relatively uncontroversial port in the squall.

At Fox, Sean Hannity will not be giving a forecast (yet). But Fox Weather, which will be funded by advertisers, is aggressively poaching star meteorologists from Houston, Seattle, St. Louis and other markets. It is also taking a run at major talent at the Weather Channel, with several Hollywood agents recounting frenzied bidding wars. A top Weather Channel meteorologist—Shane Brown, whose title was “senior weather product architect”— defected to Fox last month despite efforts to keep him.

The Weather Channel already is throwing some shade.

“They couldn’t even get a headline right about Tropical Storm Bill,” said Nora Zimmett, the network’s chief content officer, referring to a FoxNews.com article that some meteorologists criticized because it claimed that a relatively benign storm posed a “massive” risk to the Eastern Seaboard.

“I applaud Fox getting into the weather space, but they should certainly leave the lifesaving information to the experts,” said Zimmett, who worked at Fox News in the 2000s. She called climate change “a topic that is too important to politicize, and if they do that, they will be doing Americans a disservice.”

A Fox Weather spokeswoman shot back: “While the Weather Channel is focused on trolling FoxNews.com for unrelated stories, Fox Weather is busy preparing the debut of our innovative platform to deliver critical coverage to an incredibly underserved market.”

Research contact: @nytimes

The winner of this week’s Manhattan D.A. primary is poised to take over the Trump investigation

June 24, 2021

Whoever wins the Democratic primary race for Manhattan district attorney on Tuesday, June 22, isn’t just poised to take the helm of one of the most legendary prosecutors offices in New York. He or she also will inherit perhaps the highest profile investigation in the country—that of former President Donald Trump and his company, CNN reports.

The outgoing district attorney, Cyrus Vance Jr., is likely to decide whether to charge a case against the former president, the Trump Organization, or company executives by the end of his term in December, as CNN previous has reported.

If that happens, the next district attorney— most likely the winner of Tuesday’s primary, given the overwhelmingly Democratic makeup of Manhattan—will oversee the prosecution.

With eight contenders, the Democratic primary race for district attorney is a crowded one; and, unlike the New York City mayoral primary, it doesn’t have ranked-choice voting.

What’s more, the winner is likely to incur Trump’s very public ire if they he or she continues Vance’s work, since the former President has been quick to accuse Democrats investigating him—including Vance and New York State Attorney General Letitia James—of pursuing political prosecutions.

“If you can run for a prosecutor’s office pledging to take out your enemies, and be elected to that job by partisan voters who wish to enact political retribution,” Trump said in May, after James disclosed her office was working with the district attorney on its criminal investigation, “then we are no longer a free constitutional democracy.”

Some of the candidates already have expressed their views on the former president. Alvin Bragg, whom CNN says is widely seen as a leading contender in the race, has boasted of having sued the Trump administration more than 100 times while he was in the state attorney general’s office, where he was chief deputy. He also has noted that he led the team that sued the Donald J. Trump Foundation, which resulted in Trump personally paying $2 million to an array of charities.

“I’ve seen him up front and have seen the lawlessness that he can do,” Bragg said on the radio show “Ebro in the Morning,” in January. “I believe we have to hold him accountable. I haven’t seen all the facts beyond the public but I’ve litigated with him and so I’m prepared to go where the facts take me once I see them, and hold him accountable.”

Another leading candidate, Tali Farhadian Weinstein, has said comparatively little about Trump—noting that it would be improper to comment on the subject of an ongoing investigation.

In 2017, Farhadian Weinstein interviewed with members of Trump’s White House Counsel’s office for a federal judgeship, a position for which she had also applied during the Obama administration, according to The New York Times.

In the final debate last week, Farhadian Weinstein defended having sought the judgeship, saying: “It is not factual to say that federal judges, which are a separate part of the federal government, would work for the president. And so, to have been considered to be appointed to the federal bench while … Trump or anyone else was president, doesn’t mean that I would have been working for his administration.”

She worked as counsel to Attorney General Eric Holder and later as general counsel in the Brooklyn district attorney’s office, where she successfully sued the Trump Administration to get Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers out of courthouses in Brooklyn, after finding that female victims of domestic violence were too afraid to come to court for fear of finding officers present.

Other contenders in the race also have history with Trump or his policies. Tahanie Aboushi, a civil rights lawyer, touts her experience spending four days at John F. Kennedy International Airport in the wake of Trump’s 2017 travel ban on Muslim-majority countries, where she supplied legal assistance to people detained by US Customs and Border Protection.

Candidate Lucy Lang, a veteran of the Manhattan district attorney’s office, counts as one of her senior advisers a former colleague who led the office’s investigation into Trump SoHo—which examined whether or not the Trump Organization misled potential buyers about the values of units, a probe Lang has said shouldn’t have been shuttered.

In November, she tweeted: “Today I called for the #ManhattanDA investigations into Donald Trump to continue. Immunity is not a consolation prize to losing and election, and no one is above the law. We can’t allow Donald Trump’s failed presidential campaign to absolve him of responsibility.”

But she has also taken pains to distance herself from Trump-related commentary, saying in June that “I think that one of the worst things the next District Attorney could do would be to say something on the campaign trail that would suggest anything other than complete impartiality when it comes to investigating all the cases in front of the office and putting themselves in a position where they might face a recusal motion or a removal of jurisdiction.”

Another candidate, public defender Eliza Orlins, has been more blunt in her criticism of the former president. In December, she publicly cheered Trump’s election loss, tweeting: “We did it! We got rid of Donald Trump. But that won’t change the fact that our systems inherently favor the rich and powerful and oppress the poor.”

New York state Assemblyman Dan Quart, also vying for the office, has split the difference, saying in February, “I’ve been very active and vocal on my feelings on Trump’s abuses of the rule of law, of his terrible policies, of his indecency, but that’s different than being a district attorney who has to judge each case on the merits.”

Diana Florence, a former prosecutor in the Manhattan DA’s office who left the office in January 2020 after a judge dismissed one of her cases when she failed to turn over evidence to defense attorneys, has suggested she believes Trump is due for retribution.

“I think what’s amazing about Donald Trump is that he ascended to the highest office in our nation and even before that had tremendous success and that was while doing whatever the heck he wanted to do,” she told Forbes in November. “He will now face the ability to be prosecuted. He had a brief immunity while a sitting president, but as I just talked about he had a de facto immunity for being a wealthy and powerful man for many, many years. And I believe that time will be changing.”

Research contact: @CNN

A new ‘spin’ on benefits: A free Peloton membership could be the latest work perk

June 23, 2021

Paid time off, retirement benefits and … a Peloton membership? That could be your newest work perk, as the fitness company rolls out a corporate program that offers free app memberships that normally cost $12.99 per month, CNN reports.

Peloton Corporate Wellness is aimed at “providing employees access to innovative mental and physical health resources” the company announced on June 22. The program gives participants access to the Peloton app, which features thousands of instructor-led fitness classes—among them, meditation, strength training, and cardio. Discounts on Peloton hardware, including its popular bikes, are also included.

Peloton Corprate Wellness is launching after “several years” of interest from companies looking to include it as a work benefit, said Peloton President William Lynch. In an interview with CNN Business, he said that the goal is to “extend the Peloton universe to more communities” by growing beyond its current direct-to-consumer business.

Lynch declined to disclose pricing specifics, but said it’s a “really good value” for companies.

The program will be available to employers in five countries including the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. Peloton says it already has signed up big name firms for the launch, including Wayfair, Samsung, and SAP .

In its release, Peloton emphasized the mental and physical benefits its members experience using the app. According to a survey commissioned by the company, 77% of users said the classes made them happier and 65% said their mental health improved.

These types of benefits have become increasingly important for employers, especially in light of the pandemic, with some offering workers days off to bolster mental health or providing free subscriptions to mental-health focused apps.

And some companies are coming up with novel ways to keep their remote workers engaged with gifts, like picnic boxes and laundry service.

Peloton is a nine-year-old, New York City-based company founded with help from Kickstarter. This  program also is aimed at expanding its app user base, which currently totals around 900,000 subscribers, and therebyappeasing investors looking for growth.

The company recently announced new pricing tiers for the app, with students paying as low as $6.99 per month and teachers, healthcare workers and first responders being charged $9.99 per month.

The once high-flying stock has seen its fortunes dwindle, with shares down 25% for the year. However, the stock has rebounded following a May 5 treadmill recall, soaring 30% since then. About 125,000 treadmills were included in the recall, which the company said cost it $165 million in lost sales.

Research contact: @CNN

Justice Department official to step down amid uproar over leaks inquiry

June 15, 2021

John Demers, the Trump-appointed head of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, is expected to step down at the end of next week, according to a person familiar with the matter—a departure that was arranged months ago, but that now comes amid widespread backlash over DOJ investigations into leaks of classified information that began under the administration of the former president, The New York Times reports.

Demers is the longest-serving Senate-confirmed official from the Trump Administration to remain at the Justice Department during the Biden presidency.

John Carlin, the second in command in the deputy attorney general’s office—who, himself, left the agency in April—had before his own departure asked Demers to remain at the department, according to the person. Lisa O. Monaco had just been confirmed to serve as the deputy attorney general, and the three officials had a long history of working together on sensitive national security cases.

In response, Demers asked to leave by summer, and the two men eventually agreed that he would stay on through June 25, the Times’ source said.

But , the Times notes, Demers’s departure also comes as Democrats and First Amendment advocates have attacked the Justice Department following revelations that prosecutors supervised by Demers seized the records of reporters from The New York Times, The Washington Post and CNN and of classified information.

The department’s inspector general announced an investigation on Friday into the matter.

While it is common for the Justice Department to try to find out who shared classified information with the media, it is highly unusual to secretly gather records from the press and lawmakers. The prosecutors also prevented the lawyers and executives of the Times and CNN from disclosing that records had been taken, even to their newsroom leaders, another highly aggressive step.

Such moves require signoff by the attorney general. But. Demers and his top counterintelligence deputies in the division would typically be briefed and updated on those efforts.

Much of the spotlight on national security cases during Demers’ three-year run focused instead on the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller, III, who ran the Russia investigation, the Justice Department’s highest profile and politically fraught national security matter.

But Demers’s ability to skirt controversy ended in recent weeks as the revelations about reporters’ record seizures and the gag orders came to light.

Justice Department officials say that all appropriate approvals were given for those orders, meaning that the attorney general at the time, not Demers, signed off.

Former Attorney General William P. Barr approved the decision to seize records from CNN and The Washington Post in 2020, people with knowledge of the leak investigations have said. But it is unclear who approved the request for email records from Google that belonged to Times reporters. The request was filed with a court days after Barr left,although he could have signed off on it before leaving.

A Justice Department spokeperson declined last week to identify whether Barr or his successor, former acting Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen, approved that move.

Leak investigators in 2018 also obtained data from Microsoft and Apple that belonged to Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee, including Representatives Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell, both of California. Mr. Schiff is now the panel’s chairman.

In those instances, the Justice Department also told the technology companies not to inform customers about the subpoenas until recently.

The data was collected and the gag orders were imposed on the tech companies weeks before Demers was confirmed to lead the National Security Division.

Still, some Democrats demanded answers about what he knew about the leak cases. Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, called on Demers on Sunday, June 13,  to testify before Congress.

Research contact: @nytimes

Biden Administration probes leak of IRS records on such well-heeled taxpayers as Bezos, Buffet, Musk

June 10, 2021

The Biden Administration announced on July 8 that it is investigating how tax information on several of the world’s richest people—among them, Jeff BezosElon Musk, and Warren Buffett—has been leaked to the public, according to a report by CNN.

“The unauthorized disclosure of confidential government information is illegal,” said Treasury spokesperson Lily Adams. “The matter is being referred to the Office of the Inspector General, Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the US Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, all of whom have independent authority to investigate.”

The investigation comes after a report that showed new information from a trove of never-before-seen IRS records. Earlier Tuesday, ProPublica reported on exclusively obtained IRS documents which showed how the likes of Bezos, Musk, Buffett, Bill Gates, George Soros, Mark Zuckerberg and Michael Bloomberg have legally avoided paying income tax.

“Any unauthorized disclosure of confidential government information by a person of access is illegal and we take this very seriously,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters during Tuesday’s briefing.

Psaki also reiterated the Biden administration’s stance on having wealthy Americans pay more taxes to fund the President’s proposals.

“I’m not going to comment on specific unauthorized disclosures of confidential government information. I can tell you that, broadly speaking, we know that there is more to be done to ensure that corporations, individuals who are at the highest income are paying more of their fair share. Hence, it’s in the President’s proposals, his budget and part of how he’s proposing to pay for his ideas,” Psaki said.

Research contact: @CNN

Democrat calls Manchin a ‘new Mitch McConnell,’ who is working to thwart Biden’s agenda

June 8, 2021

On July 7, New York Democratic Representative Jamaal Bowman compared fellow Democrat Senator Joe  of West Virginia to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky—and said that Manchin is attempting to obstruct President Joe Biden’s agenda, based on his recent decisions to vote against a sweeping voting rights bill and to retain the filibuster, CNN reported.

“Joe Manchin has become the new Mitch McConnell. Mitch McConnell during Obama’s presidency said he would do everything in his power to stop (then-President Barack Obama),” Bowman told CNN’s John Berman on “New Day.” “He’s also repeated that now during the Biden presidency by saying he would do everything in his power to stop President Biden, and now Joe Manchin is doing everything in his power to stop democracy and to stop our work for the people, the work that the people sent us here to do.”

Bowman continued, “Manchin is not pushing us closer to bipartisanship. He is doing the work of the Republican Party by being an obstructionist, just like they’ve been since the beginning of Biden’s presidency.”

Bowman’s scathing criticism of his fellow Democrat is an outward s—has become a roadblock for some of Biden’s agenda.

On Sunday, Manchin defended his decision to vote against a sweeping voting rights bill called the For the People Act, writing in an op-ed published in the Charleston Gazette-Mail that “partisan voting legislation will destroy the already weakening binds of our democracy.”

What’s more, CNN notes, for months, Manchin has remained a key holdup to the voting rights bill and he is the only Democratic senator not listed as a co-sponsor on the legislation.

He also asserted that “the fundamental right to vote has, itself, become overtly politicized,” and—taking aim at members of his party—said some Democrats have “attempted to demonize the filibuster and conveniently ignore how it has been critical to protecting the rights of Democrats in the past.”

In the past, Manchin has argued that Democrats who want to abolish the filibuster should be careful what they wish for, noting then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s move in 2013 to remove the 60-vote filibuster standard for most presidential nominees was later cited by Republicans to lift the rule for Supreme Court justices, which eventually led to a conservative majority on the high court.

Research contact: @CNN

McConnell asks GOP cronies for ‘personal favor’ and they accede—blocking inquiry into January 6 riot

June 1, 2021

On Friday. May 28, Senate Republicans moved en masse to block the creation of an independent commission to investigate the January 6 Capitol insurrection, using their filibuster power for the first time this year to doom a full accounting for the deadliest attack on Congress in centuries, The New York Times reports.

With the vast majority of Republicans determined to shield their party from potential political damage that could come from scrutiny of the storming of the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob, only six G.O.P. senators joined Democrats to support advancing the measure. The final vote, 54 to 35, fell short of the 60 senators needed to move forward.

According to the Times, the vote represented a stinging defeat to proponents of the commission, who had argued that it was the only way to assemble a truly comprehensive account of the riot for a polarized nation. Modeled after the inquiry into the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States, the proposed panel of experts would have been responsible for producing a report on the assault and recommendations to secure Congress by the end of the year.

The debate played out in the same chamber where a throng of supporters of former President Donald Trump—egged on by his lies about a stolen election and efforts by Republican lawmakers to invalidate President Joe Biden’s victory—sought to disrupt Congress’s counting of electoral votes about five months ago.

Top Republicans had entertained supporting the measure as recently as last week. However, they ultimately reversed course, and the House approved it with only 35 Republican votes. Leaders concluded that open-ended scrutiny of the attack would hand Democrats powerful political ammunition before the 2022 midterm elections — and enrage a former president they are intent on appeasing.

“I do not believe the additional extraneous commission that Democratic leaders want would uncover crucial new facts or promote healing,” said Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader. “Frankly, I do not believe it is even designed to do that.”

In fact, on May 27, McConnell went even further to twist his GOP Senate colleagues’ arms: One of those Republicans told CNN that McConnell has even made the unusual move of asking wavering senators to support filibustering the bill as “a personal favor” to him.

“No one can understand why Mitch is going to this extreme of asking for a ‘personal favor’ to kill the commission,” said the Republican.

A McConnell aide told CNN that he was not aware of all of McConnell’s private conversations but said that what the Kentucky Republican says privately is no different than what he says publicly.

According to the Times, although McConnell said he would continue to support criminal cases against the rioters and stand by his “unflinching” criticisms Trump, the commission’s defeat is expected to embolden the former president at a time when he has once again ramped up circulation of his baseless and debunked claims.

In a matter of months, his lies have warped the views of many of his party’s supporters, who view Biden as illegitimate; inspired a rash of new voting restrictions in Republican-led states and a quixotic recount in Arizona denounced by both parties; and fueled efforts by Republican members of Congress to downplay and reframe the Capitol riot as a benign event akin to a “normal tourist visit.”

“People are just now beginning to understand!”  Trump wrote in a statement on Thursday.

Democrats denounced the vote as a cowardly cover-up. They warned Republicans that preventing an independent inquiry—led by five commissioners appointed by Democrats and five by Republicans—would not shield them from confronting the implications of Trump’s attacks on the democratic process.

 “Do my Republican colleagues remember that day?” Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader, asked moments after the vote. “Do my Republican colleagues remember the savage mob calling for the execution of Mike Pence, the makeshift gallows outside the Capitol?”

“Shame on the Republican Party for trying to sweep the horrors of that day under the rug because they are afraid of Donald Trump,” he added.

The six Republicans who voted to advance debate on the commission included Senators Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Susan M. Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Rob Portman of Ohio, Mitt Romney of Utah and Ben Sasse of Nebraska. All but Mr. Portman had voted at an impeachment trial in February to find Mr. Trump guilty of inciting the insurrection.

A seventh Republican, Senator Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania, missed the vote but said he would have voted to advance debate on the commission. He was one of 11 senators who missed the vote.

Research contact: @nytimes