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Reporter’s Notebook: ‘Obamagate’ is a lot more complex than it may sound

Was it Benghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi?

Or, was it Bain Capital, Bain Capital, Bain Capital?

Her emails, her emails, her emails.

Maybe it’s Russia, Russia, Russia?

Aha. We’ve settled on one for the 2020 presidential campaign. It’s not distilled conveniently into a pithy, easily-identifiable code word.

President Trump calls it “Obamagate,” a rhetorical hybrid capitalizing on the two most toxic, allegorical prefixes and suffixes in American politics of the past 50 years: “ObamaCare” and “Watergate.” But, the 2020 incantation is a deeper, more complex weave.

This stew has been a blend of the Russia investigation, “no collusion,” a “hoax,” declassified emails, a January 2017 Oval Office meeting, former acting Attorney General Sally Yates, former President Obama, former Vice President Joe Biden, Hunter Biden, ex-FBI figures Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, who “unmasked” whom, the prosecution of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, government-surveillance abuse claims and more.

It’s hard to distill this milieu into a simple, easy to understand, voter-friendly term, but the semiotics are clear on the Republican side of the aisle. It would go like this: there’s a problem with the Democrats’ presumptive presidential nominee Joe Biden. The former vice president was part of the Obama administration, and in the waning days of that administration, Democrats worked to undermine Trump and those close to him, and set into motion the Russia investigation as a diversion, Republicans have claimed.

And now, a subpoena from the Senate Homeland Security Committee for documents and information from BlueStar Strategies – a firm with ties to Burisma, which had Hunter Biden on its board of directors for years.

Expect more subpoenas on June 4 from the Senate Judiciary Committee. It may go after the likes of former FBI Director James Comey, former Attorney General Loretta Lynch, former Deputy Attorney General James Clapper and former CIA Director John Brennan.

Outside the Beltway, some conservatives have been bucking the idea of wearing a mask in public, calling it an infringement on individual liberty. Inside the Beltway, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said he wanted to know who in the Obama administration may have “unmasked” the identities via the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act [FISA] process of various figures close to Trump and why. In a letter to Attorney General William Barr and Acting Director of National Intelligence Ric Grenell, Graham asserted there was an “extensive number of requests for the unmaking of General Flynn’s name” between Nov. 8, 2016, and Jan. 31, 2017. Graham wrote that he specifically wanted to know whether there were efforts to reveal the identities of Trump, Donald Trump Jr., advisers Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and many others.

There were questions about an Oval Office meeting on Jan. 5, 2017, involving Obama, Biden, Yates and Comey regarding an “investigation” and what those in the room may have known about surveillance of Flynn.

But, the idea of “subpoenas” always has set Washington on its ear — especially if it even touched the hem of the Biden campaign.

DOUG COLLINS SUGGESTS FLYNN JUDGE MAY HAVE ‘CONFLICT OF INTEREST’ AFTER HIRING PERSONAL ATTORNEY

President Trump suggested his allies on Capitol Hill summon Obama to the witness table.

“If I were a Senator or Congressman, the first person I would call to testify about the biggest political crime and scandal in the history of the USA, by FAR, is former President Obama,” Trump tweeted earlier this month. “He knew EVERYTHING.”

Graham quickly put a stop to the president’s exhortation to summon his predecessor to Capitol Hill. The South Carolina Republican said it would set “a bad precedent” and would “open a can of worms.”

But, it’s not out of the question for sitting and former presidents and vice presidents to appear before congressional committees.

Then-President Abraham Lincoln spoke to the House Judiciary Committee in February 1862 about a dispute with a newspaper. Former President Woodrow Wilson appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in August 1919 to discuss peace with Germany and the League of Nations.

Former President Gerald Ford explained his pardon of former President Richard Nixon to the House Judiciary Committee in October 1974. Former President Harry Truman testified to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in April 1955 about the United Nations Charter. And, Ford came back after he left the presidency, in March 1983, for a House Judiciary Committee hearing on the bicentennial of the Constitution.

So, it may be a stretch to expect Obama and Biden to darken the door of the Capitol any time soon. Still, there’s plenty of outrage from Democrats as Republicans pursued this inquiry, months before the presidential election.

“The conspiracy caucus is back,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said of his Republican colleagues. “It reared its ugly head in December and has been on a simmer ever since. Now, it’s boiling over, once again shamefully, in the middle of a public health crisis.”

“This makes no sense whatsoever,” said Sen. Gary Peters of Michigan, the top Democrat on the Homeland Security Committee. “We’re in the midst of a pandemic with over 90,000 people who have lost their lives. We’ve got an unprecedented amount of unemployment that’s sweeping across the country. We need to be focused on the crisis.”

Republicans disagreed, probing “Crossfire Hurricane.” That’s the code name for the FBI investigation into potential ties between those close to Trump and Russian officials.

“I think Crossfire Hurricane is going to be one of the most sloppy, unethical investigations in the history of the country,” Graham said. “I want people to know about it.”

When asked if his inquiry was political, Graham replied, “not at all.”

Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Ron Johnson, R-Wis., pushed the subpoena to BlueStar Strategies, contending it didn’t cooperate with his investigation. Democrats questioned why Johnson issued the subpoena. BlueStar reported it provided information to the panel in December and, in a letter to Johnson, contended it was hampered in March by the “‘stay at home’ order in Washington, D.C.” BlueStar claimed it never “indicated in any way we could not cooperate. Therefore, we are puzzled, despite our willingness to cooperate, why the committee is proceeding to vote on a subpoena.”

Johnson spokesman Austin Altenberg contended that BlueStar “refused to let our staff speak to their attorney until last week.”

“The Democrats are objecting and maybe they’re protesting too much,” Johnson added. “It actually raises my suspicion level (about) what is to be found out in these documents.”

Even as Johnson and Graham dug deeper into possible actions from the previous administration, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., suggested Democrats were “fishing for another impeachment.”

The Kentucky Republican characterized the efforts of House Democrats to access grand-jury testimony from the investigation of former Special Counsel Robert Mueller as “perpetual impeachment.” He asserted that Democrats made the case to the Supreme Court that “the president’s impeachment did not actually end with his acquittal.”

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So, we have handy monikers like “Obamagate” and “Crossfire Hurricane.” They echoed the shorthand of “Benghazi” and “her emails” and “Bain Capital” from campaigns of yesteryear.

But, the tactics have been much the same. It’s just unclear if any of this will perforate the coronavirus juggernaut and infiltrate the public’s consciousness at the ballot box this fall.

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Calvary Chapel Church to fully reopen next week after dozens gathered for service on Sunday

The pastor at a South Bay church said in an outdoor sermon Sunday he would reopen the church for regular service next week, regardless of the status of local orders mandating public closure, and that he will “never” close the doors to his church again.

The plans announced by Pastor Mike McClure of San Jose’s Calvary Chapel were part of a larger wave of protest openings at places across the country, as some residents, business owners, church leaders and others chafe under rules that determine what’s “essential” and what’s not amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

During his nearly two-hour-long sermon on Sunday, as dozens of people gathered close together without masks just outside the southside church, McClure said the Bible and God call on Christians to come together despite the dangers of the virus.

“We’re called to be together,” McClure said during the sermon. “Man doesn’t have the right to close the doors.

“God doesn’t want us to isolate ourselves. All of us need to be in the sanctuary. I don’t care what they say, I’m never again going to close the doors, ever.”

McClure added that he would post federal guidelines and other notices inside the church to encourage safe behavior.

San Jose police and city officials could not immediately be reached for comment about what action they might take if the church violates standing orders.

McClure said he was eager to show off renovations that took place during the lockdown, adding that he would reopen the facility to give worshippers a place to be together and support each other.

McClure said he was also emboldened by comments President Donald Trump made on Friday declaring places of worship “essential” and saying they should be opened on the holiday weekend. McClure was clear that he would defy orders from the state and county to remain closed.

Trump’s comments came just hours after the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals split in a 2-1 ruling denying a request for a temporary restraining order against Gov. Gavin Newsom’s ban of in-church services. The request was filed earlier this month by the South Bay United Pentecostal Church in Chula Vista.

“It’s conflicting because we have a government that’s arguing churches aren’t essential, though they are essential,” McClure said. “I’m going to let the President and the Governor figure that out.”

McClure said he was further emboldened by comments from Attorney General William Barr, who warned last week that religious activity could not be forced to stop while other similar activities were allowed.

“(Barr) encouraged us to meet together and that if anything happens he will get a lawyer over here to help us,” McClure said. “He said that freedom in America comes from that first right of religious freedom.”

Twenty-one-year-old church administrator Carson Atherley said Sunday that he is “well within his rights” to assemble and return to church as normal. He said that for weeks Calvary Chapel has been doing drive-up services, though on Sunday more people got out of their cars than usual and gathered for worship outside the church.

“We’re certainly following the guidelines to the extent that Costco, Target and others are applying them,” Atherley said.

But unlike most grocery stores and other essential businesses, just a handful of the people gathered outside the church Sunday had on masks or kept a distance from each other.

Asked why he allowed people to congregate without the state and county-mandated precautions, Atherley said he “is not the social distancing police or the mask police.”

“We’re going to allow people to do whatever they feel is right,” Atherley said. “We’re not promoting or condemning the use of masks or the practice of social distancing.”

Kevin and Sandee DeBella, who have been attending Calvary Chapel for years, were part of the group of people who stayed well past the end of the service to congregate with church friends they have not seen in months.

“It feels like we’re back at church,” Kevin DeBella. “It was nice to be able to get out on the lawn  and see the love we feel for one another.”

The DeBellas said they are not afraid about contracting the coronavirus because they have been quarantined and are taking the necessary precautions outside of church, though they were not wearing masks at the outdoor service Sunday.

Both said they did not believe that the COVID-19 pandemic was as bad as it was being portrayed.

“It’s bad but it’s not as bad as we made it out to be,” Sandee DeBella said. “For us, the Lord numbers our days. I don’t want to go out of my way to distance myself from someone who may need a handshake or a hug or company.

“It’s either going to be my time or it’s not.”

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Coronavirus: US suspends travel from Brazil for foreigners

Image copyright
AFP via Getty Images)

Image caption

Brazil is dealing with a coronavirus outbreak

The US has imposed travel restrictions on foreign nationals who have been to Brazil in the last 14 days.

The South American nation recently became the world’s second major hotspot for coronavirus cases.

Brazil currently has more than 347,300 confirmed cases, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

A White House spokeswoman said the restrictions would help ensure new cases are not brought into the US.

“Today’s action will help ensure foreign nationals who have been in Brazil do not become a source of additional infections in our country,” White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said in a statement.

Non-Americans who have been in Brazil in the two weeks before they request entry to the US will be denied that entry. The restriction will not affect trade between the two countries.

The suspension is to take effect on May 28 at 11:59 PM EDT (03:59 AM GMT).

The travel ban will not apply to US citizens, or to the spouse, parent, legal guardian, or child of a US citizen or lawful permanent resident, and most siblings under the age of 21.

“The potential for undetected transmission of the virus by infected individuals seeking to enter the United States from [Brazil] threatens the security of our transportation system and infrastructure and the national security,” said the suspension order published by the White House on Sunday.

Earlier on Sunday, White House National security adviser Robert O’Brien told CBS “Face the Nation” that travel restriction for Brazil were expected shortly.

“We hope that’ll be temporary, but because of the situation in Brazil, we’re going to take every step necessary to protect the American people,” Mr O’Brien said.

He added that “we’ll take a look at the other countries on a country-by-country basis for sure”.

US President Donald Trump suggested earlier this week that he was considering imposing a ban on travel from Brazil.

The US currently leads the world in coronavirus cases. It has over 1.6 million known cases and is nearing 100,000 deaths linked to the virus.

Other US travel restrictions

Sunday’s announcement is the latest travel restriction imposed by the US in a bid to combat the spread of the virus.

Foreign nationals who have recently visited China, Iran, the European Schengen area, the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland are already barred from entry to the US.

Canada and the US also recently agreed to extend the closure of their shared border to non-essential travel.

What is the situation across Brazil?

Brazil recently overtook Russia with regards to known cases of the virus. President Jair Bolsonaro has repeatedly dismissed the risks posed by the virus.

The number of deaths in Brazil has been doubling roughly every two weeks, compared to about every two months in the UK, four months in France, and five months in Italy.

Expert have warned that the real figure may be far higher due to a lack of testing.

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The CDC’s New ‘Best Estimate’ Implies a COVID-19 Infection Fatality Rate Below 0.3% – Reason.com

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the current “best estimate” for the fatality rate among Americans with COVID-19 symptoms is 0.4 percent. The CDC also estimates that 35 percent of people infected by the COVID-19 virus never develop symptoms. Those numbers imply that the virus kills less than 0.3 percent of people infected by it—far lower than the infection fatality rates (IFRs) assumed by the alarming projections that drove the initial government response to the epidemic, including broad business closure and stay-at-home orders.

The CDC offers the new estimates in its “COVID-19 Pandemic Planning Scenarios,” which are meant to guide hospital administrators in “assessing resource needs” and help policy makers “evaluate the potential effects of different community mitigation strategies.” It says “the planning scenarios are being used by mathematical modelers throughout the Federal government.”

The CDC’s five scenarios include one based on “a current best estimate about viral transmission and disease severity in the United States.” That scenario assumes a “basic reproduction number” of 2.5, meaning the average carrier can be expected to infect that number of people in a population with no immunity. It assumes an overall symptomatic case fatality rate (CFR) of 0.4 percent, falling to 0.05 percent among people younger than 50 and rising to 1.3 percent among people 65 and older. For people in the middle (ages 50–64), the estimated CFR is 0.2 percent.

That “best estimate” scenario also assumes that 35 percent of infections are asymptomatic, meaning the total number of infections is more than 50 percent larger than the number of symptomatic cases. It therefore implies that the IFR is between 0.2 percent and 0.3 percent. By contrast, the projections that the CDC made in March, which predicted that as many as 1.7 million Americans could die from COVID-19 without intervention, assumed an IFR of 0.8 percent. Around the same time, researchers at Imperial College produced a worst-case scenario in which 2.2 million Americans died, based on an IFR of 0.9 percent.

Such projections had a profound impact on policy makers in the United States and around the world. At the end of March, President Donald Trump, who has alternated between minimizing and exaggerating the threat posed by COVID-19, warned that the United States could see “up to 2.2 million deaths and maybe even beyond that” without aggressive control measures, including lockdowns.

One glaring problem with those worst-case scenarios was the counterfactual assumption that people would carry on as usual in the face of the pandemic—that they would not take voluntary precautions such as avoiding crowds, minimizing social contact, working from home, wearing masks, and paying extra attention to hygiene. The Imperial College projection was based on “the (unlikely) absence of any control measures or spontaneous changes in individual behaviour.” Similarly, the projection of as many as 2.2 million deaths in the United States cited by the White House was based on “no intervention”—not just no lockdowns, but no response of any kind.

Another problem with those projections, assuming that the CDC’s current “best estimate” is in the right ballpark, was that the IFRs they assumed were far too high. The difference between an IFR of 0.8 to 0.9 percent and an IFR of 0.2 to 0.3 percent, even in the completely unrealistic worst-case scenarios, is the difference between millions and hundreds of thousands of deaths—still a grim outcome, but not nearly as bad as the horrifying projections cited by politicians to justify the sweeping restrictions they imposed.

“The parameter values in each scenario will be updated and augmented over time, as we learn more about the epidemiology of COVID-19,” the CDC cautions. “New data on COVID-19 is available daily; information about its biological and epidemiological characteristics remain[s] limited, and uncertainty remains around nearly all parameter values.” But the CDC’s current best estimates are surely better grounded than the numbers it was using two months ago.

A recent review of 13 studies that calculated IFRs in various countries found a wide range of estimates, from 0.05 percent in Iceland to 1.3 percent in Northern Italy and among the passengers and crew of the Diamond Princess cruise ship. This month Stanford epidemiologist John Ioannidis, who has long been skeptical of high IFR estimates for COVID-19, looked specifically at published studies that sought to estimate the prevalence of infection by testing people for antibodies to the virus that causes the disease. He found that the IFRs implied by 12 studies ranged from 0.02 percent to 0.4 percent. My colleague Ron Bailey last week noted several recent antibody studies that implied considerably higher IFRs, ranging from 0.6 percent in Norway to more than 1 percent in Spain.

Methodological issues, including sample bias and the accuracy of the antibody tests, probably explain some of this variation. But it is also likely that actual IFRs vary from one place to another, both internationally and within countries. “It should be appreciated that IFR is not a fixed physical constant,” Ioannidis writes, “and it can vary substantially across locations, depending on the population structure, the case-mix of infected and deceased individuals and other, local factors.”

One important factor is the percentage of infections among people with serious preexisting medical conditions, who are especially likely to die from COVID-19. “The majority of deaths in most of the hard hit European countries have happened in nursing homes, and a large proportion of deaths in the US also seem to follow
this pattern,” Ioannidis notes. “Locations with high burdens of nursing home deaths may have high IFR estimates, but the IFR would still be very low among non-elderly, non-debilitated people.”

That factor is one plausible explanation for the big difference between New York and Florida in both crude case fatality rates (reported deaths as a share of confirmed cases) and estimated IFRs. The current crude CFR for New York is nearly 8 percent, compared to 4.4 percent in Florida. Antibody tests suggest the IFR in New York is something like 0.6 percent, compared to 0.2 percent in the Miami area.

Given Florida’s high percentage of retirees, it was reasonable to expect that the state would see relatively high COVID-19 fatality rates. But Florida’s policy of separating elderly people with COVID-19 from other vulnerable people they might otherwise have infected seems to have saved many lives. New York, by contrast, had a policy of returning COVID-19 patients to nursing homes.

“Massive deaths of elderly individuals in nursing homes, nosocomial infections [contracted in hospitals], and overwhelmed hospitals may…explain the very high fatality seen in specific locations in Northern Italy and in New York and New Jersey,” Ioannidis says. “A very unfortunate decision of the governors in New York and New Jersey was to have COVID-19 patients sent to nursing homes. Moreover,
some hospitals in New York City hotspots reached maximum capacity and perhaps could not offer optimal care. With large proportions of medical and paramedical personnel infected, it is possible that nosocomial infections increased the death toll.”

Ioannidis also notes that “New York City has an extremely busy, congested public transport system that may have exposed large segments of the population to high infectious load in close contact transmission and, thus, perhaps more severe disease.” More speculatively, he notes the possibility that New York happened to be hit by a “more aggressive” variety of the virus, a hypothesis that “needs further
verification.”

If you focus on hard-hit areas such as New York and New Jersey, an IFR between 0.2 and 0.3 percent, as suggested by the CDC’s current best estimate, seems improbably low. “While most of these numbers are reasonable, the mortality rates shade far too low,” University of Washington biologist Carl Bergstrom told CNN. “Estimates of the numbers infected in places like NYC are way out of line with these estimates.”

But the CDC’s estimate looks more reasonable when compared to the results of antibody studies in Miami-Dade County, Santa Clara County, Los Angeles County, and Boise, Idaho—places that so far have had markedly different experiences with COVID-19. We need to consider the likelihood that these divergent results reflect not just methodological issues but actual differences in the epidemic’s impact—differences that can help inform the policies for dealing with it.

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France has lowest daily rise in new coronavirus cases and deaths since lockdown

PARIS — French authorities reported the smallest daily rise in new coronavirus cases and deaths on Sunday since before a lockdown began on March 17, raising hopes that the worst of the epidemic is over in France.

The number of confirmed cases rose by 115 to 144,921, health ministry data showed, and the death toll increased by 35 to 28,367 – an increase of just 0.1% for both tallies.

The weekend totals for new cases and deaths were also both the lowest since France began easing its strict coronavirus restrictions on May 11.

Epidemiologist Laurent Toubiana, director of the IRSAN health data institute, suggested the worst of the epidemic had passed and said the coronavirus may not come back, unlike previous pandemics such as the 1918 Spanish flu.

“If we do not see a quick resurgence of the epidemic, we might get a break for a few weeks,” he said on BFM TV.

Despite the easing of restrictions, social distancing rules remain in place in France and Environment Minister Elisabeth Borne told France Inter radio the government did not want people to travel abroad this summer.

She also said Paris parks must remain closed for now as the capital is still a “red zone” for circulation of the coronavirus.

The new data showed that, because of slower data reporting and with patients staying in hospital longer over the long holiday weekend, the number of people admitted to hospital with the coronavirus had increased by seven to 17,185.

It was the first increase in weeks. Until now, the number had fallen every day since April 15.

But the number of people in intensive care continued its uninterrupted decline, falling by 10 to 1,655. It was the slowest decline since the peak of the crisis, when 7,148 people were in intensive care. (Reporting by Geert De Clercq, Editing by Timothy Heritage)

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‘Indefensible And Grotesque’: Jonah Goldberg Slams Kayleigh McEnany, And Chris Wallace Joins In

The Dispatch’s Jonah Goldberg slammed White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, saying Sunday that her behavior was “indefensible and grotesque.”

Anchor Chris Wallace was also critical of McEnany as he and Goldberg discussed her most recent press briefings on “Fox News Sunday.” (RELATED: Kayleigh McEnany Turns Briefing On Its Head, Demands Answers From The Press)

WATCH:

Wallace was actually first to take a shot at the new press secretary, referencing a Friday briefing during which McEnany had laid out the questions she believed the press should be asking. “I have to say that if Kayleigh McEnany had told Sam Donaldson and me what questions we should ask, that would not have gone well, Jonah,” Wallace said.

“I think her behavior is indefensible and grotesque,” Goldberg replied. “I think that what she has done is — there’s this cliche in Washington that President Trump wants Roy Cohn as DOJ, as attorney general. What Donald Trump wants in a press secretary is a Twitter troll who goes on attack, doesn’t actually care about doing the job they have and instead wants to impress really an audience of one and make another part of official Washington another one of these essentially cable news and Twitter laboratory arenas.”

Wallace took another shot, arguing that McEnany was still doing her old job — as spokesperson for the 2020 Trump reelection campaign — but doing it with a new title.

Josh Holmes, who previously served as chief of staff to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, argued that the press actually put McEnany — and all Trump spokespeople — in a position where they were constantly being forced to defend themselves.

“The confrontational nature by which journos pose the questioning is not really to obtain much information so much as to try to back them into a corner and I think she said, ‘I’m not going to play that game,’ so yeah, it is completely different,” Holmes explained.

Wallace took one last shot as the segment ended, saying, “Let me just say, Sam Donaldson and me and the Reagan White House, we were pretty tough on the White House press secretaries and we never had our religious beliefs questioned or were lectured on what we should ask.”

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Netanyahu corruption trial begins amid raucous atmosphere

As Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s corruption trial finally began Sunday, two images from the courtroom steps stood out.

One was of the arrival of chief prosecutor Liat Ben-Ari. The target of a raging campaign of threats and incitement, she was encircled by beefy bodyguards she’d been assigned.

The other was that of a seething Netanyahu, surrounded by ministers applauding as he lambasted Israel’s police, judiciary and media for “wanting to topple me at any cost.”

Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister and the first to be indicted, was charged last November with fraud, bribery and breach of trust in three separate cases in which he was alleged to have attempted to influence or control the media.

Israeli right-wing activists hold flags and signs in support of Prime Minister Netanyahu outside the Jerusalem court on Sunday.

(Sebastian Scheiner / Associated Press)

On Sunday, Netanyahu, as he has often done, decried the proceedings as “an attempted coup d’état” by what he described as a vast left-wing conspiracy that “stitched up charges” so as to “block the will of the people.”

Upon his arrival at the courthouse, several hundred supporters blasted supportive slogans and campaign jingles of his Likud party.

“Bibi, King of Israel” and “Bibi, you’ll never walk alone,” they shouted, referring to him by his nickname.

The start of the trial culminated four years of police investigations, judicial probes, shocking news leaks and what critics termed an unprecedented assault against state institutions by the man who had led the nation for almost a dozen years.

Inside the courthouse, a far more restrained Netanyahu stood up in District Judge Rivka Friedman-Feldman’s small courtroom, No. 317, to formally identify himself and acknowledge understanding the charges against him. Due to regulations in place to combat the coronavirus, Netanyahu wore a mask, as did all others in the courtroom, and was accompanied by a single attorney.

Israel Netanyahu

Benjamin Netanyahu, second from right, at his corruption trial at the Jerusalem District Court on Sunday. He is the country’s first sitting prime minister to go on trial.

(Ronan Zvulun / Associated Press)

Three co-defendants sat nearby.

Arnon Mozes, the owner of Yediot Ahronot, the largest tabloid in Israel, is alleged to have conspired with the prime minister to sway his newspaper’s coverage in exchange for a law that would have quashed Israel Hayom, a free daily paper established by Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson meant to support Netanyahu.

Shaul Elovitch, controlling shareholder of Bezeq, the Israeli telecoms giant, and his wife, Iris, are alleged to have received regulatory favors benefiting their company from Netanyahu, again, in exchange for positive media coverage on the Walla news portal, owned by Bezeq.

“Never, in the history of any democracy, has anyone been indicted over positive media coverage,” Netanyahu declared ahead of the session, quoting American lawyer Alan Dershowitz, a close ally who represented President Trump during his impeachment trial.

But in a statement released after the court session, which lasted less than an hour, Israeli Atty. Gen. Avichai Mandelblit said the judiciary would “continue our work even in the face of relentless attempts to attribute conflicts of interests to law enforcement, which we reject. We will continue to act on the principle that everyone is equal under the law.”

The trial takes place amid an ongoing fractious political environment, in which three inconclusive elections were held in a span of a year before Netanyahu and his rival, centrist Benny Gantz, finally swore in a new government last week. Gantz agreed to serve in the newly created post of “alternative prime minister.”

In his public remarks outside the courthouse, Netanyahu linked his signature policy promise of West Bank annexation to his ongoing legal troubles.

“They can’t defeat a strong, right-wing prime minister at the ballot box, so they are trying to oust me through stitched-up charges,” he railed, surrounded by a cadre of ministers from his Likud party.

“I won’t give up a single settlement!” he promised, mocking any possible successors to his reign as “poodles.”

The coalition agreement, reached in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, allows Netanyahu to present legislation annexing the West Bank, or parts of it, as of July 1 but releases Gantz and the legislators from his party, Blue and White, from any obligation to support the law.

European nations, the Arab world and many international organizations have decried any unilateral Israeli move toward annexation as a grave breach of international law. The European Union has threatened to sanction Israel as Netanyahu seeks to impose Israeli sovereignty over the West Bank, which the Palestinian Authority views as the heart of a future Palestinian state.

Among key world leaders, only Trump has supported the concept, most prominently in parts of the economic plan for renewing Israeli-Palestinian negotiations developed by the president’s son-in-law and senior aide, Jared Kushner.

In a radio interview, Limor Livnat, a former minister in Netanyahu’s government, distanced herself from the prime minister’s remarks and his ministers’ applause.

“The right is not on trial,” she said. “There is no conspiracy to oust him, however many times he repeats the claim. When he says this is an attempt to oust a right-wing prime minister only because he is strong and not a poodle — well, we’ve had strong prime ministers before. Yitzhak Shamir didn’t remove any settlements.”

The raucous atmosphere on the courtroom steps was balanced by the measured, deliberative domain of Judge Friedman-Feldman, who heads the three judge-panel that will decide Netanyahu’s fate.
Less than an hour after adjourning the initial session, Judge Friedman-Feldman turned down Netanyahu’s attorney’s request for a lengthy delay, scheduling the next session for July 19.

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Elizabeth Warren Bashed High-Dollar Fundraisers. Now She’s Reportedly Hosting One For Joe Biden

Democratic Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren made opposition to high-dollar campaign fundraisers a staple of her 2020 presidential campaign, swearing off such events for her campaign and criticizing opponents who didn’t, but now she’s reportedly hosting one for former Vice President Joe Biden.

“I don’t do big-dollar fundraisers at all,” Warren told “Tonight Show” host Jimmy Fallon in December 2019. She reiterated that sentiment repeatedly on the campaign trail and attacked former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg for courting wealthy donors.

But now she is slated to hold a virtual fundraiser for high-dollar Biden donors on June 15, The New York Times reported Saturday, citing three people with knowledge of the plans. (RELATED: Elizabeth Warren Denied Sending Her Kids To Private School, Despite Sending Son To Elite Private School)

Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former Vice President Joe Biden participate in a debate. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

It isn’t the first time that Warren has apparently carved out a workaround to her pledge.

During the campaign, Warren spoke at high-dollar fundraising events for the Democratic National Committee, which would have backed Warren in the general election if she had been the nominee.

Warren previously reversed her pledge not to accept support from an outside super PACs. She promised not to accept “a dime of PAC money in this campaign” while launching her bid, but broke that pledge in February.

“We reached a point a few weeks ago where all of the men who were still in this race and on the debate stage all had either super PACs or they were multi-billionaires and they could just rummage in their sock drawers and find enough money to be able to fund a campaign,” Warren said while explaining the reversal.

Neither the Biden campaign nor Warren’s office returned the Daily Caller News Foundation’s requests for comment.

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COVID-19 & Planned Parenthood: Abortion Provider Knew It Was Ineligible

(Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

Yesterday morning, I reported that two dozen Republican senators, including Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.), are calling on the Department of Justice to investigate Planned Parenthood for fraud, after 37 of the organization’s affiliates claimed $80 million in small-business loans for which they were ineligible. The loans came from the Paycheck Protection Program, created by Congress in the CARES Act, to help small businesses meet payroll and pay rent during COVID-19 shutdowns.

Despite the fact that mainstream news organizations have entirely ignored this story, Planned Parenthood apparently felt the need to defend itself, because the organization tweeted yesterday morning: “Some independent Planned Parenthood organizations applied for and were awarded loans subject to eligibility rules established by Congress and the Small Business Administration (SBA), which they met.”

This is false for several reasons, not least of which is that Planned Parenthood itself has already openly admitted its lack of eligibility for the loans. After the CARES Act passed, Planned Parenthood Action Fund (the group’s political-action arm) issued a statement condemning the legislation for excluding the organization from its funding: “The bill gives the Small Business Administration broad discretion to exclude Planned Parenthood affiliates and other non-profits serving people with low incomes and deny them benefits under the new small business loan program.”

Planned Parenthood would have us believe both that Congress should be condemned for excluding the group from funding and that Planned Parenthood’s affiliates were in fact eligible for that funding when they later applied for and received it.

In fact, there is no gray area on this question: The text of the CARES Act makes it exceptionally clear that nonprofit organizations such as Planned Parenthood are not eligible for loans under the PPP, and that fact was highly publicized at the time of the bill’s passage. The part of the bill outlining eligibility for the loans was a particular point of contention during congressional debate precisely because the final wording would determine whether the abortion provider would be able to claim federal funding.

Republicans won that fight, as illustrated by the bill text, reporting at the time, and subsequent clarifying statements from Trump-administration officials. Section 1102 of the CARES Act states that nonprofits are eligible for PPP loans only if they and their affiliates have no more than 500 employees. Planned Parenthood has about 16,000 employees, a whopping 32 times as many as the maximum-employee cap outlined in the bill.

There is no argument to be made that the bill actually allows groups with Planned Parenthood’s governing structure to receive small-business loans. And, given the organization’s own open opposition to the CARES Act, there is no argument to be made that the group was unaware of its affiliates’ ineligibility for the program.

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COVID Survivor Was Banned from Flying Trump Flag To Thank POTUS, New Tribute Is Much Better

Carlos Gavidia is a COVID-19 survivor who wanted to thank President Donald Trump for touting the drugs he says saved his life, hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin. He decided that flying a flag from the end of his dock would be a good way to do it.

The management of his community in Jupiter, Florida, thought otherwise.

Banned from flying the flag from his dock, Gavidia decided to one-up things: He wrapped his boat in a star-spangled theme with “TRUMP” in capital letters along the side.

Gavidia, 53, told WVNS-TV he and his wife, Laura, were infected when they visited a hotel restaurant during a ski trip to Aspen, Colorado.

“Fever, body aches, extreme migraine total exhaustion, wiped out. Laura had no fever, but she was totally wiped out she just lays in bed. I don’t even get out of bed except to go to the bathroom, you get diarrhea the entire time and lose your sense of taste,” he said.

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However, Gavidia credits the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine, along with the antibiotic azithromycin, with his recovery from the illness.

“I don’t know why they say it doesn’t work, because it does,” he told Voice of America.

As Gavidia felt better, he looked for ways he could help, including offering to donate his plasma and passing on his regimen of drugs to others with the coronavirus.

Should this COVID survivor have been forced to take down his Trump flag?

But he also wanted to show his appreciation to the president, and that included putting a flag on his dock.

According to The Palm Beach Post, his homeowner’s association in the Admiral’s Cove complex wasn’t too pleased with that. When he took the 42-footer out on the water for a spin, there were apparently some objectors. It was against regulations.

And therein lies the great thing about being on the right. The first person who came up with the phrase, “I don’t get mad, I get even,” wasn’t just coining a catchphrase. He or she was also engaging in a key conservative coping mechanism. If we were to rage against the heavens every time we encountered overregulation or a busybody HOA, we’d never get anything done and we’d be popping clonidine like Tic-Tacs.

It’s a lot better to have your neighbors raging against the heavens instead of you, even if they may have won the first round. In that vein, I present to you TrumpBoat 2020:

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All right, so it’s actually only named the Trump, according to The Palm Beach Post. I still think not calling it TrumpBoat 2020 (or even TrumpBoat 2020! — with the exclamation point) is a missed opportunity, but given the roll Gavidia is on, I’m going to have issues convincing him otherwise, I think.

The point is, that’s one-upmanship par excellence. As owning the libs goes, I can’t imagine anything as great as …

I stand corrected.

Gavidia estimated the wrap cost him $7,000; I would say it was worth every penny.

“Omg this is me!!! #MAGA,” Gavidia tweeted after Eric Trump, son of the president, retweeted the video earlier in May.

And by the way, have we mentioned that Gavidia is our kind of conservative?

A man who came to the United States from Peru as a boy, he would eventually become a citizen in the 1990s. He began as a street vendor in Washington and would end up running a credit card processing firm.

And, fresh off of viral fame, he decided to lead a pro-Trump boat flotilla — or “Trumptilla” — from Jupiter to Mar-a-Lago earlier this month, which drew hundreds of vessels.

He’s been on Fox News a few times.

The president mentioned him on another appearance on the network, as well.

In other words, I’d say this has worked out for him.

“It’s been a whirlwind, but it’s been good,” Gavidia said. “It’s been all about President Trump.”

And to top it all off, there was this line from The Palm Beach Post’s treatment of the story: “Admiral’s Cove POA General Manager Peter Moore did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.”

That was the group that apparently made him remove the Trump flag, if you’ll recall.

Whoops.

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